Marked and Unmarked Translation of English Thematized Literary Sentences into Persian

Effects on the Audience

By Hossein Barzegar (University of Adib Mazandaran, Iran)

Abstract & Keywords

English:

This paper is aimed at analyzing and discussing cross-linguistic data, English vs. Persian, about markedness in relation to thematization. The research question addressed in the paper focuses upon the differences between marked and unmarked translation of English thematized sentences in connection with their effect on the audience.

More specifically, the paper examines whether the audience consider the issue of thematization and thematic structure in their translation of a literary text, i.e. whether they translate marked theme of English thematized sentences in a form of marked or unmarked themes in Persian. With a view to analyzing the data, a translation test has been constructed in which four major types of English thematized sentences adopted from Grzegorek’s typologies have been considered. The degree of markedness is also taken into consideration, i.e. marked translation of English thematized sentences is of two sub-categories: 1) more emphasized marked themes and 2) less emphasized marked themes. The audience’s preference for choosing more emphasized and less emphasized marked themes and also unmarked themes is presented. The analysis of the data indicates that there are some differences between marked and unmarked translation of English thematized sentences as far as their effect on the audience concerned.

Keywords: markedness, marked theme, unmarked theme, theme, thematization, thematized sentence

©inTRAlinea & Hossein Barzegar (2012).
"Marked and Unmarked Translation of English Thematized Literary Sentences into Persian", inTRAlinea Vol. 14.
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Stable URL: http://www.intralinea.org/archive/article/1884

1. Introduction

1.1. Theme and Rheme

Theme and rheme analysis is an area that has been the center of some translation scholars’ attention (see [Grzegorek 1984, Newmark 1988, Bell 1991, Baker 1992, Halliday 1994], among others). The basic premise is that sentences consist of themes, which present known, context-dependent information, and rhemes, which present new, context-independent information. Because they represent new information, it is rhemes rather than themes which push text development forward. Thematic progression can be defined as the choice and ordering of utterance themes, their mutual concatenation and hierarchy, as well as their relationship to hyperthemes of the superior text units (such as the paragraph, chapter, etc.) to the whole text, to the situation. A trend of theme-rheme analysis initiated by researchers like Deyes (1918) has successfully pointed translation theorists in the direction of a much more fruitful line of enquiry. This involves grafting text- typological considerations onto patterns of thematic progression as these unfold (Baker, 1992).

The research reported in this paper focuses upon an examination of the enabling options of the theme system which converts clause (plus their corresponding propositions) into utterances and texts issued in the course of communication _ spoken or written _ and structured so as to present information in a marked or unmarked manner. According to Bell (1991, Pp: 145_53), the theme system operates through two sub-systems, both of which are concerned with the placing of information units in the structure of the clause. In so doing, they provide a range of options which allow clause structure to be manipulated so that varying degrees of prominence can be achieved by the information contained in the clause. The two sub-systems are:

  1. Thematization: this organizes the initiation of the clause (its communicative point of departure) and acts to directthe attention of the receiver of the message to the parts the sender wishes to emphasize. The key elements involved in this are theme and rheme.
  2. Information: this organizes the completion of the clause (its information focus) and, like thematization, also directs attention to parts of the massage. The key elements involved are information distribution and information focus.

The two theme systems provide options for the expression of discoursal meaning as required by the textual macrofunction.

In contrast with the propositional terms, thematization makes a single distinction: theme versus rheme (concepts originated by the Prague School in their work on ‘functional perspective’ in the mid_1920s). The theme is the initial unit of a clause and the rheme the reminder.The overall choice and ordering of themes play an important role in organizing a text and, consequently, in shaping the whole message. What is known, or may be inferred, or is the starting point of a communication (the communicative basis) is to be regarded as the theme of a sentence and the elements which convey the new piece of information (the communicative nucleus) are the rheme (Newmark, 1988).

