Rendering Old Norse Nouns and Names in Translation
Thursday October 2, 2014, at 16.30
The rendering of Old Norse nouns and names is only a small part of the difficult task of translating Old Norse poetry and prose. However, it might well illustrate the problems faced when trying to translate Old Norse literature into another inflected language.
In Czech, there is a relatively long tradition of translation using Old Norse proper names. Recently we have tried to create general rules for translations from Old Norse into Czech which I would like to present here.
First, questions of transcription and translation will be mentioned, where the different ways of rendering proper names nowadays prevent students from identifying Sverre Sigurdsson with Sverrir Sigurðarson or Oluf with Óláfr, Olaf, Olav and Ólafur.
Second problem are the grammatical issues concerning declension and derivation, as e.g. the hopeless -r in masc. nom. sing. Do we have the right to omit it and change this basic form of the word used in all indexes and vocabularies? Or should we commit crimes against linguistics such as adding our endings to the Old Norse ones (as in English gen. Grettir’s or Russian locative Grettire)?
Some of the questions are universal for any Indo-European language, some occur only in inflected languages, but all the answers depend on language policy, tradition and the standard of the expected reader.
Marie Novotná is assistant professor in the Faculty of Humanities of Charles University in Prague where she teaches Old Norse language and literature as well as general translation theory. Apart from linguistic problems, she is currently working on the Old Norse concept of body and researching and translating Jómsvikinga saga. Marie Novotná is part of the Erasmus project Supernatural Places which is run with the participation of eight different universities.