Typological Aspects of Translating Literary Japanese into German, II: Syntax and Narrative Technique

Götz Wienold

Japanese has a colourful variety of linguistic means for presenting voices in the dialogue of a novel and distinguishing them from the narration. In German translations, this is generally reduced to a uniform way of formulating sentences. Point of view, however, which finds linguistic expression in Japanese as well as in Western languages, is respected in German translations. The present article takes up some linguistic indications of point of view in Japanese, most of the examples being drawn from Kawabata's Yukiguni and Benl's German translation of it. A consistent finding is that the German translation tends toward a more objectivating way of narration alongside greater linguistic explicitness. This may be related to the linguistic signalling of personhood in Japanese and the role of personhood in Japanese culture. Thus, the present article puts forward the hypothesis that German translations of Japanese novels may tend to deflect traits of Japanese culture in the direction of the receiving culture.

Table of contents

In an earlier article I argued that typological differences between source and target languages create tendencies for "shifts" in translation (Wienold 1990). I adduced evidence from patterns of morphology and lexicalization in Japanese and German. However, differences between Japanese originals and German translations are probably even greater at higher levels of linguistic organization. Take, for instance, dialogue in novels. Japanese is famous for its richly differentiated address system, its equally variegated array of self-referring expressions, its multi-layered system of honorifics in verbal paradigms, its marked differences in men's and women's speech and its large variety of sentence-final particles. All of these linguistic means play a role in indicating a speaker's perception of others and of himself/herself in relation to them. The variety of voices of figures in a Japanese novel indicates characters' perceived status and ways of dealing with one another in interaction.

Full-text access is restricted to subscribers. Log in to obtain additional credentials. For subscription information see Subscription & Price. Direct PDF access to this article can be purchased through our e-platform.


