There have been many insightful studies of allegory in Classical Arabic. The writers' concerns have mostly been with the aesthetic, rhetorical, semantic and eloquent aspects of allegory. However, a great deal of work is still to be done on its stylistic structure and implications, and translatability into English, which sheds more light on these hardly trodden paths to uncover their mysteries. This in turn gives further enlightenment about allegorical expressions in general, and the way this can be reflected in translation into English.
This paper, therefore, has the twofold aim of studying allegorical expressions from a stylistic perspective, and then demonstrating the importance of that in translating them into English. For achieving these two objectives, the whole study concentrates solely on allegorical expressions of silence and speech from different stylistic and translational perspectives. Several interesting and sometimes surprising findings have been declared below about these expressions and the relationships, functions and effects they produce, to be as much expressive as impressive to the audience, magnificently or mysteriously, and how all that can be taken (or not taken, or mis-taken) into consideration in translation into English.
here have been many insightful and formidable studies of allegory in Arabic. At the top of the list of classic figures of this field are Al-Jurjani (1982 and 1983); Ibn Jinni (1980); Ath-tha'alibi (1981); Az-zamakhshari (1990); El-Yaziji (1970); and there are many others. The writers' concerns have mostly been with the aesthetic, rhetorical, syntactic/grammatical, semantic and eloquent aspects of allegory. Therefore, little can be added to these studies in this respect. However, a great deal of work is still to be done on its stylistic structure and implications and translatability, which in my view sheds more light on these untouched aspects, and to uncover their mysteries, which gives more enlightenment about allegorical expressions in general, and how this can be reflected in their translation into English. This paper is an attempt in this direction, concentrating on allegorical expressions of speech and silence in Arabic, investigated stylistically and translationally.
Two questions beg answering here: Is allegory translatable in the first place? And is it legitimate to translate in the opposite direction as is done normally, that is, from L1 (mother tongue) into L2 (foreign language) instead of from L2 into L1? As to the first question, some theoreticians like Quillard (1998) regard the translation of puns, ambiguities and humour as impossible (maybe in imitation of Nobokov's firm belief in the impossibility of translating poetry-see Connolly 1998 for more details and objections), which is quite a strange claim, for in practice these are translated from and into all live languages almost daily, however questionable the degree of acceptability and accuracy. I side with Newmark that "...everything without exception is translatable; the translator cannot afford the luxury of saying that something cannot be translatable." (1988, 6). Admittedly, the comprehension and thus the translation of allegory is quite difficult, for it can be mysterious, elusive, opaque, or misleading (see also Baker 1992, 68-69 for more details on the difficulties of translating idioms), but certainly it is not impossible. I believe that it is possible to translate allegory successfully, and that this is confirmed by thousands of good translations of poetry in particular and other types of allegorical text in general, and that it is also demonstrated by the translations of the examples in this article.
As regards the legitimacy of translation into a foreign language rather than into one's mother tongue, it is true that translators "...can translate naturally, accurately and with maximum effectiveness" (op. cit., 3), and-I add-legally into their native language, their language of habitual use, for they control it more than any other language; yet, the actual situation almost everywhere in the world is that they are sometimes obliged to reorient their translation in the opposite direction to produce some good translations (see also Rioss and Weatherby 1998). It is hoped that this study will prove a point in this respect.
In comparison to English, allegorical Arabic expressions of speech and silence are amazingly rich with all kinds of meanings, styles and stylistic relationships, effects, implications and functions. Among the central relationships are the stylistic (especially lexico-grammatical and phonological) relationships of harmony, disharmony, ironical paradox, integration, disintegration, praise and condemnation of speech and silence considered individually, and speech and silence considered together by way of juxtaposition and comparison. Understanding and communicating such stylistic relationships in a translation into English is sometimes crucially important to the message.
What I mean by 'styles' here are the styles of politeness, harshness, indirectness, directness, passivity, positivity, threat, temptation, etc. As to functions, they are the hidden stylistic effects and implications created by the different stylistic relationships brought about by subtle, spellbinding allegory in Arabic at the levels of lexical choice and grammatical structure in particular, which must be transmitted, one way or another, into English in the translation. After all, style is taken here to be primarily a matter of choice made from all language features (see Leech and Short 1981, Carter and Nash 1990, Ghazala 1994, Toolan 1998 and many others for more illustrations). This choice, being intuitive and unfelt by language users, should not be disregarded by analysts and translators, for it is of critical importance to the message, and has considerable effect on the reader. It is irrelevant whether this choice is intentional or not, although any choice in language is supposed to be conscious and intended.
Allegory, on the other hand, is used here as a superordinate term, subsuming all figures of rhetoric in language, including mainly metaphors, similes, puns, metonyms, personification, wordplay, symbolism, irony, synecdoche, antimetabole, anadiplosis, etc. (see Nash 1980, Wales 1989 and Ghazala 1996). In his distinguished book Rhetoric (1990), my Ph.D. co-supervisor, Professor Walter Nash, offers a comprehensive, profound, detailed and unique study of rhetoric and figurative language. In his discussion of the importance of style in rhetoric in the past, he finds that it is the "patterns of wording that enforced the structures of persuasion". Also, stylistic propriety or decorum (i.e., the relevance of the manner to the matter) is a voucher of the author's sincerity. Therefore, "figurative language ... has a more than decorative purport, it is meant to have an effective power, to raise the emotions associated with a subject and correspondingly to evoke emotional responses from an audience" (see pp. 10-13 in particular). The last point about the response of the audience is quite important and recurrent in any discussion about allegorical expressions, as recipients are the target of such expressions. In other words, the expressions have powerful stylistic effects which impress readers and should, therefore, be part and parcel of their meaning, and these effects have to be taken into account in translation, exactly as done below.
This paper is based on a number of diverse Arabic expressions of different types: idioms, proverbs, semi-proverbs, catch phrases, adages, collocations and even everyday and colloquial phrases. They are transcribed phonetically, and then bitranslated, first literally and then more freely, to make the point(s) sharper and clearer.
Silence, to begin with, is, surprisingly, commended and recommended strongly and straightforwardly in many figurative phrases, but criticised in others, however indirectly. This creates really interesting stylistic relationships, as the following discussion may confirm.
1."خير الخلال حفظ اللسان" [khayru l-khilaali hifzu l-lisaan] Lit.: "The best characteristic is to keep one's tongue": "The best thing to do is to hold your tongue". The metaphorical image reflected by "حفظ"'hold' recommends keeping the tongue literally inside the mouth, which means not to use it at all. The equivalent English word 'hold' has this sense of preventing the tongue from talking by literally holding it, which is certainly understood but not done by language users. To have some power of persuasion, the phrase makes tongue-holding the best characteristic of man, which is spiritual encouragement and a comparison that would show high regard for people as social beings. It may be noted that the same expression can also be interpreted as a reference to saying little, just the necessary, useful and important words, especially in everyday use of language. Yet, I believe the former implication is the overwhelming sense of the phrase. On the other hand, the half rhyme between 'khilaal' and 'lisaan' and the repetition of the letter 'kh' in the first two words reflect the popularity of rhyme in such popular phrases, and serve as an aid in memorising and remembering.
Similar phrases are: "احفظ (عليك) لسانك" [ihfaz ('alayka) lisaanak] and
"أمسك (عليك) لسانك" [amsek ('alayka) lisaanak]. Both mean: "Hold your tongue." Both can be used as a strong reaction to someone else's statement, as well as advice for everybody to be careful and quiet.
The English translations of the last two are perfect equivalences, while the first is semi-equivalent, with concentration on maintaining the superlative form to demonstrate the functional exaggeration aimed at by the Arabic original.
2. "ربما كان السكوت جواباً"[rubbama kana s-sukootu jawaaban] Lit.: "Perhaps silence is a reply": "Silence could be sometimes an answer". The allegorical part of this phrase lies in silence, which is itself symbolic of a good answer, which could be more expressive than a spoken utterance. Usually silence is literally no answer at all, when a spoken statement is demanded. Yet to keep silent in such a situation is considered symbolic and expressive enough of the intended message, which could be of satisfaction, dissatisfaction, anger, consent, malice, fear, hesitation, 'don't know', etc. Silence, then, has very significant stylistic implications, which must be attended to by analysts and translators alike.
There is nothing fantastic about the TL equivalence of meaning. Here 'rubbamaa' 'perhaps' is a probability that two counter-possibilities are equally feasible. That is, silence could/could not be an answer. The same sense is expressed in English. This means that 'rubba' is more probable and closer to certainty than 'rubbamaa', although on the face of it, the two would mean 'could/might/perhaps', etc. On the other hand, 'kaana' 'was' does not refer strictly to the past; but to a timeless present. Hence its translation into 'is'.
