The translation of wordplay in literary texts: Typology, techniques and factors in a corpus of English-Catalan source text and target text segments

Josep Marco
Universitat Jaume I (Castelló, Spain)

The present study aims to analyse wordplay translation on the basis of the three aspects mentioned in the title—wordplay typology, translation techniques and relevant factors. The theoretical framework is eclectic but draws particularly on Delabastita (1996, 1997) and Lladó (2002). Empirical analysis is based on three English source texts and six Catalan translations, and focuses on two main issues: the frequency distribution of pairs of ST + TT segments across translation techniques, and the possible correlation(s) between translation techniques and factors influencing decision-making. It is observed that translators tend to use techniques implying a negative punning balance, i.e. resulting in some degree of loss of punning activity. Moreover, some factors identified in the literature are seen to correlate with the use of particular translation techniques. Finally, in the last section an attempt is made to go beyond description and explanation and to assess wordplay translation techniques in terms of their suitability as translation solutions.

Table of contents

This article is an attempt to analyse three important aspects of wordplay translation: the nature of wordplay, the techniques used in its translation, and the factors that are likely to impinge upon wordplay translation. It is important to define and classify the phenomenon under scrutiny in order to set limits to one’s task. Secondly, it is necessary to identify one or more relationships between source-text (ST) and target-text (TT) segments. Several terms have been used to refer to such a [ p. 265 ]relationship (e.g. procedure, method, shift, strategy, technique, solution type); in this paper the term technique, as defined by Hurtado (e.g. 2001: 268), will be preferred. As has been argued elsewhere (Zabalbeascoa 2004, Marco 2004, 2007), classifications of translation techniques for particular translation problems are better suited to accounting for the specifics of each problem than general typologies, postulated as valid for any textual segment. Finally, the identification of the factors at work in the translation of wordplay will enable us to (tentatively) move towards explanation, i.e. towards determining why certain techniques are preferred under certain circumstances. Not all relevant factors are accessible through textual analysis, as some of them are closely related to the translator’s personality and skills or to the features of the translation brief and therefore could only be accessed via questionnaires or interviews. As a result of this limitation, emphasis will be laid on textual factors deriving from the nature of wordplay.

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A. Primary literature (works making up the corpus)

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