Subjectivity in metaphor translation: a case for Russian translation of English metaphors of depressive emotions

Keywords: conceptual metaphor, interpretation, mental image, subjectivity, translation


This paper focuses on the theoretical concept of subjectivity in the translation of metaphors of depressive emotions in W. Styron’s Darkness visible: A memoir of madness into Russian. In his memoir, the author interprets his emotions and names them via metaphors; these interpretations are driven by images in the author’s mind. An image-driven interpretation in translation is a creative act of ascribing a meaning to a word in the source language and of finding a word to capture this meaning in the target language. This act is driven by images ‘drawn’ in the translator’s mind. Mental images as non-propositional objects in the mind are verbalized by words of languages based on propositional structures. This entails semantic losses to translation, minimized by finding words in the target language that make optimal descriptions for the author’s mental images. This paper suggests a hypothesis that metaphor translation is based on their interpretations driven by the translator’s mental images. The theoretical framework of study treats metaphor translation in terms of optimality rather than accuracy of translation. The article uses the subjectivity argument to show that mental images are the translator’s but not the author’s. Subjectivity locks the translator into their own experiences and consequently makes impossible a full compliance of  translator’s and the author’s shared phenomenal consciousness. An empirical analysis of metaphorical creativity based on E. Menikov's translation of W. Styron's metaphors of depressive emotions shows that Russian translation often lacks the images that the author uses as the basis for English creative metaphors: on the one hand, the translator's interpretation is conditioned by images that differ from the author's, on the  other, some of the author's images are missing from the translation. According to the embodied mind theory, in translation of metaphorical concepts, the degree of creativity is the smallest for conveying universal metaphors and the highest for conveying their contextual variants. The obtained results and conclusions will contribute to the understanding of creativity in the translation of unconventional metaphors.


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How to Cite
Vakhovska, O. (2021). Subjectivity in metaphor translation: a case for Russian translation of English metaphors of depressive emotions. Cognition, Communication, Discourse, (23), 99-117.