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II. Traduire le rythme de la prose
Mécanismes du rythme dans la prose littéraire

Who’s got rhythm? Rhythm-related shifting in literary translation

Hilkka Pekkanen


Cet article fait partie d’un projet de recherche plus étendu sur la transposition des éléments rythmiques en traduction littéraire. Il cherche à illustrer les divers aspects rythmiques et à étudier quelques-uns des éléments constitutifs du rythme dans un texte narratif. Les exemples s’appuient sur les résultats d’une analyse comparative de textes littéraires traduits de l’anglais en finnois. L’étude s’intéresse, d’une part, aux modifications que les traducteurs et traductrices ont apportées au rythme et, d’autre part, aux éléments qui n’ont pas subi de modification dans le processus traductif.

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1The fact that the linguistic means applied by different languages differ syntactically, lexically and phonologically is a challenge to translators, who are required to choose their means for expressing things from a different linguistic repertoire than that offered by their source language. Translators are compelled to resort to a variety of shifts in order to approximate the readability of the source text, but while solving one problem, shifts may have an impact on other aspects of the translation product, such as the rhythmic structure of the translated text. As a predominantly suprasegmental feature, rhythm is a problematic subject of study, which is probably why rhythmic considerations often remain in the background compared with the more easily definable lexical and phrasal problems of translation.

2The issue of rhythm in language and linguistic products has usually been approached from the viewpoint of music and verse, with the auditory effects of spoken language as its foundation, and it is indeed fairly evident to anyone hearing two different languages spoken that the two languages are rhythmically different. In written texts, the auditory effect is mediated to the reader through writing, using the phonological, lexical and syntactic instruments available in a given language. Although phonology, in a narrow sense, refers to speech rather than writing, the term is used here to denote elements of written language relating to auditory effects.

3This paper is part of a more extensive research project focusing on the mediation of rhythm-related elements in literary translation. The aim of this research project is to throw light on various manifestations of rhythm, specifically in translated literary texts. The examples given here are from translations of English novels into Finnish.

Approaches to rhythm

4The auditory aspect of rhythm is most readily evident in music, and this makes music a useful starting point for the study of rhythm in language. Linking song lyrics to music, Franzon (2008), for example, discusses the concept of “singability” on the basis of Low’s (2003) “pentathlon principle” of song translation. In song translation, stress is laid on singability, rhyme, rhythm, naturalness and fidelity to the source text and Franzon’s definition of singability maintains that the words must be easy to sing to particular note values and their syllables must match the structure of the music. This definition presents singability as one manifestation of rhythm, as various syllables need to be stressed differently so that the lyrics follow the beat of the music.

5In his analysis of metre and rhythm in Finnish poetry, Leino (1982: 312), too, starts from the auditory effect of spoken language as the basis for written rhythm and goes on to point out that compared with prose, verse rhythm is based on a specifically arranged regular metre. Although rhythm arises from speech, Leino underlines that the study of verse metre often focuses on written, as opposed to recited, poetry and that the factors affecting rhythm must therefore be defined using concepts that are independent of the actual manifestation of language in either speech or writing. Thus, alongside with tone and stress, rhythm can be considered to be a suprasegmental element. Leino’s description of the system of dynamic metre in the Finnish language relies on two basic concepts: “prominence” and “pause”. In verse metre, prominent syllables, i.e. syllables with stress, and non-prominent ones, i.e. unstressed syllables, vary according to a predetermined pattern, and the pattern is divided into units by pauses.

6When we move on from metric poetry to lyrical prose and further to general narrative texts, the metric structure of the text becomes less rigid and variation increases. Ordinary prose narrative does not call for specific definition of regularly occurring rhythmic units. Individual words and their syllabic structure are no longer the primary focus: phrases, clauses, sentences and the rhythmic structures of entire paragraphs call for attention. Other aspects that will need to be taken into account in analysing the formal linguistic features of rhythm manifested in written language are the ways in which the “newsworthiness” of the information is presented and the ways in which the writer uses syntactic manipulation to give it prominence and to direct the reader’s attention to it. (e.g. DeLancey, 1981; Mithun, 1987).

