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Background and Purpose
Theories of translation have always tended to revolve around the two
poles of ‘literal’ (or word-for-word) and ‘free’ (or sense-for sense) translation.
When Newmark(1981) advocates literal word-for-word translation, but adds the
qualification, “provided that equivalent effect is secured” (P.39), he is touching
on a concept fundamental to the thinking of many translation scholars
concerned with bridging the cultural gap between ST and TT. Later, particularly
in the mid 20th century, there has been increasing interest in the question of
translators’ attitudes to cultural hegemonies when cultural features and values
expressed in a Source Text (ST)are different from the translator’s, and target
reader’s, . But here there is a question remains to be answered, which is how to
translate these cultural factors.
Lawrence Venuti’s work (1995) has focused on the dichotomy between
what he terms ‘domesticating’ and ‘foreignizing’ translation. ‘Domestication’
implies here that the translator’s aim is to give the readers of the Target Text
(TT) the illusion that it was originally written in the Target Language (TL),
whereas ‘foreignizing’ translation aims to challenge the TL reader by
confronting the dissimilarities between Source and Target Language cultures.
This dichotomy has also proposed by other scholars under different names. In
Schreiber’s (1993) outline of different methods of translating, one of the
contrasts drawn between foreignizing and naturalizing translation. Schreiber
(1993) explains that difference is that in making a foreignizing translation the
translator believes the reader expects it to read like a translation, where as the
reader expects a naturalizing translation to red like an original. A further
distinction is between linguistic versus cultural foreignization / naturalization.
Linguistic foreignization / naturalization has to do with the degree to which the
translation confirms to stylistic and idiomatic norms of the target language,
while cultural foreignization / naturalization is concerned with translation of
culture-specific aspects of source text. He points out that in practice a
combination such as linguistic naturalization and cultural foreignization may be
According to Venuti (2000) there are two different groups concerning
literary translation: one side is for “foreignization”, namely, the translated text
should be source language or source text oriented; the other side is for
“domestication” which is target language or target reader oriented. However,
Baker (2000) seems to put more emphasis on study of translation ontology such
as translation principles, translation criteria, translation processes and
translation methods, etc. According to aforementioned statements when certain
translation criteria are defined, more efforts should be made to study various
objective and subjective factors that may affect translation activities so as to
make the discipline of translation more normative and scientific.
Statement of the Problem
One of the most challenging tasks for all translators is how to render
culture-bound elements in subtitles into a foreign language. Indeed, not much
attention has been paid to this problem by translation theories. According to
Newmark "Translation is a craft consisting in the attempt to replace a written
message and/or statement in one language by the same message and/or
statement in another language" (1981, p. 7). However, with culturally-bound
words this is often impossible. Indeed, the meaning which lies behind this kind
of expressions is always strongly linked to the specific cultural context where
the text originates or with the cultural context it aims to re-create.
Behind Venuti’s (2000) unease at the prevalence of ‘domesticating’
translation in the English speaking world is a suspicion that it reflects an
attitude of superiority, even colonialism, towards cultures whose language is not
Bearing in mind the differences between ST and TT audiences, not only
in their previous knowledge of the subject matter, but also in their relationship
with and attitude to the events referred to in the text, in this dissertation the
researcher addresses the extent to which such culture-specific items should be
either domesticated or foreignized. Then different strategies which are available
to the translator are outlined and discussed, and the dissertation shows how a
compromise can be reached between the imperative to make the TT clear and
easy to read, and the desire to help the TL reader to an appreciation of the
cultural differences of another country and another time. To reach this goal, the
corpus of the study is chosen from literary genre.
1. What are the translation strategies the translator has employed to
translate culture-specific items in translation of “Dayee Jan Napoleon”
from Persian into English?
2. What strategies are most frequent in translation of “Dayee Jan
Napoleon” from Persian into English?
3. Are culture-specific items mostly foreignized or domesticated in
translation of “Dayee Jan Napoleon” from Persian into English?
According to Venuti's model, the translation of "Dayee Jan Napoleon"
which is not an English novel is mostly foreignized.