3. "إذا تم العقل نقص الكلام"[ithaa tamma l-'aqlu naqusa l-kalaamu] Lit.: "When reason becomes perfect, speech lessens": "More wisdom less talk". This is a hint to the value of keeping silent most of the time, as wisdom regards silence precious. Also, 'less talk' is more an insinuation to silence than to less words, although the latter sense is not uncommon. The antithesis suggested between 'perfect mind/wisdom' and 'less talk/silence' (i.e., 'less talk more wisdom' vs. 'more talk less wisdom' / 'more wisdom less talk' vs. 'less wisdom more talk') is another sign of respect for silence. Such a strong link between 'reason' and 'silence' is a big incentive for people to refrain from talking, for this would indicate their 'perfect mind', as it were. In transmitting this expression in English, care is taken on two main levels: the level of syntactic structure of contrast between the two verbs 'become perfect' and 'lessen' (in the TL it is reflected in 'more' and 'less'), and the level of conciseness of form, imitating-or perhaps superceding-the original (i.e., four words in English vis-à-vis five in Arabic), for it meets the requirements of rhetorical allegory perfectly. One final important point is the translation of 'aql' 'reason/mind' into 'wisdom' 'hikmah' which is an inductive translation for 'perfection/completion of mind means wisdom'. Thus, we understand the expression as follows: 'Be wise, keep quiet'.
4."السكوت من ذهب" [assukootu min thahab] Lit.: "Silence is from gold": "Silence is gold". Here silence is materialised into gold, the most precious metal to people everywhere. This comparison aims at showing the great value of silence, and we are urged to look at it as being valuable as gold. So the harmony and perfect identification between gold and silence gives more evidence that silence is highly recommended. Some would object to comparing the immaterial silence to the material gold, for it could be depreciation rather than appreciation of silence to materialise it in such way. Maybe this is true, but the fact of the matter is that a comparison like this is quite popular among language users, especially in everyday conversation, and is intended only to confirm the value of something, and that is all. The TL version is stronger than the SL text for it makes silence perfectly correspondent to gold in form of immediate, full identification with it. That is, Silence = Gold. But the original makes silence 'made of'-rather than perfectly identical with-gold, which can imply that the former is superior to the latter, and that other metals or things could be involved in its essence. The equating form 'ls-sukootu thahab' 'silence is (=) gold' does not exist in Arabic. Furthermore, the definite article of 'al-sukoot' is indicative of any silence, any time, any where, and for any reason (cf., the first example above and the next example).
Again, phonologically speaking, the consonant bilabial, voiced stop 'b' in 'thahab' is suggestive of closed lips and stopping talking completely, that is, 'as-sukoot'.
5."رب كلمة سلبت نعمة" [rubba kalimaten salabat ni'mah] Lit.: "One word may steal a bounty": "One word could cost you a fortune","A word can be costly". It is a phrase that recommends investing silence in a situation where saying something, even one word, could be costly enough to deprive someone of a valuable thing. So allegorically speaking, such a word could steal, or rob him of something that is (or would be) his otherwise, that is, if only he would keep his mouth shut. The 'word' meant here is primarily one that might be bad, or undesired; but any word of any kind is inadvisable. The metaphorical word that relates silence to fortune, 'salabat' 'steal/rob', is a subtle lexical choice which is functional and suggestive of a person's right ripped away him by uttering one single word, although it is not really one of his own possessions by origin or by law. As such, it invites a feeling of regret for wasting such a hypothetical right.
Syntactico-stylistically speaking, 'rubba' implies certainty rather than probability in the sense that such a word, if said, is sure to have an effect. However, the indefinite form of 'kalimaten' is again indicative of sometimes, not always (see the previous example).
Reading the expression with two stops on 'kalimah' and 'ni'mah' consecutively, we discover a sense of irony in this soft rhyme with soft, low intonation and full pronunciation of the glottal fricative 'h' (as in the final sound of 'ah') which is indicative of something that has evaporated. And this is exactly what the phrase wants to communicate.
Two English translations are provided for this expression; the first is a full translation in a precise literal sense, but too long and too literal, while the second is shorter, more English, more effective and generic, yet looser and less specific. Both translations, however, have failed to produce a phonological effect similar to that of the original.
6."رب رأس حصيد لسان" [rubba raasen haseedu lissan] Lit.: "Maybe a head is the price for a slip of the tongue": "A slip of the tongue could get a man killed". This expression is an outright threat that a word, even one that is unintentional, might cause a person his life, the highest price that a man can pay. This is an indirect piece of advice for people to be extra careful and keep quiet. Such a straightforward, sharp connection between a word (i.e., tongue) and one's life (i.e., head) as the price is so frightening that one must think twice before saying something in certain situations, before certain people. It is a connection that relates tongue to head in such a manner that the latter survives only on the condition that the former behaves itself. This shows the serious consequences of talking, and at the same time implies the unparalleled value of silence. The use of 'rubba' (implying certainty rather than probability) invites the notes made above on its use in such expressions.
Related to this are proverbial expressions and adages like:
"لسانك حصانك إن صنته صانك وإن خنته خانك" [Lissanak hisaanak in suntahu saanak wa-in khuntahu khaanak] Lit.: "Your tongue is your horse: if you take care of it, it will take care of you, and if you betray it, it will betray you": "Beware of your tongue (if you don't hold it)";
"الندم على السكوت خير من الندم على القول" [annadamu 'la s-sukootu khayron mina n-nadami 'ala l-qawl] Lit.: "Regretting silence is better than regretting saying": "Better to regret silence than utterance"; "ما أوردني المهالك إلا أنت/لقد أوردتني المهالك" [maa awradani l-mahaalika illaa ant/laqad awradtani l-mahaalek] Lit.: "O, my tongue, nothing has ruined me but you": "You ruined me, tongue!;"وهل يكبُّ الناسَ على وجوههم في النار إلا حصائدُ ألسنتهم؟" [wahal dkubbu n-naasa alaa wujoohihem fi- n-naari illa hasaaedu alsinatihem] This is a part of a tradition by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). It roughly means: "The people of Hellfire are thrown there mostly because of their wicked tongues." The last one is the strongest warning possible of the dire consequences of bad talk. At the same time, it has the implication that remaining silent is to be on the safe side. Another saying by the prophet which reflects the same sense is a word of advice for a believer to say good things, or else keep silent: "فليقل خيراً أو ليصمت" [falyaqol khayran aw liyasmot].
It should be pointed out that all the foregoing phrases and sayings do not recommend absolute, everlasting silence. Their main message is to prefer silence to talking, listening to speaking, to be extra careful when saying something, and to remain quiet in critical situations and moments in the company of certain people.
The English translations of all these expressions lean heavily on the transference of their literal meaning as closely and faithfully as possible. The closest to English proverbial structure is 'Better to regret silence than utterance,' for it is an attempt to mimic the form of proverbs like 'better late than never,' 'better safe than sorry,' etc., which is more effective than an ordinary form.
7. "صمت مُطْبِق" [samton mutbeq] Lit.: "Closing silence": "Absolute silence", "Complete silence", "A ton of silence". This metaphor is suggestive of a stone-dead person. It is an exaggeration aimed at reflecting a psychological and/or mental state of deep thinking, contemplation, utter carelessness, or dissatisfaction, the latter being dominant. This phrase is an excellent image of perfect silence, turning the original image upside down. That is, instead of describing silence as being internal, coming out of the man in question, it is introduced here as something external, dumped on him from the outside, like a speech-resistant suit, as it were. It is a kind of expression used usually in a context of passivity and/or confusion and puzzlement on the part of the hearer.
The English translation is borrowed from Newmark's example on original metaphors: 'A ton of enforced silence was dumped on Mr. Eaton' (1988: 113), where the word 'dump' is suggestive of the image claimed above. Yet, 'absolute silence' is a good version.
8."ما نبس ببنت شفة" [maa nabasa bibinti shafah] Lit.: "He did not whisper one daughter of a lip": "He buttoned his lips", "He was as quiet as the grave", "He kept a quiet tongue". 'The daughter of a lip' is a metaphor that stands for 'a word'. It is an exaggeration meant to stress the state of absolute silence of a person whose mouth is completely shut. Also, 'whisper' emphasizes the person's absolute silence, that he did not open his mouth to produce one single word, or even one sound. 'Daughter of a lip' completes the picture of a person who does not even whisper, let alone produce words off his mouth. The context of this expression is positive, praising a person for keeping completely quiet, by way of defending him for saying nothing whatsoever. 'Bint' can also be understood as a reference to the bilabial sound 'b' the first to be produced by the closed lips when opened. This will be quite clear if we practice it by closing lips and opening them a little in the middle to pronounce 'b'. We can hardly feel that we have pronounced something, which is what could be implied here by the Arabic 'bint'. Adding to this sense is the second set of sounds of the final word 'shafah'. The sound cluster 'fah' is again one of the simplest shortest and easiest to produce when just opening the lips.
As regards the English translation, three equally accepted versions are available in the English language, the first of which is the closest and the most identical with the Arabic original, as far as the allegorical image is concerned. What is exactly meant by the SL expression is that someone had his lips completely buttoned, which is expressed in another informal Arabic phrase, "خيَّط فمه" [khayat famah]: "He sewed his mouth", "He had his mouth sewed." Nevertheless, there are two differences between the original and the translation: one concerns the absence of the phonological effect of the former in the latter; another is the use of two culturally different allegorical images, but with the same implication and effect.
