Translating modals between English and Arabic
Although central to many disciplines, modality has not received adequate treatment in the field of contrastive studies of English-Arabic translation. Since there are no neat Arabic counterparts to English modals, the only valid arguments for comparison are, therefore, the semantic-pragmatic ones. The current study investigates the relationship between modality and implicature in English-Arabic translation. The main argument is based on the premise that the speaker’s choice of modal expressions signals both the degree and type of involvement a speaker has in the content of the message, and consequently the interpretation of textual implicatures. The study shows that there are other textual means of expressing modality in Arabic that go beyond the immediate verbal construction. In some contexts, the whole discoursal effect will determine the degree of deontic or epistemic modality. The paper also explores shifts and transitions in translating modal patterns between English and Arabic with a view to assessing their overall effect. The examples cited show that the shift in rendering ST modals often entails an alteration in the possible interpretation of their meanings in the TT. In sensitive contexts, such as religious texts, political treaties and negotiations, business deals and court testimonies, some changes may have grave consequences. Although an analysis of the areas of convergence and divergence may help identify common causes of translation errors, the notion of ‘indeterminacy’ remains paramount in translating texts between these two languages. The paper concludes with a pragmatic strategy for the interpretation of modals in context.
Published online: 03 March 2009
Cited by 2 other publications
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