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Analysing Texts:

translation and
language issues
5 ISIS and Daesh: language matters
Text to be analysed/translated
Words matter in ISIS war, so use Daesh
By Zeba Khan
THE MILITANTS who are killing civilians and beheading foreigners in Iraq and Syria are known by several names: the
Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS; the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL; and, more recently, the
Islamic State, or IS. French officials recently declared that that country would stop using any of those names and
instead refer to the group as Daesh.
The Obama Administration should switch to this nomenclature, too, because how we talk about this group is central
to defeating them.
Whether referred to as ISIS, ISIL, or IS, all three names reflect aspirations that the United States and its allies
unequivocally reject. Political and religious leaders all over the world have noted this. French Foreign Minister Laurent
Fabius said, This is a terrorist group and not a state. . . the term Islamic State blurs the lines between Islam, Muslims,
and Islamists. President Obama made similar remarks saying, ISIL is not Islamic . . . and [is] certainly not a state.
Muslim scholars around the world have denounced the groups attempt to declare a caliphate. The Syrian Sufi leader
Muhammad al-Yacoubi called the groups declaration illegitimate and that supporting it was haram, or forbidden.
The term Daesh is strategically a better choice because it is still accurate in that it spells out the acronym of the
groups full Arabic name, al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham. Yet, at the same time, Daesh can also be
understood as a play on words and an insult. Depending on how it is conjugated in Arabic, it can mean anything
from to trample down and crush to a bigot who imposes his view on others.
Why do they care so much? The same reason the United States should. Language matters.
Daesh is a relatively small group, and propaganda is central to its growth strategy. Whether hijacking popular Twitter
hashtags or using little known distribution channels to post videos to YouTube, their leadership knows that the war of
words online is just as key to increasing its power and influence as the actual gruesome acts they commit on the
ground.
(The Boston Globe, October 09, 2014)
Text analysed: grammar, lexis, culture-
related issues
Words matter in ISIS war, so use Daesh
By Zeba Khan
THE MILITANTS who are killing civilians and beheading foreigners in Iraq and Syria are known by several names: the
Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS; the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL; and, more recently, the
Islamic State, or IS. French officials recently declared that that country would stop using any of those names and
instead refer to the group as Daesh.
The Obama Administration should switch to this nomenclature, too, because how we talk about this group is central
to defeating them.
Whether referred to as ISIS, ISIL, or IS, all three names reflect aspirations that the United States and its allies
unequivocally reject. Political and religious leaders all over the world have noted this. French Foreign Minister Laurent
Fabius said, This is a terrorist group and not a state. . . the term Islamic State blurs the lines between Islam,
Muslims, and Islamists. President Obama made similar remarks saying, ISIL is not Islamic . . . and [is] certainly not
a state.
Muslim scholars around the world have denounced the groups attempt to declare a caliphate. The Syrian Sufi leader
Muhammad al-Yacoubi called the groups declaration illegitimate and that supporting it was haram, or forbidden.
The term Daesh is strategically a better choice because it is still accurate in that it spells out the acronym of the
groups full Arabic name, al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham. Yet, at the same time, Daesh can also be
understood as a play on words and an insult. Depending on how it is conjugated in Arabic, it can mean anything
from to trample down and crush to a bigot who imposes his view on others.
Why do they care so much? The same reason the United States should. Language matters.
Daesh is a relatively small group, and propaganda is central to its growth strategy. Whether hijacking popular Twitter
hashtags or using little known distribution channels to post videos to YouTube, their leadership knows that the war of
words online is just as key to increasing its power and influence as the actual gruesome acts they commit on the
ground.
Steps
1)Being aware of the text you are going to
translate (Context of situation, Context of
culture, Genre, Text Type)
2)Find any possible translation-related issue
(conveying sense from a SL to a TL)
3)Find relevant keywords (and their related
translations)
4)Translate text
Being aware of the text you are going to translate
(Context of situation, Context of culture, Genre,
Text Type)
This text is taken from an online source, The Boston Globe.
It is a news portal, therefore the article chosen aims at
providing information about a given field.
In this specific case, the 2014 (!) article focuses on a
secondary perspective compared with the macro-field that
makes up the framework of the text, that is the atrocious
murders carried out by ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daesh. Language issues,
therefore, are the core content of the text: nevertheless, it
would be impossible to explain the main topic of the text
without providing an adequate context. This is why ISIS is
defined through the description of its composition and its
activities.
Find any possible translation-related issue
(conveying sense from a SL to a TL)
A frequent translation-related issue in this text deals with
the translation of proper names that define the
organisation. One may find acronyms as well as names
and words in Arabic, together with their resulting
translations within the SL.
This means that culture-specific ideas and notions are
here mentioned and constitute a translation issue for the
SL at first. For the same reason, these ideas should be
conveyed in the TL using the same or similar strategy,
since they represent the same problem in the TL and
culture.
In other words, the language-related issue at the core of
this text is something to be translated in both languages.
Find any possible translation-related issue
(conveying sense from a SL to a TL)

