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Homophonic translation

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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. More generally, homophonic transformation renders a text into a near-homophonic text in the same or another language.

Frayer Jerker is a homophonic translation of the French Frère Jacques (1956).[1] Other examples of homophonic translation include some works by Oulipo (1960–), 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), and David Melnick’s Ancient Greek-English Men in Aida (1983).

Examples of homophonic transformation include Howard L. Chace’s Ladle Rat Rotten Hut, published in book form in 1956.

Other names for this genre include “allographic translation”,[2] “transphonation”, or (in French) “traducson”,[3] but none of these is widely used.


Here is van Rooten’s version of Humpty Dumpty:[4]:

Humpty Dumpty
Sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty
Had a great fall.
All the king’s horses
And all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty
Together again.
Un petit d’un petit
S’étonne aux Halles
Un petit d’un petit
Ah! degrés te fallent
Indolent qui ne sort cesse
Indolent qui ne se mène
Qu’importe un petit d’un petit
Tout Gai de Reguennes.

Song lyrics

Homophonic translations of song lyrics in music videos for comic effect—also known as soramimi—are popular on YouTube.


  1. ^ Chace, Howard L. (1956). “Frayer Jerker”. Anguish Languish [English Language]. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall. OCLC 2539398.
  2. ^ Bernard Dupriez, A Dictionary of Literary Devices: Gradus, A-Z, Toronto 1991. ISBN 0802068030. p. 462.
  3. ^ cf. Genette, Gérard; Newman, Channa; Doubinsky, Claude. Palimpsests. pp. 40–41.
  4. ^ “Luis d’Antin van Rooten’s Humpty Dumpty”. The Guardian. 27 November 2009.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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