Literary heteroglossia in translation

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The last decade, e.g. through post-colonial studies, research on cultural identity construction has been focusing on aspects as “multilingualism” or “language plurality.” Heteroglossia or literary language plurality is the presence in the text of foreign idioms or social, regional, historical. . . varieties, considered in this paper not from an anecdotic or normative but from a functional, institutional viewpoint. Functional research on heteroglossia in “original” literary prose has developed a solid tradition in Canada, but it has remained virtually unknown in Descriptive Translation Studies. How heteroglossic can (or must) a translation be in a certain context? What are the modalities and identity functions of literary language plurality in literary translations? Until now, these questions have not got the attention they deserve. Because translation is a cross-cultural process between cultures maintaining unequal power relations (cf. Robyns 1994), its degree of language plurality can be loaded with the highest symbolic importance. Therefore, functional descriptive studies of heteroglossia in translated prose can offer a possible correction of a certain idealizing monolingualism of translation studies’ models and enhance our understanding of literary identity construction and cultural dynamics. The present paper tries to put forward some hypotheses inspired by research on translations of Flemish novels into French during the 20s and 30s of the twentieth century in Belgium.


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