Dialect or Topolect?

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[This is a guest post by Brendan O'Kane.]

My new favorite thing is Brian Holton's ongoing translation of Shuǐhǔ zhuàn 水滸傳 (Water Margin; All Men Are Brothers) into Scots, part of which is available online. Example:

Nà shí Xiyuè Huàshān yǒu gè Chén Tuán chǔshì, shì gè dào gāo yǒu dé zhī rén, néng biàn fēngyún qìsè. Yī rì qí lǘ xiàshān, xiàng nà Huáyīn dào zhōng zhèngxíng zhī jiān, tīng dé lùshàng kèrén chuánshuō:" Rújīn Dōngjīng Chái Shìzōng ràng wèi yǔ Zhào jiǎndiǎn dēngjī."

那时西岳华山有个陈抟处士,是个道高有德之人,能辨风云气色。一日骑驴下山,向那华阴道中正行之间,听得路上客人传说:" 如今东京柴世宗让位与赵检点登基。"

In thae days there wis a hermit hecht Chen Tuan bydin on the Wastlin Tap o Mount Glore: he wis a kennin an gracie sowl at bi glamourie cud guide the wind an wather. Ae day whan he wis striddlin his cuddie doun the brae ti the Gloresheddae Road he heard an outlan bodie sayin “Richt nou in the Eastren Capital Chai Shizong hes reteirit an Gaird-Marischal Zhao hes taen the throne”.


As a standard English translation of that paragraph for the sake of comparison, there's Sidney Shapiro's rendition (Outlaws of the Marsh, Vol. I, p. 2 in my paperback edition):

At that time on Huashan, the West Sacred Mountain, lived a Taoist hermit named Chen Tuan. A virtuous man, he could foretell the future by the weather. One day as he was riding his donkey down the mountain towards the county town of Huayin he heard a traveller on the road say: "Emperor Chai Shi Zong has surrendered his throne to Marshal Zhao in the Eastern Capital."

Holton has done a few translations from Chinese to Scots, including "Frae the Nine Sangs: A wee Pendicle ti 'Suddron Sangs' bi Dauvit Hawkes,” selections from the "Jiǔ gē" 九歌 (Nine Songs) in A Birthday Book for Brother Stone, the David Hawkes festschrift. I've found that my translator friends fall pretty squarely into two categories: those who really like the idea of Chinese-Scots translation, and those whose initial reaction is that someone had too much free time.

Questions of taste aside, though, there's also the question of how one classifies Scots. It's something of a fraught issue, as nationalists (and loyalists in Northern Ireland) will claim that it's a separate language that evolved parallel to English, and will prove this by over-larding their Scots prose with words consciously chosen to be different from the English, while dissenters will point out that in the Scots literature celebrated by Scots nationalists — Robert Burns, say — the majority of the text is in perfectly comprehensible English, with occasional dialect vocabulary or eye-dialect spellings.

Enter the Chinese term fāngyán 方言 (VHM:  nearly universally mistranslated in English as "dialect," the Chinese word means simply "topolect," i.e., the speech pattern of a place, be it large or small)!  I've been using it to describe the translation to Chinese friends (as Sūgélán fāngyán 苏格兰方言 [Scottish topolect]; I figure "Lallans" is probably a bit too advanced a term), and have thus successfully sidestepped the question entirely. I knew the vagueness had to be good for something.



52 Comments

  1. rootlesscosmo said,

    July 1, 2010 @ 10:46 am

    someone had too much free time.

    The English classicist George Thomson translated Aeschylus into Irish.

  2. Mr Punch said,

    July 1, 2010 @ 11:34 am

    Knowing English and French, I find Scots about as easy (or difficult) to read as Haitian Kreyol. It seems, though, that Scots has been (as noted) purposefully distanced from English by word choice, Kreyol has been purposefully distanced from French by letter choices (all those k's).

  3. Panu said,

    July 1, 2010 @ 12:00 pm

    The English classicist George Thomson translated Aeschylus into Irish.

