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Open Access Publications from the University of California


Translation: A Translation Studies Journal, or TSJ for short, is a digital, peer-reviewed scholarly journal committed to publishing original, innovative, and potentially influential scholarly work on any aspect of literary translation. TSJ is also the venue for the publication of literary translations, from and into English - other source-target languages will be considered as long as a scholarly discussion of problems and translation methodology forms an integral part of the submission.

TSJ was born out of the Translation Studies Research Focus Group at the University of California Santa Barbara, and was conceived of originally as a graduate student-run journal. As such we produced the first two volumes of the journal, as paper issues that we soon hope to make accessible online. The UCSB Translation Studies Research Focus Group has meanwhile turned into a fully-fledged Ph.D. Emphasis in Translation Studies, with the cross-disciplinary collaboration of many UCSB Departments, and a biannual conference dedicated to literary translation.

While graduate student collaboration is still an important part of the journal, TSJ is now run by UCSB faculty and affiliated scholars in the field of literary translation. Its volumes are typically devoted to specific themes, and each issue is run by a committee of issue editors selected by the executive committee.

The Necessary Foreign: Translating Dialects

Issue Editors: Philip Balma, Stefano Boselli, Viola Miglio

Managing Editor: Viola Miglio

Volume 3 is the first issue of the journal after its migration to the eScholarship platform, and it is devoted to the thorny problems of translating from and into dialects, which present a further level of complexity given that the choice of their use in literature is always a precise and conscious one by the author, hence it represents a ‘necessary foreign’ element in the original texts. The papers published here all address various aspects of rendering this ‘necessary foreign’ in translation. Most of them involve issues of dialect translation into/from Italian dialects. The special issue editors felt not only that the problems of translating dialects are a neglected facet of translation studies, but also that the extremely rich dialectal diversity of the Italian linguistic situation provided an excellent testing ground to highlight these issues. Volume 3 provides the Translation Studies community with an organic contribution addressing an important aspect of the discipline.

Front Matter

Title Page - Volume 3

Short summary about volume 3 contents and list of editors for this issue.



The preservation of cultural diversity and issues of prestige are considered in underlining the importance of translating dialects.


Dialectal texts have the potential, perhaps more than any other texts, to be truly untranslatable. Putting aside the complex obstacles presented by texts that employ a number of different vernaculars and a variety of registers (such as Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and Gadda’s Pasticciaccio), this study will focus on the limitations of a trilingual format for the translation of dialect poetry, and propose an alternate quadrilingual solution designed to reflect the unique linguistic features of Italy’s many dialects. A single poem (“Can,” by the late Venetian poet Ernesto Calzavara) will be used as a case in point. A published translation of said poem is presented as a practical application of a strategy that has more often been theorized than put into practice.

In order to reflect the ever-changing linguistic realities of our modern world, it is argued in this study, the field of translation studies must remain as fluid and flexible as the language(s) we speak, read, and write. Given the renewed interest in and production of dialect poetry in Italy during the last thirty years, it is fundamentally important for experienced and novice translators to think critically about these issues and to engage one another in an open-minded, constructive debate. Making use of a quadrilingual format for scholarly editions of translations is merely one answer to the seemingly impossible questions raised by Zanzotto (among others) and tackled by the likes of Williams, Haller, Bonaffini, DuVal, Welle, Feldman, and Perteghella. Perhaps the single best reason to publish dialect poetry in four different versions is that such a strategy makes the best use of all extant examples available to Italophone academics who make translation studies their focus.


This study on the 18th century Scottish poet Robert Fergusson (1750-1774) focuses on how one might translate one of his compositions in Lowland Scots, 'The Daft Days,' published in 1772. This was a ground-breaking poem, the first one to be published in Lowland Scots in The Weekly Magazine, a successful periodical with wide distribution. Fergusson’s vernacular poem focuses on the 'crazy' days of revelry and mirth (in this sense daft) around Christmas time and is thematically centered on descriptions of Edinburgh's Old Town and its inhabitants.  Buffoni proposes three “Italian” versions: the first is a literal rendition (which immediately follows the original text); the second is translated in the dialect of Milan and the third – which appears as a footnote of sorts to the second – is a translation of the Milanese in standard Italian. Since Fergusson had opted for the dialect spoken in his city, Buffoni imitated him in this respect, conscious of the fact that his version in the Milanese dialect 'is nothing if not an imitation.'


In 1978 Cardinal Albino Luciani was elected Pope at Rome andchose as his papal, public name John Paul I. Immediately afterwards, a volume of the new Pope’s essays was published with the title Illustrissimi, for the illustrious saints and scholars, fictional characters and writers (such as Mark Twain, Francesco Petrarca, and Gioachino Belli) whom Cardinal Luciani had addressed and imaginatively conversed with in each of these essays.

Trilussa was one of only three Italian poets whom the Pope, that is, Albino Luciani, addressed in his book. The other two were Petrarca and Gioachino Belli, a poet who, like Trilussa, wrote not in standard Italian, but in Romanesco, the modern dialect of Rome. However, Luciani’s essay “To Trilussa: In the Heart of the Mystery,” reveals a misinterpretation of Trilussa’s thirteen-line poem “La Guida,” which he used as a springboard to discuss what Christian faith is and what it is not.

In this essay, DuVal translates Trilussa's Romanesco poem into English and discusses its analysis and meaning, points out the echoes of Dante in the poem, as well as addressing why Pope Luciani may have misinterpreted it, while at the same time honouring with the attention he devotes to it in his essay.



