Web Translation Projects/12 Deforming Tendencies

From Wikiversity
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Introduction[edit | edit source]

This project is a part of the "Translations on the Web" course at the Jagiellonian University. It may be of interest to people engrossed in translation studies, and those who want to get acquainted with 12 deforming tendencies introduced by Antoine Berman. The project comprises a definition of the term and analysis of the deforming tendencies with examples from “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll and its Polish translation by Maria Morawska. All the descriptions of the deforming tendencies are based on Antoine Berman's essay "Translation and the Trials of the Foreign". Similarly, all the excerpts from the tables come from Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adcentures in Wonderland" and "Alicja w Krainie Czarów" translated by Maria Morawska.

Maria Morawska's translation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"[edit | edit source]

A cover of Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" (1865)

Maria Morawska translated "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" in 1927 on commission of Gebethner and Wolff. In the first edition of the novel, there was a note that it was a free translation from English. Indeed, if one compares the original with its translation by Morawska, it renders that it really is a loose translation.[1] It means that the text is very different from the original, and because of that it is deprived of the foreignness, at least to some extent. Obviously, using the deformations in a translation is natural and inevitable, and it does not mean that the text in which they appear is bad. It simply means that it lacks the foreignness, which, for Berman, was a very important merit of translation.

All of the deforming tendencies are included in the abovementioned Maria Morawska's translation, thus this is the one which all the examples in this project come from. In her translation many changes may be observed – from the order of sentences to the effacement of sociolects, and that was the reason for me choosing this particular translation out of the twelve, which have been provided so far.

Dual audience[edit | edit source]

Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" is a book both for children and adults. Generally regarded as an example of children's literature, it has a hidden meaning, which makes it interesting for adults, too. It is a tale about curious adventures of a little girl, the world of magic and wonders, with animal characters and funny nursery rhymes. On the other hand, the book is a thorough analysis of the human mind in a deep sleep – slowing the action, repetitions, changing the pace, and the strands of visions render it a story suitable for older readers, who are aware that dreams have their own laws.[2] By using Berman's deforming tencdencies, therefore depriving the translation of some foreign aspects, Maria Morawska made the book more comprehensible for children. This idea is more developed at the end of this project.

Brief description[edit | edit source]

Twelve deforming tendencies is a term established by Antoine Berman (1942-1991) – a French translator, historian, and the author of Translation and the Trials of the Foreign. In the essay he analyses the system of textual deformation presenting the twelve tendencies that render a translation deviate from its essential aim. These he formulated on the basis of his own experience  as a translator. They are as follows:

  • rationalisation
  • clarification
  • expansion
  • ennoblement
  • qualitative impoverishment
  • quantitative impoverishment
  • the destruction of rhythms
  • the destruction of underlying networks of signification
  • the destruction of linguistic patternings
  • the destruction of vernacular network or their exoticisation
  • the destruction of expressions and idioms
  • the effacement of the superimposition of languages  

Translation and the Trials of the Foreign[edit | edit source]

Before enlisting the twelve deforming tendencies and providing detailed descriptions to them, Antoine Berman writes a short introduction. There, he describes the translation as “the trail of the foreign” – it is supposed to change what is foreign to something that is familiar, or known. The aim of translation is to uncover the core of the foreign text. According to Holderlin – a German poet – translating means emphasising the work’s strangeness.[3] A merit of reading a translation is experiencing the foreignness of the original text, and the deforming tendencies deprive it of its foreignness rendering the text more natural. However, according to what Berman says, the target audience should receive foreign as foreign. Because of the numerous textual deformations, a translated text cannot be the titular trial of the foreign.

Berman emphasises that his analysis is primitive and based on his experience as a translator. In order to make it more systematic, other scholars, translators, etc. speaking different languages should contribute. What is more, he wants someone to continue his work by creating a positive counterpart to his essay, that would neutralize the negativity of it. He mentions that a translator cannot avoid these tendencies by the mere awareness of their existence. In order to avoid them, one needs to succumb.