    He also translated at least some sonnets by William Shakespeare as well as some short stories by Chekhov. I have a small book of his Irish writings somewhere. It didn't include Aeschylus though.

    In my opinion though, Pádraig de Brún's translations were more important – he translated the Odyssee as well as the Divine Comedy, among other things.

  4. mollymooly said,

    July 1, 2010 @ 12:52 pm

    "the majority of the text is in perfectly comprehensible English, with occasional dialect vocabulary or eye-dialect spellings."

    I'd say most of the non-standard spellings are dialect rather than eye-dialect: i.e. chosen to show a difference of pronunciation to the ear, rather than a purely symbolic difference to the eye.

  5. Ellen K said,

    July 1, 2010 @ 1:36 pm

    @Mollymooly: Isn't that what eyedialect is? I've never understood eye dialect to be purely symbolic, without reflecting pronunciation.

  6. Rodger C said,

    July 1, 2010 @ 2:00 pm

    @Ellen K: I've always understod eye dialect to mean precisely what you say it doesn't. What else would its distinction from dialect tout court be?

  7. Claw said,

    July 1, 2010 @ 2:49 pm

    …will claim that it's a separate language that evolved parallel to English, and will prove this by over-larding their Scots prose with words consciously chosen to be different from the English, while dissenters will point out that … the majority of the text is in perfectly comprehensible English, with occasional dialect vocabulary or eye-dialect spellings.

    This sounds exactly like some debates I've heard concerning whether Cantonese is a separate language from Mandarin. Though the difference between the two are much wider than the difference between English and Scots, the Chinese writing system obscures this due to the fact that it doesn't reflect specific pronunciation, leading many Mandarin speakers to believe that written Cantonese is just like Mandarin with occasional dialect characters.

  8. George Amis said,

    July 1, 2010 @ 3:11 pm

    Speaking of having too much free time– there's at least one 17th century translation of Milton's Paradise Lost into Latin.

  9. Taylor Selseth said,

    July 1, 2010 @ 3:11 pm

    Scots is only halfway intelligible to me when I have listened to recordings, but that could simply be from the poor audio quality.

  10. Donna Farley said,

    July 1, 2010 @ 4:19 pm

    Oh, I'm sorry–No Canajun post today?

  11. Jonathan Badger said,

    July 1, 2010 @ 4:45 pm

    @George Amis —
    Not as time wasting as you may think. In the 17th century, English was a rather provincial language and Latin was a way to reach the educated of other lands. Remember that Newton wrote the "Principia" in Latin, and even though his followup work "Opticks" was written in English, it was translated into Latin for the international market.

  12. Xmun said,

    July 1, 2010 @ 5:46 pm

    And Hobbes wrote his autobiography in Latin. He wanted it to last for ever.

    When I complained to a Scottish academic that Hugh MacDiarmid's Scots writings were in a language that was never spoken, he replied promptly: "Neither was Shakespeare's".

    FWIW, the Oxford Companion to English Literature in its article on MacDiarmid calls it "a synthetic Scots that drew on various dialects and fortified the oral idiom with words preserved in Jamieson's etymological dictionary".

  13. Gordon Campbell said,

    July 1, 2010 @ 7:31 pm

    I don't know if this has been mentioned in LL before (it's the kind of thing that would be) but the Finnish Broadcasting Company and Radio Bremen in Germany both have Latin news services: http://www.prolatein.de/latinnews.html

  14. Ginger Yellow said,

    July 1, 2010 @ 8:01 pm

    "I've found that my translator friends fall pretty squarely into two categories: those who really like the idea of Chinese-Scots translation, and those whose initial reaction is that someone had too much free time."

    Why can't it be both?

  15. Jerry Friedman said,

    July 1, 2010 @ 8:07 pm

    @Rodger C.: I learned the meaning for "eye dialect" that you did, but it could also simply mean written non-standard dialect, especially if there's no standard system for writing the dialect..

