Cognitive Dominants And Shifts In Sociocultural Perspective In Literary Translation


The paper aims to explore the notion of cognitive dominants in terms of their impact onto the translation process. This notion is well-timed, considering the urgent need to account for the unconscious when exploring culture-laden yet deeply subjective literary translation and to shift the research focus from the impersonal sociocultural onto the translator. Cognitive dominants, which are culture-modulated but belong with the individual’s mind, are claimed to drive attention, perception and construal operations throughout the translation act predominantly in the automatic (intransitive) mode of consciousness. The empiric-based section tests this hypothesis, summing up the findings of the study of a corpus of parallel texts in English and Russian, which was focused on textual manifestations of the intertwined cognitive patterns widely regarded as ‘signitive’ of the Russian sociocultural space. The study revealed persistent and consistent manifestation of these patterns in all the translations analyzed, including foreignizing ones, which allows to indeed regard them as culture-modulated dominants. Shifts in perspective they trigger proved to be bidirectional, blending target- and source-specific patterns in a complex way. That challenges a commonly held view that culture-related shifts in translation are primarily ethnocentric and are rooted in the translator’s ideological agenda, translation norms, target literary canon and other reflective parameters of the translation strategy. Finally, the findings of the study show that if applied to translation, the notion of dominants allows to trace the dynamicity of concepts regarded as ‘signitive’ of a certain culture and makes one to reconsider the idea of ‘cultural translation’.

Keywords: Cognitive dominantEnglish-Russian translationliterary translationsociocultural spacetranslatorunconscious


It can be claimed that literary translation studies constitute a kind of ‘archaeology of knowledge’ ( Foucault, 2002), particularly when multiple translations of a certain text into a certain language are available. If approached cognitively, a comparative study of these texts is able to tell a lot not only about the nature of individual translation styles or translation practices characteristic of a certain sociocultural space in its different ‘chornotopic’ ( Bakhtin, 1981) configurations, but also about a number of diachronic shifts in the system of fundamental sociocultural values and other distributed cognitive models of world-construal that dominate that sociocultural space at diverse historic periods, framing the system of social (cultural) cognition and discourse practices therein. That is due to the fact that basically any literary text either conforms, promotes and reinforces or, on the contrary, violates, opposes and rejects the models in question, which, in their turn, either are explicitly foregrounded in the text, constituting an integral part of its aesthetics, or remain implicitly present as the cognitive background against which the text is to be construed. That allows to assume that basic cognitive patterns constitutive of a particular sociocultural chronotope are instantiated not only in ‘domesticating’ translations, assimilative (ethnocentric) by their intrinsic purpose, style and function ( Venuti, 2017), but actually in any translation, even the most ‘foreignizing’ (ibid.) one. That is the preliminary hypothesis of the study.

Problem Statement

The sociocultural in translation

The hypothesis accords with Bakhtin’s (1975) concept of the aesthetic object as the integrity of ‘architectonics’ and ‘composition’. According to Bakhtin, architectonics belongs with the cognitive realm of literary discourse and is constituted by evaluatively driven cognitive content while composition is a particular form that individuates, specifies, completes and isolates this content. Importantly, Bakhtin’s (1975) primary focus is on the structure of both aesthetic substances, which is dependent on the social, cultural and historic context. In this respect Bakhtin’s aesthetics overlaps with the concepts of perspective and construal , fundamental to the present-day cognitive approach to discourse. These notions are also focused on the structure of the intentional cognitive act rather than its dynamic content, or, to put it another way, on the particular way one attends and intends to the object of construal by means of signs, the structure of that attentional and intentional act being framed by sociocultural patterns ( e.g. Barsalou, 2016; Cuffari, Di Paolo, & De Jaegher, 2015; Di Paolo, Cuffari, & De Jaegher, 2018; Iriskhanova, 2014; Geeraerts, 2016; Kyselo, 2014; Langacker, 2017; Langlot, 2015; Schmid, 2016; Talmy 2018; Tylén, Fusaroli, Bundgaard, & Østergaard, 2013; Zalevskaya, 2014; Zlatev, 2016).