The origins of theatrical Italian are rooted in literature rather than orality, and this has regularly been at odds with any demands for realism. At the same time, the unique and broad assortment of regional dialects that actively interact with Italian offers a great opportunity for dramatists who wish to endow their plays with a closer connection to everyday life. Unfortunately, these dialects are often mutually unintelligible and represent a risky choice for authors aiming at a general circulation of their plays in regions other than the one a particular dialect belongs to. While the traditional choice in implementing dialect has been to simplify it and make it more understandable, thus unavoidably losing some of its visceral power, in his monologue Carta canta, Raffaello Baldini adopted a more effective and functional solution through the frequent code-switching between Italian and an underlying dialect. This process makes his monologues both extremely realistic and understandable outside his native Romagna.

In this essay, Boselli takes a closer look at the development of Italian for the stage, and analyses Baldini's play to highlight its originality, maintaining that Baldini's language provides the Italian theatrical tradition with a definitive blueprint for tapping into the powerful resources of dialects and it gives them an opportunity to survive. Boselli also takes a close look at Adria Bernardi's translation of Baldini's play, mostly based on the Italian translation of the play made by Baldini himself, and as a 'translation of a translation' forgoes some important details of the original. Boselli concludes by saying that the fact that the work has indeed pierced the linguistic barrier is a point of merit for both translator and editor, but that clearer intentions and tighter collaboration, as well as the participation of professional performers are needed to translate for the theatre. Otherwise, the playtext does not enter the canon of actually performed plays in the new culture and remains, at best, opaque literature.


Eduardo De Filippo (1900-1984) was a leading exponent of both Neapolitan and Italian twentieth century theatre and is among the few Italian playwrights whose works have been translated into English. He portrayed different facets of human nature using Neapolitan dialect as a language and not purely as a folkloristic factor. Dialect was, therefore, a powerful means to disseminate universal values while reaffirming the importance of local identities. This essay looks at translations into British and American English of three plays by De Filippo, and examines the implications of the translators’ choices in the receptor theatrical system in terms of the portrayal of Neapolitan culture.De Martino starts from the premise that at the basis of the translating process there is cultural transfer between languages, and suggests that dialect theatre represents an autonomous genre, separate from standard Italian theatre, and in particular that language domestication reduces the cultural impact of the original plays. To support her argument, she looks at the representation of female characters in the translations of the plays Filumena Marturano (1946), Napoli milionaria! (1945) and Natale in casa Cupiello(1931), and she illustrates how the translations have confirmed stereotypes about Neapolitan culture that depict it as loud, comic and over-excitable, and in so doing have somewhat denaturalised the original works. De Martino'sanalysis investigates the effects of domestication through languagestandardization, and cultural appropriation of the source text through assimilation of Neapolitan dialect to a working class local idiom. De Martino concludes that one of the consequences of neutralization of the linguistic factor and reiteration of preconceived representations of Neapolitans is the establishment of the target culture’s supremacy over the foreign text, both in terms of reaffirming its language and in toning down or eliminating altogether the otherness of the plays. However, De Filippo’s choice to write in dialect needs to be accounted for in translation, insofar as, while having clear culturalsignificance, dialect is employed for specific stylistic reasons, especially where it is juxtaposed to standard Italian.


In assessing the untranslatability of dialects, Valeria Petrocchi focuses in this paper on Gadda's Quer pasticciaccio brutto de via Merulana and William Weaver's translation of the novel.

The Roman dialect word 'pasticciaccio' in Gadda's title hints at a very intrigued situation. It has an ontological connotation and is a synonym for the inextricable and unfathomable personal inner essence. The meaning therefore entails an existential and philosophical implication that gives a peculiar physiognomy to the whole novel and justifies the lack of a final resolution. Therefore, the novel is unfinished but not incomplete. The Americantranslator William Weaver was well aware of this and as a result he faced the text by realizing a “translation in progress.” The difficulty in translating Quer pasticciaccio brutto de via Merulana resides in the novel's multi-dialectal patchwork (Italian standard and Roman, but also Molise, Neapolitan and Veneto dialects), which reflects Gadda’s angst and reveals unsolvable and unsolved conflicts that Weaver took into account in his translation. The mixture of Italian with dialects is intentionally designed by Gadda to create a grotesque tension between reality vs. appearance, truth vs. lie. Dialects represent popular spontaneity and are, thus, the only useful means to act against hypocrisy.

Petrocchi concludes that Weaver's sensitivity allows him to establish a direct relationship with Gadda, and he can, therefore, propose a translation that is prospectively bound to meet the intentio lectoris in a language different from the original, yet intact in its deep perception.


Using Translation Studies methodology, the author analyzes the problems the Icelandic translator of Poniatowska's testimonial novel Hasta no verte Jesús mío might encounter in transposing Jesusa's Mexican Spanish to Icelandic. The main issue, Miglio argues, is transposing the richly dialectal speech of Jesusa Palancares into a language essentially devoid of dialectal distinctions and so far removed from Mexico in cultural and geographical terms. A solution can be reached however if a detailed analysis of the text is carried out first, which would reveal that it is not regional dialectal nuances that are important in Poniatowska's text, but rather the fact that those features of Jesusa's speech are mainly sociolinguistic, lower class markers.  Equivalences to these can be found in Icelandic too, and in fact, are readily available in Salka Valka, a novel by 1955 Nobel Prize winner Halldór Laxness. Miglio proceeds to analyze parallels between the two novels, pointing out the literary and cultural elements they share. (The article is in Spanish).