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Gergana Apostolova


Предложеното изследване е от областта на сравнителната прагматика. В контекста на философията на езика от последните десетилетия на 20 век се представя методологически подход към мотивацията на избора при трансформацията на имената в двупосочния превод между английски и български език, основан върху лингво-психологичен анализ на културния комплекс на текста. Практико-приложната цел на настоящата статия е да фокусира вниманието на обучаващите и обучаваните за професионални преводачи върху важността на въпроса за текстово-обусловеното трансформиране на имената в превода. Особеният статус на собствените имена изисква мотивирана трансформация в целевия текст, който при прехвърлянето между английски и български език обективно не може да постигне еквивалентност във всички свои нива.

It’s nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet.

W. Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act 2 Scene 2

There will be no unique name, even if it were thе name of Being. And we must think this without nostalgia.

Jacques Derrida, Margins of Philosophy

Names, especially proper names, have been a subject of philosophical discussion ever since the dawn of man’s self-awareness as a subject to his own knowledge and socio-cultural practice. Without going too far back we could mention the names of Derrida, Foucault, Levinas, Lyotard, Lecercle, who have gone in their studies to the deepest grounds of language use as far as proper names are concerned as specific signifiers.

In the current age of intensive cross-cultural interaction and convergence of cultures names travel through the individual and social spaces of multilingual intercourse. In the multilingual existence of a text names undergo changes which sometimes lead to changed contexts and agents. There are sufficient theoretical grounds, tools, mechanisms and rules for their transformation, which can explain or prescribe the practice of a translator. Yet there are the more powerful rules of practice itself. The training of translators touches in its ends upon both the deepest levels of philosophy and the self-conscious illiteracy. Therefore it is important to look for and find out the practical grounds of the transformation of names in translation.

In the flow of the context from the source text towards the target text in the process of translating, names stand as isles of secured equivalency of the agents of the discursive realization of the text. There are different approaches to securing this equivalency in terms of language transformation even in the time of the internationally applicable and directly used English spelling of famous names for the latter is a system of conventions bridging inequivalences of languages as containers of cultures.

Although the translators today are supported by the conversion of cultures (which presupposes tolerable naming of cultural values), and by the compatibility of cross-cultural phonetics (which opens numerous pathways to the mechanisms of borrowing on all the levels of spoken and written language and language formation) - they still have to look for the ‘proper’ mechanisms of name-transformation, and make choices. It is these choices we are interested in.

It is curious that the transformation of names is generally neglected in the process of language training, as something given which just needs the correct transcription and transliteration. It becomes still more curious when one reads the papers of the students of all ages where names seem to be blank spots of meaning in the translated contexts even in the cases of otherwise bilingual fluency. Yet it is still stranger to trace the variations in the cross-cultural use of names even to unrecognizable realia in the professional translations of documents and books of all type and quality. A clearly-cut mechanism of transliteration and transcription seems to melt in the deep flow of individual choices and their motivations against the background process of the rapid transition of cultures, language-use habits and literacy, which has been taking place ever since the end of the 1980s.

The fine-tuning of a translated text includes adjustment of the meaning of all the agents to the communicative situation realizing the purpose of the language use within the broader plan of the textual entity. Practically it involves the attitudes within the framework of the communicative situation where the names are no longer textual units of denotative naturebut they carry the slight variations of meaning for the author, the translator, and the reader. The names themselves become keys to the texture of the self-realization of the discursive agents, the linkers in the textual progressive development, the most accessible concepts which limit the surface structure of the text to the basic criteria for its separate existence within the general framework of the infinite text of the human culture.

In the training and cultivation of the ability for translating it is important to find motivation of choice since translation is the mediator of cultures and, what is more, nowadays it is the means of existence of smaller cultures within the field of bigger cultures.

Hence, our task here is to explicate a typology of the choice motivation of name transformation in the English - Bulgarian and Bulgarian - English translation to the purposes of training of translators: capable, motivated, highly cultured, open to information and willing to present the Bulgarian cultural values to the world in most favorable form and vice versa - to introduce the world into Bulgarian without littering it with unnecessary borrowings.

There are the basic rules of transcription and transliteration, displayed in the commonly applied in our country Transcription of the Bulgarian names into English and the English names into Bulgarian (Danchev 1982) - widely used by the authorities from the Ministry of Interior.Yet there is the translator’s choice in the cases of non-coinciding phonemes and this choice depends on pragmatic rather than on phonetic and phonological rules. Convention, phonological adaptation and individual speech habits provide relativity in the fixed grounds of “correctness” of the translation, which leads to uncertainty, and de-motivation.

Besides there are the numerous cases of translation of names which require competence in isolating the meaningful units, command of word formation patterns in the target language and insight.

