Is Translating from One Dialect into Another an Act of Translation?

Yes, it is.

There is no other answer. When you translate from one dialect in a given language to another dialect of the same language, you are doing an act of translation.

Do you think you would be able to understand and read a mystic dialect text from the 15th century? Would you know what demyth or kyndely is?

Read this for example:

God demyth us upon oure kyndely substance, whych is evyr kepte one in hym, hole and safe without ende – – Julian of Norwich’s “Showings”

For English people it might be guessable, but not for speakers whose native language is not English.

Now take a look at the translation by Mirabai Starr:

God judges us according to our true essence, which he keeps inside himself, whole and safe, always.

There you go. A translation of a passage of the Julian of Norwich book, which uses a Chaucer-like Middle English dialect, into modern day English (dialect). Translation is a wonderful thing isn’t it. It bridges languages and even dialects and helps information get transmitted.

Now you may say that this is not a valid example, because these dialects are not separated in space, but in time, which is a good argument.

But, aren’t dialects languages themselves? Is there a clear distinction between what is a language and what is a dialect?

And, how come some dialects like Mandarin & Cantonese in China, or Furlan & Sicilian in Italy are so vastly different from each other, while languages like Norwegian, Danish and Swedish are highly similar but are still considered separate languages? Is the concept of a dialect and language just an arbitrary marker for sociopolitical status?

Would love to read your thoughts on this!

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