7A narratological view of rhythm as a linguistic factor is taken by Bal (1997: 99-108), who sees rhythm as a combination of the stress, length and phonological characteristics of elements that are manipulated in order to achieve certain effects in the atmosphere of the narrative. Short syllables, words, clauses and sentences with accentuating sharp phonological features in rapid staccato sequence will create a rhythmical impression different from that produced by long, melodically flowing words or sentences with smooth, long vowels in long sequences, and yet another impact is achieved by combining or contrasting the two. Further rhythmical effects can be achieved by factors relating to textual arrangement, such as order, coordination and subordination, anticipatory components, and the use of punctuation. Here punctuation corresponds to the element of pause referred to by Leino (1982).

8Crystal and Davy (1969) associate rhythm with speech effects, discussing such concepts as speakability, prosodic contrast, stress patterns, pitch, loudness, speed, pauses, variation (between monotonous elements, acceleration and slowing down), fluency, linkage of elements (which also Leech and Short (1981) discuss extensively), sentence types and their length, balance, simplicity, complexity, and order. The position of adverbial expressions is also given attention. Punctuation groups are given as a guideline for establishing prosodic units. Crystal and Davy also link rhythm with content (1988 [1969]: 136), which is a particularly pertinent aspect in literary translation. In the context of content-oriented considerations, the concept of iconicity becomes relevant (Leech, 1997; Simone (ed.), 1995).

9Leech and Short give a narrow definition to rhythm: it is “the pattern formed by the sequence of stressed and unstressed syllables: it contributes to the effect of the sentence”, but on the other hand they also speak of graphic units: “[…] written prose has an implicit ‘unspoken’ intonation of which punctuation marks are written indications […]” (1981: 215-219). Apart from the effect of punctuation, Leech and Short discuss segmentation (clauses, sentences, coordination, subordination) in relation to rhythm, with the concept of salience included, stressing the role of such textual arrangements as the order and length of elements and coordination versus subordination. Related considerations have been introduced for instance by Munday (1998) on segmentation. Also the comments of Boase-Beier (2006: 89-94) on foregrounding and on the visibility of the information to be mediated, and van Peer’s views on foregrounding (van Peer, 1986), are closely related to issues of rhythm arising from textual arrangements.

10In keeping with the tradition of looking at rhythm as arising from speech, Leech and Short also underline the link between rhythm and phonology, and Parks (1998: 215-217) includes phonological features, such as alliteration, as factors contributing to rhythmic effect (ibid.: 51). Parks also points out that the number of monosyllabic words is greater in English than in many other European languages, which affects rhythm in translation, and this is particularly true when comparing English with Finnish. Parks also underlines that rhythm has an important role in iconic representation of movement (ibid.: 56).

11In translation studies, manifestations of rhythm need to be analysed within the frameworks of two language systems with rhythmic maps which may be as different as their geographic maps. When this is the case, as it is between Finnish and English, or French and Chinese, for example, the absence of similarity between the linguistic units making up rhythm presents obvious methodological problems. The difficulty of mapping rhythm factors in any one language and in translation in particular may explain why no comprehensive presentation of rhythm-related shifts has been outlined in translation studies, in spite of the fact that a great deal of descriptive research has been carried out on rhythm in stylistic and literary studies. This paper is an introduction to a more extensive research project, which is an attempt to approach the methodological difficulties involved in comparative research on rhythm-related elements in translation. The paper outlines a perspective in which the complexity of interaction between various rhythmic elements might be analysed.

Translating rhythm from English into Finnish: research questions, method and material

12It is less problematic to analyse rhythmic units between languages that are closely related, with structural, semantic and phonological similarities providing some common ground. As a member of the Finno-Ugric group of languages, Finnish is not an Indo-European language and is not only phonetically but also structurally very different from English. Finnish is an agglutinative language, and tends to express relations by adding morphemes to words. It has strong inflectional tendencies and 15 different cases, where English relies heavily on prepositional phrases and non-finite clauses. Furthermore, Finnish has no articles, and gender is not expressed grammatically (Shore, 1992: 74-82, and 2008).

