Folk Songs, Translation and the Question of (Pseudo-)Originals

Oner S.

TRANSLATOR, vol.14, no.2, pp.229-246, 2008 (AHCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 14 Issue: 2
  • Publication Date: 2008
  • Doi Number: 10.1080/13556509.2008.10799257
  • Journal Name: TRANSLATOR
  • Journal Indexes: Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI), Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus, IBZ Online, International Bibliography of Social Sciences, Index Islamicus, Linguistic Bibliography, Linguistics & Language Behavior Abstracts, MLA - Modern Language Association Database, DIALNET
  • Page Numbers: pp.229-246
  • Keywords: Folk songs, Kurdish, Turkish, (Pseudo-)original
  • Yıldız Technical University Affiliated: No


This article examines the translation of Kurdish folk songs into Turkish, an issue which became the subject of a heated debate and controversy in Turkey during the 1990s. It outlines three areas of criticism related to the translations in question and analyzes the translation strategies used as well as the textual-linguistic make-up of the lyrics. Although criticism tended to focus on the cultural policies of the Turkish state, on the translators themselves, and on questions of ethics and economic exploitation, the translations paradoxically display loss, destruction and forgetting on the one hand, and gain, survival and remembering of Kurdish culture on the other The translators seem to have appealed to two target audiences at the,same time, one of which is also the source audience. The article suggests that the main reason behind the controversy concerned the way in which the songs were presented to the audiences rather than how they were actually translated. Given that the Turkish versions were presented as original songs, they are referred to here as 'pseudo-originals', though the concept of 'original' itself is shown to be questionable. The article concludes by problematizing any claim to an 'original' in the context of folk songs.