On Aboriginal Sufferance: A Process Model of Poetic Translation

Francis R. Jones


This paper presents an empirical model of the processes involved in translating poetry. I suggest three main stages: Understanding, Interpretation and Creation. The Understanding stage involves close ST analysis. At the Interpretation stage the translator works item by item, though with continual reference to ST and TT. An item may participate in one or more textual structures; hence it may be said to carry a number of marked valent features marking its role in the various structures. Valent features may be weighted differently depending on the importance of their structure to the image or the text. I suggest five main strategies of equivalence: Transference—TT item = ST item; Convergence/Divergence—TT item covers larger/smaller semantic space than ST item, but valency remains constant; Improvisation—TT feature is different from ST feature but has similar poetic role; Abandonment of a low-weight for a high-weight feature; Estrangement—equivalent retains an "untranslated" ST feature. The Creation stage is that of fashioning the target text as an artefact valid in target-culture terms. This informs and is informed by choices made during the Interpretation phase.

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In this essay my aim is not to provide a theory of meaning transfer between languages in the abstract, but rather to explore the process of "recreativity"—in other words, to examine and formalise the strategies used by the skilled translator when creating a new text along the model of an existing one.

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