Dominant Construal And Reperspectivation Patterns In English-Russian Literary Translations
The article grounds the procedural function of cognitive dominants structuring the translator’s cognition and discourse as the trigger of shifts in the sociocultural perspective constitutive of the artistic-aesthetic structure of the literary text under translation. The paper sums up the findings of a comparative study of 33 parallel texts (11 literary texts in English and 2 translations of each text into Russian), supplemented by relevant data from the parallel national corpora RNC and ReversoContext (2013-2019). Discourse analysis of these data resulted in identification of a number of socioculturally specified models of world construal, likely to dominate the discourse of a literary translator from English into Russian as a bearer of specifically structured linguistic cognition and an emergent system of sociocultural knowledge. These patterns are semantically intertwined, socioculturally modulated and consistently interact in the translation process, triggering various shifts in the artistic-aesthetic structure of all the translations analysed regardless of the general sociocultural vector of the reflective translation strategy implemented therein. Such consistency suggests that these construal patterns constrain and even predefine the translator’s perspective on the diegetic world, driving the processes of conceptualization, categorization and representation of the latter in the translator’s discourse and text. The data analysed manifest frequent semiotic traces of concurrent semantic effects of those dominants that entail contrasting perspectives, which results in significant sociocultural reperspectivation of the diegetic world in translations. The article presents a cognitive-semiotic typology of reperspectivation patterns, most frequently encountered in the data analysed.
Keywords: Literary translationsociocultural perspectivereperspectivationcognitive dominantdiscoursecognition
The sociocultural facet of literary translation, a leading discourse technology of cross-cultural value transfer, has remained in the translation scholarship’s focus for over three decades. Such unceasing research interest in the sociocultural was initially instigated by the cultural turn of the translation studies framework in the early 1990s, which dramatically transformed scientific construal of the nature of literary translation, with the culture-conscious metaphors of rewriting (Lefevere, 2016), intervention (Venuti, 2017) and manipulation (Hermans, 2014) gradually displacing the conventional concept of translation equivalence and the research focus eventually shifting from purely linguistic onto aesthetical, political, ideological and other sociocultural forces driving the translator’s discourse (Gentzler, 2017; Harding & Cortes, 2018; Hermans, 2019; Lefevere, 2016; Maitland, 2017; Pym, 2017; Venuti, 2017). A decade later the sociology of translation came of age, bringing into the limelight the issues of social constructivism and activism in translation (e.g. Angelelli, 2014; Buzelin & Baraldi, 2016; Chesterman, 2016; Evans & Fernandez, 2018; Munday, 2013; Tymoczko, 2014; Wolf, 2015; Wolf & Fukari, 2007). In the Russiam framework the sociocultural facet of translation has been explored from a variety of research perspectives as well (e.g. Chajkovskij, Voronevskaja, & Lysenkova, 2016; Galeeva, 2011; Maslennikova & Milovidov, 2018; Ogneva, 2019). In other words, a lot has been achieved worldwide in unveiling a multitude of sociocultural forces behind the translator’s discourse choices.
However, at least one significant issue remains unresolved – that of the cognitive mechanisms by means of which the sociocultural can ever get manifested in the translator’s individual discourse and which are to be held accountable for the “irreducible difference” beyond the grasp of even the most experienced translator (Venuti, 2013, p. 54). Doubtless, since most of these mechanisms belong with the subconscious, their functional nature can be described at best in the form of a hypothesis, which partly explains the above-mentioned theoretical gap. However, for the literary translation studies it is of great significance to devise such a hypothesis as it is the cognitive subconscious that is the primary realm of emotion, association and insight at the core of imagery and creativity constitutive of aesthetic cognition, literary translation being one of its discourse forms.
One of the mechanisms structuring the translator’s discourse might be that of
If that is so, what particular knowledge structures drive the translator’s sociocultural perspective? What kind of conceptual and categorial shifts do they trigger? At what discourse levels do such shifts occur? How are they manifested in the translator’s text? Are they consistent? How significant are they in aesthetic terms? Are they purely subjective or do they overlap, at least partly, in different translations of the same text? Do they overlap in various translations within the same pair of languages, for instance, in literary translations from English into Russian?
Purpose of the Study
The present study aimed to answer these research questions in order to
In order to test this hypothesis, a comparative discourse analysis of 33 parallel texts (i.e. 11 literary texts of different genres in English, 2 translations of each text into Russian) was carried out. When necessary, this empiric data was supplemented by the data from the English-Russian parallel sub-corpus of Russian National Corpus (2003-2020) (http://www.ruscorpora.ru) and the specialised parallel corpus ReversoContext (2013-2019) (https://context.reverso.net). The form of discourse analysis applied was anthropocentric by its focus on the structure of individual (i.e. the translator’s) yet culture-modulated linguistic cognition and comprised traditional analytical techniques and tools of cognitive linguistics, poetics and narratology.