The practice of translating and the huge experience of English - Bulgarian and Bulgarian - English translation provide sufficient material for isolating certain methodological principles of generally pragmatic character in the approach to the names in the translation.

Since the approach adopted here is pragmatic, the systematic principle to follow would be a movement from the naming of the subject through the names for the predicate, the situation and the realities of context. Therefore the names in the translation are classified as: names of people, names of places, names of events and names of characters. There is also the question of the concrete outcome of the process of nomination and denomination.

Names are tender units of language focusing immediately on its essence. The handling of names is bridging meanings. Names are proto-language forms - they are what words have been before they have become the expression of the communicative function of language - before they have acquired universal status. Names are the universal ambitions of the individual existence. Therefore names have difficulty in cross lingual transformation which always bears the risks of their slipping into universalia (or common words), blank spots (noise in the communication process), and into something else (a new individuality).

The significance of the proper name has been subject of interest and discussion among the leading philosophers of the late 20th century. One of the philosophers of Postmodernity, Lyotard wrote:

“Anyone who tries to reflect on the historico-political reality today (as always) comes up against names - proper names. These names form part of the treasure of phrases that he has received in his share of language and that he must continue to develop by allowing new phrases to enter it. For we have all of us a sort of debt, or a sort of rivalry, with respect to names.” (Lyotard 1992: 393).

If the context of Lyotard is applied to the basic concepts of modern text linguistics concerning the criteria of textuality, we may continue to state that names are the cohesive units of a textual reality, they carry the intentionality of the text between its agents, they are the major infrastructure units of intertextuality, they make a text accessible. They are sufficient in themselves for building contexts and enclosing the essences of messages. Being so common, they are the markers of individuality. Lyotard continues with concrete illustration:

“These proper names have the following remarkable property: they place modern historical or political commentary in abeyance. Adorno pointed out that Auschwitz is an abyss in which the philosophical genre of Hegelian speculative discourse seems to disappear, because the name ‘Auschwitz’ invalidates the presuppositions of that genre, namely that all that is real is rational, and that all that is rational is real.” (Lyotard 1992: 393).

Further, Lyotard explicates on the discursive value of names, which is a feature of primary importance for the translator, who works amidst the deep structures of a text:

“A child or an immigrant enters into a culture by learning proper names. He has to learn the names used to designate relatives, heroes (in the broad sense of the word), places, dates and, I would add, following Kripke, units of measure, of space, of time and of exchange value. These names are ‘rigid designators’; they signify nothing or can, at least, acquire different and debatable significations; they can be linked to sentences from totally heterogeneous regimes (descriptive, interrogative, ostensive, evaluative, prescriptive, etc.) and they can be included in incommensurate discursive genres (cognitive, persuasive, epideictic, tragic, comic, dithyrambic, etc.). Names are not learned in isolation; they are embedded in little stories. The advantage of a story is, I repeat, that it can contain within it a multiplicity of heterogeneous families of discourse, provided that it expands, so to speak. It arranges them into a sequence of events designated by the culture’s proper names.This organization has a high degree of coherence...“ (Lyotard 1992: 319-320).

The names participate in the building of the textual reality. There is the example of Andre Marcel d’Ans who writes:

“Amongst the Cashinahua, any interpretation of a miyoi (myth, tale, legend or traditional piece of writing) begins with a set formula: “This is the story of... as I have always heard it told. In my turn I will tell it to you. Listen to it.” And the recitation invariably ends with another formula: “Here ends the story of ... He who told you was ... (Cashinahua name), who is known to the whites as (Spanish or Portugese name).”...In order to hear these stories, one must have been named (all males and prepubertal girls can listen). In order to tell them, one must have been named (only men can tell stories). In order to have a story told about one (to be a referent), one must have been named... By putting the names into stories, narration protects the rigid designators of a common identity from the events of the ‘now’, and from the dangers of what follows on from it. To be named is to be recounted. In two ways: every story, no matter how anecdotal it may seem, reactivates names and nominal relations. And by repeating that story, the community reassures itself as to the permanence and legitimacy of its world of names thanks to the recurrence of that world in stories. And certain stories are explicitly about the giving of names.” (Lyotard 1992: 320).

Names are language events and they bear the essential characteristic feature of language: they are signs. Yet there is certain specifics to these signs:

“The name is a special kind of sign which coincides with the concept. As such it has been the object of study of philosophy, logic and semiotics. Hegel discusses it as an obstacle to the absolute systematization of signs. The logicians Frege and Russel regarded it as a problem to logicians since it refers to a single reference and does not appear exchangeable against other terms in the logico-linguistic structure. The proper name is not bound in a system of general signs. It points outward. It is a deictic category. It either has no connotations at all or has an interminable number of them.” (after Lyotard 1992: 12).

