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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Direct translation not = Formal Correspondence

Direct translation is not a synonym for formal correspondence. In the last post we observed how the goal of optimal relevance might lead a translator to omit words, phrases or even a clause found in the source text because it increases the processing effort without adding much in the way of cognitive rewards. However, there are risks associated with this kind of recension. The wordy awkward introduction to Apollo’s oracle in Electra may serve a discourse function[1], slowing down the reader/auditor and building up anticipation for what follows. The quote from Apollo is central to the plot of Electra. For this reason it might be justifiable to retain all of  χρῇ … τάχα[2] in the target language. However, the introduction to Apollo’s oracle has already run for three lines, so the damage inflicted by shortening the fourth line might be judged a trivial price to pay in comparison to annoying the reader/auditor with a lot seemingly useless chatter. This illustrates how translation decisions involve weighing arguments from multiple linguistic frameworks.         

Orestes seeks guidance from Apollo part 2

Sophocles Trag., Electra 32-37
When I went to the Pythian
oracle to learn how I might
avenge my father’s murder
Apollo told[1] me:
alone, without weapons or troops
with cunning and stealth
your own hand with justice
will slaughter the guilty.
Sophocles Trag., Electra 32-37
Ἐγὼ γὰρ ἡνίχ' ἱκόμην τὸ Πυθικὸν
μαντεῖον, ὡς μάθοιμ' ὅτῳ τρόπῳ πατρὶ
δίκας ἀροίμην τῶν φονευσάντων πάρα,
χρῇ μοι τοιαῦθ' ὁ Φοῖβος ὧν πεύσῃ τάχα·
ἄσκευον αὐτὸν ἀσπίδων τε καὶ στρατοῦ
δόλοισι κλέψαι χειρὸς ἐνδίκους σφαγάς.

[1] Over encoding as a form of discourse marking is discussed by  Longacre, Robert E. 1996. The grammar of discourse. 2nd edition. Topics in Language and Linguistics. New York: Plenum Press.

[2] The introduction to Apollo’s oracle is long and awkward, “Phoebus told me such things as you will quickly learn” χρῇ μοι τοιαῦθ' ὁ Φοῖβος ὧν πεύσῃ τάχα.  Ann Carson and Pound-Fleming reduce it to “Apollo/Phoebus answered.” This significantly reduces the processing effort. The long version is more difficult and doesn’t repay the extra effort. 


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