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Using Translation As A Means Of Interpretation English Language Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 5458 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Translation is an activity comprising the interpretation of the meaning of a text in one language and the production, in another language, of a new, equivalent text, or translation. Its goal is to establish a relation of equivalence of intent between the source and target texts, while taking into account a number of constraints. These constraints and differences between an SL and a TL and the variation in their cultures make the process of translating a real challenge. Among the problematic factors involved in translation include context, form, the rules of grammar of both languages, meaning, style, their writing conventions, their figurative languages, such as proverbs, idioms, metaphors, euphemisms, and the like.

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One of the grammar/vocabulary areas that cause most problems for students of English is euphemisms. Euphemisms are words or phrases that are used to soften the reality of what are being communicated to a given listener or reader. They are a universal feature of language usage since all cultures typically use them to talk about things they find terrifying, for example war, sickness, and death.

Euphemisms are powerful linguistic tools that “are embedded so deeply in our language that few of us, even those who pride themselves on being 2

plainspoken, ever get through a day without using them” (Rawson, 1981:1). The need for euphemism is both social and emotional, as it allows discussion of ‘touchy’ or taboo subjects (such as sex, personal appearances or religion) without enraging, outraging, or upsetting other people, and acts as a pressure valve whilst maintaining the appearance of civility.

Also, euphemisms are highly important expressive means of any language and are frequently used in everyday life. They make the speech more expressive, vivid, and colorful. This makes the euphemisms adapt speech to different situations. Thus euphemisms help people to fit to the proper context and to express ideas clearly.

All these euphemisms appeared naturally in the process of everyday usage. People instinctively try to avoid the word not to offend or to hurt one’s feelings. So euphemisms are synonyms that aim at producing a deliberately mild effect. When people use them in proper situations, it means that they care about other people.

As Holder (2003) puts it, “Euphemism is the language of evasion, prudery and deceit”, but euphemisms also help us to cope with troublesome situations, and many of them are a source of laughter. As euphemistic expressions evolve in the course of time and new euphemisms emerge to replace the old ones, they also help to keep the language diversity alive.

Similarly, euphemisms are used to express taboos, as we feel, on some instinctual level, that the euphemism keeps us at safe distance from the taboo itself. Another use of euphemisms is to elevate the status of something (e.g., using 3

educator for teacher, attorney for lawyer); but in general, euphemisms are used to express what is socially difficult to express in direct terms.

Euphemisms are formed based on four devices, as proposed by Warren (1992). The first device is word formation, in which the words are formed by compounding, blends, acronym, derivation, and onomatopoeia. The second device is phonemic modification. Below this term, the euphemisms are formed by modifying their phonetics. The third device is loan words, which are words from other languages. The last device is semantic innovation. In this case, a word or a phrase can be consider as a euphemism when its meaning no longer refer to their literal meaning, but the euphemism intended meaning.

The fact that many euphemism words or phrases cannot be predicted from their formations (specifically in the semantic innovation device) makes language more complicated for the learner of English. Such formations are often particularly difficult to understand because the learner hears a string of words, which they know very well, but which in formation do not make any sense.

It is common knowledge that in order to provide an adequate translation, the translator must be able to sense nuances in the semantics of both the source-language and target-language texts. English euphemism words or phrases are of great interest to the researcher in this respect because they possess quite a number of semantic, grammatical and stylistic peculiarities, sometimes making their accurate translation into Indonesian difficult. Obviously, such semantic peculiarities of English euphemisms must have influenced the process of their translation into the Indonesian language. 4

Therefore, to be able to obtain valid data, the researcher used a novel entitled The Sum of All Fears by Tom Clancy and its translated version, Puncak Ketakutan, as the source of data. It was chosen because Tom Clancy is a novelist who always set a thriller genre and put military and political circumstances in which euphemistic expressions usually appear.