The twelve deforming tendencies[edit | edit source]

Rationalization[edit | edit source]

The very first of the deforming tendencies mentioned by Berman in his essay is rationalization. As he says at the end of its description while summing up the information about the term: “rationalization deforms the original by reversing its basic tendency”[3] – it makes the naturally concrete prose abstract by changing the sentence structure, substituting verbs with nouns, and selecting the more general substantive out of two. Rationalization is mainly about syntactical structure of a text – the order of words within a sentence, the order of sentences within a paragraph; and punctuation, etc.

The original The Polish translation
(…) down she came upon a heap of sticks and dry leaves, and the fall was over. Alice was not a bit hurt, and she jumped up on to her feet in a moment: she looked up, but it was all dark overhead; before her was another long passage, and the White Rabbit was still in sight, hurrying down it. There was not a moment to be lost: away went Alice like the wind, and was just in time to hear it say, as it turned a corner (…)[4] Widzi pod sobą kupę chrustu i zeschłych liści. Spogląda w górę… Ciemno… Patrzy przed siebie… Znów wąski korytarz, a w dali biegnie Biały Królik. Zrozumiała, że nie ma chwili do stracenia. Zerwała się. Pędzi co sił… słyszy jeszcze, jak biały królik szepce (…)[5]

In the above example from the fourth chapter, the author frequently uses the concjunction „and”, colons and a semicolon. In the Polish version, instead of those, the translator uses quite a lot of ellipsis, and not a single semicolon and colon. This means she chose completely different punctuation marks. The original passage has the continuity, and the translation gives a lot of shorter sentences, giving the reader time to stop, and thus slowing the action. Thanks to that, it is easy for children to follow the story.

Clarification[edit | edit source]

It is another phenomenon mentioned by Berman in his essay. Translation itself is clarifying the written word in a foreign language. Sometimes when a fragment of the text is vague, because the author wanted it to be so, it should remain unclear in the translation. However, clarification is an inherent part of translation because, as the American poet Galway Kinnell said: “The translation should be a little clearer than the original.”[3] According to Berman, every translation includes clarification. On the one hand, thanks to this tendency, the reader is provided with all information, there is nothing unclear about the text, and new light is shed on it. On the other hand, it is incosistent with Berman’s beliefs – what was meant to be implicit, should remain implicit.

The original The Polish translation
I’ve tried the roots of trees, and I’ve tried banks, and I’ve tried hedges (…) – Zabezpieczałem się korzeniami drzew, próbowałem sypać wały, sadzić żywopłoty (…)

In the original, the character does not say what it tried to do with those trees, banks, and hedges. Perhaps it tried to hide its eggs there, or build a new nest (the character is a pigeon). It is not entirely clear, so the room is left for interpretation. By adding different verbs to the nouns, the translator created a completely understandable sentence. The reader is aware what the character did with the roots of trees (it covered itself with them), banks (it built them), and hedges (it planted them). Clarification is interfering with the original, and it limits the abstraction and the number of ways of interpretation. Nevertheless, it creates a clear and vivid image of what the author probably had in his mind.

Expansion[edit | edit source]

Expansion means creating a translation which is longer than the original. This takes place very often while translating from English into Polish. This tendency is influenced by the two previously mentioned tendencies – rationalization and clarification. It may emasculate the rhythmic flow of the text. Expansion usually makes a work longer, while impoverishing its meaning. Berman said about this tendency that „the addition adds nothing”.[3]

The original The Polish translation
Perhaps not, (…) but I know I have to beat time when I learn music. Gawędzić z nim – nie gawędziłam nigdy; powiedz, dlaczego mam mu dawać tytuł szanownego. Mam go co dzień więcej, niż chcę, do zbytku go posiadam, nudzi mnie nieraz, nie wiem, co z nim robić.

Since the translator added the verbs to the nouns in the above passage, the text automatically becomes longer. A Polish translation is usually longer than the source text in English, and if one takes into account the way, in which the translator plays with syntax, and how much she changes the texts when it comes to the order of words and sentences, one must acknowledge that the translation has to be longer than the original.