Arabic (word or name) English =


Arabic (word or name) Italian =
English with Arabic references Italian
Find any possible translation-related issue
(conveying sense from a SL to a TL)

In some cases, then, references that do


not belong to both the SL and the TL are
common elements that represent a
translation issue for both languages. This
does not mean that both languages may
need a rendering with the same strategy,
since culture-specific elements may have
different degrees of inclusion within a
language/nation/culture.
Find relevant keywords (and their related
translations)
- ISIS/ISIL/IS
- Daesh
- Language & power
- Politics
- State
- Religion
- Islam, Muslims, Islamists
Translate text
Le parole sono importanti nella
Words matter in ISIS war, Guerra allIsis: meglio
so use Daesh usare/parlare di Daesh
By Zeba Khan
Di Zeba Khan

I militanti che stanno uccidendo civili e


THE MILITANTS who are killing
decapitando cittadini stranieri in Iraq e in Siria
civilians and beheading foreigners in fanno parte di un gruppo noto con una serie di
Iraq and Syria are known by several nomi: lo Stato Islamico in Iraq e al-Sham, meglio
names: the Islamic State in Iraq and al- noto come ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and al-
Sham, or ISIS; the Islamic State in Iraq Sham); lo Stato Islamico in Iraq e del Levante, o
and the Levant, or ISIL; and, more ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant); o,
recently, the Islamic State, or IS. pi di recente, semplicemente Stato Islamico, o IS
French officials recently declared that (Islamic State). Alcuni funzionari francesi hanno
that country would stop using any of dichiarato di recente che non useranno pi i nomi
those names and instead refer to the sopra elencati ma lo/li chiameranno
group as Daesh. semplicemente Daesh.
Translate text

The Obama Administration Anche lamministrazione Obama


should switch to this dovrebbe utilizzare questa dicitura:
nomenclature, too, because tutto questo perch il modo in cui si
how we talk about this group is parla di questo gruppo cruciale
central to defeating them. per combatterlo e sconfiggerlo.
Whether referred to as ISIS, Quando si parla di ISIS, ISIL o IS, si
fa riferimento ad obiettivi/idee che
ISIL, or IS, all three names
gli Stati Uniti e i suoi alleati
reflect aspirations that the respingono/rifiutano
United States and its allies inequivocabilmente/
unequivocally reject. categoricamente.
Translate text

Political and religious leaders all Si tratta di qualcosa che tutti i leader
over the world have noted this. religiosi e politici hanno notato: il
French Foreign Minister Laurent Ministro degli Esteri francese
Fabius said, This is a terrorist Laurent Fabius ha riferito che si
group and not a state. . . the term tratta di un gruppo terrorista, e non
Islamic State blurs the lines di uno stato. Il termine Stato
between Islam, Muslims, and Islamico equipara/non permette la
Islamists. President Obama distinzione tra Islam, Musulmani e
made similar remarks saying, Islamismo. Il Presidente degli Stati
ISIL is not Islamic . . . and [is] Uniti Obama ha affermato in maniera
certainly not a state. simile che lISIL non Islamico e
di sicuro non uno stato.
Translate text

Muslim scholars around the Esperti in materia di Islam in tutto il


world have denounced the mondo hanno denunciato il
groups attempt to declare a tentativo, da parte di questo gruppo,
di instaurare un califfato. Il leader
caliphate. The Syrian Sufi
(dei) Sufi in Siria, Muhammad al-
leader Muhammad al-Yacoubi Yacoubi ha definito illegittima la
called the groups declaration dichiarazione del gruppo e che
illegitimate and that haram, ossia vietato sostenerli/che
supporting it was haram, or vietato (egli utilizza la parola
forbidden. haram) sostenerli.
Translate text
The term Daesh is strategically a Il termine Daesh una scelta
better choice because it is still strategicamente migliore e precisa
accurate in that it spells out the poich si tratta dellacronimo
acronym of the groups full Arabic completo del gruppo in lingua araba
name, al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al- (al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa
Iraq wa al-Sham. Yet, at the same al-Sham). Tuttavia, allo stesso tempo
time, Daesh can also be Daesh anche un gioco di parole, ma
understood as a play on words anche un insulto. A seconda di come
and an insult. Depending on how it si coniuga in arabo, infatti, il termine
is conjugated in Arabic, it can mean pu significare calpestare e
anything from to trample down and schiacciare o un estremista che
crush to a bigot who imposes his impone il proprio punto di vista sugli
view on others. altri.
Translate text

