The Translation of Song

Charlotte Bosseaux

in The Oxford Handbook of Translation Studies

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199239306
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

The Translation of Song

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  • Linguistics
  • Translation and Interpretation



This article overviews what has been done so far in the study of song translation, and focuses on the specific features, problems, and delights posed by this genre and its complexity. Music translation started to be given emphasis in the 1990s. Holistic approaches were favoured in which the music and the text were treated as a single, indivisible entity. Criteria such as performability, actability, speakability, breathability, and singability should be taken into account for song translation. Rhythm, rhymes, rhetorical figures, and performance all make for difficulties in the translation of operatic texts. There are different types of songs and each individual type requires different translation strategies. ‘Logocentrism’ is ‘a view defending the general dominance of the word in vocal music’, while ‘musicocentrism’ denotes a ‘wordless approach’. The success of a production is the criterion by which to judge the success of a translation.

Keywords: song translation; logocentrism; musicocentrism; performability; actability; speakability; breatability; singability

Article.  6321 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Translation and Interpretation

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