Pragmatic potential of a text and ways of its reproduction

Words in language are related to certain referents which they designate and to other words of the same language with which they make up syntactic units. These relationships are called semantic and syntactic, respectively. Words are also related to the people who use them. To the users of the language its words are not just indifferent, unemotional labels of objects or ideas. The people develop a certain attitude to the words they use. Some of the words acquire definite implications, they evoke a positive or negative response, they are associated with certain theories, beliefs, likes or dislikes. There are "noble" words like "honour, dignity, freedom", etc. and "low" words Шее "infamy, cowardice, betrayal". Words can be nice or ugly, attractive or repulsive. Such relationships between the word and its users are called "pragmatic".

The pragmatic implications of a word are an important part of its meaning that produces a certain effect upon the Receptor. Of even greater significance is the pragmatic aspect of speech units. Every act of speech communication is meant for a certain Receptor, it is aimed at producing a certain effect upon him. In this respect any communication is an exercise in pragmatics.

Since the pragmatic effect plays such an important part in communication, its preservation in translation is the primary concern of the translator, though it is by no means an easy task. The pragmatic aspect of translation involves a number of difficult problems.

To begin with, the pragmatics of the original text cannot be as a rule directly reproduced in translation but often require important changes in the transmitted message. Correlated words in different languages may produce dissimilar effect upon the users. An "ambition" in English is just the name of a quality which may evoke any kind of response — positive, negative or neutral. Its Russian counterpart «амбиция» is definitely not a nice word. Thus, the phrase 'The voters put an end to the general's political ambitions" can be translated as «Избиратели положили конец политическим амбициям генерала», retaining the negative implication of the original, but if the implication were positive the translator would not make use of the derogatory term. The sentence 'The boy's ambition was to become a pilot" will be translated as «Мечтой мальчика было стать летчиком».

Such words as "idealism" or "nationalism" often have a positive effect in the English text and are rendered into Russian not as «идеализм» or «национализм» but as «служение идеалам, бескорыстие» and «национальное самосознание, национальные интересы», respectively.

When we consider not just separate words but a phrase or number of phrases in a text, the problem becomes more complicated. The communicative effect of a speech unit does not depend on the meaning of its components alone, but involves considerations of the situational context and the previous experience. A report that John has run a hundred metres in 9 seconds will pass unnoticed by some people and create a sensation with others who happen to know that it is a wonderful record-breaking achievement.

Here again, a great role is played by differences in the historical and cultural backgrounds of different language communities, in their customs and living conditions. It stands to reason that the natives of a tropical island can hardly be impressed by the statement that something is "as white as snow". The reported "cooling" in the relations between two friends may be understood as a welcome development by the people who live in a very hot climate.

It seems imperative, therefore, that translation should involve a kind of pragmatic adaptation to provide for the preservation of the original communicative effect. This adaptation must ensure that the text of translation conveys the same attitude to the reported facts as does the original text. It goes without saying that in an adequate translation the comical should not be replaced by the tragical or a praise turned into a censure.

The pragmatic adaptation of the translation must also see to it that TR understands the implications of the message and is aware of its figurative or situational meaning. A phrase like "Smith made another touchdown in three minutes" refers to a situation which does not mean anything to a Russian Receptor who does not know anything about the rules of American football. When the English original just refers to the First Amendment, the Russian translation should make it more explicit by speaking about the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; otherwise TR will not understand what it is all about.

It is obvious that there can be no equivalence if the original text is clear and unequivocal while its translation is obscure and hard to understand.

Discussing the problem of equivalence at different levels, we have emphasized the necessity of making the translation as understandable and intelligible as the original text is. We have also taken care to include in the overall meaning of the text all its emotional, figurative and associative implications. The pragmatic adaptation of this kind is an integral part of translation procedures which ensure the necessary level of equivalence.

The pragmatics of the text, which are linguistically relevant and depend on the relationships between the linguistic signs and language users, are part of the contents of the text. It is a meaningful element whose preservation in translation is desirable at any level of equivalence. It is reproduced in translation if TR gets the whole information about the pragmatic aspects of the original text and the pragmatics of the original text are just as accessible and understandable to him as they are to SR. This does not imply that he will be actually influenced by this information or react to it in the same way.

Apart from the pragmatics of linguistic signs, there are also the pragmatics of individual speech acts. In a concrete act of speech the Source has to do with the specific Receptor upon whom he tries to produce the desired effect, and from whom he would like to elicit the desired reaction.

