Discourse in French Translation

Discourse in a text refers to the relations between the sentences, the paragraphs and the chapters in a text. It refers to the way sentences are combined so that they sound meaningful. Discourse eliminates randomness and gives cohesion and coherence to a text. In the absence of discourse a text would lack method and purpose; it would sound and read arbitrary and random. The implications of rendering discourse in French translation and the study of the problems that a French translator can face while rendering discourse in French translation are as follows.

Discourse in texts takes two forms, cohesion and coherence. Cohesion refers to the explicit way of linking and connecting sentences. Cohesion also goes by the name of conjunctions’ in English grammar. Then’, so’, and’, however’ are some of the cohesive connectors that we encounter very frequently. Cohesive connectors demonstrate the logical link between the various ideas that exist in a text. Often, while connecting the sentences, they perform the additional tasks of explaining and commenting.

Cohesive connectors often take the form of grammatical anaphora. Grammatical anaphoras are similar to pronouns; a noun, after being introduced into the text is replaced by an appropriate pronoun in the corresponding texts. Through the use of the pronoun the author refers to what has already been mentioned, and thereby links the various parts of the text. Coherence, on the other hand, performs its function in a more discreet and less explicit manner. Instead of taking the form of single words, coherence assumes logical forms like cause-and-effect. It manifests itself as the thematic or the emotional development of the text. Often coherence establishes itself through the chronological development of the text.

Attention to Details

While dealing with discourse in French translation, the French translator should first keep in mind the basic differences that exist between the two languages. The English language demonstrates a marked tendency towards coordination; the French language, on the other hand, demonstrates a tendency towards subordination. French texts make more frequent use of connectors than English texts.

The French translator must then discover the purpose served by the discourse. When he or she chooses a form of discourse in the target language, it must correspond in its nature and in its function to the discourse in the source text. If the discourse in the source text fulfills some special function, then the French translator has to choose the form of discourse in the target language that is capable of fulfilling the same function in the target text. Discourse in French translation must, ultimately, display equivalence between source and target texts. These rules apply as much to relations between sentences as to relations between paragraphs and chapters.

Anaphora as a device of discourse in French translation deserves special mention. Translators usually try to preserve the anaphorical structure of the source text, but they follow the rules of the target language grammar while doing so. The French translator’s task can become especially difficult in the absence of explicit connectors, and differences in grammar.

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