The application of semantics to the translation of pre-Islamic poetry: with special reference to the 'Mu'allaqa' of Imru al-Qays
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This thesis, to the best of our knowledge, is the first attempt to apply semantics to the translation of pre-Islamic poetry. But this is a thorny path. This poetry is some of the most ambiguous, confusing, disorganized and perfunctorily investigated in the whole of Arabic literature. The Mucallaga of Imru'al-Qays, our subject of study, the crowning achievement of this poetry, is in an even worse case. The principal problem which confronts the researcher as well as the translator is the usual one of how best to bridge the cultural gulf of both time and place, to set this Mucallaga in its cultural context so as to understand its theme, and achieve the same communicative effect of the text in translation. Commentaries and lexicons are of. little help here, because their main interest is the denotation of single words of this Mucallaga rather than in its organic unity. The setting of this Mucallaga in its Semitic literary context would cast some light on its essential theme and hence open new horizons for further comprehensive research in this field. This is the task we embarked upon in Chapter 1. Confronted with fifteen main commentaries, and two English translations of this Mucallaga, we have resorted to the current semantic theories in the hope that in one of them we would find a happy solution to the problem of translating these commentaries, or at'least help in organizing them systematically. Much to our dismay, however, the bulky literature on this subject bequeathed to us a welter of controversial theories, perhaps because semantics is quite a new branch of linguistics. These contradictory theories have been presented to demonstrate the difficulty of adopting any one particular semantic theory. Nonetheless, certain structural semantic relationships have been found to be of highly significant application. This, and particularly the structural semantic-relationships as well as their employment throughout this thesis have been discussed in Chapter II. A theory of translation necessarily overlaps with a theory of semantics. Chapter II made it clear that the help we might have expected from semantics is but a pipe-dream. Instead of bemoaning, philological, linguistic and socio-linguistic approaches to the theory and practice of translation have been suggested. In Chapter III these approaches have been demonstrated and applied to the translations of (J. ) and (A. ) who, owing to the ambiguity of the text, have resorted to the commentaries - appendices of which have been attached. It has been concluded that the full translation of this Mucallaqa is almost impossible because of the myriad phonological, semantic and cultural problems. However, it has been argued that the development of a more comprehensive semantic theory upon which an eclectic theory of translation could depend, and a more profound and accurate investigation of the essential theme of this Mucallaga would get rid of a lot of the problems of research and translation.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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