The Translation Of Metaphors English Language Essay


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Newmark believed that choosing from among the strategies to translate metaphors is strongly contingent upon their types. Therefore, he taxonomized different types of metaphors on the basis of their originality and boldness. According to Newmark (1988) metaphors can be grouped under six heads; namely, dead, clich‚, standard or stock, adapted, recent and original. What comes below is an explanation about his taxonomy as well as a quick view on his suggested strategies to translate each type of metaphor.

Dead metaphor is the one whose image is forgotten through heavy use. A great number of ordinary vocabulary in any language are dead metaphors. Words such as mouth, circle, drop, fall, rise, arm, space, field, line top, bottom and foot are actually among the dead metaphors of the English language. The word 'foot' in 'at the foot of the hill' is a dead metaphor. Metaphors of this type can be classified into three groups. The first group includes the ones which provokethe metaphoric image in mind to some extent (e.g. 'reflect' as 'think'). The second groupincludes metonyms (e.g. 'worm' as 'screw' and 'crown' as 'kingdom'). Ahd finally, the third group includes the non-technical words (e.g. mouth and foot) which can change to a translation crisis point when applying in combination with other words. For example:

It is out of my depth.

the arm of the chair

square the circle

It is a matter of life and death.

The metaphors in the final group are in close relation with our daily life.

Clich‚ metaphors stand between dead metaphors and standard metaphors. They usually appear in two structures: figurative adjective + literal noun (e.g. filthy lucre) and figurative verb = literal noun (e.g. explore all avenues, leave no stone unturned, stick out a mile). Newmark (1988) believed that clich‚ metaphors usually replace the clear and obvious thought which are often emotional. So, they should be upheld in vocative texts while in the informative texts such as public announcements, instructions and propogations the translator can get rid of them in any proper way. The main obligation of the translators when facing clich‚ metaphors is to replace it with its cultural equivalent in the TL. However, it can be replaced by a simile or even a dead metaphor when it has no suitable cultural equivalent.

Standard or stock metaphors are very close to clich‚ metaphors so that one usually cannot find any clear distinction between them. Perhaps the only noticeable difference between these two types of metaphors is the style of the text within which they are applied. Standard metaphors are usually used in the informal texts as a way of expressing a mental or physical situation in brief. For example:

He is on the eve of getting married.

Keep the pot boiling.

The most common way of translating standard metaphors is to produce the SL image in the TL. However, other ways of rendering this type of metaphor to the TL such as reducing it to sense (which will result in the addition or the omission of some parts and will consequently influence the emotive force of the metaphor) or translating it to simile plus sense are also possible.

Adapted metaphors include proverbs. The translators usually take great pains to do their best in the translation of this particular type of metaphor due to its magnificent cultural role in the TL.

Recent metaphors include the newly-made words or phrases which use to refer to the things and entities that have already had a name (e.g. 'pissed' meaning 'drunk' and 'Greenback' meaning 'dollar bill').

Original metaphor is the one which is invented by the writer. Literal translation is the best choice for the translation of original metaphors because: a) original metaphors present the important attitudes of the writer and reflect his personality and worldview, b) original metaphors are considered as good choices to enrich the TL. Examples for original metaphors are:

And I can hear 'the clear sound of solitude, opening and closing its window'.

Let's weight the night of a villiage, the slumber of a gazelle.

Where the Norweyen banners flout the sky, and fan our people cold.

In general, Newmark (1988, p. 107) presented seven strategies to translate metaphors as follows:

1. Reproducing the same image in the TL

2. Replacing the image in the SL with a standard TL image which does not clash with the TL culture

3. Translation of metaphor by simile, retaining the image

4. Translation of metaphor (or simile) by simile plus sense, or occasionally metaphor plus sense

5. Conversion of metaphor to sense

6. Deletion. If the metaphor is redundant or serves no practical purpose, there is a case for its deletion, together with its sense component

7. Translation of metaphor by the same metaphor combined with sense. The addition of a gloss or an explanation by the translator is to ensure that the metaphor will be understood

4.2. The cognitive approach to metaphor

According to the cognitive semanticians, the notion of metaphor stands for the recognition or expression of abstract concepts in the form of empirical ones. Lakoff and Johnson (1980) believed that the nature of metaphor is to understand one thing on the basis of another. Perhaps this attitude towards metaphor is a reaction to questioning the way we represent or understand the issues such as love, justice, time or the ideas which belong to the abstract domains.

Lakoff and Johnson (1980) claimed that the conceptual system of man's mind is based on a restricted set of empirical notions which root in our experiences. These empirical notions include spatial orientations (up-down, in-out, front-back, on-off, deep-shallow, central-peripheral), physical concepts about world (objects and containers) and a set of experiences and fundamental behaviors (eat, walk, sleep and the like). For example:

Spatial orientations

Happy is up; sad is down.

