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TO TRANSLATE OR TO MEDIATE? THAT IS THE QUESTION!

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TO TRANSLATE OR TO MEDIATE? THAT IS THE QUESTION!
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  TO TRANSLATE OR TO MEDIATE? THAT IS THE QUESTION! by Sergio Viaggio, United Nations Office at Vienna Second Lord -  He must think us some band of strangers i’ theadversary’s entertainment. Now he hath a smack of all neighbouring languages therefore we must every one be a man of his own fancy, not to know what we s!eak one to another so we seem to know, is to know straight our !ur!ose" chough’s language, gabble enough, and good enough. #s for you, inter!reter, you must seem very !olitic $ . WilliamShakespeare,  #ll’s %ell &hat 'nds %ell  , Act IV, Scene I. Some preliminary notions  Relevance Theory developed Since much of what I have to say is based on elevance !heory, and lest you may need areminder, may I start by resumin" its basic tenets# Sperber and Wilson define relevance as therelationship between the conte$tual effects produced on a specific sub%ect by any act of ostensive communication and the effort that it takes him to process it. elevance is thus thee$clusive domain of &in our case, speech-' comprehension &even thou"h it "overns speech production insofar as a speaker, mostly unconsciously, (puts himself in the shoes) of hisinterlocutor'. Let us recall the two *rinciples of elevance &+/+0#12 and foll.'#!he first principle is co"nitive# 3uman co"nition tends to be "eared to thema$imisation of relevance. !he second one is communicative# 4very act of ostensive communicationcommunicates the presumption of its own optimal relevance. 5rom these principles, Sperber and Wilson derive a presumption of optimalrelevance, which consists of two assumptions#a' !he set of assumptions which the communicator intends to make manifest to theaddressee is relevant enou"h to make it worth the addressee6s while to process the ostensivestimulus. b' !he ostensive stimulus is the most relevant one compatible with thecommunicator6s abilities and preferences.!here are two decisive corollaries# relevance is always +' ad hoc , and 1' relative.I would add that these principles apply to any stimulus that the sub%ect  perceives   asone of ostensive communication addressed to him or that he decides to process (as if)addressed to him &he may attribute intentionality when there is in fact none, or missintentionality when it is actually there, or simply mis-attribute it as directed to him rather thanto someone else or vice versa '. !his 7ualification introduces the key element of attributed intentionality , which will become decisive when dealin" with displaced situationality, typicalas it is of written communication and, therefore, translation 1 . Since it escapes their ob%ect of study, Sperber and Wilson do not touch upon several additional decisive elements# +' !heintentionality behind the intentionality to communicate proper - the aims that a communicator  pursues by communicatin" or an interlocutor by listenin". 1' !he motive behind   suchintentionality, which impels a person to communicate or pay attention to somethin" at all inthe first place, which can be totally or partially unconscious. 8' !he (7ualitative) effects of  + 9y the way, dear reader, have you mana"ed to comprehend the 9ard6s direct intended sense spontaneously: Ittook me several strenuous readin"s, and I am not 7uite sure that I have mana"ed. 1 !his is my disa"reement with 4co &122+'# there is no intentio o!eris ; all there is is human intention attributed by the reader to the author.  comprehension# what it (feels like) to have understood. I am not referrin" here to a speechact6s illocutionary force, which is, as it were, part and parcel of it# Illocutionary force isrecoverable throu"h propositional enrichment alone, and is normally perceived automaticallyas constitutive of intended ideational meanin". I have in mind, rather, the comple$ consciousand unconscious motivations that themselves "ive rise to and "overn the &comple$' pra"maticintention behind a speech act, which itself "overns the act of speakin" - and, crucially, alsothe act of listenin". <either am I referrin" to perlocutionary effects &they too are part of thespeech act and are perceived automatically to"ether with -if not necessarily as part of-ideational meanin"' but rather to conte$tual, especially 7ualitative, effects. !his distinction isclearly visible at the aesthetic level# aesthetic effects are hardly perlocutionary in thetraditional sense. In any event, never mind what we call them or how they work, they arethere, and they are independent of ideational comprehension, which e$plains that we can beaffected differently by two acts of comprehension of the same ideational content 8 . 4ach timewe perceive &the same' meanin" meant anew, we e$perience different co"nitive and7ualitative effects. Such effects are, in the end, a function of our own ability, sensitivity anddisposition there and then, which may or may not match our "eneral ability, sensitivity or disposition, or the statistically avera"e ability, sensitivity or disposition of any "roup of interlocutors.