Investigating Extra-linguistic Presupposition in English-Arabic Translation

Academic Paper, 2020

7 Pages, Grade: B

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1. Introduction

2. Pragmatic and translation

3. Presupposition and the field of translation

4. Nonlinguistic presupposition

5. Data Collection and analysis

6. Conclusion



This paper explores the extralinguistic presupposition during the process of translation from English to Arabic. The study is based on the pragmatic analysis of both versions, the comparative study is carried out according to Baker's pragmatic equivalence. It tries to show how important pragmatic analysis and knowledge, especially in the case of extralinguistic presupposition. It, also, noticed that there is a gap to be bridged in translation from English into Arabic at this level. The results proved that some English pragmatic structures are not found in Arabic.

1. Introduction

Translation is an activity that aims at conveying meaning of a given linguistic discourse from one language into another, rather than the word, phrase or grammatical structure of the ST. A sentence is not viewed as an abstract structure made up of pieces filled by items. It is rather a semantic unit conveying message. According to Baker (1992) the work should move away from the syntactic organization and concern with reality, precisely because that reality can be investigated in situation and texts for the translator rather in language.

Understanding utterances is not only a matter of knowing the meaning of linguistic items written or spoken in the way which they are combined, it also includes investigating inferences. This paper adapts Baker's (1992) as theoretical framework and pragmatic theory to translation practice as staring point. The basis of extralinguistic information and the assumption that the addresser has aimed to meet certain standards of communication. As far as translation is concerns, the translator has to do this/her best to translator as much of the original meaning she/she can into TL. The translator, therefore, is often advised to make some pragmatic modification in order to accomplish this task. These modifications may cause gaps between TL and SL. Such gaps are generally caused by cultural and conceptual differences between English and Arabic translation. This study aims to develop translator's ability to analyse some English Arabic translation problems at extralinguistic presupposition. Also, it aims to provide systemic account, as well as practical solution to extralinguistic presupposition.

2. Pragmatic and translation

Pragmatics is a sub-branch of general linguistics like phonology, semantics, syntax, morphology and stylistics. Within the theory of meaning, pragmatics is generally concerned with implicit meaning, inference, the unsaid and the way that language structure deals on this background of the presumed and inferred utterance (Levinson 2000). The importance of applying semantics theory to the approach of translation has been suggested by translators. Nida (1974) proposes that translation practice deserve a systemic theory, in particular semantic theory as the theoretical frame. Pragmatic approach to translation has been helpful in developing models of shift translation and the element of pragmatic have been embedded into theories of translation.

Leech (1983: i) defines pragmatics as "the study of how utterance have meaning in situation". It can be said that pragmatics is act to specify the meaning of a linguistic expression by appealing to context which it is embedded. "by specifying a level of meaning that is context-dependent, pragmatics concentrate on how linguistic expression are encoded by their context" (Levinson :201). In this respect, Baker (1992:217) defines, pragmatics as " the study of language in use". It is rather the study of meaning, not as generated by linguistic system but conveyed used by participants in a communicative situation. There is no doubt that translation is an important mean of communication. While the central problem of translation is how to choose the translation method that is most appropriate to a certain text, there are other problems that need more consideration and analysis. Such problems appear when, for instance, one translates presupposition text.

In many conversations, the speaker produces an utterance or a sentence by which she/he addresses to the hearer in a given context with intention of conveying a certain meaning. Thus, it is assumed that participants in a communicative activity observe a set of rules of principles (Grice 1975).

3. Presupposition and the field of translation

The term presupposition refers to those assumptions which appear to be built to the linguistic structure of the text and which relate linguistic structure to extralinguistic context in terms of the inferences which are expected to be made about this context (Levinson 1983). As suggested by Yule (1996:199), "speakers continually design their linguistic message on the basis of assumption about what their hearer already known". Baker (1992:259) define the term presupposition as a "pragmatic inferences" relating to linguistic and extralinguistic knowledge that a sender assume the receiver to have which is necessary to retrieve the sender's message. In this regard, presupposition identifying the meaning of linguistic expression by relating context in which it is said. By specifying a level of meaning that is context-dependent, pragmatics concentrates on how linguistic expression are encoded by their context (Levinson 1983).

4. Nonlinguistic presupposition

This type is one of the most problematic presupposition because, in the absence of conclusive evidence to what other people's knowledge or belief could be, a interlocutor can only make assumption about such Knowledge. Extralinguistic presupposition includes of contextual and cultural knowledge of the source text that a target reader is assumed to have by translator. It can be assumed that all target text reader have the same knowledge as the source text reader do. In this respect, the translator should take into account the target reader background knowledge and to know how the TT meet the culture of the target reader. Nord (1997) suggests that in the ST-TT analysis, cultural presupposition is necessary. She (ibid) shows that when analyzing the presupposition, a translator may find out that the occurrence of many problems actually results from the divergence in the cultural back knowledge between the TT and ST readers. Her solution for this problem is to make comparison of the intended function of ST and TT, for example :

Helen told me that to give Tom money was like carrying coals to Newcastle.