Why do they care so much? The same Perch dunque cos importante questa
reason the United States should. differenziazione? Per la stessa ragione per cui
Language matters. interessa/dovrebbe interessare agli Stati Uniti.
Daesh is a relatively small group, and Le parole sono importanti.
propaganda is central to its growth Il Daesh un gruppo relativamente piccolo, e la
strategy. Whether hijacking popular propaganda centrale per le sue strategie di
Twitter hashtags or using little known crescita. Che si intercetti un hashtag popolare
distribution channels to post videos to su Twitter o si utilizzi un piccolo canale di
YouTube, their leadership knows that diffusione per pubblicare video su Youtube, i
the war of words online is just as key to loro leader sanno che la guerra di parole fatta
increasing its power and influence as the sul Web riveste la stessa importanza degli atti
actual gruesome acts they commit on the orribili che compiono sul territorio/sulle
ground. persone per incrementare il loro potere e la loro
influenza.
(The Boston Globe, October 09, 2014)
(The Boston Globe, 9 ottobre 2014)
Grammar focus: Reported speech vs. direct
speech
Compare:

President Obama made similar remarks saying,


ISIL is not Islamic ... and [is] certainly not a
state.
Vs.
French officials recently declared that that
country would stop using any of those names
and instead refer to the group as Daesh.
Grammar focus: Reported speech vs. direct
speech

The first sentence has inverted commas. This is


an example of direct speech, in which the
actual words uttered by a speaker are
mentioned. The quotation may be part of a
whole sentence, or may be introduced by a set
of verbs (say, tell, admit, answer, argue,
complain, explain, observe, point out, remark,
remind, reply) and/or punctuation marks.
Grammar focus: Reported speech vs. direct
speech
Indirect speech does not use quotation marks because it does not
need to provide the exact words of a speaker.
In case of reporting speech there is a change in the tense. The general
rule is to go back with the tense used.
Present simple Past simple
Present continuous Past continuous
Present perfect simple Past perfect simple
Present perfect continuous Past perfect continuous
Past simple Past perfect
Past continuous Past perfect continuous
Modals change too:
Will would
Can Could
Must Had to
Shall Should
May Might
Grammar focus: Reported speech vs. direct
speech

French officials recently declared that that country


would stop using any of those names and instead
refer to the group as Daesh.

It means that the actual words uttered are:

French officials recently declared: The country will


stop using any of those names and instead it will
refer to the group as Daesh.
Lexical focus: ST Terminology and TL
equivalents
Lexical focus: ST Terminology and TL
equivalents
Language-specific expressions
Haram means forbidden in Arabic. Even though a
rendering is provided (it was Haram, or forbidden),
in the text this lemma is used as a specific word,
something to be included because it has a different
semantic value in Arabic, so a simple translation
would not convey the same connotation.

As a confirmation of the specific, culture-related


meaning, the definition of haram is included in some
English (monolingual) dictionaries.
Language-specific expressions

Sources: Merriam Webster Dictionary, Dictionary.com,


Oxford Dictionary, Urban Dictionary
Language-specific expressions
Is haram a term used in the TL? Should it be included
in the translation as well? If a translator thinks that
the word may have its semantic strength as well, it
should not be deleted.

Compare the term haram with its antonym, halal. Is


the latter more popular in both the SL and TL?

(See:
http://www.halalitaly.org/chi-siamo/halal/glossario-hal
al.html
)
Language-specific expressions
Il vero capolavoro dellISIS stato quello di cambiare la
dicitura da ISIS a Stato Islamico (IS) proprio per rafforzare la
sua identit di Stato

Renzo Guolo, Professor of Sociology of Politics and Sociology


of Religion, University of Padua, commenting on the Paris
terror attacks, 13.11.2015
Language-specific expressions
Words matter/Language matters = Le parole sono
importanti
Language-specific expressions
Words matter/Language matters = Le parole sono
importanti
Language-specific expressions
Words matter/Language matters = Le parole sono
importanti
(Source: Palombella Rossa, directed by Nanni Moretti,
1989)
Further info
Read the whole article:
http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2014/10/09/words-
matter-isis-war-use-
daesh/V85GYEuasEEJgrUun0dMUP/story.html
Islamic State (From Wikipedia, in English)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_State_of_Iraq_and_the_Le
vant
Stato islamico (From Wikipedia, in Italian)
http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stato_Islamico
More on the introduction of the term halal and haram in
Italian:
http://frontierenews.it/2013/03/norvegia-carne-di-maiale-in-
cibo-etichettato-%E1%B8%A5alal/
http://www.yallaitalia.it/?s=halal&submit=CERCA