The problems in the transformation of names between English and Bulgarian through the mechanisms of translation, transliteration and transcription are pointed out in the detailed research Bulgarian Transcription of English Names (А. Данчев. Българска транскрипция на английски имена. София: Народна просвета, 1982). In the first place they lie in the lack of a unified system for intralanguage transcription of the English language. Another problem lies in the relations between the mechanisms of transliteration and transcription which depend on the dependencies of the written and spoken language (Danchev 1982:23).

In earlier years written language dominated over spoken forms while nowadays spoken language has gained greater significance. A third problem comes from the major phonological and phonetic differences of the two languages (Danchev 1982: 24). Incompetence still remains the basic problem (Danchev 1982: 25).

The question whether the transcription of the English names should be invariable (Danchev 1982: 31) in the context of the established dependencies of the two language is not simply a matter of improving the translators’ literacy because the existence of dialects and variations of the English language makes it impossible to achieve uniformity (Danchev 1982: 33). This is a further argument in support of finding proper motivation for the translator’s choice.

And last but not least is the argument that “it is often forgotten that apart from its communicative functions language has aesthetic functions’ and ‘combinations of letters or sounds which are natural for one language” might be ‘strange, unacceptable, even unnatural for another language’ (Danchev 1982: 36). There is also the rule that the culture of bilingualism demands that each language be used without allowing interferences of another language’.

Danchev makes a very important statement concerning the translator’s work: “The transcription of names is a problem rather of’ the target language than of the source language.” (Danchev 1982: 37). This is not a purely linguistic problem but is connected with the responsibilities of the translator: to the correctness of information (as far as the status of the name as textual element is concerned), to the clarity of language (as far as the rules for phonetic and phonologic transformations are applied), to the message (as far as the pragmatic purposes of the language variety used are concerned).


Names of people: the bilingual existence of the human individual

An Italian brought his second baby to a northeastern Pennsylvania clergyman to be baptized:

“Now,” he said, “you see you baptize him right. Last time I tell you I want my boy call ‘Tom’ you call him ‘Thomas’. This time I want him call ‘Jack’, I no want you call him Jackass!” (Pocheptsov 1982: 227)

The reasons for the diversity of transformation of names in the translation have been studied so far at the various levels of comparative studies and we shall only mention those of particular interest for this study: the individual specifics of articulation and transcription, the individual approach to transliteration, the individual taste, and the reading of translations (or what Nida would call ‘team work’ of the translators collaborating with those who had published translations before). However, here we are not interested in further investigation of the reasons. The focus of our study is the motivation grounds which could be worked out by the instructor and the trainees in the process of training of translators. This is a systematic approach, worked by the agents of each single case, to the formation of attitudes which are to serve as grounds for the motivation and the defense of a translator’s choice in the transformation of names. It refers directly to the grounds of language use for what is the primary functioning of language but naming. The transformation of names in the process of translating is as important as choosing names for real people.

There is also the effect of hesitation in the transformation of names based on emotional barriers such as shame and fear of wrong naming.

Names’ transformations are related to the mechanism of functioning of autobiographies and biographies: hierarchies differ because the textures of their building and their uses are grounded on different cohesive and coherent mechanisms and different interrelations even within the same intentional schemes. The biography approaches the person from the outside while the autobiography explicates the innermost connections of the individual and the specific attitudes with their individual emotive meanings. The name, adopted by the bearer, is the focus of the autobiography - the self-expression, while the name, given by the translator is the subject who has arisen from its otherness. Thus it bears additional information - it is the name used by the ‘others’ in the extreme functioning of their ‘otherness’ in the quality of ‘foreignness’.

From a pragmatic point of view a transformed name, whether transliterated or changed, is bound to bear positive psychological load in all cases of its recognition by the bearer as belonging to his essential or extended Self - the actual self or its projections. Then Deil Carnegie’s principle of the best sounding of one’s name is activated irrespective of the fact that it can be activated in purely psychological realities (Carnegie, D. How to Win Friends and Influence People. 1936). In the cases when the name is not recognized there arises a process of persuasion ending in conviction or rejection.

Practically this means that the names of living people are transformed with the general consent of their bearers and the latter is a matter of successful defending of the transformation by the translator.

Translation is introducing - names should not be treated as realia but as universalia - universally valid notions of individuality. They can be isles of the past, they can be openings to a foreign land, and they can be patches of reality leading the psychoanalytician to the domain o the subconscious.

Introduction is carried out in each single situation through a procedure which could generally be called renaming. Translation realized as renaming follows a variety of transformation paths: living people should have their names in that form which preserves their emotive meaning in terms of values understood as the individual attitude to the name in its quality of the expression of one’s individual motivation of personality.