13The project to which this paper refers approaches the issue of rhythm by studying translators’ rhythm-related solutions when translating narrative texts from English into Finnish. The eventual purpose of this project is to outline a framework for describing the rhythmic aspects of translation choices within a wider framework of prosodic coherence, linguistic presentation, emphasis, and definiteness (see Chesterman, 1991 and 2007a and b; Blum-Kulka, 1986). This paper will present some examples from published literary translations to illustrate ways of approaching the following questions:

  1. What principal factors contribute to rhythm in a) the source text and b) the target text?

  2. What type of rhythmic units have translators changed in the translation process and how have they changed them?

  3. What rhythmic units have not been changed in translation?

14The overall research material comprises Finnish translations of novels written in English and English translations of novels originally written in Finnish, but the method as such is not limited to a single language pair and thus has wider significance. For the purposes of this particular paper, the literary works studied are:

    • James Joyce: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) translated into Finnish by Alex Matson: Taiteilijan omakuva nuoruuden vuosilta (1964)

    • James Joyce: Ulysses (1922) translated into Finnish by Pentti Saarikoski: Odysseus (1964) and by Leevi Lehto: Ulysses (2012)

    • Ernest Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises (1926) translated into Finnish by Jouko Linturi: Ja aurinko nousee (1954)

    • Ernest Hemingway: For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940) translated into Finnish by Tauno Tainio: Kenelle kellot soivat (1954)

15The research method applied in this study is based on a procedure developed by Pekkanen (2010) for analysing the style of individual translators through translation shifts. It is assumed that the method of mapping the shifts resorted to by translators on the basis of the frequencies of their stylistic choices will prove practicable in the study of rhythm-related shifts, too.

16The research data is gathered manually by comparing the source texts with the target texts and by recording any shifting in relation to rhythm. Also instances where no such shifting has taken place are recorded for comparison. The application of a manual method allows maximum coverage of elements constituting rhythm in the final translation product, although this means that the gathering of the data is a time-consuming process. In the next phase of the study, the data gathered will be organized under categories according to principles approaching grounded theory and cluster analysis. We hope that this will prove a fruitful approach which ought to provide new information on a phenomenon that otherwise challenges the use of pre-determined, easily definable units and computer analysis. Although the data compilation phase is slow, it will allow extensive in-depth analysis of a variety of linguistic features. It will thus be possible to start mapping the ground where rhythmic shifting takes place in translation and to form categories of frequently occurring rhythm-related shifts. In the final phase, an attempt will be made to combine the data obtained into a preliminary theoretical framework.

Some examples of rhythmic choices made by and available to translators

Ulysses into Finnish

17The following sentence from James Joyce’s Ulysses illustrates Joyce’s use of syntax, repetition and stress in order to achieve a specific rhythm:

Moving through the air high spars of a threemaster, her sails brailed up on the crosstrees, homing upstream, silently moving, a silent ship. (Joyce, 1955 [1922]: 50)

  • 1 . Words in boldface are used liberally throughout the text to emphasize crucial points.

18Several elements contribute to rhythmic effect here. With no finite verb, the present participle is repeated three times, accentuated with a single past participle. Similarly stressed phrases are repeated, with similar stress on the two longer words threemaster and crosstrees in the first half of the sentence, then similarly stressed pairs of words in the latter half: homing upstream, silently moving, a silent ship1. The repeated sibilants (silently, silent ship) and repetition of the verb move enhance the effect further.
Saarikoski translates this in the following way:

  • 2 . In the fairly literal back translations (BT) of the Finnish examples, the order of the Finnish s (...)

Ilman halki liikkui kolmimaston korkea takila, purjeet supistettuina ristipuille, matkalla kotiin päin, vastavirtaan, hiljaa liikkuen, hiljainen haahti. (Joyce, 1964: 52)
(BT: Through the air moved a threemaster’s high spars, sails brailed up on the crosstrees, on the way homewards, upstream, moving silently, a silent ship.)2

19Saarikoski has replaced the first present participle with a finite verb, the past tense liikkui (moved), possibly because sentences constructed with participles alone are even less common in the Finnish language than they are in English and might thus not make a similar stylistic effect on the Finnish reader. Furthermore, he has also changed the word order so that he can link the following phrases referring to the sails and the movement to the noun spars, but has kept the past participle supistettuina (brailed up). He has two longer words, kolmimaston (threemaster) and ristipuille (crosstrees) in the same way as Joyce, but where Joyce has three pairs of similarly stressed words, Saarikoski has replaced homing upstream with two expressions with the same double stress, kotiin päin (homewards) and vastavirtaan (upstream), thus adding a fourth element to the list, possibly because there is no readily available equivalent to the verb home in Finnish. Through this addition, Saarikoski manages to keep the information content of the source text intact, and also much of the rhythm is preserved. The last two elements, hiljaa liikkuen, hiljainen haahti (silently moving, a silent ship) are rhythmically similar and replace the phonological similarity achieved with s/sh-beginnings with h-beginnings.
In his translation, Leevi Lehto has arrived at a somewhat different solution:

Ilman halki kulkien kolmimaston korkea takila, purjeet punottuina ristinpuille, kotia päin, vastavirtaan, vaiti edeten, vaitonainen laiva. (Joyce, 2012: 70)
(BT: Through the air moving a threemaster’s high spars, sails brailed up on the crosstrees, homeward, upstream, quietly proceeding, a quiet boat.)

20In the same way as Saarikoski, Lehto has reversed the word order of the beginning of the sentence, but has opted for a foreignizing effect in deciding to keep the present participle moving. He has kept the past participle and added some alliteration: purjeet punottuina. Again in the same way as Saarikoski, Lehto has added a fourth expression to replace homing. Unlike Saarikoski, however, he has replaced the second move with another verb approximating the English proceed, thus losing the rhythmic effect of the repetition. He has, however, kept the phonological effect at the end of the sentence by replacing the sibilants in silently and silent ship with the repeated used of the diphthong [ai], although the Finnish adjective vaitonainen (quiet) is longer than silent, which disrupts the rhythm slightly.

Sentence rhythm in Portait of the Artist as a Young Man

21The following example illustrates the rhythmic effect achieved through clause order and stylistically effective placement of information by Joyce. The figures marking parts of the sentence precede the element they refer to and are used to facilitate the comparison between the source and target texts. The sentence describes a group of young girls:

(1) Their trim boots prattled (2) as they stood on the steps of the colonnade, (3) talking quietly and gaily, (4) glancing at the clouds, (5) holding their umbrellas at cunning angles against the few last raindrops, (6) closing them again, (7) holding their skirts demurely. (Joyce, 1916: 196)

22Joyce begins with an unusual element, the shoes of the girls, making all other elements, namely what the girls are actually doing, subordinate to this statement. Thus the arrangement of the information content contributes to the structural effect. This is illustrated in the following Table 1:

Level 1: Main clause

Level 2: Subordinate clause

Level 3: Non-finite phrase

(1) Their trim boots prattled…

(2) as they stood…

(3) talking…

(4) glancing…

(5) holding…

(6) closing…

(7) holding…

Table 1. The rhythmic effect of order in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

23Below, Matson’s translation solution:

(2) Tytöt seisoivat pylväskäytävän portailla, (3) puhelivat hiljaa ja iloisesti, (4) vilkaisivat pilviin, (5) kääntelivät taitavasti sateensuojiaan viimeisiä sadepisaroita vastaan, (6) sulkivat ne jälleen, (7) kokosivat varovasti helmojaan, (1) ja heidän sievät kenkänsä kopisivat hauskasti pois. (Joyce, 1964: 240)
(BT: The girls stood on the steps of the colonnade, talked quietly and gaily, glanced at the clouds, held their umbrellas skillfully against the last raindrops, closed them again, held their skirts demurely, and their trim boots pattered delightfully away.)

24The structural composition of the sentence has shifted in the translation: the translation presents a list of syntactically equal items, all main clauses, and places the coordinating conjunction and between the last two, as is customary in the Finnish language. The rhythm of the list is for the most part repeated, but the striking opening, the prattling boots, have been moved to the very end of the sentence. This simplifies the structural and informational rhythm of the sentence, as shown in Table 2:

Level 1: Main clause

Level 2: Subordinate clause

Level 3: Non-finite phrase

(2) the girls stood…

(3) talked…

(4) glanced…

(5) held…

(6) closed…

(7) held…

(1) and their trim boots prattled…

Table 2. The simplified rhythmic composition of Matson’s translation of a sentence in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

25By moving the unusual beginning describing the boots of the girls to the end, the translator loses the effect Joyce created by giving a weighty position to a minor element in the picture of the girls standing on the steps. What is more, in the translation the prattle of the boots of the girls standing on the steps is presented as something taking place when the girls go away. The simplified structure ignores the three different structural levels contributing to rhythmic effect, and the shift in the syntactic status of the elements makes the sentence rhythmically more monotonous.