9."بيعنا سكوتك!"(عا) [bee'na skootak (col.)] Lit.: "Sell us your silence!": "Keep your quiet", "Stop talking!". This is a popular colloquial expression that could be somehow confusing, for, first of all, how can one sell one's silence? And secondly and more importantly, how are we to understand that this is said to interrupt somebody, to get him to stop talking? It is understood as an indirect, but impolite way of abruptly cutting off someone's speech. What it really means is that silence is valuable whereas speech is not. Therefore, that person is advised to give up talking, which is valueless, in favour of silence, which is precious to such an extent that people would buy it. Certainly no one would pay a penny for it, but it is just an indirect way to pass the message to a person to stop talking, especially when he expresses an uninteresting view. Again, the matter is to convince people to keep silent. A very important feature of this phrase is its sarcastic implication, since no one really sells or buys silence except ironically. What helps us understand this sense is the falling-rising serious intonation in the question form.
The English translation contains no allegory or sarcasm, but transfers the sense perfectly. There is a way, however, to convey this sense of ridicule stylistically by means of a rather pragmatic, free, less context-bound, and more creative version (with appropriate ironical intonation) like: "Isn't it interesting to listen to this man!", "How nice to listen to you Mr. Talker!" etc.
In sum, it is striking how silence is, paradoxically, considered mostly a merit, but occasionally a demerit. This is more often made clear indirectly than directly, through stylistic features and relationships and their effects and functions, which sharpen, emphasise, interpret and make prominent such implications of silence. Even more striking paradoxical and complicated relationships are demonstrated by the following allegorical expressions of speech, starting with those in favour.
1."أحلى الكلام" [ahla l-kalaam] Lit.: "The sweetest talk ever": "The best words ever". This phrase is an exclusive reference to the Holy Qur'an and the Prophet's traditions for Muslims, and to the language of poetry in general, and love poetry in particular. The image is derived from taste, but not just any taste, it is the sweetest thing that man can taste. Here sweetness is not confined to one aspect of speech, but is common to all aspects. It is a kind of perfect language that is regarded as the best, the sweetest, the most beautiful, rhetorical, aesthetic, expressive, and hence the most attractive language ever. It is an unparalleled type of language. It displays all the allegorical skills and prowess of language and the intricacies of words put together. This phrase could be the one in praise of the best part of language, written or spoken.
The precise sense and metaphor of the original are rendered completely into English, although not with the same connotation.
2."حديث شريف" [hadeethon shareef] Lit.: "Honourable saying (by the Prophet Muhammad)": "A Prophet's tradition/saying". Usually a saying is not described as honourable, only people are. But here we have a special kind of saying by the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (peace be upon him). So this metaphor is borrowed to elevate and venerate any saying by him. It has a quite affectionate, positive effect on all Muslims. It is one of a number of phrases used to describe the Prophet, with 'shareef' 'honourable' being a common denominator among them: 'His honourable, face/head/hand', etc., all of which are special metaphors aimed at glorifying the Prophet, his sayings, possessions and deeds. Added to them are phrases like "المصحف الشريف" [almus-hafu sh-shareef], referring to the Holy Qur'an and "الحرمان الشريفان" [al-haramaani sh-shareefaan], referring to the two Holy mosques in Mecca and Al-Medina in Saudi Arabia.
3."كلامك دهب/من دهب/ذهب"(عا) [kalaamak dahab/min dahab (col.)] Lit.: "Your speech is gold/from gold": "Your speech is gold/golden". Speech here is compared to gold, exactly as silence is (see 1 above). It is a perfect metaphorical material harmony between gold and speech, aiming at rating speech highly. But it is not any kind of speech; it is a certain speech in a certain situation on a certain topic addressed to a certain person who approves it by commenting on it, using this phrase. So, it is not speech in general.
Three stylistic points are due here. The first is the difference between the two versions of this phrase: 'speech is gold' and 'speech is made of gold' which are apparently the same. They are not precisely so as the latter would imply metals other than gold, and speech is not identified with gold, but made of it as its raw material, while the former identifies the elements with each other: speech is gold; gold is speech (see also 1 above). Secondly, identifying speech with gold draws attention to the substance of speech which is as precious as gold. Thirdly, such comparison is drawn on a material, not a moral basis.
The English equivalent is perfectly identical with the first version and, therefore, achieves all the effects and functions of the original.
4. "كلام حلو"(عا) [kalam hulu (col.)] Lit.: "Sweet talk": "Nice talk". The metaphor here identifies talk with sweetness, the area of taste rather than substance (it should be pointed out that the Arabic sweet talk is different from the well-known English phrase 'sweet talk' with the negative sense of insincerity and hypocrisy; for this sense, see the discussion of 'sweet tongue' in the section about negative expressions about speech below). It could be a reference to the choice of favourable words and expressions such as collocations, rhetorical figures, catch phrases and proverbs. Consequently, an agreeable message is certainly implied. Hence, speech is very much praised, but only good and nice speech.
Other similar expressions are "كلام جميل" [kalaam jameel] Lit.: "Beautiful talk": "Nice talk", whose concentration is shifted onto the agreeable, likeable part of speech alongside a favourable message; "كلام معقول" [kalaam ma'qool] Lit.: "Reasonable/rational speech": "Wise/good talk", which centres on persuasive speech; "حسن الخطاب" [husnu l-khitaab] Lit.: "The beauty of address": "Charming rhetoric", with focus on the rhetorical, aesthetic aspects of speech.
Translationally, all these expressions have equivalents of sense in the first place. The only problematic one is the last which sounds tautological in English (i.e., 'rhetorical' implies 'charming'), yet it is a relatively good translation that is faithful to the SL phrase.
5."كلامك على العين والراس"(عا) [kalaamak; 'ala l-ayn war-raas (col.)] Lit.: "Your speech is on (my) eye and head": "I hold your opinion in high esteem". This expression is symbolic of showing respect, consent, obedience, submission and full approval by the speaker. It is a prompt response to a point of view, a word of advice, a request, an instruction of some kind, etc. Its reference is exclusively to the message. Although it is an expression of consent, it does not always imply a wholehearted agreement: a contrastive statement-usually beginning with 'but'-might follow it to oppose what has been said.
The choice of eye and head is socio-cultural, connoting a high regard for them both, maybe because they are the two highest, most important and sensitive parts of the human body; hence the popular, colloquial phrases: "على عيني/من عيني هذه قبل هذه/من عيوني"(عا) ['alaa 'ayni/min 'ayni haathihi qabla haathihi/min uyooni (col.)] "OK/With pleasure";
"على راسي(من فوق)/أمرك على راسي"(عا) [ala raasi (min fouq)/amrak 'alaa raasi (col.)] "OK/Yes sir/With all my pleasure". Thus, even with only one of the two-the eye or the head-the expression implies approval and submissiveness; so when both are used in one and the same phrase as connotatively homogeneous-as in our phrase here-they become stylistically more emphatic.
The English versions are pragmatic and free, focussing on the sense and effect of the message at the expense of a literal rendition which, if applied, would be funny and repulsive.
6."كلام رجال"(عا) [kalaam rjaal (col.)] Lit.: "Talk of men": "Responsible word", "A word of honour". This is either a comment on somebody else's statement, or a confirmation by the speaker himself. It means a responsible saying, opinion or word given firmly by a person, usually-but not strictly-a man. It is a kind of oath or a pledge made by him for another person that he assumes full responsibility to meet someone. So the word 'men' here is symbolic of courage, responsibility, honour, honesty, firmness and faithfulness. This is not unknown in English language and culture, as Lady Macbeth's question to her frightened, hesitant husband in Shakespeare's play, Macbeth, "Are you a man?" (Act III, Scene 4:58) implies that she thinks he is a cowardly, weak man in the first place. At the same time, an expression that insinuates the opposite is "كلام نسوان" [kalaam nswaan (col.)] Lit.: "Women's talk", which has opposite connotations. Perhaps this made sense in English in Shakespeare's day, but not now!
The TL translation is a functional equivalent for the original. That is, it reflects its function rather than the literal sense or description. Furthermore, 'word of honour' is a commonplace collocation.
7. "قول صائب" [qawlon saa'eb] Lit.: "Hitting saying": "Right saying", "Well-said". Here a saying is highly appreciated because it hits the target perfectly, right in the bull's-eye. Here lies the metaphor: a saying is identified with an arrow that hits the target in the heart, which means that it is right to perfection. This target is the absolute truth about something or somebody. A similar expression is:"أصاب كبد الحقيقة" [asaaba kabida l-haqeeqah] Lit.: "He hit the liver of the truth": "He hit the heart of the matter", where 'liver' is employed to symbolise the centre or the heart of the truth. But truth has no liver or heart, only in the allegoric sense. The image is a little bit complicated here. The liver is as central and essential as the heart to the human body, the origin of this image; therefore when hit, man's life terminates. By analogy, when truth is hit in the heart, it comes to an end and becomes clear and available to everybody. This image of the truth makes it a prey, when hit in the heart, it gets killed, and then we can get hold of it. Yet, this expression does not have negative implications about truth; on the contrary, it has an outstandingly and exceptionally positive connotation. This image of hitting is preferable, especially in classical Arabic and culture.
'Heart of the matter' and 'hitting the target' are popular collocations in English and hit the target of the SL meaning here. To my knowledge, there is no English metaphor like the last Arabic one about 'truth'.
