What's in a title? A cognitive approach to the role played by translated text labels and (un)adapted semiotic elements

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What's in a title? A cognitive approach to the role played by translated text labels and (un)adapted semiotic elements
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  Revista licantina de Estudios Ingleses  14 (2001): 93-109 What s in a Title? A Cognitive Approach to the Role Played by Translated Text Labels and (Un)adapted Semiotic Elements Catalina Iliescu University of Alicante iliescu@ua.es ABSTRACT This paper draws upon the importance of  titles  in intercultural communication starting from the results of an experiment in the field of psychology aimed at measuring the mnemonic valué of titles as well as the expectations and evaluations they entail or the influential power they exert on receivers. Assuming that translation  is form of communication and adopting an eclectic approach based  on the  funcrionalist  view in  translation and the relevance theory in linguistics, I will try to analyse the role played by text labels in literary communication through an example provided  by  the title of a translated drama. I will also try to observe how the dichotomic tendency informativity versus/and/or motivation is solved in this case of title translation. In addition, so as to complete the view of an intercultural communicative act of such a complex nature, some semiotic elements accompanying or highlighting the translated title will be discussed within   cognitíve-communicative framework. Therefore, if both titles and semiotic elements function as ostensive stimuli in the  literary/dramatíc intercultural communication, then   separation between both types of stimuli is needed. Thus, titles will be dealt with as linguistic ostensive stimuli , whereas pictures, colours and fonts manifested  by  the front covers, which are part of the communicative situation since they are meant to introduce the communicative act  (i.e.  the dramatíc text) to an audience, will be dealt  with  in terms of visual or typographic ostensive stimuli.  94  Revista licantina  de  Estudios Ingleses 1.  Introduction In order to establish a conceptual scheme for  this  analysis, we need to define some of the notions to be employed here. To begin with, wbat is a title to a literary text? A very simplistic definition of  the  tenn would  say  a  title is the ñame  of  a  text This implies  two  main characteristics: its shortness and its capacity of encoding information regarding that text. But these qualities do not  always  prove trae since 1)  conáseness  is relative (it depends on cultures, fasbions, genres) and  informativity  can be systematically infringed by literary trends in which titles opacity or rapture with the rest of the text is one of the defining principies. On the other hand, when the author resorts to ellipsis or polysemy, meant to increase expressiveness, the title becomes richer in  poetic  effects but  less  informative in data linking  it to  the text. 2.  Theoretical background Titles have been studied from several different perspectives. Researchers from  the  field  of the theory of  title also  called  itrologie ried  to  determine whether the label  was  supposed to be interpreted as part of the text itself  or on the  contrary, as an independent, paratextual element(seeGenette,  1982).  Semioticians  see  Rothe, 1970,1985;Hoek, 1981)attempted to explain  the  relation existing between title and text  in terms  of a sign referring to another sign (both of a linguistic nature) and tried  to  determine whether this relation  was  a single-sense one (from label to product ) or a bilateral one in which the text evokes the title in turn. One of the most prominent approaches  to text titles is the  functionalist  one.  Attempts to define the notion from this perspective searched for the identification of the primarily significant function (out of the several existing ones) of a given text title. According to Slama-Cazacu (1999:721)  this is a  difficultquestion for  the  researcher,  since titles have no inherent function but  are  given a function  by the  sender In the act of reception  the  recipients decide which function the title has for them. Our efforts to determine the hierarchy of functions intended for a given text  are  hampered  by the wide range  of functions (sometimes overlapping) which may comprise a  heratdic  one (announcing the textto come), a  cryptic one (encoding the text encapsulation to  be  stored in memory), a  summarizing  one  (offering compressed information of the text), a  hermeneutic  one (giving a clue for text interpretation), an  iconic  one (provoking associations with the text contents), or a stimulating  one (awakening the interest of the reader in discovering the text). The hierarchy of title functions has been studied experimentally by Slama-Cazacu (1991,  1999) who tried to find the dominant processes involved in title creation and perception. According to her, the dominance of one of the processes related to human mental competences depends on  the  aim pursued  by the  textunder discussion.  