Comparative Stylistics of Welsh and English

Comparative Stylistics of Welsh and English

by Steve Morris, Kevin Rottet


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The comparative analysis of Welsh and English found in this book is based on a translation corpus consisting of just over thirty novels and autobiographies from the late nineteenth century up to the early twenty-first century. Much of the original Welsh texts contain stylistic features which, in a context of intense bilingualism with English, can benefit from deliberate discussion and analysis as proposed in this volume. However, the work is intentionally descriptive rather than prescriptive, laying out patterns that are observed in the corpus, making them available to Welsh writers and translators to adopt if or as required. As similarly the classic work in the field by Vinay and Darbelnet, this book examines its topics through the lens of translation techniques such as transposition, modulation and adaptation.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781786832559
Publisher: University of Wales Press
Publication date: 10/15/2018
Pages: 544
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Kevin J. Rottet is Associate Professor of French Linguistics and Adjunct in Linguistics at Indiana University, where he teaches courses on language contact, lexicology lexicography, translation, and the structure of Breton.

Steve Morris is Associate Professor of Welsh at Swansea University where he teaches in the fields of language and applied linguistics. He is a co-investigator on the CorCenCC (Corpws Cenedlaethol Cymraeg Cyfoes - National Corpus of Contemporary Welsh) project.

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Comparative Stylistics and Translation Techniques

Comparative stylistics is a technique for closely comparing the stylistic resources of two languages to observe how each deploys its linguistic devices in ways that reflect its own characteristic idiom and expressive spirit.

The primary methodology involved in comparative stylistics is the study of texts and their translations. Two French academics, Jean-Paul Vinay and Jean Darbelnet, pioneered this methodology in their classic work entitled Stylistique comparée du français et de l'anglais: Méthode de traduction (first edition 1958, publ. by Marcel Didier, Paris), a foundational text in translation studies. The technique of juxtaposing examples of linguistic patterns in one language with phrasings considered equivalent in the other has been shown to reveal facts about the basic structure and subtler stylistic preferences of the languages which are not otherwise apparent even to fluent speakers. This technique, working from the top down (the 'top' being the finished text), is completely different from the approach of traditional language classes which start from the bottom up (beginning with how the most basic ideas are conveyed in the foreign language).

Vinay and Darbelnet's study was based on French and English, which were (and of course still are) spoken by millions of people, many of whom are monolingual in their respective languages. Thus, these languages serve for many as the sole vehicle of long and complex cultural traditions. Interestingly, Vinay and Darbelnet expressed doubts (p. 233 fn. 7) about whether the methodology they developed would be fruitful for studying the languages of a bilingual community, noting that prolonged bilingualism leads to a fusion of cultures and, ultimately, of metalanguages (meaning, here, cognitive representations of the world in linguistic terms). Although they undoubtedly did not intend it as a challenge, this claim felt like one, and the case of Wales appeared to be a fertile testing ground for examining it. And while it is doubt-less true that Welsh and English 'metalanguages' are not as different today as they once were, we find that there is nonetheless a characteristic stylistic idiom in much contemporary Welsh writing which differs in significant ways from that found in English. Given the increasing importance of translation and translation studies in contemporary Wales, the timing is appropriate for a study that sheds light on some of the ways the structures and stylistic patterns of English and Welsh traditionally differ from each other, in order to make the Welsh patterns available to the student, writer, translator or linguist for whom the English-like patterns may be the ones that come most readily to mind.

Vinay and Darbelnet's classic work was both a comparative stylistics of French and English, and also a more general methodology for translation. Indeed, given that the primary lens through which the language comparisons are observed is that furnished by texts and their translations, the methods in the toolkit of the translator are necessarily of key interest. We turn now to a brief discussion of some of these tools.

1.1 Basic notions of translation

Some of the basic ideas of translation will be discussed under the following five headings: (1) Source Language and Target Language; (2) Constraints versus Options; (3) Translation Units; (4) Overtranslation; (5) Registers and Situational Variation.

