Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Metalingual Function in Translation

Metalingual function of language is the ability of language to talk about its own features. Thus talking about phrasal verbs in English will be an instance of metalingual function. Metalingual function of language becomes relevant in translation when a particular word is used in a special sense, deliberately a word play is done or linguistic ambiguity is created.
The translator has to assume that second reader needs more information about that ‘grammatical peculiarity’ as compared to the first reader. So he has to decide whether the target (second) reader is a specialist of some SL knowledge or he does not know anything at all. Such decision will determine how to deal with the particular case, whether it be: (a) transcribed, (b) loan translated, (c) neologised, (d) defined in footnotes, (e) exemplified, (f) interlinearly translated to show the syntax, or (f) functionally translated.
If a word is used in SL in a special sense, the translator has several choices. He can translate the term in its obscure sense as translating ‘libertinage’ to ‘guilty of libertinage’. Or he can chose to use a more expressive term e.g. ‘freethinking in religious matters’. The choice will be dependent on his assessment of reader’s knowledge and interest. Thus he can choose to delete a special sense of a word, if it is of no interest to the reader. Alternative terms for same referent in the text can be deleted. Similarly, if TL synonyms are less frequent as compared to SL one, they can be dropped.
Translation of word play in literary and non-literary texts can be done in two ways. The reader will need all available and possible information in non-literary texts.  Thus as Newmark (2001, p.105) notes, in translating a joke from German to English, the translator adds original German text in brackets. e.g.
‘Mr.  and  Mrs.  X live  in fairly  grand style.  Some  people  think  that  the husband has earned a lot and so has been able to lay by a bit  (sich etwas zuruckgelegt ); others again think that the wife has lain back a bit  (sich etwas zuruckgelegt ) and so has been  able  to  earn  a  lot' (p.106)
As he notes that punning element is retained by reproducing German text to illustrate the rearrangement of ‘precisely same verbal material’. Thus the same punning effect, with slight changes of course, can be created in English. But this is not always possible as neatly as the example shows.
The second method to translate word play is to drop them altogether or replacing them with translator’s own examples. This method ‘substitutes translator’s insights for the authors’. Thus for the above example the translator could create a wholly new joke and replace with another one. Newmark (2001, p.107) notes that the first method is most important and correct one in cases where “words are as important as thought, and ‘dramatic illusion’ is less important”.
Proverbs in non-literary texts can be translated to their known equivalents in TL. Alternatively, the translator can translate the proverb from SL to TL and give its relevance to current text as an explanation; or he can simply absorb the proverb during the translation.
Word play in literary texts (i.e. plays and poems etc.) where ‘dramatic illusion’ is a must can be translated in different ways. Widely used method is that translator captures one of two senses of the word. As Newmark (2001, p.108) exemplifies the translation of Shakespeare’s play Helmet in Germen, where source has three puns and two sets of alliterations, but translator preserves only two puns and one set of alliteration.
If a literary text has double meaning within a lexical unit, firstly the translator tries to reproduce it with a word having same double meaning. At second attempt he will try to use a synonym with same double meaning. At a third attempt, he might decide to distribute two senses of words to two or more lexical units; or he can sacrifice one of two meanings.
While translating imaginative literature ‘loss of meaning comes from metaphorical properties rather than sound effects’. As Newmark is of the view that metaphors are rooted in particular environments. Thus literal and metaphorical meaning, at the same time, are difficult to transfer from SL to TL.
Imaginative literature develops events and people in symbolical character, which is done through more general words that denote them. As Newmark (p.109) describes, “connotation, metonymy, metaphor, word-play merge into each other”. A new ‘separate sense’ is developed for the words which becomes a pun on the primary sense of the word. It is upto the translator to select more general concrete sense or more culturally influenced sense, or combine them both.
Concluding his paper, Newmark (p.109) says that for translating metalanguage, there are alternative solutions. His view is that nothing is untranslatable, only a ‘supplementary gloss’ is often required. Metalanuage is often signalled by expressions like ‘so called’, ‘by definition’, ‘so to speak’ … (p.109). It is usually imaginative literature where force or the meaning may have to be sacrificed, otherwise metalangauge can be handled neatly.

Translation of Metaphor

Metaphor can be defined as an indirect comparison between two or more apparently unrelated things or subjects. The point of similarity ‘may be physical but often it is chosen for its connotations’ (Newmark, 1988, p.85).
Newmark (1988) discusses a number of functions of metaphor: to define something more closely; a decoration to show resemblances; to create emotive effect; as an object of interest for media; and lastly as a ‘basic element of language where it later becomes dead or literal language’. For him, translation theory is mainly concerned with the serious purpose of metaphor which is, “to describe an entity, event or quality more comprehensively and concisely and in a more complex way than is possible by using literal language” (p.84).
There are five terms related to metaphor, which define its various related concepts. Firstly, ‘object’ is ‘the item described by the metaphor’. Secondly, ‘image’ is the item ‘in terms of which the object is described’. Thirdly, ‘sense’ is ‘the point of similarity’ between object and image. Fourthly, ‘metaphor’ is the actual word taken up. Lastly, the ‘metonym’ is a one word image which is used in place of whole, and has potential to become ‘dead metaphor’ (literal language) e.g. ‘fin’ of a motor bike. (p.85)

