Difficulties in translating metaphors | Статья в журнале «Молодой ученый»

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Рубрика: Филология, лингвистика

Опубликовано в Молодой учёный №21 (207) май 2018 г.

Дата публикации: 29.05.2018

Статья просмотрена: 562 раза

Библиографическое описание:

Усарова, Д. А. Difficulties in translating metaphors / Д. А. Усарова. — Текст : непосредственный // Молодой ученый. — 2018. — № 21 (207). — С. 218-219. — URL: https://moluch.ru/archive/207/50774/ (дата обращения: 04.03.2021).

Metaphor offers a case study for the problem of the correlation of participants in the communicative act. Metaphor is a comparison between two things that replaces the word or name for one object with that of another. Unlike a simile that uses “like” or “as” (you shine like the sun!), a metaphor does not utilize these two words. Newmark (1988, p.88) notes following seven procedure of metaphor translation:

  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).
  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. 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.
  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.
  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”.
  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”.
  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.

Metaphors are usually used throughout all types of literature, but barely to the extent that they are used in poetry. Metaphorical expressions are affluent in culture- bound concepts so much that they are familiarly and elaborately linked with one another embodying associations related to a particular cultural community. Metaphor translation displays the challenges of approaching the text culturally, linguistically or even conceptually. Consequently, translating metaphors do in fact involve a number of factors and not only restricted to the provision of linguistic equivalences of the texts in question. The translator should be skillful enough to identify aspects related to concepts and culture.

Metaphorical sense haunts through exploiting the set of associations that accompany linguistic elements in the consciousness of code users. This pragmatic material is a more amorphous complex than ordinary linguistic meaning. The sets of associations established in the consciousness of native speakers of a given language make metaphorical interaction always extremely ‘sensitive’ to the communicative context.

We shall follow here one of the first definitions of culture from the point of view of cognitive linguistics. In words of the American anthropologist Goodenough culture must be understood as “the forms of things that people have in mind, their models of realizing, relating and otherwise interpreting, which determine and characterize them as such”. Cultural models are thought of as organizations of human experience shared by a group of people, mental representations of the world specific of a certain culture. Therefore, since the metaphor is a figure mainly open to explanation, its understanding lies deep within the linguistic and cultural role of the people within which it was born. It is in metaphor where culture and language show their inseparability. Metaphors in our languages are not just a way of naming but also a way of thinking.

Translation is an activity certainly including two languages and two cultural traditions. Accordingly, translators must pay special attention to the question of culture embedded in the source text should they search to come up with clear and successful transmission of the cultural aspects indicated in the source text into the target text. These problems may vary in scope depending on the cultural and linguistic gap between the two (or more) languages related. The cultural implications may modify as to include lexical content, syntax, ideologies and ways of life in a given culture. So the first job of the translator in this respect is to weigh all the possible cultural elements variegated in the source text and give them the required expression.

The interpretation of metaphors is strongly culturally conditioned. This is especially the case with translated metaphor. Lakoff and Johnson (1980) gave a cognitive point of view to metaphor study explaining that metaphor is not a mere literary stylistic device, rather a tool for conceptualization. According to this view, metaphors are conceptualized in man’s mind with regard to source domain and target domain in different types of context.

Since the mechanisms for metaphor comprehension are hardly attached in its nature to the language and consequently culture they are born in, its replacement when translatingby a literal equivalent expression in the target language is not sufficient, we will not obtain anything beyond mere linguistic information extracted out of its specific cultural context. We must therefore understand metaphor as a hybrid structure24 that, in order to operate, the signifier must be understood by the receiver as long as it is connected to a metaphorical interpretation in a concrete cultural legacy. The translator’s task is therefore to reflect both aspects in translation.

Many metaphors are conventionalized, that is they are often used in any language and culture. Those with a physical basis, the so-called primary metaphors, based directly on a bodily experience, in our interaction with the environment, are good candidates for universal concepts.

The translation of metaphors between two different languages (e.g. English and Persian) which use to conceptualize the reality in different ways is not an easy task. In order to recognize the extent of this hardness, we just need to consider that the two cultures benefit from different traditions, life conditions, methods of representing the experience and symbols. Consequently, it can be concluded that metaphors are culture-specific due to the fact that different cultures conceptualize the world in different ways.


  1. Newmark, P. (1988). Approaches to Translation. Oxford: Pergamon Press.
  2. Newmark, P. (1988b). A Text book of Translation. London: Prentice Hall.
  3. Bassnett, S. 1991. Translation Studies. London: Routledge Coulthard, M. 1992;
  4. Vermeer, H. 1989. «Skopos and Commission in Translational Activity».In Venuti, L.The Translation Studies Reader.London: Routledge.
  5. Toury, G. 1978, revised 1995. «The Nature and Role of Norms in Translation».In Venuti, L.The Translation Studies Reader.London: Routledge.

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