JA/JM: we are indeed paddling in deep and tricky waters (possibly skating on thin ice!), with well-known tensions between how linguists and literary-theorists view & define the basic concepts. The two groups tend to mistrust each other, since their aims and methods are different. A major difference is that linguists, as “wannabe” scientists, aim for an objective approach, studying the many aspects of language IN ACTION, as it were, trying hard to be precise and consistent in their terminology and explanations.  Consider, e.g., the notion of Natural Language (yes, JA, this is abbreviated to NL by all those active in our fair trade, just as AL stands for Artificial Language!). As a very brief overview, we can actually observe in the real world how new languages emerge, typically as evolutionary progressions from Pidgin via Creole to “fully-fledged” NL. The NL AWARD signals that a degree of grammatical complexity has been reached to justify the “equivalence” axiom, namely that anything “sayable” in one NL is “sayable” in any other NL. There’s a certain unavoidable “circularity” in this definition, but it is a useful step forward. (Linguistics as a Science shuns DOGMA and is subject to all the revisions and paradigm shifts that Science is Heir to.) I must stress that the increased grammatical complexity from Pidgin to NL I referred to has little to do with richness of “vocabulary.” In the usual Pidgin trading context, names for objects can always be “negotiated” (by pointing or paraphrasing), but the NL axiom requires grammatical structures for conveying numerous subtleties of tense and mood. Pidgins have no trouble with “pesticide” or “atom bomb” but can often fail with “If only the bananas had ripened a week earlier.” Once you get away from the relatively easy-to-match (grammar and lexis) Indo-European family, you meet some real “NL-equivalence” challenges: languages with 17 genders or 20 words for “we” (you-me; you-me-more; etc); forms of address complexly tuned to rank and caste. In spite of all these bizarre quirks, the axiom is really asserting language-acquisition as a common INNATE human (HomSap) gift, loosely referred to as “Pinker’s Instinct” or Chomsky’s “pre-wired” Universal Transformational Grammar.
Amid all the chicken-egg uncertainties re-how words-and-thoughts interact, distinct regions of every healthy infant brain can be identified as organs for language acquisition and production.

Forget the oft-heard claim that the Englishman’s “home” does not have a simple, single-word equivalent in, say, German. IF true, this doesn’t infringe the NL-equivalence axiom, which simply demands equal “sayability” with no strictures on economy or “elegance.” Otherwise, you are claiming that a particular meaning of “home” (more than a house of bricks and mortar; more a   comfy, private castle!) is beyond German understanding. As JA says, words are freely borrowed if the need arises: just as “home” and “Heim” were borrowed long ago from some common Germanic ancestor. A wonderful example in the “we-don’t-have-word-for-that” category: the Inuit do NOT have a word for “hemispherical-dwelling-made-from-snow-blocks.” The English DO have such a word! We borrowed the Inuit word IGLOO, meaning HOUSE!

Returning to VN’s theories of Translation. I see no contradiction between (i) NL-equivalent expressiveness and (ii) the huge challenge of capturing the intentions of the original NL-X author in a NL-Y text (Experts seldom agree!).

Without axiom (i), you might as well NOT TRY (ii)! Why Bovver? (This is a phrase UNIQUE to the Cockney Ethos

When the NL-X text is ambiguous (deliberately or unintentionally), the axiom calls for some lubrication. The classic example familiar to all students of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and MT (Machine Translation) is TIME FLIES LIKE AN ARROW. The poor translator, absent any contextual clues, has to offer at least three renditions. “Time [stopwatch] insects ...”; “Time flies [insects] love ...”; “Time [subject] rushes by ...”

PS: Jansy asks how the axiom works for “non-verbal” or “symbolic/pictorial” language. To which I say: SUBMIT YOUR QUESTION IN NON-VERBAL, SYMBOLIC/PICTORIAL FORMAT! Gotchyer?

Stan (Avoid Cliches like the Plague) Kelly-Bootle

On 13/12/2008 14:47, "jansymello" <jansy@AETERN.US> wrote:

J.Aisenberg: [...] I don't think N's notion of "literal translation" had anything to do with the idea that one NL, to use SKB's intialing, has its exact equivalence in another. I'm pretty sure he said just exactly the opposite [...] He called his translation a "pony", a means of getting an idea of Pushkin's art by way of an elaborate, clumsy demonstration in English, with a bloated gloss [...]All of which reminds me of some of the epistolary sparring N and Edmund Wilson [...] I suppose, as Jansy suggested, a kind of paradox has cropped up: according to N. you're duty-bound to translate literally when one, any translation at some level, as we saw in N.'s detailed response to Wilson (reprinted in Strong Opinions) is always a matter of at least some guesswork and inclination. That "sapajous" which N. had such a gleeful explanation for is certainly brilliant, but is it necessarily the one and best word choice? And two, there are, as we all know, things in different languages that don't translate--they are either adopted from one NL to another wholesale (like schadenfreude) or they remain foggy and require awkward explanations, like say, endless volumes of footnotes to explain a relatively short poem  [...]
JM: I'm still wheeling under VN's arguments about art in nature (deceit, mirage) as a part of a "struggle towards perfection". I'm sure this will demand of me weeks of emotional working-through.
Let's try to exercise a few arguments, though: there is a point in SKB's argument in favor of the "essential NL" in that he mentions that "anything imagined in one language may be rendered in another" ( the keys for his contention lie in "essential" and "imagined"). Still, I continue to feel in disagreement with this axiom (as having been accepted or developed by VN), because it departs from the separation bt. the world - as humans can perceive it through the sensorial input or grasp by reasoning -  and language, now turned into a mere instrument to describe it.
Nabokov's ambition was to create something entirely novel through words and he didn't mean "idiolects" ( if it is the word for the private language invented by some psychotics )... As VN argues in SO  our ability to perceive the world recquires specialization: it is a learned thing in various levels, not a natural given. The artist, by his  style and vocabulary, may offer a short-cut into this "learning process" but only if his words can be fully understood.

Here a little about VN on "prostor" and "privolie" (S&S,p.266/7), two words  or two "notions": "prostor is the open endless spaces of the Russian steppes or of the American prairies. Endless open spaces are said to dwarf man [...] The feeleing in "prostor" is the exact opposite of this notion [etc]. "Privolie" is a cosier notion...a quiet glade in the forst with an oblique ray of the sun [... ]"
On page 69 of VN's Lectures on Quixote we read: "The wretched sense of poverty mingles with his general dejection and he finally goes to bed, moody and heavy-hearted. Is it only Sancho´s absence and the burst threads of his stockings that induce this sadness, this Spanish soledad, this Portuguese saudades, this French angoisse, this German sensucht, this Russian toska? We wonder - we wonder if it does not go deeper".
The Encyclopaedia Britannica (1968) describes this special Portuguese word, "saudade", used by Camoens in "The Lusiads", describing navigator Vasco da Gama's exploits "so profound was the anguish he experienced because of his exile from home and the trials he underwent, that it became an integral part of his being, enabling him to give to saudade-soledade ("yearning fraught with loneliness") a new and convincing undertone unique in Portuguese literature".   

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