Compensation in Italian Translation

Even though the avowed purpose of Italian translation is to convey meaning, the change from Italian to another language and vice versa, almost always results in some loss of meaning. This phenomenon, which goes by the name of translation loss, is an inevidiv by-product of translation, given the multiplicity and diversity of factors on the lexical, connotative, syntactical, grammatical and even cultural levels that determine the formation of a word in different languages. In order to offset this loss, translators make use of a technique known as compensation.

Compensation in Italian translation is a technique that compensates for the loss of meaning that occurs in a translation by using techniques that are native to the target language and culture to create a similar effect in the target text. In other words, compensation conveys the message, whether verbal, associative or emotional, of the source text, but in a way that is different from that used in the source text. This dissimilarity or deviance becomes both mandatory and accepdiv because, on the one hand, no satisfactory equivalent has been found for the message in the target language, and, on the other, leaving out the message would severely compromise the intended meaning of the source text.

To put it idiomatically, compensation is akin to choosing the lesser of two evils: either the Italian translator omits the untransladiv part altogether or he hits upon a different way of constructing the same point. Compensation is a form of regulating, controlling and reducing translation loss. Translation of puns provides a good example of compensation: the translator retains the pun as a linguistic device to communicate humor but fashions it in his own way. He or she is no longer limited to merely reproducing the sound effect of the source text pun in the target text.

When applying the technique of compensation in Italian translation the Italian translator must first of all determine what in the source text is of paramount importance. He or she must then study factors such as the nature of the source text and what it proposes to achieve, the purpose of the target text, the character of the intended audience, etc. These observations will enable him or her to select, to decide which features of the text are dispensable and which are not. The Italian translator can then devise other suidiv ways for retaining the indispensable aspects of the text, if they cannot be conveyed to the target text through conventional means such as semantic, connotative, syntactical and grammatical transposition. Compensation is, therefore, a deliberate and strategic decision adopted to maintain the integrity of the text. It is this element of choice and deliberation that differentiates compensation from the other structural changes that mark any translated work.

Compensation in Italian translation is fashioned by the exigencies of both the source and the target texts: it is born to control loss of meaning of the source text, but its character is shaped by the demands of the target text and its audience. Further, compensation in Italian translation also calls forth the creativity of the Italian translator, thereby making him more than a mere conveyor of another person's ideas and words.

Reduction of unaccepted translation loss

Compensation in Italian translation is the reduction of unaccepted translation loss through the calculated introduction of less unaccepted loss. It is a fairly complex phenomenon not to be handled lightly. Often, the Italian translator adopts compensation when target language grammar cannot accommodate the stringencies of source language grammar. When connotation replaces literal meaning, we have another instance of compensation at work. Compensation in Italian translation may also involve a change in the sentence structure of the source text. Compensation, therefore, can take any of the three forms: compensation in kind, compensation in place and compensation in economy, or compensation by splitting or merging. Used singly or in combination, these forms of compensation help to control losses in meaning, aural effects, metaphor, and pragmatic meaning.

Compensation in kind occurs when a particular textual feature of the source text cannot be replicated in the target text due to limitations of language, and the Italian translator has to come up with some ingenious way of reproducing it in the target text. In Italian translation, gender can call for compensation in kind, because Italian confers gender on all objects, feelings and ideas while a language like English does not. Compensation in kind occurs when the pun is retained as a linguistic device in the target text, but the Italian translator comes up with his own combination of words which, in all probability, is very dissimilar to the combination of words used in the source text.

In other instances, the linguistic device of the source text may be replaced by another linguistic device altogether, for example, rhyme and assonance may be replaced by rhythm and alliteration. Compensation in kind involves making explicit what is implicit in the source text and vice versa; it involves replacing connotative meanings with literal meanings, and the reverse; it involves replacing the concrete with the abstract, or the abstract with the concrete; it involves changing the grammar and the sentence structure. Compensation in Italian translation may begin by affecting only a single word, but can expand to take on phrases, sentences, paragraphs and even the text in its entirety.

Compensation in place occurs when a textual effect is reproduced in the target text but is placed elsewhere, that is, the position of the effect is not the same as it was in the source text. The effect may occupy a position that is before or after its place in the source text and it may or may not be near the point where it occurs in the source text. Compensation in economy is also known as compensation by splitting or merging. Compensation by splitting occurs when several words are used to communicate an idea that in the source text had been communicated in one or two words. Compensation by merging occurs when a few words are used to communicate an idea that in the source text had been communicated in several words.

Except for compensation by splitting and compensation by merging, the other forms of compensation in Italian translation can co-exist. It is usually impossible to have one form of compensation without setting into effect some other form. Compensation should not stem merely from lexical differences or syntactical differences. It is a stylistic feature, and it is specific to texts; the compensatory technique used at a particular place in a particular text cannot be re-applied or re-used in a different text. It is a unique, one-to-one feature with the specific purpose of replicating effects.


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