The role of such sociocultural patterns has been discussed in translations studies for decades ( e.g. Angelelli, 2014; Chesterman, 2016; Halverson, 2014; Hanna, 2016; Harding & ‎Cortes, 2018; Hermans, 2019; Hermans, 2014; Lefevere, 2016; Maitland, 2017; Pym, 2017; Tymoczko, 2014; Tyulenev 2014; Venuti, 2018; Venuti, 2017; Vorderobermeier, 2014). For example, Tymoczko ( 2014) in her extensive research on cultural translation reflects in detail on what she calls ‘signature concepts of a culture’, which, according to the scholar,

… are central to a culture’s universe of discourse and the horizon of expectation shared by its members, … are intimately involved in the discourses of a culture and its practices, … figure in and even drive many of the metaphors a culture lives by, thus entering into the linguistic matrix of a culture in fundamental ways. (pp. 238-239)

Although the point itself is doubtless plausible, a more dynamic notion anchored in the translator’s cognitive system is desirable so as not to eventually dissolve the individual in the depersonalized society and culture, as is often the case in translation studies, wherein the scholarship “has been at pains to stress the dynamism and heterogeneity of culture” ( Tymoczko, 2014, p. 236), apparently with little effect. Such notion still missing from the field, the issue of how to account for literary translation in a culture-conscious yet cognitively viable way, critical in methodological regard, is far from resolved.

The notion of cognitive dominants

In this respect the dynamic notion of cognitive dominants as culture-modulated semantic patterns can come in useful for several reasons. First of all, a dominant is a common term in poetics, wherein it is regarded as the constitutive core of the structure ( Jacobson, 1976; Kazarin, 1999), emotive tenor ( Belyanin, 2000), style and even genre ( Tomashevskij, 1996) of a literary text. Secondly, in the field of neurophysiology functioning of the entire human neural system and human behavior in general (including communication processes) are considered to be driven by dominants ( Uhtomskij, 2017). In this concern the notion accounts for natural plasticity of human brain, which entails dynamicity of selective attention, perception, conception and representation, even for the same individual over time. All these cognitive processes are doubtless involved in translation. Finally, the notion of dominants is explicitly focused on the translator rather than the structure of the text or the sociocultural system it belongs with. As such it explicates an apparent yet widely neglected fact that the sociocultural patterns in question do not exist as ‘signature concepts of culture’ per se but are (or are not) perceived, identified, evaluated and represented as such by a particular translator, who embodies them and whose cognition and discourse they structure, frame and otherwise dominate. The latter point is worth special consideration.

On the one hand, the translator as an individual (an embodied Self) is corporeally embedded and interactively open into a certain sociocultural environment, patterns of which ‘re-engineer’ the structure of the individual’s brain ( Wilson, 2010) and modulate cognition at all levels of information processing, i.e. the computation level of ‘what and why’, the representation level of ‘how’ and the implementation level of ‘whereby’ ( Bender & Sieghard, 2013). On the other hand, in neuro-functional terms the individual remains an autonomous cognitive system ( Cuffari et al., 2015; Di Paolo et al., 2018; Froese & Di Paolo, 2011; Kyselo, 2014; Varela, Thompson, & Rosch, 2017), and such operational autonomy entails intrinsic intersubjective and even inner subjective (over time) variability in the degree of salience of any shared pattern of sociocultural (interactive) origin. In other words, certain cognitive models, which on the whole are indeed signitive of a particular culture, might (and in practice often do) prove to be either non-dominant (low salience) or even totally irrelevant (zero salience) for a particular individual situated in that culture, at least at a particular moment of time.

Such culture-modulated shifts in salience are quite typical, for instance, of bicultural bilinguals, whose brain over time develops emergent semantic codes of blended origin, with a restructured set of ‘signature’ sociocultural patterns as compared to monolinguals. The translator being a bilingual, semantic shifts in perspective, triggered by shifts in such sociocultural salience, should then be regarded as quite natural of translation, rather than as manifestations of ‘ethnocentric violence’ ( Venuti, 2017) or ‘cultural castration’ ( Bernárdez, 2013), to name just a few common metaphors. What the scholars who exploit such pejorative metaphors,based on the rational commitment, seem to neglect, at least in their wordings, is the fact thattranslating is “not simply a matter of will, goodwill, or desire” but is constitutively driven by the unconscious ingrained responses physically patterned into the translator’s brain ( Tymoczko, 2012, p. 90), which the translator is hardly aware of and able to block on their whim and which are greatly modulated by the sociocultural practices the translator has ever been engaged in.