Alternative ways of mediating Hemingway’s sentence rhythm

26Although Ernest Hemingway is famous for his short sentences, he sometimes uses lighter punctuation between his typically short statements, with a great many prepositional phrases and non-finite constructions. Since the syntactic composition of Finnish sentences is based on different linguistic principles, for instance frequent use of complete subordinate clauses to replace the shorter prepositional and non-finite phrases and illustration of internal relations within a sentence by adding morphemes to words, the translation of these stylistic features into Finnish requires creative solutions from the translator.

27An example of conveying Hemingway’s rhythm is illustrated by comparing a passage from The Sun Also Rises written by Ernest Hemingway in 1926 with a translation into Finnish by Jouko Linturi in 1954. In the long source text sentence, Hemingway uses a variety of verbs and the adverb then to achieve a rhythmic effect illustrating the movement of a taxicab along the streets of Paris.

(1) The taxi went up the hill, (2) passed the lighted square, (3) then on into the dark, (4) still climbing, (5) then levelled out on to a dark street behind St. Etienne du Mont, (6) went smoothly down the asphalt, (7) passed the trees and the standing bus at the Place de la Contrescarpe, (8) then turned on to the cobbles of the rue Mouffetard. (Hemingway, 1926: 20)

28The graphic presentation of the above sentence given below in Table 3 shows the rhythmic relations between the various elements of the example sentence. The structures beginning with the adverb then are at one rhythmic level in the source text, the finite structures without the temporal adverb constitute a level of their own, and the non-finite still climbing makes up a third level. This produces a rhythmically lively, forward-moving description making use of both order and repetition.

Level 1: finite verb

Level 2: then + finite verb

Level 3: non-finite verb

(1) The taxi went…

(2) passed

(3) then on…

(4) still climbing,

(5) then levelled…

(6) went…

(7) passed…

(8) then turned…

Table 3. Rhythmic structure in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises

29In the translation, Linturi has preserved the list of mostly finite past tense forms, but ignored the depth effect created by the repetition of then (sitten), which he uses only once, thus flattening the rhythmic effect and combining two separate clause segments into one:

1) Taksi kapusi kukkulanrinnettä pitkin ylös, (2) ajoi valaistun aukion halki (3) pimeyteen, (4) kapusi aina vain ylemmäksi (5) tullen sitten St. Etienne du Montin takapuolella kulkevalle tasaiselle, pimeälle kadulle, (6) liukui pehmeästi pitkin sen asfalttia, (7) sivuutti Place de la Contrescarpen puut ja siellä seisovan bussin (8) ja kääntyi nupukiviselle rue Mouffetardille. (Hemingway, 1954a: 36)
(BT: (1) The taxi
climbed up the hill, (2) drove across the lighted square (3) into the dark, (4) climbed higher and higher (5) coming then to a level dark street behind St. Etienne du Mont, (6) slid smoothly down its asphalt, (7) passed the trees at the Place de la Contrescarpe and the bus standing there (8) and turned on to the cobbles of the rue Mouffetard.)

30In Linturi’s translation, all the numbered elements work at the same finite level with the exception of one: (5) tullen, coming.

Level 1: finite verb

Level 2: then + finite verb

Level 3: non-finite verb

(1) The taxi climbed…

(2+3) drove

(4) climbed…

(5) coming then

(6) slid…

(7) passed…

(8) turned…

Table 4: Rhythmic structure in Linturi’s translation of The Sun Also Rises

31It might be suggested that it was not possible for the translator to keep closer to the source text rhythm because of the structural differences between the two languages. Two alternative translation solutions are therefore suggested in order to test this statement and to illustrate the issues involved. First, there is a structural solution that is very close to the rhythmic formula of the source text, leaving most of its components relatively unchanged. (In order to make comparisons easier, the semantic choices of Linturi’s published translation have been preserved.)

(1) Taksi kulki kukkulanrinnettä pitkin ylös, (2) ohitti valaistun aukion, (3) sitten edelleen pimeyteen, (4) kavuten aina vain ylemmäksi, (5) sitten tuli tasaiselle maalle St. Etienne du Montin takaiselle pimeälle kadulle, (6) kulki sulavasti alas pitkin asfalttipäällystettä, (7) ohitti Place de la Contrescarpen puut ja siellä seisovan bussin, (8) sitten kääntyi nupukiviselle rue Mouffetardille.
(BT: (1) The taxi went up the hill, (2) passed the lighted square (3) then on into the dark, (4) climbing higher and higher (5) then came to a level dark street behind St. Etienne du Mont, (6) went smoothly down its asphalt, (7) passed the trees at the Place de la Contrescarpe and the bus standing there (8) then turned on to the cobbles of the rue Mouffetard.)

