Reference in English-Arabic Translation

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelfagfællebedømt

The use of referring expressions (proper nouns, noun phrases [NPs] and pronouns) in a target language [TL] text may differ from the source language [SL] text with regard to how explicit they are: One may have a pronoun (less explicit) where the other has a proper noun (more explicit), or one may have an indefinite NP (less explicit) where the other has a definite NP (more explicit). But are these differences in any way systematic?

In an article in Babel, Yowell Y. Aziz shows that remarkable differences obtain in the explicitness of various referring expressions when an Arabic text is compared to its English translation and that overall, the English text is the more explicit. Now, does this mean that English generally is more explicit in its use of referring expressions, or is the difference due, rather, to the need of the TL text to be more explicit in order to facilitate the understanding of the text?

The last option would make good sense. The SL text is written for an audience who knows the language and hence is expected to be more or less familiar with the culture. Therefore the author may not need to be as explicit as he or she would be if writing for an audience not so familiar with the culture.

As a preliminary test of this option, the article compares the explicitness of the referring expressions in an American novel, Sula by Toni Morrison, and its Arabic translation, and in this way the article applies Aziz’ method, but instead of going from Arabic to English like Aziz, it goes the other way around. The TL text again turns out to be more explicit than the SL text (in fact, much more explicit), thus raising the likelihood that translations (at least across wide culture gaps) tend to be more explicit in their use of referring expressions than their sources are.
Bidragets oversatte titelReference in English-Arabic Translation
Udgave nummer4
Sider (fra-til)363-371
Antal sider8
StatusUdgivet - 2007

ID: 44659647