Conscious is up; unconscious is down.

Health and life are up; sickness and death are down.

Having control or force is up; being subject to force or control is down.

More is up; less is down.

Good is up; bad is down.

Rational is up; emotional is down.

Physical concepts about world

It's difficult to put my ideas into words.

Try to pack more thought into fewer words.

His words carry little meaning.

You can't simply stuff ideas into a sentence any old way.

Your words seem hollow.

Fundamental behaviors

Don't walk on my nerves.

He ate his word.

He does nothing but sleeping on the case.

According to this approach, those experiences which do not directly root in our physical experiences should be metaphoric in nature. Lakoff has also stated that such metaphoric or abstract concepts are structured and understood through the metaphoric mapping of a restricted set of empirical notions in our mind.

To bring another witness to the above-mentioned claim, Lakoff has stated that we usually use metaphors to speak about the abstract domains and in our way of using metaphors we use the notions belonging to the empirical domain to speak of the abstract entities. Accordingly, it appears that there is a systematically metaphoric relation between the abstract domain and the empirical one.

On the basis of this approach, metaphor (unlike what Aristotle believed) should not be merely considered as something belonging to languageand at the level of the words. The main claim in this approach is that the reactions of human mind are fundamentally metaphoric; that is to say, the conceptual system of man's mind is formed and defined on the basis of metaphors. As a consequence, what makes a metaphor to work as a linguistic expression is the fact that metaphors root in the conceptual system of man's mind. Therefore, any study over the metaphoric expression can lead us to not only understanding the metaphoric concepts but recognizing the metaphoric nature of man's behaviors.

To throw light over the fact that 'concept' is metaphoric and 'metaphoric concept' regulates our daily behavior, let's consider the metaphor 'Argument is war' and its influences on the concept of 'argument' in our daily language.

Your claims are indefensible.

He attacked every weak point in my argument.

His criticisms were right on target.

I demolished his argument.

I've never won an argument with him.

You disagree? Okay, shoot!

If you use that strategy, he'll wipe you out.

He shot down all of my arguments.

As it can be viewed in talking about argument as war, we win or lose arguments, attack ones position or defend ours, win or lose ground, change our line of attack and many other cases in the same category.

To summarize, Lakoff and Johnson (1980) have showed that metaphors are not merely the ornaments belonging to literature or language itself; they govern on our mind and regulate our daily behavior. According to Lakoff and Johnson (1980) the conceptual system of man's mind which control the way we think and the way we behave is metaphoric in nature. They considered metaphor as a device to form an abstract experience on the basis of an empirical one. Therefore, there are two aspects in each metaphor: source and destination. In the metaphor 'You are warmly welcomed', the source is 'sense of touch' and the destination is 'friendship'.

Lakoff and Johnson (1980) believed that metaphors help us both to speak about entities and to think about them. In fact, metaphor is the representation of a fundamental principle in cognitive linguistics based on which language and thought are highly interrelated.

4.3. Metaphor as a cultural concept

The Encyclopedia Britannica (1983, vol. 4, p. 657) defined the term culture as "that complex whole, which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, customs, and their capabilities and habits acquired by the man as a member of society". On the other hand, Lakoff and Johnson (1980, p. 12) believed that "a culture may be thought of as providing, among other things, a pool of available metaphors for making sense of reality"; "to live by a metaphor is to have your reality structured by that metaphor and to base your perceptions and actions upon that structuring of reality" (ibid). Accordingly, metaphors root in the culture of a nation and reflect their cultural believes and values. Therefore, the translation of metaphors between two different languages (e.g. English and Persian) which use to conceptualize the reality in different ways is not an easy task. In order to recognize the extent of this hardness, we just need to consider that the two cultures benefit from different traditions, life conditions, methods of representing the experience and symbols. Consequently, it can be concluded that metaphors are culture-specific due to the fact that different cultures conceptualize the world in different ways.

Dagut (1976, p. 32) believed that there is no simplistic general way to translate metaphors and the translatability of a metaphor in the SL is contingent upon two critical points: a) the particular cultural experiences and semantic associations exploited by it, b) the extent to which these can, or cannot, be produced non-anomalously into the TL, depending on the degree of overlap in each particular case. Dagut (1976, p. 28) even went beyond that and stated "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 associations on which it draws are shared by speakers of the particular TL". Al-Hasnawi (2007) believed that the difficulty of the translationof the SL metaphor is not the lack of lexical equivalent in the TL but the diversity of cultural conceptualization of an identical entity or word in the SL and TL. Snell-Hornby (1995, p. 41) stated that "the extent to which a text is translatable varies with the degree to which it is embedded in its own specific culture, also with the distance that separates the cultural background of the source text and the target audience in terms of time and space.

4.4. Cognitive models for the translation of metaphors

Katan (1999) 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:

(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:

(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:

(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:

(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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