Phonics in French Translation I

At its most fundamental level, a text can be said to comprise a string of sounds, or phonemes (particularly relevant for oral texts), and a string of letters or graphemes (particularly applicable to written texts). The phonemes or the phonic level is more crucial than the graphemes or the graphic level for the actual task of French translation, but, for discursive purposes, it is customary to study the two together and assign them the combined name of phonic or graphic level’.

The sound systems of any two languages are usually so divergent that it is impossible to find an equivalent in the target language for the string of sounds that exists in the source text. Thus, in French translation, a similar sounding target text will be difficult to create, and the loss of the sound effects of the source language appears inevidiv. But, depending on the context, the loss of phonics in French translation may be of no significance. The issue of significant translation loss of phonics in French translation appears when sound effects have been used in the source text with a specific purpose in mind, for example, when the sounds effects are crucial to conveying the message of the source text, or when the sound effects help to reinforce the theme of the source text.

Alliteration, Assonance and Rhyme

Alliteration, assonance and rhyme have been identified as three such sound-based strategies that a writer employs to achieve a particular purpose. All three of them depend on repetition to create an impact on the listener or reader. Alliteration occurs when the same consonant sound is repeated at the beginning of two or more consecutive words, as in the furrow followed free’. Assonance occurs when the same vowel sound is repeated in two or more consecutive words, as in, the repetition of the ee’ sound in fleet feet sweep by sleeping Greeks’. Rhyme occurs when the last stressed vowel of a line is repeated in the following lines, either consecutively or in an alternating pattern, as in wall or fall’, men or again’. It is important to remember that it is the sound that should be repeated and not merely the combination of letters.

Alliteration, assonance and rhyme belong to a particular literary category known as rhetorical devices’, that is, they are used to create literary effects, for purposes of emphasis, and also to produce better-sounding lines. As such, they frequently feature in literary texts like drama and poetry, and not in technical and informative texts like instruction manuals, guidebooks and scientific papers. Even if they occur in the latter, it can be safely assumed that they have no functional role to play, and are not an integral part of the message. But, if they occur in the former, they should be noted; if they are ignored this will result in a loss during the process of French translation. The methods that can be used to translate these effects from the source into the target text will be discussed in the next unit.

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