32The rhythmic composition of the above translation alternative is presented in Table 5. It shows the structural similarity to the source text.

Level 1: finite verb

Level 2: then + finite verb

Level 3: non-finite verb

(1) The taxi went…

(2) passed…

(3) then on…

(4) climbing,

(5) then came…

(6) went…

(7) passed…

(8) then turned…

Table 5: Alternative translation solution: literal conveyance of rhythm

33In spite of the similarity of the graphic presentation of the rhythmic pattern, the above translation has been produced rigidly and literally, and the movement of the taxicab is not as smooth and flowing as in the source text. This was probably why the translator of the published version, Linturi, decided to strip the sentence of its rhythmic structure in the first place. The decision to resort to rhythmic shifting may also have been influenced by the fact that the Finnish two-syllable equivalent of the English one-syllable adverb then (sitten) is heavier than the English word and thus acquires more prominence when repeated, that in the English language the use of non-finite phrases is more flexible than in Finnish and that asyndeton makes for a stronger stylistic effect in Finnish.

34The following translation solution offers yet another alternative in which the rhythmic structure is kept, but in which the shifts that take place are based on linguistic tools that are slightly different from those used in the rigidly translated example above:

(1) Taksi kulki kukkulanrinnettä pitkin ylös, (2) ajoi ohi valaistun aukion (3) ja edelleen pimeyteen, (4) vieläkin ylöspäin, (5) ja tuli tasaiselle maalle St. Etienne du Montin takaiselle pimeälle kadulle, (6) kulki sulavasti alas pitkin asfalttipäällystettä, (7) ajoi ohi Place de la Contrescarpen puiden ja siellä seisovan bussin (8) ja kääntyi nupukiviselle rue Mouffetardille.
(BT: (1) The taxi went up the hill, (2) passed the lighted square (3) and on into the dark, (4) still higher, (5) and came to a level dark street behind St. Etienne du Mont, (6) went smoothly down its asphalt, (7) passed the trees at the Place de la Contrescarpe and the bus standing there (8) and turned on to the cobbles of the rue Mouffetard.)

35Here the rhythmic structure is again kept, as seen in the table below, but some of the component elements have been manipulated in order to improve flow.

Level 1: finite verb

Level 2: and + finite verb

Level 3: comparative phrase

(1) The taxi went…

(2) passed

(3) and on…

(4) still higher,

(5) and came…

(6) went…

(7) passed…

(8) and turned…

Table 6: Conveyance of rhythm through manipulation of elements

36In this translation, the rigidly translated Finnish version’s heavy two-syllabled sitten (then) has been replaced with the lighter ja (and), which separates the three past-tense clauses of level 2 from the first-level ones. The present participle still climbing has been changed into the lighter comparative still higher, which—although no longer a verb phrase—conveys the idea of movement while still constituting a separate level. This allows for lighter flow, but also illustrates the dilemma of the translator, as some word class manipulation is required in order to create the desired rhythmic effect. In the final analysis, it is up to the translator to decide which elements should be given priority in the translation: smooth progress, rhythmic depth, similarity of structural composition, the internal relations of the text, lexical issues or still something else, and to what extent to rely on shifts in relation to each of these factors.

A problem of segmentation in Hemingway’s sentence structure

37The next and final example illustrates how shifting in segmentation affects sentence rhythm in Tainio’s translation (1954) of Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940). In the sentence below, Hemingway starts with the subject of his main clause, but instead of continuing with the verb, inserts a temporal subordinate clause between the two, thus interrupting the flow of the sentence and thwarting the reader’s expectation of what will follow:

Robert Jordan, when he put his hand out, expected that it would be like grasping something reptilian […] (Hemingway, 1940: 404)

38While it is characteristic of Hemingway to increase rhythmic variety by inserting such additions, this is not, in principle, a syntactically feasible manoeuvre in the Finnish language, and therefore the translator, Tainio, has solved the problem as follows:

