What Connotation Means
In Italian translation, as well as in other forms of translation, the term connotation refers to the implied and subtextual meanings attached to a word, aside from the dictionary definition. This can also be expressed as additional overtones, the emotive sense of a word, the associations that a word calls forth, or the emotional suggestions related to a word. For example, the word mother, which, according to the dictionary, carries the relatively simple definition of a female parent, also has strong connotations off tenderness and unselfishness. This important property of words has significant implications for any Italian translation.
Connotation should not be confused with denotation, which refers to the literal and obvious definition, the dictionary meaning of a word. Connotation provides the reader with an angle, a perspective, a point of view. Connotations can express emotions, convey judgments, communicate intensity or simply be a component of style. Connotation is implicit referred to, but never directly mentioned. As such, it wields an enormous amount of power in Italian translation, which is difficult to take into account. The combination of connotation and denotation present the reader with the full picture that a word creates.
The basic task of a translator is to convert a text from the source language into the target language, making the meaning available to the reader in the target language while preserving as much as or as little as is needed of the cultural background of the text. An Italian translator may choose to translate verbatim, or word for word (exoticism); he may select to translate only the story and the spirit of the text while ignoring everything else (cultural transplantation); or he may choose a position that falls somewhere in between (cultural borrowing, communicative translation). The aspect of connotation in Italian translation is invalid in the case of cultural transplantation and cultural borrowing. But an Italian translator who chooses to employ exoticism, calque or communicative translation, where the focus is on the actual words in the source text, has to grapple with and come to terms with the peculiar problems posed by connotation.
As connotation is very complex, an Italian translator must exercise care and discretion in determining the connotative aspect of a word when performing an Italian translation. The complexity arises from several factors. For example, the connotations of a word may differ from one culture to another. This may be because what the word stands for is more important than what it simply means, or because connotations are often personal. Regardless, the culture limits the number of available connotations in a source text. Connotations can change with a change in style or tone, they can change with the choice of different synonyms, and they are severely modified by the inclusion of stylistic devices, such as similes and metaphors. Connotations, therefore, obtain their complexity from history (both personal and national), culture, context and literary style.
In order to identify a word that carries the correct connotation when performing an Italian translation, an Italian translator must gauge the word's correlation with other words, the context in which the word occurs, and even the way in which the word is delivered. The Italian translator must avoid relying merely on the dictionary meaning of the word. Connotation endows a word with power, and it is important to recognize correctly. Doing so can help a translator to achieve accuracy and avoid misunderstanding in Italian translation.
When dealing with words, an Italian translator comes to distinguish between denotation and connotation'the literal meaning of a word, and the additional overtones that it calls forth. In order to successfully communicate meaning, a translator must take into account both the denotation and connotation of a word. Combined, they present the reader with the full picture that the word creates. In Italian translation, connotations fall into several prominent groups: attitudinal, associative, allusive, reflected, collocative and affective.
Attitudinal meaning expresses an attitude or a frame of mind on the part of the speaker. When the speaker refers to an object, he reveals his position towards that object. This position is hardly ever neutral or unbiased. On the contrary, it expresses an emotional value: agreeable or disagreeable, positive or negative, attractive or repulsive. It is an assessment of the referent. Attitudinal meanings cannot be specifically spelled out in the dictionary because they are generally implied rather than explicitly stated. They are a part of the mental make-up of the speaker. Yet it is impossible to ignore or overlook them because it is usually deliberately displayed; the speaker wants to make his preferences known, often with the intention of influencing and manipulating the opinions of the listener/reader.
There are various ways in which the attitudinal meaning of an utterance makes itself available to the native translator: through the choice of individual words and phrases; more frequently through word combinations; or through intonation'that is, the tone in which the utterance is delivered. If a speaker is an assertive mood, he will employ statements and imperatives. If he is not, he will resort to questions. Attitudinal meanings are also conveyed in the speaker's preference for adverbs and modal verbs as opposed to adjectives. All of the above clues must be decoded with respect to the context in which they appear. Attitudinal connotation is also determined by the reader's own beliefs and views.
