The Journal of Specialised Translation
Issue 05 - January 2006
Towards an understanding of the Structural Gap
Although there is little dispute that languages differ at microstructural level, and although different thinking styles are acknowledged, little work seems to have been done on how this impacts on the written word – on the structure and form of a written text, and none with specific reference to texts in the field of the arts, film writing and reviews. Nor does there seem to be much information on how this impacts on translation procedures. Therefore my article is challenging the invariance requirement of retaining the broad macrostructure of text in order for the target reader to comprehend and appreciate the source text material correctly. This article presents some data from French and English film reviews, and in its capacity as a pilot study, is attempting to move towards an understanding of the structural gap between language macrostructures.
Structural gap, macrostructure, invariance requirements
This pilot study was born of personal and professional intercultural experiences leading me to wonder why transfer difficulties still exist even when the translator possesses good linguistic and intercultural knowledge. It discusses research pursued on the basis of these experiences and translation challenges arising from my practical translation work. These queries formed the starting point for an analysis of twenty film reviews.
Little research exists on specific comparative language studies at macrostructural level – examining the structural gap between languages. This is important because although different thinking styles are acknowledged, little work seems to have been done on how this impacts on the form of written text. This analysis is essential if reliable guidelines for text form transfer are to be established.
The Structural Gap
My argument is that structural change between Source and Target texts (variance in argumentation pattern and form between ST/TT) should not just be due to the presence of "universals of translation" where simplification, explicitation, and reduction in ambiguity are often characteristic of the translator's act of communicative mediation, but that transpositions at discourse and textual levels should be operated consciously and deliberately by the translator to accommodate the target readership cognitive environment – their thinking patters – reflecting the receptor readership's patterns of logic and cognitive structuring.
The theoretical framework for these transpositions is constructed around the Skopos and Relevance theories, but extends Relevance theory and its notion of adequacy to the macrostructure of the article – to the text-form of the article.
This is based on the fact that text-form and structure:
and, that without such restructuring, fidelity to the source text, at anything but an interlingual level, is disturbed.
Interpretative assumptions about text are based on a reader's understanding and experience of its genre or text-type and patterned macrostructure, which enable him/her to infer the nature of the content. However, the reader also interprets texts on the basis of the cognitive environment of his/her educational and cultural background. This affects the content of a translated text insofar as a degree of acculturalisation takes place in the explicitation or implicitation of information provided for the intended readership. However the target reader's cognitive environment should also affect the text form and shape of the target text, the structure of persuasive argument and the physical positioning of units of text. The physical position of certain features common to the film review text-type can itself contribute to the comprehension of text – and my article attempts to show that these physical positions are language-specific. Therefore, at transfer stage, the translator needs to make conscious macrostructural changes or shifts to the film review for target readers to be able to infer the source text producer's intended text content and function.
This challenges the notion that a direct translation (one that bears the closest interlingual resemblance at both micro- and macro-structure levels) should be a translator's goal in the production of a covert translation.
That such a covert approach could imply significant form changes can also be inferred from the differences between source and target language approaches to the film review genre which emerged from Internet guidelines on how to write film reviews. An English language source, (http://ndessortment.com/writing_filmrev_rbej.htm) concentrated on content and objectivity, and a French language source (http://presse.cyberscol.qc.ca/ijp/observer/genres/genres.html) concentrated on structure – first step: identifying the subject; second step: outlining your position; third step: analysis.