Halliday (1994) who is the main representative of the positional approach to the definition of theme, characterizes thematization in English as the process of shifting various sentence elements to the initial position plus any grammatical changes within a sentence, which are caused by such a movement. Passive constructions are the most typical examples of this process, especially in English in which not only direct objects can be moved to the initial position and changed into a grammatical subject, but also indirect and sometimes propositional objects. Halliday mentions that even verbs can function as themes if they are fronted and nominalized.

Theme, therefore, is what the clause is about. It has two functions:

(a) It acts as a point of orientation by connecting back to previous stretches of discourse and thereby maintaining a coherent point of view (b) it acts as a point of departure by connecting forward and contributing to the development of later stretches. What is known, or may be inferred, or is the starting point of a communication (the communicative basis) is to be regarded as the theme of a sentence and the elements which convey the new piece of information (the communicative nucleus) are the rheme (Newmark, 1988). Rheme is what the speaker/writer says about the theme. Rheme is communicatively more important than the theme. Normally one proceeds from the known to the unknown: one begins with the theme and therefore the new elements with the highest degree of communicative dynamism (C.D.) come last in the sentence.

2. Marked and unmarked theme

According to Bell (1991), marked theme in English is signaled by predicating, preposing, clefting or fronting of the theme and combination of these options (other languages have, of course, different ways of marking theme). Bell (1991) also distinguishes unmarked and marked theme by giving some examples. He says that the ‘expected’, ‘unmarked’, ‘unmarkable’ theme of a main clause may be illustrated by any one of the following examples:

(a) He bought a new car

(b) Did he buy a new car?

(c) What did he buy?

(d) Buy a new car!

In terms of syntactic structure, these are realization of:

  1. Subject in an active declarative clause
  2. Auxiliary in a closed interrogative
  3. Wh_element in open interrogative
  4. Predicator in an imperative

Bell also gives an example for each category related to marked theme:

  1. The dog bit the man, it did.

where the theme has been pre-posed by repeating it.

There are, of course, alternative ways of doing this, as shown by the following examples:

  1. The dog, it bit the man
  2. It bit the man, the dog did

The theme can be predicated by selecting not a cleft sentence but a pseudo_cleft as in:

  1. The one that bit the man was dog.

Instead, in

  1. The man was bitten by the dog.

the theme has been fronted (also termed ‘thematization’, ‘topicalization’, and ‘marking’). This has been achieved by deviating from the unmarked order.

Finally, in the case of

  1. The one that was bitten by the dog was the man, it was.

marking has been achieved by all three sets of options: fronting, predicating, and preposing of the theme, with the pseudo_cleft form of the preposing. When clauses are structured by making choices from the form of options in ways which focus attention on one part rather than another of the chain, the theme systems are being activated to create linkage within the clause (Bell, 1991).

Grzegorek (1984) introduces four main types of thematization in English: 1- passivization, 2- clefts and pseudo-clefts, 3- topicalization, left-dislocation, focus movement, and 4- presentation sentences with preposed expressions. She compares these thematization types with those existing in Polish. She says that thematization is governed by a variety of factors, most of which are of pragmatic rather than purely syntactic nature.

Word order, i.e. linear arrangement of lexical items in time has a communicative function in all languages. In actual communication, word order is motivated by basic parameters of linguistic communication, such as consideration of what is the discourse topic, what is the most important piece of information and what is assumed to be known information (Grzegorek, 1984). A functional message is formed and functions because of concrete circumstances (pragmatic background) and it is an instrument of action, such as asking, promising, telling, warning, etc. A functional message does not have any sense outside of the situation of which it is a part. The communicative word order is typical (neutral, unmarked) if the arrangement of words follows the basic text strategy of proceeding from old to the new information. A communicatively marked order occurs if for reasons of special emphasis an element with a high degree of C.D. is found at the beginning of the utterance. Emphasis, of course, can be put on any lexical item by means of heavy stress. If, however, the speaker is meant to draw special attention to a given element, s/he not only stresses it but also shifts it to clause initial position (Grzegorek, 1984). Consider these examples from Grzegorek (1984):

