Book reviewCognitive Linguistics and Poetics of Translation Tübingen: Gunter Narr, 1993. 146 pp. ISBN 3-8233-4078-6 DM 58,- (Language in Performance, 9). .
Reviewed by Vladimir Ivir
Table of contents
The key words that appear in the title of this book—'cognitive linguistics', 'poetics', 'translation'—clearly delimit the author's field of interest and point to her chosen approach and orientation. The field of interest is translation, whose central concept of equivalence is defined in terms of poetics, and whose understanding is attempted in terms of the cognitive linguistic concept of grammar as imagery. The approach is interdisciplinary and the orientation 'human'. 'Human'—as claimed by cognitive linguistics—means that "a verbal expression has no autonomous existence, and therefore it must be considered against a wide background of the actual knowledge and general cognitive abilities of human beings involved in the act of communication" (p. 15). What this implies for translation is that "[e]very individual and unique act of translation is preceded by an individual and unique act of reception and interpretation" (p. 73), or to quote de Beaugrande and Dressier (1981: 216), translation equivalence "can only be an equivalence in the experience of the participants". This would seem to leave the door wide open for unfettered relativism and impressionistic attempts to accommodate idiosyncratic individual experience, or, alternatively, to force one to conclude that translation is impossible. To avoid this pessimistic conclusion, the author tempers the 'uniqueness' of the act of communication with the cognitive linguistic view of experience as a continuum—from idiosyncratic individual experience, through culture-specific to universal experience. The last two types of experience are likely to be conventionalized in language (in terms of conceptualization or imagery), thus constraining the process of translation at its every stage—original production, reception, interpretation, production of translation, and reception/interpretation of the translated text. "Thus the subjective combines with the objective to give a unique product: in this sense a construal of a translation is exactly like construal of a scene as seen within the theoretical framework of cognitive linguistics" (p. 73). This, in a nutshell, is the author's position and the argument which she develops in the course of a theoretical discussion and practical exemplification using English-Polish [ p. 180 ]and Polish-English translations to illustrate particular points. She makes no exaggerated claims about the revolutionary novelty of her contribution, noting instead that "much of what will be said in the remainder of this book is well known to all who have dealt with problems of translation; the merit of CL [cognitive linguistics] does not consist in making new discoveries, but in offering a theoretical framework for a systematic and coherent description of old and well-grounded intuitions" (p. 20).