Changes in word order in two Hebrew translations of an Ibsen play

Malka Muchnik

This study examines differences in word order between two translations of Ibsen’s play An enemy of the people into Hebrew. Both versions were translated by Rivka Meshulach, with approximately 25 years between them. In the first version word order conforms to the norms of Classical Hebrew. In the second version, however, the translator changed word order so that the language would be closer to contemporary spoken Hebrew. This is illustrated through examples related to various syntactic constituents, including subject–predicate, predicate complements, parentheme and address forms. The reasoning behind this tendency focuses on the change in the norms of written language. As opposed to the normative restrictions which were widely accepted in written Hebrew just a generation ago, the current trend is for features of contemporary spoken language to be used in literature and theater.

Table of contents

This article examines two different translations of Henrik Ibsen’s play An enemy of the people. This play, En folkefiende, was originally written in 1882 in Norwegian and has been translated into Hebrew twice, both times by Rivka Meshulach, both of them from English mediating texts. The first translation was done for the performances at Habima National Theater (1976) and Beit Zvi School of the Performing Arts (1986). The more recent translation, published in 1999 for the Cameri Theatre, is written in such a contemporary Hebrew style that it hardly seems to be the same play, in terms of both content and language. According to the translator (personal communication) the current translation [ p. 296 ]is not an adaptation of its predecessor, but an entirely new translation. It is even based on different English versions of the play.

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