Key clusters as indicators of translator style

Lorenzo Mastropierro

This paper discusses the issue of translator style through the comparison of two Italian translations of H. P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness. Using a corpus linguistic approach, this paper proposes a method for the identification of potential indicators of translator style based on key cluster analysis. Comparing the two translations with this method identifies which clusters – i.e., repeated sequences of words – are used more frequently by one translator compared to the other. The analysis shows that the two translators differ in their usage of some linguistic features, specifically Italian euphonic -d, locative clitics, and distal demonstratives, which are then analysed as stylistic divergences.

Publication history
Table of contents

In its broadest sense, ‘style’ can be defined as a particular way in which language is used by any given person in any given context (Leech and Short [1981] 2007). Yet, in the context of literary translation, the notion of style has been traditionally seen as an attribute possessed by the source text (ST) that needs to be reproduced in the target text (TT). Discussions about style in translation studies have been mostly preoccupied with how the stylistic features of the original are replicated in the translated text (Baker 2000, 243), rather than investigating the style of the translator themselves. However, many theorists have argued that translation is not simply a process of derivative reproduction but implies an active and creative involvement of the translator. The translator ‘rewrites’ (Lefevere 1992) the ST, and this rewriting is never a passive transfer; rather, it is a form of (re)interpretation that involves both the linguistic and extra-linguistic level of the original. When we read a translated text, we do not engage with the original author’s voice only, but also with that of the translator (Hermans 1996). The translator is, in a sense, the co-author of the translated text (Perteghella and Loffredo 2006, 6), whose presence can be overtly discernible, as in the case of paratextual commentaries (Hermans 1996), or, more often, hidden behind that of the author. This makes spotting the style of the translator challenging, as it is likely to be entangled with that of the original writer (Bernardini 2005). Yet, studying translator style is not only possible but also necessary: as explained by Baker (2000, 262) and Saldanha (2014, 100), if we want to claim that translation is not just a derivative activity, but rather a creative enterprise, we need to explore more convincingly the question of style from the translator’s point of view. This paper aims to discuss translator style and proposes a methodology to identify potential indicators of translator’s stylistic features based on corpus linguistic key cluster analysis.

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