Metaphor, figurative language and translationSome Essential Questions Stefano Arduini
Introduction: new directions and essential questions • Over the last twenty five years some radical rethinking has taken place in linguistics, particularly on some of the basic principles in which linguistics research since the 1950s has been grounded.
How has newer research redefined the nature and scope of meaning and cognition?
Generative Grammar • Language is a biological phenomenon • Innate universals • Specific parameters for specific languages • Modular view of language
In contrast with G.G. • Language is view form the point of view of meaning. • Meaning is not isolated from other aspects of cognition. • Language is not attributed to innate potentiality but derives from interaction and context of use.
Therefore the language faculty cannot be separated from other kinds of cognitive resources. • Language is the result of a wide range of cognitive resources.
Meaning is a central aspect • It is not separate from syntax • Lakoff: most important aspects of syntax depend on thought, since the main function of language is that of expressing thoughts • Langacker: syntax is a formal system whose purpose is to give shape to meanings
Grammar acquires meaning • Grammatical units make up a continuum with lexis, setting un various levels of abstraction
How has this new research opened up new research possibilities for understanding figurative language?
Does figurate competence stand outside ordinary language and cognition or does it belong to them as an essential condition of thinking and language use?
Interesting research routes • Figurative language is not only a formal (syntactic) means but the manifestation of more deeply rooted, more general cognitive competence • Figurative activity is the ability to construct world images employed in reality
Figures are cognitive processes • Anthropological processes: because they concern a specifically human characteristic • Expressive processes: because they refer to the means by which human beings organize their communicative faculties • These cognitive processes are not restricted to verbal expression (imaginative faculty, myth, unconscious, domains linked with expressive behavior)
How did Nietzsche’s View of Language anticipate some of these new directions in research and thinking about language?
Roots in the past • Nietzsche, Darstellung der antike Rhetorik (communication is intrinsically metaphorical because a metaphorical process underpins the formation on concepts) • Giambattista Vico, De Constantia Philologiae (figures give rise to knowledge: we can see the cognitive approach as leading a return to Vico)
How did Vico’s View of Language anticipate some of these new research insights into cognition and language?
Juri Lotman • Metaphor and metonymy belong to the field of analogical thought. This is why they are organically linked with creative consciousness as such. In this sense it is a mistake to contrast rhetorical thought, inasmuch as it is specifically artistic, with scientific thought. Rhetoric is intrinsic to scientific consciousness in the same way as it is to artistic consciousness. •  Juri M. Lotman, “Retorica”, in Enciclopedia, vol. XI, Torino, Einaudi, p. 1056.
Juri Lotman • the trope is not an ornament which only belongs to the sphere of expression. It is not decoration of invariant content, but rather the mechanism for constructing content which cannot be controlled within a single language. The trope is a figure that comes into being at the joining point of two languages, and, in this sense, is isostructural to the creative consciousness mechanism as such. •  Ib., p. 1055.
How does the new cognitivist approaches help us better understand the limits and the possibilities of translation?
What limits did a descriptivist approach to translation studies place on the theory and practice of translation?
In what sense can we say that a descriptivist approach to translation studies is epistemologically naïve?
From my point of view the new cognitivist approaches, as the perspectives of textual rhetoric, can offer new possibilities to the broad area of studies on translation, above all in the direction to go beyond some of the limits of the discipline
J. Holmes, “The Name and Nature of Translation studies” Two main branches of discipline: • DESCRIPTIVE part (concerning concrete translational phenomena) and THEORETICAL part (establishing general principles to explain and predict translational phenomena) • APPLIED BRANCH (translator training, translation criticism and translation aids)
T.S.: Epistemologically naïve stance • The theoretical aspect was greatly dependent on the descriptive one • In contrast with most 20th century epistemology: description of facts are influenced by code and described in the light of a specific socio-semiotic system
Do you agree or disagree that new research into figurative speech is as to translation as were in the 20th century newer developments in semantics?
How do concepts like rhetorical field or, in a cognitive framework, domain, frame, profile, mental spaces, and similarity help us understand the limits and possibilities of translation?
the importance of the role of figurative speech in the new rhetoric is as important to translation as was the explosion of semantics in the cognitive studies and the idea that metaphors structure our world perception. • Such an appreciation of figurative speech can permit us to go beyond these limits and encourage a possible rethinking of translation studies founded on a wider consideration of the kind of facts which are connected with translation.