When a person hates his or her name, a foreign language gives a chance for re-naming: thus Danail becomes Dani, Nikolai Roudev becomes Nick Rud, Gergana becomes Gerry or Ganna, Donka becomes Dona etc. Practically this is used in the communicative classroom and in the suggestopedia as ELT methods - the participants in the learning situation choose names for themselves or are given such by the instructor and the classmates: Georgi becomes George, Catherine becomes Kate, Alexander becomes Alexander, Boyana becomes Bobby etc.

Renaming can be further used as the vehicle to plot-building in role-play with the purpose of acquiring the freedom of not exactly anonymity but rather of de-nonymity i.e. leaving the actual limitation of one’s personality and building up a virtual personality with new name-limitations: thus Emiliyan becomes Killer, Lora is Glory, Iveta is Iveto-Diveto, Billiana is Bibby, Theodora is Dodo, Valeri is Blade, Andrei is Slade.

There is the reverse procedure - re-statement of one’s individuality: Lyubo is Lyubo, Svetla is Svetla, Stephen is Stephen.

There is also the procedure of universalization: Boyana is Bobby, Boris is Bobby, Billiana is Bobby. It is simplification to the purpose of becoming part of the foreign-language speaking community - losing the uniqueness of one’s name is the price of ubiquity.

Another motif for renaming is adopting a famous name thus putting on a model personality.

A recent form of the renaming procedure is the use of the internet name - the e-mail address which is in most cases the virtual name representing the individual before the audience of the internet which can be considered a specific high quality community where the person preserves the essential features of his or her official name i.e. deni_angel.

And last, but not least is the mechanism of initials: V.V.B., S.E.A., S.K., G.A., J.R.R. Tolkien, K.F.A. etc. The codification in such cases is more limiting. Like the previous one it creates the feeling of belonging to a community - of connoisseurs.

All the enumerated motifs and reasons for re-naming are the concrete manifestation of the dualism of the self and the other: the Self is being realized in the Other through the mechanism of renaming.

This is the common ground for the choice to transform the names in the translated text in a way which puts forth their foreign nature - their ‘otherness’. This is valid also about the titles. Their transliteration decreases the acceptability of the text while at the same time it increases its relevance and informativity in terms of completion of the emotive meaning.

“The names of persons whose saying (de dire) means individuality - the proper names among all those common names and topics - don’t they resist the dissolution of sense and don’t they help us speak?” The proper names bear the idea of the separate absolute entity in the sense of Hegel (Levinas 1977: 8).


Historic figures, events and places

Grandma Jackson and her young grandson were riding on a train. Grandma had dozed and suddenly she sat up.

“What was that station the conductor called?” she asked the boy.

“He didn’t announce any station; he just put his head in the door and sneezed.”

“Get the bundles together quickly,” said grandma. “This is Oshkosh.”

(Pocheptsov 1982: 225)

Englishman - “Odd names your towns have. Hoboken, Weehawken, Oshkosh, Poughkeepsie.”

American - “I suppose they do sound queer to English ears. Do you live in London all of the time?”

Englishman - “No, indeed. I spend part of my time at Chipping Norton, and divide the rest between Bigglewade and Leighton Buzzard.”

(Pocheptsov 1982: 225)

The special status of historic names is based on their existence as cultural realia. The names of people have acquired the meaning of a context e.g. all of the following names are linkers to specific historic meanings: Chaldeans (Халдейци), Herodotus (Херодот), Caesar (Цезар), Jesus Christ (Исус/Иисус Христос), Celts (келти), Charlemagne (Карл Велики), Bohemia (Бохемия, Чехия), Orthodox Church (Източно-православната църква), Hugh Capet (Хюго Капет), Thomas Aquinas (Тома Аквински), Cartesius (Декарт), Francesco Petrarca - Petrarch (Франческо Петрарка), Lorenzo the Magnificent (Лоренцо Великолепни), Pythagoras (Питагор), Mohammed (Мохамед), Boticelli (Ботичели), Boccaccio (Бокачо), Medici (Медичи), Benvenuto Cellini (Бенвенуто Челини), Erasmus of Rotterdam (Еразъм Ротердамски), Machiavelli (Макиавели), Nikolaus Koppernigk (Copernicus) (Николай Коперник), the Wailing Wall (Стената на Плача), etc. Or Аспарух, Иван Асен ІІ, Калоян, Крум, Паисий, Черноризец Храбър, Раковски, Левски, Захари Зограф, Матей Миткалото etc.

