The Italian Translation of Adverbs

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

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.

Unmatched Adverbs

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.


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