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Translating between the lines of the original
Thread poster: Jacek Krankowski
Jacek Krankowski  Identity Verified
English to Polish
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Feb 8, 2003

As I mentioned before, someone on the Polish Forum quoted Walter Benjamin\'s (citing Goethe and Rudolf Pannwitz) \"the best comment on the theory of translation that has been published in Germany.\"

Excerpts from:


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe\'s Theory of Translation in the West-Eastern Divan

Jörg Waltje

Other Voices, v.2, n.2 (March 2002)

...although Goethe\'s Divan is not a translation of Hafi\'s Divan, we can understand why his discussions of the difficulty of literary translations involving texts from extremely different cultures also puts the Nach-Dichter (re-worker) into a favorable light: precisely because he did not attempt to merely translate, but instead tranfers and adapts ideas and insights from one culture to another. (...)

Ultimately, Goethe endorses the \"interlinear version,\" literally a translation written between the lines of the original, to gain access to the full contents (style, meaning, structure, idiom). One hundred years later Benjamin follows the same path, for, in his opinion, \"the translation must be one with the original in the form of the interlinear version, in which literalness and freedom are united\" (...)

There are three kinds of translations. The first kind acquaints us with a foreign country in our own terms; a translation in plain prose serves this purpose the best. For, while prose erases all peculiarities of every type of poetic art, and drags even poetic enthusiasm down to the level of common expression, it serves us best for a beginning, since it surprises us with foreign excellences amidst our national domesticity, our common life. (...)

Upon the first there follows a second epoch,3 in which one is indeed able to imagine oneself in the circumstances of the foreign country, yet is only concerned to adopt foreign ideas and reproduce them in one\'s native style. Such periods I would call parodistic in the true sense of the word. It is mainly witty [geistreich] people who feel compelled to embark on such an undertaking. The French employ this approach in the translation of all poetical texts; examples can be found by the hundreds in Delille\'s work.4 In the same way in which he makes foreign words palatable to himself, the Frenchman deals with emotions, ideas, even with objects. He demands for each foreign fruit a surrogate that has grown from his own territorial soil. (...)

Finally let us briefly explain why we referred to the third epoch as the last one. A translation which strives to make itself identical with the original ultimately approaches interlinearity and thus greatly facilitates an understanding of the original. In this manner we are led to the basic text, even driven to it, and thus at last the whole circle, in which the approximation of the foreign and the native, the known and the unknown moves, has been closed.


Charles Lock

University of Copenhagen

Conveying the Silence: Towards a Grammatological Theory of Translation[1]

...In order to reach his startling conclusion, Benjamin argues that the best translations are those which, far from conveying the meaning of the original, shape our language according to the demands of the language of the original. To this end, having told us that the German Romantics \'\'virtually ignored translation in their theoretical writings\'\' (76), Benjamin cites his contemporary Rudolf Pannwitz\'s (1881- ?), as \'\'the best comment on the theory of translation that has been published in Germany:\'\'

Our translations, even the best ones, proceed from the wrong premises. They want to turn Hindi, Greek, English into German instead of turning German into Hindi, Greek, English. Our translators have a far greater reverence for the usage of their own language than for the spirit of the foreign works.... The basic error of the translator is that he reserves the state in which his own language happens to be instead of allowing his own language to be powerfully affected by the foreign tongue.

Pannwitz is in fact offering here nothing original but a stark paraphrase of one of the greatest of all contributions to the theory of translation, and one by a German Romantic: Schleiermacher\'s \'\'On the Different Methods of Translation,\'\' first published in 1813.

Schleiermacher proposes two alternative methods of translation, either assimilation or estrangement: to render the foreign text as a German text, or to render a German text bearing the marks of its indebtedness to an alien language.(...)

Anticipating Benjamin, Schleiermacher argues that the literary text does not communicate, or does not only communicate. According to Schleiermacher - who is here in accord with Humboldt, and initiates the line of thinking about language that runs through Nietzsche and Heidegger - each utterance:

needs to be understood twice, once out of the spirit of the language of whose elements it is composed ... and once out of the speaker\'s emotions, as his doing, as created and explicable only out of his own being. Indeed, any speech of this kind is understood, in the higher sense of the word, only when these two relationships have been perceived together....

