Translating bilinguality : Theorizing translation in the Post-Babelian era

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Translation is often defined as interlingual transfer, with correspondences sought between two languages. But what if the original text is written in more than one language? This paper addresses a number of situations where bilinguality impacts the translation process and problematizes conventional concepts of translation. Several categories of examples are discussed. The first of these involves texts (by Tolstoy and Hemingway) into which isolated stretches of a second language are incorporated. Then, there are fictional works where a second language is extensively deployed, but is already translated for the reader. Examples are works by Buck, Clavell, and Maugham, where Chinese characters are made to speak English and the novelists have to play the role of translators. Finally, there are postmodern texts wherein the author inhabits, as it were, two linguistic realms: those of his or her mother tongue and the acquired tongue. The discussion here will revolve around two distinct groups of writers: those who are competent in more than one language and blend the features of two or more languages in their work (like James Joyce), and those who are proficient in one language but have mother-tongue knowledge of another (like Maxine Hong Kingston). A close examination of works by the last category of writers in translation reveals the limits of existing translation theories, which are based on a bilingual one-to-one model and do not take into consideration features of "interlinguality" and "intralinguality" within texts. 42 References. Adapted from the source document
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-72
Number of pages24
JournalThe Translator : Studies in Intercultural Communication
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2002


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