Paving the way to the text: Forms and Functions of Book Titles in Translation

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Abstract


When we are looking at the books displayed in the window of a bookshop, what first catches the eye is the title. Titles pave the way to the text, even in a literal sense. In any case, they establish a first contact with a potential readership, informing them, for example, about the genre (novel, non-fiction, children’s book) or the content of the book, praising its qualities, and, if all this raises the readers’ interest, appealing to them to buy and later read the book, or even guiding their interpretation of the text. This shows how important it is that a title is apt to fulfil all these functions - an original title in its own culture, a translated title in the target culture. It is a well-known fact that translators do not normally have the last word in the process of deciding on the title of a book they have translated. Nevertheless, if they can offer good arguments for or against certain title formulations, they might at least be heard. At any rate, just pleading for a “faithful” translation of the original title will not do. There may be a lot of arguments - and not only linguistic ones - against a literal translation, with which translators have to be familiar. The following study is based on a corpus including titles of fictional, nonfictional and children’s books in English, German, French and Spanish. After justifying the classification as titles as texts, and even a genre with its own culture-specific conventions, it aims at showing the forms and functions of book titles in order to provide a sound foundation for their translation, discussing some of the problems derived from this functional perspective.

About the authors

Christiane Nord

University of the Free State

Email: post@christiane-nord.de
205 Nelson Mandela Dr, Park West, Bloemfontein, 9301, South Africa
professional translator, PhD, Habilitation, Dr. honoris causa (mult) translation scholar specialised in translation pedagogy.

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