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American Annals of the Deaf

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Toward a Deaf Translation Norm

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Sperber and Wilson developed useful concepts within a relevance framework (1995). They argue that no language utterance is ever completely explicit, and more contemporary works support this idea (Talmy 2000a, 2000b; Fauconnier and Turner 2002; Fauconnier 1997). The linguistic code of an utterance always underspecifies the assumptions associated with that utterance. The RT definition of explicature and implicature (derived from explicit and implicit), however, is not what would commonly be understood by these terms. Wilson (2005, 1130) gives useful examples of both explicatures and implicatures.
Identification of explicit content (explicatures):

1.   John left the party. (‘political groups’, ‘festive gathering’)
2.   The teachers told the students they needed more holidays. (reference resolution)
3.   I met no-one in town. (‘no-one I knew’, ‘no-one interesting’)
4.   Your father will be here soon. (resolution of vagueness)
5.   The sky is blue. (‘partly/totally’, ‘blue of a certain shade/blueish)
6.   You will be there tomorrow. (request, bet, prediction)

Implicit context (implicatures):

7.   This book is as good as any the author has written. (good? mediocre? bad?)
8.   Some of the lectures were interesting. (scalar implicatures)
9.   a. Jim: Have you read Relevance?
      b. Sue: I don’t read difficult books. (indirect answers)
10. I’m hungry. (indirect speech acts)
11. Bill is a giant. (literal/metaphorical/ironical)

These types of inferences affect T/Is, since it is necessary for them not only to access the full propositional form in the SL but also to decide how to represent it in the TL. It is of course possible for there to be an error on the part of the hearer (in this case the T/I) who would make decisions about rendering what he has understood a speaker to mean. This being the case, one would expect the greater the explicature in the SL linguistic code, the less likely it is the T/I will make an error in the TL. The problem might well be that the speaker is not mindful of the translation process and as such assumes it is a two-way interaction (between the speaker and addressee) rather than a three-way interaction (between the speaker to the T/I and then T/I to addressee). This could mean she assumes the T/I has the same knowledge about the subject as her audience, which might not be the case.

RT and Translation

For Gutt, RT enables “an empirical account of evaluation and decisionmaking” (1991, 21) with respect to equivalence and the relationship between the source and the target text. What is of interest for this study is Gutt’s treatment of covert translation, which he describes as being “where the translated text is intended to function like a target language original” (1991, 45). The TL has all traces of the SL removed from it. Having a minority language TL with majority language SL traces removed from it, supports Venuti (1997) as outlined above, which picks up from the ideas of Schleiermacher (1813) [cited in Munday (2001)].

Either the translator leaves the writer alone as much as possible and moves the reader towards the writer, or he [sic] leaves the reader alone as much as possible and moves the writer toward the reader.
Venuti supports the idea of moving the reader toward the writer, and this suggests creating a covert translation. It maintains cultural and linguistic difference and does not reinforce and re-impose the hegemonic values, language, and culture on the minority audience. Within RT there are different types of language use, “descriptive” and “interpretive,” and these can account for “loose talk.” If someone says, “Bill is a gangster,” this can mean literally that Bill is a gangster and would be a descriptive use of the language. Alternatively, it can give Bill some of the attributes of being a gangster, and this would be an interpretive use of the word (Gutt 1991, 33–37).

Gutt suggests that many acts performed by bilinguals are called translations, with the main difference being whether the SL is descriptively or interpretively used. In some situations the original text could be used as a guideline rather than a source text to be followed faithfully. Again Sperber and Wilson’s RT (1995, 1986) can be applied to the TL and the shifts occurring in the translation process because the TL has to be relevant enough to make it worth the addressee’s while to process the ostensive stimulus. If the Deaf audience has to spend too much cognitive effort on understanding the TL, the T/Is are not fulfilling their purpose, that is, translating the English SL into a BSL TL and creating equality of access for the Deaf audience.


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