Arabic Translation of English Attitudinal Markers in Research Articles
English-Arabic Translation, metadiscourse, evaluative markers, Translation of academic writing.
Interactional metadiscoursal markers (attitudinal markers) function to alert readers to the writer’s perspective/attitude toward both the propositional information and the readers. Attitude markers express the writer’s affective attitude to textual information in a more varied way than hedges. For example, they would convey surprise, obligation, agreement, importance, and so on. As Hyland (2008) suggests, these are the tools of portraying a writer’s textual voice, or community-recognized personality, in an attitudinal and writer-oriented function that draws on the way writers’ present their views regarding an issue or a statement.
In translation, and based on prior studies in different languages, attitudinal markers pose a challenge in translation, especially in the case of translation between two remotely related languages such as English and Arabic. The study investigates the actually performed translations of fifty translators who are grouped into two groups (highly-experienced translators (HET) and less-experienced translators (LET HET). The examination of the translations would give a clue about the actual translation of each grouped subjects (e.g., PhD holders & UN translators; M.A. students & market translators). The analysis also shows which markers among verbs, adverbs, and adjectives, constitute the most challenging situation for both groups.
The use of attitude in academic contexts, (i.e., RAs), is a technique that has many heterogeneous applications in different disciplines. In this study, discoursal analysis is the basic tool for the qualitative analysis. The focus of corpus analysis is empirical (qualitative and quantitative) and the results interpretation is based on dictionary relevance and context of use. Data is manually analyzed by checking the translatability of the attitude markers followed by a qualitative analysis, which lists the different equivalents of each marker. The attitude markers analysis is divided into groups based on the grammatical category (adjectives, adverbs, and verbs). The countability of the translated markers is associated with their entries in four bilingual (English/Arabic) dictionaries (Oxford, Al-Nafees, Al-Mawrid and Longman Dictionary of modern English). Dictionary consultation helps to examine why and how a translator prefers one equivalent over another. Moreover, the reason for consulting more than one dictionary is because it has been proven that most dictionaries are not exactly the same in clarifying the meanings or even defining a word.
The current study is concerned with attitudinal markers that are translated from English into Arabic. It investigated the rendering of the English attitudinal markers into Arabic in authentic translations obtained from 50 subjects. “Attitude is expressed throughout a text by the use of subordination, comparatives, progressive particles, punctuation, text location, and so on, it is most explicitly signaled by attitude verbs (e.g., agree, prefer), sentence adverbs (e.g. unfortunately, hopefully), and adjectives (e.g., appropriate, logical, remarkable)” (Hyland, 2005b: 180).
The analysis shows that adjectives, similar to adverbs, are among the most used markers in the ST. Adjectives could either function as noun pre-modifiers or appear in comparative forms, (e.g., more/most important). They are used to decrease or increase the degree of the expressed attitude. It is noticed in the analysis that some translators tend to opt for the literal meaning of adjectives as provided in the dictionary they used, rather than pay attention to the meaning of the context where the adjective is used.
The analysis of attitudinal adjectives reveals the following findings:
First, there are straightforward rendered attitudinal adjectives into Arabic. Both less and highly trained translators face no challenge in rendering these meanings into Arabic. Some examples of these effortlessly rendered attitudinal adjectives are; amazing, inappropriate, important and significant. The marker and the context help the translator in understanding the intended message by the ST author; therefore, the meaning in TT would be as accurate as it was intended in the ST. This fact is confirmed on the basis of three relevant factors; (a) the overall agreement on the translation as achieved by both HET and LET groups, (b) the contextual meaning of the attitudinal marker in ST, and (c) on consultation with four bilingual English/Arabic dictionaries (Longman, Oxford, Al-Nafees, and Al-Mawrid).
Second, there are some problematic attitudinal adjectives such as; disappointing, fortunate, unfortunate and interesting. In their academic context, these attitudinal markers process some difficulty for some translators. They either mislead translators in deciding which equivalent is suitable with their context of use. For example, the attitudinal adjective fortunate, was not properly rendered by a good number of HET who opt for من الحظ الجيد… which is inaccurate choice in the context of (It will therefore be fortunate, for both theoretical and practical purposes…). It is rendered as الحظ الجيد من in the context where fortunate means only good or great. The contextual meaning here, which different from the one listed in the dictionary, confuses more than half of the LET group. ‘Goodness’ الجيد من is the meaning intended in the current context, which is different than ‘luck’ الحظ, which some dictionaries may list as a possible literary meaning of ‘fortunate’.