Finally, in this research, the study is meant to show to the reader that euphemisms in The Sum of All Fears are translated into euphemisms, non-euphemisms, or they are not translated into both forms, in the sense that they are deleted or are kept in their original forms. To do as such, the researcher also identified several kinds of strategy applied in translating them. Then, it can be concluded that the result of this research will show whether the translations of euphemisms change the meanings or not.

1.2 Scope of the study

This study is focusing on two significant focuses. The first is English euphemisms, in this context, the words and phrases. The second is the Indonesian equivalent of translated form. The area in which the problem will focus is in the novel The Sum of All Fears, written by Tom Clancy.

1.3 Research Questions

There are one main research question and two sub-problems when developing this study. The main research question is how the euphemisms in The Sum of All Fears are translated. The sub-problems following the main research


questions are “What kinds of strategies do the translator use in translating euphemisms in the novel?” and “Does the translation of euphemisms affect the meanings?”

1.4 Purpose of the Study

The aim in this study is to answer the main problem, the way euphemisms in The Sum of All Fears are translated. Also, the sub-purposes of the research are to identify the strategies occurred in the translation of euphemisms in the novel and to find out whether or not the translated euphemisms affect the meanings.

1.5 Time and Place of the Study

The research was held within five months, which was from March 2007 to July 2007. The study is a written-data research that is not tied to a certain place.

1.6 Significance of the Study

By carrying out this research, the results of this research are expected to enrich the study of translation and to be advantageous for the writer to obtain a deeper understanding about translation area. Furthermore, this research will possibly add a valuable input concerning the translation of euphemism. Not only that, this research is also meant to enlarge the horizon for English Department students who wish for a more understanding about the area.




2.1. Studies on Translation

Translation typically has been used to transfer written or spoken SL texts to equivalent written or spoken TL texts. In general, the purpose of translation is to reproduce various kinds of texts-including religious, literary, scientific, and philosophical texts-in another language and thus making them available to wider readers.

If language were just a classification for a set of general or universal concepts, it would be easy to translate from an SL to a TL. Furthermore, under the circumstances the process of learning a second language would be much easier than it actually is. In this regard, Culler (1976) believes that languages are not nomenclatures and the concepts of one language may differ radically from those of another, since each language articulates or organizes the world differently, and languages do not simply name categories; they articulate their own (p.21-2).

Translation is an activity comprising the interpretation of the meaning of a text in one language – the source text – and the production, in another language, of a new, equivalent text – the target text, or translation. Traditionally, translation has been a human activity, although attempts have been made to automate and computerize the translation of natural-language texts – machine 7

translation – or to use computers as an aid to translation – computer-assisted translation.

The goal of translation is to establish a relation of equivalence of intent between the source and target texts (that is to say, to ensure that both texts communicate the same message), while taking into account a number of constraints. These constraints include context, the rules of grammar of both languages, their writing conventions, their idioms, and the like.

In the process of translating, there are some principles that must be attained by translators. Duff (1989) summarizes them as meaning, form, register, source language influence, style and clarity, and idioms. These principles of translation keep hold on the most essential part in the process of translation, which is the meaning. As formulated above, the goal of translation is to link the same message in, yet, different form. Therefore, it should reflect accurately the meaning of the original text. The form is also significant after the meaning because of the aspect of the ordering of words and ideas. Register, in the other hand, indicates the levels of formality in a given context (say, the business letter). Register the follows by source language influence, which involve the translator’s thoughts and choice of words. Same with the others, the style and clarity and idioms aspects cannot be left behind since they also share the same significance part with each other during the translation process.

The translation process, whether it is for translation or interpreting, can be described simply as decoding the meaning of the source text, and re-encoding this meaning in the target language. To decode the meaning of a text the translator 8

must first identify its component “translation units”, that is to say the segments of the text to be treated as a cognitive unit. A translation unit may be a word, a phrase or even one or more sentences.

Behind this seemingly simple procedure lies a complex cognitive operation. To decode the complete meaning of the source text, the translator must consciously and methodically interpret and analyse all its features. This process requires thorough knowledge of the grammar, semantics, syntax, idioms and the like of the source language, as well as the culture of its speakers.

