“Thieves’ Cant in Spanish Translations of Dickens’s ‘Oliver Twist’”

Josep Marco, Isabel Tello Fons


The approach to the analysis of dialect translation put forward in this article is based on two conceptual tools: the function of dialect (or, more generally, nonstandard language) in the source text, and the translation techniques available, which may be seen as an alternative to the moot point of dialect untranslatability. Translation techniques are just solution types, and in the particular case of dialect translation it might be argued that all possible solutions have drawbacks. By way of illustration, the use of thieves’ cant in Dickens’s Oliver Twist is analysed on the basis of its function, as perceived by several Dickens scholars, and seven Spanish translations of the novel spanning over a century are then studied with regard to how the problem posed by cant is dealt with by translators. Whereas some of them tend to neutralise, i.e. to replace the source text’s nonstandard language with more conventional expressions in the target text, others attempt to capture the non-core nature of cant and slang terms at the level of lexical choice, and one even uses nonstandard spelling and grammar as part of the solution.

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