Robert Jordan ojensi kätensä, hän odotti saavansa tuntea jotakin sellaista kuin tuntee puristaessaan matelijaa [..]. (Hemingway, 1954b: 385)
When Robert Jordan put his hand out, he expected to feel something one feels when grasping a reptilian […])

39Instead of inserting the subordinate clause after the main clause subject, Tainio has moved it forward and started the sentence with it, and the subject of the main clause has become the subject of the subordinate clause. The target text version is perfectly fluent and readable, but the broken rhythm of the main clause is flattened. Other options for the translator might be:

(1) Robert Jordan, kun hän ojensi kätensä, odotti saavansa tuntea […]
(BT: Robert Jordan, when he put his hand out, expected to feel […])
(2) Robert Jordan odotti
kätensä ojentaessaan saavansa tuntea […]
(BT: Robert Jordan expected
when putting his hand out to feel […])

40Option 1 above succeeds in keeping the broken structure but produces a strong foreignizing effect, while option 2 shifts the place of the disruptive element, placing it after the verb, thus reducing but not eliminating the effect completely.

41The four examples given in Section 3 serve to illustrate the multiplicity of layers involved in rendering rhythmic effects of a text within a different language system. In spite of the distinctive global influence of rhythm-related factors, rhythm can never govern a translator’s decisions and choices alone: it is only one aspect of the translation process, and the interplay between all the various choices made by translators both at the formal linguistic level and at various content-related and suprasegmental levels constitute a multidimensional network of inseparable factors.

42On the basis of the examples presented here, rhythm can be said to manifest itself at simultaneously active, interwoven levels of phonology, lexis and syntax. Phonologically, rhythm is influenced by the choice of vowels and consonants. While stress is applied to create a specific rhythmic effect, the use of various other phonologically-oriented stylistic means, such as onomatopoeia, alliteration, assonance etc. may enhance the desired effect. At a lexical level, rhythm can be manipulated with words, syllables and stress. While syntactic arrangements of various sentence elements also embrace phonology and lexis, rhythm-based segments involving all these aspects can be extended to comprise paragraphs and entire chapters.

43Parallel with formal linguistic aspects of rhythm runs the rhythmic composition and organization of the content, i.e. the informational structure, and the degree of prominence given to various content elements. A special case of the relationship between formal and content-based components is iconic representation, as exemplified in the representation of movement. It is also a characteristic of rhythm-oriented translation choices that they tend to influence the creation of a certain ambience, to mould the reader’s views and to have a certain emotive impact.

44At all the levels discussed above, repetition and the use of parallel and contrastive linguistic and content-related components, at the very least, would seem to enhance the overall rhythmic effect. Rhythm should therefore be studied in relation to the entire network of translation decisions, as compromises and choices will have been made between various interactive components affecting issues of fluency, readability and dramatic and rhythmic presentation.

45To recapitulate: the various rhythm-related components outlined above come together in the overall flow of the text. In order to reproduce such a flow in translation, the translator has to use a palette different from that of the source text author, particularly so in translation between unrelated languages. The multiplicity of the issues arising from as few as the four examples analysed here would seem to indicate that a more extensive research project based on text-level analysis such as the one introduced in this paper is justified.

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Corpus Texts

Hemingway, Ernest, 1926, The Sun Also Rises, New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons.

—, 1954a, Ja aurinko nousee, trans. Jouko Linturi, Helsinki, Tammi.

—, 1940, For Whom the Bell Tolls, New York, Scribner.

—, 1954b, Kenelle kellot soivat, trans. Tauno Tainio, Helsinki, Tammi.

Joyce, James, 1916, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, New York, BW Huebsch.

—, 1964, Taiteilijan omakuva nuoruuden vuosilta, trans. Alex Matson, Helsinki, Tammi.

—, 1955 [1922], Ulysses, New York, Random House.

—, 1964, Odysseus, trans. Pentti Saarikoski, Helsinki, Tammi.

—, 2012, Ulysses, trans. Leevi Lehto, Helsinki, Gaudeamus.

Works cited

Bal, Mieke, 1997 (2nd edition), Narratology: Introduction to the Theory of Narrative, Toronto, University of Toronto Press.

