Translating Literary Dialogue: A Problem and Its Implications for Translation into Hebrew

Rina Ben-Shahar

Abstract

The present paper focuses on literary dialogue as a text type highly susceptible to inadequate translation. It is claimed here that translators of literary dialogue are likely to reduce a linguistic-poetic-pragmatic source utterance into a linguistic or linguistic-poetic one. The paper discusses different causes for the difficulties of dialogue translation. Some are general, stemming from the nature of literary dialogue itself and/or general principles of translation, while others are specific to the Hebrew language, which will serve as a case in point.

Table of contents

Literary dialogue constitutes a kind of text considerably different from narrative. To the extent that a decision is made to simulate daily, hence oral speech in the first place, its language formation entails an inherent paradox: the need to transmit features of the oral medium through a system pertinent to the written one. The transmission of spontaneous speech in a literary dialogue is obviously not a mere imitation of speech in the written system, let alone its mere transliteration. Rather, it involves selecting certain linguistic means [ p. 196 ]considered in a particular culture as representative of spoken language and filtering these through certain conventions of written representation developed in the literature in question.

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