A Case Study on the Lexical Difficulties Encountered in the Translation of Historiographical TextsYusuf Polat, Murat Keçiş
This study discusses the difficulties encountered at the lexical level when translating historiographical texts dealing with certain periods of Turkish history. For this purpose, the paper first explains the concept of input as a subject of study in translation studies and provides information about the types of discourse, including historical discourse. Next, the paper attempts to determine the general features of historical discourse as a type of input and then reviews the research on historical discourse or on the translation of historical discourses. In addition, the article emphasizes the definition of the act of translation in terms of translation studies and presents a summary of the theoretical approaches regarding the position of the translator subject between input and output. Lastly, the paper lists the problems translators may encounter by analyzing the corpus that has been created based on the work 1916 en Mésopotamie by the French historian Fabrice Monnier and seeks an answer to the question of whether historical discourse can be qualified as a technical discourse. This last section also presents opinions on how to solve the problems.
Tarih Söylemi Çevirisini İlgilendiren Sözlüksel Sorunlara İlişkin Bir Durum İncelemesiYusuf Polat, Murat Keçiş
Bu çalışmada Türk tarihinin belli dönemlerini ele alan tarih yazımı amaçlı metinlerin çevirisinde karşılaşılan sözlüksel düzeydeki güçlükler ele alınmaktadır. Bu amaçla, öncelikle çeviribilimin inceleme konusu olarak girdi kavramı açıklanmakta ve tarih üzerine söylemin de aralarında yer aldığı söylem türleri hakkında bilgi verilmektedir. Daha sonra girdi türü olarak tarih söyleminin genel özellikleri belirlenmeye çalışılmaktadır. Ardından tarih söylemi, tarihsel söylem veya tarih üzerine söylemlerin çevirisi konusunda yapılmış araştırmalar gözden geçirilmektedir. Buna ek olarak çeviri ediminin çeviribilim açısından tanımı üzerinde durulmakta, girdi ve çıktı arasında çevirmen öznenin konumuna ilişkin kuramsal yaklaşımlar özet olarak sunulmaktadır. Son olarak Fransız tarihçi Fabrice Monnier’nin 1916 en Mésopotamie adlı eserinden hareketle oluşturulan bütünce üzerinde çözümlemeler yapılarak çevirmen öznenin karşılaşabileceği sorunlar sıralanmakta ve tarih söyleminin teknik söylem olarak nitelenip nitelenemeyeceği sorusunun yanıtı aranmaktadır. Sorunların çözümüne yönelik görüşler çalışmanın son bölümünde sunulmaktadır.
This study deals with the lexical difficulties encountered in the translation of historiographical texts dealing with certain periods of Turkish history. For this purpose, the article first explains the concept of input as a subject of translation studies and provides information about the types of discourse, including historical discourse. Next, the article attempts to determine the general characteristics of historical discourse as a type of input and then examines the relevant studies on historical discourse or on the translation of historical discourse. This paper additionally emphasizes the definition of the act of translation in terms of translation studies and summarizes the theoretical approaches regarding the position of the translator as subject between input and output. Lastly, the paper lists the problems that a translator as subject may encounter by analyzing the corpus based on French historian Fabrice Monnier’s work titled 1916 en Mésopotamie and seeks an answer to the question of whether historical discourse can be characterized as technical discourse. The last section of the study presents suggestions for how to solve the problems.
Translation as a process starts with the reception of input for translation purposes. The input can be any written or spoken discourse. Although discourses can be classified in various ways in the linguistics literature, one common classification is the one based on the components of famous communication schema. According to this classification, an individual can produce discourses focusing on the referential, narrative, vocative, relation, metadiscourse, and literary functions of language. Historical discourse is a type of discourse in which the producer describes, narrates, or explains such things as events, people, or places as a type of discourse in which the referential function is predominant. On the other hand, historical discourse can also be characterized as narrative due to how an author’s preferences reflect their subjective evaluations from time to time. In addition, the fact that the producer of historical discourse makes stylistic choices specific to artistic discourses such as poetry or short stories regarding a message in order to make the discourse interesting may cause historical discourse to not be considered a discourse bearing scientific quality. Therefore, this study accepts that any discourse can be classified as historical discourse if it is about what happened in the past and if its aim is to convey this event within the framework of the principles and rules of the discipline called history.
