troperville

tools

toys


main index

Narrative

Genre

Media

Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
random
Translation Punctuation
Above: Asurian. Below: English. Notice a difference?
In textual or partly textual works where characters speak other languages, the author may render them in the work's language so that the reader can understand them. However, when multiple languages are spoken thus, how do you tell which is which?

Some authors address this by using punctuation other than quote marks to indicate that characters are speaking a different language that is being dubbed as English. The various types of brackets are a frequent choice here (angle quotes , angle brackets ⟨ ⟩, or inequality marks < > are particularly common). Other options include using unusual formatting or all lowercase letters.

A word of caution to editors of this page: Be careful with your own formatting as some forms may be interpreted by TV Tropes as wiki markup rather than text. To be on the safe side, you may want to wrap quotations in the [= =] markup to prevent this.

A form of Painting the Medium.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • The Funny Animals in the Curtis/Husted Katmandu world use no marks when speaking in their native tongue. Square brackets indicate Plains, a lingua franca common to many Indian tribes. Angle brackets denote Trade, which is usually reserved for conversing with non-Indian settlers.
  • Angle brackets were used in some of the later ElfQuest comics to indicate the use of a language other than elvish. Earlier comics used different shaped word balloons instead.
  • Averted for one word in an issue of The Incredible Hulk which is focusing on the villains of the story, who are all Soviet agents. The standard < > is in use except for one Establishing Shot of the capital city, which is captioned "Moscova" along with a Note From Ed saying (paraphrased), "I know we're doing the Translation Convention thing, but it's their capital."

    Fan Works 
  • In A Voice Among The Strangers, after the protagonist Jessica begins learning Equestrian, words and phrases she picks up are punctuated with tilde symbols. The same is done in the P.O.V. Sequel, with English words that the Equestrians pick up, such as Ebony (Jessica's nickname for the Changeling she befriends in the first chapters).

    Literature 
  • Animorphs renders thought-speak using angle brackets in place of quote marks.
  • Timothy Zahn's Star Wars Expanded Universe novels use every bracket in the English language. Vision of the Future has a passage where the various fleets of alien warships over Bothawui are given fraudulent orders to {Attack!}, [Attack!], and <Attack!>
  • Zahn also uses it when dubbing Troftish as English in The Cobra Trilogy, rendering it with square brackets instead of quote marks.
  • Piers Anthony's Cluster series features many alien races with different forms of speech (not only different languages, but also different modalities, such as flashing light instead of sound). Human speech is represented with ordinary quotation marks, and each type of alien speech uses a different punctuation symbol as a quotation mark. By the end of the series, pretty much every symbol on the keyboard has been pressed into service.
  • Thursday Next:
    • In the literary world of this book, different fonts are considered different languages. They do not 'represent' different languages, the fonts are languages. The literary police force have interpreters on hand to deal with characters who speak Courier.
    • However, this trope is played straight when St Svlkx, a hermit who speaks (presumably) Old English, appears in the 20th Century, and the language difference is shown with a Blackletter font.
  • There was a novel about a young Mexican woman who immigrates to the US (and has a guardian angel or something that speaks to her). The English dialogue was in quotation marks, while the Spanish dialogue was in guillemets ( ), punctuation marks used for quotations in many European languages (though not Spanish, actually).
  • In Terra, the Fnrrn language is represented as English in italics, with a dash at the start.

    Video Games 

     Visual Novels 
  • Umineko: When They Cry: Depending on the language. The characters' native language is Japanese, and when a character is speaking in English or another language, the dialogue will be written inside square brackets or angle brackets. This is used more in the author-endorsed fan patch by Witch Hunt than the original Japanese to avoid confusion about the dialogue.

    Webcomics 
  • Megatokyo encases Japanese speech in angle brackets.
  • As seen in the page image, Terra uses angle brackets when characters speak the Azatoth language, and no quote marks when the characters speak English.
  • Unsounded uses angle brackets when translating Tainish to Continental. However, lines spoken in Tainish are occasionally left untranslated. Translations to these lines can be found in the series wiki.
  • Drowtales is a bit inconsistent on this due to it having more than just one artist. For example, the main story uses angle brackets and a slightly different font when translating Halme to the language of the Drows, whereas the side story following Vaelia's journey uses a vaguely Japanese-looking font when translating from Emberi.
  • The Fox Sister inverts this a bit. While the comic is written in English, all the unbracketed dialogue indicates the characters are speaking Korean while the bracketed dialogue indicates that the characters are speaking English.
  • The webcomic TwoKinds uses one form of brackets for Keridian and another for Bastian, although there was a phase where the artist didn't do the translation punctuation despite character(s) not knowing English (or the equivalent thereof).

    Real Life 
  • Languages that use clicks (most famously seen in the Bushmen of The Gods Must Be Crazy fame) usually represent them with a "!".

Lucky Charms TitleText TropesUnreadable Disclaimer
Translation MatchmakingLanguage TropesTranslation Style Choices
Translation MatchmakingTranslation TropesTranslation Style Choices
Think in TextPainting the MediumUnconventional Formatting
Teeny WeenieSublime RhymeTriple Nipple
Punished for SympathyImageSource/WebcomicsTerror Island

random
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy
15576
42