  16. Jerry Friedman said,

    July 1, 2010 @ 8:09 pm

    Oh, on the original topic: Are there a lot of people who would rather read a novel translated into this kind of Scots than into standard English?

  17. tikki said,

    July 1, 2010 @ 9:46 pm

    Thank you for an interesting post.

    "Enter the Chinese term fāngyán 方言 (VHM: nearly universally mistranslated in English as "dialect," the Chinese word means simply "topolect,"

    Is it really being mistranslated? Etymologically, dialect is something like a "local way of speaking", so the two words seem to map together pretty well. Both are quite vague, and vague in the same way: at any given moment, they're used to refer to what can also be recognized as a sociolect, topolect, jargon or language.

  18. Stephen Jones said,

    July 1, 2010 @ 11:24 pm

    Scots is officially classified as a separate language from English, both in the Ethnologue and by the EU as a Minority European Language.

    That said, I stated on a Language Log post a week ago that it was one of those examples where you could argue either for dialogue or language.

  19. Victor Mair said,

    July 2, 2010 @ 1:02 am

    Yes, Tikki, in rendering FANGYAN as "dialect," it really has been mistranslated. "Dialect" is derived from Gk. dialektos < dialegesthai ("converse") < dia- ("across, between") + legein ("speak") and is closely related to "dialog(ue)" < L. dialogus < Gk. dialogos < dialogesthai ("converse") < dia- ("across") + legein ("speak"). People who speak dialects should be able to converse with each other, to hold a dialog(ue) with each other, as it were. (It is curiously instructive that Stephen Jones, in the last sentence of his comment just above, has unconsciously substituted "dialogue" for "dialect"!) As I pointed out in my original note to Brendan's post, FANGYAN is nothing of the sort. It simply means "place" + "speech," i.e., "speech pattern of a place" or, to put it more concisely, precisely, and elegantly, "topolect."

  20. Stephen Jones said,

    July 2, 2010 @ 1:31 am

    But what place do you consider Scots to be a topolect of?

  21. Jason Cullen said,

    July 2, 2010 @ 3:00 am

    Claw:

    I think we have to remember that Cantonese speakers (i.e. those who are raised speaking Cantonese exclusively) learn to write prose with Mandarin grammar, syntax, etc. Conversational Cantonese, when written, employs a number of characters in ways that differ from Mandarin. (Characters that are verbs/nouns in Mandarin might be particles or conjunctions in spoken Cantonese; the order or arguments is different; etc.) It's not just pronunciation that differentiates Cantonese from Mandarin!

  22. Victor Mair said,

    July 2, 2010 @ 3:19 am

    @Stephen Jones

    Wherever (i.e., whatever place) it is spoken. That is the beauty (or ugliness, if you wish) of the fuzziness of the term. I think that was Brendan's point; here's the closing sentence of his post: "I knew the vagueness had to be good for something."

  23. Ellen K. said,

    July 2, 2010 @ 10:23 am

    I'm not sure what you mean by "dialect tout court", but, from definitions of "tout court" my guess is, what distinguishes dialect from "eye dialect". Well, putting pronunciation differences in writing is a difference. Also note, I'm not at all saying that there's not a strong symbolic element to eye dialect.

  24. Ellen K. said,

    July 2, 2010 @ 10:55 am

    After reading the Wikipedia article on Eye Dialect, I know see what Mollymooly means. However, the term can apply to pronunciation spellings of non-standard pronciations in addition to pronunciation spellings of standard pronunciations. I presume this is what's meant here, particularly since it's paired with "dialect vocabulary".

  25. Claw said,

    July 2, 2010 @ 12:32 pm

    @Jason: Yep, I know that (I'm a Cantonese speaker); I was making the point that many Mandarin speakers seem to think that Cantonese is only pronunciation differences along with a few dialectical characters.