Definition of Key Terms
Culture. Newmark (1988) defines culture as:
The way of life and its manifestations which are peculiar to a community
that uses a particular language as its means of expression. (p. 94)
Culture specific (culture bound) items (CSIs). According to Newmark
culture-bound terms, whether single-unit lexemes, phrases or
collocations are those which are particularly tide to the way of life
and its manifestations that are peculiar to a community that uses a
particular language as its means of expression. (p.94)
Translation units. Vinay and Darbelnet (1985) define translation unit as
“the smallest segment of utterance whose signs are linked in such a way
that they should not be translated individually. (p.95)
Translation strategies. Baker (2001) states:
Translation strategies involve the basic tasks of choosing the
foreign text to be translated and developing a method to translate
it… determined by various factors: cultural, economic, and
Lexical Gap. Lexical gap according to Hutchins and Somers is “the gap
which occurs whenever a language expresses a concept with a lexical unit
whereas the other language expresses the same concept with a free
combination of words” (1992, p. 33)
Translatability. According to Baker (2001) “translatability is mostly
understood as the capacity for some kind of meaning to be transferred
from one language to another without undergoing radical change” (p.
Limitation and Delimitation of the Study
Limitation of the study has three fold first of all this study is a case study
and is limited to the novel of “Dayee Jan Napoleon” by Iraj Pezeshkzad,
translated by Dick Davis. Secondly, this study traces culture-specific items as
defined by Newmark (1998). Finally , the culture-specific items which will
traced include local institutions, idioms and metaphorical expressions, titles,
fists and ceremonies, religious terms, habits and taboos, mythology, items of
clothing, makeup, foods and drinks, house and household peculiar to Persian
culture. And delimitation of the study is as follow: as a native speaker of
modern Persian, the researcher will use his own intuition, language as well as
academic background to trace and spot culture bound items.
Significance of the Study
The second half of the twentieth century had been witnessing an
increasing cooperation and communication among countries and regions all
over the world in fields such as economy, politics, science and technology,
culture, etc. Introducing Iranian culture is now a necessary job for all the
translators. Literary works contain rich and colorful information of the culture
in a country. Therefore, study of the translation of cultural information in the
literary works has become both necessary and important.
Persian literature is undoubtedly one of the nourished literature of the
world which replete with cultural-specific items and there are many people who
are eager to study it, the process of translation is surly a painstaking burdens on
the person who undergone the task. On one hand the process of globalization
and on the other expansion of information and innovation in IT try to show to
show and verify cultural depth and stability. Translation in general and literary
translation in particular, can best demonstrate a nation’s cultural specifications
and identity. This necessitates a good knowledge of translation strategies
prevalent in translation.
One of The best-known and best-selling satirical novels in the Persian
language is My Uncle Napoleon, by Iraj Pezeshkzad, which describes the
ridiculous and eventually hateful existence of a family member who subscribes
to the "Brit Plot" theory of Iranian history. The novel was published in 1973 and
later made into a fabulously popular Iranian TV series. This novel is translated
by Dick Davis. Living in Iran and teaching Persian literature, Dick Davis
became familiar with Persian language and culture. Newmark (1981) suggests
two kinds of translations for literary translation: semantic translation and
Communicative translation attempts to produce on its readers an effect as
close as possible to that obtained on the readers of the original. Semantic
translation attempts to render, as closely as the semantic and syntactic
structures of the second language allow, the exact contextual meaning of
the original. (p.39)
The translator of My Uncle Napoleon translated cultural concepts with
communicative translation, because the translator wanted to produce the same
effect on target reader as the source reader and this kind of effect doesn't obtain
with word for word translation. In communicative translation, the translator
should be familiar with target language and culture, so the translator tried to
render cultural concepts into target language and culture. The first language of
translator is English; he changed in some parts with the deletion, cultural
substitution and sometimes definition for some special words
Review of Literature
Translation is process of connection between two cultures. we can say
that without translation exchange of material or non material factors of two
cultures are impossible, because according to Ivir (1987) there is an inseprabele
relation between culture and language and entrance of a cultural factor from one
culture to another is through language. Accordingly translation means
translation of cultures not languages.
Culture is too board a term to be define in a line or two. Vermeer (1986,
citer in Nord 1997) defines culture as “the entire setting of norms and
conventions an individual as a member of a society must know in order to be
‘like every body’ or to be different every body”. (p. 28)
Some scholars try to narrow down culture to simplified assumptions about
tastes and preferences. In their view “culture is the way of life and its
manifestations that are particular to a community that uses a particular language
as its means of expression” (Newmark, 1988: 94).