Interpretation ought to convey the pure thought of the speaker; translation should give us the writer\'s thoughts as muddied and compromised by the language in which they were written.

Schleiermacher proposes his translator\'s task, which we have already heard (a hundred years later) from Pannwitz via Benjamin:

Either the translator leaves the author in peace... and moves the reader towards him; or he leaves the reader in peace... and moves the author towards him.... In the first case the translator tries... to replace for the reader the understanding of the original language that the reader does not have.... In doing so he tries to move the readers towards [the author\'s] point of view, which is essentially foreign to them.

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Jacek Krankowski  Identity Verified
English to Polish
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Thinking is a disease Feb 8, 2003

Translating Metaphor between Unrelated Cultures: A Cognitive Perspective

by Zouhair Maalej


This paper purports to contribute to the following issue: how it is possible to reconcile, on the one hand, the claim that thought is metaphoric (which is a claim for the universality of metaphor per se and the universality of metaphor in thought) and the claim that metaphor is culture-specific, on the other. The paper (i) identifies linguistic metaphors, then relates them to their conceptual ones in Tunisian Arabic (TA), and (ii) translates them into English with a view to determining overlap and/or distance between the two varieties as belonging to two distant cultures. A search for translation strategies along Lakoff & Johnson\'s (1980; 1999) conceptual metaphor framework should enlighten us as to whether or not, when translated, linguistic metaphors from TA into English keep under the same conceptual metaphors. This search should give us an insight into the way experience is conceptualised in English and TA, which in turn will determine potential inter-cultural communication problems. The major argument of the paper is that metaphoric expressions relying on ontological metaphors (namely, the CONTAINER METAPHOR) are more readily translatable as metaphors than those based on structural metaphors. Metaphoric expressions governed by ontological metaphors tend to keep under the same ontological metaphors, therefore satisfying the \"similar mapping condition\" (Mandelblit, 1995). However, metaphoric expressions governed by structural metaphors, in spite of their intelligibility, tend to pose difficulties of comprehension if a \"different mapping condition\" obtains (Mandelblit, 1995). Owing to different cross-linguistic packaging of meaning at the lexical level, translating metaphors will occasion loss of meaning as attested in general translation. The corpus drawn upon in this paper is a play titled kla:m l-li:l (literally, Night\'s Talk).


1. Review of theories of metaphor translation

Equivalence in TS has received a lot of attention from translation theorists. (...) Equivalence in connection with metaphor has revolved around three major types, namely, equivalence as a function of (i) rules, (ii) text-types, and (ii) culture.

1. 1. Metaphor translation as a function of rules

Proposals of rendering metaphor into a TL in terms of rules originate in Newmark (1980), Larson (1984), Crofts (198, Alvarez (1993). They all agree on the following procedures for translating metaphor:

(i) Keeping the same metaphorical image, i.e. translating it literally (as long as it sounds natural to target readers);

(ii) Changing it into a simile;

(iii) Substituting it by an equivalent metaphor in the TL;

(iv) Keeping the same metaphorical image, and adding an explanation making the ground of similarity explicit; and

(v) Translating it by a paraphrase. (...)

1. 2. Metaphor translation as a function of text-types

The translation of metaphor is believed to be strongly dependent on the text-type in which it occurs. The representative of this trend is Newmark (1995), who offers a typology of metaphor in terms of dead, cliché, stock or standard, adapted, recent, and original metaphor. Newmark (1980) also claims that (i) in informative texts, where they have no real functional relevance informatively speaking, lexicalized metaphors are of high translatability, and might as well be ignored in the translation process; and (ii) in expressive texts, where they carry a heavy informational load, metaphors are of low translatability since they convey contextual, semantic, and pragmatic information. In this text-type, dead metaphors have to be resuscitated. Although text-typology is important for translating metaphor, yet Newmark\'s proposals could be criticised at many a level: (...)

1. 3. Metaphor translation as a function of culture

The concept of culture seen as \"a totality of knowledge, proficiency and perception is fundamental\" to translation in general (Snell-Hornby, 1988-95: 42) and metaphor translation in particular. Claiming that metaphor is culture-specific may be captured in the fact that different cultures conceptualize experience in varying ways (Snell-Hornby, 1988-95: 56). Many are those who argue for the relevance of culture as a determinant factor in metaphor translating (...)