=nce more, understandin" what a person means to convey to us propositionally,understandin" the set of assumptions that he means to make manifest, thou"h indeed the basic re7uirement for understandin" speech, is seldom enou"h. Whenever we have a personalstake in understandin" &in understandin" that the plumber is makin" manifest to us that in hise$pert opinion the whole wall must be ripped open, for instance', we want to understand,also, even more basically, what the speaker6s real motives and intentions are, and whencethey come. We are not only after understandin" what the person means us to understand(officially)# we want to "o well beyond that; we metarepresent    his intentions. We do it all thetime, and not only when we have reason to believe that there is more to it than meets the ear.!rue, on many occasions all that counts for the mediator6s purposes is (official) ideationalmeanin", but by far not always - not even at hi"hly political encounters. Indeed, speechcomprehension is consummated once official, directly intended, (official) sense has beenunderstood. 9ut, a"ain, we do not stop at that. We "o on peelin" the onion as obsessively asre7uired by our perception of relevance. !he old %oke comes to mind of the two shrinks whocross each other on the street. > (ood day, )octor  ,6 "o each of them, only to stop dead on their tracks and wonder suspiciously > %hat the hell did he mean by that* 6  +nter!retive and descri!tive use Accordin" to Sperber and Wilson, utterances can be used as representations in two basicallydifferent ways# +' an utterance can propositionally resemble a state of affairs in the world, inwhich case lan"ua"e is used descriptively, and 1' an utterance can propositionally resembleanother utterance, in which case lan"ua"e is used interpretively. In the first case, the utterancedescribes a &possible' state of affairs in the world, in the second - it reproduces the propositional content of a previous utterance, or, if you wish, of a previous description of a&possible' state of affairs in the world. 5or instance, you say > this theory is rubbish ,6 and I canre-say descriptively that this theory is rubbish or interpretively that accordin" to you thistheory is rubbish. In other words, a descriptive utterance6s truth and relevance are, initially, a 8 ?omprehension always leads to a more or less comple$ series of metarepresentations, and thesemetarepresentations cannot but vary with every act of comprehension. !hat is why we re-read# we not onlyrefreshen but deepen, develop or revise our understandin".1  function of the state of affairs it describes and the way it describes it, whilst the truth andrelevance of an interpretive utterance lie in the way it propositionally resembles another utterance. !his leads @utt &+2 and 1222' to define translation as second-de"ree interpretiveuse# A translator says, by means of an utterance in the tar"et lan"ua"e, what the ori"inalspeaker communicated by means of an utterance in the source lan"ua"e - the translatedutterance is thus supposed interpretively to resemble the ori"inal one, i.e. (say what theori"inal says.) *arallel te$ts - vi. , the different lan"ua"e versions of an owner6s manual- inwhich lan"ua"e is used descriptively to (describe) the device and the correct way to use it,would not be translations &re"ardless of the fact that they may have been arrived at bytranslators basin" their own descriptions on the description verbalised in the sourcelan"ua"e'  .I have no ma%or theoretical 7uarrel with this definition, but it poses a practical problem# accordin" to it, most translators do not translate at all, and most translated te$ts arenot really translations. Indeed, the relevance -i.e. functionality- of a translation will be limitedto makin" it possible for &ideational' meanin" as meant by the ori"inal speaker to be identicalto meanin" as comprehended by the reader of a translation, re"ardless of the state of affairsdescribed by the ori"inal speaker. And there is a second problem as well# if interpretiveresemblance is to be assessed e$clusively at the propositional level, how are we to assessliterary translation: What about formal resemblance: Where is the translatolo"ically relevantdifference between two Spanish te$ts, one in prose and the other one in sonnet form, both(interpretively) resemblin" the same ori"inal 4liBabethan sonnet: Cnless the door is openwide to allow for the invasion of -ualia , translation theory will remain crippled# no matter how close it "ets to universality, it will always fail the ultimate test. &he overall im!ortance of -ualitative effects !he basic limitation of relevance theory in its ori"inal formulation, I submit, is that it takesconte$tual effects to be merely co"nitive, i.e. chan"es in the individual6s beliefs &which become stren"thened, weakened, or alto"ether altered'. !he end effects of comprehension onan individual are always emotive, or 7ualitative, and have to do more with the phenomenalaspects of beliefs &a"ain, (what it feels like) to entertain them' than with their ideational, propositional or notional aspect. If we incorporate this, then relevance theory neatly e$plainsaesthetic and other 7ualitative effects, even without "oin" into their physical and social nature&a vastly une$plored realm'. !his is what *ilkin"ton &1222' has tried to do, contributin" thelast stone that I needed to finish my theoretical buildin" as it presently stands before you.In the first volume of Durrel6s  #leandria /uartet  , Eustine, who as a youn" "irl had been raped by sinister ?apodistria, winces when, readin" a musical score, "ets to  0d.c. ) Sheimmediately understands, of course, that ( d.c. ) stands for ( da ca!o, ) a normal instruction for the performer to play the passa"e once a"ain from the be"innin", but she immediatelyassociates it with ( 1a!odistria ) and the 7ualitative effect produced by her comprehension of this perfectly innocent  23+ devastates