1.1.1 Source Language and Target Language

When a text was originally written in Welsh and later translated into English, Welsh is said to be the source language, and English the target language. This study also draws examples from texts with the opposite arrangement, that is English as source language (SL) and Welsh as target language (TL). Indeed, it is important that works going in both directions be examined since the comparison may reveal differences of technique. One way to verify that a particular linguistic correspondence really holds true of a pair of languages is to verify whether it is found when translating in both directions.

Throughout this work, quoted examples will be given in columns side by side; the source language will systematically be on the left and the target language on the right. In most cases, a word or phrase which is of particular interest to the discussion is in bold print. Other kinds of highlighting, especially any occurrence of italics, were already present in the published texts being quoted unless otherwise noted.

1.1.2 Constraints versus Options

Not all of the differences between two languages are the focus of a study of comparative stylistics. It is important to distinguish between constraints and options. Constraints (or servitudes) are places where the language user has no choice but to use a given form. Consider the following example from the novel Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and its Welsh translation:

Ron picked up a green bean, looked at it carefully, Cododd Ron ffeuen werdd, edrych arni'n ofalus ac yna and bit into a corner. [STONE 129] brathu cornel. [MAEN 81]

There are many grammatical differences between English and Welsh that can be seen in this one brief example, but most of them involve matters imposed by the grammars of the two languages. For instance, the Welsh equivalent of green bean is ffeuen werdd. That ffeuen 'bean' is a feminine noun is a constraint, a fact of Welsh grammar that the translator has no control over. Similarly, the form and position of the adjective werdd 'green' are not freely chosen: adjectives must come after the noun they modify in Welsh, not before it as in English, and when an adjective modifies a feminine singular noun (like ffeuen'bean') it must undergo soft mutation (thus, gwyrdd 'green' appears as werdd in this example). These facts about the placement and form of the adjective are constraints imposed by Welsh grammar that the proficient user of Welsh has no choice but to follow. Constraints like these are of key interest in a traditional language class but are not the major focus in a study of comparative stylistics.

Options, on the other hand, are places where a writer (or translator) has more than one possibility from which to choose. Options constitute the primary focus of a study of stylistics. Consider the following example:

Harry sat up and gasped; the glass front of the Cododd Harri ar ei eistedd. Syrthiodd ei geg ar agor. boa constrictor's tank had vanished. [STONE 35] Roedd y gwydr ar flaen tanc y neidr wasgu wedi diflannu'n llwyr ... [MAEN 22]

To express 'sat up', the translator could have chosen eisteddodd i fyny (liter-ally 'sat up'), a frequent and unsurprising wording in modern Welsh. But in this case the translator opted for a different formulation, cododd ar ei eistedd (literally 'rose on his sitting'). While the literal rendering of English phrasal verbs such as to sit up in Welsh using VERB + PARTICLE is generally possible in informal registers, other possibilities exist and are preferred in more formal styles. In addition, in the phrase cododd ar ei eistedd we see an example of a much larger phenomenon in Welsh idiom, namely a construction involving a possessive where none occurs in English. In fact, numerous verbs of bodily posture show the same competition between an older, more traditional Welsh formulation using a possessive idiom, and a newer, English-style verb + particle construction; for instance 'to turn around' can be troi rownd / troi o gwmpas (lit. 'turn around') or troi yn ei unfan (lit. 'to turn in his spot'); 'to stand up' can be sefyll i fyny (lit. 'stand up') or codi ar ei draed (lit. 'rise on his feet'). It happens that such possessive patterns are found through-out idiomatic Welsh. When seen in this light, the example codi ar ei eistedd ceases to be an isolated, one-off lexical example and becomes illustrative of something larger that permeates much Welsh stylistic idiom. Once this fact is recognised, it becomes possible to treat such patterns together as we do in the present volume.

As Vinay and Darbelnet (1995: 16) put it, 'grammar is the domain of servitudes whereas options belong to the domain of stylistics.' Nevertheless, the distinction is sometimes clearer in theory than in practice, and it is not always possible to draw a rigid distinction between them, as we will see in various places in the chapters that follow.