(1) Right you are

(2) Colonel Lawrence gives us an account of his expedition there and a thrilling story it is

There are some other terminologies in this regard such as topic, topicalization, and discourse topic. A sentence topic is a specific type of marked theme. This term applies to proposed nominal or prepositional phrases. The notion of theme is distinct from the notion of a discourse topic. The concept of a discourse topic is connected with a stretch of text (conversation or narrative passage) and it is what the conversation or the story is about. A discourse topic may be introduced for the first time (e.g. in presentation sentences), reintroduced (e.g. by means of left-dislocation), used contrastively or emphatically (topicalization).theme on the other hand, is a notion connected with a clause viewed as part of a discourse. Theme is the point of departure for the organization of the massage conveyed by the grammatical unit of a clause. If a definite NP functions as theme, it is very often the discourse topic (Grzegorek, 1984).

Topic is a specific type of theme. Topic represents the starting point and the discourse topic. Topics are nonsubject nominal expressions in clause-initial position or prepositional phrases (e.g. directional adverbials) in initial position. Consider these examples (Grzegorek, 1984):

3) This car my father bought yesterday

This car (topic; starting point) my father (perspective) bought yesterday (rheme)

4) This car was brought by my father

This car (theme; starting point; perspective) was bought by my father (rheme)

Thus, topicalization is a specific type of thematization, i.e. topics are referred to as marked themes.

Theme may correspond to a discourse topic, but it does not have to. Usually a discourse topic is constant across two or more sentences, but each of these sentences may have a different theme. Consider for instance this example in which the theme of B`s utterance does not correspond to the discourse topic (that lamp):

5) A: what happened to that lamp?

B: the dog knocked it over.

In the normal theme-rheme, or subject-verb-complement sentence, the C.D. will be on the complement or last word. If, however, any component of a sentence is abnormally put at the head of the sentence, that component will carry a heavy C.D. as part of the rheme, engulfing the theme, and this affective procedure must be shown in translation (Newmark, 1988). If a translator wants to transfer the thematic structure of the source text to the target text s/he may face some difficulties. It is at this point that the translator faces a challenge.

Grammatical factors can restrict the choice and ordering of themes in translation. For example in Persian in some unmarked cases an adjective of a sentence structure can appear in theme position but in English in the unmarked case it cannot. In English in the unmarked case a sentence like beautiful she was is not grammatical. The point is that the word order of English language is different from that of Persian. So, for instance, in translating from Persian (SL) to English (TL) if one wants to put thematized elements of Persian clauses in the initial position in TL two things may happen: either English language word order does not allow for this transference or even if it does, thematized elements in Persian clauses may be marked but their equivalents in English may be unmarked and consequently this unmarkedness reduces the information load or emphasis. Consider these examples:

Suppose the Persian sentences (6), (7) and (8) have been translated into English this way:

(khordeh ghazä ro) (6) خورده غذا رو
He has eaten the food

In the Persian sentence, the theme is خورده )khordeh) but in the English translation the theme is he. The English language word order does not allow for transference of the Persian thematic structure into English. That is, it is ungrammatical to say: has eaten he the food

((خان جان ،1383 (ǖst ke gholläb be dahan därad) (7) اوست که قلاب به دهن دارد
He has a hook in his mouth

In the Persian sentence, the theme of the construction is. (ǖ) ا و In the English translation the theme is he. The thematic pattern has been transferred into English but the point is that the theme in the Persian sentence is marked (emphatic) but he in the English translation is not.

(zibäst (8) زيبا ست)
(a) She is beautiful
(b) Beautiful she is

In the Persian sentence, زِيبا (zibä) is the theme, but in the English translation (a) the theme is she. In this case the thematic pattern of the Persian sentence has not been transferred into English. In translation (b) the thematic pattern of the Persian sentence has been transferred into English but the point is that the theme in translation (b) is more marked than that of the Persian sentence.

