Tydskrif vir letterkunde

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Translating extra-linguistic culture-bound concepts in Mofolo: a daunting challenge to literary translators

Mosisili Sebotsa


Translating extra-linguistic culture-bound concepts in Mofolo presents a daunting challenge to literary translators as such concepts require that the translator possess a substantial amount of knowledge and background of the Sesotho culture. The present study undertakes a comparative analysis of Thomas Mofolo’s Moeti oa Bochabela and its translations Traveller to the East (English) and L’homme qui marchait vers le soleil levant (French) to highlight problems encountered due to lack of understanding of culture-bound extra-linguistic elements (ECE). The article also aims to bring to light translation techniques employed and culture related factors that may hinder the translator from rendering the intended meaning with high accuracy. The semantic analysis of culture-bound extra-linguistic elements shows how readers of the English and French translation may not have a full grasp of the book due to lack of functional equivalence and the disparity in semantic range between Sesotho and the European languages. The impasse of meaning is evidenced throughout the book by the number of words that were either left untranslated or mistranslated as can be observed in the translation of the two poems addressed to Fekisi’s cows. The paper uses some of the untranslated and mistranslated elements to show that there is no such a thing as an absolute translation.

Keywords: culture-bound extra-linguistic elements, functional equivalence, impasse of meaning, mistranslation, semantic range, translation by omission
AJOL African Journals Online