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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 6 - Telling the Tail: Translating Wordplay 167

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Chapter 6 Telling the Tail: Translating Wordplay Wordplay or punning is one of the linguistic features that are most dif ficult to translate. The ambiguity that is often involved and the fact that word- play is rooted in a specific language and culture renders it extremely chal- lenging to translate. This chapter analyzes what wordplay is, how it can be used in literature, and its particular roles in children’s literature. Then it considers how wordplay can be translated. Six strategies for the translation of wordplay are explored. Landers writes that “[t]here is perhaps no aspect of translation that is simultaneously more frustrating and potentially more rewarding than metalanguage – in ef fect, a language talking about itself ” (2001: 109). He adds that the “most frequently encountered use of metalanguage, and the one most likely to cause translators sleepless nights, is the pun …” (ibid.). Therefore, the translation of puns, especially those in children’s literature, is both fascinating and dif ficult. In order to be able to translate word- play, translators have to consider both the informative and entertainment functions of the puns, and they may have to make choices about what to prioritize and how. Wordplay Wordplay can be defined as what happens when “structural features of the language(s) used are exploited in order to bring about a communicatively significant confrontation of two (or more) linguistic structures with more or less similar forms and more or less dif ferent meanings” (Delabastita 1996: 168 Chapter 6 128, italics original). In other...

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