Gender of cited authors: A problem for the English-Arabic translation of scholarly research

Jihad M. Hamdan, Yaser S. Natour

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

This study addresses a unique translation problem which translators from English into Arabic need to consider when inflecting the introductory verbs for the gender of in-text cited authors in scholarly books which use a style sheet that does not spell out the first name of authors in the list of references. Suppose a translator comes across the following sentence: 'Sander (1972) pointed out ⋯', and that the reference list of the book provides E as the initial letter of the first name of Sander. Do we expect this sentence to be rendered into Arabic, a gender-specific language, as ashaara saandar ((1972) or ashaarat saandar (1972) ⋯? The reporting verbs ashaara and and ashaarat show masculine and feminine inflection, respectively. As is clear, the readily available bibliographical information about Sander's first name does not tell the translator whether this author is a male, e.g., Erick Sander or a female, e.g., Emma Sander. Thus, this study seeks answers to the following questions: 1. Is it really the case that English-Arabic translations of scholarly works which do not spell out the first name of in-text cited authors suffer from gender-based problems associated with the reporting verbs? 2. If so, how does the translator, once aware of the scope of the problem, mange to resolve it in the absence of sufficient and self-explanatory information in the reference list where the intext study is cited? The results show that English-Arabic translators tend to overlook the gender-based problem and inflect the reporting verbs using a masculine suffix whether the cited author is, in reality, a male or a female. The paper concludes with an experience-based proposal which may provide insights into addressing this problem.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-280
Number of pages16
JournalBabel
Volume60
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2014

Keywords

  • Cited authors
  • English-Arabic translation
  • Gender
  • Structurally different languages

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Linguistics and Language

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