An Analysis of “The Histories” Translation Essay Sample

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The first translation of “The Histories” was written in 1910, and so had many archaic words and constructions that are archaic, but most of the changes made in the 1998 translation are stylistic changes. An example of the second passage being changed to sound better, rather than make more sense to the modern reader, is the use of shorter, simple sentences, rather than the long sentences in the 1910 version, containing many clauses. While the earlier passage has only five sentences over sixteen lines, the 1998 version has been broken up into six sentences, over 12 lines. The reason these alterations have been made by the author of the later passage is that he or she is writing for a more modern audience. In the 88 years that have passed between the writing of the two passages, none of the words have become obsolete, but some of the lexis has become archaic, and so the author of the 1998 text has changed some words, either semantically or morphologically to accommodate his audience.

As both texts are translations of a Latin text, they are both set out in a similar way, according to the appearance of the original text, and so there is little that can be said about the graphological differences between text A (1910) and B (1998). Some words in text A are not used in modern language often, and are thus archaic, such as “defile”, and so were replaced by a modern synonym; in the case of this example, “defile” was substituted for “pass”.

Another archaism that has been changed in text B is the use of the circumflex accent over the o in “Histiae�tis”, which does not appear in t he 1998 version. This change has been brought about because Modern English in 1998 contained very few accents, and so the reader of Text B might not recognise the accent in “Histiae�tis”. Other words have been changed semantically, as the author of text B has translated the word from the Latin text differently to the author of text A, which explains “fix war” being replaced by “wage war”. Other lexical changes have taken place to alter the meaning of the sentence; “since it was” has been replaced by “it looked”, the first text describing the pass in a factual way, while text B describes the appearance of the pass. “guard” has also been changed to “defend”, which has a slight semantic shift too. One lexical change was carried out in order to reduce the length of the text: “fleet and army” has been changed to “forces”. In this instance, the author of text B has conveyed the information stated in text A in a more concise way.

The first text appears to be more of a transliteration than a translation, as the syntax is often complex, containing several impersonal constructions, such as the passive voice and the subjunctive mood. All of the passive verbs have been taken out, as the subject of these sentences is either delayed or unclear: “It was discovered” has been altered to become “they heard about it”, “were intercepted” has been replaced by “lead to the downfall”. This change has taken place to make the sense of the passage clearer; often the noun performing a verb is left until the end of the clause, whereas in the active form of the verb, the subject precedes the verb. In one instance, two verbs have been replaced by one finite verb, in the preterite tense, and an infinitive: “took council… and considered” has become “tried to decide”. This has been done to reduce the length of the sentence and convey one sense unit with fewer words. Similarly, “at the same time” has been changed to “meanwhile” , in order to reduce the amount of words in text B.

Some of the verbs in their subjunctive form have been turned into the indicative mood, as the subjunctive is more rare in English than in Latin: “should proceed” has been turned into “sail” and “they should guard” into “they decided to…by defending”. The author of text B has removed these subjunctive verbs, as they are not commonly used by modern English writers and speakers of. Some clauses seem to be a transliteration of the original text, as the syntax is non-standard. In the sentence beginning with “this path then” begins with the object, which does not usually happen, as English has only a few inflected endings on particular words to indicate case and number. Sometimes this construction appears in verse, as word order does not often adhere to prescriptive syntactical rules in poetry. In this sentence, the subject of the clause is “they”, as the Greeks “determined” that “they should guard” the pass. This is another example of the use of the passive voice in text A, where it has been changed into the active and the word order has been restructured to subject, verb, object in text B.

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