The translator needs the same in-depth knowledge to re-encode the meaning in the target language. In fact, often translators’ knowledge of the target language is more important, and needs to be deeper, than their knowledge of the source language. For this reason, most translators translate into a language of which they are native speakers. In addition, knowledge of the subject matter being discussed is essential. In recent years studies in cognitive linguistics have been able to provide valuable insights into the cognitive process of translation.

2.1.1 Translation strategies, methods and procedures

The translation strategy as defines by Loescher (1991:8) is a potentially conscious procedure for solving a problem faced in translating a text, or any segment of it. As stated in this definition, the notion of consciousness is significant in distinguishing strategies which are used by the learners or translators.

Taking into account the process and product of translation, Jaaskelainen (2005) divides strategies into two major categories; some strategies relate to 9

what happens to texts and other strategies relate to what happens in the process. Product-related strategies, as Jaaskelainen (2005:15) writes, involves the basic tasks of choosing the SL text and developing a method to translate it. However, she maintains that process-related strategies “are a set of (loosely formulated) rules or principles which a translator uses to reach the goals determined by the translating situation” (p.16).

Meanwhile, Newmark (1988) mentions the difference between translation methods and translation procedures. He writes that, “while translation methods relate to whole texts, translation procedures are used for sentences and the smaller units of language” (1998: 81). He goes on to refer to the following methods of translation: (1) word-for-word translation, in which the SL word order is preserved and the words translated singly by their most common meanings and out of context, (2) literal translation, in which the SL grammatical constructions are converted to their nearest TL equivalents, but the lexical words are again translated singly and out of context, (3) faithful translation, which attempts to produce the precise contextual meaning of the original within the constraints of the TL grammatical structures, (4) semantic translation, which differs from faithful translation only in as far as it must take more account of the aesthetic value of the SL text, (5) adaptation, which is the freest form of translation and is used mainly for plays (comedies) and poetry; in the state that the themes, characters, plots are usually preserved. Here, the SL culture is converted to the TL culture and the text is rewritten, (6) free translation, which produces the TL text without the style, form, or content of the 10

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original, (7) idiomatic translation, which reproduces the message of the original but tends to distort nuances of meaning by preferring colloquialisms and idioms where these do not exist in the original, and (8) communicative translation, which attempts to render the exact contextual meaning of the original in such a way that both content and language are readily acceptable and comprehensible to the readership.

Thoroughly, Newmark puts forward the following translation procedures that he proposes. They are: (1) transference, which is the process of transferring an SL word to a TL text. It includes transliteration and is the same as what Harvey (2000:5) named “transcription”, (2) naturalization, which adapts the SL word first to the normal pronunciation, then to the normal morphology of the TL, (3) cultural equivalent, which means replacing a cultural word in the SL with a TL one. Note that Newmark stated that “they are not accurate” (1988:83), (4) functional equivalent, which requires the use of a culture-neutral word, (5) descriptive equivalent, (6) componential analysis, in which the translator compares an SL word with a TL word which has a similar meaning but is not an obvious one-to-one equivalent, by demonstrating first their common and then their differing sense components, (7) synonymy, which has the sense that the form is a near to TL equivalent, (8) through-translation, which is the literal translation of common collocations, names of organizations and components of compounds. It can also be called calque or loan translation, (9) shifts or transpositions, which involves a change in the grammar from SL to TL, for instance, the change from singular to plural, the change required when a specific 11

SL structure does not exist in the TL, the change of an SL verb to a TL word, the change of an SL noun group to a TL noun and so forth, (10) modulation, which occurs when the translator reproduces the message of the original text in the TL text in conformity with the current norms of the TL, since the SL and the TL may appear dissimilar in terms of perspective, (11) recognized translation, which occurs when the translator normally uses the official or the generally accepted translation of any institutional term, (12) compensation, which occurs when loss of meaning in one part of a sentence is compensated in another part, (13) paraphrase, (14) couplets, which occurs when the translator combines two different procedures, (15) notes, which are additional information in a translation. Notes can appear in the form of footnotes.