Traditionally both form and content were considered invariants at transfer level. Robinson (In: Baker, 2001: 125) notes that by the "mid-first century BC, when Cicero first theorised translation for the education of the orator, translation had come to be thought of as definitively literal." – this view surviving until recently, with Vladimir Nabokov's (1955) assertion that the translator has the duty, "to reproduce with absolute the whole text, and nothing but the text". Skopos theory has since allowed content to be considered a variable, and my article proposes that the Skopos-Relevance framework should likewise allow macrostructure to be considered as a variable. Gutt suggests:
Thus, if we ask in what respects the intended interpretation of the translation should resemble the original, the answer is: in respects that make it adequately relevant to the audience, that is, that offer adequate contextual effects; […] it should be expressed in such a manner that it yields the intended interpretation without putting the audience to unnecessary processing effort. (Gutt, 2000: 107)
The language of film writing and reviews also allows for a partial application of a literary framework, as its language is directed at a broad readership with stretches of narrative text. Umberto Eco and Siri Nergaad discuss narrative theories distinguishing 'story', 'plot' and 'discourse'. These distinctions, despite their literary application may also be part of the key in establishing guidelines for macrostructural shifts. Eco and Nergaad speak of story or fabula, meaning the chronological sequence of events that the reader must reconstruct, plot, that is the arrangement of the events of the story in a given text, and discourse, namely the way in which the linguistic expression is organised. (in Baker, 2001: 222)
This has implications for my research, highlighting the fact that the 'story' - the message of the source text – is an invariant. The 'plot' is linked to text form, and needs to be adapted/retained according to the assimilation possibilities and requirements of the target reader. (An example from literature might be F. Scott Fitzgerald's 'Tender is the Night', where two separate 'plots' of the same 'story' have been published). I feel that in non-literary translation the notion of the shape of a 'plot' becoming a variable is closely linked to our consideration of the size of the unit of translation, and that physical transpositions and shifts of these units can take place at macrostructural level. The implication is that fidelity to the content and message can still be achieved even if larger units of translation are transposed at textual level: examples of this might be to invert conclusion and introduction, or to adapt points of argument to an order more familiar or 'palatable' to the target readership. The organisation of linguistic expression – the discourse - may also need to be adapted to accommodate target readership thinking patterns.
However, I am not proposing a free adaptation of the text, rather I am challenging the notion of what fidelity to the source text actually means at textual level and how a communication fidelity can be preserved. Relevance theory places each utterance in a context of assumptions or premises used to interpret it (Sperber & Wilson, 1986: 15-16). The relevance of an utterance is determined by the extent of its relationship to its context (linguistic, textual or socio-cultural) and to the extent that the reader employs the minimum processing effort to interpret it correctly (Sperber & Wilson, 1986: 125). The thrust of translation based on Relevance theory "is on the comparison of interpretations, not on the reproduction of words, linguistic constructions, or textual features" (Gutt, 2000: 233). Underpinning Relevance theory are the Gricean maxims (quoted by Hatim, In: Baker, 2001: 181) defining successful communication (quality/truthfulness, quantity/informativeness, relevance, and manner). Grice's paper (1975) postulated that obedience to these principles produced successful communication. Relevance theory suggests an inferential model of communication, where content is interpreted rather than decoded. Relevance theory is therefore less concerned with finding equivalences, and therefore allows greater scope for variances between source and target texts. Gutt (2000: 16) cites the work of Reiss and Vermeer (1984), stating:
Having argued that equivalence is not the most basic concept in translation – there is no aspect of the original that will necessarily have to be preserved in translation – they suggest that equivalence is, in fact, only a special case of a more general notion: that of adequacy.
Therefore, in the context of my article, I am examining what an 'adequate' French and English film review is, examining the macrostructure of this text type, so as to establish a pattern of norms needing to be retained on translation.
Sperber and Wilson speak of "mutual cognitive environments" allowing efficient communication (1986: 41) which suggest that where these cognitive environments diverge – as in cultural or educational backgrounds or in the influence that this bears upon rhetoric and expectations of logical progression – communication breaks down.
Relevance theory shows that information is retrieved from text through a series of expectations and assumptions based on a minimum processing effort, and shows how "contextual assumptions" determine "different degrees of accessibility" (Gutt, 2000: 28). Therefore the macrostructure of a text is essential to the processing and retrieval of information by the target readership. Gutt explains:
The central claim of relevance theory is that human communication crucially creates an expectation of optimal relevance, that is, an expectation on the part of the hearer that his attempt at interpretation will yield adequate contextual effects at minimal processing cost. (Gutt, 2000: 28).
