Register in Italian Translation

Register in Italian translation refers to the type of language a speaker or writer uses in a particular social context and in a specific situation. Though it is often called a type of language, register is not something that is embodied in the dictionary. Rather, register in Italian translation manifests itself through stylistic connotations and through attitudes that can be inferred from tone and way of delivery. It is a person’s manner and style of speaking. The importance of register in Italian translation lies in the fact that it reveals information about the speaker or writer. The information conveyed can be classified into two types: information that the speaker intends to convey, especially with regard to his behaviour towards the listener / reader, and information that gets conveyed automatically and often unknowingly, especially with regard to his origins and his position in society. The first type is better known as tonal register and the second as social register.

Tonal Register

Tonal register displays emotions; by modulating and regulating it, the speaker can express the entire gamut of emotions from joy to sorrow, from wonder to disbelief, from anger to fear, etc. Tonal register can be used to convey the speaker’s attitude towards the person he is addressing or the object he is talking about: his tone can be polite, casual, dismissive, deferential, etc. Tonal register can also convey an impression of the character of the speaker, for example, whether he is vulgar or well-mannered. Choosing and using a particular tonal register is a conscious process, and implies deliberation on the part of the speaker. The speaker can be held responsible for the tonal register he prefers to employ.

In order to translate tonal register accurately, the Italian translator must be familiar with the cultural conventions of both the source and the target languages in the process of Italian translation. A register that is polite in one language may be considered aggressive in another, or a situation that calls for a casual tonal register in the source language might demand a formal tonal register in the target language. The Italian translator should be able to equate between the various levels of politeness that exists in various cultures and societies, and he should carry out the Italian translation accordingly.

Social Register

Social register draws attention to the social position of the speaker. Social register works without the speaker’s knowledge to reveal his or her character in broad moral outlines, as in whether he or she is arrogant or naive; and even indicate the specifics of his personality, as in whether he is an academic or a sports buff, a conservative or a liberal, etc. Each of these people has a particular way of using language, a way that has become an indissoluble part of his character and cannot be camouflaged, a way that is in synchronization with his attitudes and ideas, and a way that he has picked up by virtue of his geographical origin, his educational background, his position in society and his professional affiliations.

Social register hardly manifests itself in informative texts, but it is an indispensable tool in literary and journalistic texts. In most cases, stereotypes are replicated across cultures with minor variations – students in all cultures display some degree of irreverence and irresponsibility, sports fans in all cultures display boisterousness – and that makes the task of the Italian translator easy. But the task can become daunting for the Italian translator when the parallel for a stereotype in the source text does not exist in the target culture. In the long run, while working with register in Italian translation, the translator must aim for consistency even while being prepared for some amount of loss and compensation.

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