Research Questions

These unconscious neural responses provide the raw input for the reflective text processing, decision-making and choice of equivalents, thereby implementing certain cognitive patterns (models, schemes), among which some are so entrenched and cognitively salient that they dominate the whole translation process. Such cognitive dominants seem to preframe attention allocation processes and hence initially constrain what can and will be perceived by the translator and consequently will be represented, shifted and lost in translation. But how exactly are linguistic choices the translator consciously makes affected by how the translator perceives unconsciously? What particular cognitive patterns do these choices implement, which the translator was presumably not conscious of? Do such patternsconsistently manifest themselves throughout a translation? In other words, can they be regarded as cognitive dominants that indeed frame the way each translator realizes the multiple structural affordances of the text (composition) and the fictional world construed therein (architectonics) as certain categorical and conceptual distinctions? Do these subjective distinctions coincide in multiple translations of the same text, at least partly? Or, to put it another way, are such distinctions as well as cognitive dominants they instantiate indeed culture-modulated?

Purpose of the Study

The study aimed to explore the above questions on base of Russian translations from modern American literature as its empiric data. In order to do so, the network of cognitive models ‘signitive’ of the Russian sociocultural space was to be analyzed first so as to identify a set of culture-modulated dominants presumably relevant to an average Russian translator. The ultimate purpose of the study was to check whether or not these assumed dominants get consistently instantiated in the empiric data.

Research Methods

The empiric data comprised thirty-three parallel texts in English and Russian, including one novel, five short stories and five poems with two translated versions each. The texts were selected considering such criteria as the genre, the core motives and aesthetic, stylistic and linguistic complexity of the text as well as the chronotope of translation (the historic period, contemporary literary canon, translation norms, ideology, censorship and editorial policies, political regime and political relationships), the gender of the author and the translators and, if known, the translator’s sociocultural and professional status and background. The comparative analysis of the texts selected was carried out within the framework of cognitive linguistics, though the actual methodological principles were socio cognitive in view of the focus on the sociocultural groundedness of the subjective dominants each text was assumed to instantiate. Tools of linguistic poetics were applied as well, yet again with the focus on the sociocultural specificity of the cognitive models and schemes encoded in each text, not on the sign structures of the text per se.


Culture-modulated cognitive dominants in Russian translations

A number of interrelated cognitive models were selected as possible culture-specific dominants that affect an average Russian translator. These models were in focus when analyzing the empiric data. The models are enlisted with their counterparts, which presumably frame the American world-view.

  • Causality models:



    • GOD and untranslatable СУДЬБА (close to FATE, not to agentive DESTINY);

  • Behavioral and evaluative models that implement these causality patterns:












Since the patterns enlisted first are traditionally associated with the Russian mentality and way of life and appear to be deeply rooted into almost every structure of the Russian language, discourse and sociocultural practices ( Wierzbicka, 1992; Ter-Minasova, 2008; Larina, 2009), their dominance in the cognitive system of an average Russian translator and at least covert yet consistent manifestation in translations would be natural. The comparative study of the parallel texts supported this assumption. By and large, its findings allow to hold the patterns in question responsible for a variety of aesthetically significant and quite consistent shifts in the translations analyzed. Importantly, most of the shifts are unlikely to have been deliberately acted out by the translators, though in a few cases the translator’s reflective agenda driven by political and ideological factors does seem to have been the major trigger.

Just as had been expected, the salience of the patterns proved to vary in degree and consistency not only across translations and translators, but even for one and the same translator across the text space. At the same time, the overall impact of the patterns in question onto the translators proved to be pervasively indexed by a great diversity of linguistic structures in all translations analyzed. For this reason, the patterns can indeed be regarded as subjectively relevant dominants that should have preframed the way each translator allocated attention and hence perceived and construed the text. Importantly, the study revealed certain commonalities in categorical distinctions made by different translators, which evinces in favor of culture-modulated character of subjective dominants, at least partial.

