Simple and complex cognitive modelling in oblique translation strategies in a corpus of English–Spanish drama film titles

María Sandra Peña-Cervel and Carla Ovejas-Ramírez

This article provides a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the translation of English drama film titles into Peninsular Spanish, drawing on cognitive modelling and following preliminary findings in Peña-Cervel (2016). Our study is consistent with the epistemological and ontological grounding of Cognitive Linguistics (Samaniego-Fernández 2007) and contributes to satisfying one of the major challenges Rojo-López and Ibarretxe-Antuñano (2013a, 10) identify for present-day Translation Studies: To reveal the conceptual substratum that guides the translation process. Our approach does not rely on an exhaustive classification of clear-cut and well-defined translation techniques, but rather on a broad distinction between direct and oblique strategies. We demonstrate how the notion of cognitive operation, as proposed by Ruiz de Mendoza-Ibáñez and Galera-Masegosa (2014), can help elucidate the sometimes seemingly arbitrary relationship between original English titles and their counterparts in Spanish, especially in cases of traditionally so-called free translations. Stands-for relations, such as expansion and reduction, are shown to play a fundamental role in the translation process and the fruitful combination of cognitive operations into conceptual complexes is explored. Our study attempts to go beyond descriptive adequacy in order to achieve explanatory adequacy.

Publication history
Table of contents

An ever-increasing number of studies undertaken from varied perspectives have looked into the challenges posed by film title translation (Calvo-García de Leonardo 2000; Santaemilia-Ruiz 2000; Luján-García 2010; Leonardi 2011; Chang 2012; Baicchi 2013; Šidiškytė and Tamulaitienė 2013; Jutronić and Karabatić 2016; Gabrić et al. 2017). There is growing consensus that research on titles should not be approached exclusively from the linguistic point of view: Their cultural import as well as marketing issues are to be taken into consideration. The fact that titles have distinctive features that set them apart from other discourse modes is beyond doubt. Thus, it should come as no surprise that transposing the expressive condensation and rich meaning implications of film titles from one language into another may, on some occasions, pose serious challenges. Most recent research on film title translation acknowledges the intricacies involved in this, and has shifted from a source-oriented prescriptive approach to a target-oriented descriptive tradition. Such research mainly relies on exhaustive classifications of translation techniques. These accurate and elaborate classifications, although interesting for translation practice in general, often fall short of providing a sound account of film title translation when translations are not attributable to any of the oblique procedures put forward or when they constitute what some scholars refer to as ad libitum translations (Santoyo-Mediavilla 1985; Pascua-Febles 1994; Santaemilia-Ruiz and Soler-Pardo 2014). In order to deal with these challenges, our proposal is not contingent on the fine-grained classification of translation strategies. Instead, we make use of a robust analytical tool, the notion of cognitive operation, which is embedded within the Cognitive Linguistic paradigm.

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