1.1.3.i Translation Units

One of the most basic tools in the translator's toolkit is the proper identification of the translation unit (TU). The term TU refers to each of the minimal chunks of an utterance (or of a text) for which a translation can appropriately be sought. A translation unit may be as small as a word, but it may also be a phrase, a collocation, or a group of words that function together and that must be handled together. An equivalent should be sought for the TU rather than for the individual elements that make it up. The main kinds of units are simple units, collocations, and formulae.

1.3.i Simple units

In the most straightforward case, each word in the source language equates to a single word in the target language. In the following example, the Welsh original and the English translation have the same number of words (with the one exception that the particle i mewn corresponds to 'in' in English); the Welsh words of the example can easily be matched up with the English words of the translation once basic word order differences are taken into account:

Daeth Mrs Jones i mewn i nôl rhai o'r llestri. [BYW 13]
came Mrs Jones in to fetch some of the dishes
'Mrs Jones came in to fetch some of the dishes.' [AWAKENING 13]

But cases like the above are not particularly common. It is more frequent that the number of words in the source and target language texts is not the same, and so the words do not match up in such a transparent way. Some TUs are simplex lexical items (normally, single words) in one language whose equivalents are two or more words in the other:

Un tro, yn ddiweddarach, ro'n i'n rhoi glo ar y tân Another time, I was putting coal on the fire and I failed to a sylwes i ddim bod tair cath fach Siamaidd yn notice three Siamese kittens sleeping in the hod on top of cysgu yn y bwced lo ... [HUNAN 124] the coal. [SOLVA 124]

Gwnâi hi ei rownd ar gefn beic 'da buddeie bach She used to do her round on a bicycle with small churns yn hongian o'r cyrn. [HUNAN 75] hanging from the handlebars. [SOLVA 75]

And do you think your father really meant her to Ac ydych chi'n meddwl bod eich tad wir yn bwriadu iddi
own the house forever? [MAT 204] fod yn berchen y ty am byth? [MAT 198]

Alternatively, the TU may consist of multiple words in both languages, but the words may not mean the same thing individually:

Hen ddyn bach cryno, yn gwisgo ffunen sidan ... a small, compact, old man, wearing a black silk cravat ddu a het Jim Crow; yn eistedd yn y Sêt Fawr am and a 'Jim Crow' hat; sitting in the elders' pew because he ei fod yn drwm ei glyw; [HENAT 31] was hard of hearing; [LOCUST 33]

The examples above reveal the following correspondences:

cath fach ('small cat') :: kitten ar gefn ('on the back of') :: on (with certain means of transportation) bod yn berchen ('be the owner of') :: to own y sêt fawr ('the big seat') :: deacon's bench, elders' pew (in a chapel)

The translator must recognise that these Welsh phrases are each a single translation unit and not the accidental juxtaposition of two different units. For instance, the usual translation of cath fach, in most contexts, is 'kitten' and not 'small cat'.

1.1.3.ii Collocations

Collocations are among the most customary phrasings of a language, occupying an intermediate place between word combinations which are completely free (buy a shirt, eat an apple), and idioms where none of the lexical items is freely chosen (kick the bucket 'to die', compare apples and oranges 'to compare unlike things'). Typical examples of collocations are sequences consisting of two lexemes, such as heavy smoker, badly mistaken, or sit an exam, in which one of the lexemes (called the base) is chosen freely by the speaker based on what she wants to talk about, but the other (called the collocate) is not. Possible collocates are predetermined by the conventions of the language; they are more or less arbitrary and unpredictable. In the collocation sit an exam, for instance, once a speaker has freely selected the term exam because she wants to talk about an upcoming test, the choice of verb that goes with it is actually quite limited; take an exam or sit an exam come to the mind of the (British) English speaker as customary phrasings or as the 'right' way to put it. Foreigners learning English, although they might well understand the collocation sit an exam when it is encountered in context, could not predict in advance that sit will be used this way in English. For instance, in Welsh the traditional equivalent is sefyll arholiad (literally 'stand an exam'), and in French it is passer un examen (literally 'pass an exam').

