Legon Journal of the Humanities

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Proverbs and naturalness in mother-tongue translation: the Dagaare New Testament in perspective

Solomon Ali Dansieh


This paper argues that the use of proverbs in translating the Bible into mother-tongues constitutes an essential ingredient to naturalness in the receptor-language text, thereby enhancing acceptability. Thus, the subject of translating proverbs and translating using proverbs should be handled with the attention it deserves. Using the Dagaare New Testaments as the main texts, the study aims to explore the use of proverbs in the Dagaare text in general; examine how English proverbs were translated; identify which proverbs translate well between English and Dagaare; find out how parallel proverbs were used in Dagaare and how non-proverbial expressions were translated as proverbs in the RL. This study also considered how proverbs were translated as ordinary expressions and how connotative proverbs used in the Dagaare text manifest themselves. Proverbs thus identified were read out to users of the text drawn from different denominations in the area to test for naturalness. The study found that majority (50%) of the SL proverbs translated into Dagaare were ‘near natural’; 33% ‘natural’, and the remaining 17% ‘less natural’. This study recommends that, in future reviews of the two Dagaare NT texts, translators and consultants take note of suggestions made so that proverbs/idioms and cultural equivalents that translate more naturally into the language are adopted to enhance the quality of the translation.

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