How important is the way you say it? A discussion on the translation of linguistic varieties

Sara Ramos Pinto
Manchester University, UK

Discussions of translation often rely on the concept of meaning—not only the meaning of the words, but also the significance of the use of certain words in a certain text and context. Moreover, translation always involves a process of identifying the different components of the texts in order to establish a hierarchy of relevance of those elements (see Toury 1980: 38). The priority given to some elements to the detriment of others will have a decisive influence on the choice of certain strategies and the final outcome. The literary use of a dialect in literary texts seems to be a particularly good example of that balancing of meaning and prioritization of elements. Not only because of its very localised meaning (both in time and space), but also because it is always embedded in the source text with a communicative and semiotic significance. It can challenge the translator who, when faced with the impossibility of looking for referential equivalences and formal correspondences, is forced to decide on the importance and meaning of the use of a specific dialect in the text. That decision will define the strategies to be used, which can go from total normalization of the text to a recreation of a linguistic variety in the target text. The purpose of this article is threefold: To present for discussion a model summarising the strategies identified in a number of case-studies; to present and discuss the strategies identified in a corpus of 12 Portuguese translations of Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion and Alan Jay Lerner’s My Fair Lady, as well as the contextual factors which might have influenced the translators’ choices; and to establish whether there are regularities in the associations between media ( translation for stage, page and screen) and strategies for dealing with non-standard language.

Table of contents

The flower girl: Ow, eey y∂-ooa san, is e? Wal, fewd dan y’ d∂-ooty bawmz a mather should, eed now bettern to spawl a pore gel’s flahrzn then ran any athaht pyin. Will y∂-oo py me f ’them?

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a. Source Texts:

Shaw, Bernard
1916Pygmalion, New York: Brentano.Google Scholar
1938Pygmalion, [motion Picture of Anthony Asquith and Gabriel Pascal].Google Scholar
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Lerner, Alan Jay
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b. Target Texts:

Book translations
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2001Minha Linda Senhora, My Fair Lady [trans. Filipe La Feria], Lisbon: Publicacoes Europa-America.Google Scholar
Stage translations
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1945Pigmalião [trans. Antonio Ribeiro Lopes], Lisbon: Theatre “Trindade”.Google Scholar
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2001Minha Linda Senhora, My Fair Lady [trans. Filipe La Feria], Lisbon: Theatre “Politeama”.Google Scholar
Screen Translation
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1987My Fair Lady [trans. J. Nunes de Carvalho and subtitling by Teresa Sustelo for RTP].Google Scholar
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1994Pygmalion [trans. Ruth Saraiva for RTP]Google Scholar
Cook, Alan
1995Pygmalion [trans. Rosario Vieira for SIC].Google Scholar
Cukor, George
1996My Fair Lady [trans. Eulalia Ramos for SIC].Google Scholar


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