He goes on to explain the implication for translators – their responsibility: "… since it is the communicator's desire to have his informative intention recognized, it is also his responsibility to express himself in such a way that the first interpretation that will come to the hearer's mind … and that he will find optimally relevant will indeed be the intended one. This means, in effect, that "communication is an asymmetrical process" (Sperber & Wilson, 1986: 43) where more responsibility lies with the communicator than with the audience". This would suggest that a failure to present information in a fashion or in a textual position that is "optimally relevant" to the reader would in fact be a mistranslation. Gutt explains that a text producer, either source or translator, should be "interested in whether [they] … are as effective as possible". From the text receptor's point of view this would mean that "all that would matter to them is that they are given information relevant to them and their plans" (2000: 57), and in a form acceptable to them, with information positioned so as to be readily retrievable by them.
Any distance culturally or linguistically from the source language and readership will constitute disruption of the communication process. Kaplan notes that English written by a non-native speaker
is out of focus because the [writer] is employing a rhetoric and a sequence of thought which violate the expectations of the native reader. (1966: 4)
He further says that "the requirements of communication can often be best solved by relatively close adhesion to established patterns" (1966: 14). Hervey states that "good translation practice … requires … that TTs be constructed and edited as plausible texts in the target language" (In: Hickey, 1998: 23). Hatim, when discussing norms of politeness in texts, says that these are only fulfilled when "in terms of both their micro- and macro-structure they are seen to fulfill expectations" [Italics mine] (In: Hickey, 1998: 92). Trosborg also comments that "conventions may differ not only between genres but also between 'identical' genres in different cultures. … Text-type conventions are inter-related with speech-act rules and with situational dimensions" (1997: ix).
A fundamental skill of a translator's linguistic competence is his/her ability to adhere to the writing conventions of the target language, including the maintenance of target language textual coherence following the logic patters of the target readership, and adhering to the norms and the linguistic conventions of the target language. These are established by a language community within a communicative setting – a particular text-type – and in the case of this study the genre of film reviews. The translator needs to produce a competent, relevant text, recognisable as a target language film review bridging the structural gaps in information processing.
Culture and Text-form
I have opted for an intercultural approach focused mainly on the influence of education and aspects of social philosophy on language, but haven't investigated all avenues of cultural influence on translation, nor have I attempted to present a comprehensive discussion of all historical and political influences on contemporary French and English.
However, the broad streams of cultural difference between France and England needed to identified, as these would influence prevailing thought patterns evident in written text, such as film reviews. Gutt notes that "the more relevant the sociocultural differences are to the communication act, the less successful translation will turn out to be" (2000: 64).
An important influence on French culture and thinking has been Descartes, who strove to describe the world around him in exact terms and with logic. Descartes certainties were informed by reason. Deviation from logic would introduce error. His rules of logic encouraged the dividing of each problem or difficulty into as many parts as possible and he proposed that intellect become the ultimate human authority. (www.philosophyonline.co.uk). This rationalism forms the basis of much in French culture today, but was never fully adopted in Anglo-Saxon societies where empirical approaches were favoured. I expected this tendency to abstraction and logical reasoning to become apparent in French film texts, and to find evidence of an overt structure in French film reviews.
The French respect for the intellectual does not exist in Britain either. Kidd and Reynolds (2000: 29) note that the concept of the intellectual in France "arises out of the existence of a highly educated elite, before educational reforms had spread to the entire population …", and which is reflected in an intellectualised, more formal manner, of written expression. This can be contrasted with the British tendency to consider intellectuals with an ironic cynicism. An article in The Guardian (Garton Ash, 2004: July 8) commented "Many British people instinctively feel that we don't have intellectuals. Intellectuals are tousle-haired people sitting in cafes, smoking Gauloises and taking about Being and Nothingness. In short, they're French.". This of course has a tremendous effect on the register acceptable to even highly-educated British readers, - a didactic style is not particularly appreciated, and the need to be entertained wittily in the written word, remains paramount. This was certainly true in the film reviews analysed, where an ironic tone was a notable feature of English film reviews, and where the language employed remained relatively simple. Garton Ash continues, "Much traditional British anti-intellectualism is a mixture of philistinism and xenophobia. But not all. There's also a healthy suspicion of being carried away by abstract ideas, and where such ideas can lead you". Overly digressive abstract text is therefore not the accepted norm in English, even in academic texts, let alone film writing and reviews.