Ennoblement[edit | edit source]

Another tendency, ennobmelent, means creating a more elegant text out of the original one, which is treated by the translator as a rough draft. He/she simply rewrites the original, rendering it more sophisticated, with the use of distinguished words and elegant phrases. So one can say that ennoblement is simply a rewriting that is based on the original text. This way, the original can be rendered better by removing possible awkwardness and clumsy bits. In poetry the tendency is called „poetization”, and in prose – „rhetorization.”

The original The Polish translation
(…) and had to stoop to save her neck from being broken. (…) aby wszystkie członki ocalić od uszkodzenia.

In this passage, the author used the ordinary word “neck”, which is a very basic word known even by beginners, who have just started learning English. However, in the Polish translation, the word “członki” is used. This word is much more elegant, especially that it is used not in its primary meaning “members”, but “limbs”.  

Qualitative impoverishment[edit | edit source]

Qualitative impoverishment means replacing words, phrases, descriptions, etc. in the original with ones that are not sonorous, or „iconic”. An iconic phrase is a phrase that creates an image in the reader’s head. If this method is adopted in the whole book, the  expression of the book is completely destroyed.

The original The Polish translation
The master was an old Turtle—we used to call him Tortoise—”

“Why did you call him Tortoise, if he wasn’t one?” Alice asked.

“We called him Tortoise because he taught us.”

– Naszym nauczycielem był stary żółw, nazywaliśmy go szylkretem.

– Dlaczego nazywaliście go szylkretem, jeżeli nim nie był? – spytała Alicja.

– Nazywaliśmy go szylkretem, ponieważ nas uczył, to profesorski tytuł.

In its story, one of the characters speaking used a word play, and both words it uttered – „Tortoise” and „taught us” are pronounced in the same way. This sonorous fragment was avoided in the translation. The translator translated „Tortoise” as „szylkret” – indeed, it would be hard to create a translation with homophones that would be applicable in this conversation. Nevertheless, because of that difficulty, the translation’s quality was impoverished.  

Quantitative impoverishment[edit | edit source]

This tendency is connected with lexical loss. We can talk about quantitative impoverishment when in the original there is more than one signifier (a physical sign, for example a word or a sound, that has meaning)[6], and it is translated as only one word. For instance, if a Polish author, for the signified „twarz” alternately used in his work such signifiers as „lico”, „fizjognomia” i „facjata”, and the translator every time would translate it only as „twarz”, it would mean he/she adopted quantitative impoverishment.

The original The Polish translation
The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well. (…) Alice was not a bit hurt, and she jumped up on to her feet in a moment: she looked up, but it was all dark overhead; before her was another long passage, and the White Rabbit was still in sight, hurrying down it. Nie namyślając się, wpadła weń. Było to wejście do wąskiego, długiego korytarza. W dali biegł Biały Królik. Chce go dogonić, pędzi więc co tchu. Nagle korytarz się skończył i przed dziewczynką rozwarła się ciemna przepaść. (…) Widzi pod sobą kupę chrustu, i zeschłych liści. Spogląda w górę… Ciemno… Patrzy przed siebie… Znów wąski korytarz, a w dali biegnie Biały Królik.

In the above extract from the English book, the author uses two words for describing a long and narrow way – „tunnel” and „passage.” However, in the translation, only one word – „korytarz” – is used (only one signifier for a signified). If the translator used more signifiers, for instance, „tunel” or „przejście”, quantitative impoverishment would not take place here.

The destruction of rhythms[edit | edit source]

This tendency can be more often observed in poetry than in prose, but it does sometimes occur in the latter. According to Berman, it is difficult to destroy the rhythm in prose, because it is constantly in movement. Nevertheless, it is possible, mainly by reorganizing the punctuation. This is a case when a translator uses many more punctuation marks than the author did in the original.   

