Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 9 : 5 May 2009
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
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         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.



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The Sociolinguistics and Cultural Considerations of
English-Arabic Translation of Political News

Kais Amir Kadhim, Ph.D.


This paper examines the quality of the message in the Arabic translation of English political news. Our data are 7 pairs of English political news ST and their corresponding Arabic TT.

It aims to find the answers to the research question in: What are the cultural and sociolinguistics elements that control the English-Arabic political news translation?

Towards that end, a comparative methodology of the ST and TT will be adopted by paying attention to examine the differences and similarities of the content of the message in the ST and their corresponding message in the TT.

The changes of the message in the Arabic translation could be attributable to many reasons.

In this paper, we are focusing our attention to the message changes in the process of translation that are attributable to the following only: a) stylistic changes, (b) to different sociolinguistic situations, in particular from the view propounded by Fishman (1972) that language is a reflection of the society using the language, and (c) the different perceptions and roles of cultural elements in communication across nations and across different cultures as propounded in Hatim (1997).

The data analyses have shown that cultural words do play important roles in communication among nations and in the process of translation. Hatim's ideas on artifacts, socio-facts and mantifacts have helped the analysis; that is, creating a bettter understanding of the translating processes in the Arabic translation of Engish news across different cultures and nations.

Key words: culture, sociolinguistics, translation, message, and political news

Hatim's Concepts on Communication Across Cultures

Hatim (1997: xiii) notes that a careful consideration to a given text means "…someone attempts to mediate in communicating its 'import' across both linguistic and cultural boundries …" and such an attempt is "… one way of making sure that we do not settle for a partial view of what goes on inside that text." Hence, he suggests that cultural element plays an important role in communication among nations and in the process of translation.

Hatim has studied texts based on two main elements as follows: (a) the culture of Western and Islamic-Arab and the second, and (b) the socio-linguistic element in situation when they are in contact by using texts that people from different cultures can reach and understand the culture of one another properly (Hatim, 1997:157).

Hatim's (1997:157) ideas are to view a text within and across a number of cultural boundries so as to enable the language user from either of the two cultures in question to operate felicitously within the rhetorical conventions not only of the target culture but those of his or her own. Among other things, he makes the following observation:

In the regrettable but not common situation of cross-cultural misunderstandings, which often result in or from a breakdown in communication, what is at the root of the problem is invariably a set of misconceptions held by one party about how the other rhetorically visualize and linguistically realizes of a variety of communicative objectives. Such notions would then be paraded as truisms about the nature of the language of those on the other side, its textual norm and its rhetorical tradition. Hatim (1997:157).

Two Kinds of Audiences

With regards to English and Arabic texts, Hatim (1997:173) identifies two kinds of audiences that the procedures of the two texts assume: the counter-arguments which are typically addressed to the skeptical and the through-arguments which assume a supportive audience.

On the matter of the nature of the occurrence of audiences with respect to text, Hatim (1997:173) notes the following:

Some texts are going to be more oral than others. While this can certainly implicate text type, it does not necessarily make orality an exclusive property of Arabic, English or any other language. Furthermore, some languages would tend to display a particular preference for this or that strategy, but this does not make tendency in question. These are merely preferences, tendencies, trends. For example, Arabic prefers through-argumentation whereas English orients its rhetorical strategy the other way, towards counter-argumentation. Hatim (1997: 173).

Fishman Sociolinguistic Concept on Language Reflections

One of the major lines of social and behavioral science interest in language during the past century (as in the case of linguistic relativity known as Whorfian Hypothesis, Whorf (1940, 1941) as cited in Fishman (1972:286) has been claimed that the radically differing structures of the language of the world constrain the cognitive functioning of their speakers in different ways, (Fishman,1972:286).

Within the linguistic relativity view, Fishman (1972) notes the following claim:

... the background linguistic system (in other words, the grammar) of each language is not merely a reproducing instrument for voicing ideas but rather is itself the shaper of ideas, the program and guide for the individual's mental activity, for his analysis of impressions, for his synthesis of his mental stock in trade. Formulation of ideas is not an independent process, strictly rational in the old sense, but it is part of a particular grammar and differs, from slightly to greatly, between grammars seem to be overstated and no one-to-one correspondence between grammatical structure either cognitive or socio-cultural structure measured independently of language has ever been obtained. Fishman (1972: 287).

