Tropes and translation

Authored by: James Dickins

The Routledge Handbook of Translation Studies and Linguistics

Print publication date:  December  2017
Online publication date:  December  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138911260
eBook ISBN: 9781315692845
Adobe ISBN:


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After identifying the set of key tropes – metaphor, simile, metonymy and synecdoche – and providing preliminary definitions of them, this chapter introduces a number of notions which are essential for trope analysis: expression, sense and reference (this last subsuming ascription and referent), and the distinction between lexicalisation and non-lexicalisation. Incorporating, but also somewhat reinterpreting, the traditional notions of topic, vehicle and grounds, the chapter provides a preliminary analysis of non-lexicalised tropes, metaphor, simile, metonymy and synecdoche, followed by the rather different analysis needed for lexicalised tropes. I discuss Goatly’s categories of core, periphery, approximation and transfer in relation to tropes, concluding that these represent a continuum rather than categorical differences, and that metaphor, metonymy and synecdoche are also continual rather than categorically different. I offer a revised analysis of non-lexicalised tropes taking into account the continuum arguments and consider metaphorical force mainly using Goatly’s dead, sleeping, tired, active scale, before discussing Lakoff and Johnson’s influential conceptual metaphor theory. I consider denotative- and connotative-oriented purposes of metaphor, simile, metonymy and synecdoche. Turning more specifically to translation issues, the chapter surveys works on the translation of tropes, and provides a chronologically oriented overview of approaches to the translation of metaphor as typically the most challenging trope to translate. Taking Arabic and English as an exemplar language pair, the chapter concludes by considering the translation implications of metaphorical congruence and incongruence and metaphorical exuberance and density.

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