The original The Polish translation
(…) down she came upon a heap of sticks and dry leaves, and the fall was over. Alice was not a bit hurt, and she jumped up on to her feet in a moment: she looked up, but it was all dark overhead; before her was another long passage, and the White Rabbit was still in sight, hurrying down it. There was not a moment to be lost: away went Alice like the wind, and was just in time to hear it say, as it turned a corner (…) Widzi pod sobą kupę chrustu i zeschłych liści. Spogląda w górę… Ciemno… Patrzy przed siebie… Znów wąski korytarz, a w dali biegnie Biały Królik. Zrozumiała, że nie ma chwili do stracenia. Zerwała się. Pędzi co sił… słyszy jeszcze, jak biały królik szepce (…)

The original passage is written in a smooth manner and the action is very rapid. In the translation, ellipsis is used thrice, thus slowing the action. Just like in the example of rationalization – in this way, it is possible for children to follow the plot more easily because this quick action is fragmented.

The destruction of the underlying networks of signification[edit | edit source]

According to what Berman says in his essay, every literary work has a hidden meaning, or another dimension. Particular words from different chapters may form a network – a chain of reoccurring phrases, words, and their synonyms, which create another dimension of the story. He also says that in order to place the desirable image in the readers’ minds, a proper choice of words in needed. These should be selected carefully by the translator so that readers of the translated version would have a similar perception of the book or its fragment as the source audience. This entails the destruction of underlying networks of signification.

The original The Polish translation
I’m here! Digging for apples, yer honour! – Tu jestem, proszę jaśnie pana – odezwał się jakiś obcy głos – zbieram jabłka.

They key word here is “digging”. It helps in creating the strange atmosphere. The very action of digging for apples is abnormal, just like other things and actions in the whole book. When one reads this passage, one may think: “How can you dig for apples? They do not grow underground.” By using this word, Carroll added one more strange aspect to the story – in the Wonderland you do not pick apples, you dig for them. The translator rationalized this utterance by changing the verb “digging” into “zbieram”. The verb “zbieram” is perfectly neutral as this is what one would normally say. Here, the strangeness of the text in absent. Something that was irrational in the original was replaced with something ordinary in the target text. The two versions affect readers in a different way. Actually, the translation does not affect the reader in any way, while the original version does – it adds even more strangeness to the world depicted in the book.

The destruction of linguistic patternings[edit | edit source]

This tendency refers to the construction of sentences in a given text. Such tendencies as expansion, clarification or rationalization may destroy the systematic nature of a text by introducing elements that are excluded by its essential system. As a result, the translation is more “homogenous” than the original work, and it is also more incoherent to the reader. The tendency may be adapted as changing an interrogative form into a positive form, switching the main clause combining separate sentences with a conjunction, etc.

The original The Polish translation
Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, “and what is the use of a book,” thought Alice “without pictures or conversations?” Na ławce obok siostry, z lekka oparta o jej ramię, siedzi Alicja. Myśli, czym by się zająć, lecz oczki jej się kleją, morzy ją sen. Po chwili zagląda do książki, czytanej przez siostrę. Nic w niej jednak nie znajduje zabawnego – ani jednego obrazka, ani jednej wesołej rozmowy. Zniechęcona przymyka oczy i mruczy do siebie:

- Na co komu mogą przydać się takie nudne książki.

In this example, the last sentence that ends with a question mark is translated into one that ends with a dot, so this is a change from an interrogative sentence into a constative. In the original, it seems like Alice is really curious about it and demands an answer for her question. It renders the reader think that, somehow, she is going to look for it. However, in the translation it looks like a question, for which she does not seek for an answer. As soon as she utters these words, she loses interest in it, and the action continues.

The destruction of vernacular networks or their exoticization[edit | edit source]

Another deforming tendency enlisted by Antoine Berman and used by Maria Morawska in her translation is the destruction of vernacular networks or their exoticization. It means erasing diminutives, replacing verbs with nouns, etc. One of the ways of keeping the vernaculars is to exoticize them. There are two ways of exoticization: putting a word or phrase in italics or making additions to add more authenticity. However, since the vernacular is so deeply rooted in culture, it is hard to translate it, and relatively easy to create a ridiculous text.

The original The Polish translation
(…) “Sure then I’m here! Digging for apples, yer honour!”

”Now tell me, Pat, what’s that in the window?”

“Sure, it’s an arm, yer honour!” (He pronounced it “arrum”.)

– Tu jestem, jaśnie pana – odezwał się jakiś obcy głos – zbieram jabłka.

