Metaphor and Translation

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Journal of Pragmatics 36 (2004) 1253–1269

Metaphor and translation: some implications of a cognitive approach ¨ Christina Schaffner*
School of Languages and European Studies, Aston University, Aston Triangle, Birmingham B4 7ET, UK Received 5 June 2003; received in revised form 12 September 2003; accepted 8 October 2003

Abstract Metaphor has been widely discussed within the discipline of Translation Studies, predominantly with respect to translatability and transfer methods. It has been argued that metaphors can become a translation problem, since transferring them from one language and culture to another one may be hampered by linguistic and cultural differences. A number of translation procedures for dealing with this problem have been suggested, e.g., substitution (metaphor into different metaphor), paraphrase (metaphor into sense), or deletion. Such procedures have been commented on both in normative models of translation (how to translate metaphors) and in descriptive models (how metaphors have been dealt with in actual translations). After a short overview of how metaphor has been dealt with in the discipline of Translation Studies, this paper discusses some implications of a cognitive approach to metaphors for translation theory and practice. Illustrations from authentic source and target texts (English and German, political discourse) show how translators handled metaphorical expressions, and what effects this had for the text itself, for text reception by the addressees, and for subsequent discursive developments. # 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. Keywords: Conceptual metaphor; English; French; German; Metaphorical expression; Translation Studies

1. Introduction Metaphor, as a typical feature of communication, presents a challenge for translation too, both for the practising translator and for its treatment in the discipline of Translation Studies. In the literature on translation, the two main issues have been, firstly, the translatability of metaphors, and secondly, the elaboration of potential translation * Tel.: þ44-121-359-3611x4224; fax: þ44-121-359-6153. ¨ E-mail address: (C. Schaffner).

0378-2166/$ – see front matter # 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2003.10.012


¨ C. Schaffner / Journal of Pragmatics 36 (2004) 1253–1269

procedures. In most cases, the argumentation is based on a traditional understanding of metaphor as a figure of speech, as a linguistic expression which is substituted for another expression (with a literal meaning), and whose main function is the stylistic embellishment of the text. It is only recently that a cognitive approach to metaphor has been applied to Translation Studies. In this article, I want to illustrate on the basis of some examples from the language pair, English and German, what a cognitive approach could offer to the description of metaphors in translation. The discussion proceeds primarily from the perspective of the discipline of Translation Studies. In taking this approach, it is also possible to explore how the cross-linguistic and cross-cultural perspective of translation can contribute to metaphor theory.

2. The treatment of metaphor as a translation problem Translation and interpreting as activities have existed for many centuries, and there is a long tradition of thought and an enormous body of opinion about translation (cf. Delisle and Woodsworth, 1995; Robinson, 1997). But it was not until the second half of this century that Translation Studies developed into a discipline in its own right (cf. Holmes, 1988; Snell-Hornby et al., 1992). Although at first conceived as a subdiscipline of applied linguistics, it has taken on concepts and methods of other disciplines, notably text linguistics, communication studies, sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, pragmatics, comparative literature, and recently, cultural studies. Instead of a unified theory, we have a multiplicity of...
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