On Points of Contact between Scientific and Technical Translation and Cognitive Linguistics

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This paper reports on potential points of contact between scientific and technical translation (STT) and cognitive linguistics (CL) and attempts to answer the question to what extent cognitive linguistics may be usefully applied to the study of STT.
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   New Voices in Translation Studies 12 (2015)    Ralph Krüger,   On Points of Contact between Scientific and Technical Translation and Cognitive Linguistics, 72-97.   72 On Points of Contact between Scientific and Technical Translation and Cognitive Linguistics Ralph Krüger Cologne University of Applied Sciences ABSTRACT This paper reports on potential points of contact between scientific and technical translation (STT) and cognitive linguistics (CL) and attempts to answer the question to what extent cognitive linguistics may be usefully applied to the study of STT. To do so, the paper surveys various theoretical components of the cognitive linguistic framework and illustrates how these components can be applied in modelling different contextual and textual aspects of scientific and technical translation. From a contextual perspective special consideration is given to the concept of common ground   and the field of cognitive  semantics , which can be used to model shared knowledge and implicit knowledge in the knowledge-intense field of STT. From a textual perspective the emphasis will be on the cognitive linguistic notion of linguistic construal  , which can be used to model relevant linguistic aspects of STT from a cognitively plausible point of view. Several prototypical examples from the Cologne Specialized Translation Corpus (CSTC) will be discussed in cognitive linguistic terms in order to demonstrate the explanatory power of this framework in the context of translation studies. KEYWORDS: cognitive linguistics, cognitive semantics, common ground, linguistic construal, scientific and technical translation, theory of domains Introduction It is a common observation in the theoretical discourse about scientific and technical translation 1  that this field of translation is highly relevant both from a societal point of view  –   fostering scientific and technical progress by the dissemination of information across linguistic and cultural borders (Pinchuck 1977:13; Krein-Kühle 2003:13; Byrne 2012:1)  –   and from the point of view of professional translators, who often generate a substantial amount of their income from the translation of scientific and technical texts (Schmitt 1999:41; Byrne 2012:1). At the same time, translation researchers concerned with scientific and technical translation often observe a sharp contrast between the high societal and professional relevance of STT and the scarcity of translational research carried out in this field (Krein-Kühle 2003:14; Byrne 2006:1; Salama-Carr 2013:20), leading Salama-Carr to conclude that STT 1  Scientific and technical translation is understood here as the translation of texts from the domains of science and technology. It covers pure scientific translation concerned with the results of basic science, pure technical translation concerned with marketable industrial products or processes (Pinchuck 1977:13) and hybrid texts at the interface between science and technology (Byrne 2012:63).   New Voices in Translation Studies 12 (2015)    Ralph Krüger,   On Points of Contact between Scientific and Technical Translation and Cognitive Linguistics, 72-97.   73 “remains relatively unchartered territory within the discipline and is deemed a less prestigious test case for translation models”  (2009:43). This imbalance between the societal/professional relevance of and the theoretical reflection on scientific and technical translation may partly be due to the fact that STT has traditionally been considered as easier or more straightforward than other forms of translation (Schmitt 1986/1994:252; Wilss 1991:3; Horn-Helf 1999:101- 102), which is generally attributed to the “perceived universality of the language of science and/or of scientific thought” (Olohan 1998/2009:247). This derogatory view of STT and specialized translation in general has a long tradition, as exemplified by Schleiermacher's quote that these forms of translation are “little more than a mechanical task which can be  performed by anyone who has moderate knowledge of the two languages” (1813/20 12:45). In the middle of the 20 th  century, when optimism about the potential of machine translation was at its height, some scholars such as Mounin even went so far as to claim that scientific translation could eventually be completely automated (1967:158). This view of STT as a near-mechanical or automated task again stands in sharp contrast to the views held by most  professional translators and by translation researchers specifically concerned with scientific and technical translation, who both generally perceive their work or their object of study to be a highly complex field (see, for example, Byrne 2006:5-6). Contributing to this complexity is certainly the subject-matter knowledge which is generally accepted to be a necessary  prerequisite for high-quality scientific and technical translation (Krein-Kühle 2003:11; Byrne 2006:5-6) and which, according to Byrne, has “in some quarters led to technical translation [and certainly also scientific translation] being feared and loathed [...] ”  (2006:1). After all, in