Towards a Text-World Approach to Translation and Its Pedagogical Implications

Towards a Text-World Approach to Translation and Its Pedagogical Implications

Lu Tian, Hui Wang
DOI: 10.4018/IJTIAL.2019070102
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Although it is widely acknowledged that translation is a cognitive process, there is scarcely any study establishing connections between the text and mental representations and giving a systematic and comprehensive explanation for this pivotal yet magical mechanism. Illuminated by Text World Theory, this study proposes a text-world approach to translation studies and addresses its implications for translator training. Translation is regarded as a cognitive communicative process of reproducing texts as worlds. The (in)coherence among text worlds as they are represented in translation provides a legitimate criterion for the evaluation of translation competence. To view translation as a cognitive-linguistic process of text-world construction and presentation may promise a more proactive approach to translator training by encouraging translator trainees to pay special attention to the expansion of their knowledge structures.
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An Overview Of Text World Theory

Text World Theory is, in general, a cognitive-linguistic model that brings cognitive psychology into discourse analysis. The notion of text worlds was developed by Paul Werth in the 1990s with an aim to reveal the cognitive processes of human minds in language processing. It was further developed into a theory and elaborated by Joanna Gavins (2007) in her monograph Text World Theory: An Introduction.

According to Text World Theory, when people have verbal communication, either in the written or spoken form, the receiver, aided by knowledge-frames previously accumulated, constructs mental representations, i.e. text worlds, for comprehension and knowledge incrementation1. In this light, text worlds in this study are regarded as the key to the cognitive communicative process of translation, during which texts are comprehended and reproduced as worlds. “World” is an essential concept in Text World Theory. It is a “conceptual domain representing a state of affairs” (Werth, 1999, p. 206). There are three world levels that are of special interest to a text world theorist— the discourse world, the text world, and the sub-world.

The discourse world is the situational context when people communicate with one another. This notion is similar to situationality, one of the seven features consisting textuality2 of any given text as proposed by Neubert & Shreve (1992, pp. 84-88). Their difference is that situationality focuses on the sociocultural context in which a text is located, whereas the discourse world emphasizes the “states-of-affairs conceived of by participants” (Werth, 1999, p. 84). Discourse world might be more easily defined in interpreting given the face-to-face nature of the interaction. The identities of the speaker and listener as well as their relationships and the surrounding context are usually clear and certain. In addition, the body language, facial expressions and tones of the speaker will also aid interpreters in understanding the discourse so they can translate appropriately. In the translation of written texts, however, due to the separation of discourse world participants (including the writer, the translator, and both the source text reader and the target text reader) in most cases, the source text is in many cases the main source of discourse information.

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