White Teeth by Zadie Smith Master’s Diploma Thesis Supervisor: Mgr. Simona Javůrková 2010

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Masaryk University

Faculty of Arts
Department of English
and American Studies

English Language and Literature
Teaching English Language and Literature for Secondary Schools
English-language Translation

Iva Malinová

Authorial Style in Translation:

White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Master’s Diploma Thesis

Supervisor: Mgr. Simona Javůrková


I declare that I have worked on this thesis independently,

using only the primary and secondary sources listed in the bibliography.


Iva Malinová


I would like to thank my supervisor Mgr. Simona Javůrková for the invaluable guidance she provided to me and also Mgr. Renata Kamenická, Ph.D. for the recommended bibliography.

Table of contents

Table of contents 3

1 Introduction 5

1.1 Style in General Terms 5

1.2 The Authorial Style vs. Translator Style 6

1.2.1 Stylistics 7

1.2.2 Translators Dealing with Style 8

2 Zadie Smith 13

2.1 Zadie Smith and the Literary Assets of Her Writings 13

2.1.1 Biographical Information 15

2.1.2 Summary of the Novel and the Main Topics 17

2.1.3 Favourite Themes of the Author 23

2.1.4 Zadie Smith’s Characters 27

2.2 Zadie Smith’s Style of Writing 29

2.2.1 Introduction to the Author’s Style 29

2.2.2 The Complexity of Style and Stylistic Repetition 30

2.2.3 Genre Style 31

2.2.4 Narrative Voice 32

2.2.5 Authorial Expressivity 34

2.2.6 Registers 36

2.2.7 Reoccurring Details 37

2.2.8 Epistolary Strategies 38

2.2.9 Incompleteness 38

2.2.10 Graphic Aspects 39

2.2.11 Fonts, Italics and Acronyms 40

2.2.12 Acoustical Aspects 41

3 Zadie Smith in Translation—Analysis 42

3.1 Zadie Smith vs. Yvetta Nováková’s Translation 42

3.1.1 Grammatical Interference 43

3.1.2 Lexical Interference of the Translation 44

3.2 Shift in Register and Dialect 51

3.2.1 Register 51

3.2.2 Dialect and Idiolect 52

3.2.3 Yvetta Nováková’s Treatment of Register and Dialect 53

3.3 The Type/Token Ratio and the Average Sentence Length 57

3.4 Reporting Verbs 60

3.5 Culture Specific Items 63

3.5.1 Yvetta Nováková’s Treatment of Culture Specifics 65

3.6 Translation of Names 69

3.6.1 Yvetta Nováková’s Treatment of Names 70

3.7 Translation Universals 72

3.7.1 Explicitation 73

3.7.2 Simplification 74

3.7.3 Normalization 75

3.7.4 The Overlap of Translation Universals 76

3.7.5 The Occurrences of TU in Yvetta Nováková’s Translation 77

3.7.6 Explicitation in Yvetta Nováková’s Translations 79

3.7.7 Simplification in Yvetta Nováková’s Translations 81

3.7.8 Normalization in Yvetta Nováková’s Translations 84

3.7.9 Translation Universals in Translation of Yvetta Nováková—Summary 85

3.8 Distinguishable Markers of Yvetta Nováková’s Translation 87

3.8.1 Instrumental 87

3.8.2 Diminutives and Redundancy 88

3.8.3 Lexis 88

3.8.4 Repetition 89

4 Conclusion 91

Résumé 96

Resumé 97

Works Cited 99

Appendix 1 - Translation Universals in the Translation of White Teeth 106

Appendix 2 - Translation Universals in the Translation of Are You Experienced? 113

Appendix 3 - White Teeth 118

Appendix 4 - Bílé zuby 123

  1. Introduction

“Style is character. It is the quality of a man’s emotion made apparent; then by inevitable extension, style is ethics, style is government.”
(Benedict de Spinoza)
Every author has a specific style that is somehow reflected in his or her writings. It has distinctive features that make the author distinguishable from other authors. To produce a reliable translation, a good translator should take this fact into consideration and purposely outline and determine these features so that they can be effectively and accurately transferred into the translated text. However, as the translator also has his or her own style it must undeniably affect the translation.

The main aims and objectives of this paper are to trace out and establish the characteristic stylistic features in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth; to judge to what degree the translator managed to capture those features and how she proceeded with them; and finally, which specific individual stylistic features of the translator that make her distinct were used in the translation.

    1. Style in General Terms

Undoubtedly, there exist many definitions that try to clarify the notion of style as being something inexpressible and ungraspable that dwells in various fields of everyday life and that is inherent to every man or woman and is present in every sphere of his or her conduct. Geoffrey Leech and Michael Short assert that the style in a linguistic point of view “refers to the way in which language is used in a given context, by a given person, for a given purpose [and which] can be applied to both spoken and written, both literary and non-literary varieties of language” (10-11).

On the other hand, Anton Popovič in dependence of his studies of František Miko views style as a dynamic organization of expressive features and as functional coalescence of heterogeneous elements at one level (Poetika umeleckého prekladu 64-65). František Miko himself considers style to be a manifestation of dissimilarity of individual texts (Štýlové konfrontácie 11). Last but not least, there is Noah S. Brannen who defines style as “the form in which the material, i.e. the message, is presented” and he also identifies with the generally accepted notion that style is “the individualistic mark of a writer, […] [the] quality of expression differentiating one writer from another” and stresses the notion of “word choice” which is his other term for style (142-3).

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