Dominant-related trends

  • Those translations that belong with the contemporary sociocultural chronotope tend to manifest a source-oriented translation strategy (foreignization) based on the aesthetics of ‘hospitality to otherness’ ( Maitland, 2017), with the initial composition and the ‘alien’ aesthetic patterns it instantiates as the translator’s conscious dominants. Unsurprisingly, in these texts subjective salience of the culture-modulated patterns in question appeared to be far less consistent, though their affect is still covertly indexed by a variety of text and language structures, grammar in particular. Given the thorough attention control, introspection and reflection a foreignization strategy involves, it is natural for the self-activation of target-specific cognitive dominants to be considerably inhibited.

  • Those translations that belong with the ideologically slanted Soviet sociocultural chronotope proved to manifest the culture-specific patterns in question most vividly. This trend was also foreseeable, given the dominance of deeply domesticating ‘realistic translation’ within the Soviet translation practice ( Azov, 2013). That approach to translation deliberately promoted and oppressively imposed the Soviet aesthetics and ideology, which used to be fundamentally driven by the patterns in question, deeply entrenched in the mind of an average Soviet citizen. Surprisingly though, one Soviet translation appeared to consistently mix individualistic, pragmatic and rational dominants of the western worldview with socialistic moral-driven non-agentive dominants of the Soviet perspective, with apparent subjective dominance of the western patterns.

  • The latter surprising finding supports the claim that in case of translators as bicultural bilinguals the system of subjective cognitive dominants is an inconsistent blend modulated (not equally though) by both source and target sociocultural practices as well as by individual experience, preferences and evaluative scales. As the study has shown, such blend can comprise even mutually excluding patterns, able to get activated and dominate a translation act concurrently. That challenges a commonly held view that culture-related shifts in translation are primarily ethnocentric and are rooted in the translator’s ideological agenda, translation norms, target literary canon and other reflective parameters of the translation strategy

Example 1

The dominant perception- and action-framing function of the cognitive models from Section 6 .1 is visible, for instance, already in the title of the short story (1) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by Fitzgerald (1922, 2014, 2015) in its Russian versions: (2) Забавный случай с Бенджамином Баттоном [A funny accident to Benjamin Button] ( Fitzgerald, 2014) (transl. by Tatyana Lukovnikova); (3) Странная история Бенджамина Баттона [Astrange story of Benjamin Button] ( Fitzgerald, 2015) (transl. by Andrey Rudnev). The shifts in perspective the titles reveal are really curious, considering the dominant status and the framing function of a title of a literary text in terms of aesthetics and composition.

(1) Something or someone perceived as curious is salient and excites interest due to singularity or unexpected novelty (Merriam-Webster Dictionary, n.d.). Put in the title, the adjective curious becomes definitive of the whole narrated world. This linguistic construal enacts a positive evaluation UNUSUAL IS GOOD and seems to represent such sociocultural values as SINGULARITY, TOLERANCE, CHOICE as well as their opposites CONFORMISM and FORCE (as the cognitive background). These values might be regarded as the basic motives touched in the story and the aesthetic dominants of the narrative.

As for the noun case , it can have a range of referents, including a particular set of circumstances, a particular account of what actually happened, a peculiar person and even a condition of body or mind. All of these referents are alternative profiles of the model CASE. All of them are relevant in the context of the story. All of them one way or another focus the conceptual feature SINGULARITY.

To sum up, the title is loaded with sociocultural deixis and instantiates a number of individual-centered cognitive patterns constitutive of the American sociocultural space. What about the translations? Are there any shifts in deixis? What culture-modulated patterns do the Russian titles instantiate?

