Feeling the Grammar: Literary Translations of the Dual Inflection in Arabic

In: Philological Encounters

Abstract

This article draws from historical treatises on Arabic grammar, alongside modern theories of untranslatability and translation ethics, to argue for both the practical feasibility and the ethical potential of accounting for the grammatical Arabic dual inflection in English translations of Arabic literature. It considers the dual to possess certain formal qualities—of sound, sense, affective impact, and ontological significance—that require a correspondingly material and embodied mode of engagement from the translator, which is described here with reference to my own published translation of a contemporary Lebanese novel. Ultimately, I propose that such an approach enables new and more ethical ways of reading from an Anglophone audience.

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