The difference in education systems also informs the manner of adult written expression. In French primary education "the emphasis tends to be on information gathering rather than on creative involvement" (Mitchell, In: Kidd & Reynolds, 2000: 54-55). This is also a factor influencing French writing, where from childhood onward, writing fulfils stylised rules and expectations at a high grammatical standard, rather than the freer expression at a lower grammatical standard more frequently observed in British education. Jenkins (In: Kidd & Reynolds, 2000: 113) explains the sources of this in the educational system of the French, "the emphasis in French state schools … on formal intellectual training … [has] … an impact … difficult to measure but which certainly cannot be dismissed." He shows how this becomes evident in the media (2000: 114) "French television has often been derided as elitist and didactic, but such criticism from abroad may also reflect ignorance of what appeals to many French viewers." Cultural and educational differences therefore play an important role in expectations and appeal of style – and form.
House provides the basis for examining cultural differences in the context of translation, explaining that functional equivalence is difficult to achieve because "differences of the sociocultural norms have to be taken into account." (1981:204) and advises that the translator needs to "to take different cultural presuppositions in the two language communities into account" (1981:196). Cornick (In: Kidd & Reynolds, 2000: 279) notes that "France still enjoys a strong written culture" and Munro (In Kidd & Reynolds, 2000: 132) commenting on the French, states:
The veneration of the written language continues in our own time and is perpetuated largely through the school system, where the emphasis is very much on grammar … a much greater awareness of grammar than the average Briton. … [it is] probably true to say that written and spoken French diverge more widely than is the case with English.
An English written text often reflects or adopts aspects of spoken language, even at higher registers, and this is certainly apparent in the language of newspaper film reviews. Munro adds, "French preoccupations with the rules of language has a long history … Institutions were set up as guardians of correct usage, the most important of these being the Académie Française, founded in 1635. The purpose of the Académie was to codify and regulate the language," (in Kidd & Reynolds, 2000: 132) . Therefore we can expect written French to be more highly stylised, controlled, and perhaps stronger macrostructural patterns to emerge, all fulfilling reader expectations if not their actual need. Collard comments on this macrostructural homogeneity:
The Academy introduced into the French cultural system 'the very forceful and enduring idea that all aesthetic production must be judged on its degree of conformity to … rules … (Chartier, 1993, 351, In Kidd & Reynolds, 2000: 39).
Munro adds that "The French Napoleonic reflex towards standardization and control remains intact …" (2000: 135) and that "… symbols of Napoleon ….. for uniformity, standardization, control, centralization, universality, spread, language approached from above as an expression of political power" (2000: 138). These observations were useful to me when establishing my analysis criteria in my research methods and results tables.
Kaplan describes the sequence of thought in English as "essentially a Platonic-Aristotelian sequence, descended from the philosophers of ancient Greece and shaped subsequently by Roman, Medieval European, and later Western thinkers." (1966: 3), and notes further, "the thought patterns which speakers and readers of English appear to expect … is dominantly linear in its development …. Two types of development represent the common inductive and deductive reasoning which the English reader expects to be an integral part of any formal conversation" (Kaplan, 1966: 6) "While it is discursive, the paragraph is never digressive" and also adds "Much greater freedom to digress or to introduce extraneous material is available in French, or in Spanish, than in English" (Kaplan, 1966, 12).
Important too to my research were the studies on contrastive analysis and contrastive rhetoric, a term coined by Kaplan in his 1966 article. He quoted Robert T. Oliver's observation that
Rhetoric is a mode of thinking …. Psychologists investigating perception are increasingly insistent that what is perceived depends upon the observer's perceptual frame of reference. (Kaplan, 1966: 1)
Chandler describes the interplay between thought and form, writing, "Rhetoric is not simply a matter of how thoughts are presented but is itself an influence on ways of thinking which deserves serious attention" (In: Semiotics for Beginners – online reference).
