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

Raja Lahiani


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.


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

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