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Title: On the translation of modal verbs from English into Arabic and vice versa : the case of deontic modality
Authors: Abdel-Fattah, Mahmoud
Keywords: English translation deontic modality;Translating and interpreting - Arab countries;Arabic language - Modality;English language - Modality;Arabic language - Modal verbs;English language - Modal verbs;Deontic logic
Issue Date: 2005
Publisher: Babel: 51, 1, John Benjamin’s Publishing Company
Series/Report no.: Babel: 51, 1;
Abstract: Modality has a claim to be considered a linguistic universal. There are many indications that this may be true. Yet, the concept of modality varies from one language to another. Even within a given language, there may exist uncertainties according to the approach: syntactic, semantic, pragmatic etc.; or formal definition vs. other definitions (e.g. English: modal auxiliaries, Arabic: verbs, prepositions and particles). The notion of modality is “notoriously vague” (Palmer 1986). It is further said that the meaning of modality is very difficult to determine relying on a single perspective. Such being the nature of modality, it has been difficult, so far, for any approach to satisfactorily describe it. In English attempts to account for modality as “semantic-grammatical” (Palmer 1990:1) have perhaps been most successful given the system of modal auxiliary verbs. However, in other languages such as Arabic, which has a notion of modality inherently different from that in English, such accounts may prove inadequate. Perhaps the difficulty of understanding modality is best manifested when trying to translate ‘formulaic’ modalized expressions in a certain SL (source language) into another TL (target language). Mapping one system (modality) of an SL into its counterpart in the TL while disregarding all the factors that help perfect(1) the rendering process, is of no avail. Translating modalized expressions from English into Arabic and vice versa imposes a special difficulty on the translator for many reasons including, apart from the general problematics of the subject, the fact that Arabic does not have a defined modal system (2). Also, questions of contextuality, ambiguity, and indeterminacy, which are usually associated with modality, add to potential mistranslations. This study is an attempt to highlight some of the problems encountered, particularly when translating deontic modal expressions from English into Modern Standard Arabic (and vice versa). A brief description of deontic modality in both English and Arabic is provided. Further, the study will recommend strategies and approaches that might facilitate the task of the translator when rendering deontic modal expressions from and into both languages.
Description: An account on the translation of modality in general and the deontic Arabic modals in particular.
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