Thinking for translating: A think-aloud protocol on the translation of manner-of-motion verbs

Paula Cifuentes-Férez and Ana Rojo

Typological studies on the linguistic expression of motion are certainly of interest to translation scholars. The study of how motion is expressed across languages has indeed revealed some striking typological differences (e.g., Talmy 1985, 1991, 2000; Berman and Slobin 1994; Stromqvist and Verhoeven 2004), which can account for some of the strategies translators resort to when dealing with motion expressions (Slobin 1996; Ibarretxe-Antuñano 2003; Cifuentes-Férez 2006, 2013; Ibarretxe-Antuñano and Filipović 2013). However, the question still remains as to whether translators’ decisions are exclusively guided by such typological differences or whether there are other experience- or task-related factors that may explain their behaviour. This paper provides empirical evidence on the type of factors that guide translators’ decisions when translating manner-ofmotion verbs, exploring the impact of different types of texts and the translator’s level of expertise. For this purpose, a pilot think-aloud protocol is implemented in order to examine the translation process of ten Spanish translators (five professionals and five graduate students without professional experience) when transferring manner-of-motion verbs from English into Spanish. Our results reveal that the way translators deal with manner information is mainly influenced by typological differences between the two languages. But differences in the translators’ level of professional expertise and in task-related constraints (e.g., the degree in which different type of texts focus on motion verbs) also have an effect on the strategies that translators choose to convey manner information.

Table of contents

The study of cross-linguistic differences in the expression of motion is of particular importance for translation scholars and professionals (e.g., Rojo and Ibarretxe-Antuñano 2013). Motion seems to be a universal concept, but it is a well-known fact that languages differ in the way they lexicalise this domain. Talmy (e.g., 1985, 1991, 2000) is one of the scholars who has looked at the universal mechanisms of mapping between motion event components (figure, ground, motion, path and manner) and linguistic expressions, and has found universal principles with a typological variation. The options for mapping do not vary enormously but rather exhibit two major alternatives, which lie in the essence of two typologically distinct lexicalisation strategies. As a result, he distinguishes two types of languages—whose prototypical representatives are English and Spanish—on the basis of which morphosyntactic element is characteristically used to encode the path of motion (since path is the defining component of a motion event). In verb-framed languages (V-languages) such as Spanish, the path of motion is expressed in the verb root (see example 1), whereas in satellite-framed languages (S-languages) such as English, it is lexicalised in the satellite, leaving the verb slot free to encode the manner of motion (see example 2):

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