But  what are these processes?  According  to  Guilford 1  they  are:  1)  knowledge (discovery or recognition), 2) memory (retaining known information), 3) divergent thought (search for solutions to a  What s  ina Title? 95 problem), 4) convergent thought (elaborating information  to  lead  to  a correct answer), and 5) evaluation (decisions upon correctness or adequacy). Slama-Cazacu's position  is  very similar  to the  one held  by  skopos  adepts  in  translation studies (as we will see below in Nord's discussion on titles). By a three-stage experiment (1999:722) she observes that: The influence of the title in recalling a whole (even complicated) text  is  evident. A title which is too general for a given text provokes a loss of accuracy in subjects' capacity to remember the contents. In 're-naming' texts, subjects tend to produce titles which better correspond to the information contained in  the  text. When asked about their opinión on 'a good title', most of the subjects showed that the paramount quality of a title was its  motivating  capacity whereas the rest of the subjects equally opted for  concisión  or  informativity  (understood as the link with the informational contents of the text). Regarding the negative features of a title,  all the  subjects coincided in  vagueness/over generality  or exaggeratedpofysewy as being the main causes of inadequacy. The  conclusión drawn  by  Slama-Cazacu from such an experiment  is  that the principie  which seems to  be  essential in title production and reception  is  based on a dual  tendency:  the  search for an exact and specific correspondence between  title and  informational  contents  on  the one hand, and the claim for motivation (the capacity of a title to raise the reader's interest and curiosity) on the other. We  will return to this dichotomic tendency observed  by  Slama-Cazacu but first,  let us see in what way cognitive linguistics (more precisely Sperber and Wilson's  relevance theory)  can help us in  this  comparative study of a translated title and its semiotic support. In Translation Studies, Nord (1989, 1993, 1994 and 1995) starts from the assumption that  titles  and headings are textual  units  forming a text-type (1989) and finds three aspects which are vital for the translator's work: 1) the communicative functions; 2) the culture-specific and genre-specific ways to verbalize these functions; 3) the culture-specific structural conventions determining  the textual  design of titles. Adopting  the  hypothesis that translated texts nave to 'function' in the target culture, Nord shows that texts require markers to indicate the intended functions to the target recipients and if these markers are not  likely  to  be  recognized then  the  translator  has to  give the necessary  clues  for  the  readers to interpret unknown markers. Since titles are considered to be text-types, they are characterized by  structural features literary conventions  and  inter-textual relationships existing in a particular culture (1995: 262). In this sense, Nord (ibid) argües that: any translation  process  has  to be  preceded  by a  functional analysis of  a)  the situation for which the  target text  TT)  is intended  and b) the  situation  in  which the  source  text  ST)  is (or  was) used as a communicative instrument. Comparing the two situations, the translator is supposed  to  find out which  ST  features  have  to be changed or adapted in order to produce a TT which  is  apt  to  serve its purpose . In other words, the translator has to reconcile the  96 Revista licantina  de  Estudios Ingleses conditions of functionality prevailing in the target culture with  the  communicative intentions of the source-title sender. The functions that titles may achieve, according to Nord (1995:265) are six:  distinctive  (with regard to the culture-specific title corpus to which it belongs),  metatextual (obeying the genre conventions of the culture it is part  of),  phatic (attracting the attention of its culture-specific audience);  referential (the information transroitted has to be comprehensible within the culture-specific world-knowledge), expressive  (emotional evaluations have to be consistent  with the  valué system of the given culture) and  appellative  (submitted to the expectations of the prospective readers). By means of an exteusive corpus of translated titles, Nord presents  a model  for functional translation of this text-type also appHcable to other kinds of text, but based on  the  same principies of functionality  and  loyalty. Intention, one of the basic components of human communication, is explained by relevance theory (henceforth RT) as a dual concept made up of an  informative  and a communicaüve  side. According to Sperber and Wilson (1997: 699): A communicator intentionally engaging in inferential communication perceptibly modifies