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18 - Translation studies - part 3

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  In the previous unit, speaking about intertextual translation, we were led to widen the object of our analysis to the whole semiosphere, to the whole cultural universe, the environment in which cultural influences interact.

  As we said, there are no texts rising from nowhere, independently of the context, from outside the semiosphere system. Consequently, when an author writes a text, a part of what she writes is a product of outer influences, while another part is a product of her own personal contemplation. The author's creativity, however, is not shown only in the part of the work deriving from her personal creation, but also in her ability to choose and synthesize what others have written or said.

   When an author assimilates material - in an explicit or implicit, conscious or unconscious way -coming from others' texts, she makes an intertextual translation, and the assimilated material is called intertext 1. At this stage of our exposition, we are not yet interested in defining whether the other's material is originally written or pronounced in the same code as the metatext or in another. For the moment, we need only define whether it is a quotation and, if so, if it is an explicit or implicit one. If, on the other hand, it is an allusion, we need to know how difficult it is for the reader to understand it. Otherwise, the author can also unwillingly echo elements she has absorbed from the semiosphere system.

  Torop makes an important point here: «The author and the translator and the reader all have a textual memory» 2. This synthesizing comment has many repercussions on the act of practical translation. This means that, beyond the author's memory, allowing her to insert other's texts in her text, the translator must - if she wants to do a good job - realize the presence of the other's text and make it recognizable to the reader of the metatext.

  If, for example, an author "quotes" a passage by someone else without using quotation marks or other graphic devices to indicate the beginning and end points of the quotations, it is very important for the translator to catch the citation and convey it to the reader of the metatext. In every single case the translator must decide how to do that, for instance whether within or outside of the translated text.

  It is also very important to remember that the reader has a textual memory, because that determines the possibility to grasp the presence of other's text (intertext) within the declared author's text.

  Whenever the reader's textual memory or her encyclopedic ability are insufficient to grasp said intertextual links, the damage is limited to the fruition of this reader and of those who are going to receive information about that text from her. On the other hand, when the reader is the translator - i.e. when the translator's textual memory (or competence) is insufficient - the problem is more complex, because the risk is to be unable to convey in the metatext the mark of other's language (of other's word, in Bakhtinian terms). Such missing links have repercussions not only on one single reader, but on all possible metatext readers.

  As to intratextual translation, all that was said about intertextual translation is true, with the exception that, in some way, we have to deal with "inner quotations", of links of the author to herself, from a passage of her work to an other one: it is, therefore, the interweaving of the author's poetics. While the intertext has the semiosphere as a reference system, "intratext" refers to the microsystem of the author's text.

  Extratextual translation concerns the intersemiotic translation described by JAkobson. In it, the original material - prototext - is generally verbal text, while metatext is made, for example, of visual images, still, or moving as in film. It can also work the other way round, with a prototext made of music, images and so on, and a verbal metatext.

Every art's language has its own articulation; its composing elements can be completely different. At the same time, however, natural language can be used as a language to describe all of them (metalanguage). Art criticism is actually a description of visual and linguistic art works by means of the natural language 3.

  In every art, expressive devices are different, and each art provides expressive capabilities that the other arts may not possess. In cinema, it is the director's creativity that allows her to choose and combine the expressive capabilities available and may be missing in other kinds of codes. Torop gives us a very interesting example of creativity in the choice of cinematographic devices:

[...] in Buñuel's last film That Obscure Object of Desire, where the aged man's incapacity to understand a young woman (later his wife) is rendered - in the psychological space - using two distinct actresses for the role of the same character. In the topographic chronotope, therefore, the lines of the plot see the hero meet two women, that in the psychological chronotope is one concrete and well defined woman in each scene, while in the metaphysical chronotope they are a mysterious and unappreciated woman 4.

In literature, this kind of artistic device would be unfeasible, because what in the film is rendered by an image (the viewer suddenly sees another actress on the screen, but he realizes that she represents the same character as the other), in terms of natural language that would be rendered very clumsily owing to the lengthy and difficult verbal explanation. The writer would need an additional artistic device.

  Such reflections have important consequences when we must translate a written text into a film, because the equivalence principle is far from being present, and we must work instead on the different expressive potential of all the codes involved. The analysis of this kind of problems falls within the framework of the analysis of translation in a broad sense, of total translation.

  What we said about the various kinds of translation suggests that a solely linguistic approach to translation studies in inadequate in itself because it "doesn't cover the whole range of translation problems" 5. The methodological contribution of semiotics is necessary because semiotic metalanguage is more open, on one hand, to the different codes or sign systems, and, on the other hand, to the cultural aspects of the translation reception 6.

  The core of translation studies must be a universal model of the translation process applicable to all of the various kinds of translation we have talked about. And, on the basis of this model, we must try to describe, without any evaluative purpose, how the translation process works. This because "a science that has as a purpose to describe translation as a process should not be prescriptive, it should be theoretical" 7.

Bibliographical references

EVEN-ZOHAR I. Polysystem Studies. Poetics Today, 11, n. 1, 1990.

GORLÉE, D. L. Semiotics and the problem of translation with special reference to the semiotics of Charles S. Peirce. Amsterdam, Rodopi, 1994.

REVZIN I., ROZENCVEJG V. Osnovy obshchego i mashinnogo perevoda [The bases of general and automatic translation], Moskvà, 1964.

TOROP P. La traduzione totale. Ed. by B. Osimo. Modena, Guaraldi Logos, 2000. ISBN 88-8049-195-4. Or. ed. Total´nyj perevod. Tartu, Tartu Ülikooli Kirjastus [Tartu University Press], 1995. ISBN 9985-56-122-8.

TOURY G. In Search of a Theory of Translation, Tel Aviv University, The Porter Institute for Poetics and Semiotics, 1980.

1 Torop 2000, p. 223-304.
2 Torop 2000, p. 31.
3 Torop 2000, p. 316.
4 Torop 2000, p. 326.
5 Torop 2000, p. 188.
6 Gorlée 1993; Even-Zohar 1990; Toury 1980.
7 Revzin, Rozencvejg 1964, p. 21.