– Rzuć to wszystko, chodź tu zaraz, pomóż mi się stąd wygramolić… Uf… tak… dobrze… a teraz powiedz mi, co to tam tkwi w oknie. – Ramię, proszę jaśnie pana.

While reading the original version, it is apparent that Pat belongs to a lower social class. Instead of “your”, he says “yer”, and he pronouns the word “arm” as “arrum”, which all proclaims that he is much inferior to his interlocutor when it comes to the social position. This is what the translated version lacks. Indeed, the reader knows that Pat is an underling as he calls the Rabbit “jaśnie pan”, but the cant was completely omitted. Morawska neutralised Pat’s personality by depriving him of what was his quality – his vernacular. This way, the social distinction is not as clearly visible as in the original.  

The destruction of expressions and idioms[edit | edit source]

This tendency comprises translating images, expressions, figures and proverbs into another language. Berman says that even if the meaning of the translated word is identical, replacing an idiom by its “equivalent” is an enthnocentrism. In such a case, the results may be absurd, and the translator may create a text whose action would take place in two realities – one of the original, and the other of the recipient language. Moreover, the reader is able to detect an equivalent of a foreign proverb, thus they should not be domesticated.

The original The Polish translation
“What I was going to say,” said the Dodo in an offended tone, “was, that the best thing to get us dry would be a Caucus-race.” Obrażony Gąsior tłumaczył poirytowanym głosem:

– Mówię wyraźnie. Za najlepszy środek na osuszenie uważam wyścigi o pierwszeństwo.

A Caucus-race is a competitive process in which a political party selects their candidate, especially presidential; a primary election via caucus.[7] In the translation it was replaced with „wyścigi o pierwszeństwo”. The expression „Caucus-race” is embedded in the American and British culture, while it is not known in Polish. The translator decided to render it neutral so that the Polish children would not have to wonder what it is, and their reading would be more smooth.

The effacement of the superimposition of languages[edit | edit source]

The last tendency refers to the omission of a koine, dialect, and other forms of a language. While using this tendency, the translator removes the relation between the surface language and the underlying language. Berman says that every novel comprises linguistic superimpositions, even if they include idiolects, sociolects, etc. This again can be observed in the following example.

The original The Polish translation
I’m here! Digging for apples, yer honour! – Tu jestem, proszę jaśnie pana – odezwał się jakiś obcy głos – zbieram jabłka.

Here, Pat’s sociolect visible in the pronunciation of the word “yer” (instead of “your”) was omitted by Morawska in her translation. This way, the difference between the ordinary speech of, for example, the Rabbit, and Pat's sociolect is effaced, and the reader cannot see the difference between them.

Conclusions[edit | edit source]

By using the deforming tendencies, for instance, simplifying the punctuation, and rendering clear what was originally vague, Morawska proved that her aim was to create a translation chiefly for children. Thanks to her approach to translating this work, the book was made easier to comprehend for young readers. Thereby, Morawska did not take into consideration the essence of Antoine Berman’s essay – to allow the foreign to remain the foreign. On the one hand, this renders the book easier to read for the young audience. On the other hand, the work could remain as mysterious as in the original, with all of its understatements and vague portions.  

References[edit | edit source]

  1. „Alicja w Krainie Czarów.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 9 June 2021, www.pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alicja_w_Krainie_Czarów. Accessed 11 June 2021.
  2. Carroll, Lewis. Alicja w Krainie Czarów. Translated by Maciej Słomczyński, Wydawnictwo Zielona Sowa, 2006.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Berman, Antoine. „Translation and the Trials of the Foreign.” The Translation Studies Reader, edited by Lawrence Venuti, Routledge, 2012, 284-297.
  4. Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Project Gutenberg, 2008.
  5. Carroll, Lewis. Alicja w Krainie Czarów. Translated by Maria Morawska, Wydawnictwo IBIS, 2020.
  6. https://dictionary.cambridge.org
  7. „Caucus Race.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 16 January 2021, www. en.wiktionary.org/wiki/caucus_race. Accessed 11 June 2021.