Towards a new linguistic-cognitive orientation in translation studies
University of Hamburg, Germany
A new linguistic-cognitive orientation in translation studies is important today because it can complement the current strong wave of socially and culturally oriented research into and around translation. For balance, it is also necessary and insightful to describe and explain how strategies of comprehending, decisionmaking and re-verbalisation come about in a translator’s bilingual mind. In this paper I sketch some ideas about such a new linguistic-cognitive approach. I first review introspective and retrospective studies and behavioural experiments. Secondly, I assess the value of neuro-linguistic studies for translation. Thirdly, I suggest a new combination of a translation theory and a neuro-functional theory of bilingualism.
Given the so-called ‘turns’ in translation studies, I will make a plea for a new linguistic-cognitive orientation. I think this is necessary, because the recent ‘turns’ have resulted in a predominance of cultural, social, ideological and personal concerns focusing on ‘translation at large’: the reasons for, and the effects of translation; the needs for, and the means of ‘intervention’ or ‘resistance’; and the moral, ethical, social and political responsibility of translators and their ‘visibility’. True, there are scholars who have maintained an interest in linguistic matters to this day (e.g. Koller 2011; Malmkjaer 2011a; House 2012 and the late Peter Newmark’s many publications). Moreover, there are translation scholars who have had a consistent interest in both linguistic and socio-cultural matters (e.g. Baker 2006; 2011), and there is a research strand—to which I turn below—that has studied [ p. 47 ]the translation process since the eighties. However, what is missing is a combined linguistic-cognitive translation theory. This paper tries to make a modest start towards proposing such a symbiosis.
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