Alethea & Athena (double_dear) wrote,
Alethea & Athena

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Another dialect rant

Well, we had another day off today, because we're still waiting for stuff to happen. But we decided to make it at least somewhat productive work-wise, and we had just the thing for that. Several weeks ago, we decided we were going to get serious about this whole "translating dialects" thing, so we ordered a book on American dialects to help us write them properly. We started reading and then we realized, "So, uh, this isn't going to do us much good without knowing any more about Japanese dialects, is it?"

See, the idea is to find out what makes dialects tick, so to speak, and match them up. And of course you can't really match them up unless you know about the dialects in both languages--why do people in each region talk the way they do, what other people around the country think about them, etc. The tricky thing is that the easiest way to identify a dialect is by the geographical location of where it's spoken. But obviously someone who lives in the Kansai region of Japan does not live in the same place X American dialect is spoken. So that's not going to help anything.

Anyway, upon realizing that we needed a better handle on Japanese dialects, and that the internet wasn't going to just tell us what we wanted to know (and believe me, we tried), we ordered another book. I've mentioned Hougen Danshi before, I think. We got a CD drama way back when, in an attempt to train our ears for Japanese dialects. It might have worked if we'd ever listened to it more than twice. But the important thing is that the people who made the CD also released a book that covers all 47 prefectures of Japan, and explains their dialect, a little bit about how to speak it, a little bit about why it's the way it is (there's one northern prefecture that uses as few syllables as possible because it's too cold there to move your tongue around), and most importantly, personality traits that tend to be shared by speakers of that dialect (with the disclaimer that of course everyone is an individual and your mileage may vary).

So now we had a book on American dialects and a book on Japanese dialects, and we just put them away for a long time because we have lots of things to do and are easily distracted. Then, in the course of our translations, a character showed up who uses Kyoto dialect. Or at least, we assume it's Kyoto dialect, because that's where she's from. We realize that assuming is dangerous, but we also realize that minor differences aren't going to affect the translation too much one way or another, so we went with it.

And that brings us to today, doing research on dialects. First, we pulled out the Hougen Danshi book and flipped to the page on Kyoto dialect, to see what kind of an attitude we were looking for. There were three main things I kept in mind--first, Kyoto has a long history and people from there are proud of it/because of it; second, people from Kyoto are very independent; and third, people from Kyoto seem indifferent but it's really just their way of not meddling (to paraphrase our understanding of the text).

Next, Athena sat down to read the Kojiki while I pulled out the American Dialect book (because it's kind of awkward and crowded to try to read the same book at the same time). The book is American Dialects: A Manual for Actors, Directors, and Writers. (The "writers" part is the most important, in our case.) It has different chapters for the different regions represented, each with a little bit about what makes the dialect what it is--culture, history, etc. So my job was to read this section of each chapter and find the one that fit our image of Kyoto dialect the best.

Let's see what I found! There was one region that seemed to fit really well. I'll leave out any words that say explicitly which dialect it is, so you can see if you can guess what it is.

"The typical [speaker of this dialect] is inordinately proud of his [...] background. ...The 'old families' are revered with almost monarchial awe. The wealthy [resident of this region] prefers to live in a...mansion that is reminiscent of his glorious past. ... Finally, the men of [this region] were intense individualists."

So here we have a region that's proud of its long history and is very individualist. The one thing I couldn't really find was the part about seeming indifferent out of consideration for others, but that kind of goes with the individualist thing--the description in our book continues, "And in their willingness to grant that same privilege of individuality to others, they displayed traits of genuine friendship and helpfulness." Not quite the same as trying not to meddle, but both attitudes indicate a desire to let other people do things their way.

So have you figured it out? You guessed it, these sentences describe the Southern dialect. Of course, this is all based on just one book, and it's better to go to multiple sources to make sure they all agree. This book is very well researched, with a long list of sources and an introduction that talks about the hours that were spent interviewing speakers of the different dialects, so it definitely has credence, but if anybody has any other good suggestions for books on dialects, we'd be happy to hear them.

But anyway, if this book is to be trusted, it seems to us that what happened was, back in the day when anime/manga translators thought it would be a good idea to translate a Kansai dialect--you know, back when everything was localized like crazy, before the days of "authentic manga"--some translators and/or localizers did some research and decided the Southern dialect fit the bill pretty well. Then, when the newer generations of translators (like us) came along, they defaulted to it without really thinking about why. So then a newer still generation of translators came along and were all, "Ugh, Southern dialect is so unoriginal and not even right!" and so we came back and were like, "Nuh-uh!" And now we write multiple long posts about why its totes okay to translate a Kansai dialect to an American Southern one. Tadah!

Now we just have to read the part of the book that actually talks about how to write that dialect. Eh heh.

But instead, we'll probably play video games. The trouble is we're so close (we think) to the end of The World Ends With You, but the weather is so perfect for playing Final Fantasy X. Decisions, decisions.

Today I'm thankful for handy dialect resources, having some time to look at those handy resources, getting to try Pocky's friend Pejoy, videos about Masakazu Morita playing Tidus, and getting to spend lots of time with Page today.
Tags: language geekiness

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