Concept like: RHETORICAL FIELD, DOMAIN, FRAME, PROFILE, MENTAL SPACE, SIMILARITY can be very productive
How do the examples below illustrate the important role of frames in the process of translating concepts from one culture to another?
Partial equivalence • In Italian “casa” (house) presumes a frame that specifies some important structural characteristics • English: “house” is outlined by physical objects, while “home” conveys to the affective sphere • BUT both “house” and “home” are translated in Italian into “casa”!!!!
Another example: “mangiare” • The Italian term for “eat”, “mangiare”, stands for the process of consuming food • In German we have “essen” and “fressen”: both describe the process of consuming food, but one is used for human beings and the other for animals
Croft and Cruse (2004) “to genuflect” • “to genuflect” is a movement of the body, more or less the same concept of kneel down, but “to genuflect” belongs to a more specific frame, which is Catholic liturgical use • Often the frames are very culturally specific: translating imply a loss (there is non- equivalence of frames)
Do you agree or disagree that some concepts are not translatable?
How do the hypotheses of Frames and Profiles assist in overcoming the problem of non-translatability?
Can you provide from your own research or case studies similar examples?
Kuki Shuzo: the Japanese concept of “iki” • In the XVII century it meant something worth of particular attention. • In successive age it changed its meaning into someone who is expert of making love. • In the XIX century it stands for a behavior of the geishas, the ability to move in situations under pressure. Therefore the ability of being deceiving, spontaneous and elegant. • The maximum level of the Japanese culture. It can mean elegance, but also to despise someone, and at last, it can stand for the best behavior and essence of someone.
“esprit” • Germans generally translate it with “Geist” (but it doesn’t have the same meaning) • Not even “geistreich” is exhaustive • “Esprit” doesn’t have a perfect translation into English: “spirit” and “intelligence” diminsh its meaning, while “wit” is excessive
Croft and Cruse: the German term “Bildung” • The reason why “iki”, “esprit” and “Bildung” are not translatable is due to the fact that specific cultural characteristics of the frame against which the concept is profiled. • Translating “iki” with “elegance”, “esprit” with “Geist”, or “Bildung” with “culture” creates an approximate equivalence between the profiles, but absolutely non on the frame level.
What is the consequence of a mistranslation of one of the most foundational texts and concepts in western philosophy?
How does a new approach to figurative language help us rectify this mistranslation?
Parmenides, Perì phüseos. • B1: The first fragment is the proem. It describes a trip Parmenides takes on a chariot to the house of Dike, who offers to teach him how to distinguish between discourse founded on truth (aletheia) and discourse founded on human experience.
B2:-B3: This fragment is the logical consequence. It points at the method to attain what has been laid out earlier. There are two ways for the investigation (odoi dizesios). The first one is a persuasive method and leads to truth (it will be revealed in B8); the second cannot be pursued, because that which does not exist cannot be known. Being and thinking are one and the same thing (thinking-seeing); one can only think, know and talk about what is.
B4-B5 (B5-B4): These fragments develop the line of argument whereby doxa and aletheia are not opposite. They are one and the same reality which becomes the object of sensible perception and discourse.
B6: This fragment completes B2-B3. One can think and express what is, but one cannot talk about nothingness. Therefore, the method that does not reflect reality must be dropped; however, one should not be misled by reality's contradictions and confusion.
B7-B8: This is the beginning of the part that—as it is stated—concerns Being (to eon, Being or that which is). Being is not generated and is indestructible, its totality is immutable, it has no goal to tend to. It has neither past nor future, but it is always present. It has no birth nor growth, because outside of it there is only me eon, nothingness. It exists in an absolute sense, it is not born, it does not die. It is equivalent to itself, because it expresses being at its fullest. Because the processes of birth and death are alien to it, it is immutable, stationary, not incomplete and nothing is wanting in it. If thinking is worth only to the extent it reflects that which is and if it must be expressed within the constraints of reality, the names men give to eon are necessarily untrue. Such terms as being born, dying and the like are true only relative to the mutability of phenomena and of man's everyday experiences. Relative to that which is, they are untrue. "That which is" is an order without divisions, it is homogeneous. These considerations bring the discourse about truth to a close.
Line 50 marks the beginning of the second part, which will interest us. After closing the part about the semata of eon, sensible reality is ushered into the discourse. Here, discourse cannot be as precise as before; what follows will be a way for arranging sensible reality. In order to make sense of the world and its changeability, men decided to name two elements: pur and nux. If unity is the inevitable principle to explain eon's semata, duality is required to explain the semata of eonta.