Associative meaning expresses the emotion with which the speaker refers to a certain object. The emotion displays itself spontaneously' that is, it makes itself evident even if the speaker attempts to conceal it. Associative meanings can take the form of expectations, prejudices or stereotypes. Expectations imply considering certain traits as probable or certain, prejudices are preconceived opinions or judgments, and stereotypes are standardized mental pictures. They combine with the referent to create an affecting picture. These associations may be right or wrong, formed on insufficient grounds, oversimplified or uncritical.
Whatever the case, associative meanings are usually formed without the speaker being aware of them; they are not deliberate or planned. While the personal element predominated in attitudinal meanings, the collective consciousness, or the historical element, governs associative meaning.
Though it is difficult to pin down attitudinal and associative connotations in Italian translation, it is important for the sake of precision and for the sake of providing a complete picture.
Italian translations, like translation involving any other language, always occurs on two levels: the literal level and the cultural level. On the literal level, Italian translation is easy to understand: one takes the words in the source language and converts them into similar words in the target language, thus making the source text understandable to the reader. On the cultural level, however, Italian translation becomes a more effective force, with an aim that goes beyond simple comprehension: to create an impact, an immediate effect on the reader with the purpose of drawing him or her into the text.
When executing professional translations, Italian translators adopt the tool known as cultural transposition in order to achieve this effect, and remove any barrier that might prevent it. Cultural transposition does not preserve the cultural background of the source language, which includes historical and socio-political aspects of the source culture. On the contrary, it suppresses the foreign at the cost of promoting the native elements of the target culture. The linguistic gist is conveyed, the meaning is preserved, but the context is changed: this, in a nutshell is what cultural transposition in Italian translation is about.
Exoticism & Cultural Transplantation
Cultural transposition in Italian translations works in various ways. At opposite ends of this spectrum of cultural transposition stand two trends: exoticism and cultural transplantation. Sometimes, an Italian translator feels the urge to keep the foreign cultural background of the text alive and intact. The technical terminology for such an urge is exoticism, and such a choice is usually dictated by the nature of the text itself. For example, the cultural backgrounds of epics and folk tales are, generally, immaculately maintained, and the purpose behind such exoticism is to reinforce the impression of the different and the unusual, the mysterious and the exciting. It is as if the text is boasting of its foreign origin.
Exoticism often takes the form of calques, cases in which a translator will keep the source language version of a word or phrase exactly as it was within the target document being translated. Calques borrow words, syntax and idiom from the source language, especially proper names. Calques are sometimes not as effective as they could be. Bad calques reflect expressions from the source language to the extent of completely ignoring the grammatical rules of the target language; good calques try to attain a compromise between the content of the one and the` grammar of the other.
When using cultural transplantation, the other extreme form of cultural transposition in Italian translation, the translator does not care either for the language, style or culture of the source language. He lifts up the plot or the story-line and places it in a new setting, usually an entirely different one, completely disconnected from the original. Such transplanted texts often serve the function of drawing attention to topical and contemporary problems.
Cultural transposition in Italian translation is the name of a translation tool which suppresses the cultural elements of the source text to make space for the cultural elements of the target text. Cultural transposition in Italian translation can achieve its means by adopting such extreme strategies as exoticism and cultural transplantation. Using the former, the foreign cultural elements are maintained with minimum alteration, while in the latter, only the plot-line is lifted from the source text, and everything else undergoes a cultural change. These drastic methods of cultural transposition are generally shunned in Italian translation, unless there are some very specific effects to be achieved. The more common methods, which have gained popularity by virtue of being more restrained, are cultural borrowing and communicative translation.
At its simplest, cultural borrowing in Italian translation stands for a loan-word, a word that has been borrowed intact from the source language to express a concept that does not exist in the target language. With the passage of time, this loan-word, taken from a foreign language, becomes naturalized, part of the regular usage in the target language. Common examples are words like mafia,pizza and terza rima.
