Translating Dialect – Translating Ideology
Simo K. Määttä, University of Eastern Finland
For the literary translator, dialect is certainly one of the most challenging features of the source text. While some scholars have considered the translation of dialect to be an impossible task, others have proposed different solutions to the problem. Thus, some scholars suggest that the translator should choose “the most suitable” dialect in the target language to render the dialectal features of the source text. However, translating dialect by dialect can distort certain ideological dimensions of the text. Thus, other scholars have suggested that the best way of translating dialect is to preserve the function of the dialect in the source text without trying to translate it as such.
This paper examines the ideological function of dialect in literature and the ways in which this function can be translated. Examples are drawn from the French translations of James Baldwin’s and William Faulkner’s novels, the English translations of Mehdi Charef’s novels in French, and the Finnish and English translations of the Swedish novelists Susanna Alakoski, Mikael Niemi, and Marjaneh Bakhtin.
The goal is to determine, first, whether it is actually possible to determine the ideological function of dialect and how this can be done. Second, the paper analyzes whether translations under scrutiny succeed in rendering this ideological function and what are the methods used. Finally, the paper examines what kind of new ideological functions the translation of dialect can reify in the target text.
The Intersection of Non-standard Dialect Representation and Point of View in Sheila Quigley’s Bad Moon Rising: Contemporary Regional Crime Fiction as Resistance
Susan Mandala, University of Sunderland
Crime fiction and, consequently, its analysis have generally concerned themselves with the character of the detective, the motivations of the criminal, and the nature of the crime. In this paper I argue that Sheila Quigley’s Bad Moon Rising, a crime novel set in the Northeast of England, offers something relatively unusual in the genre. Her detective, Lorraine Hunt, is not the focus. She is not marginalised by gender, ethnicity, or addiction; she is not a maverick fighter against institutional injustice; and neither is she in danger of becoming what she hunts. Similarly, the criminal and his crimes, while brutal, are arguably incidental to the narrative. Largely stereotypic, they offer no complex dissection of either the killer’s psychology or the causes of his crimes. As I will show here, what distinguishes Bad Moon Rising is its focus on and stylistic representation of the members of the speech community in which the crimes take place, the residents of a run-down council estate in the Northeast of England. Drawing on recent work by Gregoriou (2003) and Giaimo (2010), I offer in this paper an analysis of non-standard dialect representation and point of view manipulations that demonstrates how Bad Moon Rising recruits reader sympathy for its protagonists, and, in so doing, works to challenge a number of damaging stereotypes currently circulating about the urban poor.
Giaimo, G. 2010. ‘Talking back through “talking Blac”: African American English and agency in Walter Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress’. Language and Literature 19 (3): 235-247.
Gregoriou, G. 2003. ‘Criminally minded: The stylistics of justification in contemporary American crime fiction’. Style 37 (2): 144-59.
Founding Fatherhood: Literary Dialect, American English, and National Identity
Lisa Cohen Minnick, Western Michigan University
Coming of age in the context of calls for a uniquely American version of the English language and for establishment of a preferred standard, the American literary-dialect tradition played a significant role in the development of what have proven to be enduring ideologies about language and national identity, including a particularly notable ideological construct in which the literary representation of dialectal speech is implicated: the establishment of American identity and standard American English as normatively white and male. This paper explores the ways in which American dialect literature in the nineteenth century helped to institutionalize a ‘standard American’ English while also encoding and reinforcing apparent mainstream preferences for maleness and whiteness and authorizing preferred models of masculinity.
Concentrating in part on the ‘Old Southwestern’ humor tradition in American dialect writing – with special attention to A.B. Longstreet’s Georgia Scenes (1835), one of the most enduring and widely read collections of the genre – and the political and cultural contexts of the tradition, this paper explores the intersections of language consciousness, literature, national identity, and popular perceptions about gender, race, and class at a key moment in the development of the new nation, its language, and its sense of self, against a real-life backdrop of the rapidly changing demographics and social values that characterized the nineteenth century.