This paper investigates thematic salience in relation to markedness in connection with its effect on the audience. By this end in view, a theoretical framework of analysis based on Grzegorek’s taxonomies of English thematized sentences has been used.

3. Methodology

3.1. Subjects

The subjects of this study were 50 seniors majoring in translating in Tehran teacher training university. All of them have passed seven translation courses. These fifty semi-professional translation students were asked to choose and mark the best translation of each English thematized sentences presented in the translation test.

3.2. Instrumentation

A translation test was prepared for fulfilling the purpose of the study. This translation test composed of twenty English thematized sentences was adopted from the well-known novel “Robinson Crusoe” written by Daniel Defoe. Four major types of thematization in English were considered in the construction of the translation test, and they are, respectively: 1) Topicalization, 2) Passivization, 3) Cleft sentences, 4) Pseudo-cleft sentences. These categories have been adopted from Grzegorek’s (1984) taxonomies of thematized structures in English.

This translation test consisted of four parts: the first part was related to topicalization, the second part was related to passivization, the third part contained cleft sentences, and the final part contained pseudo-cleft sentences. For each item, three translations were prepared and the translation students were asked to choose and mark the best translation. One of these three choices was unmarked and two of them are of marked nature. It should be stated that the degree of markedness of these two marked choices was different. One of these two marked choices was a less emphasized marked theme and the other choice was a more emphasized one. In the construction of the test, the distribution and length of each choice were preserved.

3.3. Data Analysis and Results

For the purpose of data analysis, a table is presented for each part of the test regarding topicalization, passivization, cleft and pseudo-cleft sentences respectively. Each table contains the average number and frequency percentage of unmarked, less emphasized and more emphasized marked themes in Persian equivalents. First, each part of the translation test is analyzed and discussed individually, and then the translation test is analyzed and discussed as a whole. In this last case, total number, average number and frequency percentage of unmarked, less emphasized and more emphasized marked themes and also unanswered items are all shown in one table (Table F).

 

Unmarked themes

Less emphasized
marked themes

More emphasized
marked themes

Unanswered items

Average

number

11.2

22.8

14.4

1.6

Frequency percentage

22.4%

45.6%

28.8%

3.2%

Table 1. The results of the first part of the test, namely that related to Topicalization

The results show that most English thematized sentences regarding topicalization were translated into Persian in a form of less emphasized marked theme i.e. most translation students preferred to choose less emphasized marked themes in their translation of English thematized sentences (45.6%). More emphasized marked themes are more frequent than unmarked themes in their translation but the difference between them does not seem to be significant. Thus, in this category of thematization i.e. topicalization, few translation students preferred to choose unmarked themes.

 

Unmarked themes

Less emphasized
marked themes

More emphasized
marked themes

Unanswered items

Average

number

19.2

16

14

0.8

Frequency percentage

38.4%

32%

28%

1.6%

Table 2. The results for the five items related to passivization

The results indicate that most English thematized sentences were translated as unmarked themes (38.4%). In this type of thematization, less emphasized marked themes are more frequent than more emphasized one. It should be mentioned that most English passive sentences are usually translated into Persian as active sentences. This type of shift is more frequent in all text types during the process of translating from English to Persian. In this category, it is proved that most students prefer to choose unmarked themes in translating those sentences which belong to literary genre considered in the construction of the test.

 

Unmarked themes

Less emphasized
marked themes

More emphasized
marked themes

Unanswered items

Average

number

16

14

19.6

0.4

Frequency percentage

32%

28%

39.2%

0.8%

Table 3. The results for cleft sentences.

The results for this category show that most items were translated by the subjects as more emphasized marked themes (39.2%). It should be mentioned that unmarked themes are more frequent than less emphasized ones but the difference does not seem to be significant. Thus, it can be stated that in this category markedness does not completely vary in English thematized constructions compared to Persian equivalents.