2. Cognitive linguistics and metaphor translation


On the cognitive view of metaphor, the study of different languages is a window on the minds of their respective speakers. The study of the metaphoric discourse of a given culture gives us insight into the way native speakers structure their experience of the world. Mandelblit (1995) offered a \"Cognitive Translation Hypothesis\" for metaphor translation in two scenarios: (i) a \"similar mapping condition\" (SMC) will obtain if no conceptual shift occurs between languages; and (ii) a \"different mapping condition\" (DMC) in case a conceptual shift takes place from SL to TL. To check the difference between SMC and DMC applications, Mandelblit (1995: 493) used the time parameter, and concluded that \"the difference in reaction time is due to a conceptual shift that the translator is required to make between the conceptual mapping systems of the source and target languages.\" This scheme is complementary to Deignan, Gabrys & Solska\'s (1997: 354) proposal, in that SMC yields either same conceptual metaphor and equivalent linguistic expression or same conceptual metaphor and different linguistic expression; the DMC, however, occurs when there are different conceptual metaphors used.\" Taking the time parameter for granted, the present paper will combine Mandelblit (1995) and Deignan, Gabrys & Solska\'s framework (1997), and explain SMC and DMC applications by reference to cultural overlap or distance. The argument will run as follows: the more two cultures in presence conceptualise experience in a similar fashion, the more the SMC applies; the more they conceptualise experience differently, the more the DMC applies. If the same conceptual metaphors are used to structure our lives despite our belonging to different cultures, therefore we are conceptualising reality in the same way; and in case different conceptual metaphors structure our lives, then the study of our respective metaphoric systems will highlight how we model our reality and how the understanding of these systems may contribute to further intercultural understanding. Lakoff & Turner (1989: 214) rightly argued that \"to study metaphor is to be confronted with hidden aspects of one\'s mind and one\'s culture.\" Practically speaking, the translation of metaphor will proceed by checking whether the SL metaphoric expression translates by an equivalent metaphoric expression (lexically speaking) in TL. If so, therefore the same conceptual metaphor is being used in the two cultures. In this case, the SL metaphoric expression will translate literally as a TL metaphoric expression. If, however, a different linguistic expression is used in the TL, two scenarios are to be envisaged: (i) either the same conceptual metaphor is being used; or (ii) a different conceptual metaphor is being used. The translation procedure that will be adopted here is more pragmatic . (...)


Another conceptual metaphor that structures \"thinking\" in TA is a combination of THINKING IS A DISEASE and THINKING IS AN ILLEGAL ACTIVITY. Consider the following text:


Listen to me Get rid of thinking.

The first thing I did was get rid of thinking on an empty stomach.

I asked her if she had gone crazy? Did she want to kill me? Didn\'t she know that it is prohibited for me to think

He is like me; he nearly died. But he managed to cure himself early enough It is sports that saved him.

Sports is known for being a good shot for thinking.

What are they waiting for to organise a preventive campaign from thinking accidents.

In the corners of the Arab neighbourhoods \"it is forbidden to think here.\"

It is forbidden to use thinking for political purposes.

In the holy month of Ramadan it is forbidden to voice thinking.

At the airport, it is forbidden to import thinking from abroad.

It is forbidden to hold thinking without a licence.

Thinking without deposit is forbidden.

And anti-thinking squad is active till this calamity of thinking is thoroughly eradicated (pp. 108-109).

The first half of the text is dominated by the conceptual metaphor, THINKING IS A DISEASE, and the other half by THINKING IS AN ILLEGAL ACTIVITY. Metaphor and allusion are used to evade political censorship. It may not be grasped by the target audience what thinking on an empty stomach means; doing things on an empty stomach in TA evokes disease and related disagreeable things such as ulcer. The suggestion that thinking is a disease is confirmed by the metaphoric expression he managed to cure himself. Sports is proposed as an injection to cure the disease of thinking. With preventive campaign from thinking accidents, thinking is mapped as a contagious disease for which preventive campaigns should be organised. Although this mapping of disease on thinking may be alien to modern Westerners, politics-as-disease is quite known to Hobbes\'s Leviathan\'s readers (Maalej, 1990). The structural metaphor THINKING IS A DISEASE may be more intelligible for TR more than NON-COMMERCIAL ENTITIES ARE COMMODITIES, the reason being that the former is a creative conceptual metaphor while the latter is a conventionalised one. Accordingly, the metaphoric expressions governed by THINKING IS A DISEASE may be left as literal, and the SMC applies between TA and English.

