The limits of translation

One thing about reading Icelandic sagas in translation is that the translators don’t just translate the Icelandic text into English; they also translate characters’ names. There are reasons for this, including the fact that not all the letters in the Icelandic alphabet exist in English, as well as the fact that Icelandic names have different declensions based on their parts of speech–names (and other proper nouns) change spelling depending on their part of speech, much like pronouns do in English (in the manner of he/him/his, for example).

In translation, Hallgerður becomes Hallgerd. Eyjólfur becomes Eyjolf (or, in some translations, Eyiolf). Þórdís becomes Thordis. And so on.

I debate, when I post saga excerpts (and when I reference saga characters in my novel) whether to use the English translations that I’m reading, or to change the names, at least, back to the original Icelandic.

And this is livejournal, where anything is an excuse for a poll, so …

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