Third , translators face problematic situations in certain contexts where they are confused in choosing one meaning rather than the other. For example, the contextual meaning of the attitudinal adjective ‘disappointing’ confuses almost half of the translators in both groups. The complexity of the sentence adds challenges to the way they translate it.
Other contexts would urge some less trained translators to provide informal equivalents that are not supposed to be used in such academic writing (RAs) with a sophisticated rhetorical system. Informal words, which are frequently encountered in everyday communication, may not be suitable for use in academic writing (RAs). These include words that are casual and commonly used only in spoken English. Shocking, for instance, has been translated informally as شنيع by the LET group. HET, on the other hand, could avoid such choices and overcome the difficulty of the situation. Oxford dictionary labels شنيعة as an ‘informal’ equivalent for shocking.
Another observation is seen in less-experienced translators’ translation. They might prefer using more than one equivalent in their translation to avoid having redundant translations of certain markers. LET attempt to avoid repeating same equivalents in their ST translation, they erroneously opt for contextualy inaccurate equivalents. Therefore, the TT might sound weak and unprofessional. This can be justified by the level of competence and training courses each group obtained in their translation experience. The variation is found in translating interesting into ممعتة instead of مدهشة، مذهلة and in translating surprising into مفاجئة or مستغربة مباغتة.
A few translators miss apprehending the contextual meaning of the adjectives, which results in mistranslated texts. Unusual, for example, seems to be a non-challenging adjective to translate, however, this is not the case in the current context. LET opt for the most commonly used equivalents of unusual, which are listed in the dictionaries of the study (Longman and Al-Nafees), such as غير معتاد,استثنائي،, غير معتادة, , غير مألوفة,مختلفة. Usual in the first context, (Indonesian is unusual language), describes the Indonesian language and in the second case, (sentences are either syntactically unusual…), describes a syntactic sentence. The contextual situation seems to be ambiguous for a few LET; therefore, their translation would sound incomplete or mislead readers. In this context, ‘Indonesian language’ is not “odd” غير مألوفة or “different” مختلفة but rather exceptional and unique. Therefore, equivalent as لغة استثنائية is the most acceptable choice according to the majority of translators in both groups and the four dictionaries of the study.
Attitudinal verbs are less frequently used in English texts than the attitudinal adverbs and attitudinal adjectives. The analysis shows that attitudinal verbs are quite attainable to Arabic translation and possess little or no difficulty when rendered in Arabic. English-Arabic dictionaries are quite helpful in this respect as they list significantly sufficient number of Arabic equivalents. Unlike attitudinal adjective, only a few attitudinal verbs challenge some translators. Verbs, such as prefer, are unfussy in their intended meaning in ST and hence they are rendered effortlessly into Arabic. However, some modal verbs such as must and should may cause a challenge to some translators in both groups (HET & LET). In their intrinsic meaning, must and should may exchange the meaning of obligation يجب and ينبغي, and hence they may cause some confusion for some translators. For instance, in the context of (They should try to understand…), there are twelve LET translators (48%) who opt for يجب instead of the accurate meaning ينبغي for should. Furthermore, must, in the context (Explication of implicit information must be done with a desirable care), is translated as ينبغي اجراء توضيح… by 16% of LET. It seems that some translators are confused in making a decision whether to translate must into يجب or ينبغي, and into translating should to ينبغي or يجب.. As mentioned earlier, must and should could mislead translators in the degree of obligational requests or optional acts. Such errors are likely to be performed by less trained translators, perhaps due to their lack of attention towards the acceptable equivalent and/or their less experienced skills. However, questions start to raise when highly trained translators with more than 10 years experience in the field commit such errors. The only justification for the latter group error could be due to their rapidity in translation so they might pay little attention to the big difference between must and should.
