Multilingual Moomins: Examining the translation of Tove Jansson’s nonsense character names from Swedish to English and Finnish

Janine A. E. Strandberg*

*Corresponding author for this work

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    Abstract

    Tove Jansson is a cultural icon in her native country of Finland, and for years her books about the fictional moomintrolls have been read and loved by young and adult readers alike. Jansson’s creative style of writing is particularly evident in the imaginary names she has created for her characters. While standard names have been studied at length in many areas of research, imaginary names have not received a great deal of attention. The article investigates how Jansson’s humorous nonsense names have fared in translation, focusing on the transfer of thirteen character names from Swedish to English. In order to determine whether linguistic closeness affects name translation, the Finnish variants of the names are also included for comparison. The methodology of the study is based on Hermans’ 1988 model of four modes of transfer. The original Swedish names are identified as either expressive or suggestive, depending on how explicit their individual semantic meanings are. Hermans’ definitions of four modes of transfer, i.e. copying, transcribing, substituting or translating, are then used to ascertain how the names have been transferred into English and Finnish. The final stages of the study include identifying patterns in the meanings of the original names and in the methods of translation. The study demonstrates that the modes of translation and transcription were the favoured methods for English and Finnish, with English translators relying particularly heavily on half-translation or half-transcription of names. The study also shows that while the names transferred into English often closely resemble the original Swedish names in form, the Finnish variants are frequently more faithful to the original ones in their semantic meanings.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number3
    Pages (from-to)28-44
    Number of pages17
    JournalJournal of Literary Onomastics
    Volume7
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 22-Jan-2019

    Keywords

    • Onomastics
    • Translation Studies
    • Scandinavische taal- en letterkunde
    • Swedish
    • Finnish
    • English

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