19 feb. 2007

Here's where I am a semi-Whorfian--and yet still am not. I think most translators are fooling themselves if they think they can get the words to smell right in the translation. Even a very good translation, very good by almost any conceivable measure, will often feel completely wrong. It would be like someone with perfect pitch, who couldn't stand to hear music played in an unaccustomed key. These differences, however, are almost never the result of having different grammatical systems. I know this, because Spanish is not grammatically dissimilar enough from English to make so much of a difference as it does. So we still aren't at a point where the grammar is determining thought patterns, permitting some and preventing others.

(Let's remember that Whorf thought all Western languages had pretty much the same conceptual system. I forgot how he defined this, whether Indo-European or simply in contact with certain rationalist modes of thought for long enough to adopt. )

With any one bilingual individual, there will be a sense of language and the relation between one or more languages unique to that individual. For example, Beckett with English and French. It is not the English is more poetic than French, but Beckett felt that the particular rhythms of English echoed in his head when he wrote in that language, whereas French permitted him a different feel for things, in his case a bit drier and less "poetical." The home language will almost always feel more sentimental to the writer than the learned language, whatever those two languages might be. The mother tongue will be the language of sentiment and "the past," the learned language will be felt as more analytical.

3 comentarios:

François dijo...

Your comment on Beckett makes me wonder why poets like Pierre Joris, Johannes Göransson and Anselm Hollo would choose to write in English.

Jonathan dijo...

I'm sure it's a different reason for each one of them. I don't think there is a single reason for these things. Plus, there is a difference between the English of these three and the English from which Beckett was moving away.

lindsayi dijo...

after five months of watching english tv with horrible spanish subtitles, yes, translations are never quite the same. i think many people get too caught up in the words instead of focusing on the idea. and some jokes are simply untranslateable. how does a translator deal with puns?