Dialogue in Translation: The Nightrunner Series from English to Japanese

By Katherine Brownlee and Mio Bryce.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper will examine both the original English and translated Japanese editions of Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner Series in order to demonstrate the essential role of dialogue in communicating the personalities of the major characters, and how those personalities can be altered by translation. It will examine the unique difficulties presented by translation from English to Japanese caused by the strongly hierarchical nature of the Japanese language which requires the translator to have a thorough understanding of each individual character in a novel in order to produce authentic and natural translations of dialogue which accurately reflect the characters’ age, gender, social status and relationships. Stephens and McCallum tell us that “because retellings do not, and cannot, also reproduce the discoursal mode of the source, they cannot replicate its significances, and always impose their own cultural presuppositions in the process of retelling”(1998, p.4). The translator must thus strive to reach a balance where the characters, setting and era of a novel are translated in a manner which remains true to the original, yet are still accessible to the audience of the translated work. The Nightrunner Series demonstrates the difficulty of achieving this in the case of a fantasy novel set in a created reality where the translator must infer precise social hierarchies and navigate the complex interactions of age, gender, social status and relationships.

Keywords: Japanese, Translation, Dialogue, Nightrunner series, Characterisation

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 6, Issue 12, pp.29-36. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 603.878KB).

Katherine Brownlee

Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Although Katherine is still an undergraduate student at Macquarie University, she has completed her Japanese studies, and has a strong interest in the process of translation both from English to Japanese, and Japanese to English.

Dr. Mio Bryce

Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Senior lecturer and Head of Asian Studies at Macquarie University, teaching Japanese language, literature and manga/anime. PhD in Japanese classical literature (The Tale of Genji) from the University of Sydney.

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