Volume 5, No. 3 
July 2001

  Magdy M. Zaky





Thank You!
by Gabe Bokor
Index 1997-2001
  Translator Profiles
The Making of a Translator
by Louis Korda
  The Profession
The Bottom Line
by Fire Ant & Worker Bee
  Legal Translation
La traduzione giuridica
by Deirdre Exell Pirro
  Arts and Entertainment
In the Footsteps of Giants
by Robert Paquin, Ph.D.
One Translator's Thoughts on Localization
by Dag Forssell
  Translation Theory
Translation and Language Varieties
by Magdy M. Zaky
  Translators Around the World
The First Three Years
by Timothy Howe
  Translating Social Change
Translation as Rewriting
by Berrin Aksoy, Ph.D.
  Science & Technology
A Translator’s Guide to Organic Chemical Nomenclature XXIV
by Chester E. Claff, Jr., Ph.D.
  Caught in the Web
Web Surfing for Fun and Profit
by Cathy Flick, Ph.D.
Translators’ On-Line Resources
by Gabe Bokor
  Translators’ Tools
An Effective and Inexpensive Translation Memory Tool
by Andrei Gerasimov
Translators’ Emporium
Letters to the Editor
Translators’ Events
Call for Papers and Editorial Policies
  Translation Journal

Translation Theory


Translation & Language Varieties

by Magdy M. Zaky
he concept of language varieties in general, and language registers in particular, can be of great help in translating as well as in evaluating translations.

Words are only minor elements in the total linguistic discourse. The particular tone of the passage, i.e, the style of the language, may have more impact on the audience than the actual words.
It will be useful sometimes to refer to considerations of register. Since the concept of a "whole language" is so broad and therefore rather loose, it is not altogether useful for many linguistic purposes, whether descriptive or comparative. In other words, the concept of language as a whole unit is theoretically lacking in accuracy, and pragmatically rather useless. Consequently, the need arises for a scientific classification of sub-language or varieties within the total range of one language.

These varieties, or sub-languages, may be classified in more than one way. The suggested classes include idiolects, dialects, registers, styles and modes, as varieties of any living language. Another view is that of Pit Coder (1973), who suggests dialects, idiolects, and sociolects. Quirk (1972) proposes region, education, subject matter, media and attitude as possible bases of language variety classification of English in particular. He recognizes dialects as varieties distinguished according to geographical dispersion, and standard and substandard English as varieties within different ranges of education and social position. Language registers are recognized as varieties classified according to subject matter. We acknowledge varieties distinguished according to attitude, which are called "styles," and varieties due to interference, which arise when a foreign speaker imposes a grammatical usage of his native tongue upon the language, which he is using. For example, a Frenchman might say "I am here since Friday." This is lexically English, but grammatically French. Another way of classifying language varieties is according to the user or the use of language. Thus, in the first category, we may list social dialects, geographical dialects, and idiolects, whereas the second category includes language registers.

The total range of a language may be described in terms of its grammatical, phonological, and sometimes even graphological systems. Similarly, the language varieties of any given language have certain linguistic features in common. These common features of all the varieties of one language constitute the common core of that language. Apart from this common core of the language concerned, there are other lexical. grammatical, and stylistic features of each individual language variety, and so these could serve as formal linguistic as well as stylistic markers of the language variety in question. It may be worth noting in this respect that these variety markers may exist on any level: phonetical, syntactical, stylistical and, above all, lexical levels.

Finally, according to Nida, (1964), one of the most serious problems that face a translator is to properly match the stylistic levels of two different languages. For example, the Bible translator may not select a level of language which is too high for making the message accessible to the people to whom it is addressed. At the same time, the level chosen should not be socially low, becasue it would then debase the content. In some parts of the Arab world, colloquial forms of the language are quite unacceptable for the translation of the Bible, although they might be better and more widely understood by people than classical Arabic. On the other hand, the translator has to select not only the appropriate style for the Bible in general, but for the particular biblical style he is translating, since the Bible contains more than just one style. Translating in fact involves more than finding corresponding words between two languages. Words are only minor elements in the total linguistic discourse. The particular tone of the passage, i.e, the style of the language, may have more impact on the audience than the actual words. Indeed, style and tone are of great, almost fundamental, importance when we translate literary texts rather than scientific ones. If the aim of the source language text is only to convey a piece of information or some instructions to the reader or audience, the referential meaning of words becomes quite significant, and the effect of style and/or tone diminishes. At the other extreme, when we deal with a source language text that does not only aim at conveying a message, but aspires to produce a certain impact on the reader through the use of a particular style, the translation of such a stylistic effect is then an essential part of the very act of translating— not just as an ornament that would bestow beauty upon the translated version, but as an indispensable aspect of it, without which the translation ceases to be a translation in the full sense of the word. This is the case with the translation of the holy books in general, and the Holy Koran in particular, since it is held by Muslims to be a stylistic or literary miracle that defies the human mind with its excellence and beautiful style.