When practicing cultural borrowing, translators need to be aware that words in the source language may often have more than one meaning, or very diverse meanings, in the target and source languages. Cultural borrowing is different from exoticism in two ways: firstly, cultural borrowing does not adapt source language expression to target language form; secondly, exoticism lends itself to translation of epics and folk tales while cultural borrowing lends itself to socio-political and historical texts.
Communicative translation attempts to duplicate the effect that a source text would have on its readers within the target text. In other words, communicative translation does not replicate the semantic and the syntactic structure of the source language; it does not aim towards grammatical precision or verbal accuracy. is the key element of communicative translation is identifying the intended effect of the text in the source language and presenting the text in the target language in such a way that it re-creates the original effect in every respect. Communicative translation is generally adopted for clich's, idioms and proverbs because translating them word-for-word might charge the text with an unwanted comic intent. It is frequently used in Italian translations of advertisements, tourist brochures, product descriptions, instructions and manuals.
When using the tools of cultural transposition in the Italian language, a translator must exercise discretion. He must always be aware of the cultural traditions that form the background of the source text, and he must be capable of selecting the technique that will most appropriately transfer those elements to the target text.
Connotation in Italian
An allusion is an extra-textual reference that draws the reader's attention to something'another literary text, a quotation, a myth or a mythological figure, or folklore'beyond the immediate words of the text. Allusions always take the form of hints, suggestions and implications; they are never explicitly stated. They are used to evoke a memory, a mood or an image; to enrich the meaning of the text by placing it alongside the traditional and the established literary canon; or to provide an ironic commentary on the text by indulging in disparate comparisons. Even while operating at a subliminal level, the allusion becomes an integral part of the immediate text, thereby creating the concept of allusive meaning. It modifies and contributes to the meaning of the immediate text, and can only be dissociated from it at the cost of minimizing its impact.
Allusive meanings derive their potency from the assumption that the Italian translator and the readers, in both the source and target languages, will be able to divine their existence. Allusive meanings, therefore, take the erudition of the Italian translator and the readers for granted. Rendering allusive meanings in Italian translation is beset with problems. The translator has to be confident that the allusion was intended by the author, and it is not something he is reading into the text. He must also keep in mind that the readers of source and target texts might not share the same cultural history from which to draw allusions. Humorous allusive meanings pose an especially tricky problem in Italian translation: the Italian translator has to convey both the content and the mood without descending into the ludicrous. In extreme cases in Italian translation, the translator may have to disregard the allusion altogether in order to communicate the message effectively.
Affective meaning expresses an emotion on the part of the speaker. The emotion is not only the directed at object being spoken about, but also the listener, or the person to whom the remarks are addressed. In this respect, affective meaning differs from associative meaning: in the latter case, the referent is the only subject of the emotion of the speaker. Affective meaning, like associative meaning, is conveyed through intonation, through diction or selection of words as well as facial expressions. The same set of words will have identical literary meanings, but the tones in which the sets of words are delivered will create different affective meanings. By its nature, affective meaning is judgmental; it announces the attitude of the speaker towards the referents and the listeners.
The Italian translation of affective meanings must be attempted with caution: the translator must refrain from introducing emotional registers into the target text that are non-existent in the source text. Affective meaning can also be expressed through interjections. Interjections convey attitudes and feelings, even in the absence of context. Italian translations of such interjections are comparatively easy.
The scope of connotative meanings is gradually expanding. It is not always possible to demarcate the boundaries between the various kinds of connotative meanings.
Ideas, Associations and Emotions
Connotation in Italian translation refers to the ideas, associations and emotions that a word calls forth in addition to its dictionary meaning. There are several types of connotative meanings: attitudinal, associative, affective, allusive, reflected and collocative. The last two types, reflected and collocative connotations, can be distinguished from the first three because they are less concerned with expressing the frame of mind of the speaker and more with the conceptual meaning of the word itself.
