Translations of overtones in classical Arabic poetry: Optimality theory as a quality assessment framework

Raja Lahiani, Thanya Alfalasi, Asma Alzaabi, Noura Alhassani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Languages possess different tools to intensify speech overtones. While the resulting effect is semantic, grammatical, phonological, or lexical devices may be used. Words can be motivated in three ways: phonetically, morphologically, and semantically. Phonological motivation is part of the fabric of classical poetry. This study is concerned with the language used in Arabic poetry, which is made sufficiently sonorant to reflect the psyche and emotional status of the poet through the intensification of speech overtones. When translated into Western languages, the speech overtones of this poetry are not always evident. This study adopts the mechanisms of optimality theory, a cognitive linguistic approach. The mechanisms of this theory are adapted into assessment tools that can be used to evaluate the acoustic overtones of translations from classical Arabic poetry into English and French. The study uses a comparative strategy to assess a corpus of 13 French and English translations of a sample verse from classical Arabic poetry.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100143
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • Literary translation
  • Optimality theory
  • Poetic effect
  • Sound patterns
  • Speech overtones
  • Translation quality assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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