Investigating the conceptual-procedural distinction in the translation process: A relevance-theoretic analysis of micro and macro translation units

Fabio Alves and José Luiz Gonçalves
Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil | Federal University of Ouro Preto, Brazil

This article draws on relevance theory (Sperber and Wilson 1986/1995) and its application to translation (Gutt 2000) to investigate processing effort in translation in relation to two different types of encodings, namely conceptual and procedural encodings (Blakemore 2002, Wilson 2011). Building on the experimental paradigm of data triangulation in translation process research (Alves 2003; Jakobsen 2005), it analyses the translation processes of eight professional translators when performing a direct and an inverse translation task. The analysis focuses on the number and types of encodings found in micro/macro translation units (Alves and Vale 2009; 2011). Results suggest that processing effort in translation is greater in instances of procedural than conceptual encodings.

Table of contents

Effort has been identified as an indicator of problem solving in tasks involving reading and writing (Scardamalia and Bereiter 1991). Inherent to those tasks are tactics employed by readers and writers, such as re-reading, refocusing, reviewing and rewriting, which impact on execution time and allow for correlations between effort and the degree of investment in finding a solution. However, other than time investment, it is not at all clear how we can measure effort of the kind required from translators to produce their renderings. Processing effort in translation has [ p. 108 ]been investigated taking into account internal/external support (PACTE 2008) and time pressure (Jensen 2001). Additionally, translation units and patterns of cognitive segmentation (Dragsted 2005; Jakobsen 2005) have been correlated with effort. More recently, Alves and Vale (2009; 2011) have shown that effort can be correlated with micro/macro units in the translation process through a corpus-linguistics oriented approach. Nevertheless, investigating processing effort in translation remains a challenge. Relevance theory (RT; Sperber and Wilson 1986/1995), which, in terms of inferential processing, postulates an optimal cognitive relation between the minimum processing effort necessary for the generation of the maximum cognitive effects possible, offers a productive way to investigate the role of effort in translation task resolution. The relevance-theoretic distinction between conceptual and procedural encodings (Blakemore 1987; 2002), we will argue, can be instrumental in analysing micro/macro translation units in target text production. Drawing on the RT framework, we assume that effort in translation is higher when processing deals with procedural rather than conceptual encodings. In this paper, we seek to investigate if this claim can be assessed experimentally in translation process research (TPR henceforth). We posit that this assumption may be relevant for the description and explanation of the translation process itself. By investigating the allocation of processing effort in translation from a relevancetheoretic perspective, we aim to shed light on issues relevant to other areas, such as language and communication studies as well as expertise studies and cognitive science, thus contributing to the understanding of translation as an object of interdisciplinary inquiry.

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