Interpretive and descriptive translation
Thread poster: Masoud Kakoli

Masoud Kakoli
Iran
Local time: 01:27
English to Persian (Farsi)
+ ...
Jun 22, 2014

I was reading translation theories regarding translation and relevance that I found something that I cannot understand.

First, read the below text please

Translation and relevance
The discrepancy between what people have in mind and what they actually say or how they say it may also be seen in cross-cultural terms within a relevance framework. Consider the following text-initial sentence:

Certainly, tomorrow's meeting of OPEC is formally about prices and about the decision of Saudi Arabia to lower them (Time editorial).

In English, an argumentative text could start in this way and the implication would be:

'There are those who suggest that tomorrow's meeting of OPEC is about prices, but this is not the point.'

To see this sentence in this way is to see it, at one level, not as a statement of what the speaker actually beleives, but more as a representation of what someone else believed, thought or said, cited to be opposed on this occasion. At this level (so-called straw man gambit in the rhetoric of argumentation), the reason why the speaker makes this statement is to use the citation for his or her ends. In this context, the speaker's goal is to prepare for a rebuttal of the statement: the text would go on to assert that the real purpose of OPEC meeting is to discuss the 'cohesion' of the organiztion which is in tatters.

In Farsi or Arabic, on the other hand, starting an argument in what to a Western reader would be a 'straw man gambit' way conveys the opposite effect. The utterance would be about what the speaker actually holds to be true, a proposition that would normally be followed by further assertion:

'I wholeheartedly believe this to be the case, and it is the point , because ... '

To see the sentence in this way is to see it not so much as what someone may 'cite in order to oppose,' but as what someone holds to be a true representation of a state of affiars. The reason why the speaker makes this statement is to express conviction, which is an end in itself.

Firstly, please tell me which sentence is the argumentative text that the writer mentions in his /her book. The first sentence or the second one?
Certainly, tomorrow's meeting of OPEC is formally about prices and about the decision of Saudi Arabia to lower them (Time editorial)
'There are those who suggest that tomorrow's meeting is of OPEC is about prices, but this is not the point.'

Now, my question is that if the first sentence is the argumentative text, how on earth is it possible to have the below-mentioned implication on an English reader and the opposie effect on a Persian or Arabic reader?
'There are those who suggest that tomorrow's meeting is of OPEC is about prices, but this is not the point.

I cannot really understand it. The sentence is explicitly saying that tommorow's meeting is about prices.' Maybe, I could not understand the whole text at all!

Please, explain for me these two effects on English and Arabic/Persian readers. Why are they different?

Thanks in advance!



[Edited at 2014-06-22 10:23 GMT]


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Arianne Farah  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 16:57
Member (2008)
English to French
'formally' Jun 22, 2014

In English, the word 'formally' would be unnecessary in the sentence if it were to be taken literally : Certainly, tomorrow's meeting of OPEC is about prices and about the decision of Saudi Arabia to lower them.

It serves to imply that there is an informal reason for the meeting and that the prices are merely a pretense.

So the subtext would read like : Certainly, tomorrow's meeting of OPEC is formally about prices (but we all know that it is informally about something else and we're giving lip service to the official reason) and about the decision of Saudi Arabia to lower them.


Simply put using 'formally', 'officially', 'conventionally, 'customarily' or any other such adverb turns the meaning of the sentence on its head. For example : 'Officially, Queen Elizabeth is Canada's monarch.' - the sub text would be that the role is ceremonial and has little impact on laws & politics. Or : 'Tomatoes are conventionally considered to be vegetables.' - the sub text is that they are not in fact vegetables.


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:57
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
The argumentative use is an idiom Jun 22, 2014

Certainly, in any other context, means definitely, without doubt, absolutely. But the sentence quoted: "Certainly, tomorrow's meeting of OPEC is formally about prices and about the decision of Saudi Arabia to lower them." will certainly (in the main sense) be followed by a sentence, probably beginning with "But" or "However", explaining that though the meeting is formally about these issues, it is actually about something else. So the meaning is "Although it is true that tomorrow's meeting of OPEC is formally about prices and about the decision of Saudi Arabia to lower them, it is actually about something else."
I don't know Arabic or Farsi, but presumably the equivalent of "certainly" in the main sense is never used in the argumentative sense in this way in these languages, and therefore could be misunderstood as stated.


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Elizabeth Tamblin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:57
Member (2012)
French to English
The way I see it Jun 22, 2014

"Certainly, tomorrow's meeting of OPEC is formally about prices and about the decision of Saudi Arabia to lower them"

This a phrase that implies a straw man gambit. I think the writer you quote is saying that the same form of words in Arabic or in Farsi would not convey the same implication of a straw man gambit. Instead, it would convey the speaker's certainty of the matter.


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Masoud Kakoli
Iran
Local time: 01:27
English to Persian (Farsi)
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Do not agree with you Jun 22, 2014

Jack Doughty wrote:

Certainly, in any other context, means definitely, without doubt, absolutely. But the sentence quoted: "Certainly, tomorrow's meeting of OPEC is formally about prices and about the decision of Saudi Arabia to lower them." will certainly (in the main sense) be followed by a sentence, probably beginning with "But" or "However", explaining that though the meeting is formally about these issues, it is actually about something else. So the meaning is "Although it is true that tomorrow's meeting of OPEC is formally about prices and about the decision of Saudi Arabia to lower them, it is actually about something else."
I don't know Arabic or Farsi, but presumably the equivalent of "certainly" in the main sense is never used in the argumentative sense in this way in these languages, and therefore could be misunderstood as stated.