Kaplan concludes that logic is the basis of rhetoric and born of culture, and that "certain linguistic structures are best comprehended as embodiments of logical structures" (Kaplan, 1966, 4). He quotes Dufrenne, who supports the macrostructural holistic approach to text, stating that "the arbitrary character of language … reasserts itself quite definitely at the level of the language taken as a whole" (Kaplan, 1966: 2). Also quoted in this article are Hughes and Duhamel who observe, "a work is considered coherent when the sequence of its parts … is controlled by some principle which is meaningful to the reader" (Kaplan, 1966: 5). My argument suggests that this principle needs to include the logical sequence of argument within a particular text-type – and within this study, the recognisable pattern of a film review. This relates to Sperber and Wilson's comment (1986: 15) that "the context of an utterance is the set of premises used in interpreting it".
Matsuda (1997: 47) also supports the notion that coherence is a culturally relative concept, noting its effect on macrostructure, and when discussing the apparent lack of coherence of texts written by non-native writers in English, he states that the reasons for this fall into linguistic, cultural and educational categories:
The linguistic explanation emphasizes the prominence of the writer's L1 as an influencing – if not determining – factor in the L2 organizational structures … studies that support this explanation regard organizational structures of written discourse as above-sentence-level linguistic structures. [Italics mine].
Matsuda comments also on the cultural explanation of structural differences,
The cultural explanation maintains that organizational structures are strongly influenced, if not determined, by the cultural background of the writer. (Matsuda, 1997: 48)
Grabe and Kaplan's comment, (1989, 263) "Writers composing in different languages will produce rhetorically distinct texts, independent of other causal factors such as differences in processing, in age, in relative proficiency, in education, in topic, in task complexity, or in audience" [italics mine], expresses quite explicitly the divergence between cultural norms of rhetoric.
Christina Schäffner in her discussion of Skopos theory (in Baker, 1998/2001: 236) cites Vermeer's requirement that the translation should use the target language "in such a way that it becomes part of a world continuum which can be interpreted by the recipients as coherent with their situation" (1978: 100).
Schäffner also notes that
The shift of focus away from source text reproduction to the more independent challenges of target-text production has brought innovation to translation theory. … Translators have come to be viewed as target-text authors and have been released from the limitations and restrictions imposed by a narrowly defined concept of loyalty to the source text alone. (in Baker, 2001: 238)
She continues that where there is a change of function, the measurement of the quality of the translation will not be intertextual coherence with the source text, but adequacy or appropriateness to the skopos, which also determines the selection and arrangement of content". [Italics mine]
Re-arrangement of content is crucial to my argument, and although Skopos theory acknowledges the necessity of re-arranging content according to an initiator's function, it does not fully address the need of re-arranging content according to the receiver's text-form expectation within a particular text-type or genre. House takes the Skopos theory to its logical conclusion stating that "the source text is of secondary importance; in fact, it is degraded to a mere 'source of information' that the translator may change as s/he sees fit." (in Baker, 2001: 199), stating "the basic requirement for equivalence of original and translation in this model is that the translation should have a function … the translation should also employ equivalent pragmatic means for achieving that function". This seems to support my argument that pragmatic equivalence requires an equivalence of rhetorical appeal. Ignoring structural differences characterising differences in thinking patterns of Source and Target readerships simply to retain an equivalence of form would cause what House terms (In: Baker, 2001: 199) "dimensional mismatches".
Hatim (In Baker, 2001: 264) in his definition of meaning describes "connotative" meaning which is relevant to my study, as text structure and argumentation development form part of the connotative expectations of a film review reader. He develops the importance of position within text:
Basically, text structure analysis involves identifying interactive acts and siting them within some larger interactional frame. In practice, we are conscious that each element of structure, whatever the analytic model one happens to be working with, is ultimately active in fulfilling a particular function (for example, an event in a narrative or a step in an argument). (in Baker, 2001: 264)
In my pilot study I would like to show that understanding the steps in an argument cannot only be determined by the style or logic of the text producer. My intercultural approach is striving to show that understanding a text is also determined by the rules of argumentation of the reader, dependent on his cognitive environment. Therefore, the expositional or argumentative text-type (and a film review contains elements of both of these) in translation needs to follow the expositional style of the reader's expectation within a particular genre, and that the argumentation needs to leave the structure of the source language behind to work in the target reader's world.