This second type of pragmatics is also present in translation events. A translation event is a kind of speech act and it is performed with a certain pragmatic purpose as well. But here we are confronted with a more complicated process than in ordinary speech.

A translation event is pragmatically oriented in two directions. On the one hand, it is translation which means that its primary purpose is to give the closest possible approximation to the original text. This orientation towards a foreign text is one aspect of its pragmatics.

But on the other hand, a translation event is a concrete speech act in the target language. Therefore, it is not just an act of interlingual communication between the Source and TR, but also an act of speech communication between the Translator and TR. This involves two important implications. First, a translation event may be pragmatically oriented toward a concrete TR, and, second, it is the result of the activities of a concrete translator, who may have some additional pragmatic motivation, may pursue some aims beside and beyond the true reproduction of the original text.

As long as translation is not just an exercise in producing an equivalent text in another language but a pragmatic act under specific circumstances, its results can be assessed both in terms of its loyalty to the original and its ability to achieve the purpose for which it has been undertaken. This necessitates the introduction of the concept of the "pragmatic value" in translation, which assesses its success in achieving this pragmatic super-purpose.

As has been pointed out, the additional pragmatic goal of the translation event may depend either on the particular type of TR or on the translator's designs beyond his call of duty as a no-nonsense transmitter of the original message.

The users of the translation often make judgements of its quality exclusively on its merits as an instrument in achieving some specific aim. If in doing it, the translation departs from the original text, so much the worse for the latter.

In this way the pragmatics of translation acquire a new dimension. E. Nida introduced the concept of "dynamic equivalence" which should be judged not against the original but against the Receptor's reactions. For many practical purposes the process of translation is predominantly oriented towards TR. So, translation of the maintenance instructions is considered good if, after reading it, a technician will be able to operate the appropriate piece of machinery correctly.

Sometimes books written for adults are translated for children's reading with appropriate alterations made in the course of translation. Presumably any text should be differently translated depending on whether it is for experts or laymen, for staging or screening, and so on.

As to the specific aims pursued by the translator, they may also bring about considerable changes in the resulting text with no direct bearing on the original. Each translation is made in a certain pragmatic or social context, and its results are used for a number of purposes. The translator is assigned his task and paid for it by the people for whom his work is not an end in itself but an instrument for achieving some other ends. Aware of this, the translator tries to make his work meet these "extra-translational" requirements, introducing appropriate changes in the text of translation. Sometimes these changes are prompted by the desire to produce a certain effect on the Receptors, which has already been mentioned.

The specific goal, which makes the translator modify the resulting text, often means that, for all practical purposes, he assumes an additional role and is no longer just a translator. He may set himself some propaganda or educational task, he may be particularly interested in some part of the original and wants to make a special emphasis on it, he may try to impart to the Receptor his own feelings about the Source or the event described in the original. In pursuance of his plans the translator may try to simplify, abridge or modify the original message, deliberately reducing the degree of equivalence in his translation.

It is clear that such cases go far beyond the inherent aspects of translation and it is not the task of the translation theory to analyse or pass a judgement on them. But the translator should be aware of this possibility for it will have an impact on his strategy.

In many types of translation any attempt by the translator to modify his text for some extra-translational purpose will be considered unprofessional conduct and severely condemned. But there are also some other types of translation where particular aspects of equivalence are of little interest and often disregarded.

When a book is translated with a view to subsequent publication in another country, it may be adapted or abridged to meet the country's standards for printed matter. The translator may omit parts of the book or some descriptions considered too obscene or naturalistic for publication in his country, though permissible in the original.

In technical or other informative translations the translator or his employers may be interested in getting the gist of the contents or the most important or novel part of it, which may involve leaving out certain details or a combination of translation with brief accounts of less important parts of the original. A most common feature of such translations is neglect of the stylistic and structural peculiarities of the original. In this case translation often borders on retelling or precis writing.

A specific instance is consecutive interpretation where the interpreter is often set a time limit within which he is expected to report his translation no matter how long the original speech may have been. This implies selection, generalizations, and cutting through repetitions, incidental digressions, occasional slips or excessive embellishments.

It is obvious that in all similar cases the differences which can be revealed between the original text and its translation should not be ascribed to the translator's inefficiency or detract from the quality of his work. The pragmatic value of such translations clearly compensates for their lack of equivalence. Evidently there are different types of translation serving different purposes.


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