To counter this view, Fishman (1972) opines that it is less likely that the entire language or entire societies are classified in such general way. Consequently, he offers an alternative sociolinguistic explanation and stresses that (a) languages primarily reflect rather than create socio-cultural regularities in values and orientations and (b) that languages throughout the world share a far larger number of structural universals than has heretofore been recognized. He argues and supports his contention by noting that,

The very concept of linguistic repertoire, role repertoire, repertoire range and repertoire compartmentalization argue against such neat classification once functional realities are bought into consideration. Any reasonably complex speech community contains various speech networks that vary in respect to the nature and ranges of their speech repertoires. Fishman (1972: 288 ).

Taken as a whole, Fishman's sociolinguistic views above holds that language is a reflection of the socio-cultural and the values and orientations of its speakers rather than it being regarded as a direct consequence or constraint of the cognition of its speakers. On this point Fishman observes that there are ways in which lexicons and languages as a whole are reflective of the speech communities that employ them and stresses further as follows:

In a very real sense a language variety is an inventory of the concerns and interests of those who employ it at any given time. If any portion of this inventory reveals features not present in other portions this may be indicative of particular stresses or influences in certain interaction networks within the speech community as a whole or in certain role-relationships within the community's total role-repertoire. Fishman (1972: 296).

Fishman on Hebrew and Aramaic Terms

To support the above position, Fishman cites examples from Hebrew and Aramic terms where they are retained not only for all traditional and sanctified objects but also with certain Germanic elements in order to provide contarastive emphases; for example, bukh 'book' versus. seyfer 'religious book' , scholarly book'; lerer 'teacher' versus melamed or rebi 'teacher of religious subjects'(Fishman ,1972:297).

Language as parole

Relative to other theories on language such as generative grammar which is basically cognitive such as in Culicover (1997), and from the viewpoint of language behavior and social behavior, the language reflection view of Fishman is related to language as parole (i.e., language as it is actually used) as well as related to the cultural variation and social variation (Fishman, 1972:299).

Hence, it is quite obvious that Fishman favours the idea that language is a reflection of the social organization and he points out that lexicons in particular, and language as a whole, are reflective of the speech communities that employs them. He, however, acknowledges that there are areas in language where the linguistic relativity (i.e., the Whorfian Hypothesis) view may be observed such as in the structuring of verbal interaction and the structure of lexical components.

Our Focus in This Study

In summary, in weighing the sustenance or loss of the value of messages in the Arabic translation of English news as well as on style preferences, this study will take cognizance of Fishman's sociolinguistic view and shall invoke it in the appropriate places.

This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

Effect of Temporal Variations on Phoneme Identification Skills in Children and Adults - Comparative Study | Indianness in R. K. Narayan's Novel - The Man-Eater of Malgudi | English Vocabulary Learning Strategies Manipulated by the Students of Azad University, District 5: A Gender-oriented Study | The Impact and Relevance of Hedda Gabler in Modern Days | Search for Identity and Self in Indian Poetry in English by Women Writers | Teaching English in Minority Institutions | The Sociolinguistics and Cultural Considerations of English-Arabic Translation of Political News | Attitudinal Factor in Second Language Acquisition - An Illustrative Example from a Class in University | A Study on Emotional Skills and Adjustment towards First and Second Language Learning and Academic Achievement | Nonverbal Communication in Tamil Novels - A Book in Tamil | The Effect of Proficiency on Multilingualism, Error Finding, Social Class and Attitude in Multilingual Pre-University Mysore Students | A Review of Muzafar Desmond Tate's The Malaysian Indians: History, Problems and Future | HOME PAGE of May 2009 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR

Kais Amir Kadhim, Ph.D.
Universiti Utara Malaysia
Colloge of Arts And Sciences 06010
Sintok, Kedah

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