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Translating Expressive Language in Children’s Literature

Problems and Solutions

B.J. Epstein

Children’s literature delights in made-up words, nonsensical terms, and creative nicknames, but how do you translate these expressions into another language?
This book provides a new approach to translation studies to address the challenges of translating children’s literature. It focuses on expressive language (nonsense, names, idioms, allusions, puns, and dialects) and provides guidance for translators about how to translate such linguistic features without making assumptions about the reader’s capabilities and without drastically changing the work. The text features effective strategies for both experienced translators and those who are new to the field, including exercises and discussion questions that are particularly beneficial for students training to be translators. This learner-friendly book also offers original contributions to translation theory in light of the translation issues particular to children’s literature.


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Chapter 2 - What Nonsense: Translating Neologisms 29


Chapter 2 What Nonsense: Translating Neologisms This chapter discusses the translation of neologisms in children’s literature. It first looks at what neologisms are, how they are created, why and how they might be used in children’s literature, and how they can be translated. Then it analyzes examples of neologisms and their translation. Literally, the word neologism means new word. Since word-formation rules dif fer amongst languages, if an author creates and employs neologisms in a text, a translator has to understand how the word was made and then decide whether the component parts of the new words should be broken down and then recreated in the target language or whether a dif ferent strategy works better. Neologisms As stated above, a neologism is generally understood to be a new word. It can also be an existing word that is given a new meaning in a particular text. There are a number of reasons why new words would be needed, and there are a variety of ways of creating them. Algeo writes that in general language usage, “[t]he need for new words is both pragmatic and esthetic. Pragmatically, when there are new things to talk about, we need new words to name them” (Algeo, 1999: 14). Aesthetically, new words may fit the sound or appearance of a text. A practi- cal need does not always seem relevant to neologisms in children’s literature, because generally an author could choose other words to use if so needed. Instead, new words can be...

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