the physical environment of her audience -that is, she produces a stimulus. She does so with two characteristic  intentions the  informative  intention to  inform  the audience  of something, and the  communicative intention to inform the audience of her informative intention . From this dual nature of intentions characterizing human communication two emerging concepts (Sperber and Wilson, 1986/95: 58-61) are derived: Informative intention: the intention  to make  manifest  or more  manifest  to  the audience a certain set of assumptions. Communicative intention: the intention to make mutually manifest to audience and communicator  the  communicator's informative intention. This  manifestness of intentions  is  called  ostention  in  RT  and  is  explained  by the  fact that the human brainby nature, only  pays  attention to whatis presumably  relevant thus,  any request for attention on behalf of  the  communicator will convey a presumption of relevance. In other words, the communicator draws the hearer's attention to something that is likely (provided  the  hearer  invests  enough effort  in  discovering  it to supply relevant information. As  we  know, human cognition aims at improving the quantity, quaüty and organization of the individual's knowledge;  it is  relevance-oriented. Therefore,  by  predicting the cognitive environment of an individual, we are able to infer the assumptions that he is likely to entertain. Thus,  we get a cíue  of  how bis  thoughts can  be  affected if  we  modify  the  mutually manifest cognitive environment. In RT terms, communication is possible in at least two ways: by means of ostensive stimuli, providing the audience with evidence about the communicator's informative intention and  by  means of a common  code  shared  by  communicator and receiver which in fect is used to strengthen ostensive-inferential communication.  Ostensive communication is seen by RT as a request for attention through an ostensive stimulus. There may also be  What s  in a Title 97 unintended ostensive corrununication, as  in the  example of a yawn intending to indícate the subject s tiredness but failing to look natural (see Sperber and Wilson, 1986/95: 64) and therefore, making the informative intention mutually manifest instead. What  are the  requirements of the  stimulus  (verbal or nonverbal)  in  ostensive-inferential communication? Sperber and Wilson (ibid.) stated three requirements to be met  by  ostensive stimuli: a) they must attract the addressee s attention; b) they must channel his attention towards the  addresser s intentions; and  c)  they must  reveal the  addresser s intentions. Once they are recognized, a guarantee of relevance creates expectations in the hearer by suggesting that the utterance is relevant enough to deserve the hearer s attention. Starting from this definition provided by RT, let us now consider the title of a (literary) text as a stimulus produced  by  the author  who  intends either  to make  manifest (or  more  manifest) to his  audience a set of assumptions (informative intention) or/and  to make  mutually manifest an intention  to  inforrn (communicative intention). Similarly, the semiotic display in which the title  is embedded  is  also an ostensive stimulus produced  by the  publisher  with the  same dichotomic intention. If  we  move back to Translation, our scheme becomes more complex, since it allows, apart from the author s message (ST), the intervention of more than one translator producing dífferent target versions  (TT1,  TT2  etc)  and certainly  several  publishers issuing a number of editions (in both source and target cultures). 3.  The case in study Since one of the purposes of this paper is to discuss the importance of titles in communication  more  precisely  in  intercultural communication), letus consider  the case of a Romanian literary  text  belonging to the drama genre and its translation ruto English. My intention is to analyse the title and the visual or typographic elements in the cover of the books in  the  source and target editions. First, I wiíl try to compare linguistic ostensive  stimuli  used  by  author and translator in the source and target cultures, as well as the degree of strength acquired by the set of communicated assumptions in either  case.  Also, the dichotomic tendency (informativity versus/and/or motivation) identified by Slama-Cazacu in her experiment will be checked in the case of  the  drama title considered. Finally, the semiotic elements displayed by the front cover will be also discussed in  the  same terms. 4.  Linguistic ostensive  stimuli  n  the T The play under observation is one of the exponential texts in new Romanian drama. Its author s srcinal way of tackling history as well as his modern visión upon the creation of myths by means  of  the  interlock of fentastic elements and documentary data, make him one of the most outstanding figures of Romanian literature with a recognized universal
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