Other different translating procedures are depicted by Nida (1964: 241-47). They are as follow: (1) technical procedures, which is the analysis of the source and target languages and a through study of the source language text before making attempts translate it, and making judgments of the semantic and syntactic approximations, and (2) organizational procedures, in which a constant reevaluation of the attempt made; contrasting it with the existing available translations of the same text done by other translators, and checking the text’s communicative effectiveness by asking the target language readers to evaluate its accuracy and effectiveness and studying their reactions.

2.1.2 Equivalence in Translation

The comparison of texts in different languages inevitably involves a theory of equivalence. Equivalence can be said to be the central issue in translation 12

although its definition, relevance, and applicability within the field of translation theory have caused heated controversy, and many different theories of the concept of equivalence have been elaborated within this field in the past fifty years. Among the theorists who stated their theories of equivalence are Nida, Catford, and Baker.

Nida argued that there are two different types of equivalence, namely formal equivalence-which in the second edition by Nida and Taber (1982) is referred to as formal correspondence-and dynamic equivalence. Formal correspondence ‘focuses attention on the message itself, in both form and content’, unlike dynamic equivalence which is based upon ‘the principle of equivalent effect’ (1964: 159). In the second edition (1982) or their work, the two theorists provide a more detailed explanation of each type of equivalence.

One can easily see that Nida is in favour of the application of dynamic equivalence, as a more effective translation procedure. This is perfectly understandable if we take into account the context of the situation in which Nida was dealing with the translation phenomenon, that is to say, his translation of the Bible. Thus, the product of the translation process, that is the text in the TL, must have the same impact on the different readers it was addressing. Only in Nida and Taber’s edition is it clearly stated that ‘dynamic equivalence in translation is far more than mere correct communication of information’ (ibid.: 25). Despite using a linguistic approach to translation, Nida is much more interested in the message of the text or, in other words, in its semantic quality. 13

He therefore strives to make sure that this message remains clear in the target text.

While, Catford’s approach to translation equivalence clearly differs from that adopted by Nida since Catford had a preference for a more linguistic-based approach to translation and this approach is based on the linguistic work of Firth and Halliday. His main contribution in the field of translation theory is the introduction of the concepts of types and shifts of translation. Catford proposed very broad types of translation in terms of three criteria, which are the extent of translation (full translation vs partial translation), the grammatical rank at which the translation equivalence is established (rank-bound translation vs. unbounded translation), and the levels of language involved in translation (total translation vs. restricted translation).

However, Catford’s definition of textual equivalence is rather circular and his theory’s reliance on bilingual informants is hopelessly inadequate. It can be said that the translation process cannot simply be reduced to a linguistic exercise, as claimed by Catford, since there are also other factors, such as textual, cultural and situational aspects, which should be taken into consideration when translating. In other words, linguistics is not the only discipline which enables people to carry out a translation, since translating involves different cultures and different situations at the same time and they do not always match from one language to another.

In another point of view, new adjectives have been assigned to the notion of equivalence (grammatical, textual, pragmatic equivalence, and several 14

others) and made their appearance in the plethora of recent works in this field. An extremely interesting discussion of the notion of equivalence can be found in Baker (1992) who seems to offer a more detailed list of conditions upon which the concept of equivalence can be defined. She explores the notion of equivalence at different levels, in relation to the translation process, including all different aspects of translation and hence putting together the linguistic and the communicative approach.

