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Investigating the use of the verbs ”naru” in Japanese and ”bli” in Swedish through translation

Posted By admin On May 30, 2013 @ 2:19 pm In Abstracts for 2013, Linguistics and Language Teaching | Comments Disabled

Hiroko Inose, Senior Lecturer

Mariya Aida Niendorf, Lecturer

Department of Japanese

Högskolan Dalarna, Sweden

This study investigates how use of the Swedish verb “bli” corresponds to the Japanese verb “naru” using translated materials as a corpus.

Japanese is said to be a situation-oriented language, while English is person-oriented.

e.g., Mariko wa kekkon surukotoni NARImashita.

(It became so that Mariko will be married.)

‘Mariko will get married’ in English.

The Swedish verb ”bli” usually means ’to become’ or ’to be (as an auxiliary verb),’ yet is used more widely than these English meanings.

e.g., Det blir 100 kronor, tack.

(100 kr ni NARI-masu.)

’It makes/will be 100kr.’

Examples like this lead to the observation that ”bli” is used in a context more similar to the Japanese verb ”naru.” than English verb “become.” Comparison of some translated materials also shows that “bli” is often translated into Japanese as “naru” while it is more likely to be replaced by a transitive or intransitive verb in English.

However, erros such as

*okoru ni NARU (verb ‘to be upset’+naru)

[okoru: a verb]

*annshin ni NARU (noun ‘feeling at ease’ +naru)

[annshin suru: a verb derived from a noun]

which are made by Swedish learners of Japanese indicate that the translation of “bli” into Japanese is not so straight forward.

In this study, we examined the following questions:

  1. How is ”bli” translated into Japanese/English?
  2. If ”bli” is translated into ”naru” in Japanese, in what grammatical context(s) does it occur?
  3. How are these variations related to the errors students make in translating ”bli” into  Japanese?

In order to examine the above research questions, we conducted two separate studies:

Study I: Examining how Swedish bli is translated into Japanese in literature translation

Using children´s novels “Sommerboken” by Tove Jansson and “Pippi Långstrump” by Astrid Lindgren as the data source, all the sentences that contain bli were extracted along with their translations into English and Japanese. The extracted sentences were, then, categorized according to the various types of usage of the verb bli, and the translation into Japanese for each of those categories was analyzed.

Study II: The translation of various uses of bli into Japanese by Swedish students

Study I above showed usages of the verb bli in various context. In Study II, we tried to see if some of these usages cause more problems than the others for the Swedish students. The students in the Japanese-English translation course at Högskolan Dalarna (Sweden) were given 7 Swedish sentences containing various usages of bli, and were asked to translate them into Japanese. Then the accuracy of the translation and the translation techniques used were analyzed.

The results from Study I showed that there were numerous usages of the verb bli, such as describing conditions, describing the changes of conditions, indicating certain emotional status, and so on, which naturally led to the variety in Japanese translation. Furthermore,  apart from the most literal translation, which is to use the verb naru, various types of compound verbs (main verb – help verb combinations) were used in order to express different nuances.

In some of the usages identified above, translation shifts were obligatory when translated into Japanese; i.e. the literal translation was impossible, and the translator has to make minor changes from the ST (source text) to the TT (target text), such as changes of grammatical categories or of voice (e.g. passive to active).

The results from the Study II show that the sentences which require more complicated translation shifts tend to cause more errors when students translate them into Japanese.

Clarifying how the use of “bli” correlates with the use of “naru” will not only help Swedish students understand the use of the somewhat difficult concept of “naru,” but also help translators deal with this issue. Finding a more systematic way to translate “bli” into Japanese using more tokens from various genres would be necessary in order to achieve this.

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