Cognitive dominants in English-Russian literary translation
At the first stage of discourse analysis a set of semantically interrelated world-construal patterns consistently instantiated in various discourse dimensions and at various textual levels of the translations analysed (regardless of the translation strategies these texts manifest) was identified. Due to the consistent textual visibility of their semantic effects in the empiric data these construal patterns were regarded as potentially dominant for an average English-Russian literary translator. The conceptual core of this set of dominants is constituted by two causality construal modes, which seem to focalize the translator’s perspective and frame the overall structural arrangement. These are the mode ANTHROPOCENTRISM with the conceptual feature HUMAN AGENCY profiled in the event frame and the mode MYSTICISM centered around the concepts GOD, FATE and RANDOM. Both causality modes entail different forms of specification on the conceptual continuum (UN)CERTAIN and (UN)PREDICTABLE and get instantiated in the translator’s discourse through a number of more specific construal patterns, competitive in terms of the sociocultural perspective they entail: STABILITY – CHANGE, RISK, CHALLENGE; STATE – PROCESS; FORCE – FREEDOM, OPPORTUNITY, CHOICE; ENDURANCE, SUBMISSIVENESS – AGENCY, WILL, RESPONSIBILITY; SOUL, SPIRITUAL – BODY, CORPOREAL, MATERIAL; INTERNAL (ETHIC) – EXTERNAL (AESTHETIC); ETHICS – PRAGMATICS; EMOTION, EVALUATION – RATIONAL; SOCIAL – INDIVIDUAL; COMMON, JOINT – PRIVATE, COMPETITIVE; CONFORMITY – TOLERANCE; NORM, STEREOTYPE – SINGULARITY, PECULIARITY; DISTANCE, POWER, STATUS – EQUALITY. Although significance of the outlined dominants appeared to vary even across the same text (i.e. for the translator over time), all the translations considered revealed certain overlaps in categorial distinctions triggered thereby, which suggests that the dominant cognitive models in question might indeed be culture-modulated. Their semantic effects being most visible in grammar-related textual shifts, grammar might be regarded as the dominant discourse form of implementing sociocultural deixis in translation, apparently primarily non-reflective.
Common patterns of sociocultural (re)perspectivation
The next aim of the analysis was to identify some patterns of sociocultural (re)perspectivation commonly instantiated in the translations under consideration and to explore their causal dependence on the outlined cognitive dominants. As the ultimate outcome of the study, a cognitive-semiotic typology of these patterns was devised, which accounts for common linguistic means of their textual instantiation, sociocultural origin of the dominants they have been driven by, foreignization and domestication as two prototypical discourse modes of sociocultural perspectivation in translation and for the basic narrative codes fundamental to aesthetic forms of human cognition.
Regarding sociocultural specificity of perspective-driving dominants, the mode of consciousness (i.e. reflective-transitive vs. automatic-intransitive awareness) and the general vector of the translator’s strategy (i.e. priority of either the target sociocognitive system and sociocultural space or the source one), three major perspective-framing modes were outlined.
Considering shifts in the narrative codes, crucial to establishing a sociocultural perspective in the literary discourse as an aesthetic form of human cognition, the following patterns of reperspectivation were frequently observed in the empiric data.
1. Inversion of the aesthetic modes “EVERYDAYNESS” and “TRANSCENDENCE” (cf. Milovidov, 2019), resultant primarily from lexical recategorization, euphemization and disphemization.
2. Inversion of the narrative mode EVENTFULNESS and the descriptive mode ITERATIVITY, triggered primarily by:
stativizing the diegetic world as a result of 1) profiling a terminative phase in the event frame with the conceptual feature RESULT-STATE foregrounded; 2) lexical-grammatical temporal reconceptualization of the narrated events in the gestalt mode (their construal as an integral experience with an unspecified phase structure); 3) syntactical and other textual forms (e.g. omission) of compressing the narrated (diegetic) and/or narration time; 4) depersonification and hence reification of certain conceptual features of the characters’ actions; 5) construal (often by means of nominal recategorization) of adjectival or adverbial features of the characters’ actions as their constant personality traits;
passivizing the diegetic world model and/or the characters’ world image as a result of 1) backgrounding or defocusing the characters’ agency in the narrated events, particularly the plot-driving ones; 2) other forms of reconstruing causal interrelations between the events in the diegetic world; 3) converting the “probabilistic” narrative world model (based on the set of the aesthetic dominants THE HUMAN AGENT, CHOICE, ACTION and RESPONSIBILITY), which might be regarded as a contemporary literary prototype, into the “accidental” (THE HUMAN AGENT and RANDOM), “imperative” (SOCIETY, NORM, ROLE and EVALUATION) or, less frequently, “precedential” one (FATE, ROLE, SUBMISSIVENESS) (Tyupa, 2016 on these narrative world models).
