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National Identity in Translation


Edited By Lucyna Harmon and Dorota Osuchowska

Language as an essential and constitutive part of national identity is what obviously gets lost in translation, being substituted by the language of another nation. For this reason, one could perceive national identity and translation as contradictory and proclaim a total untranslatability of the former. However, such a simplified conclusion would clearly deny the actual translation practice, where countless successful attempts to preserve the element of national identity can be testified. The authors of the book focus on the possibilities of various approaches to national identity as a research subject within Translation Studies. The authors hope that the variety of topics presented in this book will inspire further research.

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Identity Translation


Abstract: We consider three types of identity translation: A. Identity texts, e.g. national anthems, which can be translated into different languages but, due largely to emotive and historical connotations, may never attain adequate fidelity level for readers of the target text. B. The texts characterized by deep specificities in cultural meaning, which can be translated, but only by the creative translation able to cash out rich cultural framework. C. One-one literal translations, important in computer translation in an extreme form, can be tested by reverse-translation, even throughout sequential re-translations into several languages and back to the original. While many authors argue that masterful translations of the kind B. cover all cases of type A, we present arguments to the contrary. We also point out that translations of the kind C., while truly universal, often need to deprive source texts of cultural or national specificities. National identity does not always translate well, and sometimes it does not quite translate at all.

Keywords: identity translation, computer translation, reverse translatability, communitarianism, identity politics

1 Introduction

The article focuses on the ontological gap in translation of the texts essential to identity of a close-knit source culture. Those texts require first-person in-group belonging to unravel their emotive and historical meanings. This to the controversial thesis on non-translatability of national identity.

In more general terms, I identify three clusters of problems of identity translation. The first one, mentioned above, is particularly relevant for this article. The...

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