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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 4 Factual and actual meanings of Polish imperfective verbs and problems with their translat


ion into French Given the unusual characteristic of the Slavic languages that allows in some contexts the use of imperfective in place of perfective forms in the past tense, I decided to devote a whole chapter to the study of this phenom- enon. Indeed, the implications of the factual meanings, to which I refer, for translation are important, since such contexts will require the use of a perfective tense in French. Nevertheless, the choice between passé composé and passé simple is dictated by the type of factual meanings in Polish. To begin with, I define the scope of factuality in Polish. Secondly, I propose a classification of verbs with factual meanings, which narrows down the choices of perfective French tenses. As a result, I establish specific trans- lation rules. The second part of the chapter describes imperfective verbs used in the context of actuality, which ref lects the use of imperfective forms in narration. 4.1. Factuality: Definition and classification From an ontological point of view, factual truths are ‘zdania prawdziwe na mocy tego jakie są fakty’ (Chmielecki, 2009) [sentences deemed true by virtue of facts] (my translation). For the purposes of this study, I define factuality as verbal use whose essence lies in communicating that the state of the action denoted by the verb took place before the moment of speech. Comrie noted that the factual use of imperfective occurs when ‘there is no specific reference to the completeness of the event’ and ‘the speaker is 96 Chapter 4 simply...

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