Hatim (In: Baker, 2001: 264) also addresses the issue of Texture, described as "structure-in-detail", examining cohesion and theme-rheme analysis. This was relevant to my research methods, and in determining comparative criteria of the French and English film reviews. I am suggesting that different mindsets will consider different text patterns as cohesive, and will interpret coherence differently.
Differences in text structure, reflecting differences in thought, reflect differences in perceptions of reality.
It is also becoming clear that, as in any other form of rewriting [translation] implies manipulation and relates directly to ideology, power, value systems and perceptions of reality." (Hickey, 1998: 1)
Therefore a film review is recognised by a particular culture not just by content but by form. Nord notes:
Situations are not universal but are embedded in a cultural habitat, which in turn conditions the situation." (1997: 1).
Part of the role of a film review is to encourage (or otherwise) the reader to see the film, or as Nord describes it, "the appellative function … directed at the receiver's sensitivity or disposition to act" (1997: 42). However she continues, "the appellative function will not work if the receiver cannot cooperate" (1997: 43). A film review's effectiveness is therefore dependent on the reader's cooperation, which in turn is dependent on recognisable macrostructural patterns retrievable by that reader.
This is supported by Nord's observation that
Genre conventions are the result of the standardization of communication practices. …If a target text is to be acceptable as representative of a target-culture genre, the translator has to be familiar with the conventions that the target text is to conform to . … A comparison between the conventional features of the source text and the genre conventions implied by the translation purpose may highlight the need for adaptations in the translation process." (1997: 53-4).
Therefore a translator would need to adapt the form of a film review, as his readership requires familiarity with the type and pattern of film reviews for them to be optimally effective. Disruption of these culture-specific patterns can therefore disrupt comprehension. Nord notes: "The problem is that a form that is conventional in one culture may be unconventional in another." (1997: 44).
The Pilot Study
My study is also deliberately limited to the European genre of film review. Investigating the Canadian French or US English typologies was beyond the scope of this article. Nor did I delve into Canadian French thinking in comparison with its European French counterpart, nor did I seek to compare US and British patterns of thinking or argumentation. This is a field available for further study. I have chosen samples of original non-translated writing in both languages, so as to present as natural a form and structure for both French and English film review texts. The twenty film reviews of various lengths have been taken from non-specialised sources, daily and weekly newspapers, such as The Guardian, The Evening Standard, Le Monde, Libération. The texts were analysed on the basis of a set of criteria developed from existing work on macrostructure by looking for specific features in specific locations in the text, then deciding whether a particular feature in a particular location was a predominant characteristic of either French or English texts. The results obtained could then serve as the basis for translation transfer guidelines, outlining necessary macrostructural shifts.
Full source, criteria and analysis information is presented at the end of the article, along with the tables of results, providing exhaustive details of differences revealed on text analysis.
French and English film reviews seem to differ in their macrostructures in three specific areas.
One is the clear demarcation of contextual information, narrative and opinion observed in French reviews, in contrast to the interleaving of information, narrative and opinion in English reviews. French reviews begin with context, then present narrative, then build up to an opinion. English reviews inform you of the text producer's opinion from the outset, the opinion 'flavouring' the narrative description and the contextual information.
The second is the difference in style and register. French reviews use a mainly formal register, and have frequent examples of stylised rhetorical groupings of three. French texts also divide their longer sections of texts with extremely short sentences (one to three words). Some informality is present in French, and signalled with colloquial language or anglicisms, but is less frequently observed than in English reviews, where mixed registers predominate and are strengthened with informal punctuation markers (using a dash). In general, French reviews seemed slightly more reverential in tone, with less irony than the English. The formulaic French presentation seemed to lend greater authority to the review, whereas English reviews used a neutral register mixed with neologisms, colloquial expressions, and ironic metaphors. This seemed to lower the register and thereby the level of specialisation – perhaps this is to engage the reader's sympathy and to build trust between text producer and receiver? English irony is a style and tone issue, but it becomes a macrostructure issue when it becomes the chief vehicle for opinion and interleaves the contextual and descriptive elements of the review.