In the translation they are transformed in agreement with the established cultural and phonetic and phonological rules. Sometimes traditional use of the names of historic figures is replaced by modern use, i.e. a British or American transcription is usually substituted for Latin transliteration. This might be interpreted as a kind of re-naming within the modern cultural context. Re-naming is re-reading of history, sometimes to the positive effect of cultural compatibility. Re-naming as a cultural loss could be gaining in ethics. Pronouncing the name is giving it a day’s life.

History is not granted: it changes with the changes of cultures since it is an interpretation of the past always from the point of the present which is always a new one. A tradition fixes names, an ideology might demand changes, and the general cultural level /in terms of educational level and literacy/ might distort them to a situational convenience. Such is the case with names like Einstein (Айнщайн), Abraham Lincoln (Абрахам Линкълн), Brezhnev (Брежнев), Cheng Kai Shek (Чан Кай Ши), Cathai (Китай) etc.

The diversity of foreign names in the English - Bulgarian translation and vice versa is due to the different sources through which they have entered our history books: Greek, Turkish, Russian, Latin, German, French. Next these names, which are foreign to the English language as well, re-enter our language through the English sources in a changed form. There is the interference of the English sounding to them. A similar transformation takes place with names from the British and American history which have entered our language through Russian or French or directly but in some previous phonological epoch in the development of our native tongue.

It has been generally accepted that: “The extralinguistic factors in the transcription of foreign names have predominantly socio-linguistic nature and their explanation is commonly reduced to the role and importance of tradition... Tradition ... exists objectively and can have strong impact on whether we accept or reject a given form.” (Danchev 1982: 41). Now, however, a new generation of translators is being trained: a generation which has its own tradition which collides with that of the 1980s. It is no longer tradition which sets the rule but rather the lack of tradition: modern communication is no longer based on classical education but on internet and pragmatic neglect of history as such.

The names of historic events are even more tender than the names of persons, since they are connected with the involvement of masses.

Events can be of various kinds: historic facts, customs and holidays, prizes: The Civil War, The Gold Rush, The Triassic Era, The Persian campaign, the perestroika, Haloween, Midsummer, Oscar, Pulitzer, Nobel Peace Prize, HMS Titanic, Endeavor etc.

The names of places also raise the questions of compatibility in the process of crosscultural intercourse.

While the naming of people is based on the opposition of the individual and the other, the naming of the places is shared experience of the strangers and the indigenous people. This is the collision of cultures where one and the same physical object exists in parallel cultural layers. Such are the cases with the French, English and German names of the same places; as well as with the places on the Balkans where places are not merely geographical space but temporal realities of branching historical self-awareness.

Asia Minor, Troy, Loire, Gaul, Munich, Leyden, Suez, Byzantia, Babylon, Washington, Moscow, Montreal, Soho, the English Channel are crosscultural realia. The transcription of Leicester, Worcester, Salisbury is not simply a problem of the target language, because it would entirely replace them with seemingly correct but in fact transliterated to the wrong effect words.

We can go then back to the grounds of theory and look for the pragmatic motivation of this choice. In this respect we completely agree with G. Yule:

“There appears to be a pragmatic connection between proper names and objects that will be conventionally associated, within a socio-culturally defined community, with those names. Using a proper name referentially to identify any such objects invites the listener to make the expected inference (for example from name of writer to book by writer) and thereby show himself or herself to be a member of the same community as the speaker. In such cases, it is rather obvious that more is being communicated than is said.” (Yule 1996: 20).

The names which are historic realities should be carefully approached since the translation is their introduction to the intercultural space. They have to be indiscriminate. There are historic realities taking place at the same time and at the same place for different nationalities. A translator who is the representative of his or her national culture is bound to create bridging realities using paratext, explanatory notes, double references.

The names from history which have entered our own language through Latin, German, French, Russian, Greek. Now they exist in the internet space and are accessible to everyone in an English textual environment: the younger generations meet many of the names in that way and since they have never before heard them pronounced, they read them applying the English phonetic system, e.g George Mikes, Don Juan etc. A professional translator is bound to have sufficient cultural and cross-lingual background.

Often we cannot prevent an evident mistake from becoming popular - then what we have to do is - find sufficient grounds or accepting it as a convention.

One should also mind the generation gaps: the refusal of our elders to change their names: that would mean for them to erase parts of their past as subjective realities existing in their memories. A translator should therefore build up a third type of motivation of communicative or rather of diplomatic nature. There is the example of one of my students who carried out his international vocational training in the Council of Europe. He found it absurd that politicians from the older generations used to tell each other sentences like: “I’m flying to the Soviet Union”. He interrupted them and said: “Excuse me, but there is no such country now” and they laughed heartily. That proved to be a real shock to a young person who has an entirely different experience in a world, which, while remaining within the same map, has totally changed. For the older generations the present day is a hyper reality of at least three different times.