scientific and technical discourse as in every other form of human verbal communication, textual surface structures are only the “tip of the iceberg”, the larger part of which remains hidden under the surface (Faber Benítez (2009:108). As Faber and Ureña Gómez-Moreno put it, “[o]nly a fragment of the conceptual system is mentioned in the text, but the translator must rebuild an important part, if not all, in order to obtain a comprehension of the content [to be conveyed]”  (2012:83). Depending on the participants in scientific and technical discourse, various communicative configurations may arise that translate into different degrees of technicality of the texts to be translated by scientific and technical translators (Arntz 2001:195). When translating expert-to-expert discourse, for example, translators may be faced with highly underdetermined or implicit textual structures since author and intended audience will be experts on the topic at hand and can therefore fall back on a large amount of shared   New Voices in Translation Studies 12 (2015)    Ralph Krüger,   On Points of Contact between Scientific and Technical Translation and Cognitive Linguistics, 72-97.   74 specialized knowledge that does not need to be explicitly verbalized in communication. 2  This shared knowledge between the participants in scientific and technical discourse, which underlies the text to be translated as implicit knowledge and which may have to be accessed  by the translator in order to create a high-quality translation, is one of the central contextual concerns of scientific and technical translation (see Krein-Kühle 2003:7). It also serves as a  potential point of contact between STT and the framework of cognitive linguistics since CL is, among other things, concerned with theoretical means for knowledge organization and representation (León Araúz et al. 2012:174) and has developed specific tools for modelling  both the shared knowledge of specific discourse communities and the implicit knowledge underlying verbal communication. Discussing the applicability of linguistic theories to translation studies, Faber and Ureña Gómez-Moreno assume that “ of the linguistic frameworks currently in the limelight, Cognitive Linguistics would have the most to say about translation” (2012:74). To date, there have been several attempts to apply cognitive linguistics to literary translation (Tabakowska 1993) and to the general field of specialized translation (Faber and Ureña Gómez-Moreno 2012). Also, Fillmore's (1982)  frame semantics , a cognitive semantic theory, has been widely applied in the cognitive strand of German functionalism (for example, Kussmaul 2007/2010). The major proponent of a cognitive linguistic approach in translation studies is probably Halverson (2003, 2007, 2010, 2013), who works within the framework of Langacker's cognitive grammar   (1987) and who advocates a research strand termed cognitive translation  studies . The present paper also draws extensively on Langacker's framework and shares Halverson's central claim that “a cognitive theory of translation must build on cognitive theories of language” (2010:353). It can thus be situated within the research strand of cognitive translation studies. In his discussion of the usefulness of semantic theories to translation studies, Albrecht claims that most of the lexical phenomena discussed in cognitive semantics (as a subfield of cognitive linguistics) can also be coherently explained by traditional semantic theories (2005:226). However, as will be argued in more detail in the following sections, cognitive linguistics, as a usage-based theory of language, seems  particularly well-suited to explain aspects of translation as a specific form of human verbal communication. Also, as already mentioned briefly above, cognitive semantics has developed fine-grained tools for knowledge organization and representation in verbal communication. It 2  This follows, for example, from Grice's cooperative principle and especially from his maxim of relation, according to which one should not make one's contribution more informative than required (1975).   New Voices in Translation Studies 12 (2015)    Ralph Krüger,   On Points of Contact between Scientific and Technical Translation and Cognitive Linguistics, 72-97.   75 will be argued here that, compared to traditional semantic theories, these tools may allow for a sounder theoretical discussion of the knowledge that is assumed to be shared between the  participants in discourse or that is not explicitly verbalized in a text but deemed to be inferable or implicit in it (see the discussion of common ground and cognitive semantics  below). The present paper is structured as follows. The next section gives a brief overview of the field of cognitive linguistics, discusses its specific characteristics and delineates it from other linguistic theories. Then, the cognitive linguistic concept of common ground   is elaborated and it is shown how this concept can be used to model shared specialized knowledge in scientific and technical translation. The paper then goes on to discuss the cognitive linguistic subfield of cognitive semantics  and its tools for modelling implicit specialized knowledge in STT. Finally, the notion of linguistic construal is discussed and it is demonstrated how various linguistic aspects of scientific and technical translation can be conceptualized and described as cross-linguistic construal operations. To illustrate the explanatory power of the proposed approach, the paper discusses prototypical examples of scientific and technical translation in cognitive linguistic terms. 