Fluency/resistancy and domestication/foreignisation: A cognitive perspective

Haidee Kruger
Macquarie University / North-West University

Abstract

This paper argues for the addition of a cognitive perspective to the concepts of fluency/resistancy and domestication/foreignisation. Given the disjunctions between the ontological levels (and analytical levels of specificity) implied in these concepts (cognitive, linguistic and socio-cultural), the paper first sets out an argument for how these ontologies are related, demonstrating how cognitive processing, and specifically cognitive effort for both translators and readers, form a second-level constituent of both these sets of concepts, by drawing on usage-based theories of language. From within this conceptual frame, the paper turns its attention to an empirical investigation. The study demonstrates how a combination of product and process methods may be utilised to explore the cognitive effort involved in domesticating and foreignising choices. The findings of the study are used to formulate some suggestions regarding how investigations of cognitive effort in translation may contribute to an understanding of fluency/resistancy and domestication/foreignisation in diverse contexts.

Keywords
Table of contents

Both House (2013) and Tymoczko (2012) have made proposals for micro-level cognitive approaches to translation to be integrated with approaches to translation that focus on translation as cultural and social phenomenon, at the macro-level. This paper takes up the challenge by investigating this possibility of integrating different ontologies of translation from both a conceptual and empirical point of view, based on the assumption that empirical data, concept formation and theoretical development are closely interwoven. It specifically argues for the addition of a cognitive perspective to the concepts of fluency/resistancy, and domestication/foreignisation. Given the disjunctions between the ontological levels (and analytical levels of specificity) implied in these concepts (cognitive, linguistic and socio-cultural), the paper first sets out an argument for how these ontologies are related, at disciplinary, theoretical and conceptual levels. It then narrows the focus to the concept level, focusing on the relationship between the basic, constituent and data levels in the concepts fluency/resistancy and domestication/foreignisation, demonstrating how cognitive processing, and specifically cognitive effort, form second-level constituents of both these sets of concepts. In this, the argument draws on usage-based theories of language (specifically focusing on lexical and collocational priming) that argue that individual, psycholinguistic processing, and social forces combine in how language is used, and how it changes over time. Having established a conceptual frame of reference, the paper then turns its attention to the empirical investigation of the concepts fluency/resistancy and domestication/foreignisation. It reports on a small study investigating one particular dimension where domesticating and foreignising choices drawing on fluent and resistant features of the target language may be effected — lexical items that metonymically evoke culture. The study illustrates how a combination of text analysis, process data and prompted retrospective verbalisation may be utilised to explore the cognitive processing and effort involved in these choices. The findings of the study are used to formulate a number of provisional hypotheses regarding how investigations of cognitive processing in translation may contribute to an understanding of fluency/resistancy and domestication/foreignisation in translation in diverse contexts.

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