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Cognitive Models For The Translation Of Metaphors English Language Essay

Katan believed that what we actually do in a cognitive approach towards culture is to study and describe what people have in mind as well as their model of perceiving entities. Accordingly in the translation of a metaphor from the SL, the translator needs to have a sufficient knowledge of both the patterns of thinking and acting in his own culture as well as the TL’s cultural models of reality.

Nida (1964) believed that the best translation is the one which can provoke the same response of the SL reader when reading the SL text in the TL reader. Al-Hasnawi (2007) criticized Nida’s attitude regarding the best translation and called it practically impossible; however, he also stated that we can approach it to some extent but under two conditions: a) the translator should know the way the TL readers perceive the world and structure their experiences, b) the translator should do his/her best to accommodate the text to the experience of the TL reader as well as the way it is recorded in the TL.

In the cognitive approach, metaphors are not merely considered as linguistic entities. In fact, they present the way people conceptualize and record their experience. Lakoff and Johnson (1980) defined metaphor as a device to understand target domain experience on the basis of a familiar one (source domain). As it can be viewed, this definition entails a comparison between an existing entity and another entity which is assumed to exist.

Lakoff and Johnson (1980, p. 3) believed that “metaphor is pervasive in everyday life, not just in language but in thought and action”, and that “ordinary conceptual system is fundamentally metaphorical in nature”. Therefore, it can be concluded that in the cognitive view to metaphor, the emphasis is made on the psychological as well as sociocultural and linguistic aspect (Al-Hasnawi, 2007).

On the basis of the cognitive approach, Mandelblit (1995) presented his ‘Cognitive Translation Hypothesis’ and considered two schemes for the translation of metaphors:

a) Similar mapping conditions

b) Different mapping conditions

According to Mandelblit (1995), the translation of a metaphor with a similar mapping condition in the SL and TL is less time-consuming and simple. On the other hand, the translation of the SL metaphor with a different mapping conditions can be reproduced in the TL while the translator can choose from among the following strategies to render the SL metaphor into the TL: rendering the metaphor to simile, a paraphrase, a footnote, an explanation and -in the last resort- omission.

Al-Hasnawi (2007) added one scheme to Mandelblit’s Cognitive Translation Hypothesis and considered three schemes for the translation of metaphors as follows:

a) Metaphors of similar mapping conditions

b) Metaphors having similar mapping conditions but lexically implemented differently

c) Metaphors of different mapping conditions

According to Al-Hasnawi (2007) the first set includes ‘the cultural universal SL metaphors derived from shared human experience’. The second set includes the metaphors which are only lexically different due to the ethical system in the TL and SL. And finally, the third set includes the culture-bound SL metaphors.

4.5. The present attitude in subtitling metaphors

Based on what has been stated so far, it can be concluded that the taxonomy of metaphors presented by Newmark (1988) makes the translation of this figure of speech overcomplicated. The dividing lines that he considered between different types of metaphors are sometimes so blur and vague that even the English native speakers face with difficulties to distinguish between them. Besides, this type of classifying metaphors may not be of great help to translation. As Dagut (1976, p. 28) proposed “what determines the translatability of a SL metaphor is not its ‘boldness’ or ‘originality’ but rather the extent to which the cultural experience and semantic association on which it draws are shared by speakers of the particular TL.”

In the light of ‘Cognitive Translation Hypothesis’, Mandelblit (1995) presented two schemes of cognitive mapping conditions:

a) Similar mapping conditions

b) Different mapping conditions (which indicate the way the SL and TL speakers conceptualize the world through metaphors)

Accordingly, Mandelblit (1995) believed that when the SL and TL share similar mapping conditions the translation of the SL metaphor will be simply done by choosing an equivalent TL metaphor or (in the worst conditions) a TL simile. However, if the SL follows different mapping conditions compared to that of the TL, the translation of metaphor will be more problematic and consequently time-consuming. In this case, the translator should render the SL metaphor through choosing a TL simile, or by a paraphrase, a footnote, an explanation or omission.

Al-Hasnawi (2007) added one more scheme to mandelblit’s as follow:

a) Metaphors of similar mapping conditions

b) Metaphors having similar mapping conditions but lexically implemented differently

c) Metaphors of different mapping conditions

Al-Hasnawi (2007) has particularly considered two points about metaphors; namely, metaphor mapping conditions and the words used in the metaphor structure.