Structures of a neutral register in French would, if adopted in English, seem far too erudite for comfortable reading, especially in the context of media and the arts, where texts in English are expected both to inform and entertain. A register which was too high, and which would imply too much hard work on the part of the reader would no longer entertain. This confirms Gutt's relevancy principle, where minimum processing effort produces an ideal text.
The third difference was that French texts seem to have greater descriptive content, whereas the English text producer seemed to make the assumption that the reader 'knew the story'. Does this reflect review reading in the two countries? Do the French read their reviews before watching the film, to guide them, and do the English read their reviews after, to confirm their opinion?
In the film genre certain difference patterns in macrostructure are apparent – the French often demand a greater descriptive approach, a narrative précis, and seem far more ready to quote additional external sources to support the critic's analysis – the English use this genre to be entertained as well as informed. Whether these differences are genre-specific, and dependent on reader expectations within this text-type, or whether these differences are questions of socio-educational influence on the macrostructure of discourse and text in general is difficult to say in such a small study.
Nord (1997: 56) notes: "Comparative linguistics … would have to be analyzed on the basis of large corpora of parallel texts". However, the analysis of this particular text type, even with its strong subjective nature, has revealed very interesting results.
My pilot study was further limited by analysing only reviews of 'best-seller' films of predominantly Anglo-Saxon origin. The reviews I analysed, discussing films often of an escapist genre, might also be highlighting a difference between the French and Anglo-Saxon approach to this theme. French films are also often based on real-life as opposed to the Anglo-Saxon approach to cinema reflecting a greater need for escapism. This too can have an effect on how films are watched in the two countries, on how critics perceive different films, and particularly on how they perceive and write about films outside their particular national genre. Perhaps French critics have a different perception or less experience of the escapist genre?
The convention of naming the film critic creates a media persona with a strong personal style. Film reviews do certainly seem to reflect text producer style to a significant degree. This subjectivity of content may put a veil on some macrostructural issues, but I have attempted to show that even within this typology there are sufficient differences in macrostructure between English and French to warrant a larger study, examining these trends further.
Perhaps my reviews were also influenced by the position of cinema within the cultural framework of their countries, with France considering cinema as part of a higher cultural plane than in Britain. Harris notes that
French cinema is commonly perceived in terms of a number of consistent traits: at the top of the list is that it is a cerebral and self-consciously artistic form of expression. …… an intellectual approach to filmmaking, demanding more spectator input … more daring, more stylish and more intellectually conceived than mainstream Hollywood products. (Harris in Kidd & Reynolds, 2000: 209)
Therefore the lack of irony in the French reviews could also be due to a greater respect for this aspect of the arts, demonstrating a more reverential approach. French humour is generally considered sharper than English, and maybe its absence from the reviews illustrated the relative positions of cinema in the cultures of the two countries.
My proposal is one of increasing the units of translation to sizeable rhetorical chunks, and operating shifts of position at translation transfer stage. Nord (1997: 68) commenting on Vinay and Darbelnet's work (1958) "… defined the translation unit as a unité de pensée linguistically materialized as "le plus petit segment de l'énoncé dont la cohésion des signes est telle qu'ils ne doivent pas être traduits separément ("the smallest utterance-segment in which the cohesion of the signs is such that they do not have to be translated separately"). She adds (1997: 69) that larger units can be considered such as 'the complex semantic-pragmatic values of the text-type'. Schulte (1987: 2) notes "Translators do not engage in the mere transplantation of words, their interpretive acts deal with the exploration of situations that are constituted by an intense interaction of linguistic, psychological, anthropological, and cultural phenomena". An "exploration of situation" presupposes a more macrostructural approach.
