July 2010, Volume 8, No.7 (Serial No.82)
US-China Foreign Language, ISSN1539-8080, USA
(De)constructing humour across languages and genres
(English Language and Translation, University of Bari (Aldo Moro), Bari 70125, Italy)
Abstract: In Western societies, humour appears in many different communicative events, and is variedly expressed through words, pictures, sounds and body language. Humour is peculiar in that it is creative, compelling and culture-specific, and produces effects that go beyond the “humour feeling” aroused by a witty remark or a funny situation. Moreover, humour appreciation does not always go hand in hand with the ability to (re)produce it successfully (Vandaele, 2002, p. 150; p. 169). These are arguably some of the reasons why humour presents an exciting challenge to translation, whatever its position may be on the acceptability-adequacy continuum in the target language (Toury, 1995). After introducing the conceptual structure of humour put forward by Jeroen Vandale (2002), the author will firstly analyse a sample of multi-modal, non-literary texts produced either in England or Italy, as an exercise in decoding the “multiple” meaning of humour in the English/Italian translation classroom (Vandaele, 2002, p. 156). The author will then examine the “convergent similarity” between the way humour is expressed in Jeanette Winterson’s novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and the Italian translation Non ci sono solo le arance (There Are Not Only Oranges) by Maria Ludovica Petta (Chesterman, 2007). In this translation-oriented case study, the author compares the (re)encoding of humour across languages and cultures with a view to heighten translation students’ awareness of the linguistic constraints and options involved in reproducing humour. It is suggested that the insights gained by the contextualised analysis of humour across genres and languages provide trainee translators with an increased awareness of the specific meaning of humour in a variety of text types and a basis for the examination and assessment of their own target texts. Key words: humour feeling; translation; advertising; multi-modal texts; translation pedagogy
“It has been said that laughter is therapeutic and amiability lengthens the life span” (Angelou, 1993, p. 7). It comes as no surprise, therefore, that humour, at least in the Western world, seems to be all around people. It appears in many different communicative events and is expressed through a variety of modes, which act interactively and separately to arouse the “humour feeling”, broadly defined by Vandaele (2002, p. 151), “As any sort of ‘positive feeling’ or response to a (relatively) successful instance of humour, where ‘positive’ means that the instance of humour is indeed somehow acknowledged; this does not exclude ‘aggressive’ humour”. This minimal working definition of the humorous feeling refers only to one aspect of the umbrella concept of humour, namely its “exteriorized manifestation” (Vandaele, 2002, p. 150). But, as Vandaele (2002) contends, there is more humour than its perlocutionary effect: a successful humorous instance can in fact be construed more appropriately in terms of: (1) The (con)textual causes of the humour feeling; (2) The humour feeling in its own right; and (3) The further intended and unintended effects that the humour feeling itself causes, e.g., goodwill, cheerfulness, etc.. Sara Laviosa, lecturer of English Language and Translation, University of Bari (Aldo Moro); research fields: corpus translation studies, translation. 26
(De)constructing humour across languages and genres
It can be safely affirmed that Vandale’s proposed conceptual structure of humour can be of value to the translation scholar, the translation student and the professional translator, who wish to gain a clearer understanding of how humour is encoded and re-encoded in source and target texts. In this paper, the author illustrates how...
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(Edited by Sunny and Chris)
Appendix 1 Genesis Like most people I lived for a long time with my mother and father. My father liked to watch the wrestling, my mother liked to wrestle; it didn’t matter what. She was in the white corner and that was that. She hung out the largest sheets on the windiest days. She wanted the Mormons to knock on the door. At election time in a Labour mill town she put a picture of the Conservative candidate in the window. She had never heard of mixed feelings. There were friends and there were enemies. Enemies were: The Devil (in his many forms) Next Door Sex (in its many forms) Slugs Friends were: God Our dog Auntie Madge The Novels of Charlotte Brontë Slug pellets And me, at first, I had been brought in to join her in a tag match against the Rest of the World. She had a mysterious attitude towards the begetting of children; it wasn’t that she couldn’t do it, more that she didn’t want to do it. She was very bitter about the Virgin Mary getting there first. So she did the next best thing and arranged for a foundling. That was me. I cannot recall a time when I did not know that I was special. We had no Wise Men because she didn’t believe there were any wise men, but we had sheep. One of my earliest memories is me sitting on a sheep at Easter while she told me the story of the Sacrificial Lamb. We had it on Sundays with potato. From Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Vintage, 1990, 2nd reprint, 1991, pp. 1-4.
Come quasi tutti ho vissuto a lungo con mio padre e mia madre. A mio padre piaceva guardare la lotta, a mia madre piaceva farla; non importava quale. Lei era nel giusto, e poche storie. Sceglieva le giornate più ventose per stendere i lenzuoli doppi. Esigeva che i mormoni bussassero alla porta. Durante le elezioni, in una cittadina operaia laburista mise alla finestra la foto del candidato conservatore. Non aveva mai avuto incertezze. Per lei il mondo si divideva in amici e nemici. I nemici erano: Il Diavolo (nelle sue varie forme) I vicini (to be continued on Page 43) 37
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