Attitudinal adverbs occur in higher frequency than attitudinal verbs in the ST. They are employed in the text to portray a writer’s opinion/attitude either towards a fact or a statement. Attitudinal adverbs, similar to attitudinal adjectives cause some challenge not only for LET but also HET. There are three situations for translators to face in their rendering of attitudinal adverbs. They either face straightforward attitudinal markers, challenging situations or problematic translations. Starting with the non-challenging adverbs, unexpectedly, expectedly, hopefully, unsurprisingly seem to be translator –friendly markers. Translators manage to find the suitable equivalents for such markers by depending on their experience or helping tools like dictionaries. Contextual meaning would be easy to grasp and translate. Challenging markers such as admittedly do confuse some translators. It is a challenging marker for Forty percent of LET who opt for the passive voice و لا ُينكر ان هذا الظهور التدريجي, which is not found in the HET translations. Moreover, 60% of LET translate admittedly as:
و باعتراف الجميع فإن هذا ال…
This is another observation not found in the HET translation.
The third occurrence of admittedly in (This study is admittedly exploratory in nature) confirms a previous observation of changing the voice and the form of the ST marker:
We do not deny that… و لا ننكر اننا حاولنا
We admit that… ونعترف بأنه تمت
As with fortunately and remarkably, admittedly is skipped by 96% less-experienced translators due to the contextual complexity some translators face.
Hence, the adverbial modifier of the phrase is missed in the rendered meaning in Arabic, and consequently the Arabic reader misses the writer’s opinion/attitude towards the statement. For example, When such occurrence appears, some translators would eiher omit the marker or mistranslate it.
Training skills and years of experience can give us a clue about the highly trained translator and less trained translator. Questionable situations urge them to use their skills in order to find the accurate translation of certain attitude. Translators should maintain the same attitude in the ST without hedging or boosting its degree. For example, hopefully and admittedly, in some translations of this study have been changed dramatically due to translators’ management of the text. They face a difficulty in whether to keep the adverb as it is or to change it into a verb:
1) This study is admittedly exploratory in nature… (ST)
2) و لا ننكر أن طبيعة هذه الدراسة… (TT)
Another incident is that some translators tend to change the meaning of some attitudinal adverbs into action verbs in present simple tense, as in (hopefully, admittedly). For example, admittedly, in (Admittedly, I attempted to do this, but), is translated as either اعترف or لا انكر by LET and HET subjects .The interesting observation is that none of the HET subjects opt for باعتراف الجميع, which is included in the Oxford and Al-Mawrid dictionaries. However, 15% of LET opt for it in:
Admittedly, this gradual emergence of diglossia in Indonesian has not escaped the attention of mass media and entertainment interests.
و باعتراف الجميع، فإن الظهور التدريجي…
Such equivalents show the group’s preference for certain expressions, especially adverbial phrases.
The rest of the subjects in both groups prefer to shift the adverb into a verb اعترف/ لا انكر. Both groups perform this with a minor difference in singular/plural forms. In other words, LET attempt to avoid the first person singular of ‘I attempt’ that is originally used by the writer. Therefore, 100% of LET choose the plural form نعترف or لا ننكر as in the following translations:
(28%) و لا ننكر أننا حاولنا
(%72) و نعترف بأنه تمت محاولة
Translators’ level of training could be a good start to explain why and how translators opt for certain equivalents. Since academic writing, specifically research writing is an advance level of academic writing, it needs good training courses for translators. There are fifty translators who belong to two trained-groups. Less-experienced translators (LET) are Master students in translation (2-3 years of experience) and market translators (3-6 years of experience) and highly-experienced translators (HET) are PhD holders and UN translators (over 9 years of experience). Accordingly, the accurateness as well as correctness in opting for one equivalent rather than the other would differ between HET and LET. However, it should not be taken for granted that HET would surely choose the perfect translation while LET would opt for the less accurate equivalents. The attitudinal adjective ‘not surprising’ among other examples, explains this point. It—the attitudinal adjective—poses difficulty for almost 24% of highly-experienced translators (HET) who translate surprising in six instances out of 25 (24%) as من غير المدهش, which in back translation would be ‘it is not amazing’. In fourteen instances (56%), the HET translate it as من غير المستغرب and five times (20%) as من غير المفاجئ. However, the less-experienced group (LET) choose the most acceptable and suitable translation of surprising, in a way that nineteen times out of 25 (76%) it is translated as من غير المفاجئ, and 16% as من غير المستغرب while translated twice as المذهل من غير. This is an interesting observation that might change some viewpoints regarding the relationship between years of experience and practical performance.