A relaxed mind would accept that names travel through history and across cultures. A translator is to supply bridges. Business is our present. It does not operate with historic realia. Tourist industry does.

There are also the names of places which travel through history: Istambul -Stambul, Tsarigrad, Constantinople; Odrin - Adrianovgrad - Adrianopolis - Adrianople; Solun - Thessaloniki - Saloniki; Leningrad - Petersburgh - Peter - Petrograd. A translator is bound to produce indiscriminate translation of the cultural context. It is a manifestation of historic irresponsibility to replace one realia with another, e.g. Tsarigrad used to be for the Bulgarians something different from what Constantinople used to be for the Latin West, and they both are by no means equivalent to Istanbul. A translator is to operate with paratext, footnotes and endnotes which supply equivalency of the notions where equivalency of words is lacking.

Let us take for illustration a translation of Botev’s poems into English by Kevin Ireland in the 1970s where Chavdar the Chieftan and Petko the Terror are known from Constantinople to Serbia. And that translation was blessed by a Bulgarian editor and national publisher (Sofia Press). I will not mention the other aspects of that ‘document’ which thoroughly fails to represent one of the peaks of the Bulgarian Renaissance. I dare argue with the long-established belief that a translator translates into one’s mother tongue. That would not be the rule where a translation is representative of our native culture. Maybe we need better-trained translators and even poets competent of both Bulgarian and English?


Names of authors and fictional names - messages for the reader

First student - “Great Scott! I’ve forgotten who wrote Ivanhoe.”

Second Student - “I’ll tell you if you tell me who the dickens wrote The Tale of Two Cities.”

(Pocheptsov 1982: 227)

Talking about the author’s name we leave the grounds of history and enter upon the grounds of the art of literature where realia exist in realities created by real lives and fiction:

“... the name seems always to be present, marking off the edges of the text, revealing, or at least characterizing, its mode of being. The author’s name manifests the appearance of a certain discursive set and indicates the status of this discourse within a society and a culture.” (Foucault 1984: 107).

The philosopher explicates his speculation in a detailed example:

“The author’s name is not... just a proper name like the rest... If I discover that Shakespeare was not born in the house that we visit today, this is a modification which, obviously, will not alter the functioning of the author’s name. But if we proved that Shakespeare did not write those sonnets which pass for his, that would constitute a significant change and affect the manner in which the author’s name functions. If we proved that Shakespeare wrote Bacon’s Organon by showing that the same author wrote both the works of Bacon and those of Shakespeare, that would be a third type of change which would entirely modify the functioning of the author’s name.” (Foucault 1984: 106).

Fictional texts, like historic texts, also travel in time. There are two main things to be taken into view in the pursuit of translation equivalency: cultural transfer and the development of languages.

In earlier cultural exchange we relied on the Latin West where Latin was the link - the universal language. Today students learn Latin no more but they study English which is the new linking reality.

These are the names which do not stand for real people but for the notions of persons built up by the developing of the literary character. The three mechanisms: transcription, transliteration and translation work within the cultural parameters of the present, bearing the present phonetic and phonological pragmatism, patterns of word formation and idea of temporality and space i.e. - the idea of foreignness or otherness.

The choice of the translator underlies the mechanism to be followed while this choice depends on linguistic, semantic and pragmatic reasons.

The transformation of names depends on such extralinguistic factors as: intercultural relations, intentionality of the text, understanding of the message in the multi-levelled context, language competence of the translator and the user, invention or language creativity.

Very often the correct hearing of the sounds is one of the dominant pragmatic factors for the transcription of the name. On its part the correct hearing is sometimes replaced by the subjective pronunciation of the sounds. Such is the case of the replacement of [w] with [l] in the subjective achievement of what I. Nestorova analyses as hypercorrectness (in her paper presented at the National Conference of IATEFL - Blagoevgrad, 2003): each replacement, however might lead to change of meaning. Thus if Emsworth is transcribed as Емслърт, the second morpheme which has its own etymology, becomes senseless while at the same time the reduction of the sound also reduces the general cultural level of the usage of this word. If we stick to applying that so called hyper correctness (which is now a public logopedic problem), then what happens to names such as Wodehouse, Washington, Wallace? This modern extremity comes to illustrate the statement that transcription might sometimes be less productive than transliteration because the sounding of a name is more unsteady and unreliable than its written form or as the Ancient Latin has it scripta manent, verba vollant.

Translation is visualising or limiting the name to a concrete image. A variety of approaches to the transfer of names can be found in the translations of Terry Pratchett’s and J. R. R. Tolkien’s texts which might be taken as exemplary.