8."لا فض فوك/يسلم فمك(تمك)(عا)" [la fudda fooka/dslam fammak (tmmak) (col.)] Lit.: "May your mouth never be unsealed", "May your mouth be safe": "Well-said (spoken)", "How well you have spoken". The allegory here is in the use of 'mouth' to mean speech by implication, alongside with the addressee's wishes for the addresser's mouth to be safe and never unsealed in order to speaking nicely perpetually. These two expressions are said as a comment on an exceptionally favourable statement. It is a great praise of somebody who says exactly the right and required thing.
What is interesting in the first phrase is its double allegory. That is, in addition to the previous point about the use of 'mouth' to connote speech, the use of 'fudda' 'unsealed' suggests an image based on a metaphor comparing a mouth to an envelope that is usually closed perfectly, or, in other words, sealed, so that no one can open it. It is hoped by the addressee that the mouth never be unsealed, thus keeping nice words safe inside, so that every time it is opened again, it will produce nice words.
The English equivalent 'well-said' has no allegory, but transfers the message of the original faithfully, with an eye kept on an agreeable expression of praise. Moreover, it is crisp, concise, sharp and to the point; and, like the original, it connotes a praise of a favourable statement.
9."القول ينفُذ ما لا تنفُذ الإبر" [al-qawlu yanfuthu maa laa tanfuthu l-ibaru] Lit.: "Speech penetrates where needles cannot penetrate": "Speech is as penetrating as a pin". This metaphor is a fact of life, for words can touch the heart, whereas pins cannot. Even granting the highly hypothetical possibility of touching the heart with pins, words can still affect emotions and feelings, but pins cannot. So the image of penetration in this comparative relationship between pins and words is quite precise, impressive and expressive. Penetration is normally associated with the concrete (i.e., pins), but here it is also attributed to the inconcrete (viz., words) which not only matches the concrete, but surpass it, as is perfectly true in reality.
One more stylistic point can be made about the word order of this expression. The front position occupied by 'saying/words' has three important indications: The first is the emphasis on the most important word in the phrase. Secondly, by foregrounding it, the antithetical appearance of 'penetrate' becomes sharper and more ostentatious. Thirdly, the whole expression is most likely taken from a line of verse from Arabic traditional poetry, and such word order is dictated by the restrictions of foot and metre. Even if this is so, it by no means discredits the previous two significant stylistic functions for the fronted 'words.'
Identical with this expression is the phrase"رب قول أشد من صول" [rubba qawlen ashaddu min sawlen] Lit.: "Perhaps a saying is tougher than an assault": "Words can be as fierce as a fight/as sharp as a needle". Words are given a power greater and more influential than an attack in a war with a deadly weapon and the possibility of a man getting killed. What a serious, destructive power words might have! Certainly 'qawlen' and 'sawlen' are made to rhyme with one another on purpose for rhetorical reasons, and for achieving and reflecting equality between them, with 'ashaddu' in between to give superiority to the first. Also, the fronted word of probability, 'rubba'-repeated in many expressions like this-has the stylistic function of stressing the hypothetical, yet not uncertain, nature of the phrase. Stylistically speaking, this expression is perfectly organised.
In English, the translation of the latter phrase into an 'as ... as' phrase of popular similes, has superbly and comfortably matched the Arabic original. However, the former expression is admittedly an endeavour to imitate the SL structure and allegory, by retaining the same metaphor of pins and needles, and employing the favoured English form of 'as ... as' phrases.
10."عند التصريح تريح" ['inda t-tasreeh tureeh] Lit.: "At speaking (frankly) you comfort us": "Speak up to cheer us up" "You speak up we cheer up". The whole phrase is allegorical, for 'tasreeh' stands for an open/frank opinion on the part of the addresser, and 'tureeh' for trouble-shooting and change of the psychological state of worry on behalf of the addressee. A strong relationship is created between speaking one's mind, and another's relief as a result of that. To support and reflect this, the two words are made to rhyme with one another, with a subtle onomatopoeic touch demonstrated by the long 'ee' followed by the sound 'h', a combination of sounds that can be identified with a long sigh of relief, تنهد/تنفس الصعداء [tanahhod/tanaffos as-sa'daa'], produced by a man having a burden lifted off his shoulders. Obviously, the phrase is an urgent invitation for people to speak up and say the truth, rather than hide it from others who happen to be impatient to hear it.
At translating the expression into English, the concern has been in the three most important points, rhyme, comfortable structure, and message. The first is achieved through the repetition of 'up' and the consonance between the medial long 'ee' in 'speak' and 'cheer'. The second is realised by the clear-cut symmetrical structure of the whole phrase, namely between 'you speak up' and 'we cheer up'. The third is the result of the previous two aspects as much as of the lexical choice of 'speak up' and 'cheer up' in favour of several others available in the language inventory (e.g., 'talk/say the truth/be frank', etc., for the former, and 'be happy/feel comfortable/be at ease', etc., for the latter).
11."الكلم(الكلام) الطيب/الكلمة الطيبة" [alkalimu (alkalaamu) t-tayyeb/alkalimatu t-tayyibah] Lit.: "Delicious talk": "Good words". The reference here is to good, agreeable, decent, dignified and philanthropic language in general. On top of this type of talk is 'thikru Allah' (remembrance of Allah). The metaphorical word 'tayyeb' is literally used to describe food in the sense of delicious and tasty. By analogy, it is used to modify immaterial things like words, speech, people, countries (cf., "al-baladu t-tayyeb"-"the good/clean country/town") and behaviour. It is also used in everyday conversation to mean OK, right, good, beautiful, alright and fine. Contrasted to it is the phrase
"الكلام الخبيث/الكلمة الخبيثة" [al-kalaamu l-khabeeth/al-kalimatu l-khabeethah] Lit.: "Disagreeable/malicious talk": "Dirty/bad talk". It is used to mean bad, evil, dirty, wicked, vicious, obnoxious, devilish, indecent and taboo language in general. Originally 'khabeeth' is derived from the noun 'khubth' (dirt/obnoxious taste). 'Good language' is used alongside this phrase to sharpen and heighten the paradoxical relationship between them, and make prominent the advantages of the first and the disadvantages of the second.
English has no perfect equivalent for such expressions. However, sense is certainly available, as the versions supplied confirm, although without much allegory.
These two sharply antithetical expressions pave the way for the discussion of those phrases which condemn speech in different ways and for different reasons.
1."كلامْ كْبير"(عا) [kalaam kbeer (col.)] Lit.: "Big talk": "Serious/responsible talk". Usually talk is not described as big or small in Arabic (and the two English phrases, 'small talk', i.e., light conversation, and 'talk big', i.e., boastfully, are false friends in Arabic for they have completely different meanings and connotations). There is some ambiguity in 'big' which is mostly positive in many collocations. Here it seems to be positive as an adjective describing 'speech', yet it is not so in its connotations. That is, being allegorical, this phrase is suggestive of a serious statement by an ordinary person who either does not know its implications, or is thought to have no authority or ability to be responsible for it or to substantiate it. It is used in a context criticising, threatening, ridiculing or expressing surprise. Therefore, it is negative and critical of such types of statements.
The functional equivalence is given in English for there is no identical expression with the same implications of the SL, but there is no sign of ambiguity here.
2."اللسان مركب ذلول" [allisaanu markabon thaloolu] Lit.: "The tongue is an obedient boat": "One's tongue is under one's control". The phrase seems to be referentially in favour of speech, but contextually it is used as a warning against the slips and hazards of the tongue. It is easy to use the tongue to say any word, but the consequences might be quite costly. Therefore, this metaphor implies the tendency of the tongue towards loose, careless, slippery and uncontrolled production of words, regardless of the results. It is like a boat navigating a fast river-extremely difficult to control. Stylistically speaking, this image is a good choice for expressing perfectly the notion of uncontrollability attributed to the tongue. This expression is, then, an indirect precaution for people to take care of their tongues, and beware of their slips and irresponsible emission of words.
Another meaning of 'thalool' (obedient) could be suggested here in this negative context of tongue, which is 'humiliating and causing insult to man' (taken from 'thalla/thull' 'humiliate/humiliation'). This sense is quite feasible and understandable for it is imposed by the general style and context of the expression, which implies the troubles a slippery tongue might cause.
In a similar context, there are expressions that urge taking care of the tongue, or else silence is highly recommended (see phrases on silence above).
Concerning the English translation, it transmits the sense regardless of allegory. This is usually the last resort, but it is not all that bad.
3."كلام فارغ/تافه" [kalaam faaregh/taafeh] Lit.: "Empty/trivial talk": "Empty/idle talk", "Trash". 'Faaregh' 'empty' is usually used with material objects like pans, bags, rooms, and any vacant spaces, rather than with immaterial things like talk. The image of emptiness is borrowed here to indicate that such kind of talk is at the same time: uninteresting, mean, useless, trivial and time-wasting for the addressee in particular. The same can be said about 'taafeh' 'trivial', which has identical implications. From a stylistic point of view, this is a crisp popular phrase, categorically destroying somebody's talk. Two words are enough to blast apart a whole speech. They are a good example for the sharp and to-the-point phrases: "خير الكلام ما قل ودل" [khayru l-kalaami maa qalla wadall], *** the so-called encapsulators (i.e., words with comprehensive, general reference). Although the latter phrase is positive (it is not discussed with the phrases in favour of talk for it is not allegorical), it has a general reference to any expression, negative or positive, which is sharp and to the point.
