Translating asyndeton from French literary texts into English
Université Paris 10
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.
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.
1992In other words: A Coursebook on Translation. London, New York: Routledge.
Costermans, J. & Fayol, M.
1997Processing Interclausal Relationships: Studies in the Production and Comprehension of Text. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.
1997Intonation. Cambridge: CUP.
1976 1998 A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. Oxford: Blackwell.
1987Points de repère, approche interlinguistique de la ponctuation français-anglais. Saint-Etienne: CIEREC.
Downing, A. & Locke, P.
1995A University Course in English Grammar. London: Prentice Hall.
1990Apprendre à traduire, typologie d’exercices de traduction. Nancy: Presses universitaires.
2000Everyone can write. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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.
[ p. 133 ]
1994An Introduction to Functional Grammar, 2nd edition. London: Edward Arnold.
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.
1985 “La gloire des mots” in Marguerite Duras, L’Arc 98. 25–39.
2000Translating Style. London: Continuum.
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.
2003Parataxe et connecteurs: observations sur l’enchaînement des propositions en anglais contemporain. Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation. Université Paris IV-Sorbonne.
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.
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.
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.
1989 “Juxtaposition, morphème zéro et autres connecteurs en français.” Bulletin de la Société de linguistique de Paris. Tome LXXXIV. 111–142.
1995 “The Nature and Role of Norms in Translation”. In idem, Descriptive Translation Studies and Beyond. Amsterdam-Philadelphia: John Benjamins. 53–69.
Vinay, J.P., & Darbelnet, J.
1958Stylistique comparée du français et de l’anglais. Paris: Didier.