Assessing Acceptability in Translated Children's Books

Tiina Puurtinen
University of Joensuu


The purpose of the study outlined in this article is to compare the acceptability of style in two contemporary Finnish translations of L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz with special reference to the effect of sentence structure on acceptability. For the purposes of this study, acceptability is defined in terms of the norms and expectations prevailing in the language and style of Fin-nish children's fiction which include the requirements of a high degree of readability and natural style. The hypothesis is that the use of complex nonfinite con-structions in one translation decreases readability and consequently lowers acceptability, whereas the other translation is expected to be more readable and acceptable due to its natural, dynamic style characterized by simple finite cons-tructions. The syntactic structures relevant to the readability of the translations are analysed with the help of two linguistic models: a modification of phrasestructure grammar and a propositional model. Three empirical tests, i.e. a cloze test, subjective assessment and a reading test, provide information about the readability and acceptability of the translations.

Table of contents

Research into translated children's literature has not been very comprehensive in the past, having for the most part concentrated on adaptation (see for example Klingberg 1977, Stolt 1978, Weinreich 1978, Shavit 1981, Reiß 1982). Considerably less attention has been paid to the adjustment of style and readability to the reading abilities of the young readers, although it is often mentioned in passing that special care must be, and often is taken when writing or translating for this particular audience because of their imperfect reading abilities and experience of life. The aim of the study outlined in the following is to compare the acceptability of style in two contemporary Finnish translations of L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz, and especially to draw conclusions concerning the effect of sentence structure on acceptability. Comparison of these two translations made by Marja Helanen-Ahtola (Oz-maan taikuri) and Kersti Juva (Ozin velho) is likely to yield interesting results since both translations were published in 1977, have the same function and the same target group, i.e. children aged 7–12 years, and can thus be assessed by the same criteria. The source text, which is a classic fairy tale published at the turn of the century, is written in an easy, simple style. The Finnish translators can therefore be expected to produce an equally intelligible text characterized by simple sentence structure.

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