  26. Rodger C said,

    July 2, 2010 @ 1:23 pm

    What I was taught to call "eye dialect" involves spellings like "lissen," which don't reflect any nonstandard pronunciation at all.

  27. Ray Dillinger said,

    July 2, 2010 @ 1:38 pm

    I adore this kind of translation.

    My exposure to Scots is limited, but it seems to have much in common with the vocabulary of the mildly archaic English spoken by my maternal grandparents. I still remember when "thee" and "thou" were normal terms of address within family, and "ye" and "you" was for strangers – or for kids like me when I was in trouble with Grandpa…. Anyway, I'm finding Scots entirely comprehensible as written, and it reminds me of happy childhood time spent listening to Grandpa tell stories. Also it gives these stories a kind of immediacy and color not normally conveyed by the kind of formal translations I've read before.

    I can't really explain the difference – only that it shifts from feeling like trudging through a work of scholarship to feeling like listening to a peculiar, individualistic, and engaging storyteller.

    Anyway, I think it brings a much-needed relief to the world of excessively formal and precise translations to couch the stories in the patois of a non-prestige dialect. It reminds us that they're living stories and makes us apprehend them as stories instead of objects of scholarship.

  28. richard howland-bolton said,

    July 2, 2010 @ 1:43 pm

    @Victor Mair
    I thought we didn't argue from etymology any more: that just because the word meant something to the Greeks if it's all Greek to Ms Norma Loquendi today then what the Greeks thought is not really relevant.

    I mean that path could so easily lead to spelling it 'dialekt'!

  29. Army1987 said,

    July 2, 2010 @ 1:47 pm

    Languages of Italy such as Neapolitan are widely considered to be dialects of Italian — even by their own speakers! (but not by most linguists) — despite being no more mutually intelligible with Italian than, say, Spanish is. Linguistically that's nearly nonsense, but socially there's a point: they have never been official languages, there has never been much literature in them (other than poetry or theatre), code-switching between them and Italian is now much more common than conversations purely in them or purely in Italian, and so on.
    The Lega Nord party has also been ridiculed for their proposal to teach them in schools. (I agree that there are many reasons to ridicule Lega Nord, but not that this is one of them.)

  30. Thomas Thurman said,

    July 2, 2010 @ 3:54 pm

    I should also throw the Scottish Parliament's fine Scots website into the mix.

  31. Áine ní Dhonnchadha said,

    July 2, 2010 @ 4:46 pm

    "someone had too much free time." rootlesscosmo said, "The English classicist George Thomson translated Aeschylus into Irish."

    The attitude that Irish is 'a waste of time' is symptomatic of the historic and systematic imperial oppression of the Irish peoples. Also, as a linguist, it makes me want to scream in rage. Aeschylus is available in all sorts of languages, from Italian to Russian. Why, exactly, is Irish an example of a stupid choice?

  32. Victor Mair said,

    July 2, 2010 @ 5:34 pm

    @Richard Howland-Bolton

    I was answering Tikki.

  33. Brendan said,

    July 2, 2010 @ 6:12 pm

    Speaking as a jobbing freelance translator whose work tends more towards press releases than plays and poetry, I tend to think that translation of Aeschylus into any language is pretty hard to write off as a waste of time. Even in the case of a lesser artist like Shi Nai'an, I think there's actually a pretty strong argument to be made for Chinese-Scots translation: it's nice to see a classic story treated like a living text, and in this case in particular the parallels between the 好汉 hǎohàn of "The Water Margin" (or "Mossflow, as the case may be) and the "men of the greenwood" of stories from the British Isles seem too good to pass up.

    Literary translation is a small pond into which it is generally inadvisable to micturate, but if we have to cite examples of disproportionate effort/reward in translations, Winnie Ille Pu and Quomodo Invidiosulus Nomine Grinchus Christi Natalem Abrogaverit come to mind. Or the Chinese subtitles for The Big Lebowski, which just is not — despite the translator's often-inspired efforts — funny in Chinese. Or 钱稻孙 Qian Daosun, an early 20th-century translator who rendered extracts of Dante's Commedia in the style of the "Songs of the South" — the old Chu poetry also rendered, partly, into Scots by Brian Holton. None of these things is necessary, strictly speaking, but the world would be a poorer place without them.