In the light of the cognitive principles governing Mandelblit’s proposed schemes and through focusing on Al-Hasnawi’s points of concern in the translation of metaphors, the present research considers 6 schemes for rendering metaphors from the SL (English) to the TL (Persian) as follows:

Scheme one – the SL metaphor does not exist in the TL (the SL speakers use to conceptualize an identity in the metaphoric language while the TL speakers use the literal language). For example:

He is a late bloomer.

Persian speakers do not have any metaphor in their language which can be considered as an equivalent for this metaphor; instead, they use the literal language to explain its meaning. Therefore, the best strategy for subtitling this type of metaphors (from among the strategies suggested by Newmark) is Conversion of metaphor to sense. Although, translation of metaphor by the same metaphor combined with sense can also be considered as a choice which preserve the emotive load as well as the informative load of the SL metaphor; but due to the unique constraints of subtitling (i.e. space and time) it is not recommended as the best choice.

Scheme two – the SL and TL share similar mapping conditions. For example:

I’d like to stand on my own two feet.

In Persian, this sentence can be subtitled as:

میخواهم روی پاهای خودم بایستم.

(Literal Translation: I’d like to stand on my own feet)

This type of metaphor can be best subtitled by reproducing the same image in the TL.

Scheme three – the SL and the TL metaphors have similar mapping conditions but lexically implemented differently. For example:

He criticized me repeatedly, but I took it on the chin.

In Persian, it is subtitled as:

همینطور از من انتقاد کرد اما من زیر سیبیلی رد کردم.

(Literal translation: He criticized me repeatedly, but I let it pass under my moustache)

The best strategy to subtitle this type of metaphor is replacing the image in the SL with a standard TL image which does not clash with the TL culture.

Scheme four – the SL and the TL metaphors have similar word implementation but (rather) different mapping conditions. For example:

He calls his teacher by his first name.

Persian speakers do have such a structure in their language:

او استادش را با اسم کوچک صدا میکند.

(Literal Translation: He calls his teacher by his first name)

As it can be viewed, both metaphors include quite the same words but the concepts which lie behind these seemingly identical metaphors are different. ‘He calls his teacher by his first name’ for the English native speakers means ‘He has a friendly relation with his teacher; while the Persian speakers use to interpret the same metaphor as ‘He is a rude person’.

In order to subtitle these types of metaphors, conversion of metaphor to sense is the best choice; however, translation of metaphor by the same metaphor combined with sense can also be considered as another option: although, it cannot be the best due to the unique constraints in subtitling (i.e. space and time).

Scheme five – the SL and TL metaphors have different mapping conditions. For Example:

Somebody get the asshole outa here.

Persian subtitlers translate this metaphor as:

یه نفر این سریش رو بندازه بیرون.

(Literal Translation: Somebody get the stick outa here)

The use of metaphors which are constructed basically by sexual terms is something common in the American English (particularly in the movie dialogues). For example, the term ‘asshole’ is a very common term in the American movies which indicates on ‘a worthless and annoying person’; however, Persian speakers prefer to use the metaphors which are constructed based on non-sexual terms.

The preferable strategies for rendering this type of metaphors are translation of metaphor by simile and conversion of metaphor to sense.

Scheme six – the TL metaphor does not exist in the SL (the TL speakers use to conceptualize a certain identity in the metaphoric language while the SL speakers use the literal language).

On the surface, this scheme is no more than a theoretic possibility which has nothing to do with our case of translating metaphors from the SL to the TL. In other words, the lack of a metaphor in the SL can never be considered as problematic while we translate from the SL to the TL. But the fact is that the present scheme can be the source of great help to subtitlers who suffer the most from the unique constraints of this particular type of translation; namely, space and time. Metaphor is the shrunk form of a rather lengthy idea in the literal language. Therefore, a subtitler can use the TL metaphor for the translation of the SL literal statement (with regard to the cultural experience and semantic associations) not only to save on space and time but to help the viewers to better enjoy the movie with more TL-oriented subtitles.

Despite the afore-mentioned strategies, the subtitler can also use omission. If the metaphor is redundant or serves no practical purpose, there is a case for its deletion together with its sense component (Newmark, 1988).

In the end and before discussing the collected data, it is of vital merit to note that choosing from among the presented strategies is highly influenced by the parameters of subtitling (Pedersen, 2005), the rules and regulations of subtitling (Karamitroglou, 1998) and the particular constraints (i.e. space and time) of this type of translation.

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