Semantic/pragmatic equivalence through formal and motivational shift
The case of number marking in English and Japanese
How would translators approach a process in which they have to make decisions on mapping the grammatically enforced regular number mechanism of a language such as English onto a system like Japanese, where there is no regular coding of number in a noun phrase? Utilising the concepts of motivation for representation of number, and of ‘formal-shift’ (Catford, 1965), this paper demonstrates that in spite of the lack of a grammatical category of number, there is a coherent mechanism that expresses number distinction in Japanese, either implicitly or explicitly, and that in order to achieve the full semantic and pragmatic intent expressed in English in terms of the number of referents, translators have quite a complex task in deciding ‘when’ and ‘how’ to mark number in Japanese. The paper shows that the ‘one’ and ‘more than one’ opposition regularly coded in English is interpreted into a more complex system of number conception in Japanese, namely ‘one’, ‘more than one’, ‘collective image’ and ‘unspecified’. It also draws attention to the various linguistic devices used in Japanese to express number distinction outside the scope of a noun phrase. The paper advocates the usefulness of the approach suggested here for examining instances of transfer of meaning between two typologically distinct languages.