This paper suggests that analysis of representations of speech in the literature under discussion reveals a considerable ambivalence in its authors’ understanding of the archetypal American ethos it was attempting to construct and codify, and that this ambivalence is partly the result of competing ideologies of masculinity. Conventions of the Old Southwestern genre include a vernacular-speaking male protagonist who is always white and archetypically an uneducated backwoodsman portrayed as intellectually and socially inferior to the standard-speaking narrator, who represents intellectual sophistication and material success. However, the backwoodsman also possesses positively valued masculine traits like independence, physical strength, and nonconformity that are in direct opposition to the mainstream values represented by the upper-class narrator and are indexed by nonstandard speech. These ideals compete for masculine primacy, sometimes even as dual facets within a single male identity, a conflict acted out in interesting ways in the literature, including linguistically.
Additionally, the paper discusses the ways in which linguistic and masculine ideals are complicated by African American models of masculinity. While covert prestige is afforded to the white backwoodsmen in the Old Southwestern tradition, the speech of African American males is often stigmatized in its visual representations in (especially white-authored) literature as well as in real life. This contrast raises questions about the conditions under which nonstandard speech can be tolerated in the dominant culture and the ways in which social, gender, and race preferences are implicated in mainstream language attitudes.
The Aesthetics of Austro-Bavarian Dialect in Literature, Drama and Music of the 17th and 18th centuries
Christian Neuhuber, Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz
Informal ways of e-communication have recently brought an unexpected renaissance to dialect usage in writing. So it is once again a focus of research interest in Austria and Bavaria. Dialect literature, however, is still unpopular among academic researchers. Obviously, the understanding of dialect art is still dominantly influenced by only one variety, the naive retrospective regional literature (Heimatdichtung) as it evolved in the 19 century. But dialect usage as an artistic phenomenon is manifold and can perform an impressive range of functions.
In the Austro-Bavarian linguistic area dialect poetry reached its first peak of development as early as the 18thth century when specific social-pragmatic and sociolinguistic settings aided its emergence as an artistic form. In these days dialect art achieved a complete autonomy within the elite’s culture with many different and stunning forms of expression in literature, music and theatre. Vernacular no longer was limited to satire of peasants, but was also used for socio-critical or realistic purposes, for agitation or education, it dominated the famous ‘Wiener Volkstheater’ and the baroque cloister culture. This dialect art, like no other genre, polarised the views of the contemporary art criticism. It was loved by emperors like Franz Stephan I. and despised by the theorists like Joseph von Sonnenfels, it was cultivated both by the great masters like Mozart and unknown laypersons. But above all this interaction of dialect, music and acting was a genuine form of expression of a very prolific cultural area, shaping its specific identity. Nevertheless, the reduction of dialect art to an autochthonous vehicle of expression for ordinary people together with the effective undermining of the former prestige have caused this ‘dialect culture’ to fall into almost complete oblivion.
In my paper I would like to briefly outline the principle questions of our project ‘Dialect cultures’. This 3-year-project at the University of Graz (Austria) aims to provide a complete view of the functions and aesthetic possibilities of Austro-Bavarian dialect art before 1800 as well as its historical significance.
Literary Dialect and the Linguistic Reconstruction of Nineteenth-Century Louisiana
Michael D. Picone, University of Alabama
The literary movement of American "local colorists" became prominent in large part due to Northern interest in Southern lifeways in the aftermath of the Civil War. The use of literary dialect to portray local speechways was an important feature of this emerging literature. With the partial exception of the work of William Evans on the writings of George Washington Cable, virtually all analysis of Southern literary dialect is Anglocentric in its focus. However, the works of local-color authors of Louisiana figured among the most popular (and innovative) of the nineteenth-century, and, to a very large degree, French-English codemixing and the French-accented English dialect found in these works were crucial elements in the rise to popularity of the entire genre. Taking into consideration Dennis Preston's cautions about the limitations of literary dialect, it is nevertheless instructive to glean the works of authors such as George Washington Cable, Kate Chopin, and Grace King for possible clues regarding the proper reconstruction of French, Creole, and English dialects in Louisiana in the nineteenth century, as well as the nature and extent of codemixing. A less well known tradition of local-color Louisiana literature also exists in the French language, and in fact predates and inspires the English thread. Comparing the literary dialect of English-dominant authors with that of Alfred Mercier and other Francophone authors allows for cross-checking of some of the same linguistic traits against the background of a different orthographic and stylistic tradition.
