Typological Aspects of Translating Literary Japanese into German, I: Lexicon and Morphology

Götz Wienold

Typological distance between languages gives rise to a huge amount of translation problems. The present article takes up 20th century Japanese novels and their translations into German. As areas of typological differences, movement verbs and causatives in describing human bodily reactions have been selected. Japanese lexicalizes the path a movement takes in a monomorphemic verbal base, whereas German lexicalizes the manner of movement. It is shown that this typological difference creates a tendency to substitute German manner for Japanese path verbs. As a morphological example a specific use of causatives is discussed. In descriptions of bodily reactions Japanese causatives tend to be ambiguous as to an intentional or unintentional interpretation. German, having few morphological causatives and no similar ambiguous expression, tends to level the ambiguities towards an objective description. In a second installment syntax and narrative technique will be considered.

Table of contents

Distance between languages makes for substantial problems in translating. When there are extensive typological differences and no genetic links between a pair of languages and when there has been little historical contact between them, the distance may be considerable. Such is the case of Japanese and German.

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