Consider the following examples of collocations from the translation corpus:

'You would be a lot better off, Miss Honey,' she Fe fyddech chi'n llawer gwell eich byd, Miss Honey,' said, "if you gave up your job and drew meddai, 'petaech chi'n rhoi'r gorau i'ch swydd ac yn codi unemployment money." [MAT 204] arian diweithdra.' [MAT 198]

Hen ddyn bach cryno, yn gwisgo ffunen sidan '... a small, compact, old man, wearing a black silk cravat ddu a het Jim Crow; yn eistedd yn y Sêt Fawr am and a 'Jim Crow' hat; sitting in the elders' pew because he ei fod yndrwm ei glyw; [HENAT 31] was hard of hearing; [LOCUST 33]

Daethom ein dau yn ffrindiau mawr heb yn We two becamegood friends (or great friends), somehow wybod i ni, rywsut. [CHWECH 164] without our knowing it.

In these examples we see several instances of collocations which must be recognised and handled as such, rather than being translated word-for-word. Thus, the usual verb in Welsh to talk about 'collecting' money in various con-texts, including receiving a pay cheque or a pension or even taking out a loan, is the verb codi (literally 'to raise'); yn drwm ei glyw (lit. 'heavy his hearing') is equivalent to the English expression hard of hearing, and 'good friends' are just as likely to be called ffrindiau mawr as ffrindiau da.

1.1.3.iii Formulaic language

The category formulaic language refers to conventionalised chunks of language whose form rarely varies from one occasion of use to the next. Some of these are routine phrases used in particular social contexts ('It's nice to meet you.' 'Thank you very much.' 'I'm sorry to hear that.' 'How are you?' 'I beg your pardon.'):

'I do beg your pardon. I will not trespass further 'Mae'n ddrwg gen i. Wna i mo'ch poeni chi ymhellach.'
on your time.' [THIEF 8] [LLEIDR 16]

Another group includes idioms, phrases whose conventional meaning is not inferrable from the literal meanings of the individual words that make them up. Idioms have a meaning that must simply be learned. They are said to be noncompositional since their meaning is not built up by adding together the meanings of their individual pieces, and as a result, a translation must be sought for the idiom as a whole.

Yr oedd Wil, bellach, yn mynd 'fel cath i Will was now going hell-forleather, with a little girl to
gythraul', a rhyw ferch fach y rhoddasai reid iddi whom he had given a ride screeching 'Help!' at the top yn sgrechian 'Help' nerth ei phen. [O LAW 61] of her voice. [FROM 41]

In this case, fel cath i gythraul (lit. 'like a cat to the devil') is a unit that has no direct English equivalent, though similar idioms are possible such as 'hell-for-leather' or 'like a bat out of hell'.

1.1.3 Overtranslation

Overtranslation generally results when a translator fails to recognise a multi-word sequence as a single translation unit, treating it instead as a series of independent units, and translating each separately. For instance, to render argefn beic literally as 'on the back of a bike' or cath fach as 'small cat' would be examples of overtranslation.


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Copyright © 2018 Kevin J. Rottet and Steve Morris.
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Table of Contents

Rhagair / Preface v

Acknowledgements xiii

1 Comparative Stylistics and Translation Techniques 1

2 Nouns and Pronouns 29

3 Prepositions 65

4 Welsh possessive constructions 121

5 Issues in the Verb Phrase: Tense/Mood/Aspect and Modality 157

6 Phrasal Verbs 219

7 Cael and Get 273

8 Adjectives and Adverbs 297

9 Lexical Issues: Word formation and collocations 337

10 Welsh Verbless Clauses and Verb-noun Clauses 437

11 Information structure: Topic and focus 473

Bibliography 501

Index of Terms 509

Index of Words and Expressions

Welsh 517

English 523

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