Stylistic-semantic and grammatical functions of punctuation in English-Arabic translation
Punctuation marks are used in English systematically, and in an organised way, to perform certain stylistic, semantic and grammatical functions and achieve effects that can contribute to and affect meaning in some way and in variable degrees. So they are not used haphazardly nor regarded as a mere decoration that has nothing to do with the message of the text, be it a sentence, a paragraph or a long passage. They are meaningful and functional in different types of texts. Hence their importance in translation. In Arabic, however, the situation is completely different. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, punctuation marks almost without exception are ignored, random or misused in all types of texts and contexts, especially in classical books — let alone translated works into Arabic — for no good reasons. This means that there is a big gap to bridge in translation from English into Arabic. This article is a modest attempt to do so. It stresses the importance of punctuation to the message in Arabic, and how to compensate for the loss of meaning incurred by neglecting it, for it entails stylistic, semantic and grammatical functions that are too significant to drop in translation. The argument in favour of the functionality of punctuation in writing and, hence, translation, is confirmed by a discussion of the most important and recurrent punctuation marks, with illustrative examples in both English and Arabic.
Published online: 22 April 2005