Academic journal article Applied Semiotics/Semiotique appliqué

Translation as Communication and Auto-Communication

Academic journal article Applied Semiotics/Semiotique appliqué

Translation as Communication and Auto-Communication

Article excerpt

IF ONE WANTS to understand translation, it is necessary to look at all its aspects from the psychological to the ideological. And it is necessary to see the process of translation, on the one hand, as a complex of interlinguistic, intralinguistic, and intersemiotic translations, and on the other hand, as a complex of linguistic, cultural, economic, and ideological activity.

Translators work at the boundaries of languages, cultures, and societies. They position themselves between the poles of specificity and adaptation in accordance with the strategies of their translational behaviour. They either preserve the otherness of the other or they transform the other into self. By the same token, they cease to be simple mediators, because in a semiotic sense they are capable of generating new languages for the description of a foreign language, text, or culture, and of renewing a culture or of having an influence on the dialogic capacity of a culture with other cultures as well as with itself. In this way, translators work not only with natural languages but also with metalanguages, languages of description. One of the missions of the translator is to increase the receptivity and dialogic capability of a culture, and through these also the internal variety of that culture. As mediators between languages, translators are important creators of new metalanguages.

The status of translation and the translator have changed from one historical era to the next, and at the beginning of the 21st century we are confronting the need for a complex understanding of them both. At the core of this complex understanding is the universality of translation. The universality of translation comes from its connections with thought processes. As Yurii Lotman affirms, "the elementary act of thinking is translation" (Lotman 2000:143). And he stresses in the same place that "the elementary mechanism of translating is dialogue" (Lotman 2000:143). The irreducibility of dialogue to mere communication in a language common to the dialogue's participants is very important. For Lotman everything begins with the need for dialogue: "... the need for dialogue, the dialogic situation, precedes both real dialogue and even the existence of a language in which to conduct it" (Lotman 2000:143-144).

The need for dialogue can be viewed either at the level of a comprehensive theoretical understanding or at the level of the deep-seated mechanism of individual behavior. The need for dialogue is tied in a complementary way both to the needs of an audience, which can be studied in the theory of mass communication (McQuail 2000), and to various personal needs (self-understanding, enjoyment, escapism) and social needs (knowledge about the world, self-confidence, stability, self-esteem, the strengthening of connections with family and friends) in the theory of communication (Fiske 2000:20). Any form of identity also depends on the need for dialogue. At the core of personal, national, or social identity is recognition of the boundary between self and other. The boundary not only divides but also unites and thus participates in dialogic processes. To a large extent dialogue within the boundaries depends on dialogue at the boundaries.

Translators work at the boundaries of languages, cultures, and societies. They position themselves between the poles of specificity and adaptation in accordance with the strategies of their translational behaviour. They either preserve the otherness of the other or they transform the other into self. By the same token, they cease to be simple mediators, because in a semiotic sense they are capable of generating new languages for the description of a foreign language, text, or culture, and of renewing a culture or of having an influence on the dialogic capacity of a culture with other cultures as well as with itself. In this way, translators work not only with natural languages but also with metalanguages, languages of description. …

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