The Linguist

The Linguist 58,2-June/July 2019

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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@Linguist_CIOL APRIL/MAY The Linguist 13 FEATURES Daria Zanuttigh considers strategies for translating the made-up dialect in Hoban's sci-fi classic Riddley Walker WALKER OF RIDDLES thoughts when addressing complex or abstract concepts. Riddleyspeak is also extremely evocative due to the almost poetic modifications. Words present in our everyday vernacular are manipulated to give them more room to breathe, as in poetry, and to attract the audience's attention. A term may be modified by the author in order to recall another, often in an ironic connection, especially when referring to government figures or institutions. Ultimately, Hoban's English, with its manipulations, vocabulary, wordplay, puns and overlapping meanings, constitutes the heart of the novel, as well as the major translation challenge of Riddley Walker. R ussell Hoban's sci-fi novel Riddley Walker was published in the UK in 1980. It is set in post-nuclear-holocaust Kent, and is narrated by its main character, a 12-year-old boy. The book did not receive the mainstream success that many believed it deserved; the language used – a 'corrupted' version of standard English – was considered too difficult and distracting by many readers. Others, however, believed the writer to be a bold and inspired genius. When faced with the task of translating the book, Hoban's so-called Riddleyspeak is the most obvious challenge; not only from a stylistic point of view – how to recreate Hoban's modifications of English in another language? – but also from a pragmatic one: should the translator opt for the creation of a more saleable text instead? But before deciding on a translation approach, it is essential to analyse the main characteristics of Riddleyspeak. Hoban started to write the novel in standard English but later realised that "the language wouldn't be the same a couple of thousand years ahead of our time", 1 in the post-apocalyptic reality he had created. He then invented Riddleyspeak, a heavily phoneticised English influenced by Kentish. Hoban's modifications are operated at word level, in a process that Mullen likens to the creation of a non-standard dialect. 2 Some of Hoban's phonological and syntactical modifications are suggestive of the early stages of children's language acquisition. Six of the seven phonological processes common in young children 3 are present in Riddleyspeak. It is also full of syntactical errors usually made by children or less educated speakers, such as case errors and double negatives. The novel's vocabulary is, not surprisingly, extremely limited: characters often fall back on onomatopoeia and struggle to express their TRADITIONAL CULTURE Quintessentially British elements, such as Mr Punch (a pivotal character in the book), create challenges for the translator © SHUTTERSTOCK

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