Translatioin of Political Literature

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§ IV. The difficulty of translation of set phrases and idioms

As far as idioms and phraseological units are concerned in translation, the first difficulty that a translator comes across is being able to recognize that s/he is dealing with an idiomatic expression. This is not always so obvious. There are various types of idioms, some more easily recognizable than others. Those which are easily recognizable include expressions which violate truth conditions, such as It's raining cats and dogs, throw caution to the winds, storm in a tea cup, jump down someone's throat, and food for thought. They also include expressions which seem ill-formed because they do not follow the grammatical rules of the language, for example trip the light fantastic, blow someone to kingdom come, put paid to, the powers that be, by and large, and the world and his friend. Expressions which start with like (simile-like structures) also tend to suggest that they should not be interpreted literally. These include idioms such as like a bat out of hell and like water off a duck's back. Generally speaking, the more difficult an expression is to understand and the less sense it makes in a given context, the more likely a translator will recognize it as an idiom. Because they do not make sense if interpreted literally, the highlighted expressions in the following text are easy to recognize as idioms (assuming one is not already familiar with them):

This can only be done, I believe, by a full and frank airing of the issues. I urge you all to speak your minds and not to pull any punches.

Provided a translator has access to good reference works and monolingual dictionaries of idioms, or, better still, is able to consult native speakers of the language, opaque idioms which do not make sense for one reason or another can actually be a blessing in disguise. The very fact that s/he cannot make sense of an expression in a particular context will alert the translator to the presence of an idiom of some sort.

There are two cases in which an idiom can be easily misinterpreted if one is not already familiar with it:

(a) Some idioms are 'misleading'; they seem transparent because they offer a reasonable literal interpretation and their idiomatic meanings are not necessarily signalled in the surrounding text. A large number of idioms in English, and probably all languages, have both a literal and an idiomatic meaning, for example go out with ('have a romantic or sexual relationship with someone') and take someone for a ride ('deceive or cheat someone in some way'). Such idioms lend themselves easily to manipulation by speakers and writers who will sometimes play on both their literal and idiomatic meanings. In this case, a translator who is not familiar with the idiom in question may easily accept the literal interpretation and miss the play on idiom.

(b) An idiom in the source language may have a very close counter­ part in the target language which looks similar on the surface but has a totally or partially different meaning. For example, the idiomatic question Has the cat had/got your tongue? is used in English to urge someone to answer a question or contribute to a conversation, particularly when their failure to do so becomes annoying.

Apart from being alert to the way speakers and writers manipulate certain features of idioms and to the possible confusion which could arise from similarities in form between source and target expressions, a translator must also consider the collocational environment which surrounds any expression whose meaning is not readily acces­sible. Idiomatic and fixed expressions have individual collocational patterns. They form collocations with other items in the text as single units and enter into lexical sets which are different from those of their individual words. Take, for instance, the idiom to have cold feet. Cold as a separate item may collocate with words like weather, winter, feel, or country. Feet on its own will perhaps collocate with socks, chilblain, smelly, etc. However, having cold feet, in its idiomatic use, has nothing necessarily to do with winter, feet, or chilblains and will therefore generally be used with a different set of collocates.

The ability to distinguish senses by collocation is an invaluable asset to a translator working from a foreign language. It is often subsumed under the general umbrella of 'relying on the context to disambiguate meanings', which, among other things, means using our knowledge of collocational patterns to decode the meaning of a word or a stretch of language. Using our knowledge of collocational patterns may not always tell us what an idiom means but it could easily help us in many cases to recognize an idiom, particularly one which has a literal as well as a non-literal meaning.

Реферат опубликован: 21/05/2007