(2) The Russian adjective забавный denotes something unusual, that is evaluated in a positive way – as capable of igniting interest and make a person laugh (Ushakov Dictionary, n.d.). The adjective is emotion-laden: it instantiates the cognitive model УДОВОЛЬСТВИЕ [FUN, JOY, PLEASURE] as its cognitive base and as such reflects the evaluative scheme UNUSUAL IS GOOD, negatively salient in context of the Soviet strive for CONFORMISM. Such culture-specific salience might evince the subjective dominance of individualistic patterns, pervasively promoted by the English language and the American culture but tabooed within the Soviet chronotope, which the translator belonged with. On the other hand, UNUSUAL should have been perceived by the translator as subject to СМЕХ [LAUGHTER] rather than TOLERANCE. Such evaluative shift should have been culture-modulated, considering the intolerance to the unusual and unpredictable typical of the Russian sociocultural space due to predominance of irrational causality with initially excessive degree of indeterminacy ( Larina, 2009). Additionally, the translator seems to have evaluated Button’s unusual personality and life against a certain social NORM, which the culture-specified category СМЕХ entails, and that reflects the impact of the socialistic (WE-oriented) dominants promoted by the Soviet ideology. Finally, the translator’s construal is explicitly emotional, EMOTIONALISM being characteristic of the Russian sociocultural space as well.

As for the noun случай , it refers to a set of circumstances evaluated as unforeseeable and thus again instantiates irrational models of indeterminate, random and indirect causality, pervasively promoted by the Russian language system, grammar in particular. Such models basically reificate and defocus THE INDIVIDUAL, perceived as a mere experiencer of a certain supreme mystical order. The preposition с [to] adds to such RANDOMNESS and Button’s passive SUBMISSIVENESS – categories fundamental to the Russian way of thinking and way of life. In contrast, Fitzgerald’s narrative foregrounds Button’s WILL and AGENCY – in accord with the American opportunistic world view. At the same time, the translator’s choice of the equivalent случай by the singular grammatical form as well as lexical meaning still enacts the individualistic concept SINGULARITY, fundamental to Fitzgerald’s architectonics.

Overall, the text shows that opposite culture-specific cognitive patterns were consistently blended throughout translation, variable models becoming dominant for the translator over time and text space.

(3) The choice of the adjective странная reflects the emotion-laden negative evaluation of Button’s uniqueness(the scheme UNUSUAL IS BAD) against the background of a certain social NORM. That accords not only with the WE-patterns dominant of the Russian discourse, but also with the conformist Soviet ideology in general. The problem, however, is that the translationa ppeared in 2015 and therefore was expected to instantiate democratic rather than socialistic values, such as INDIVIDUAL, EQUALITY, DIVERSITY, TOLERANCE, FREEDOM, CHOICE. In this respect the translator’s choice could indeed have been affected by the entrenched culture-specific patterns from Section 6 .1.

As for the noun история , this construal can concurrently denote a narrative of a set of particular events, a life story of a particular individual and human history in general (Ushakov Dictionary, n.d.). Therefore, in sharp contrast to case with a bounded cognitive scope and profiled INDIVIDUAL, in the construal история the focus is blurred and can be placed on either private or social or cultural space, thereby leaving the exact degree of granularity unspecified and the cognitive scope unbounded. Such shift might also have been driven by the WE-oriented patterns, which involve evaluating anything individual and singular against a certain normative background in the domain of SOCIAL SPACE. Finally, the construal история (as the profile history ) involves apparent objectification of the narrated events and therefore actually defocuses Benjamin as an agent, this time in accord with the irrational causality patterns.

Overall, in contrast to the previous version, this title at full scale manifests the dominant impact onto the translator of target-specific cognitive patterns, with consequent ethnocentric shifts in perspective, even though the translator’s reflective strategy is a foreignizing one, aimed at careful reproduction of stylistic and aesthetic features of the text.

Example 2

On his way to the clinic Benjamin’s father, who has not seen his new-born son yet and thus is totally unaware of the tricky situation, notices his wife’s doctor. Having realized who exactly Button is, the doctor, baffled by the extraordinary case, angrily barks in response to Button’s excited inquiries: (4) Do you imagine a case like this will help my professional reputation? One more would ruin me – ruin anybody. In terms of sociocultural deixis, the following cognitive models might have been instantiated in the passage: QUALITY, GROUP, JOB, CAREER ( professional ), CREDIT, PUBLIC ESTEEM, SOCIAL JUDGEMENT ( reputation ), MONEY, WEALTH, RUINING ( ruin ). Overall, the passage seems to foreground the domain of public perception and recognition of the doctor as a highly-qualified creditable professional and in this respect is focused on the SOCIAL SPACE and the MORAL rather than the INDIVIDUAL, their PRIVATE SPACE and the PRAGMATIC, although a number of profession-related egocentric values(CAREER, MONEY, SUCCESS) remain present in the background.