Northern Cadences: narrative voices in the work of Alan Sillitoe
Dr. Jeremy Scott, University of Kent
This paper will approach two of Alan Sillitoe’s most famous novels, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958) and The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner (1958) via a comparative exploration of the texts’ representations of Northern English demotic. Both texts enact Bakhtin’s notion of novelistic dialogism and find much expressive capital in the tension between discourses: between the ‘oral’ and the ‘written’. Indeed, it could be argued that much of Sillitoe’s work functions as a direct challenge to dominant notions of the literary. The narrative discourse attempts to trace a conduit between the quotidian experience of the Northern English working classes represented and the demotic oral language which they speak. His technique also explores the link between language and ‘sensibility’; i.e. verbal articulacy need not be a limit to expression of a character’s ipseity. In contrast to the more radical techniques of novelists like James Kelman and Irvine Welsh, all instances of phonetically-rendered demotic remain imprisoned by what Joyce called ‘perverted commas’ – as direct speech. However, the diegetic narrative discourse itself is redolent of registers rooted in 1950s English working class life. The texts also contain different methods of representing their protagonists’ consciousness through their own idiolect. In Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, this is evidenced by the use of the second person ‘you’, which functions simultaneously as a representation of Seaton’s consciousness using the oral register which he might choose to articulate it, and as a dialogic ‘sideways glance’ at the reader and assumed shared experience. The second is more redolent of internal monologue, using the first-person form (as seen in the homodiegetic narration of the second novel); crucially, though, it remains in Standard English, if explicitly orientated towards oral register.
This is a novelistic discourse which refuses to ‘normalise’ itself to accord with the conventions of ‘classic realism’, and as such prefigures the ambitions of many of the contemporary writers who incline their narrative voices towards the oral – asserting the right of a character’s dialect/idiolect to constitute the principal register of the narrative. The paper will demonstrate this thesis through the ideas of Bakhtin, and through an analytical taxonomy derived from literary stylistics.
“I’ll never trust a northern man in love”: The significance of the representations of Northern English and Scots in 17th century drama
Lauren Stewart, University of Edinburgh
In the play Ram-Alley (1611), the widow Taffeta discusses northern men and their language with another character:
Oliver: The devill take my soul but I did love her.
Taffeta: That oath doth shew you are a Northen [sic] Knight. And of all men alive, Ile never trust, a Northen [sic] man in love.
Oliver: And why? and why, slut
Taffeta: Because the first word he speakes is the Divell take his soule, and who will give him trust that once has given his soule unto the Divell?
Here, northern men are seen to be quick-tempered and blasphemous, and their language reflects and reinforces these characteristics. Expressions such as ‘The devil take my soul’ frequently appear within dialectal representations of Northern English and Scots in Early Modern drama. They are often marked with variant spellings (indicating dialectal pronunciation), and also may contain lexical items or morphosyntactic features from these dialects. This paper will explore the use of such expressions in the representations of the speech of Northern and Scottish characters (and their imitators) in 17th century drama, analysing the 48 plays featuring representations of Northern English or Scots from c. 1599 to 1705. I trace the changing use of these discourse markers and expressions over time, and explore what they indicate about the dialects of the time and about the perceptions of Scots and northerners and the attitudes towards them.
‘The Lack of a Whole Language; The Lack of a Whole Mind’: Tackling Linguistic and Literary Issues from a Creative Perspective in Scotland
Shane Andrew Strachan, University of Aberdeen
Scottish writer Edwin Muir stated that the ‘curse of Scottish literature is the lack of a whole language, which finally means the lack of a whole mind’ (1936). In the North-East where the use of Scots within non-standard dialect is still highly prevalent, Muir’s belief poses a problem for how local writers represent their communities if, on one hand, they are unfairly disparaged in this way when writing in their dialect, while on the other, writing in Standard English may deny their own identity and difference. Several of Muir’s contemporaries did however attempt to tackle this issue of cultural and linguistic representation in Scotland at large (Hugh MacDiarmid’s synthesised Scots) right down to the voicing of smaller communities, like Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s presentation of the North-East’s distinct dialect to a widespread audience.
As a writer in the North-East today, the ways in which these writers dealt with several factors that posed problems during their careers, as well as other issues that have arisen for writers since, have come to shape my own dialect writing and allowed me to be able to move beyond the obstacle of orthography.
This paper analyses some of these factors, focusing on orthographic convention, the influence of editors and publishers, the work’s audience, political stance and the representation of class. In assessing these, the ultimate aim is to show that somewhat of a conclusion has been reached on how contemporary Scottish writers of both prose and poetry orthographically represent their distinct communities and language use.
