Italian translation of Dialect and Sociolect

Dialect and sociolect are language varieties specific to certain social groups. This differentiates them from tonal and social registers which are language varieties specific to certain social situations. A dialect is a distinct variety of language spoken in a certain geographical region. It is generally a variation of the standard language spoken around that region, and is distinguishable from the standard variety by virtue of possessing a different system in terms of accent, lexis, syntax and sentence formation. Yet, the dialect and the standard language are intelligible to speakers of both.

The first requirement for the Italian translation of dialect and sociolect is, as usual, scholarship: the translators must have a more than working acquaintance with the standard languages, dialects, and sociolects he wishes to translate. That knowledge must be supplemented by knowledge of the cultures involved. Two of the more useful methods used for the Italian translation of dialect and sociolect are geographic translation and socioeconomic translation. In the former, the translator selects a geographic region in the target culture that reflects the realities and norms that are prevalent in the geographic region of the source language. For example, coastal regions in England can be supplanted by coastal regions in Italy, or vice versa, because the dialects and sociolects of those regions will display similarity by echoing the rhythms of the sea in their language.

Authors often choose to employ dialects and sociolects in their works. This usage is more widespread and of more significance in literary and journalistic works than in works which merely transmit information. Authors choose to use dialects and sociolects in order to convey certain effects, and the Italian translator should respect their choice and their intention by attempting to replicate the dialect and the sociolect. Italian translation of dialect and sociolect usually involves following the same set of rules.

Variety of Sociolect

A sociolect is a distinct variety of language spoken by a certain social group. Sociolects result from the interplay of political, religious and economic factors. In other words, they are the product of the social and class divisions that exist in a society. Sociolect manifests itself in the way a speaker enunciates his words. For example, in England, the articulation or the dropping of the “h” will indicate the socio-economic class from which the speaker hails.

Socioeconomic translation is easier to put into practice – it simply involves replicating the upper class dialect of the source text with a similar upper class dialect in the target text. The pitfalls associated with these two methods are that source and target countries may possess dissimilar geographical features, and source and target cultures may have dissimilar social and class divisions. Then the Italian translator must provide for compensation by making occasional additions in the dialect of the source text to the target text. Collective cultural transplantation is a possibility in Italian translation of dialect and sociolect, but then the work should be termed an adaptation and not a translation.


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