In the books of Terry Pratchett and their translations into Bulgarian there can be isolated the following groups of name-transfer:

- transcription of names whose meaning is immanent for the context: Lord Vetinary (Лорд Ветинари), Rincewind (Ринсуинд), (Лейди Сибил), Captain Vimes (капитан Ваймс), Ponder Stibbons (Пондър Стибънс);

- transcription of translatable names whose translation might render them in awkward fashion: (капитан Керът), Детритъс, Джелибейби;

- witty translation of names: The Century of the Fruitbat (Векът на Плодния Прилеп), Bloody Stupid Johnson (Адски Глупавия/Тъпия Джонсън), The Lecturer in Recent Runes (Лекторът по Съвременни Руни), SMOT Dibbler - Cut-me-Own-Throat Dibbler (ССПГ Диблър, Диблър Сам Си Прерязвам Гърлото), Silverfish (Среброриб), the mountain Ramtop (Овнерог), the village Bad Ass (Скапан Гъз);

- varying choices: the pub The Mended Drum - Кърпеният барабан (“Музика на душата”, translator Владимир Зарков), Пробитият барабан (“Цветът на магията”, translator Мирела Христова); Quirm - Куирм, Куърм, Strong-in-the Arm - Силен-в-Ръката (translator Вл. Зарков), Стронг-ин-ти-ърм (translator Крум Бъчваров), Стронг-ин-ди-арм; Granny Weatherwax - Баба Вихронрав, баба Уедъруекс (both choices are of V. Zarkov), Nanny Ogg - леля Ог, бабчето (both choices are of V. Zarkov), Reg Shoe - Редж Шу, Рег Шу, Рег Обувката, Leonardo da Quirm - Леонард Куирмски, Леонардо да Куирм, Lord Rust - Лорд Ръждьо (translator Вл. Зарков), Лорд Раст (translator Мирела Христова);

- translated names whose meaning is explicitly given in the text: Госпожица Отрудис (language teacher), госпожица Грегс (history teacher), госпожица Изменис (logic teacher), госпожица Печатис (mathematics teacher) - in “Музика на душата” (translator Вл. Зарков);

- imitation of ethnic construction of names out of meaningful components - morphologic or lexical units: Two Fire Herb, Four big Sandal, Ly Tin Weedle, Lotus Blossom, Twoflower, Captain Four White Fox, Six Beneficent Wings, Seven Lucky Logs, One Big River, Lady Two Streams, Lady Jade Night, Lord Nine Mountains, Three Pink Pig, Five White Fang, 71-Hour Ahmed, Ubervald, Lady Margolotta, Tepik Llamedos etc. The translation of those names would best follow a combination of two rules: isolating and translating the meanings of the morphemes and combining them by applying the respective mechanisms of word formation in their most common usage - in order to make them appear foreign. This is a creative process demanding complete control of the target language, linguistic erudition, discursive skills, and a sense of humour.

In the books of Terry Pratchet there is a careful attitude to names. They are built to add to the general construction of the textual reality. The margin between proper nouns and common nouns is tangible: proper names are generated in the context which is the very fictional reality. The translation of these names is reconstruction of the author’s context in the Bulgarian language environment which might be called comparative onomastics.

The care for the names which serve as constant features of the fictional reality is expressed in te text which very often refers to the names as actants of the discourse. Nobby Nobbs and Sergeant Collen wonder what the first name of Death might be. And this does not sound too absurd taking in mind that he is sometimes replaced by his granddaughter whose actual first name is Susan. When Agness Nitt goes to the city of Ankh Morpork to make an opera singer career she chooses the name Perdita. The young girls who want to become witches choose new names for themselves which sound more professionally. There is also Igor (Игор - Ние шме Игор) - the name of all butlers in the aristocratic homes of Ubervald who are at the same time fantastic surgeons. The members of the band in Soul Music also choose artistic names of themselves which sound exactly as the real rock stars of the human world (Имп-и-Келин - Бъди, Лиас Синьоскал - Клиф, Глод Глодсон) and thus, using irony and pastiche, the author manages to create hypercontext mixing the fictional reality with the actual reality of the human culture.

