Translating asyndeton from French literary texts into English

Fiona Rossette
Université Paris 10

Abstract

While asyndeton between finite clauses within the sentence may be considered a marginal construction, compared for example to coordination or subordination, it is more frequent in French than in English, in which it is limited with respect to genre. Particularly interesting examples, both quantitively and qualitively, can be found in French literature, notably in the fiction of Marguerite Duras, who made asyndeton her hallmark. This study documents the choices made by English translators of Duras, and of three other French writers who exploit asyndeton. Literature aside, asyndeton in French texts is not carried over into English, in what can be qualified as norm-governed translation. However, asyndeton in literary texts is carried over into English in up to fifty percent of cases, reflecting a certain compromise between norms in the source language and those in the target language. Apart from describing Duras’ specific use of asyndeton, and illustrating the difficulty of translating any element that is an essential ingredient of a writer’s style, which, by definition, represents a departure from an accepted norm, this study brings to light certain aspects governing clause combining in English. Certain linguistic parameters that favour the exploitation of asyndeton in English are systematised, specifically concision, rhythm and isotopy. Semantic, temporal and/or aspectual constraints are also highlighted.

Keywords:
Table of contents

My interest in clause-combining stems from my contact with French as a foreign language. In this area, French and English differ greatly. The study of “connectives” has received considerable attention in second-language education, and in France, [ p. 99 ]students’ misuse and overuse of these elements in their writing in English lead to major problems in understanding their texts. It is often claimed that French requires connectives in order to be more explicit, which may explain why French students overuse them in English. The main “offenders” are adverbials (e.g. therefore, indeed, moreover) which are used in sentence-initial position and therefore realise relations between sentences. In a quantitative study (Rossette 2003), I noted that sentence-initial connectives are more common in French than English. At the other end of the scale, however, French offers the possibility of foregoing connectives within the sentence, combining finite clauses simply via the use of a comma, in constructions which parallel the famous veni, vidi, vici.

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.

References

Baker, M.
1992In other words: A Coursebook on Translation. London, New York: Routledge.   CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Costermans, J. & Fayol, M.
1997Processing Interclausal Relationships: Studies in the Production and Comprehension of Text. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
Cruttenden, A.
1997Intonation. Cambridge: CUP.   CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Cuddin, J.A.
1976 1998 A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
Demanuelli, C.
1987Points de repère, approche interlinguistique de la ponctuation français-anglais. Saint-Etienne: CIEREC.Google Scholar
Downing, A. & Locke, P.
1995A University Course in English Grammar. London: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
Chuquet, H.
1990Pratique de la Traduction. Paris: Ophrys.Google Scholar
Greimas, A.-J.
1966Sémantique structurale. Paris: Larousse.Google Scholar
Grellet, F.
1990Apprendre à traduire, typologie d’exercices de traduction. Nancy: Presses universitaires.Google Scholar
Elbow, P.
2000Everyone can write. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Fayol, M.
1997 “On Aquiring and Using Punctuation: A Study of Written French” in J. Costermans & M. Fayol, eds. Processing Interclausal Relationships: Studies in the Production and Comprehension of Text. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum. 157–178.Google Scholar
[ p. 133 ]
Halliday, M.A.K.
1994An Introduction to Functional Grammar, 2nd edition. London: Edward Arnold.Google Scholar
Jollin-Bertocchi, S.
2004 “Chanson et musicalité dans l’œuvre de J.-M.G. Le Clézio” in S. Jollin-Bertocchi & B. Thibault, eds. J.-M.G. Le Clézio. Lectures d’une œuvre. Paris: Editions du Temps. 143–160.Google Scholar
Noguez, D.
1985 “La gloire des mots” in Marguerite Duras, L’Arc 98. 25–39.Google Scholar
Parks, T.
2000Translating Style. London: Continuum.Google Scholar
Poncharal, B.
2006 “Peut-on traduire le style?” Paper presented at the colloquium “La Grammaire et le style: domaine anglophone” 17–18 November, Aix-en-Provence, France.
Quirk, R., Greenbaum, S., Leech, G. & Svartvik, J.
1985A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language. London, New York: Longman.Google Scholar
Rossette, F.
2003Parataxe et connecteurs: observations sur l’enchaînement des propositions en anglais contemporain. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation. Université Paris IV-Sorbonne.Google Scholar
2005 “La parataxe et l’expressivité” in G. Girard-Gillet, ed. Parcours linguistiques, Domaine anglais. Travaux du C.I.E.R.E.C.122. Publications de l’Université de Saint-Etienne. 245–257.Google Scholar
2007 “L’emploi des deux-points dans le cadre du discours rapporté chez M. Atwood et J.M. Coetzee” in A. Celle, ed. De la mixité : aux frontières du discours rapporté. Paris: Cahiers Charles V, 45. 105–143.Google Scholar
2008 “ ‘Et la lumière fut’ : La parataxe biblique en anglais et en français” in D. Banks, ed. La langue, la linguistique et le texte religieux. Paris: L’Harmattan. 61–84.Google Scholar
Ruppli, M.
1989 “Juxtaposition, morphème zéro et autres connecteurs en français.” Bulletin de la Société de linguistique de Paris. Tome LXXXIV. 111–142.   CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Toury, Gideon
1995 “The Nature and Role of Norms in Translation”. In idem, Descriptive Translation Studies and Beyond. Amsterdam-Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 53–69.   CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Vinay, J.P., & Darbelnet, J.
1958Stylistique comparée du français et de l’anglais. Paris: Didier.Google Scholar