Unlike HET, LET tend to consult dictionaries for a variety of translations instead of desiring one commonly used translation. This is found in the translation of attitudinal adjectives (e.g., striking, remarkable, desirable, unusual). Unusual, for example, is provided with three synonyms by LET: seventeen times out of 25 as مألوفة غير, five times as معتاد غير twice as استثنائي, and once as غير مستخدمة. HET opt only for two equivalents: twenty times out of 25 as مألوفة غير and three times as غير معتادة. This variety of translations is also applied in most of the adjectives in this study. For instance, the attitudinal verb prefer is translated 100% by HET as نفضل while LET provide two equivalents instead of one: twenty-four translations out of 25 as نفضل and once as نرغب.
Among each group of LET and HET, there are grouped subjects,, which also needs to be closely observed. The level of translation competence based on experience is mostly shown in the LET group (M.A. students & market translators). In other words, M.A. translators are still enrolled in the program of translation and still learning the theories, techniques, and options of translation. Market translators have 3-6 years of translation experience in the field. Definitely, the acceptability and accuracy of their translations would vary as well as their competence. This is seen in the translation of shocking when two M.A. students opt for the informal equivalent شنيع while none of the market translators did. Another example is observed in the translation of the attitudinal verb must. Six M.A. students opt for inaccurate translations for must as لا يمكن ، لا ينبغي while one market translator opts for لا يمكن in (translators must never underestimate). A deep comparison can be also done on the M.A. students of two Jordanian universities. It is noticed that Yarmouk students have slightly higher-level training in their courses than those in Irbid. For instance, when Yarmouk students translate must they directly opt for يجب عليه, however three Irbid students choose between ينبغي عليهم and عليهمinstead of the strong obligation equivalent يجب.
In addition, HET translators also differ in their competence of the two languages. Both UN translators and PhD holders have no less than 10 years of experience. Taking the previous example, shockingly, the only translator who opts for the informal translation is among the UN translators. From an academic point of view, this can be justified by assuming that the translator does not have the chance to deeply study the suitable equivalents or at least to look up the marker in the dictionary. One dictionary (Oxford) among the four dictionaries of this study tags shockingly with (informal use). It is supposed that UN translators constantly translate political and economical texts, because of the nature of United Nations annual meetings in the Security Council and/or General Assembly. PhD holders, in contrast, teach, write, and translate research articles (RAs), textbooks, and reviews in/from Arabic. Therefore, the latter group would surely be aware of the strategy of translation and the formality of the equivalents depending on the context, purpose, and genre. Another comparison is found in the PhD group in which there are professors from universities and PAAET. It is noticed that their competence is more or less equal.
Regarding the level of difficulty, attitudinal verbs seem to pose little challenge for both groups. Modal verbs that function as obligational attitudinal verbs (i.e., must, should) do not only challenge less-experienced translators (LET), but also highly-experienced translators (HET). Translating must into ينبغي or عليهم is a mistake made by 24% of LET, a number that cannot be ignored. Therefore, must, as a modal verb in this context, poses a difficulty for less experienced translators. Should, as well, is not an easy attitudinal verb to translate for a number of LET and a few HET. It is translated 16% as يجب or من الواجب. This is obviously a translation error.
Attitudinal adjectives pose an uneasy situation for some translators in both groups, when they occur in the middle of a long phrase. For instance, disappointing and unfortunate are left with no translation by eight out of 25 (32%) LET translators and one HET out of 25 (4%). Another challenging context of literal translation appears in another context for translating disappointing and unfortunate. Such translation errors are mostly performed by LET.
