Turkish In Context: Discussing Translation with Maureen Freely

Maureen Freely, Orhan Pamuk’s translator, relates the challenges posed by the Turkish language when translating it into English in this audio interview with the Washington Post:

“It has no verb ‘to be,’ it has no verb ‘to have,’ it prefers the passive voice to the active voice and you don’t always know who is doing what and there’s no way to find out.  It is an agglutinative language, so it will often have five, six, seven, eight suffixes in a particular order at the end of a root noun and there is only one word for he, she and it.  So it is a very, very different way of thinking.  It is a very associative language that can capture a thought unfolding in a very beautiful way.”

Freely also describes how Turkish writers have worked to overcome the lack of vocabulary resulting from the censorship of the Kemalist government during the 1930’s:

“One thing that he (Pamuk), like so many other contemporary Turkish writers, try to do is renew the language and give it a new aesthetic.  Because of the language resolution that began in the 1930’s, Turkish has lost 60% of its vocabulary–because there was a concern about words of Arabic and Persian origin….So what writers often do in order to make the language more interesting is have very, very long sentences and the verb comes at the very, very end…”

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