Reflected meaning echoes other words or phrases that sound or are spelled the same as the given word. If a word manifests a similarity to another word, or if it contains within itself the echoes of another word, then we have a case of reflected meaning. There are two kinds of reflected meanings if a word calls to mind another word with the same lexical meaning; it is referred to as polysemy. Likewise, if a word calls to mind a similar sounding word with a different meaning, it is referred to as homonymy. Reflected meanings derive meaning only from the context in which they appear. In isolation, they become meaningless. Since, in Italian translation, it is possible for various reflected meanings to exist simultaneously, a translator must pay particular attention to the context to prevent any unwanted reflected meaning from discoloring the target text.
Collocative meaning arises when two words are used side by side, a practice so commonplace that one cannot think of one word without thinking of the other. It refers to the way words are typically used together. But unlike reflected meaning, the two words are visibly present before the reader; it is not merely a matter of setting off an association. Collocative meaning, unlike reflected meaning, operates regardless of context. The real importance of identifying collocative meaning in Italian translation lies in the fact that a translator must avoid collocative errors, or a clash in collocative meanings between source and target texts.Â Collocative meanings are superficial in nature and contribute little to the meaning of the text, yet they cannot be ignored in Italian translation because that might lead to stilted language in the target text.
The ability to perceive the existence of connotative meanings and the ability to distinguish between various types of connotative meanings in the source text are the hallmarks of a good translator. This ability is constantly challenged by the fact that connotative meanings are open-ended, variable and arbitrary. Their use cannot be governed by a fixed set of rules. To complicate matters further, discrete boundaries do not exist amongst the various types of connotative meanings. Before embarking on Italian translation, a translator must, therefore, acquaint himself thoroughly with the source language.
Grammar is a form of textual variable, that is, it is a textual detail which could have been altered (for example, a full stop could have been replaced by an exclamation mark), but it is such a distinguishing and essential detail that any alteration would give rise to an entirely new and an entirely different meaning. Grammatical textual variables, therefore, produce repercussions in addition to the primary and factual meaning of the text.
At this point it is important to clarify that grammar stands for:
• words, their types and constructions, and their functions and relations in a sentence, and
• syntax, or the construction of phrases and sentences.
Vocabulary in Italian translation
Vocabulary loss is a widely recognized and inevitable feature of Italian translation. Vocabulary loss in Italian translation occurs for various reasons. Firstly, it is difficult to locate an exact equivalent for the source word in the target language. Secondly, each word, through constant use, becomes imbued with many kinds of overtones. For example, the word “red” represents more than color; it signifies danger, anger and shame. Even if one can find a literal equivalent of a source word in a target language, it is almost impossible to locate a word that will also carry the same kinds of associations.
Dictionaries contain explanations of all the words in the vocabulary of a language, but they are explanations only in the denotative sense. They capture only the literal meanings of words, and not their connotative overtones. Thirdly, when these words are placed in a text in the midst of other words, they often acquire new meanings which are not always merely the sum of the literal meanings. In Italian translation the translator has to work around these problems to minimize translation loss.
Grammatical arrangement in Italian translation
Apart from the words themselves, the grammatical arrangement of the words in a particular language can also create problems for the Italian translator. There are two types of grammatical arrangements:
• W ways in which individual words arrange themselves through affixation, inflection, compounding and derivation;
• Ways in which words arrange themselves into sentences and phrases.
For instance, the English form adverbs by affixing “ly” to words, while the Italian form adverbs by affixing “mente.” The German language is marked by a preponderance of compound words, while the English language makes less visible use of them. English compound words, even though constructed on the same principles, can yield contrary meanings. For example, a bodyguard guards the body, but a mudguard guards against the mud. English, unlike Italian, does not use prepositions to define the relations between words in a sentence; rather, it relies on inflections, that is, it alters the spelling of the word itself to indicate a change in number or tense or case, etc.