In this context, there are some metaphorical proverbial and semi-proverbial phrases that have similar negative implications for idle talk: "كلام الليل يمحوه النهار" [kalaamu l-layli yamhoohu n-nahaar] Lit.: "Night talk is erased by day talk": "What is said at night is forgotten the following day", which insinuates trivial talk, or else it wiould not be forgotten; "كلامه ريح في قفص" [kalaamuhu reehon fee qafas] Lit.: "His talk is a wind in a cage": "His talk vanishes into thin air", which indicates trivial talk again; "وبعض القول يذهب في الرياح" [waba'du l-qawli yathhabu fi r-riyaahi] Lit.: "And some of the talk goes with the wind": "A part of talk evaporates in the air", which highlights again the triviality of at least a portion of the talk;"لغو/لهو الحديث" [lagwu/lahwu l-hadeeth] Lit.: "Wasted talk": "Nonsense/logorrhea", to signify idle, unnecessary talk;
"أسمع جعجعة ولا أرى طحناً" [asma'u ja'ja'atan walaa araa tahnan] Lit.: "I hear noise (of a mill) and see no grounds": "I hear wheeling without milling", to stress the uselessness of noisy, pompous chatter that stands short of action, exactly like the barking of dogs that do not bite.
The last Shakespearean proverb is possibly the origin of the Arabic one. Therefore, it poses no problem. Also, 'nonsense/trash', 'empty/idle talk', and 'sharp and to the point' are well-known expressions in English that convey completely or partly the sense and allegory of the SL counterparts.
4."لسان حلو" [lisaanon hulw] Lit.: "Sweet tongue": "Sweet tongue". The metaphorical description of the tongue as sweet suggests a surface, referential meaning (i.e., the unnecessary use of a lot of nice and agreeable words) and an implied meaning (that is, hypocrisy as a means to get something), which is the intended meaning here. In both languages the image of sweetness (the area of taste) is exploited to reflect the double sense of nice words. However, this does not apply to the phrase, 'kalaam hulw' 'nice talk' (see above). This is a very passive expression used to describe hypocrites in whatever situation.
Two analogous, equally popular expressions are: "طري اللسان" [tariyyu l-lisaan] Lit.: "Soft-tongued": "Sweet-tongued"; and "رطْب اللسان" [ratbu l-lisaan] Lit.: "Wet-tongued": "Sweet-tongued". It is stylistically interesting how the metaphorical words in these three phrases (i.e., 'hulw', 'tariyy', 'ratb'-'sweet', 'soft', 'wet') have quite popular positive connotations of politeness, friendliness, intimacy and sociability, to stand in sharp contrast with the black, ugly disgusting, abhorrent and impolite image of hypocrisy in the heart of a sweet-tongued person. Such paradoxical juxtaposition of antonyms has the function of making hypocrisy uglier. Here applies the well-known saying: "والضد يُظهر حسنَه الضد" [wad-diddu yuzhiru husnahu d-diddu]: "Nothing is good or ill but by comparison".
5."لسان من رُطَب ويد من خشب" [lisaanon min rutab wayadon min khashab] Lit.: "A tongue of ripe dates and a hand of wood": "A sweet tongue and a harsh hand". Allegory abounds here. The sweetness and softness of the tongue is drawn from ripe dates, which are the sweetest and the softest kind of dates. When words are made to resemble dates, they are meant to be identified with them perfectly when tasted and experienced by the tongue.
The second metaphor, 'a hand of wood', suggests the meaning of harshness and ruthlessness on the part of the same person. It is a stiff and senseless hand, as wood is a hard material. Simply, this person is harsh, hard and ruthless.
This is some allegory. Several stylistic features have been employed here to produce the greatest possible effect on the reader. Chief among them is the antithetical conformity created between two opposites, 'rutab' 'ripe dates' and 'khashab' 'wood'. That is, although the latter is symbolic of harshness and the former of softness, they are made identical, as the 'soft tongue' is not soft at all, but a deceptive one, and the 'wooden hand' is not just any hand, but a hard one. This leads to the conclusion that deception and hardness are closely related as two faces of the same coin, so to speak. What supports this even more is the strong stop end-rhyme between 'rutab' and 'khashab', with the same number of sounds and letters, as though the first equals the second. Also, there is a striking syntactic parallelism between the two parts of the expression, 'lisaanon min rutab' (N+PREP+N); and 'yadon min khashab' (N+PREP+N), the rhyme between 'lisaanon' and 'yadon', and the rhymed repetition of 'min' twice, which half rhymes with the other two words preceding it each time. The final stylistic feature that needs to be attended to is the coordinate conjunction of addition. Here we perhaps expect a connector of contrast (i.e., but, yet, however, etc.) rather than of addition. But since the latter is used, a contrast between the two noun phrases has changed into addition, and only phrases of the same kind are added to one another. This gives further evidence for the argument for paradoxical conformity and heterogeneous homogeneity.
The translation into English has tried to produce not only the message but also the effect of the original on the TL reader, by achieving some kind of semi end-rhyme between 'tongue' and 'hand', parallel structure (ADJ+N: 'sweet tongue' vs. 'harsh hand'), concise structure (as few words as possible), and the use of the same conjunction of addition, 'and', rather than of contrast, which is common in collocations of contrastiveness like 'vice and virtue'. The difference is in degree and allegory which is richer on the SL side. The same translation approach is applied to the next three expressions.
Two more expressions of the same structure and sense can be introduced here:
"كلام كالعسل وفعل كالأسَل"[kalaamon kal-'asal wafi'lon kal-asal] Lit.: "A talk like honey and a doing like sharp a instrument": "Sweet words and bad deeds", where the sweet honey is matched by a very sharp instrument like a knife, a sword, a lance, or a razor. So the sense of sharpness of two different kinds is there, side by side with the contrastive connotations of sweetness and agreeability for honey, and ferocity and harshness for a sharp instrument. The latter seems to correspond with the former in this phrase, as 'honey talk' is a cheating talk confirmed by the person's deeds which are wicked and aggressive. Therefore, both have surface antithesis and underlying resemblance of message (cheating and deception for honey, and wickedness and aggression for sharp instrument). Again the same sort of syntactic parallelism-noted in conjunction with the previous expression-is present between two remarkably and perfectly rhymed parts here: 'kalaamon kal-'asal' (N+PREP+N), and 'fi'lon kal-asal' (N+PREP+N), which also suggests that kalaamon = fi'lon, and 'asal = asal. The same can also be said of the conjunction 'and', which replaces a contrastive connector, to suggest the sameness of the two images of the expression.
Similar to this is the proverbial expression, "كلام ليِّن وظلم بيِّن" [kalaamon layyen wazulmon bayyen] Lit.: "Pliant talk and explicit oppression": "Soft talk and stark abuse", where the metaphor word, pliant, is used normally with material things which could be pliant, hard, etc. Understandably, pliancy of talk is suggestive of soft, polite, cordial language, opposed as well as uprooted by a blunt, verbal oppression by the same speaker, to invalidate pliant words. We may notice the same stylistic points of rhyme, syntactic parallelism, functional 'and', and paradoxical conformity in this expression exactly as in the previous three allegorical sayings. The extremely popular saying:
"كلمة حق يراد بها باطل" [kalimatu haqqen yuraadu bihaa baatel]: "A right word and wrong implications" explains in short, simple terms the structure and meaning of the four foregoing expressions.
Two stylistic points common to all these expressions are due here. First, their initial parts deliver more or less the same message of sweet, soft tongue/talk, whereas the ending parts suggest a similar message of ruthlessness and harshness. Secondly, the syntactic sequence of these parts cannot be reversed, as their negative end focus would change completely, or the effect of the message would undergo drastic changes. That means if we start with the more negative part of harshness, and finish with the less negative, or positive part, the whole implication of strong passivity would be minimized. That is, if we say for example: "Harsh hand and sweet talk" (instead of 'Sweet talk and harsh hand'), or "Bad deeds and honey/sweet talk" (to replace 'Sweet talk and bad deeds'), the end focus will change and the phrases would accordingly change into rather more positive, or less negative ones. They would be read more as expressions of balanced parts than passive ones, which is not acceptable at all in the actual sequence of these expressions. This can be understood clearly from patterns of syndetic pairs of addition, alternation, equation, contrast, etc., where the ordering of words affects the focus as much as meaning (see Nash 1980: 73-75): Compare these versions of the following example (taken from a well-known British television commercial):
(a) This king burger is naughty but nice (positive end focus = positive bias).
(b) This king burger is nice but naughty (negative end focus = negative bias).
&(c) This king burger is naughty and nice (addition = equation).
(a) is positive because the last adjective is positive (that is why it is the version used in the commercial); while (b) is negative for it ends with a negative adjective, naughty (that is why it is inappropriate for a commercial). As to (c), it equates the two epithets by means of the coordinator of addition 'and', which can be understood as combining paradoxes in one and the same thing, or man, or making the positive and the negative equal and identical (which is the case with the four expressions discussed above).
