Publication details [#5697]

Lavoie, Judith. 1994. Problèmes de traduction du vernaculaire noir américain: le cas de The adventures of Huckleberry Finn [Problems in translating black English vernacular: the case of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn]. In Chapdelaine, Annick and Gillian Lane-Mercier, eds. Traduire les sociolectes [Translating sociolects]. Special issue of Traduction Terminologie Rédaction (TTR) 7 (2): 115–146.


This article aims to analyse both the role ascribed to Black English Vernacular (BEV) by Mark Twain in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and its treatment by two French translators (Suzanne Netillard, 1948/1973/1985, and Andre Bay, 1961/1990). The author demonstrates that Twain's transcription of BEV corresponds to two "divergent esthetic/cognitive trends" (Lane-Mercier). On one hand, a "philological" one, by which Twain attempts-without actually succeeding, because of certain effects of closure -to account for the speech of Black persons in the extratext, and on the other, an "artistic" one, where he seeks, through his written representation of BEV, to subvert the socioideological discourse of his time. BEV indeed takes on a number of functions in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: in esthetic terms, it creates a comic effect at the beginning of the novel; in social terms, it identifies the speaker with his or her milieu; and in ideological terms, it conveys the author's position with regard to slavery and segregation. Since the translators may have had the French tradition of "proper writing" in mind, they have been only roughly successful in graphically recreating, in French, a language that characterizes Black voice as Twain had done in English. Therefore, the author concludes, failing to formally represent BEV in a text causes the entire ideology underlying it to be diluted, if not lost completely.
Source : Abstract in journal