Jumat, 06 Maret 2009


Vinay and Darbelnet coined the term `modulation' to define `a variation through a change of viewpoint, of perspective (eclairage) and very often of category of thought'. Standard modulations such as chateau d'eau, 'water-tower', are recorded in bilingual dictionaries. Free modulations are used by translators `when the TL rejects literal translation', which, by Vinay and Darbelnet's criteria, means virtually always. Further, modulations are divided into eleven rather random categories, whilst the - in my opinion- only important one, the `negated contrary' (sic), is not discussed.
As I see it, the general concept, since it is a super-ordinate term covering almost everything beyond literal translation, is not useful as it stands. However, the `negated contrary', which I prefer to call `positive for double negative' (or `double negative for positive') is a concrete translation procedure which can be applied in principle to any action (verb) or quality (adjective or adverb):
Il n'a pas hesite -'He acted at once'
Il n'est pas ldche -'He is extremely brave'
You will note that the translations are free, and in theory the double negative is not as forceful as the positive; in fact the force of the double negative depends on the tone of voice, and therefore the appropriateness of this modulation must depend on its formulation and the context.
In the few cases where there is a lexical gap in an opposition (e.g. `shallow'; peu profond), this modulation is virtually mandatory. In all other sentences the procedure is potentially available, but you should only use it when the translation is not natural unless you do so. Thus `minor' collocated with, say, `detail' seems to call for a translation such as sans importance, unbedeutend, although petit, klein, etc., remain as alternatives. Again, `it will not seem unlikely that' is perhaps best translated as il est fort probable que . . . In other cases, the procedure is merely a `candidate' for use, e.g. `He made it plain to him' - il ne le lui cacha pas, il le lui fit comprendre; `Men will not always die quietly' (J. M. Keynes) - Les hommes ne mourront pas toujours sans se plaindre; `no mean city' - cite qui West pas sans importance; `no mean performer on the violin'- il joue superieurement du violon.
Vinay and Darbelnet's second modulation procedure, `part for the whole', is rather misleadingly described; it consists of what I call familiar alternatives, viz. le 14 juillet (fete nationale); l'homme du 18 juin (De Gaulle); la fille ainee de l'Eglise (France); `Athens of the North' (Edinburgh).
The other modulation procedures are: (a) abstract for concrete (`sleep in the open', dormir a la belle etoile); (b) cause for effect (`You're quite a stranger', On ne vous plus); (c) one part for another (`from cover to cover', de la premiere d la
derniere page); (d) reversal of terms (lebensgefkhrlich, danger de mort; n'appelez pas du bas de l'escalier, `don't call up the stairs'; assurance-maladie, `health insurance'); (e) active for passive; (f) space for time (`as this in itself (space) presented a difficulty', `cela presentant dejd (time) une difficulte); (g) intervals and limits; (h) change of symbols.
Of these procedures, `active for passive' (and vice versa) is a common transposition, mandatory when no passive exists, advisable where, say, a reflexive is normally preferred to a passive, as in the Romance languages. Reversal of terms
(Nida's `conversive' terms) is also a distinct procedure, usually optional for making language sound natural: 'buy/sell', 'lend/borrow', hauteur d'eau/`depth of water'; for English `loan' there are alternatives in other languages and creance translates `claim' as `credit' or `debt' depending on the point of view.
You will note that though I think Vinay's and Darbelnet's categorisation of modulation unconvincing, their abundant translation examples are always stimu­lating.

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