Translating linguistic innovation in Francophone African novels
Ortega y Gasset's assertion that 'to write well is to make continual incursions into grammar, into established usage, and into accepted linguistic norms' finds resonance in the work of a number of sub-Saharan Francophone African writers, most notably in texts by Ahmadou Kourouma, Veronique Tadjo, Werewere Liking, Henri Lopes and Sony Labou Tansi. The types of incursions that are most characteristic of these authors include the incorporation of visible and quasi-invisible traces of African languages, the exploitation of stylistic features associated with orality, including sustained use of colloquialisms and vulgarisms, and experimentation with various kinds of wordplay. Taking as its corpus all of the novels by these authors that are available in English translation, the thesis seeks to set the translations in their publishing context and to analyse the ways in which the translators treat the linguistic innovation of the originals. It reveals the dominance of translation strategies that normalise the linguistically or generically innovative features of the original texts, or, where these are retained to any significant degree, that separate them from the 'standard' language through typographical variation. When the post-colonial context of the original texts is taken into account, such normalising and exoticising strategies can be seen to have significant implications, diminishing the ability of the texts to carry broader cultural and political significance. For this reason, a number of critics have argued the need for a 'decolonised translation practice'. The thesis outlines the type of translation practice that might be viewed as 'decolonised', engaging in debates over the untranslatability of layered language, and drawing comparisons with other translation theories developed at the interface with post-colonial studies such as foreignising translation, the space between, and metametonymics.