6."أحكى من قرد" [ahkaa min qird] Lit.: "More talkative than a monkey": "As talkative as a talking machine". Monkey has bad connotations in Arabic, but usually not of much talking, as it does not talk in the human literal sense of the word. Perhaps the allegory here is the pejorative comparison of a talkative person to a culturally ugly animal like a monkey. The proverb is critical of a person who keeps talking and gossiping all the time for whatever reason, on whatever occasion, on whatever topic. Certainly, talkative is a bad epithet indeed, that is, socially unfavourable for the vast majority of people everywhere.
An interesting stylistic point about the structure of the phrase is the use of the comparative form for 'ahkaa' (more talkative) instead of the normal form of 'talkative', to emphasis the tendency in Arabic towards comparison for elucidation and exaggeration, to achieve a greater effect on language users.
The English translation is half standard, as it were, namely 'as a talking machine' is a popular simile, whereas 'as talkative' is not. Yet it is suggested to create a similar effect in the TL, because this is crucial in the appreciation and comprehension and, therefore, the translation of many such expressions (Newmark's communicative translation, 1981 and 1988, and Nida's dynamic equivalence, 1964). The TL has a cultural equivalent for the Arabic one: 'as a talking machine' for 'talkative monkey', but it does not exactly possess the same kind and degree of effect on the TL readership. People, that is, respond differently to a machine and a monkey. Nevertheless, this does not prevent them from getting the message.
Similar to this is the proverb: "المكثار كحاطب الليل" [al-mikthaaru kahaatibi l-layl] Lit.: "A talkative person is like a night woodsman": " A talkative man wastes his breath". The simile implies that a woodsman at night is wasting his time and efforts for he does not know or distinguish what he woods, how or what he does. Therefore, he will be confused and have everything confused and in a shambles. As to the English translation, the image of 'woodsman' is not a part of English culture or allegory in this context. Therefore another image is sought after to counterbalance the original, and 'waste one's breath' can be appropriate here to transmit a similar message but in different environment. There is no other way out.
7."استنوق الجمل" [istanwaqa l-jamal] Lit.: "The camel has become a she-camel": "Listen/look who's talking", "The nobleman is henpecked". The phrase is purely cultural and all-in-all metaphorical. It has nothing to do with camels except for its symbolic literal sense of a camel behaving as humbly as a she-camel (see Almunjed, Alfayroosabaadi, and Al-waseet Arabic monolingual Dictionaries), which is culturally known to be subservient and obedient. This sense is applied to people, as the second version of the translation confirms. But it is not our concern here. It is the first meaning of a man considered to be fragile, confused, clumsy, low and foolish. He is bitterly criticised and ridiculed by this phrase, which is usually followed by a smile. A similar, more popular comment in such a context is the colloquial expression, "حكى بدري" [hakaa badri] Lit.: "Badri has just spoken": "Listen/look who's talking!" Badri is a proper name, a common name, like Jack or John in English; the reason for the original choice may never be known. The phrase has exactly the same metaphorical connotations as the previous formal one. To sharpen the sense of irony , it is sometimes completed as "...وانشرح صدري!" [wansharah sadri] Lit.: "And my breast got relieved!": "So that I've had a sigh of relief!", which rhymes with 'Badri', and implies a harsh, sarcastic implication which is quite the opposite of its surface meaning (i.e., to feel quite relieved). The accompanying tone of voice is in fact suggestive of that. Such expressions are critical of foolish, disliked, thick-witted, and opinionated people.
The translation of these two expressions are among the most difficult to translate into English. Yet, the catch phrase 'look who's talking!' is perfectly expressive of the message and its connotations of irony and disrespect.
8."سليط اللسان" [saleetu l-lisaan] Lit.:"Vicious-and-long-tongued": "Sharp-tongued". A tongue is a tongue, a piece of flesh that cannot be soft, sweet or sharp in the literal sense. However, allegorically speaking, it can be sharp when it utters sharp words. It is one of the popular pejorative phrases used in everyday conversation to describe the language of a severe, harsh person, normally behind his or her back.
An alternative for this expression is "طويل اللسان" [taweelu l-lisaan] Lit.: "Long-tongued": "Sharp-tongued", which is similar in meaning to the previous one, but with less effect and sharpness. Therefore, a person who has such a tongue can be told that to his or her face.
These two expressions are easy to translate into English, and the two cultures, Arabic and English, meet here. The second, however, translated with the sense of 'long-tongued' is not used in standard English.
9. "لا تَهرِف بما لا تعرف" [laa tahref bimaa laa ta'ref] Lit.: "Do not overpraise (someone) with what you do not know": "Don't shower (someone) with praise unnecessarily". The referential meaning of this phrase has nothing to do with its implicit message. It intends to tell someone who praises a person excessively, unnecessarily and without knowing exactly what he says, to refrain from that. But the speaker knows very well that he lauds him to get something personal. These are the characteristics of a hypocrite and an opportunist. There are multiple recommendations here: Do not overpraise someone no matter who he is; Do not say what you do not know; and Stop pretending and being a hypocrite. All these are negative meanings, confirming the disagreeability of hypocritical language and people.
Three important stylistic points are employed here to produce stronger supportive effect for the message: The apparent rhyme between 'tahref' and 'ta'ref', to aid memorisation; the close spelling of them as the key words of the phrase, which suggests a good relationship of identification of their message; and the parallel structure of the 'laa tahref' and 'laa ta'ref', which gives further evidence for the correspondence between their implications. This is not to conclude that the phrase recommends doing the opposite; that is, "ihref bimaa ta'ref" 'overpraise someone with what you know'-excessive praise is not advisable in principle in any case.
The English translation reproduces only the sense, but not the stylistic-phonological features and effects of the original. However, the metaphorical 'shower' compensates for some loss here.
10."رمى الكلام على عواهنه" [rama l-kalaama 'alaa 'awaahineh] Lit.: "He threw words as they came to his mouth": "He spoke at random". Words here are portrayed as material things that can be thrown out of the mouth. It is a good metaphor to express the production of words irresponsibly, haphazardly, and without giving them a second thought, which is embarrassing and irrational. Words should be produced carefully, especially in formal and serious situations, for at-random words could be quite harmful. To support this criticism, a sense of sarcasm is achieved by the rhythmical, ready-to-sing end-rhyme between 'ramaa' and 'l-kalaama', alliterative rhyme between ''alaa' ''waahineh', mid-rhyme-or motif-between the same sound 'h' (underlined) in the same word, ''waahineh', and the common motif among all the words, 'aa' (long 'a'). This ironical touch can be sensed at its best if the expression is said aloud rhythmically in pairs. The last feature, the 'aa' motif, is suggestive of an open mouth that 'throws' words, any words, any time, as the phrase implies.
The SL expression is superior to, and richer than the English-language translation for the reasons just pointed out. That is, the literal sense is expressed in general terms, but it loses all its stylistic features and functions. The only rhetorical aspect of the TL version is its crispness.
11."آفة الحديث الكذب" [aafatu l-hadeethi l-katheb] Lit.: "The blight of talk is lying": "Lying is ugly". Lying is regarded here as a blight, the worst and most serious disease that speech can develop. Such disease is deadly, and therefore kills the whole speech, good or bad. Lying is not only the worst part and kind of talk, but also the destroyer of any talk, for one lie in a long speech is devastating enough to discredit the whole thing, or to make the addressee(s) suspicious of it, which is another way of spoiling it. The lexical choice of 'blight' is, therefore, brilliant for it ominously refers to a killing disease that starts up abruptly, develops steadily, and remains permanently, so that it keeps killing the same thing for a long time. This is what exactly lying does with talk. A liar is never believed even when he is right. One more significant stylistic feature is the succinct, concise structure of the phrase: only three words, exactly the required words, neither more nor less. They are expressive enough and sharp enough to deliver a message as bluntly, categorically, emphatically, and effectively as required. This is indeed the original tendency of Arabic rhetoric in particular, and Arabic language in general.
The main problem of translation into English is the absence of the image of lying as a blight. However, another compensating image of ugliness is suggested for lying, to strike some kind of balance with the allegory of the original.
In this negative context of lying, there are several popular expressions which appreciate honesty- الصدق [as-sidq]. One of them corresponds to the previous phrase in its allegorical sense of illness: "الكذب داء والصدق شفاء" [al-kathibu daa' was-sidqu shifaa'] Lit.: "Lying is malady and honesty is remedy": "Lying is malady, honesty is remedy". In this proverb, lying is a disease for liars, whereas honesty is a remedy for the honest. What a difference! This could mean that the latter is a remedy for the former, but not necessarily. Lying is a plague developed by liars, which could accompany them always, whereas honesty is an antidote for honest people, which comforts them for life. The juxtaposition between lying and honesty, on the one hand, and malady and remedy, on the other, makes their antithetical relationship sharper and more blatant. The conciseness of form is also remarkable for its sharpness and straightforwardness in delivering a clear, definite message about the brass tacks of both lying and honesty, put together in the same context of disharmony. As for the rhyme in both languages between 'malady' and 'remedy', it has a rhetorical and stylistic function. At the same time it is an aid to memorisation.
The English translation perfectly matches, not to say supercedes, all semantic syntactic, phonological and, hence, stylistic aspects of the original Arabic. I hope this translation of my own devising will be deemed acceptable.
