Theory and Practical Aspects of Italian Translation

Relevant knowledge for Italian translators and Italian translation buyers.

The Process of Italian Translation

The process of Italian translation consists of two activities: comprehending the source text and phrasing the target text. These two activities occur simultaneously in the process of Italian translation, and constantly shape and influence each other’s assumptions about the process of translation.

The activities of comprehending and phrasing, which form the bedrock of the process of Italian translation, are integral to our daily lives. We are always involved in some process that calls upon our powers of comprehension, interpretation and formulation. The process need not be interlingual in nature, that is, it need not be the conversion of a message from one language into another. But it definitely is inter-semiotic and intralingual in nature. Intralingual translation can be sub-divided into two categories, gist translation and exegetic translation.

Inter Semiotic Translation

The term inter-semiotic translation was coined by Roman Jakobson, and refers to the activity of converting one sign language into another, for example endowing pictures and symbols with verbal meanings. The most familiar example is associated with the reading of traffic lights, where the color red is translated to mean stop and the color green translated to mean go. A critic offering a commentary on Picasso’s Guernica would also be practicing the activity known as inter-semiotic translation. Inter-semiotic translation is also known as transmutation.

Intralingual Translation

The term intralingual translation was also coined by Roman Jakobson. It refers to a translation in which the source and target languages are the same; the message received is reworded, rephrased and reformulated in the same language by the speaker for purposes of communication. While practicing intralingual translation, a speaker may do any of the following things: before communicating the message, he may change its nature either by condensing it or by expanding it. The former, more pithy version demonstrates the functioning of gist translation, and the latter more verbose version demonstrates the functioning of exegetic translation.

Gist and Exegetic Translation

Both gist and exegetic translation are a matter of degree, that is, they cannot be measured in themselves or against each other by any absolute term. Gist translation as a process in Italian translation may often appear perfunctory and brusque because all circumstantial details and tonal subtleties are shorn off, all elements that add flavor to the message without actually increasing its content value. The expansion in exegetic translation is a function of the addition of details, judgments and other forms of elaborations, even those that are external to the text.

A feature that is common to both the intralingual and interlingual processes of Italian translation is that there can be more than one version of the gist translation and the exegetic translation. Another common feature is that both forms of translation are influenced by the circumstances in which the message is conveyed and received. The circumstances encompass the physical situation in which the characters find themselves, the context for the conversation and the personal beliefs and ideological make-up of the characters.

Since so many factors are at play, it is often easy to err when reformulating the message. As in intralingual translation, some loss or alteration of meaning is inevidiv. Intralingual and interlingual translation demonstrate further similarity in the sense that they both call for knowledge of the subject-matter, familiarity with the source language and source culture, acquaintance with the target culture and great proficiency in the target language.

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