Translate or transliterate? When metonymic names are more than proper names


  • Raja Lahiani UAE University


Literary translation, proper names, metonymy, pre-Islamic poetry, Mu‘allaqāt


This paper investigates problems surrounding translating and/or transliterating, examines a case study, and discusses how a poet/lover uses different appellations to purposefully address his beloved, which include the beloved’s actual name and three different heteronyms that are examples of metonymy. The repetitions of the actual name and metonymic processing are functionally effective in expressing the poet’s feelings. As proper names, metonymic appellations possess the power of clarification, which not only establishes meaning-making but also the speaker’s appeal and perspective, thus contributing nuance and salience. By conducting a comparative critical assessment of a corpus consisting of French and English translations, this study demonstrates how cultural and pragmatic losses are incurred in the process of conveying the verbal metonymic signs of the original culture to a different culture. The outcome is a misinterpretation of the source text’s literariness and its pragmatic forces. As this study confirms, proper names are more than deictic symbols, and they also bear functional communicative clues that determine specific translation techniques through which they can travel.

Author Biography

  • Raja Lahiani, UAE University

    Raja Lahiani has a PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), The University of London and an MA in comparative literature from the University of La Manouba, Tunisia. She is the author of Eastern Luminaries Disclosed to Western Eyes: a Critical Evaluation of the Translations of the Muʿallaqāt into English and French (1782-2000), published by Peter Lang in 2008. Dr Lahiani has articles in the fields of comparative literature and translation studies published in scholarly high-indexed peer-reviewed journals. She is also peer reviewer in high-indexed journals that publish in the fields of translation studies and literary translation. Raja Lahiani has been teaching at different universities across Tunisia, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. She is currently a full-time faculty member at the Translation Studies Program, Department of Languages and Literature, UAE University.