As Álvarez and Vidal (1996) point out:
Everything in a language is a product of a particular culture, beginning
with language itself, it is difficult to define exactly what can be classified
in a text as culture-specific. One broad definition of what might be
termed ‘culture-specific items’ (CSIs) could be every feature in a ST
which presents a problem for the translator because there is an
intercultural gap between the SL and the TL. Such a gap is found where
an item in the ST does not exist in the TL culture, or the TL has no word
for that item. (p.57)
An intercultural gap is also to be found where, as Álvarez and Vidal state,
the referred item has a “different intertextual status in the cultural system of the
readers of the TT” (1996, p.58), for example where an item has common
metaphorical associations in the SL, but conveys quite different connotations in
the TL. It follows that an item of lexis might be classified as a CSI in a
particular context, although in general it would not be considered specific to the
SL culture. Álvarez and Vidal give as an example the month of April, which in
England suggests spring or the renewal of life, but would not do so for TL
readers in whose country April was the month of severe hurricanes.
Álvarez and Vidal identify a third component in the nature of CSIs as the fact
that, in the course of time, “objects, habits or values once restricted to one
community [may] come to be shared by others” (1996, p.58). This requires
flexibility in the definition of what constitutes a CSI at any given time in a
particular text. In practice, it obliges the translator to decide to what extent the
item is now integrated into the SC.
Style as a culture-specific feature
Hatim and Mason (1990) see style as being “an indissociable part of the
message to be conveyed” (p.9), style here being distinguished from idiolect, or
from the conventional patterns of expression to be found in a particular
language. Modification on stylistic grounds is seen as “a step on the road to
adaptation” (p.9), which turns the producer of the ST into someone with the
outlook of the TL community, and therefore a different person. The translator
must therefore consider the cultural significance of such linguistic features as
dialect, words marked for social class, or ‘officialese’. Bassnett (1991) also
notes that dialect forms or “regional linguistic devices particular to a specific
region or class in the SL” (p.119) can be significant, so their function should be
first established, and then rendered adequately by the translator. Features of
style or register could therefore be classified as CSIs.
Translating culture specific items
Jacobson (2000) asserts that “all cognitive experience and its
classification is conveyable in any existing language”, but there is “ordinarily
no full equivalence between code units”. (p.139)
According to Jakobson (2000) the translator therefore works mostly in
messages, not single code units. This contrasts with Catford’s(1965 cited in
munday 2001), concept of formal correspondence, which he defines as
“identity of function of correspondent Items in two linguistic systems” (p.60).
However, as Ivir notes, it is “practically impossible to find categories which
would perform the ‘same’ functions in their respective systems, even when the
two languages are closely related” (1981, p. 54).
Equivalence and equivalent effect
Nida as a prolific writer on the subject of equivalence in translation has
attempted to formulate a ‘science of translating’ based on the work of
theoretical linguists in the 1950s and 1960s. (Munday, 2001)
Nida(2000) rejects the concept of a ‘fixed meaning’ for any given word,
maintaining that its meaning is acquired through context, and “ultimately words
only have meaning in terms of the corresponding culture” (p.13).
The translator must aim for the closest possible equivalence, but he
identifies two opposite poles of equivalence, which he terms ‘formal’ and
‘dynamic’. In its strictest manifestation, formal equivalence aims to match the
message in the TL as closely as possible to that in the SL, in structure as well as
in the content of the message. In a translation oriented towards a dynamic
equivalence, the focus is on the response of the TT audience.
Nida (2000) states:
A translation of dynamic equivalence aims at complete naturalness of
expression, and tries to relate the receptor to modes of behavior relevant
within the context of his own culture; it does not insist that he understand
the cultural patterns of the source-language context in order to
comprehend the message. (p.156)
On the other hand Newmark sees equivalent effect as unlikely where
there is a “pronounced cultural gap” between the ST and the TT, or if the
purpose of one text is to “affect” and the other to “inform” (1988, p.48). He
states furthermore that:
The more cultural (the more local, the more remote in time and space) a
text, the less is equivalent effect even conceivable unless the reader is
imaginative, sensitive and steeped in the SL culture. (1988:49).
Newmark thus places the focus on text function, seeing the spectrum of
translation strategies in terms of ‘semantic’ and ‘communicative’ translation.
According to Newmark (1981) text functions are classified as Expressive,
Informative or Vocative, and equivalent-effect translation is given as the
appropriate strategy for the translation of either informative or vocative STs. A
semantic translation keeps as close as possible to the form and the exact
meaning of the ST, while a communicative translation aims to sound as natural
as possible in the TL, and to be reader-friendly. Newmark (1981) considers that
semantic translation may use culturally neutral words, but should not use
cultural equivalents. In assessing the quality of a translation, his main criterion
is the quality and extent of the semantic deficit.
