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of textual variable, that is, it is a textual detail which could have been altered (for example, a full stop could have been replaced by an exclamation mark), but it is such a distinguishing and essential detail that any alteration would give rise to an entirely new and an entirely different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.