The influence of yakuwarigo and gendered language on character portrayals : A case study of the Japanese translation of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling

University essay from Högskolan Dalarna/Institutionen för språk, litteratur och lärande

Abstract: The book Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, written by the prolific author J.K.Rowling, is a popular piece of fiction that has been adapted into a film as well as severalvideogames. The book has also been translated from its original English into dozens oflanguages, including Japanese. Translations can differ from their original counterparts,especially when the languages in question differ in their syntax and cultural norms. Thesedifferences can potentially alter the original author’s intended character portrayals.This project aimed to evaluate the effect of gendered language and yakuwarigo on charactervoices in the Japanese translation of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Fourcharacters – Hermione, Hagrid, Dumbledore, and McGonagall – were evaluated bymeans of their spoken dialogue in the book. The English lines of dialogue and their Japanesecounterparts were extracted from the book and analysed.The results of the dialogue-analysis show that the dialogue in the Japanese version of thebook was more gendered, and exhibited typical signs of role language. These findingswere corroborated through the use of separate questionnaires for Japanese and Englishparticipants. The questionnaires asked participants to determine the gender and role ofcharacters purely on the basis of certain lines in the book, with no external contextprovided. Japanese participants managed to identify both the gender and role of charactersmore accurately.

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