Ivir (1981) sees the ‘dynamic equivalence’ approach to translation as
being based on the assumption that for each unit in the SL there is an equivalent
unit in the TL, and it is the translator’s job to find it. This dynamic view of
translation regards it as a process rather than a result, consisting of the
substituting of messages in one language for messages in another. Ivir’s view on
this understanding of translation equivalence is that the nature of the translator’s
role in receiving the original sender’s message does not differ essentially from
that of other SL receivers of that message. The translator’s job is to code the
received message again in the TL in a way which is substantially the same as
the task performed by the original reader. It is only the communicative situation
which is different. Inevitably the message undergoes modifications in this
process, but the translator must strive to change as little as possible, while
changing “as much as is necessary to ensure communication” (1981, p.53).
Equivalence does not exist separately outside the communicative act; it is
dependent on the relational dynamics in that particular act. Ivir (1981)
summarizes dynamic equivalence as the presence in a translation of both
textually realised formal correspondents in the SL and the TL, and the
“communicative realization of the extralinguistic content of the original
sender’s message in the TL” (p.59).
Hatim and Mason (1990) find difficulties with Nida’s concepts of formal
and dynamic equivalence. Where the translator chooses a strategy of formal
equivalence, it is likely to be in a situation where there are good reasons for
doing so, and therefore the formally equivalent translation may achieve an
equivalent effect on the reader of the TT.
Hatim and Mason (1990) state that:
since it is difficult to gauge the actual effects of TTs on their receivers, it
is preferable to talk of equivalence of ‘intended’ effects” (1990, p.7)
linking what the translator is aiming to achieve to a judgment of what the
author of the ST intended. (p.7)
As complete equivalence is probably an unattainable goal, Hatim and
Mason (1990) prefer the concept of ‘adequacy’ in translations. Adequacy
should be judged in terms of the specifications given by the initiator of the
translation, and the needs of the TT users. They are critical of Nida’s emphasis
of the message over the style of the TT; they consider that to modify the style of
the TT on these grounds would be “to deny the reader access to the world of the
SL text” (P.9). They see this approach as being a step towards adaptation, where
the producer of the ST is effectively given the outlook of a member of the TL
Hatim and Mason( 1990) sum up:
The role of the translator as being that of a mediator between different
cultures, with the major principles involved in translation being
communicative, pragmatic, and semiotic. The terminologies used in a
translation should be seen as the vehicles of a culture, but while relaying
propositional meaning, the translator must also be sensitive to the
‘politeness strategies’ which exist in interaction in every culture. Finally,
the socioideological stance reflected in the ST should be readable in the
TT if it is to be regarded as a successful translation. (P.238)
Domestication and foregnization
As Munday notes (2001:27), the nineteenth century theologian and
translator Schleiermacher acknowledged the difficulty of translating texts of a
scholarly or artistic nature because the language of the ST is very “culture-
bound” and the TL can never fully correspond with it. Schleiermacher’s
response to this problem is to adopt the strategy of “[moving] the reader
towards the writer” (Munday. 2001: 28).
In Venuti’s words, “the translator must aim to be as ‘invisible’ as
possible” (2008:1). Venuti takes a similar position to Schleiermacher, though he
uses the concepts of ‘domestication’ and ‘foreignization’. Domestication
implies that everything foreign in the ST is made familiar and recognizable to
the TL reader, whereas foreignization “signifies the differences of the foreign
text … by disrupting the cultural codes that prevail in the translating language”
(2008:15). In advocating foreignization, Venuti is urging the translator to
“[resist] dominant values in the receiving culture so as to signify the linguistic
and cultural differences of the foreign text” (2008:18). This choice represents a
question of “fundamentally ethical attitudes towards a foreign text and culture”
Venuti is not alone in expressing disquiet about the tendency of
translators into English to make their translations as transparent as possible.
Hermans, for example, acknowledges that a translation into English is only
deemed successful when the translator’s labor is “negated or sublimated”,
leaving “no identifiable trace of its own” (1999:62). Franco Aixelá (1996:54)
writes of a clear trend in the Western world towards “maximum acceptability”,
which means that domestic readers may be given the impression that they are
encountering an original text. As Zlateva points out (1990:34), critics reviewing
a translated work rarely know the language in which that work was originally
written, and are therefore judging the TT as a text in their native language. Their
judgment on the beauty, richness or fluency of the language may be entirely at
odds with the style of the ST and the intentions of its author.
