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Homophonic translation renders a text in one language into a near-homophonic text in another language, usually with no attempt to preserve the original meaning of the text. In one homophonic translation, for example, the English "sat on a wall" // is rendered as French "s'étonne aux Halles" [setɔnoɑl] (literally "is surprised at the Market"). More generally, homophonic transformation renders a text into a near-homophonic text in the same or another language: e.g., "recognize speech" could become "wreck a nice beach".
Homophonic translation may be used to render proper nouns in a foreign language. A more elegant solution, when possible, is phono-semantic matching, which attempts to have closer semantics as well as the proper sound.
Alternatively, homophonic translation may be used for humorous purpose, as bilingual punning (macaronic language). This requires the listener or reader to understand both the surface, nonsensical translated text, as well as the source text—the surface text then sounds like source text spoken in a foreign accent.
Frayer Jerker is a homophonic translation of the French Frère Jacques (1956). Other examples of homophonic translation include some works by Oulipo (1960–), Frédéric Dard, Luis van Rooten's English-French Mots D'Heures: Gousses, Rames (1967), Louis Zukofsky's Latin-English Catullus Fragmenta (1969), Ormonde de Kay's English-French N'Heures Souris Rames (1980), John Hulme's German-English Morder Guss Reims: The Gustav Leberwurst Manuscript, and David Melnick's Ancient Greek-English Men in Aida (1983).
The individual words are almost all correct French (with the exceptions that fallent is a form of the non-existent verb *faller and Reguennes is a hapax legomenon), and some passages follow standard syntax and are interpretable (though nonsensical), but the result is in fact not meaningful French.
Here is another example of a sentence which has two completely different meanings if read in Latin or in Italian:
|Sentence||Latin meaning||Italian meaning|
|I, Vitelli, dei Romani sono belli.||Go, Vitellius, at the Roman god's sound of war.||The Romans' veals are beautiful.|
Homophonic translations of song lyrics, often combined with music videos, for comic effect—also known as soramimi in Japan and mondegreen in English speaking countries—have gained popularity on the internet.
- Holorime, a form of rhyme where the entire line or phrase is repeated by a homophonic variant
- Mondegreen, the erroneous interpretation of language by homophony
- Soramimi, the reinterpretation of song lyrics by homophonic translation
- Phono-semantic matching (PSM), a borrowing in which a foreign word is matched with a phonetically and semantically similar pre-existent native word/root.
- Mairzy Doats
- Chace, Howard L. (1956). "Frayer Jerker". Anguish Languish [English Language]. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall. OCLC 2539398. Retrieved 2009-11-28.
- 1981; ISBN 0517545594
- the first line is quoted by Nigel Molesworth in Down With Skool 1953, by Geoffrey Willans, illustrated by Ronald Searle, p. 41.
- Bernard Dupriez, A Dictionary of Literary Devices: Gradus, A-Z, Toronto 1991. ISBN 0-8020-6803-0. p. 462.
- cf. Genette, Gérard; Newman, Channa; Doubinsky, Claude. Palimpsests. pp. 40–41.
- "Luis d'Antin van Rooten's Humpty Dumpty". The Guardian. 27 November 2009. Retrieved 27 November 2009.
- Word Ways 36 (2003)