The Linguist

The Linguist 59,4 - Aug/Sept 2020

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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many translators of their work have written out this representation in translation. One such translator is RHF Scott, who translated François-Timoléon de Choisy's Mémoires de l'abbé de Choisy habillé en femme (Memoirs of the abbot de Choisy dressed as a woman) into English in 1973. In their 17th-century text, which was published posthumously in several parts, only coming together in 1862, Choisy takes on two female personas. Before each episode, they write using masculine grammatical gender and then adopt a female voice. Jeremy Reed, who wrote an afterword for the 1994 re-publication of the translation, comments: "Choisy tells us nothing of his voice; we don't know if his tone was masculine or feminine." This analysis is based on an English translation that silences Choisy's playful use of French grammar. An insurmountable challenge? Another transgender writer who is silenced by their translation is Catalina de Erauso. Even though the concept 'transgender' didn't exist in the 17th century, I see Erauso's 1646 memoir as the story of an early 'transgender warrior'. It is written in Spanish and Erauso constantly shifts between using masculine and feminine gender markers. In the introduction to the translation, published in 1996, translator Michele Stepto writes that Erauso's switches are an insurmountable challenge: "There is no English equivalent for the gender inflections of the Spanish adjective, which make a primary, grammatical notation of gender with practically every sentence, thus setting up a drumbeat of sexual self-identification that reverberates from one end of the text to the other. The fact that Catalina almost invariably uses masculine endings to describe herself is lost in English, as are those rare moments when she chooses a feminine ending." Translation is often discussed in terms of loss because people get stuck on the idea that the translation must be a replica of the source. Translation always involves loss of W hen I say 'I am happy' in French (je suis contente), I immediately give my interlocutor more information about myself than simply my mood: that little 'e' on the end of contente indicates that I identify as female. French marks gender on adjectives, nouns and past participles, as well as third person subject pronouns, while English only marks gender on third person pronouns ('he/she') and possessive adjectives ('his/hers'). The general rule is that those assigned male at birth use masculine grammatical gender and those assigned female use the feminine. Rules, however, can be broken and there are many examples of books written by people who do just that. They use the linguistic system of grammatical gender to subvert society's expectations that the gender you are assigned at birth should match your gender presentation (the clothes you wear, the way you walk, the language you use). One such author is Charles d'Eon de Beaumont, better known as the Chevalier/ Chevalière d'Eon. Written in 1785, D'Eon's memoir is the fictional story of a woman who dresses as a man, is discovered and forced to return to her 'natural' state of womanhood. In reality, d'Eon lived the first half of their life as a man and the second half as a woman. 1 D'Eon's contemporaries believed they were a cross-dressing woman until their death. The text throws up myriad issues revolving around gender, transvestism, being transgender, translation and language because d'Eon uses both feminine and masculine grammatical gender, sometimes in the same sentence. 2 Here, d'Eon is speaking to the late King's daughter about how they were raised a girl and used as a spy in Russia (both fabrications): J'ai été elevée ainsi, votre Auguste père le savoit et s'est servi de moi. Mais maintenant qu'il est mort, je suis devenu une servante inutile. I was raised this way, your august father knew it and used me. But now that he is dead, I have become a useless servant. The words in red are feminine and in green are masculine. How do you show these changes in linguistic gender when translating into English? Should you even bother? Such writers have voices which are not traditionally represented in literature and 8 The Linguist Vol/59 No/4 2020 FEATURES Can the subversion authors be rendered Trans FIGHTING NORMS 'Fencing Match Between Mademoiselle La Chevalière D'Eon De Beaumont and Monsieur De Saint George, 1787' by Victor Marie Picot

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