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citation SPA Metáfora



source  origins

The English term metaphor was incorporated from French (métaphore), which in turn came from the Latin metaphora, reflecting the Greek original μεταφορά (metaphorá): a transfer—or  'carrying across/over'—from μεταφέρω (metapherō), composed of μετά (meta) or 'across', and φέρω (pherō) or 'to carry' (Online Etymological Dictionary).


other denominations  other names

There is an important difference between metaphor and metonymy: in both there is a mapping, but “in metonymy the mapping takes place within a single domain, whereas in the case of metaphor there are two domains involved and the mapping takes place across these domains (and not within a single domain)” (Lakoff &Turner 1989: 103). However, in translation studies such a distinction is not frequent, which will be reflected here.


summary  abstract

A metaphor is understood as a mapping or set of correspondences across conceptual domains (see Lakoff & Johnson 1980 and subsequent publications). The human conceptual system is metaphorically structured. Metaphors are essential cognitive mechanisms that allow us to comprehend and conceptualise one concept in terms of another. They permeate the way we think, speak and even act. Our reasoning and cognitive abilities are, to a great extent, based on metaphors, which are pervasive phenomena in language, as Lakoff and Johnson discovered some 40 years ago.

Conceptual metaphors are cognitive in nature, whereas particular linguistic expressions of conceptual metaphors are ‘linguistic manifestations’ of those metaphors. A conceptual metaphor consists of a target, a source, and a mapping between them: “the target conceptual domain is the domain to be understood metaphorically. The source conceptual domain is the domain in terms of which the target is to be understood metaphorically” (Turner 1990: 465). In cognitive studies, metaphor is used to refer to cognitive metaphors, whereas in Translation Studies metaphor usually denotes the linguistic expressions.

Metaphor presents a considerable challenge for translation. Until recently, the two main issues were (1) its translatability; (2) translation procedures. However, research has lately put the focus of interest on the creative power of translators when translating metaphors. This may play a significant role in concept formation in the target language.

Regarding their translatability, there is a diversity of opinions, from the inadequacy of “a single generalisation” about it (Dagut 1976: 32) on the basis that it would be speculative, to holding that not providing translatability generalisations would be to admit that translation theory is incapable of “accounting for the translation of one of the most frequent phenomena” (Van den Broeck 1981: 84).

As for translation procedures, prescriptive approaches (traditional, according to Van Besien & Pelsmaekers 1988: 144) offer comprehensive lists of translation procedures; however, such lists are usually based on pre-conceived ideas on what a faithful translation is and are often endorsed by ad hoc examples rather than supported by studies that reflect real patterns of translation.

Recent research based on descriptive studies of authentic texts -that account for actual renderings of metaphors- suggests that (as Toury had originally suspected) there are more occurrences than had been accounted for (for example, a non-metaphorical element that turns into a metaphor or a metaphor in a target text that does not match anything in the source text; Toury 1985: 26-27). Even more interestingly, some traditionally labelled incorrect translations of metaphors (such as literal translations) are in fact introducing new linguistic metaphors into the target language, bringing about cognitive innovation.


data sheet   record

author Eva Samaniego Fernández
publication date 2022
reference (how to cite) Samaniego Fernández, Eva. 2022. "Metaphor" @ ENTI (Encyclopedia of translation & interpreting). AIETI.
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