Lukovnikova ( as cited in Fitzgerald, 2014) offers the following translation: (5) Уж не думаете ли вы, что это поднимет мой врачебный престиж? Да случись еще хоть раз нечто подобное – и я разорен, такое кого угодно разорит!In the translation a more specific attribute врачебный [medical] bounds the category PROFESSION by the domain MEDICINE and a particular JOB (a doctor),which leads to foregrounding of the pragmatic values CAREER and SUCCESS. The noun престиж [prestige], despite a certain conceptual overlap with the direct equivalent репутация [reputation], profiles a different conceptual feature within the model CREDIT, with a focal shift again onto the pragmatic values IMAGE, POWER, INFLUENCE, SUCCESS. Finally, the translator opts for a more specific construal разорен and разорит [be/go bankrupt], which explicitly profiles MONEY and reduces the cognitive scope of the unbounded model RUIN to the domains of BUSINESS and WEALTH – apparently regardless of SOCIAL DEATH and SOCIAL SPACE as such. These shifts in focus and salience evince that Lukovnikova’s text again manifests the dominant impact of the American individualism and pragmatism, which in Fitzgerald’s extract are actually far less salient and which even at present are not really typical within the Russian sociocultural space. On the other hand, the translation is marked by increased emotionalism (inversion, exclamation, particles да, уж, хоть), characteristic of the Russian discourse practices. Therefore, overall the passage again manifests a curious blend of source- and target-specific cognitive dominants, the former apparently being subjectively dominant for the translator.

Emotionalism is visible in Rudnev’s ( as cited in Fitzgerald, 2015) version as well: (6) И как же, позвольте узнать, может такой случай отразиться на моей репутации, а? Еще один такой – и я погиб, такое кого хочешь уничтожит!This version is more accurate in terms of the sociocultural deixis the text encodes. However, the construal я погиб [I am undone/dead] and the construal уничтожит [destroy] profile the resultative terminating stage of the event RUINING and the conceptual feature TOTAL. As a result, the concept DEATH emerges or, to be more exact, its irrational (mystic) profile DOOM. In addition, the verb отразиться [reflect] implements the metaphor REPUTATION IS A MIRROR and the metonymy AN INDIVIDUAL IS REPUTATION (SOCIAL IMAGE). These cognitive schemes at full scale instantiate the WE-oriented perspective and priority of SOCIAL JUDGMENT and SOCIAL STATUS over SELF and INDIVIDUAL, which is so characteristic of the Russian culture and discourse ( see Larina, 2009). To sum up, although in the reflective mode the translator carefully implements a foreignizing strategy, his text still reveals pervasive dominance of cognitive patterns typical of the Russian way of thinking.

Example 3

The following examples are taken from two Russian translations of the novel The Catcher in the Rye by Salinger ( 1951):

(7) And underneath the guy on the horse's picture, it always says: "Since 1888 we have been molding boys into splendid, clear-thinking young men."

(8) А под фертом на лошади всегда написано : "С 1888 года мы лепим из мальчиков великолепных здравомыслящих юношей " ( Salinger, 2016a) (transl. By Maxim Nemtsov).

(9) И под этим конным хлюстом подпись : "С 1888 года в нашей школе выковывают смелых и благородных юношей " ( Salinger, 2016b) (transl. By Rita Right-Kovaleva).