She distinguishes between four equivalences. First is equivalence that can appear at word level and above word level, when translating from one language into another. Second is grammatical equivalence, when referring to the diversity of grammatical categories across languages. She notes that grammatical rules may vary across languages and this may pose some problems in terms of finding a direct correspondence in the TL. Third is textual equivalence, when referring to the equivalence between a SL text and a TL text in terms of information and cohesion. Texture is a very important feature in translation since it provides useful guidelines for the comprehension and analysis of the ST which can help the translator in his or her attempt to produce a cohesive and coherent text for the TC audience in a specific context. It is up to the translator to decide whether or not to maintain the cohesive ties as well as the coherence of the SL text. His or her decision will be guided by three main factors, that is, the target audience, the purpose of the translation and the text type. The last is pragmatic equivalence, when referring to implicatures and strategies of avoidance during the translation process. Implicature is not about 15

what is explicitly said but what is implied. Therefore, the translator needs to work out implied meanings in translation in order to get the ST message across. The role of the translator is to recreate the author’s intention in another culture in such a way that enables the TC reader to understand it clearly.

The notion of equivalence is undoubtedly one of the most problematic and controversial areas in the field of translation theory. The term has caused, and it seems quite probable that it will continue to cause, heated debates within the field of translation studies. This term has been analyzed, evaluated and extensively discussed from different points of view and has been approached from many different perspectives. The first discussions of the notion of equivalence in translation initiated the further elaboration of the term by contemporary theorists. Even the brief outline of the issue given above indicates its importance within the framework of the theoretical reflection on translation. The difficulty in defining equivalence seems to result in the impossibility of having a universal approach to this notion.

2.2. Studies on Euphemisms

These terms give us ways of talking about the evaluative content of language, which is that part which doesn’t describe a thing in the world, but rather expresses the speaker’s attitude towards it. As said by Blackaby (2002), a euphemism is a word or phrase that replaces another and that is considered less offensive or less vulgar than the word or phrase it replaces. The idea comes from a Greek word, euphemismos, which fundamentally means “good speech”. 16

Euphemisms, as defined by Holder (2003), involve the use of mild or vague expressions to substitute for blunt precision or disagreeable truths or concepts. They sometimes involve substituting an inoffensive, or even a pleasant term, for one more explicit, thereby veneering the truth by using kind words in order to avoid particular embarrassment or obscure negative connotation.

According to Allan & Burridge, a euphemism is used as an alternative to a dispreferred expression, in order to avoid possible loss of face; either one’s own face or, through giving offence, that of the audience, or of some third party. In fact, many euphemisms are alternatives for expressions the speaker or writer would simply prefer not to use in executing a particular communicative intention on a given occasion.

There are at least three areas, as said by Blackaby, in which to be careful about using euphemisms. First is the area in which the language related to sexuality and what might be called lavatory (potty) talk. Second is the area in which the language that involves softer words substituted for swearing or cursing. The last is the area in which the language that substitutes for profanity – profaning God’s name, since the very first area that is considered in using euphemistic expressions was certainly religious.

Almost every culture develops its own way of saying certain things in a ‘better’ way. Every generation and every culture develop their own euphemisms. It is believed that the use of euphemisms reflect people’s psychological world. Based on this account, Huang (2005) states four main causes from the origin of euphemisms. The first is taboo subject. Because euphemisms originated from 17

primitive society, people believed that language was not merely a symbol but also with magic power. It could bring them misfortunes as well as fortunes, mentioning a certain names ran the risk of being punished, so they usually avoided these taboos. The second is the elegancy. To seek beauty is one of human’s natures, consequently whenever they deal with some inelegant physiological phenomena in communication, people tend to avoid vulgarism so as to achieve elegance. These euphemisms are usually concerning part of body, copulation, pregnancy, menstruation, and excretions. The third thing is politeness. In communication, people usually followed such rules as appropriateness, generosity, praise, modesty, similarity and sympathy, so people often use indirect expressions to achieve politeness. Such euphemisms are usually concerning job, appearance, or character. And the last cause is disguise. People often use euphemisms to disguise something in the other fields of life. Such euphemisms are usually used in politics, economy, or war.