The second half of the text maps legal language on thinking, yielding the conceptual metaphor, THINKING IS AN ILLEGAL ACTIVITY. The illegal status of thinking is enhanced in two ways, only one of which is available to the TR in the literal translation. First, by issuing the directive with the force of an interdiction, slightly softened by the use of the passive construction: \"it is forbidden to think here.\" Second, the interdiction is reinforced by a cultural allusion to written messages in some Arab countries urging people not to urinate in street corners, which is echoed via the same syntactic structure as the metaphoric interdiction to think, namely, \"it is forbidden to urinate here.\" Interdicting thinking by assimilating it to a form of street urinating is debasing thinking, and building an unfavourable attitude in the reader\'s mind toward it, which denunciated undemocratic practices at the time. Thinking in this context should be understood as metonymically related to freedom of speech, and if thinking is illegal, therefore the freedom of speech is impeded. Such cultural inter-textual knowledge is unavailable to the TR simply through the literal translation.

The same kind of syntactic echoing reverberates through it is forbidden to hold thinking without a licence (made after \"it is forbidden to own a weapon without a licence\"), where thinking is conceptualised as a weapon for which a licence is needed. Further, thinking without a deposit is forbidden does not determine what the deposit in this case is. However, the metaphoric expression is critical of the banking situation, and the metaphor is made after, \"Issuing cheques without deposit is forbidden.\" As such, it could be argued that one of the entailments of the conceptual metaphor THINKING IS AN ILLEGAL ACTIVITY is the secondary metaphor, THINKING IS IMPRISONMENT. The conceptual metaphor, THINKING IS A WEAPON, is confirmed by it is forbidden to use thinking for political purposes. Another confirmation that thinking is a threat to the political establishment is echoed through anti-thinking squad is active till this calamity of thinking is thoroughly eradicated. \"Anti-thinking squad\" is reminiscent of \"anti-crime squad\" in TA, which suggests the conceptual metaphor THINKING IS A CRIME. The increasing negative status suggested through conceptual metaphors to dealing with thinking culminates in THINKING IS A CALAMITY, which invites for thorough eradication. Clearly, the metaphoric expressions constituting the first half of the text are intelligible as equivalent metaphoric expressions to the TR not just because the mapping domain satisfies the SMC between the two verbal systems but also because the mapping domain has not been culture-specific. However, the second part of the text is not acceptable to the TR because mapping domains for thinking do not satisfy the SMC.(...)

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Jacek Krankowski  Identity Verified
English to Polish
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Cognitive translation examples from Finnish Feb 8, 2003

Metaphors in translation processes and products

Sonja Tirkkonen-Condit

University of Joensuu. Savonlinna School of Translation Studies

(...) For the purposes of this paper, a comparison of two expressions will suffice.The expression representing similar domain expressions, for Finnish translators,will be artwork, and the expression representing different domain expressions, vul-nerably housed.Both items represent instances of translation in which translators face a relatively complex choice, since literal translation, and the translation that first comes to mind is impossible. Both items, however, were easy to interpret in their particular contexts and the problems, if any, were genuinely translational. According to my estimate, the choice in both instances was equally complex. What we would want to know is whether vulnerably housedturned out more difficult to translate than artwork and whether this was due to domain conflict. Artwork in the context of the Big Issue text means something graphic which can be reproduced in printed material. The translations offered contained items such as kuvitus (illustration with pictures), piirrokset (drawings), kuva-aineisto(picture material), graafinen tuote(graphic product).Artwork seemed a good candidate for a same domain expression. It was clear from the context that the potential Finnish equivalent in this context could not be the item that probably first comes to a Finnish speaker\'s mind when they see the word. The equivalent taideteos (piece of art) was unthinkable in the context of the Big Issue text. But there is a choice of Finnish expressions in the same cognitive domain that can be exploited to convey the idea of something graphic which can be reproduced in printed material such as a magazine. Vulnerable, according to the descriptions given in dictionaries, means something that can be wounded, open to injury or attack, not adequately protected. The first translation equivalent given by Finnish bilingual dictionaries for vulnerable is haavoittuva(that can be wounded). Vulnerably housed, then, refers to people whose housing conditions are inadequate and insecure and who are, for example,under the risk of becoming homeless. The verbalisations related to vulnerably housed were to a great extent affected by the «dictionary equivalent» which supposedly most Finnish learners of English know for the lexical item vulnerable, namely `haavoittuva\', which can be back-translated into English as woundable. I do not know how many native Englishspeakers think of wounds, blood and other such things when they come across the word vulnerable or vulnerably. At any rate this was quite prominent in the Finnish translator\'s thinking aloud. Since it is out of the question that the dictionary equivalent could be used as a translation equivalent in the context we have here, it becomes necessary for the Finnish translators to get rid of the cognitive domain of wounds and blood and to find expressions which roughly convey the idea that people who are referred to as vulnerably housed have problematic housing conditions. The translator\'s behaviour in respect of the two items which I compared here,i.e. vulnerably housed and artwork was as predicted by the cognitive translation hypothesis. In other words, the former attracted more verbalisation and more runs-through than the latter, and a lot of the verbalisation for vulnerably housed can perhaps be interpreted as a search for another cognitive domain.(...)