3  This is intended to demonstrate that cognitive linguistics indeed has important things to say about (scientific and technical) translation. 4   An overview of cognitive linguistics The framework of cognitive linguistics (e.g. Lakoff 1987; Langacker 1987) stands in the functionalist tradition of linguistics and was developed in the 1970s, primarily as a countermovement to the then predominant formalist approaches in the tradition of Chomskyan Grammar. Its principal aim is to provide a holistic account of language in terms 3  The examples discussed in this paper were taken from the Cologne Specialized Translation Corpus (CSTC), a “high - quality specialized translation corpus […] b eing compiled at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences with the aim of establishing corpus-  based translation studies” (Krein-Kühle 2013:8). The CSTC contains three major subcorpora: the scientific and technical subcorpus, the economic subcorpus and the legal subcorpus. This tripartite corpus structure reflects the three major domains taught in the MA in Specialised Translation  programme offered at Cologne University of Applied Sciences. The examples discussed in this article are taken from the CO 2  subcorpus and the Automotive subcorpus (these being further subcorpora of the scientific and technical subcorpus). The CO 2  subcorpus contains research reports on carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS). The Automotive subcorpus contains articles in learned journals, which are primarily concerned with piston technology. The texts in both corpora were classified as progress-oriented actualizing texts (see Figure 1 below) and were translated by competent professional translators. For a detailed description of the CSTC, see Krein-Kühle (2013:8 ff.). 4  It must be borne in mind, however, that the contribution of cognitive linguistics is primarily to the theoretical reflection on STT and that it cannot be used in a straightforward way to inform the practice of STT. However, a sound theoretical basis is certainly useful for high-quality translation teaching, which may ultimately contribute to a better or at least more informed translation practice.   New Voices in Translation Studies 12 (2015)    Ralph Krüger,   On Points of Contact between Scientific and Technical Translation and Cognitive Linguistics, 72-97.   76 of general human cognitive abilities, such as attention, memory, perception, etc. (see Dirven 1991/2002:76; Schwarz 1992/1996:52 ff.). Cognitive linguistics regards language as an integral part of general human cognition and is therefore opposed to the autonomous, modular and abstract approach to language as propagated, for example, by Chomskyan generative grammar (Taylor 2002:7). It also rejects the Saussurean dichotomy of langue  vs.  parole  (Dirven 1991/2002: 76) and, instead, follows a “usage -  based” appro ach to language according to which “knowledge of language emerges from language use” (Croft  and Cruse 2004:1). As argued above, this usage-based character of cognitive linguistics may make it specifically suitable as a linguistic foundation for (scientific and technical) translation. After all, it appears that, from a translational perspective, a linguistic theory which stresses the importance of language use and does not treat it as a second-rate phenomenon subservient to pure linguistic competence is better equipped to make statements about translational phenomena, which  –   if we define translation as a specific form of human action  –   are  per definitionem  instances of language use. Since authentic linguistic behaviour is also one of the prime concerns of translation studies, cognitive linguistics seems to be in a good position to bridge the fundamental gap existing between many mainstream linguistic theories and translation studies (see also Faber and Ureña Gómez-Moreno 2012:75). According to Evans and Green, cognitive linguistics is based on two fundamental assumptions, the  generalisation commitment   and the cognitive commitment   (2006:28 ff.). The generalisation commitment entails a search for common structuring principles that apply to different aspects of language. For example, cognitive linguistics makes no sharp distinction  between semantics and syntax (which are both treated as symbolic systems, see Taylor 2002:25) or between semantic and pragmatic meaning. According to the cognitive commitment, the structuring principles postulated by cognitive linguistics have to reflect insights into human cognition gained in other disciplines, in particular the cognitive sciences (Evans and Green 2006:40). In line with the cognitive commitment, cognitive linguists try to give an account of linguistic phenomena which is plausible from a cognitive point of view. A further basic tenet of cognitive linguistics and more specifically in the subfield of cognitive semantics is that linguistic meaning is conceptual in nature, with the locus of meaning being the mind of individual speakers and hearers (Langacker 2008:4, 27-28). 5  Accordingly and in 5  Such a conceptualist or mentalist approach to linguistic meaning is not uncontroversial and has been subject to various criticisms, which cannot be elaborated here in detail. Taylor (2002:61 ff.) contains a list of objections raised against the cognitive linguistic approach to meaning (together with a refutation of the various points of
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