Publication details [#4292]

Dickins, James. 2005. Cumulative difference and catastrophic change: the translation of Arabic ﺪﻌﺑ / bacda into English. Babel 51 (3) : 262–283.
Publication type
Article in jnl/bk
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Source language
Target language
Journal DOI


This paper shows how various problematic features of the translation into English of Arabic ﺪﻌﺑ / bacda (‘an) “after” may combine, initially incrementally, but ultimately in a “catastrophic” manner (cf. Woodcock and Davis 1980), at which point the translator is forced to engage in significant TT restructuring. The paper provides a basic temporal definition of ﺪﻌﺑ / bacda (‘an) (Section 1). It introduces the notion of informational incongruity (Section 2), and develops this in relation to the informational pairs: theme/rheme, and foregrounding/backgrounding. While final adjunct and sentential relative clauses in English cannot be foregrounded, final disjunct clauses can be (Section 3). Some Arabic final subordinate clauses can be foregrounded, whose obvious English translation equivalents cannot; direct (literal) translations into English of these Arabic ST structures accordingly result in informational incongruity (Section 4). The fact that ﺪﻌﺑ / bacda (‘an) may have a temporal+causal or temporal+adversative interpretation, unlike the purely temporal English “after” or “following” can also contribute to informational incongruity in translation (Section 5). In some cases, a final ﺪﻌﺑ / bacda ‘an in a temporal+causal sense occurs in a context which requires that the ﺪﻌﺑ / bacda ‘an clause be backgrounded. A direct English translation using “since” (a causal with available temporal implications), results in a foregrounded final disjunct clause in the English TT, as well as yielding other denotative problems. At this point, only a catastrophic translation solution seems acceptable, involving significant TT restructuring.
Source : Based on abstract in journal