The paper aims to analyze changes in formality in literary translation. Informal texts including literary works and movie scripts are characterized by implicitness, flexibility, colloquialism, metaphorical expressions, and involvement as opposed to formal texts such as lectures, academic papers, or business letters which are more accurate, rigid, explicit, and complex. Thus, it is important for translators to decide the level of formality before they start translation.
Because the Korean culture puts an emphasis on formality, social status, and the distance between people, the Korean language reflects this socio-cultural background. Moreover, translation process in its nature has a tendency to normalize and explicate the implicit meaning of the original for the TT(target text) reader. Previous research on English German translation shows formality and politeness between ST(source text) and TT differs because the translator followed the textual norms of TL(target language)(Hatim 1998: 69). However, according to Hatim, in persuasive text or literary text, where maintaining the atmosphere and socio-textual background of ST(source text) is important, the efforts to keep the level of ST formality intact should be appreciated(97). Thus, translators of literary texts should take both TL textual norms and the genre-specific character of literary translation into account.
For the case study of formality, this paper analyzed slangs, idioms, metaphors and derogatory expressions in Catcher in the Rye, a young adult novel by J. D. Salinger. A first person narrative, this novel is known for its profanity, sarcasm, sexual content and informal style. As metaphors, idioms and slangs turned out to be important stylistic devices in the similar Korean literature as are in the English literature, translators could maintain ST formality without lowering the readability and acceptability of target readers.
The analysis of four translated texts showed the formality of TTs rose significantly in all texts, although there were some variations among translations in terms of their usage of informal and colloquial language. Only 10-20% of slangs(‘goddam’, ‘as hell’) were translated into TL slangs and the force of expressive meanings, weakened. In the case of idiomatic and metaphorical expressions, only 20-30% of idioms were translated into idiomatic expressions and many rhetorical expressions were translated into conventional language. Translators tried to compensate for the omission in other parts of the text by adding new rhetorical and derogatory expressions. However, there need be more creative efforts to deliver the effect and atmosphere of ST. Explicitation, omission and normalization are not always the best translation technique in literary translation.