اخبرتنى هلين ان اعطاء المال لتوم، كمثل ان تحمل فحم الى نيوكسل

Most of English readers know that Newcastle is the place rich of coal, so they know that sentence mean Helen believed that it was unnecessary to give Tom money because he was rich just like Newcastle has plenty of coal. The problem for the translator who like the proceeding example to face how to deal with situation when his TT reader cannot assume to have the cultural background of the language.

5. Data Collection and analysis

All extracts has been taken from the Arabic version Dickens's famous novel, Oliver Twist with its original. These extracts are chosen because they involve some problems of pragmatic issues during the process of translation from English to Arabic. The data is collected by comparing the Arabic translation of the mentioned novel with its original at extralinguistic level. This novel has been translated by Dar ALhilal. The author has chosen this novel because it full of extralinguistic issue, since the characters in the novel because like ordinary human being during the conversation.

In translation, extralinguistic presupposition is the culture knowledge of source text that a target reader assumed to have by the translator:

(1a) It chanced one morning that Mr. Gamfield, a chimney sweeper, went hhis way down the high street, deeply thinking of how to pay certain rent he owed to his landlord. (Oliver Twist, p174)

حدث ذات يوم ان السيد غامبلفيلد، منظف المداخن كان يسلك طريق عبر الهاى ستريت ، وهو يفكر بعمق في كيفية دفع بعض الايجارات التى يدين بها للمالك (اوليفر تويست، ص 174)

In the above sentence, the write presuppose the knowledge that High Street in this context refers to famous street in the city. But this would not make any sense for Arabic readers. Consequently, the translator must add some information for his nominal phrase like High, or to translate the word instead of transliterate. E.g.شارع.

(2a ) A fortnight later, when the fine weather had fairly begun, and every tree and flower were putting forth its yo ung leaves and rich blossom, they made preparation for leaving the house in Chersty. (Oliver Twist, p241)

بعد اسبوعين، حيث بداء الطقس الدافئ اللطيف، انبتت كل شئ براعمها الغنيه، باشروا بالتحضيرات لمغادرة المنزل في تشرستى (الولفر تويست، ص 140)

Most of English reader know Chersty city and this context is tied to particular English culture regional background. The problem for the translator occurs when she/he deal with the situation when his/her TT readers cannot be assume to possess the culture background of the source language.

(3a ) thank heaven upon knee, dear lady, cried the girl. (Oliver Twist, p.289)

ثم صاحت الفتاة، اشكرى السماء وانتى على ركبتيك (اولفير تويست، ص288)

The notion of Gad (الله) in English is totally different from that of Arabic or Muslim in general. The name of Gad in every language must correctly describe his character so as not to upset religious sensitivity. Caution, therefore, should be taken when translating the sentence above. The translator who produces the translation of above example would wrongly presuppose a fair amount of cultural knowledge on most part of the Arabic TT reader.

(4a) It is you fancy, said the Fagin, turning to his companion ( Oliver Twist, p.217)

هذا من نسيج خيالك" قال فاغن وهو يلتفت الى رفيقه (اوليفر تويست، ص 217)

The wordخيالكcan be used to refer to a person who is imaging something. The using of the wordنسيجis to convey of SL word to maintain the flattery style of the source language a SL sentence that does not have a presupposition is sometimes translated in a way that presupposition is kept in the TL sentence.

(5a ) It was a knock (Oliver Twist, p197)

لقد كانت نقرة على الباب (اوليفرتويست ،ص 196)

The use of the wordباب'door', in TL sentence has extralinguistic presupposition that does not appear in SL, that the knock is specifically on the door not something else. hence the translator should retrieve the presupposition from the SL text to the TT text.

6. Conclusion

The data analysis has demonstrated the difference of structure and equivalence. The data analysis has also investigating that each language has its own pragmatic system. Therefore, in translation, English extralinguistic presupposition texts are not translated but replaced by suitable structure in Arabic. All extralinguistic presupposition examples demonstrate a pattern in which certain information conveyed in the original text by means of extralingistic presupposition undergoes a change to the statutes of assentation. This change in statute is brought about deleting the extralinguistic presupposition in the form of an assentation.


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Investigating Extra-linguistic Presupposition in English-Arabic Translation
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Ashraf Egab (Author), 2020, Investigating Extra-linguistic Presupposition in English-Arabic Translation, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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