Broeck, Raymond van den
1978 “The Concept of Equivalence in Translation Theory”. Holmes, Lambert and van den Broeck, 1978 . 29–47.Google Scholar
1986 “Contrastive Discourse Analysis as a Tool for the Interpretation of Shifts in Translated Texts”. House and Blum-Kulka, 1986 . 37–47.Google Scholar
Even-Zohar, Itamar
1978 “The Position of Translated Literature in the Literary Polysystem”. Holmes, Lambert and van den Broeck, 1978 . 117–127. (Rep. in Itamar Even-Zohar. Papers in Historical Poetics. Tel Aviv: The Porter Institute for Poetics and Semiotics 1978 21-27.)Google Scholar
Gorp, Hendrik van
1978 “La traduction littéraire parmi les autres métatextes”. Holmes, Lambert and van den Broeck, 1978 . 101–116.Google Scholar
Hijiya-Kirschnereit, Irmela
1981Selbstentblöβungsrituale: Zur Theorie und Geschichte der autobiographischen Gattung “Shishosetsu” in der modernen japanischen Literatur. Wiesbaden: Steiner.Google Scholar
Holmes, James S, José Lambert and Raymond van den Broeck
eds. 1978Literature and Translation: New Perspectives in Literary Studies. Leuven: acco.Google Scholar
House, Juliane and Shoshana Blum-Kulka
eds. 1986Interlingual and Intercultural Communication: Discourse and Cognition in Translation and Second Language Acquisition Studies. Tübingen: Narr.Google Scholar
Ikegami, Yoshihiko
1985a “From the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis to Cultural Semiotics: Some Considerations on the ‘Language Culture Problem’”. Kurt R. Janowsky, ed. Scientific and Humanistic Dimensions of Language: Festschrift for Robert Lado. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: Benjamins 1985 215–222.   DOI logoGoogle Scholar
1985b “ ‘Activity’-‘Accomplishment’-‘Achievement’: A Language that Can’t Say ‘I burned it, but it didn’t burn’ and One that Can”. Adam Makai and Alan K. Melby, eds. Linguistics and Philosophy: Essays in Honor of Rulon S. Wells. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: Benjamins 1985 265–304.   DOI logoGoogle Scholar
1988 “What We See When We See Flying Cranes: Motion or Transition”. The Japan Foundation Newsletter 15:5–6. 1–9.Google Scholar
Ivir, Vladimir
1981 “Formal Correspondence vs. Translation Equivalence Revisited”. Poetics Today 2:4. 51–59.   DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Kesteren, Aloysius van
1978 “Equivalence Relationships between Source Text and Target Text: Towards a Typology on the Basis of Semiotics”. Holmes, Lambert and van den Broeck, 1978 . 48–68.Google Scholar
Kuβmaul, Paul
1986 “Übersetzen als Entscheidungsprozeß: Die Rolle der Fehleranalyse in der Übersetzungsdidaktik”. Snell-Hornby 1986 . 206–229.Google Scholar
Levenston, E. A. and G. Sonnenschein
1986 “The Translation of Point-of-View in Fic¬tional Narrative”. House and Blum-Kulka 1986> . 49–59.Google Scholar
Levý, Jiří
1967 “Translation as a Decision Process”. To Honor Roman Jakobson: Essays on the Occasion of His Seventieth Birthday, II. The Hague: Mouton 1967 1172–1182.Google Scholar
1969Die literarische Übersetzung: Theorie einer Kunstgattung. Frankfurt a.M. und Bonn: Athenäum.Google Scholar
[ p. 197 ]
Malblanc, Alfred
1966Stylistique comparée du français et de l’allemand: Essai de re¬présentation linguistique comparée et étude de traduction. Paris: Didier. (4th edition)Google Scholar
Maynard, Senko K.
1967 “Thematization as a Staging Device in the Japanese Narra¬tive”. John Hinds, Senko K. Maynard and Shoichi Iwasaki, eds. Perspectives on Topicalization: The Case of Japanese ‘wa’. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: Benjamins 1967 57–82.Google Scholar
Nakajima, Fumio
1987Nihongo-no koozoo: eigo-to-no hikaku [The Structure of Japanese Compared to English]. Tokyo: Iwanami.Google Scholar
Popovič, Anton
1967 “Die theoretischen Probleme der Übersetzung”. Literatur und Kritik 2. 611–617.Google Scholar
1970 “The Concept ‘Shift of Expression’ in Translation Analysis”. James S Holmes et al., eds. The Nature of Translation: Essays on the Theory and Practice of Translation. The Hague: Mouton / Bratislava: Publishing House of the Slovak Academy of Science 1970 78–87.Google Scholar
Popovic, Anton
1976 “Aspects of Metatext”. Canadian Review of Comparative Litera¬ture 3. 225–235.Google Scholar
Reiβ, Katharina and Hans J. Vermeer
1984Grundlegung einer allgemeinen Translationstheorie. Tübingen: Niemeyer.Google Scholar
Rimer, J. Thomas
1978Modern Japanese Fiction and Its Traditions: An Introduction. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Snell-Hornby, Mary
ed. 1986Übersetzungswissenschaft—eine Neuorientierung: Zur Integrierung von Theorie und Praxis. Tübingen: Francke.Google Scholar
Teramura, Hideo
1982/1984Nihongo-no shintakusu-to imi [Syntax and Semantics of Japanese]. Tokyo: Kuroshio.Google Scholar
Toury, Gideon
1980aIn Search of a Theory of Translation. Tel Aviv: The Porter Insti¬tute for Poetics and Semiotics.Google Scholar
1980b “Communication in Translated Texts: A Semiotic Approach”. Wolfram Wilss, ed. Semiotik und Übersetzen. Tübingen: Narr 1980 99–109.Google Scholar
Vinay, Jean-Paul and Jean-Louis Darbelnet
1958Stylistique comparée du français et de l’anglais. Paris: Didier.Google Scholar
Wienold, Götz
1972Semiotik der Literatur. Frankfurt a.M.: Athenäum.Google Scholar
1983 “Linguistische Aspekte des Erzählens”. Willy Sanders und Klaus Wegenast, eds. Erzählen für Kinder—Erzählen von Gott. Stuttgart etc.: Kohlhammer 1983 79–127.Google Scholar
1990 “Typological Aspects of Translating Literary Japanese into Ger¬man, I: Lexicon and Morphology”. Target, 2:1. 1–21.   DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Yoshida-Krafft, Barbara
1973 “Kawabata Yasunari—ein Traditionalist?Jubilaumsband zum 100jährigen Bestehen der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Natur- und Völkerkunde Ostasiens. Tokyo: Deutsche Gesellschaft für Natur- und Völkerkunde Ostasiens 1973 171–187.Google Scholar
Zorc, R. David
1983 “Translatability and Non-translatability between Languages and Cultures: A Case for Semantic Mapping”. Franz Eppert, ed. Papers on Translation: Aspects, Concepts, Implications. SEAMEO, Regional Language Centre, Occasional Papers No. 28 (Singapore). 31–41.Google Scholar