Thanks for your reply. But, I do not agree with you because the writer states a very important implication out of the sentence and it does not seem logical that the writer states such an important implication without qouting the concession adverb that you said. Moreover, I happened to be a Persian speaker. If the senttence had a concession adverb as you stated then its implication in Persian was exactly like English.
Now, what do you think Mr. Doughty?


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Masoud Kakoli
Iran
Local time: 01:27
English to Persian (Farsi)
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
The same implication Jun 22, 2014

Arianne Farah wrote:

In English, the word 'formally' would be unnecessary in the sentence if it were to be taken literally : Certainly, tomorrow's meeting of OPEC is about prices and about the decision of Saudi Arabia to lower them.

It serves to imply that there is an informal reason for the meeting and that the prices are merely a pretense.

So the subtext would read like : Certainly, tomorrow's meeting of OPEC is formally about prices (but we all know that it is informally about something else and we're giving lip service to the official reason) and about the decision of Saudi Arabia to lower them.


Simply put using 'formally', 'officially', 'conventionally, 'customarily' or any other such adverb turns the meaning of the sentence on its head. For example : 'Officially, Queen Elizabeth is Canada's monarch.' - the sub text would be that the role is ceremonial and has little impact on laws & politics. Or : 'Tomatoes are conventionally considered to be vegetables.' - the sub text is that they are not in fact vegetables.


I kind of agree with you and kind of disagree with you. Maybe, the adverb "formally" changes the meaning. But, if the translator understand it while rendering into Persian or Arabic , it has the same implication in both languages and what the author says is that this sentence has different implications in Arabic or Persian compared to English.


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:57
Russian to English
+ ...
Yes, I agree, Masoud. This whole thing does not make that much sense in the context of translation Jun 22, 2014

Of course, I understand their point--that you cannot really infer what anyone meant solely from the linguistic representation of their thoughts (meaning text) since the person might have meant, or intended to convey, something else, and they either accidently or for any particular purpose (such as here), used a different text unit. I don't really know how relevant it is to translation, though . You cannot guess what someone meant, and write (in the target language) what you think they might have meant. You have to, more or less, depend on the text and the context, of course, which is usually expressed through the text itself, although it may not be --sometimes. The context can also be found outside of the text.

[Edited at 2014-06-22 10:23 GMT]


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Masoud Kakoli
Iran
Local time: 01:27
English to Persian (Farsi)
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Straw man gambit Jun 22, 2014

Elizabeth Tamblin wrote:

"Certainly, tomorrow's meeting of OPEC is formally about prices and about the decision of Saudi Arabia to lower them"

This a phrase that implies a straw man gambit. I think the writer you quote is saying that the same form of words in Arabic or in Farsi would not convey the same implication of a straw man gambit. Instead, it would convey the speaker's certainty of the matter.


If the sentence that you mentioned is a straw man gambit, then you should be agree with what Arianne Farah said, don't you?


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Masoud Kakoli
Iran
Local time: 01:27
English to Persian (Farsi)
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Straw man gambit and formally Jun 22, 2014

Elizabeth Tamblin said that the below-metioned sentence is a straw man gambit:
"Certainly, tomorrow's meeting of OPEC is formally about prices and about the decision of Saudi Arabia to lower them"

Arianne Farah said that it is the adverb "formally" that changes the sentece meaning and somehow changes it into a straw man gambit. If we interrelate these two ideas with each other, we can conclude that the adverb "formally" turns the sentence into a straw man gambit and this straw man gambit is PROBABLY latent in Persian or Arabic.

Perhaps, the adverb "formally" means something like "apparently" in this context.

However, if the translator understands this issue while rendering, this straw man gambit is transferred to any other languages.
Who agrees with me?


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 04:57
Chinese to English
Habitual structure of argument Jun 22, 2014

I think Lilian's right. This isn't really about translation, this is about genre conventions in English and Farsi/Arabic. Obviously, a proper translation of the English sentence into Farsi would convey the meaning - that this meeting is not, in fact "about prices".

What the author seems to be saying is that English-language editorial frequently start like this, with a statement with which the author does not agree. Whereas Arabic/Farsi editorials generally do not start that way: they tend to start with statements which the author believes to be true.

(Therefore, the implication is that if you are trying to translate an English editorial into Farsi, you might want to consider using a common Farsi rhetorical structure, not just copying the English structure.)

I'm in no position to judge how accurate any of this is, but I think it's fair to say that in my pair this holds true to a limited extent. There are differences in common rhetorical patterns. However, I think they are much less important (i.e. have much less impact on how I translate) than the ideological assumptions shared by writers and readers. For example, with the sentence given, I would be much more concerned about handling the different assumptions about OPEC that readers of English and Arabic bring to the editorial. The differences in rhetorical structure are a smaller problem.


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Arianne Farah  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 16:57
Member (2008)
English to French
Takes me back to my translation theory classes... Jun 25, 2014

It seems the point of the lesson is that if you translated what the sentence 'says', you end up with different meanings in English than in Farsi. If your level of English is high enough to grasp what the the sentence 'means', then of course you would do your best to translate the meaning into Farsi.

I remember once in class we were talking about the movie 'All the President's Men' and the teacher asked us if we understood the implications of the title. I immediately thought of Humpty Dumpty, so the implication was that they couldn't put [the Nixon administration] back together again - so I knew the movie would not be about the men but about the broken thing they were trying to fix. A fellow student who had not been exposed to English nursery rhymes in her childhood asked what happens if you don't know the reference, and the teacher answered that you would lose (a good measure) of sub-text, but that the translator would never know (case in point, the French version is called 'The president's men').

The lesson was meant to teach us that sometimes we completely miss the true meaning of the source and have no way of knowing it because we are missing cultural knowledge, which seems to be the same lesson as here.


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