 

Unmarked themes

Less emphasized
marked themes

More emphasized
marked themes

Unanswered items

Average

number

8.4

21.4

19.6

0.6

Frequency percentage

16.8%

42.8%

39.2%

1.2%

Table 4. The results for pseudo-cleft sentences

The results show that most items were translated into Persian as less emphasized marked themes (42.8) but the difference between less emphasized and more emphasized marked themes does not seem to be significant. In this category of thematization i.e. pseudo-cleft sentences, few translation students preferred to choose unmarked themes in their translation.

 

Unmarked themes

Less emphasized
marked themes

More emphasized
marked themes

Unanswered items

Total number

274

371

338

17

Average

number

13.7

18.55

16.9

0.85

Frequency percentage

27.4%

37.1%

33.8%

1.7%

Table F. The total results of the test

They clearly indicate that most English thematized sentences were translated into Persian as less emphasized marked themes (37.1%). The difference between less emphasized and more emphasized marked themes does not seem to be significant since the frequency percentage of more emphasized marked themes is 33.8%. The results also show that few English thematized sentences were translated as unmarked themes (27.4%).

4. Conclusion

Although further research on the topic is certainly necessary, by observing the results of each individual part of the translation test, some conclusions can still be drawn. In the area of topicalization, most items were translated into Persian as less emphasized marked themes and few items were translated as unmarked themes. As both less emphasized and more emphasized marked themes belong to a greater category, i.e. marked themes, the difference between marked and unmarked translation of English thematized sentences regarding their effect on the audience, is considerable. The only part of the test in which unmarked translation is more frequent than marked one, is the second part related to passivization.

Most English passive sentences are translated as active sentences because active sentences are frequently used in Persian contrary to English. By observing the results of the third part of the test related to cleft sentences, it can be concluded that most English thematized sentences are translated as more emphasized marked themes like source sentences. Finally, in the fourth part of the test, most items are translated as less emphasized marked themes. By considering the results derived from the analysis of the translation test as a whole, most English thematized sentences are translated as less emphasized marked themes and few items are translated as unmarked themes. As we know, the difference between less emphasized and more emphasized marked theme is the degree of markedness. If we consider both of them as one major category i.e. marked theme, it can be stated that most English thematized sentences were translated as marked themes. By this conclusion, we can assert that markedness does not greatly vary in English thematized constructions compared to Persian equivalents. If we want to consider these two types of marked themes individually, we can say that less emphasized marked themes are more frequent than more emphasized one but the difference between them seems not to be considerable. Nevertheless, both less emphasized and more emphasized marked themes are more frequent than unmarked themes in the translation of English thematized sentences.

However, the results of the study show that there are some differences between marked and unmarked translation of English thematized sentences regarding their effect on the audience.

References

Baker, M. (1992). In Other Words. London and NewYork: Routledge

Baker, M. (1998). Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies. London: Routledge

Bell, Roger T. (1991). Translation and Translating. Theory and Practice. New York: Longman Inc.

Defoe, D. (1719). Robinson Crusoe. London:Penguin Books

Grzegorek, M. (1984). Thematizatiion in English and Polish: Poznan

Halliday, M. (1994). An Introduction to Functional Grammar. New York: Edward Arnold

Newmark, P. (1988). A Textbook of Translation: Prentice Hall International (UK) Ltd.

خان جان،عليرضا، رويکردی نقش گرا به ساختار اطلاعاتی جمله در ترجمه،مطالعات ترجمه،  
سال دوم، شماره پنجم،بهار ۱۳٨۳. 30-7

About the author(s)

My name is Hossein Barzegar. I was born in Sari/Iran in 1979. I was accepted by the Kerman Shahid Bahonar University in 2001 and received my B.A. degree in English translation in 2005. Shortly thereafter, I was accepted as a student for an M.A. degree in translation studies at Tehran Teacher Training University. I received the MA degree in February 2008.

Email: [please login or register to view author's email address]

©inTRAlinea & Hossein Barzegar (2012).
"Marked and Unmarked Translation of English Thematized Literary Sentences into Persian", inTRAlinea Vol. 14.
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Stable URL: http://www.intralinea.org/archive/article/1884

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