Cognitive prosodies, displacements, and translation: Tropes on the move in persuasive discourse

José Dávila-Montes
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

This article introduces the cognitive prosodies model as a way to explain how some rhetorical features in persuasive texts differ across languages and rhetorical traditions, which may inform the process of translating highly rhetorical, persuasive texts. By drawing on a multidisciplinary framework grounded in comparative rhetoric, the semiotics of advertising, cognitive linguistics, and studies of rhetorical phenomena based on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and event-related potential (ERP), it first describes persuasion as a textual process that weaves specific ‘static’ versus ‘dynamic’ rhetorical mechanisms. These activate varying cognitive efforts and speeds in semantic processing that differ between languages and textual genres. The second half of the article presents a corpus-based study of six English and Spanish presidential speeches on immigration – and their translations – by three consecutive Mexican and US presidents. Through the lens of the cognitive prosodies model, the analysis quantitatively and qualitatively scrutinizes how source and target texts behave and how the model can inform rhetorical awareness in translation practice.

Publication history
Table of contents

… on retrouve au fond des mécanismes freudiens, ce sont ces vieilles figures de rhétorique … (at the bottom of the Freudian mechanisms one rediscovers these old figures of rhetoric; Lacan 1981, 270)

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List of source texts (speech transcripts)

Bush, George W.
2006 “Bush’s Speech on Immigration.” May 15, 2006. Transcript, https://​www​.nytimes​.com​/2006​/05​/15​/washington​/15text​-bush​.html
Calderón, Felipe
2010 “Declaraciones del presidente Calderón de México durante ceremonia de llegada” [Remarks by President Calderón of Mexico at Official Arrival Ceremony]. May 19, 2010. Transcript, https://​obamawhitehouse​.archives​.gov​/realitycheck​/the​-press​-office​/declaraciones​-del​-presidente​-calderon​-de​-mexico​-durante​-ceremonia​-de​-llegada
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Obama, Barack
2014 “Obama’s full speech on immigration.” November 20, 2014. Transcript, https://​www​.univision​.com​/noticias​/inmigracion​/obamas​-full​-speech​-on​-immigration
Peña Nieto, Enrique
2018 “Mensaje del Presidente Enrique Peña Nieto” [Message by President Enrique Peña Nieto]. April 5, 2018. Transcript, https://​embamex​.sre​.gob​.mx​/francia​/index​.php​/es​/comunicados​/641​-mensaje​-del​-presidente​-enrique​-pena​-nieto
Trump, Donald
2019 “Read the Full Transcript of President Trump’s Oval Office Address on the Border Wall.” January 8, 2019. Transcript, https://​time​.com​/5497569​/donald​-trump​-oval​-office​-address​-transcript/

List of target texts (unspecified authorship)

Bush, George W.
2006 “Discurso del Presidente a la Nación Sobre la Reforma Inmigratoria” [President Bush Addresses the Nation on Immigration Reform]. May 15, 2006. https://​georgewbush- https://​georgewbush​-whitehouse​.archives​.gov​/news​/releases​/2006​/05​/20060515​-8​.es​.html
Calderón, Felipe
2010 “Remarks by President Calderón of Mexico at Official Arrival Ceremony” [Declaraciones del presidente Calderón de México durante ceremonia de llegada]. May 19, 2010. https://​obamawhitehouse​.archives​.gov​/the​-press​-office​/remarks​-president​-calder​-n​-mexico​-official​-arrival​-ceremony
López Obrador, Andrés M.
2017 “Speech by Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Los Angeles, California” [Discurso de Andrés Manuel López Obrador en Los Ángeles, California]. February 12, 2017. https://​nacla​.org​/news​/2017​/03​/09​/speech​-andr%C3%A9s​-manuel​-l%C3%B3pez​-obrador​-los​-angeles​-california
Obama, Barack
2014 “El discurso completo de Obama sobre inmigración” [Full Obama’s speech on immigration]. November 24, 2014. https://​www​.univision​.com​/noticias​/inmigracion​/el​-discurso​-completo​-de​-obama​-sobre​-inmigracion
Peña Nieto, Enrique
2018 “Mexico President: Nothing and no one stands above the dignity of Mexico” [Presidente de México: ni nadie está por encima de la dignidad de México]. April 5, 2018. https://​www​.eluniversal​.com​.mx​/english​/mexico​-president​-nothing​-and​-no​-one​-stands​-above​-dignity​-mexico
Trump, Donald
2019 “El discurso completo de Donald Trump sobre los inmigrantes ilegales, el muro fronterizo y el cierre del Gobierno” [Donald Trump’s full speech on illegal immigrants, the border wall, and the government shut down]. January 9, 2019. https://​www​.infobae​.com​/america​/eeuu​/2019​/01​/09​/el​-discurso​-completo​-de​-donald​-trump​-sobre​-los​-inmigrantes​-ilegales​-el​-muro​-fronterizo​-y​-el​-cierre​-de​-gobierno/