There are at least five idiomatic expressions in the above text which attract attention from the point of metaphor translation, namely the following:

- To score (one\'s) own goal

- Not to have a clue

- To be (totally) out of one\'s depth

- To be out to lunch

- To be alive and kicking

Instead of looking at all of these expressions from the point of view of translationdifficulty, as this would emerge from the translators\' think-aloud data, Martikainen focused on three expressions, namely the ones that had the semantic content of`not understanding\'. These expressions are not to have a clue, to be out of one\'s depth, and to be out to lunch. Of these three expressions, the most difficult, when measured with the instrument developed by Tirkkonen-Condit (199, was to be out of one\'s depth. This is probably because there is no Finnish idiomatic expression which exploits the cognitive domain of vertical dimension and has the semantic content of `not understanding\'. In other words, there is no Finnish translation equivalent which would exploit the domain of `failing to reach deep enough inorder to grasp something\'. In contrast, there is a host of Finnish idioms which exploit the domain of `being outside\', along the same lines as the English idiom to be out to lunch. Similarly, the idiom not to have a clue exploits a similar cognitive domain, i.e. the domain of detective work, as the Finnish idiom ei olehajuakaan(does not have a slightest trace of smell). While the English idiom literally refers to clue in the meaning of thread left behind in order to find one\'s wayback from a labyrinth, the Finnish idiom refers to a sniff dog who fails in his taskif he loses even the slightest hint of the smell of the person he is trying to trace.(...)

Martikainen also made an attempt to trace back the conceptual metaphors that the source and target languages might share as the ultimate basis for the conceptual mapping of `understanding\' and `not understanding\'. It seems that the following conceptual metaphors are largely shared, as shown by idiomatic expressions and the etymologies of the lexical items referring to understanding: UNDERSTANDING IS BEING WITHIN ONE\'S REACH, while NOT UNDERSTANDING IS BEING BEYOND ONE\'S REACH; UNDERSTANDING IS BEING INSIDE,while NOT UNDERSTANDING IS BEING OUTSIDE, and UNDERSTANDING IS MOVING AHEAD, while NOT UNDERSTANDING IS GETTING STUCK IN ONE PLACE. Since understanding is a good thing and not understanding is a bad thing, these conceptual metaphors can be traced back to the more primitive conceptual metaphors which relate to HAVING WITHIN ONE\'S REACH versus NOT HAVING WITHIN ONE\'S REACH, BEING INSIDE versus BEING OUTSIDE, and BEING ABLE TO MOVE versus BEING UNABLE TO MOVE, which imply contrast between good and bad.

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Roomy Naqvy  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:10
English to Hindi
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Excellent Feb 8, 2003

Dear Jacek,

Liked your contributions and found them interesting. Perhaps, we could have more contributions on the same thread.


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Arthur Borges
Local time: 17:40
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Yes, brilliant indeed Feb 9, 2003

Re: \"not thinking on an empty stomach\", that indeed is hard. Some piece of research even showed that IQ and alertness start climbing once you skipping meals and reach a peak after 48 hours without food.

From personal experience of younger, if only equally foolish, moments in my life, I cheerfully confirm that\'s true and alertness remains high for at least around 10 days.

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