  34. mollymooly said,

    July 3, 2010 @ 2:54 am

    I partly agree with Áine ní Dhonnchadha. While nearly all native speaker of Irish are also fluent English speakers, reading a translation of literature in your L1 is more satisfying than reading it in your L2. But OTOH a translation into the translator's L2 will probably be weaker than one into their L1.

    I would much rather the Irish government set Irish speakers to translate literature people might read than to translate mounds of EU documentation nobody will read.

  35. Amy said,

    July 3, 2010 @ 3:30 am

    I find this post fascinating when I consider Pascale Casanova's essay "Translation as Unequal Exchange." In the essay, she establishes two categories of languages: dominated and dominating. (I don't believe she discusses dialects or topolects, however.) She argues that one way for a dominated language to change its status is to translate as much as possible from dominating languages into the target language, citing 18th century German as an example. According to Casanova's parameters however, both Chinese and Scots are considered dominated languages right now. I wonder if her definitions of dominated and dominating languages could be bent slightly in this case, in order to understand Holton's endeavor as an attempt to change the status of Scots. In any case, I think it is interesting to apply Casanova's essay to this translation. I'm just not entirely sure how to go about it.

  36. michael farris said,

    July 3, 2010 @ 5:00 am

    "I would much rather the Irish government set Irish speakers to translate literature people might read than to translate mounds of EU documentation nobody will read."

    This assumes that the Irish government wants more people to speak and read Irish.

    If they did, maybe another tactic would be quotas on subtitled movies/tv (a certain amount of broadcast time has to be devoted to material not in English but with Irish only subtitles).

  37. Stephen Jones said,

    July 3, 2010 @ 5:32 am

    Wherever (i.e., whatever place) it is spoken. That is the beauty (or ugliness, if you wish) of the fuzziness of the term.

    So a topolect is something spoken by more than one person in a place, as opposed to an idiolect which is spoken by one person in a place, though if the speaker of the topolect speaks it in a place nobody else does, it's not clear if it becomes an idiolect or just a displaced topolect.

  38. Panu Höglund said,

    July 3, 2010 @ 6:25 am

    I would much rather the Irish government set Irish speakers to translate literature people might read than to translate mounds of EU documentation nobody will read.

    That has actually already been done. The problem is reissuing the old translations. There are Irish translations of "Ivanhoe", "David Copperfield", "A Tale of Two Cities", for instance. But you must hunt for them in antiquarian bookshops, and they are in the old orthography and Gaelic font which are very difficult to read, if you have started with the modern orthography.

  39. David Waugh said,

    July 3, 2010 @ 1:07 pm

    As a Scot born and bred, who could with some justice claim to be a native speaker of Scots, (I can clearly remember being told not speak it) I find performances like the above nauseating and embarrassing. Nothing could be less like the language actually spoken by real Scots. It is characterised by the systematic avoidance of any word which English and Scots might have in common. The word "hecht" for example, hasnt been in use since about 1600 and there are everyday Scots equivalents e.g. ca'd or cried. Yugh.

  40. David Waugh said,

    July 3, 2010 @ 1:10 pm

    By the way, I defy anyone to find an example of eye-dialect in the works of Robert Burns.

  41. Ray Dillinger said,

    July 4, 2010 @ 12:17 am

    1693 was when my Grandparents' people split from the mainstream English-speaking community, and most of the vocabulary displayed above (including "hecht" for "named or called," "biding" for "living or staying" "Westerling" for "Western", "Glorie" for "Holy", and so on, are more or less familiar to me from childhood. Their English is more or less fossilized because they've been (proudly!) not hiring "Outlander" English teachers, and at home speak Plattdeutsch rather than English.