her. I have an even more illustrative e$ample, and froma most une$pected source. In one of the episodes of the old !V series  4onana , old?artwri"ht and a painter now "one blind are standin" atop a cliff overlookin" a wonderfullandscape. !he former painter starts bemoanin" the loss of his si"ht and evokin" thelandscape he had transferred to canvas so many times in the past; he then starts describin" itas he visualises it in his mind. ?artwri"ht comments that what the blind man has %ust depicted  =n the other hand, a te$t whose (truth) lies e$clusively on its propositional resemblance to the ori"inalinstructions -say, in order to prove their aptness or ineptness before a court of law- would, indeed, be atranslation.8  is more beautiful than what he, ?artwri"ht, sees. !he moment is rather corny, but mostrevealin"# What ?artwri"ht would have told his blind friend if he could use the metalan"ua"ein this piece, is that the -ualia  of the second-de"ree perception produced in him by hisinterlocutor6s utterance were aesthetically more satisfyin" than the -ualia  of his optical perception. !hanks to the intermediate semantic representation flavoured by the non-semantictrappin"s of speech, transformin" the second-de"ree perception into an ima"inary first-de"reeone simply (felt better) or (more movin") than perceivin" the landscape directly. Such -ualia  could not have been induced by ideational content alone &itself a propositionalabstraction induced from the semantic representation'# there is somethin" about bothideational content and, in this instance, the way it was verbalised that did the trick. !his(somethin" that does the trick) is what a "eneral theory of communication, translation and,even more so, mediation cannot shy away from conceptualisin" and incorporatin".  There is more to meaning than propositional content      A model of communication throu"h speech cannot i"nore the metarepresentation of whatmi"ht have been said instead of what has been actually uttered# !he fact that a wife saysto her husband >I6m fond of you6 rather than >I love you6 may be heavily loaded &andcertainly no less the fact that she does not say anythin" at all'. And e7ually loaded may be the fact that at an international "atherin" a Spanish dele"ate of ?atalan ori"inintervenes in 5rench rather than Spanish. Le$ical and other positive choices becomerelevant &as silence itself', in other words, only insofar as an interlocutor canmetarepresent the alternatives and the si"nificance of the fact that they have not beenchosen or, even, that they have been consciously discarded. 9ecause that is very much a part of meanin" meant -if meant indirectly- or, if not meant at all, then of meanin" ascomprehended by the interlocutor despite the speaker6s intentions. A"ain, this is frau"htwith conse7uences for mediation, since the specific wei"ht of form of an utterance-especially its semantic form- may be more, or less, relevant as a positive choice. A"ain,this is frau"ht with conse7uences for mediation, since the specific wei"ht of 5 -especiallyits semantic form- may be more, or less, relevant as a positive choice. A case mostre"rettably in point as this chapter was bein" updated was the ?oalition of the Willin".!he name was deliberate# the willin" meant plainly to establish the difference betweenthemselves and the un-willin" remiss - i.e. @ermany and, above all, 5rance, otherwiseknown also as the politically pe%orative old 4urope. =ne of the many Spanishtranslations, ?oaliciFn de voluntades G?oalition of willsH left threw the not all too weak implicature overboard, the alternative translation coaliciFn de los dispuestos Gcoalition of the disposed/willin"H was thus much more ade7uate. <otice that coalition is not asloaded politically# I submit that all that mattered was eschewin" alliance in order not toactivate memories of the antifascist alliance of yore. !he mediator must, thus, be wary of what not to say for the first term and what actually to say for the second. 4arlier, ?hinaand the CS were at diplomatic lo""erheads over the fact that a ?hinese i" had crashedin mid air with an American intelli"ence plane above the ?hina Sea, as a result of whichthe ?hinese pilot was missin" and presumed dead, whilst the American plane was forcedto perform an emer"ency landin" on a ?hinese island. All the fuss was over whether theAmerican aircraft was a (spy) plane &as characterised by 4uronews', or a (surveillance) plane &as labelled by ?<<' le"ally o"lin" from afar. In this specific conte$t the semanticdifference between an (apolo"y,) which is what the ?hinese demanded, and an(e$pression of re"ret,) which was as far as the Americans were ready to "o, are notinterchan"eable# they "ive rise to relevantly different &even contradictory' politicallychar"ed metarepresentations. In most other conte$ts, instead, they would be very muchinterchan"eable# >I6m sorry that your father is so ill, *eter,6 will not "ive *eter much foodfor metarepresentational lucubrations about whether I said (I6m sorry) rather than (Ire"ret) in order to convey that I feel responsible. *retendin" that every speaker chooseshis words as an embattled inister about to lose a no-confidence vote, carefullywei"hin" and then re%ectin" each and every alternative &which, by the way, isimpossible', and that, therefore, every word present counts as much as every absentword, is as preposterous in direct communication as it is dama"in" when it comes to thenotion of fidelity in interlin"ual mediation.  The rest is silence 0
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