Salinger ( 2016a) and Nemtsov's passages both instantiate agentive causality (we have been molding, мы лепим [we sculpt/mold/model]) as well as the evaluation schemes based on appearance features (splendid,великолепных) and reasoning sensibility (clear-thinking, здравомыслящих [sanely thinking]). In this respect, Nemtsov’s translation instantiates primarily individualistic dominants CORPOREAL, IMAGE, RATIONAL and PRAGMATIC, which accords with the foreignizing approach continuously propagated by this translator. Nevertheless, the adjective здравомыслящих chosen by Nemtsoventails a certain normative background, against which the degree of (IN)SANITY of reasoning (здравость мышления) is to be evaluated, and any NORM involves a certain form of CONFORMISM. Nemtsov’s cognitive focus thus should still have been placed onto the SOCIAL SPACE rather than the INDIVIDUAL, which might well reflect the dominant impact of the culture-specific WE-orientedness, though far less pervasive.

In sharp contrast to Nemtsov’s version, Right-Kovaleva’s ( as cited in Salinger, 2016b) passage instantiates non-agentive irrational causality (the impersonal predicate в нашей школе выковывают юношей [in our school the boys have been molded / they mold the boys]with the defocused agent) as well as culture-specific models SPIRITUAL (смелых [courageous, brave]), MORAL (благородных [noble, knightly]), COLLECTIVE and COMMON (the added possessive adjective в нашей школе [in our school], which implements the conformist need to identify with a social group). The impact of these patterns is visible throughout the whole translation. Therefore, they can indeed be regarded as subjective yet culture-modulated dominants. Consider, for instance, the underlined parts in the next example.

Example 4

(10) "Old Ernie," I said. "He's one of the most popular boys at Pencey . … When I first met him , I thought he was kind of a snobbish person. That's what I thought. But he isn't. He's just got this very original personality that takes you a little while to get to know him."

(11) – Старина Эрни, – говорю. Один из самых популярных парней в Пенси . … Я его когда увидел, думаю: вот сноб какой. Так и подумал. А он – нет. У него просто характер такой оригинальный , только через некоторое время привыкаешь (tr. byNemtsov).

(12) – Да, ваш Эрни, – говорю, – он у нас в Пэнси общий любимец . … Когда мы познакомились, мне показалось, что он немного задается. Я так думал сначала. Но он не такой. Просто он очень своеобразный человек , его не сразу узнаешь(tr. byRight-Kovaleva).

In sharp contrast to Nemtsov’s version, Right-Kovaleva’s passage again instantiates the models SPIRITUAL ( общий любимец [ apopular boy → a common favorite], COLLECTIVE, COMMON and GROUP ( общий любимец [a common favorite], мы познакомились [ I first met him→ we met], у нас в Пэнси [at us in Pencey]), while the concept INDIVIDUALITY appears to be backgrounded ( personality → general человек [man]) with quite a negative conformist evaluation of uniqueness brought into focus ( original→ своеобразный [peculiar]). These shifts are of great aesthetic significance. In the novel all the events are narrated exclusively from the Holden Caulfield’s point of view, who deliberately alienates from the ‘phony’ school and society in general and thus would never define the school as my or our .


The notion of culture-modulated cognitive dominants can become a useful tool to explore the unknown knowns of translation, implement culture-conscious translation and study the framework of cognitive patterns fundamental to a certain sociocultural space in its chronotopic and intersubjective dynamics. It allows to model the translation process and analyze its textual input and outcomes as a form of concurrently individual, social and cultural cognition, but without disseminating the translator in the depersonalized sociocultural space and with at least partial account of the unconscious patterns that frame attention, perception and construal operations throughout the translation act. The findings of the study show that the set of cognitive patterns dominant for each translator is indeed culture-modulated but allows not only for culture-grounded commonalities but also subjective peculiarities in terms of perceptual, conceptual and categorial distinctions different translators make, translating even one and the same text.


The research was funded by the Russian Science Foundation (project 18-18-00267 ‘Dominant Constructs in the Structure of Linguistic Cognition’). The research was carried out at Derzhavin Tambov State University, Russia.


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Discourse analysis, translation, linguistics, interpretation, cognition, cognitive psychology

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Leontyeva, K. I. (2020). Cognitive Dominants And Shifts In Sociocultural Perspective In Literary Translation. In A. Pavlova (Ed.), Philological Readings, vol 83. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 127-139). European Publisher.