Attitudinal adverbs, similar to attitudinal adjectives, may cause a challenging task for few translators in both groups. Adverbs, such as astonishingly, shockingly, interestingly demonstrate this remark. First, astonishingly, being in the middle of a phrase, urges 24% of LET to skip the whole translation of the adverb. As mentioned earlier, this may happen when the adverb is positioned in the middle of a long phrase. Informality is another issue that makes two LET and one HET opt for شنيعة as a translation of shockingly. Translation mistakes are also seen in the literal translation of interestingly as الممتع منin a ‘serious’ context of research where fun and excitement are not meant to be discussed. In general, attitudinal verbs, adjectives, and adverbs are challenging elements mostly for LET and more infrequently for HET.
Overall, attitudinal verbs, adverbs, and adjectives can be translated from English into Arabic; however, they need serious attention in order to maintain an exact tone and a similar description of opinion/attitude expressed by the ST writer. Most of the investigated markers in this study have their Arabic equivalents in the consulted dictionaries. Nonetheless, the translation process needs the translators’ careful attention in choosing the suitable, as well the acceptable, equivalent for certain academic contexts. Once the translators succeed in understanding the exact rhetorical meaning in ST, they will accurately transfer the same meaning in any cross-cultural translation. In other words, Nord (2005) associated the importance of discourse analysis with translation by emphasizing the need to analyze the ST comprehensively before embarking upon any translation to make sure that the ST has been “wholly and correctly understood” (Nord, 2005: 1). This kind of process requires serious efforts and professional translation courses to achieve such a goal.
One last observation regarding the consulted dictionaries is seen in their full explanation of entries. In other words, it is shown that some of them provide good definitions of attitudinal markers, however, they are insufficient. For instance, only Oxford Dictionary suggests that shocking is an informal equivalent, however, the three other dictionaries do not. This would allow less experienced translators (LET) to opt for this informal definition in case they were using dictionaries other than Oxford (e.g., Al-Mawrid, Al-Nafees). Another example is seen in the translation of preferred, which is not listed in any of the four dictionaries.
In conclusion, this study answers three important questions regarding the translatability of the attitude markers from English into Arabic. First, what may happen to the scholarly communication when such rhetorical devises are translated from English into Arabic? Second, what type of challenges would translators face when rendering the exact meaning of these English metadiscourse markers in Arabic? Third, do translators facilitating the Arabic translation of English academic discourse have a source of reference to rely on when facing challenges in rendering English metadisocurse markers in Arabic?
By examining the translation of fifty subjects, the questions of the study were answered. Regarding the first question, in most cases the message is completely translated from ST to TT. It cannot be denied that a few cases have been mistranslated either for misapprehending the ST meaning or the translators’ lack of atte
ntion toward certain attitudinal markers. Such mistakes are perhaps due to the level of the translator’s experience and years of training in the field. They may not be able to read the secondary level as they do for the primary level. Therefore, they are not capable of transfer the intended meaning to the TT in their translation of ST.
Regarding the second question, challenges in translating attitudinal markers do exist. A few translators in both groups might face a difficulty in understanding the contextualized situations presented in the ST. This will result in either incomplete translation or mistranslated markers. As an example, markers occur in the middle of a sentence do confuse some translators (i.e., admittedly, unusually). Besides the context, experience plays a great role in overcoming the translation challenges. HET are more qualified and capable of finding the most accurate equivalent due to their practical practice as well as level of experience. A few LET, in contrary, do have weak translations in certain contexts. However, most translators from both groups succeed in reaching the closest and most suitable equivalent based on the dictionary entries.
Finally, the sources of reference are many, however, dictionaries are among the top methods translators seek in determining on a certain TT equivalent. In this study, it has been observed that dictionaries, although considered to be a translator’s indispensable tool, are of somewhat of a little help to them when it comes to rendering specific attitudinal markers in certain academic contexts. This could be justified by the fact that such self-justified queries receive scant attention, not only because the investigation of English-Arabic rhetorical contrasts are evidently limited, but also because translation studies in English-Arabic were pre-equipped with the first-level linguistic similarities/differences between the language pair. Perhaps, the contrast of the language pair at a high-level discourse is left for future research.
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
ST Source text
TT Target text
HET Highly-experienced translators
LET Less-experienced translators
SFT Systemic Functional Theory
RA Research Articles
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أ. نورة العجمي