Blum-Kulka, Soshana, 1986, “Shifts of Cohesion and Coherence in Translation”, in J. House and S. Blum-Kulka (eds), Interlingual and Intercultural Communication, Tübingen, Narr, p. 17-35.

Boase-Beier, Jean, 2006, Stylistic Approaches to Translation, Manchester, St. Jerome.

Chesterman, Andrew, 1991, On Definiteness, with Special Reference to English and Finnish, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

—, 2007a, “Similarity Analysis and the Translation Profile”, in Willy Vandeweghe, Sonia Vandepitte and Marc Van de Velde (eds), The Study of Language and Translation, Amsterdam, John Benjamins, p. 53-66.

, 2007b, “The Unbearable Lightness of English Words”, in Riitta Jääskeläinen, Tiina Puurtinen and Hilkka Stotesbury (eds), Text, Processes, and Corpora: Research Inspired by Sonja Tirkkonen-Condit, Publications of the Savonlinna School of Translation Studies 5, Joensuu, University of Joensuu, p. 231-241.

Crystal, David and Davy, Derek, 1988 [1969], Investigating English Style, New York, Longman.

DeLancey, Scott, 1981, “An interpretation of split ergativity and related patterns”, in Language, 57, p. 626-657.

Franzon, Johan, 2008, “Choices in song Translation. Singability in Print, Subtitles and Sung Performance”, in The Translator 14 (2) Special Issue: Translation and Music, p. 373-399.

Leech, Geoffrey N. and Short, Michael H., 1981, Style in Fiction, London, Longman.

Leech, Geoffrey N., 1997, “Stylistics and Functionalism”, in N. Fabb et al. (eds), Linguistics and Literature, Oxford, Blackwell, p. 76-88.

Leino, Pentti, 1982, Kieli, runo ja mitta. Suomen kielen metriikka, Helsinki, Suomalaisen kirjallisuuden seura.

Low, Peter, 2003, “Translating Poetic Songs: An attempt at a Functional Account of Strategies”, Target 15 (1), p. 91-110.

—, 2005, “The Pentathlon Approach to Translating Songs”, in Dinda L. Gorlée (ed.), Song and significance: Virtues and Vices of Vocal Translation, Amsterdam / New York, Rodopi, p. 185-212.

Mithun, Marianne, 1987, “Is basic word order universal?”, in Russel S. Tomlin (ed.), Coherence and Grounding in Discourse, Amsterdam, Benjamins, p. 281-328.

Munday, Jeremy, 1998, “A Computer-assisted Approach to the Analysis of Translation Shifts”, Meta 43 (4), p. 1-16.

Parks, Tim, 1998, Translating Style, London, Cassell.

Peer van, W., 1986, Stylistics and Psychology: Investigations of Foregrounding, London, Croom Helm.

Pekkanen, Hilkka, 2010, The Duet between the Author and the Translator: Looking at Style through Shifts in Literary Translation, Doctoral dissertation, University of Helsinki, (last accessed on July 27, 2014)

Shore, Susanna, 1992, Aspects of a Systemic-Functional Grammar of Finnish, doctoral dissertation, Sydney, Macquane University, (last accessed on September 15, 2013).

, “The textual organization of clauses”, Virittäjä, Kirjoitukset ja tiivistelmät, 2008: 1 (Summary of an article written in Finnish) atäjä/hakemistot/jutut/shore1_2008.html (last accessed on September 15, 2013).

Simone, Raffaele (ed.), 1995, Iconicity in Language, Amsterdam / Philadelphia, Benjamins.

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1 . Words in boldface are used liberally throughout the text to emphasize crucial points.

2 . In the fairly literal back translations (BT) of the Finnish examples, the order of the Finnish sentences is kept, which makes them slightly difficult to read. This is done in order to illustrate the rhythm.

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Hilkka Pekkanen, « Who’s got rhythm? Rhythm-related shifting in literary translation », Palimpsestes [En ligne], 27 | 2014, mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2016, consulté le 19 janvier 2019. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/palimpsestes.2072

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Hilkka Pekkanen

Hilkka Pekkanen est docteure, enseignant-chercheur et traductrice littéraire finlandaise. Elle a enseigné la traduction littéraire aux universités de Helsinki et de Turku et travaille actuellement comme enseignante de traduction à l’université de Tampere. Sa recherche en cours vise à explorer les manières de rendre le rythme en traduction littéraire.

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