In other words, English is a less analytic language than Italian. Hence, it is also more difficult to understand than Italian, and more difficult to translate than Italian. On the other hand, English grammar is more nuanced than Italian grammar. For example, the use of the subjective pronoun is mandatory in English while it can be omitted in Italian, unless it is needed to avoid ambiguity, or for contrast or for emphasis.
Loss in meaning in Italian translation due to grammatical textual variables is usually of little significance. Italian translators prefer to maintain the natural rhythm of the target language at the cost of sacrificing grammatical accuracy in Italian translation. But, if the aim is to cultivate exoticism, then a translator might choose to preserve the grammatical constructions of the source language.
Legal language is specialized language used by judges, lawyers and other legal professionals to discuss the legal system of a country, and communicate the same to the ordinary person who may be involved in a lawsuit, or to the general public.
Legal translation as a whole is plagued by several problems. Firstly, one has to account for the “systemic differences between different legal families,” which gives rise to categories and concepts that, while commonplace in one legal culture, is totally unknown to another. Secondly, legal language, which is a special kind of language, is governed by many conventions which have never been explicitly put down. A translator will have to deduce the conventions for himself through repeated study. Thirdly, because of differences in legal culture, it is difficult to find corresponding translational equivalents for legal terminology in different legal documents.
• Terminology. The terms of reference in legal Italian varies widely from the terms of reference in another legal system, and it is difficult to find an apposite translation. For example, Italian legislation formulates itself through codes, such as Codice Civile (C.C.), Codice de Procedura Civile (C.P.C.), Codice Penale (C.P.), etc. Translation of such terms into the target language will not be sufficient, especially if the legal system of the country is entirely different; the terms also need to be explained.
• Culture-specifics. Local technical terms have to be avoided. “Legge” is a valid legal concept in both Britain and Italy. However, the British version of an Italian legal text cannot contain this term for fear of creating cultural confusion. “Avocatto” is the Italian term for lawyer, but translation into English will have to distinguish amongst solicitor, barrister, advocate, attorney or counsel, depending upon the position of the person in the British legal system and the duties performed by him.
• Legal Documents. It is common to come across Latin expressions in legal documents. Italian translation of such terms is easy because modern Italian has its roots in Latin, but, if the Latin expression has to be communicated in another language, then, a footnote by way of explanation will be required to make the meaning fully accessible.
• Certain archaisms have been retained in the legal language of all countries. For example, the terms “lien,” “tort,” “estoppel,” “garnishment,” “chattels,” are still used in the British legal system. When the translator comes across an archaism in the source language, he must find out if it still exists and can be used in the target language. Otherwise, the language will have to be updated.
• Compared to the legal language used in some countries like Britain, Italian legal language is far less complex. In Italian translation, should the translator concern himself only with the content or also with the style?
• With rigor and repetition, the translator must master the accurate use of “will” and “shall” to distinguish between function and obligation, must give predominance to the passive voice, and insert capital letters correctly in Italian translation.
• The Italian legal system, like all other legal systems, is constantly evolving, giving rise to new concepts and new terminology. The translator must keep abreast of all such changes.
In legal Italian translation, a careless Italian translator can create linguistic, legal and cultural confusion. It is not enough for the translator to know only the source and the target languages; he must acquaint himself with a working knowledge of both the Italian legal system and the legal system of the target language. He must also demonstrate proficiency in the legal writing style of the target language.
The history of Italian literature dates back to the early Middle Ages, when most literary works were still written in Latin. Italian authors such as Cassidorus, Boethius, and Symmachus continued to write Roman-style works long after the Western Empire had fallen. Learned people spread out from Rome across Europe during this period, taking their culture with them, and paving the way for many future developments, such as the great universities of Europe, and the first works of vernacular literature. Religion and philosophy heavily influenced the classical traditions of Italian literature during this period.