Larson (1984: 38) also acknowledges the presence of "information for which there is no form" but "part of the total communication intended or assumed by the writer" – and although some of this is simply implicit information, part of this unstated communication is also the macrostructural package, for example, the physical position of different elements of a film review in a particular language.
Therefore if we increase what is defined as a unit of translation to the size of a rhetorical unit, radical changes to the form of the target text can be made in accord with the expectations of the target language readership. Could this become a structural compensation bridging the structural gap between languages?
Kussmaul notes differences in macrostructure "… in Anglo-Saxon countries there are definite rules concerning a stringent and linear argument.", and that "… in English texts there are more metacommunicative utterances, which refer to the structure and line of argument" and notes the implications of this, "… we might be faced with sanctions if we do not comply with cultural norms, and if we do not comply with target cultural text-type conventions, this might well result in the texts loss of acceptability" (in Trosborg, 1997: 71, 72). He questions:
Shall we preserve the source-text-type structures and thus create a kind of alienation effect, or shall we conform to the target-text-type conventions and thus create a text which looks perfectly normal? (in Trosborg, 1997: 80).
Harvey (1995: 84) recognises the need to "naturalise" text, and Toury's observation of translation "as invariant[s] under transformation" (1980: 12) allows me to consider the film review content as my invariant, and a physical shift of this content as my transformation. Vinay and Darbelnet (in: Translation – Sager & Hamel, 1995: 346) speak of modulations, where the translator may be called on to "change a point of view … [or] … a category of thought". This could be extended to a modulation of rhetoric – a change in the nature and form of the argumentation. Nida's dynamic equivalence could be said to support my approach as he comments that "the focus of attention is directed, not so much toward the source message, as toward the receptor response", and that "correctness must be determined by the extent to which the average reader for which a translation is intended will be likely to understand it correctly" (In: Nida & Taber, 1969: 24). Bakker, Koster and Van Leuven- Zwart (In: Baker, 2001: 228) speak of shifts dependent on stylistic, ideological or cultural criteria, and Popovic (1970: 79) says shifts are "all that … fails to appear where it might have been expected" [Italics mine], supporting my suggestion of radical form change. In fact, Bakker, Koster and Van Leuven-Zwart (In: Baker, 2001: 228) point out that no alteration at transfer stage can also be interpreted as a shift, "violating the expectations of the target system, a target text may acquire a function other than that fulfilled by the source text in the source system". Therefore violating the rhetorical expectations of the target readership could lead to a serious breakdown in communication – and translation is primarily an activity of communication.
Delisle describes invariance requirements as a translator's " conceptual obligation … "with respect to those elements of a source text that must remain invariant in a translation." Therefore I propose a variancerequirement where a conscious change in structure is a requirement for correct comprehension and appreciation of the source text by a target reader. Delisle states that "translators usually perceive invariance requirements intuitively when accounting for the text type and purpose of the translation." (1999: 150). I am proposing variance requirements when accounting for text type and purpose in translation.
My optic has been pre-translation analysis, which is useful to the translator, but does not actually affect the translation process. Further research could providing guidelines for the application of this research – how to bridge the structural gap between the two languages. If translating from Source French to Target English, it seems that the rigid structure of the review may need to be altered. Opinion and description in French do not seem to mix as easily as within English reviews.
It seems likely, pending further research, that a translator would need to 'normalise' his target text in the domain of film writing and reviews to accommodate reader expectations of a text that entertains, with greater emphasis on ironic critique than descriptive narrative.
Is this adapting text rather than translating it? Any target text without this macrostructrural approach will no longer fit comfortably into the required target text typology of film writing and review.
In conclusion, it seems that variance in form should be a conscious accommodation of the thinking patterns of the target language audience reflecting the receptor's logic and cognitive structuring.
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Tables of Results
Predominant macrostructural features of French film reviews:
genre, industry, historical, director
Predominant macrostructural features of English film reviews:
Results Tables in Full
Octavia Haure holds an MA Applied Translation Studies from London Metropolitan University where she teaches translation theory. She also teaches English as a foreign language. Her research interests encompass a wide range of intercultural issues in relation to translation processes and products. She can be reached at email@example.com.