12."سلاح الضعفاء الشكاية" [silaahu d-du'afaa'i sh-shikaayah] Lit. "The weapon of the weak is complaint": "The only weapon for the weak is complaining". It is remarkable how a poor, miserable and humble type of speech like a 'complaint' is changed into a powerful weapon. At the same time, it is the only weapon of poor people who are helpless and unable to do anything other than complain. It is a kind of indecisive metaphor as whether to classify it as negative, criticising the weak for resorting to humiliating complaint, or positive, turning poor words of poor people into a weapon of some kind. Although it is originally intended to be a criticism of the submissive and surrendering nature of miserable people, it simultaneously implies appreciating them in a sense for trying to do something, rather than remaining passive. It could be a matter of less passive and more passive, in which case the latter is negative while the former is less negative, or closer to positive. Yet, still the passive is passive, whether more or less, which is anyway not an invalid point.
In the English translation, the same metaphor as well as the full sense of the original is retained. Although it is possible, stylistically, to background 'weapon' and foreground 'complaining', and say, "Complaining is the weapon of the weak", it is not advisable, for the point of front-focus is changed, and consequently, the bias of the whole expression. That is, to start with 'complaining' means to start with depreciating the vulnerable part of the weak, rather than with their strong part. This means that the powerful element of the phrase is undermined, if not altogether lost. For all that, it is preferable to keep the stylistic focus and word order of the TL text exactly as the original.
13."أخبرته بعُجَري وبُجَري" [akhbartuhu bi'ujaree, wabujaree] Lit.: "I told him about my all drawbacks and troubles": "I told him everything", "I told him everything about the bad side of me", "I washed all my dirty linen before him". The phrase 'al-'ujaru wal-bujaru' is the plural of ''ujra' wa 'bujra'. Although the words in the phrase mean, among other things, nodes in the human body, they are used metaphorically to refer to all of one's private misfortunes and worries in general. In fact they bear no reference to their literal sense of knots/nodes, and are to be understood within one popular catch-phrase used symbolically in a negative context of sadness on the addresser's part, who brings relief to himself by speaking openly about his own troubles. The context could be that of relief to the person speaking, in which case it is a positive context. Yet it is not exactly positive, for nobody tells his own secrets and sufferings unless he is fed up and in distress.
It is remarkable that the sounds of the phrase are in a shambles in the sense that they are influent, disintegrated, heterogeneous, and difficult to pronounce, which is why in colloquial Arabic, it is mispronounced as "'jree wabjree" for reasons of convenient, easy articulation. This conforms perfectly with the phrase's disharmonious, dishevelled message. The perfect rhyme between these two words does not as much ease the burden of pronunciation as reflect the identical meanings and implications of one another, and insinuate a sense of irony associated with the phrase which is made obvious by a commonplace, sympathetic comment in such a situation: "شر البلية ما يضحك" [sharru l-baliyyati maa yudhek] Lit.: "The worst calamity is that which makes you laugh": "Misfortunes ironically invite a smile", whose sharp sarcastic sense is quite explicit.
All one can do when translating these two phrases into English is convey the literal sense as closely as possible, since much of the allegory and rhetoric is lost. The same applies to the next group of identical phrases.
These are two of several similar phrases in Arabic which have the same syntactic structure and implications. For example: "البث والحُزْن"[al-baththu wal-huznu] (from the Holy Qur'an);
"الهم والغم" [al-hammu wal-ghammu]; "الهم والحَزَن" [al-hammu wal-hazan];
"الهموم والغموم" [al-humoomu wal-ghumoomu]; and "الهموم والكُرُبات" [al-humoomu wal-kurubaat], all of which are used in an identical meaning and context, especially in supplication, as in: "اللهم إني أشكو إليك عجري وبجري"-"God, I complain to you my troubles and distress" (an Islamic invocation). Verily this is an exceptionally positive complaint.
14. "شر الرأي الدَبَريُّ" [sharru r-raayi d-dabariyyu] Lit.: "The worst opinion is the late one": "Too late an opinion is too worse". The whole phrase is allegorical, implying sharp criticism of a person who states his opinion too late, after something has been done. It is all the same whether it is a right or wrong opinion, for it will then be useless, even harmful if it is good. Here good and bad talk are equally condemned and dismissed as inept. Another implication is that it is a warning against the social and practical inadvisability of stating one's opinion. It can also be interpreted differently-as a strong recommendation for saying something at the right time, and to avoid saying it in the wrong time regardless of its value, for at best it would cause regret and sorrow for others.
The choice of the word 'sharru' 'the worst' is functional, demonstrating exaggeration about this kind of opinion, in an attempt to convince people of its hazards so that they may avoid it. Also, the metaphorical word, 'dabariyyu' 'too late' is a good polysemous lexical choice that originally means to lag behind, or come from behind only when it is too late, and cannot get hold of somebody or something that is already in advance. In other words, it says, 'what has gone has gone' and, therefore, you cannot do anything now; so 'let bygones be bygones' and do not make things worse and force people to regret doing or saying something by giving your late opinion about it.
More accentuation is assigned to this expression by a strong quadruple stress on two consecutive double 'R's in two successive words (i.e., sharru rra'yi), and two more stresses on 'd' and 'y' of the third word (that is, d-dabariyyu). Four stresses in three consecutive words, and three 'R's, two stressed and one unstressed must be emphatic and reflexive of the message.
In English, it is the message, or sense, that is the primary concern of a translator here. Any additional stylistic feature would be a gain. The version of translation provided here is an attempt to produce one or two stylistic features to create some kind of effect that is similar-at least in part-to the original. This is done on three levels: the repetition of 'too'; parallelism between 'too late' and 'too worse'; and a semi-proverbial form of the whole translation. Yet, it has failed on two other levels: the reduction of the superlative form of the original 'the worst' into the comparative form 'worse'; and more importantly the backgrounding of 'too worse' and foregrounding of 'too late' at the expense of emphasising the latter rather than the former, as in the original.
To sum up, this sub-section brings to focus the depreciable part(s) of the negative allegorical expressions of speech, which display several interesting versions of translation, implications, stylistic functions and relationships that explain the intricacies and magic of such fascinating phrases.
Having discussed the allegorical expressions of silence and speech individually, we can now introduce discussion of some phrases which are reciprocal, juxtaposing silence and speech in the same context.
Silence and Speech Expressions Juxtaposed
1."إذا كان الكلام من فضة فالسكوت من ذهب" [ithaa kaana l-kalaamu min fiddah fas-sukootu min thahab] Lit.: "If speech is from silver, silence is from gold": "Speech is silver, silence is golden", "Silence is golden". Obviously, silence is more precious than speech. However, this does not imply that speech is valuable, and therefore, that the difference between it and silence is in degree, not in quality. Rather, it is understood that the difference between them is big, so the phrase is properly read as a depreciation and rejection of speech, while still rating silver highly. So precedence is given to silence at the expense of speech. The whole proverb is based on the comparison between the two well-known metals, both of which are associated in several verses of the Holy Qur'an and a number of everyday, popular collocations. Thus, they have a strong relationship and are tied up together in positive contexts to give illustrations in material terms. We conclude from this the inevitable, natural company that silence and speech keep in all situations. Yet, here they are juxtaposed, and preference is given to gold, or silence. Moreover, the syntactic structure is that of conditional sentences, the second of which (i.e., fas-sukootu min thahab), is a sharp reply to the first (viz., Ithaa kaana l-kalaamu min fiddah). This kind of structure is convenient for two temporally interconnected things, the latter of which is superior to the former, exactly as the case here. This can be understood by reversing the clause order of the sentence, starting with the second, as follows: "If silence is gold, speech is silver", which is strange and unacceptable as the favourite part is expected to be logically in the second position, while the inferior part is to be in the first position.
There is no problem of translation here at all, for English has exactly the same proverbial saying, with the same message and connotations.
2."سكت دهراً ونطق كفراً" [sakata dahran wanataqa kufran] Lit.: "He was silent for ages and uttered atheism": "He kept silent for ages only to utter trash". Astonishingly enough, this phrase is a criticism of both silence and speech. But it is not any silence or any speech; but a long silence, and a poor, silly speech after a long time of keeping quiet. Long silence is not by nature negative, but it has become so because of a surprisingly bad opinion. That is, to keep quiet for a long time presupposes that when one finally does speak, it will be an extremely wise, careful opinion, but that is not the case, and our expectations are toppled altogether. Stylistically speaking, there are two pairs of words made opposites in this phrase: 'sakata' 'kept silent'-'nataqa' 'uttered'; and 'dahran' 'for ages'-'kufran' 'trash'. Normally these are not antonyms, as silence is not exactly the opposite of speech (as several examples of the foregoing sections demonstrate), but here they stand in immediate contrast to one another, as two opposite words with different implications. Likewise, and unexpectedly, 'long time' and 'trash' contrast each other here. But the context of the phrase understandably turns them to into opposites. On the other hand, neither 'dahran' 'for ages' nor 'kufran' 'blasphemy/atheism' are meant to be taken literally; they are means of exaggeration about time and bad talk, intended to be understood by implication and connotation. They are also chosen on purpose to rhyme with one another for convenience of memorisation. As to the coordinate connector of addition, 'and', it adds the two sentences of the phrase (i.e., 'sakata dahran' and 'nataqa kufran') to one another, rather than contradicting one with the other. This leads to the conclusion that it is a conjunction of equation that makes the two sentences equal and exactly the same, which applies perfectly to the message.