As being stated above, one of the causes of euphemistic expressions is the deal with taboos. Taboos exist in all known cultures and they change in the course of time. Hundreds of euphemisms have emerged to replace pejorative and objectionable words. However, euphemisms don’t necessarily have to deal with taboos. In modern usage euphemisms are often mainly concerned with politeness. In certain situations using euphemisms instead of saying things directly is considered more tactful. For example, employees can be hired and fired, but perhaps it would be more tactful to talk about dehiring instead of firing them. Furthermore, Euphemisms are widely used in the language of commerce and 18

industry. Military jargon also contains euphemistic expressions. We may find these euphemisms are created to make the military actions less guilty for the soldiers. Of course, there are some euphemisms referred to sex, because verbal taboos are generally related with e.g. sex, death and basic biological functions.

The function of euphemism is to protect the speaker/writer, hearer/reader, or all of the above from possible effrontery and offence. This offence may occur in the broaching of a religion or death topic or by mentioning subject matter to which one party involved may be sensitive. In order for communication to progress smoothly and without conflict, accommodations are continually, and often subconsciously, made. Euphemism is the language that might be misleading, but euphemisms may also help people to deal with troublesome, embarrassing and uncomfortable situations. It helps people to turn their face away from direct connection with those things that are morally barred. Euphemisms can also make the dialogue sound more poetic, of higher class, or more proper. Of course, in contemporary literature, many words or phrases once referred to by euphemistic expressions are now described in a more straightforward manner.

Interpretation varies according to context, i.e. whether the speaker means the term to be euphemistic, and the hearer interprets it in that light (Warren, 1992). With euphemism being so entwined with context, however, classification of a term as ‘euphemistic’ becomes difficult. For this reason, Allen and Burridge (1991:21) suggest the hypothetical context of being “polite to a casual acquaintance of the opposite sex in a formal situation in a middle class environment” as one in which a euphemism is likely to be used in place of a 19

‘dispreferred’ alternative. To maintain a constant standard in defining terms as euphemistic during the current study, this pragmatic context will be used. It should be remembered, however, that even within this ‘context’ objective euphemism classification is a grey area, and judgements may differ from person to person.

2.2.1. Classification of Euphemisms

According to Cumming (2003), euphemistic expressions can be classified based on phonological (sound) and semantic (meaning). The phonological area have seven sub-categories: (1) remodellings, (2) clippings and abbreviations, (3) foreign words, (4) abstractions, (5) indirections, (6) longer words, (7) technical terms. In the other hand, the semantic area has five sub-categories: (1) metaphor, which means a word or a phrase to refer to something that it isn’t, implying a similarity between the word or phrase used and the thing described, (2) metonymy, which is a word or phrase that replaces another and uses of a single characteristic to identify a more complex entity, (3) circumlocution, which refers to a roundabout way of talking, (4) hyperbole, which is a word or phrase that replaces another that usually extremely exaggerated or extravagant, and (5) understatement, which is a word or phrase that replaces another where a lesser expression is used than what would be expected.

These categories from Cumming are based on conventional euphemistic expressions. The conventional euphemistic expressions are the words which sole purpose is to make reference to a taboo topic in a polite way. This category has more to do with politeness and social norms than the speaker’s actual 20

feelings. This is very different with the general euphemistic expressions, which are the ways of describing a situation, event or thing which convey an attitude towards it.

Meanwhile, Joseph M. Williams as noted in Neaman & Silver (1983) suggests five general semantic processes by means of which euphemisms are created. First is by borrowing words from other language in which the terms are less freighted with negative associations. Second is by widening. When a specific term becomes too painful or vivid, the words are moved up in the ladder of abstraction. Sometimes, in addition to widening, the words are divided to the negative connotations of a single direct term between two or more words. Third is by semantic shift. This is the substitution of the whole, or a similar generality, for the specific part we do not choose to discuss. Fourth is by metaphorical transfer, the comparison of things of one order to things of another. The last is by phonetic distortion, which is divided into other nine sub-categories: (1) abbreviation, (2) apocopation (shortening or omitting the last syllable), (3) initialing, (4) backforming, (5) reduplication, (6) phonetic distortion, (7) blend


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