In deciding on an appropriate strategy the translator has to make a
fundamental choice as to the extent to which the reader of the TT should be
made aware that the ST has sprung from a different culture. Various factors will
influence this decision, including the genre of the TT, the translator’s perception
of the TT audience, and the translator’s own ideology or possible political
In this chapter, the design of this study which shows the nature of this
project, the corpus on which this study is run besides the justifications for
choosing it, the framework which constitutes the theoretical basis of this study,
the procedure of doing this project and the method of data analysis used in this
study will be mentioned.
This study is a descriptive and library research and its aim is to analyze
and describe the strategies applied by translator to deal with CSI. Based on the
classification of cultural categories by translation scholars the CSIs will be
extracted, their translation will be reviewed, strategies determined, and the
results will interpreted.
The corpus of this study is a body of culture-specific items which would
be extracted From “Dayee Jan Napoleon”, a novel by Iraj pezeshkzad,
translated by Dick Davis. The reason for choosing this novel of is that it is
replete with different CISs which its translation might be a challenging task.
The theoretical framework of the present research is based on the Ivir’s
model, which proposed 7 strategies for translation of cultural words: borrowing,
definition, literal translation, substitution, lexical creation, omission and
addition (1987). Ivir, notes that "combinations of procedures rather than single
procedures are required for optimum transmission of cultural information (e.g.
borrowing-and-definition, borrowing-and-substitution, lexical creation-and-
definition, etc.)" (1987: 37).
Ivir (1987) says:
Borrowing is a strategy that translators quite frequently use. It is a very
precise transmission of cultural information, but only when it is
reasonable to believe that the TL reader would recognize the term and
know what it means. A borrowing is often used along with its definition,
or with a substitution by a term in the TL that is close to it in meaning,
although not its exact translation. Once the borrowed term has entered the
target language, it can be used freely in that language. (38)
Ivir notes that borrowing is a more accepted practice when the TL "is
relatively open to foreign influences" (1987:38).
According to Ivir (1987), definitional translation tends to be unwieldy. It
is used mainly to complement borrowing. The definition is given "in the body
of the text or in a footnote, when the borrowed term is first introduced" (39).
According to Ivir (1987) definitional translations may result in overtranslation
and draw attention to themselves in a way that the corresponding non-
definitional source-language expression do not. This strategy is not
recommended when the term is used only as "cultural background" (39).
Ivir (1987) says that the translator can resort to substitution where the two
cultures display a partial overlap rather than a clear-cut presence vs. absence of
a particular element of culture (41). The disadvantage of substitution is that it
identifies concepts which are not identical, eliminating the 'strangeness' of the
foreign culture and treating foreign-culture concepts as its own (42). By adding
information to the TL text, the translator makes explicit the information that
was unexpressed yet implicit in the source text (42). Substitutions and
omissions, on the other hand, fail to reflect the fact that the original
communication was taking place in a different cultural setting and that the
source text was an expression a of a source culture. According to Ivir (1987)
this kind of predicament, has "no satisfactory solution" and can only be solved
by "relativization and compromise" (46).
This study is descriptive and library research and its aim is to study
cultural influences on translation, to identify culture-specific items, and to study
the ways and methods for translating them. According to researcher’s intuition
and taste, as a native speaker of modern Persian, and after perusing different
cultural categories and during the comparison of STs and TTs, the CSIs will be
identified. The Persian sentences in which the item was spotted and the
corresponding translation will extracted.
The next step will be determination of the strategy used by the translator
to render the item into English; for sure this process will be according to
framework which is proposed. The items will then be populated into several
tables to specify the frequency of each strategy.
In the process of this research two criteria are used to identify lexical gap;
first, the researcher’s own intuition, second, the fields and domains that have
been previously mentioned and identified by translation scholars to which CSIs
belong and the strategies to which translators refer when encountering a CSI.
After collecting data, they will be analyzed to see which of the aforementioned
strategies of translation was the most frequently used in the process of
translating of each group.
This article is qualitative research. After the items and their translations
are extracted and entered in to a chart, then the kind and frequency of strategies
will be determined. The results will be interpreted in order to determine which
strategies are most frequent and whether the culture-specific items mostly
foreignized or domesticated.
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