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What is lost in translation?: A study of meaning changes in four selected expressions from One flew over the cuckoo's nest in its Swedish translation Gökboet
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.
2010 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year)), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]


Meanings of a language depend on the speech community’s collective categorization. Values, traditions and habits can influence our language, and translating is therefore not always an easy task. A central part of translation work is to transfer the meaning of the original text into the translated text. The aim of this study has been to see how the meanings of a selection of expressions from Ken Kesey’s novel One flew over the cuckoo’s nest have changed in translation into Swedish. The expressions examined were bull goose loony, Walker, Wheeler and Vegetable, which all have special meanings in the English source text. The analyses were done with the help of semantic theory as well as translation theory.

The results show that the meanings of most of the studied items have changed in some way. In one case, in the translation of Vegetable into Grönsak, there is no obvious change of meaning. In the cases of Walker and Wheeler explicitness changes have occurred. The Swedish translation of Wheeler into Rullstolskolli also carries an insulting aspect which need not be present in the English word. The most noticeable meaning change occurs, however, in the translation of bull goose loony into förtroendedåre. The poetic language features of the English expression are lost in translation. It does not have much in common with the Swedish expression, except that they both refer to a mentally ill person. It is concluded that the use of certain translation strategies affects the meaning of the translated words more than others.



Kesey, meaning changes, translation, translation strategies, source text, target text, poetic function of language

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2010. , 35 p.
Keyword [en]
meaning changes, translation, translation strategies, source text, target text
National Category
Specific Languages
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-39864OAI: diva2:321677
Humanities, Theology
Available from: 2010-09-09 Created: 2010-06-01 Last updated: 2010-09-09Bibliographically approved

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Wahlberg, Nathalie
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Department of English
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