3. Expansion and transformation of the narrative world space triggered by 1) profiling initially backgrounded or defocused conceptual features (affordances) in the structure of the scenes and events constitutive thereof; 2) shifts across modalities in construal of certain conceptual features; 3) categorial shifts across the conceptual scales SPECIFIC – GENERIC and CONCRETE – ABSTRACT; 4) inverting the modal and digital narration modes; 5) shifts to evaluative social categorization, frequently accompanied by enforced iterativity and the inverted narration mode; 6) primary categorization of secondary reference (omission of lexical and topical repetition).
4. Inversion of the subjective-affective and chronicler modes of narration resultant from 1) subjectification / objectification / stereotypization of evaluative categorization; 2) shifts in evidentiality and the translator’s involvement mode (the embodied / disembodied observer, agent or patient), in turn caused by a) adopting another mental vantage point in space and time, b) inverting the partitive and gestalt modes of perspectivation, c) splitting the attention focus, d) reframing the structure of the salience continuum and the overall attentional frame constitutive of the translator’s perspective, e) shifts across the scales SPECIFIC – GENERIC and CONCRETE – ABSTRACT, f) metaphoric or metonymic reconceptualization of certain events, scenes and their particular features, g) inverting the modal and digital modes of narration representation, h) the translator’s self-identifying with a certain character rather than the narrator, whose textual function the translator is supposed to perform.
5. Genre-related categorial shifts accompanied by reframing of the reader’s expectation, with the basic cognitive reference point anchored in a different ‘aesthetic paradigm’ (Tyupa, 2019).
It is hardly possible to identify any clear-cut trends in textual instantiation of the outlined patterns, their combinations fluctuating across the same translation. However, on the whole, Russian translators seem to be prone to stereotype-driven evaluative social recategorization while construing the characters’ personality and actions, to more abstract categorial distinctions with frequent shifts from the modal to digital construal and to stativizing, passivizing and objectifying the narrated events, although the subjective-affective mode seems to override a distinctly more objective chronicler’s mode. All these perspective-driven shifts can be regarded as semantic effects of those cognitive dominants that mark the bilingual translator’s immersion primarily in the Russian (i.e. target) sociocognitive and sociocultural space. Curiously, similar dominants seem to structure the imperative world model characteristic of the so-called “swarm” and “role-based” forms of social cognition and the aesthetic paradigm of traditionalism they relate to (Tyupa, 2016).
Due to the limited space of the article, this section will illustrate semantic effects only of a few dominants and reperspectivation patterns outlined above on the example of two Russian versions of the title of the famous short story “
Although this translation preserves the original positive appraisal of the UNUSUAL (
Semantic effects of dominants and shifts in the sociocultural perspective they bring about are even more visible in Rudnev’s title with an apparently stereotyped and explicitly negative appraisal of THE UNUSUL (the adjective
Another curious point to mention is an apparent intertextual allusion to the novel “
Overall, the notions of cognitive dominants and the translator’s perspective can come in quite useful (as analytical tools) in uncovering and explaining cognitive roots of various sociocultural shifts in literary translations. Within the present study they have enabled identification of a number of construal patterns and modes, potentially dominant for an average English-Russian literary translator and framing their discourse. These dominants appear to be semantically interrelated, interact throughout the translation process and drive the translator’s sociocultural perspective (often inconsistent), which in turn frames the processes of conceptualization, categorization and textual representation of the diegetic world by the translator. The study has shown that in the translator’s discourse and text this world undergoes myriad forms of reperspectivation, which affects all levels of the aesthetic structure, often to the detriment of the aesthetic and cultural merits of the literary text under translation. Considering these potential negative implications, raising the translators’ awareness of the cognitive dominants and (re)perspectivation patterns outlined above can enable them to enhance the
The research reported in the article was funded by the Russian Science Foundation, project 18-18-00267 and was carried out at Derzhavin Tambov State University, Russia.
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VolumeEpSBS / Volume 86 - WUT 2020