Newmark (1988b) provides a classification consisting of six types, which are discussed below with appropriate examples and sub-types.
2.1 Dead Metaphors: They are “metaphors which often relate to universal terms of time and space, general ecological features and main human activities” (p.106). Dead metaphors have become literal language because users do not recognize them as metaphors, so their images are lost. Idioms, metonyms, synecdoche, and words accepted as technical terms also become dead metaphors. They add to the number of words in a language.
Dead metaphors can be of three types: firstly where image and sense is retained in a second language; secondly thousands of words denoting objects e.g. metonyms; and lastly non-technical words which appear to have concrete and figurative meaning at the same time e.g. ‘foot of a hill’.
2.2 Cliché: They lie between dead and stock metaphors. These metaphors are “used as a substitute for clear thought, often emotively, but without corresponding to the facts of the matter” (1988b, p.107). They “usually consist of two types of collocations: figurative adjective and literal noun e.g. ‘filthy lucre’; or figurative verb and figurative noun e.g. ‘explore all avenues’” (1988, p.87).
2.3 Stock Metaphors: Newmark (1988b, p.108) defines this type as “an established metaphor, which in an informal context is an efficient and concise method of covering a physical and/or mental situation both referentially and pragmatically”. They may have cultural distance or overlap; may be used universally or at least in a wide spread sense, and may have subjective aspects. He notes that there might be no universal metaphors, but hopes if ‘societies reach certain stage of physical health and well-being, there will be some basic universal metaphors’ (1988, p.87).
2.4 Adapted Metaphors: They are actually stock metaphors but are adapted by the writer or speaker into a new context.
2.5 Recent Metaphors: Newmark (1988b, p.111) defines these metaphors as “a metaphorical neologism, often 'anonymously' coined, which has spread rapidly in the SL”. They are often categorised as a slang.
2.6 Original Metaphors: These metaphors are “created or quoted by the SL writer” (1988b, p.112). They “contain the core of an important writer's message, his personality, his comment on life” (ibid). These metaphors are not only complex but have double meanings. They might also contain “personal or dialectal … irrational element peculiar to the imagination” (1988, p.93).

Newmark (1988, p.88) notes following seven procedure of metaphor translation:
3.1 The same image is reproduced in TL ‘provided that it is comparable in frequency and use in the appropriate register’. One word metaphors are more commonly translated by this method, while translation of complex metaphors or idioms depends on cultural overlap. Reproducing one-word metaphors representing sense of an event or quality instead of an entity is more difficult e.g. ‘elbow one’s way’. Similes are more cautious than metaphors, and must normally be translated in any type of text. Lastly, animal abuse can have cultural or subjective connotations but can be quite universal as well (‘swine’ is symbol of filth and dirt everywhere).
3.2 SL image can be replaced with a standard TL image provided that it is culturally compatible in TL, and ‘presumably coined by one person and diffused through popular speech’. Stereotyped metaphors should be converted to sense whether they exist in TL or not. Euphemisms are also metaphors and often have to be replaced by cultural equivalent, unless reader has to be informed in similar way as SL reader.
3.3 The metaphor can be translated as a simile while retaining the image. This modifies the shock of metaphor, ‘particularly if TL text is not emotive in character’. This procedure can be used for any type of word, and original metaphor.
3.4 The metaphor can be translated as simile along with its sense (or metaphor plus sense). This is a compromise procedure and combines communicative and semantic translations together which address both layman and expert reader. The main focus here is on the ‘gloss’ rather than equivalent effect. It is noteworthy that some metaphors may be incomplete in TL without the addition of a sense component.
3.5 The metaphor can be converted into sense. This procedure can be applied in any type of text, and preferred when SL to TL image replacement is extra broad in terms of sense or register. To perform this procedure, the sense of metaphor should be analysed componentially because image is ‘pludri-dimensional’.
3.6 A rather radical approach is to delete the metaphor along with sense component if it is redundant. A caution is that SL text should not be ‘authoritative’ or ‘expression of writer’s personality’. The translator should make decision after weighing what is more important and less important in the text. An empirical justification of such deletion comes if ‘metaphor’s function is being fulfilled elsewhere in the text’.
3.7 Sometimes translator wants to make sure that image will be understood properly so he adds a gloss as well. Thus he transfers same metaphor along with its sense. E.g “The tongue is a fire” can be translated as follows “A fire ruins things; what we say also ruins things”. This may suggest lack of confidence in metaphor’s power and clarity, but it can be useful if metaphor is repeated.

Newmark, P. (1988). Approaches to Translation. Oxford: Pergamon Press.
Newmark, P. (1988b). A Text book of Translation. London: Prentice Hall.