As the central agent of the translation process, the translator stands between input and output. According to the most common view, a translator tries to produce an output that is supposed to be equivalent to the input. By doing so, three possible situations may arise depending on their preferences: The translator either remains close to the source text, close to the target text, or tries to remain neutral. In translation history, these translator preferences have been characterized as free, dependent, adequate, and acceptable translation. In addition, translators and translation scholars are categorized respectively as remaining closer to sourcetext norms and closer to target-text norms based on their preferences in this regard.
In the literature on translation studies, many studies have been done on the translation of historical discourse, some of which have been conducted by translation scholars and some by historians. When analyzing these studies, they are seen to mention the problems that arise when the translator adheres to the source text completely or when the translator remains far away from the source text. In other words, the tension between the poles of remaining or not remaining close to the source text causes the translator to be confronted with many problems. One of these problems is when the translator is forced to be a part of an ideology based on the lexical choices they make. Another problem is that the meanings and connotations of words change over time. Yet another problem is the misrepresentation of information due to the translator’s preferences and continuation of this situation by subsequent translators.
This study uses the document analysis approach, a qualitative research method, to analyze the French historian Fabrice Monnier’s work entitled 1916 en Mésopotamie as a possible input. The lexical level was adopted as the unit of analysis, and answers were sought to the questions of which lexical problems can be encountered in the translation of any text characterized as historical discourse and accordingly and whether historical discourse can be considered as a technical discourse. As a result of the analysis, 345 lexical units that may cause translation problems were identified; 208 (60%) of these items belong to the field of military service. This is not surprising, as the book is about a war that played a decisive role in the course of history. The second group involves geographical terms and has 45 items (13%). Geographical terms are followed by managerial terms, of which there are 23 (7%), followed by 18 (5%) religious terms, 17 (5%) transportation terms, and 11 sociological (3%) terms that were identified. Eight terms (2%) were found to be related to the field of politics, as well as four terms (1%) related to culture, four (1%) to medicine, two to law, two to construction, and one term each to textiles, general names, and proper names, these last three being categorized under the title of “other”.
As a result of the analysis of these units, four main findings were obtained. The first of these findings concerns terms that are out of use and have changed in terms of semantic content as a result of time-related changes and transformations at the social level. The second finding is related to things such as military units, administrative units, food, and beverages that are unique to specific societies (e.g., Turkish, French, British, Indian) and mentioned in the text do not overlap in terms of scope, quality, or quantity. The third finding concerns names of places and ethnic communities and has two dimensions: The first dimension is the lack of reliable, up-to-date, and comprehensive sources regarding the names of places, while the second dimension involves how the same names of places are used in very different ways in the literature with regard to non-dictionary sources. The fourth finding concerns word choices in which the translator is forced into an ideological, religious, cultural, and/or political stance due to author preferences.
The findings and the data in the literature suggest that the lexical problems which may be encountered during the translation of historical discourse are mostly related to concepts that have gone out of use over time, that have changed, that have changed semantically, or that force the translator to adopt an ideological and/or cultural stance. Depending on whether the translator prioritizes the source text, the author, the reader, or the target text, the translator will attempt to produce texts with different qualities while also taking into consideration the expectations of experts. The main variable that determines the translator’s preferences within this network of expectations is undoubtedly the characteristics specific to the general readership.
The data of the study reveals the historical discourse to have technical discourse features at the lexical level. As a matter of fact, terms specific to very different fields such as military, geography, sociology, transportation, and administration are encountered in the text. Moreover, a diachronic examination is necessary for finding the equivalents of these terms during a certain period of history. Therefore, a type of input exists that can only be translated with the help of experts and the resources experts produce.
Although the discourse of history clearly has the characteristics of technical discourse, every aspect of the approach adopted in its translation is not the same as those in technical discourses. This is because what is important in the translation of technical discourses is not the style but the content (i.e., information load) of the discourse. As a matter of fact, technical discourses are a type of discourse in which words generally carry a single meaning and subjectivity is not observed. On the other hand, because historical discourses are also narrative, style also becomes important. In addition, due to the different values and connotations historical events have for different nations, an author positions themself according to the text and according to the societies and events mentioned in the text through the author’s choice of words. Because this positioning has ideological, religious, cultural, and political implications, the translator produces a target text in line with the expectations and needs of the new target audience with an approach that can be called translation for a specific period. When considered under these conditions, the main concerns for a translator are seen to firstly be to not hide the truth from the reader; secondly to not be a carrier and perpetuator of the author’s ideological, cultural, and political prejudices or mistakes; and thirdly and finally to not ignore professional ethics. Another important result of the research is that no reliable data source exists for the names of places and ethnicities that the translators of historical discourse have access to today.