Creating a reality is giving names: to places, things, events and people. Translation is creating a parallel reality in such a way that upon entering it the reader should be in the actual realms of the author’s reality. As far as the context is explicated in the translation the reader does not pay much attention to the sounding of the names. However, when the names are central to the context being the constant features or the mechanisms of textual construction, then it is important how they sound. Thus the older translations of Tolkien’s texts have produced the title of a book which is still a best seller: Bilbo Baggins - Билбо Бегинс. Normally the Bulgarian translation is pronounced with a changed stress position and then the understanding of the name is Bilbo Begins. The version of L. Nikolov - the translator of The Lord of the Rings (1990) is Билбо Торбинс. This is a combination of two types of translation: the root morpheme of the name is translated into Bulgarian while the suffix is transcribed so that the name is understood yet it is accepted as strange. The same mechanism is applied in the construction of the names of the various peoples of Tolkien’s world and in their translation, e.g. Твърдоноги, Запасливци, Дъждокрийци; Мраколес, Шумноструйка, Скрежноблик, Ам-Гъл, Торбинсови, Влачи-Торбинс, Торбодън, Туковци, Брендифуковци, Тършувковци, Болгеровци, Вържиколановци, Мишеходовци, Дебелушковци, Рогосвирци, Гордокраковци, Едробузовци, Том Бомбадил, Златоронка,, Върбалан, Подхълмов, Мажирепей, Ломидол. Here again the fictional reality involves the reader into travelling through different places and visiting people who are strangers. Their names sound starnge and are untranslatable, e.g. Мордор, Елронд, Глорфиндел, Гандалф, Еарендил, Хазад-дум, Андурил, Арагорн, Галадриел, Саурон, Лотлориен, Дурин, Карас Галадон, Карадрас etc.

In another work of Tolkien there is another approach to the naming of the main character:

“Aegidius de Hammo was a man who lived in the midmost parts of the Island of Britain. In full his name was Aegidus Ahenobarbus Julius Agricola de Hammo; for people were richly endowed with names in those days, now long ago, when this island was still happily divided into many kingdoms. There was more time then, and folk were fewer, so that most men were distinguished. However, those days are now over, so I will in what follows give the man his name shortly, and in the vulgar form: he was farmer Giles of Ham, and he had a red beard. Ham was only a village, but villages were proud and independent still in those days.” (J. R. R.Tolkien, Farmer Giles of Ham)

In the Bulgarian translation by Teodora Davidova (Sofia: Otechestvo, 1988) it sounds like that:

ЕГИДИЙ ДЕ ХАМО живееше в централната част на остров Британия. Всъщност името му беше Егидий Енобарбий Юлий Агрикола де Хамо. В онези отколешни щастливи времена, когато островът бе все още разделен на множество кралства, хората щедро се даряваха с много имена. Людете бяха по-малко, времето им стигаше и рядко можеше да срещнеш човек, който да не е прочут с нещо. Но онези дни отдавна са отминали и аз ще наричам героя на нашия разказ с по-краткото му и по-просто име - Червенокосия Джайлс от Хам. Хам бе съвсем обикновено село, но някога селата все още бяха горди и независими.

Thus another mechanism to the transformation of names is shown which we might choose to call ‘simplification’ or ‘semantic nominal reduction’. This is done first in the source language as a sort of intralinguistic reduction to the purpose of making the names suitable for communication and might be regarded as one of the vehicles of adaptation of texts to be used in younger or mass audience with lower level of cultural awareness as a tool for establishing informal relations and gaining popularity.

In the above example, however, there is a further reduction: Червенокосият Джайлс, Стопанинът Джайлс, Егидий are preferred to Стопанинът Джайлс от Хам с червената брада, Червенобрадият Джайлс as semantically open and with friendlier sounding to the understanding of the Bulgarian children’s audience for whom the story is meant. This change does not interfere with the general semantics and sounding of the text which further explicates the character as a true bearer of his name, which fixes the name contextually.

To finish with we will only mention another modern and very popular English text - the Harry Potter Books, where most of the names are what in semantics is called ‘actants’ - general notions bearing contextual complexes - ‘the most essential categories in the development of the plot (Colapietro, 2000: 22): the boy magician Harry Potter, the evil magician, the Aunt, the Owl etc. The names as the most important words in the text are tangles of values and gates to a hyperreality going far beyond the authors text as a language event. The fact that Harry Potter’s name was widely adopted by the Bulgarian children in its transformation as Хитър Потър is an example of the crosscultural transformation of the context both as semantic reduction and as sounding.

* * *

The transformation of names in translation is not limited to the simple operation of checking a dictionary or a guidebook. It is rooted deep in the cultural background of the translator which includes phonetic and phonological competence, morphological competence, complete understanding of the context, correct attitude to the message, respect for tradition, compliance with the current state of cross-cultural interference of languages, respect for the cultural values and the responsibilities of the translator. The process reaches from an ear for aesthetic sounding to the philosophical motivation of re-naming. Practically the training of translators might start from learning the rules, learning the examples, reading previous translations until perfection is achieved by control and correction. However, a good translation is not a simple imitation. It needs building the ability for self-correction which is grounded on deeper motivation and a thorough feeling for language as a cultural event, a container of culture and a vehicle of culture. The training of translators is bound at a certain stage to revise its grounds and start from the beginning mastering the culture of translating.




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© Gergana Apostolova
© E-magazine LiterNet, 20.02.2004, № 2 (51)