Emotion without a Word: An Analysis of Bengali Emotions and Their English Translation

Shibashis Mukherjee, Anupam Das


Using Bengali texts and their English translations done by a set of English speaking native Bengali translators and another set of native English translators, we analyze how two specific Bengali emotion words (obhiman and lajja) have mapped onto English. In translating lajja translators use only three English words while for obhiman they choose an array of words with no consistency. This indicates that no English word represents a concept that is close to obhiman’s meaning suggesting that the concept represented by a particular emotion word in one language may not be totally captured in another language. Additionally, the findings indicate emotion words represent concepts with fuzzy borders (as suggested in scripts hypothesis) instead of dots in affect grids as envisioned in evaluation-potency-activity measurements. Such concepts vary in the spectrum of events they denote and in the degree to which they overlap. Subsequently, we, drawing from skopos theory, argue that cultural contexts in translation studies need to be considered rather than looking for exact equivalence of these emotion words.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.22158/sll.v2n4p250


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