    The dialect presented above seems to me just a few vowel shifts and sound changes ("bidin" for "biding", "Waistlin" for "Westerling", "Glore" for "Glorie", "Outlan" for "Outlander", etc) from that archaic English.

    If as David Waugh says above it's not very representative of Scots, then a question arises. Is this in fact a better translation into antique English than it is a translation into modern Scots?

  42. Panu said,

    July 5, 2010 @ 7:25 am

    That has actually already been done. The problem is reissuing the old translations.

    I would add that I am myself just after reading Tadhg Ó Donnchadha's Irish version of "Around the World in Eighty Days" by Verne, which was regrettably written in a heavy and too "literary" style, although grammatically it was mostly formally correct. Now I'm reading the Irish version of Prosper Mérimée's "Colomba", which is more fluent Irish. Both are recent reissues using the new orthography.

  43. George said,

    July 6, 2010 @ 4:19 am

    I just love Panu's "I am myself just after reading…". I've never used that structure myself but my children do. (We moved from Dublin to Co. Clare in the West of Ireland three years ago.) Mollymooly or others might correst me if I am mistaken here but I have the impression that it would be a very class-marked turn of phrase in Dublin but not so out in our glorious boondocks.

  44. Sile said,

    July 6, 2010 @ 11:36 am

    Goidé mar 'tá tú, Panu, I think we used to chat many years ago on Gaelic forums!

    Language is creativity – I can't imagine that the creative act of translating anything is any more a waste of time than creating a painting or sculpture.

    For myself, reading the bit of 水滸傳 translated into (however-overblown) Scots was an absolute riot – enjoyed it immensely and I intend to pass it on to many others.

    It is worth using also as a jumping-off point for discussing Scots, too, and pointing out that this translation is more akin to rending 水滸傳 into Shakespearean English as opposed to a modern English dialect.

    In the end, it'll just get Scots discussed more, so that has to be good – yes? Or do you feel that overblowing the dialect a bit is too patronizing? I can see both points.

    But a waste of time – I laughed way too hard to come to that conclusion.

    We need humorous, creative cultural links between west and east, especially when Washington is warmongering all over the dang place, and the CCP seems hell-bent on turning China into an Internet Maximum Security Prison.

    翻墙! Climb th' dyke [wall]!

  45. Stephen Jones said,

    July 6, 2010 @ 8:49 pm

    Is this in fact a better translation into antique English than it is a translation into modern Scots?

    It's possibly a fair translation into a variant of 17th century Scots.

    Scots was closer to some northern dialects of English than they were to South Eastern English. This is why there's the long-standing argument over whether it's a dialect or a language.

  46. Bathrobe said,

    July 6, 2010 @ 10:21 pm

    "According to Casanova's parameters however, both Chinese and Scots are considered dominated languages right now."

    I'm not sure how Chinese can be considered a dominated language. In the current Western paradigm of "everyone but the West is a victim", just about every language in the world is a "dominated language". But in China, this couldn't be further from the truth. The riots that China has had in Xinjiang and Tibet are at least as much about language (and culture) as anything else. In these places, Chinese is clearly the dominator and the so-called 'minority' languages are dominated. In 50 or 100 years, when Tibetan, Uighur approach the situation of Mongolian in current Inner Mongolia, the ideologues who currently perceive the West as the root of all evils and the Chinese as 'underdogs' may modify their theories, but by then it will be too late.

  47. Panu said,

    July 7, 2010 @ 2:49 am

    I'm not sure how Chinese can be considered a dominated language.

    Me neither. It's obvious that many small languages are being ousted by Mandarin, in a way similar to how, say, Irish was ousted by English. Besides, the real killer isn't always English. It's the big regional languages. The speakers of, say, Gujarati aren't afraid of English, but of Hindi.