Muir, Edwin, Scott and Scotland: the Predicament of the Scottish Writer (1936; repr. Edinburgh: Polygon, 1982)
Dickens and the North: stereotyping re-considered
Katie Wales, University of Nottingham
It is now over 40 years ago since Stanley Gerson produced the only detailed analysis of sound and spelling in the works of Charles Dickens. The aim of this chapter is to take a fresh look at Dickens’ handling of Northern dialect speech (including morphology, syntax and lexis, not just pronunciation); in the context of a fresh approach to literary dialect and linguistic stereotyping: namely in the use of social cognition and schema theory. I shall mainly be analysing the portrayal of John Browdie, the North Yorkshire corn-factor, in Nicholas Nickleby (1838-9); and of Stephen Blackpool, the Lancashire cotton mill worker, in Hard Times (1854); and I shall be trying to unpick the creative process.
I shall argue that characters like Browdie and Blackpool, far from being either one-dimensional or a hotch-potch of random features, are constructed intertextually through schemas and social ideologies, mental images of common beliefs about the underclasses, and about Northerners ; and cultural practices, including other literary and dramatic texts. Dickens’ main success is in keeping the voices and textures of the two novels distinct, by a careful and reasonably consistent selection of both generic and particular features, however oddly placed regionally speaking. The result for each novel is a different set of schemas, and hence a different linguistic repertoire. In an important sense Dickens is not representing Northern speech, but creating it. His regional idio-dialects have their own rules, their own ‘gaps’. But true to the nature of linguistic stereotyping generally, there are over-generalisations also.
Recent work on social cognition- the study of how we know the world- has concentrated on people’s mental biases and attitudes, their mind-sets. But where do beliefs come from? How are stereotypes created? Looking at characters like John Browdie and Stephen Blackpool means that we can begin to see the process of literary formation in the mind of a novelist like Dickens. But there are implications even for the creative processes of those writers who represent the dialect speech of an area with which they are familiarly associated. The accuracy of a dialectologist’s ear cannot be assumed. Common cultural images can still be influential on the process of ‘representation’.
Is we who bleed to make this country prosperous': Dialect, Class and Immigration in The Lonely Londoners and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
Jack Windle, University of Sheffield
Sam Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners (1956) blends Standard and Caribbean Englishes to create a hybrid literary idiom which articulates the oral culture and dialects of Windrush generation immigrants in London. Alan Sillitoe’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958) similarly attempts to set the author’s Nottingham dialect alongside Standard English, challenging the capacity of the novel to articulate working-class consciousness. In these novels, dialect forms a challenge to the dominance of Standard English in literature and suggests the opening out of the form to articulate and represent a greater plurality of lived experience. Immigrants and the working class – groups historically marginalised in society and in the novel – were of central importance to Britain’s post-war recovery: in their sophisticated interplay of dialect and Standard English, these authors enact the realignment of British society in the fifties and subtly argue for the accommodation of marginalised groups within the cultural centre. Using Cairns Craig’s equation of dialect and dialectic alongside Homi Bhabha’s notions of mimicry and hybridity, this paper will assert the political significance of Selvon and Silltoe’s uses of dialect. It will also argue that dialect forms a productive area of commonality between texts usually categorised separately – in this case as ‘immigrant’/ ‘black’ writing and ‘working-class’ writing – and therefore helps to interrogate literary-critical categorisation itself.
Ulster-Scots in Nineteenth-Century and Present-Day Literature
Göran Wolf, Technical University of Dresden
Since 1990, the linguistic landscape of Northern Ireland appears to have changed. Amongst a number of developments is what could be seen as a renaissance of Ulster-Scots: a growing debate about its status as language variety in general and at the same time a growth in its literary production.
I should like to compare nineteenth-century literature, recently made accessible by the Ulster Poetry Project amongst other things, with present-day revivalist literature which is available in internet blogs and publications such as The Ulster-Scot and which I have collected and compiled in a smaller corpus with the working title MUST-C (= Modern Ulster Scots Texts – A Corpus).
At the core of this paper will be an analysis of these two collections of poetry in Ulster-Scots. This comparison will be based upon the (corpus-driven) analysis of spelling, lexis and grammatical features in selected texts. I will also reflect on ideological dimensions and audience responses will complement my contribution to the conference’s discussion of “Dialect and Literature”.