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The Past Tense in Polish and French

A Semantic Approach to Translation


Magdalena Karolak

This book presents the first detailed analysis of the mechanism of translating the Polish past tense into French. Grounded in the field of aspectual research, this study bridges the gap between theory and practice by presenting a set of equivalency rules for Polish past imperfective verb forms and French past tenses.
Drawing on a wide selection of Polish literary texts and their translations into French, the author analyses the translation of Polish past imperfective verbs in factual contexts and their actual uses in narration. Using the semantic theory of aspect developed by Stanisław Karolak, the author establishes rules of equivalency for imperfective uses in both languages as well as rules of equivalency between Polish past imperfective verbs and perfect tenses in French ( passé composé, passé simple and plus-que-parfait).
The translation rules developed in this study can be applied directly in translation practice as well as providing a resource for scholars of the French and Polish languages. Additionally, this book lays the foundation for future contrastive studies on aspect in languages from different language families.


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Table 1.1. Oppositions between passé simple and imparfait 8 Table 1.2. Semantic oppositions of the French past tenses according to Desclés and Guentchéva 14 Table 1.3. Typology of passé composé adopted by various authors 18 Table 1.4. Comparison of the categories of histoire and discours 22 Table 1.5. Comparison of the categories of commentaire and récit 23 Table 2.1. Oppositions of the perfective and the imperfective in French 43 Table 2.2. Comparison of the aspectual forms of the verb czytać 44 Table 2.3. Comparison of aspect and Aktionsart 48 Table 2.4. Comparison of Vendler’s verbal categories 49 Table 2.5. Aspectual values of French tenses according to Smith (1997) 55 Table 2.6. Tense forms of the aspectual pair pisać – napisać 57 Table 2.7. Tense forms of the verb écrire 57–58 Table 2.8. The scope of the imperfective and the perfective aspects in past tenses 63 Table 2.9. Possibilities of alterations in Vendler’s categories 67 Table 2.10. Polish iterative suf fixes and prefixes 68 Table 2.11. French iterative suf fixes 69 Table 3.1. Classification of simple aspect lexemes in Polish and French (examples) 78 x Tables Table 4.1. Examples of the factual use of punctual verbs 103–104 Table 4.2. Classification of telic verbs depending on the result 106 Table 4.3. Examples of factual use of accomplishments 106–107 Table 4.4. Examples of the factual use of achievements 108–109 Table 4.5. Examples of factual use of activities 110–111 Table 4.6. The use of Polish imperfective verbs...

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