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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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Chapter 1 Oppositions between past tenses in French


1.1. Types of oppositions Aspectual and temporal oppositions characterise the tense system of French. As a grammatical category, tense relates an event to the moment of speech; hence, it is inherently linked with time. On the other hand, because tense also indicates how an event unfolds, it also carries aspectual information. Aspect, ‘the internal constituency of a situation’ (Comrie, 1976: 5), is not identical with time, but both concern event descriptions. A comparison of tenses within a given language must take into account these two categories. The first part of the chapter presents oppositions between French past tenses. The analysis begins with the theory of Gustave Guillaume that firmly grounded the study of aspect in French linguistics. It then moves on to consider Hans Reichenbach’s tense model based on temporal oppositions. Finally, the analysis concludes by examining specific tense oppositions in light of an extensive literature review related to each. The second part of the chapter summarises the characteristics of each tense under consideration. 1.1.1. Aspect and tense in the theory of Gustave Guillaume Using Guillaume’s theory (1929) it is possible to demonstrate that aspect functions similarly in French and in Polish, which proves particularly useful for this study. Guillaume used psychology to articulate the relation of time to aspect. He noted that the conception of time is a mental process: its rep- resentation forms first in the mind, and more precisely, in the subconscious. In this way Guillaume questioned the traditional representation of time as 2 Chapter 1 a...

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