  48. Bathrobe said,

    July 7, 2010 @ 4:08 am

    For the impressions of an American student who went to Inner Mongolia, try this site:

    http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/06/30/autonomous-china-and-the-fight-over-heritage/

    The piece says:

    "My tour guide told me that, among the Mongolians, there is a real sense that the Han Chinese are trying to, quietly, stamp out Mongolian culture. (After an unusual arrest last year, the leader of the Inner Mongolian People's Party, Xi Haiming, claimed that, "the Chinese Communist Party wants to divide and rule . . . their purpose is hidden but its the eradication of Tibetan and Mongolian culture.")

    "This, of course, may be somewhat exaggerated, but nonetheless, the tension is there."

    I don't believe that this is exaggerated at all. I have been told by an Inner Mongolian that originally all people in Inner Mongolia were taught Mongolian. Apparently it was during the Cultural Revolution, which was highly destructive of the culture of the ethnic 'minorities', that this was stopped and the current system of separate Chinese and Mongolian schools was adopted. Letters with the address written in Mongolian don't get delivered.

    Given that the Han Chinese dominate politics, industry, and commerce and just about everything else except herding, the incentive for young people to abandon their native language is pretty strong. And the Han Chinese, needless to say, don't feel any incentive to learn the language of the "autonomous region" they live in. This to a large extent goes for Tibet and Xinjiang, too. Han Chinese LOVE Tibet for its vast and beautiful landscapes and local minority culture, but not many would dream of learning the language.

  49. komfo,amonan said,

    July 7, 2010 @ 1:58 pm

    @Army1987

    Languages of Italy such as Neapolitan [...] have never been official languages [...]

    It was pointed out at LH a few months ago that Neapolitan was the official language of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in the 15th century. It's hard for me to imagine that the local languages weren't official in the other Italian states. For example, I'm guessing Venetian was official, Genoese/Ligurian, Piedmontese, Lombard.

  50. Amy said,

    July 9, 2010 @ 7:24 pm

    "I'm not sure how Chinese can be considered a dominated language."

    This troubled me too when I was reflecting on Casanova's essay. In fact, before I reread it I was going to say that I was fascinated to see a "dominating language" being translated into a "dominated language," but when I looked back at the essay, I found this sentence: "Some languages of broad diffusion, finally — such as Arabic, Chinese and Hindi — are also dominated in the literary sphere, because although they have great literary traditions and a large number of speakers, they are little known or recognized in the international market." Maybe Casanova is not denying the dominance of Chinese outside the literary sphere, or maybe you are right, and it is a case of "everyone but the West is a victim," but that was not the sense I got from the rest of the essay. I propose that her basic argument of translation as unequal exchange needs some refining. Rather than creating categories of "dominating" and "dominated" languages, and analyzing a translation that way, one might create a sliding relative scale, so that even among "dominated languages" translation can still be seen as an unequal exchange.

  51. Aaron Davies said,

    July 13, 2010 @ 9:22 pm

    i've always taken use of eye dialect to essentially imply lack of education on the part of those in whose mouths it is placed—the inference we're meant to make on reading "wimmin" is "he couldn't spell 'women' properly to save his life"

  52. Brian Holton said,

    September 23, 2010 @ 2:03 pm

    Well, I'm delighted to see my Mossflow being noticed. The work was begun thirty years ago, and has never seen the light of day because I have never been able to find a publisher who is willing to take a risk with it.

    I used literary Scots because Shuihu Zhuan is not written in straight 'BBC Chinese', and because, having grown up with Scott and Hogg and the Border Ballads (and a Border family which used the word 'hecht', Mr. Waugh, whether you approve or not), I aimed to make a representation of the Chinese text which would convey to the English-speaking reader (both in and outwith Scotland) something of the delightful texture and rhythm of the original.

    I have recently put Du Fu's Qiu Xing into Scots, and hope to make it the centrepiece of a small book proposing some new translation strategies for Chinese poetry.

    If anyone wants to publish my Shuihu, I'll be happy to talk to them.

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