Retranslation of Children's Books as Evidence of Changes of Norms

Miryam Du-Nour

By comparing translations and retranslations of several children's books into Hebrew done over a span of 70 years we try to find out what linguistic and translational norms prevailed at different periods and what changes occurred in these norms, in a framework of the changing historical, cultural and linguistic situation. In recent years there has been a growing tension between the acceptability of the "commissioners" and that of the "customer"—the child. This study found that recent retranslations tend to lower the high literary style customary in previous translations and comply with up-to-date linguistic norms. This concurs with a tendency to put "readability" as a central issue.

Table of contents

A translated text can be accounted for from many points of view and positioned along various scales, such as adequacy vs. acceptability (as defined e.g. in Toury 1980), or scopus vs. loyalty (as defined in Reiß and Vermeer 1984, Vermeer 1990, and especially Nord 1991). However, as already maintained in House (1977) and Vermeer (1983), these scales themselves can only be established in relation to the respective positions of the source and target texts in situations of their respective worlds. These situations include language- and [ p. 328 ]culture-bound constraints and norms, which are subject to changes along with changes of situation. The description of a number of texts which came into being under similar circumstances, and of their positions on the various scales can convey to us conventions and norms valid for a certain type of texts at a certain time in a certain culture (see e.g. the studies by Vanderauwera 1985; Van Gorp 1985; Lambert et al. 1985). By contrast, comparing translations of the same texts which were done in different periods of time will convey to us the dynamics of these conventions and norms (see e.g. Toury 1980a; Roberts 1992). The present study is an attempt to trace some of the changes of norms of translation into Hebrew, especially in the linguistic-stylistic domain, by comparing a series of revisions and retranslations of the same books, all designated for the young reader, over a period of seventy years.

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