Another version of the same proverbial expression with the same implications, is:
"سكت ألفاً ونطق خَلْفاً" [sakata alfan wa nataqa khalfan] Lit.: "He was silent for a thousand (times) and uttered a trash": "He kept silent for ages to voice trash".
The problem of translation here is not as difficult as it might look, for the message is clear and can be rendered safely, although the same image is not available in English. However, this does not hinder understanding or translation in any way, as the version proposed here confirms. That is, 'for ages' and 'utter/voice trash' are perfectly expressive of the message with not much difference in connotations, especially when we know that the Arabic 'kufran' 'atheism' is not meant to be taken literally, so 'trash' fits well here.
1."رب سكوت أبلغ من كلام" [rubba sukooten ablaghu min ;kalaam] Lit.: "Silence could be more eloquent than speech": "Silence can be more expressive than words". Silence is strongly recommended here as it can express a person's mind much better than speech. Here the grammatical structure of the comparative form of 'more ... than' is preferred to the normal form of likeness, in which case silence has no privilege over speech. Also a contrastive relationship is brought about by the use of the two opposites, silence and speech in the same phrase, to sharpen the difference between them. Perhaps the best reading of this expression is to stop at 'sukoot' and 'kalaam' to reflect the meaning of silence with elongated 'oo' and closing nasal 'm' which indicates a closed mouth. One last point is the use of 'rubba' (perhaps) to imply a style of probability and occasionality, for sometimes speech could be more eloquent than silence. However, this word indicates a strong, likely probability, which can be understood as modest certainty. The indefinite noun, 'sukoot' 'silence', however, implies sometimes rather than always. That is, silence is sometimes more expressive than speech (cf., examples below).
The English version of translation renders the sense. And since the Arabic 'rubba' 'could be' is usually taken more as certainty than probability, an assertive version like 'silence is more eloquent/expressive than speech' is feasible, as 'is' expresses certainty. The comparative structure is retained to imply a similar stylistic function in the TL as well. However, the phonological onomatopoeic features disappear in English, and is therefore, a loss. Nevertheless, the hissingness of the alveolar fricative sibilant sound 's' (see Gimson 1981: 185-88) in 'silence', 'speech' and 'expressive' can be an equivalent of some kind.
3."لسان الحال أبين من لسان المقال" [lisaanu l-haal abyanu min lisaani l-maqaal] Lit.: "The tongue of the person's condition is more eloquent than the tongue of speaking": "Man's condition is more expressive than his expression". The phrase means to say that a person's terrible condition, appearance and countenance can say everything about him to the extent that he need say nothing. So remaining speechless (i.e., silent) can be expressive enough so that words are totally unnecessary. There are two tongues here, the literal (the second) and the metaphorical (the first). They are juxtaposed with one another to form a fantastic comparison, which makes the contrast between silence and speech sharper. On the other hand, the metaphorical tongue changes man's silent condition into an eloquent expressive tongue in such a way that his normal tongue, which is supposed to be more eloquent and expressive than anything else, is not necessary. This shows the superiority of keeping quiet to speaking. The adjective, 'abyan' 'more eloquent' is used in the comparative grammatical form which implies that what follows is better than what precedes, although both have eloquence in common. However, the intended meaning of the phrase is not exactly so; rather a man's appearance or condition is enough for us to understand him, without any need for words. Thus, words are completely unnecessary.
The rhyme between 'haal' and 'maqaal', each word associated with 'lissan', makes the two words identical in sense. That is haal = maqaal: both are expressive and each has a tongue.
Perhaps the English translation is less metaphorical than the Arabic original, but it is not less expressive of meaning. Also, the rhyme between 'condition' and 'expression' and the retention of the comparative relationship between the two parts of the phrase are meant to match the original to some extent and compensate somehow for the loss in allegory.
4."كأنما ألقمه الحجر" [kaannamaa alqamahu l-hajar] Lit.: "As though he mouthed him a stone": "To strike someone dumb", "To stone someone's mouth". To put a stone in someone's mouth is symbolic of silencing him and shutting him up. But this is just a material image to illustrate the idea of a speaker who is struck dumb by another person's quick, witty and sharp response. It is a humiliation to the former, but a triumph to the latter. This implies the powerful force of words on some occasions to such an extent that man can be forced to keep astonishingly silent at the time when he is in need of speaking and defending himself. So passive silence here is dumped on somebody against his will.
The stylistic-lexical choice of 'alqama' 'to mouth' is precise and expressive, suggesting a big mouthful. Therefore, it is sufficient per se to express the required meaning. But by the time we digest this sense we realise that the forced mouthful is nothing but a stone, or something stonelike. In any case, even a mouthful of any kind of food is not dissimilar to a stone. Hence the preciseness of the image of being struck dumb by words.
The literal translation of meaning, using the same image of stone, is a safe choice in English, for it is acceptable and comprehensible by native speakers of English-as well as by English speaking people worldwide, I suppose.
Another catch phrase in this context of 'alqama' is, "ألقمْتُه أذني فصب فيها كلاماً" [alqamtuhu uthunee fasabba feehaa kalaaman] Lit.: "I enforced my ear in his mouth to pour words in": "I lent him my ear to whisper in", which has a twofold metaphor: 'alqama' 'enforced ... mouth' as if words were a mouthful of food, and 'sabba' 'poured', as though words are matter or a liquid that can be poured completely and properly in the ear's passage-this suggests the full whispering, secret confidentiality and extreme importance of these words.
5."الساكت عن الحق شيطان أخرس" [as-saakitu'ani l-haqqi shaytaanon akhras] Lit.: "He who keeps his mouth shut on the right is a dumb Satan": "To refrain from saying the truth is satanic". This is a traditional saying by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). A person who keeps his mouth shut and refuses to speak the truth is likened to a dumb Satan (with all its bad connotations), which is an ugly image of man, especially a Muslim. He would be not only a Satan but also dumb. Here the image works on two levels; at the level of silence it is absolutely negative, whereas at the level of speech (namely, saying the truth) it is quite positive. There are two antonymic, juxtaposed poles in the phrase: 'truth' on one hand; and 'a silent man', Satan and dumbness on the other. This means that such a person and a dumb Satan are absolutely identical, which by extension sharpens the contrastive relationship between the black image of devilishly passive silence and the bright image of exceptionally positive speech (i.e., saying the right thing), and gives a greater proportion of emphasis to the latter. What a big difference between the two!
The translatability of this saying (or Hadith) into English as a one-to-one equivalent is comparatively low for two main reasons: the religious base and bias of the original might only be partially received by TL readers; and the image may not be understood or agreed upon completely by them. However, the version provided offers a compromise, leaving out the metaphor of 'dumb Satan', while at the same time retaining the 'satanic' atmosphere and presence. No too bad, I hope.
Thus, speech and silence are sometimes juxtaposed to display the sensitive fluctuating relationship between them; as one is sometimes negative, the other positive, and vice versa. Although the latter is more frequently positive and the former negative, it is not fair to always think of their relationship in this way. Rather, every single expression should be considered on its own terms, as generalisation would be harmful indeed, especially in examples like the last one.
In conclusion, some notes can be drawn from the foregoing discussion. Only a few examples have been discussed for the convenience of achieving the aims of this tentative paper. Otherwise, hundreds of examples could be cited and discussed, for Arabic is profusely rich with such expressions. Having said that, this does not undermine the value of the discussion, as the limited number of examples investigated are quite suggestive, symbolic and representational, and, therefore, make the points raised here explicit.
All the phrases and expressions are proverbs, semi-proverbs, catch phrases, everyday popular phrases, adages, and collocations. They are all allegorical, fascinatingly rhetorical, and subtly and extensively rich and expressive.
All of these expressions exhibit stylistic (grammatical, lexical and phonological) intricacies and relationships of various types, with stylistic functions, effects, implications and connotations that are critical to our translation and interpretation of their messages, which are made explicit in this paper, having been secret and hidden inside the cluttered obscure and unconscious chambers, origins and depths of words, grammar and sounds in particular.
Top among the stylistic relationships are those of contrast and paradox in the three major combinations: silence, speech, and when the two are juxtaposed. It is amazing how each combination can be used in the contexts of passivity and positivity, sometimes in one and the same expression and context. Therefore, for example, there is no hard-and-fast rule that speech expressions, for example, are either this or that. The same applies to the remaining two combinations.
We also notice from the discussion above that each phrase has its own occasion and situation, and, therefore, its particular message, which is valid then in that certain context and environment. However, some generalisations about similar contexts can be tolerated, as demonstrated earlier in the classification of expressions into negative and positive.
It is worth noting that the level of neutrality is not included, because socially, culturally and stylistically speaking, it does not exist. Only specification of positivity and negativity of words, style and connotations is valid here, since words are neutral out of context, but specified once contextualised (see Cruse 1977; Ghazala 1987: ch.3).
As regards the translation of these expressions into English, it must be admitted that it is far from easy for they are heavily imbued with cultural, sociolinguistic, religious and/or linguistic/stylistic problems and factors that resist fluent translation.
Despite the tentativeness of this paper, it is hoped that it will pave the way for deeper and more comprehensive investigation about allegory in phrases of speech and silence in both English and Arabic.
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