Vernacular Italian literature first developed during the High Middle Ages, when troubadours (or trovatori, in Italian) from around Europe began to practice their craft in Italy. These trovatori wrote their poems in Occitan, not Italian, a language that was spoken mainly in the northwestern parts of Italy. Poets of this time also borrowed from other traditions, such as the French chivalric poetry, and the epic poetry of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Italian literature written in the pure Italian vernacular did not develop until around the thirteenth century. These early works continued to mirror the works of other cultures, and had not yet developed any unifying stylistic features.
During the Renaissance, Italian literature continued to develop into a singular and culturally unique art form. Authors like Dante Alighieri, Francesco Petrarch, and Giovanni Boccaccio, embraced the classical forms of literature even as they perfected the newly developed Italian vernacular literature that had developed during the Middle Ages. Dante's most famous work is The Divine Comedy, which details his journeys through Hell, Purgatory, and finally, Heaven. Petrarch is well known as a scholar of classical literature and as a Renaissance humanist who perfected the new form of the Sonnet, writing hundreds to a woman named Laura. Boccaccio, also a scholarly figure, drew his inspiration from the Latin structures, and wrote The Decameron, a larger novel that frames one hundred smaller novellas that explore themes of love and tragedy. These three authors defined Italian literature in the Renaissance.
More recent works of Italian literature are modernist and post-modernist, and include drama, poetry, and novels. The work of Luigi Pirandello which includes both stage plays and prose, probes the nature of ever-changing reality. Italo Calvino, primarily an author of short stories and novels, explored the nature of these forms, with novels like Invisible Cities and If On A Winter's Night A Traveler. Umberto Eco, a semiotician and novelist, explores topics as various as medieval symbols, biblical analysis, andÂ literary theory in his works. Modern Italian authors are at the forefront of current developments in world literature.
Adverbs, like adjectives, are describing words, but, unlike adjectives, they do not describe nouns. On the contrary, they are used to describe verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. Adverbs can function as single words, or as a group of words in combination with prepositions and infinitives. In English, adverbs are often formed by adding the suffix “ly” to adjectives: for example, “really,” “beautifully,” and “slowly.” Likewise, in Italian, adverbs are often formed by adding the suffix “mente” to the feminine form of the adjective: for example, “felicimente,” “veramente,” “lentamente,” “stancamente.”
Translating adverbs can be a daunting task for professional translation providers. Some problems arise because English has no adverbs in common with Italian. In other words, there has been no borrowing between the two languages: native English adverbs do not occur in Italian and vice versa. Some others arise in the presence of nominalization, which is when a verb or an adjective has been turned into a noun.
English adverbs of degree, such as “very” and “really” are over-used in Italian translation, while their synonyms, “highly,” “closely,” “deeply” are consistently ignored because of connotational issues. Questions of tone and emphasis complicate matters further in the Italian translation of adverbs.
Often grammatical transposition, or changing the grammatical structure of the source text by substituting the adverb with some other part of speech, is the only solution to overcoming these problems. Though a drastic measure, it has to be adopted to maintain the idiomatic flow of the language.
Adverbs are often repeated in texts for the sake of emphasis. This often leads to problems because of the differing positions adverbs occupy in Italian and English syntax. In Italian sentences, adverbs usually come after the verb and before the adjective they modify. On the other hand, in English sentences, adverbs can occur at the beginning, in the middle or even at the ends of sentences.
Sometimes, there is more than one adverb at the end of a sentence. Then again, in Italian sentences, the stress falls in the last part of the sentence. In Italian translation, the translator has to keep in mind all these variations between the two languages. He may have to sacrifice one specific structure for the sake of the other to facilitate comprehension.
Sometimes, in Italian translation services, it is possible to find more than one likely substitute for the adverb. Adverbs can have a wide range of meanings. At other times, the adverb may be insufficient by itself, and will need to be explained. Adverbs and adverbial phrases hold together the various units that compose the sentence.
They are also important indicators of tone and register. In order to successfully recognize these elements, assess the various options and alternatives they give rise to, and communicate them meaningfully to the target reader, the translator must display his awareness of both the context and the culture of the source and the target texts.