On Linguistic Aspects of Translation by Jakobson

On Linguistic Aspects of Translation by Jakobson


Roman Jakobson (1959)

On linguistic Aspects of Translation

According to Bertrand Russell, “no one can understand the word „cheese‟ unless he has a nonlinguistic acquaintance with cheese.”1 If, however, we follow Russell‟s fundamental precept 教训,告诫 and pla ce our “emphasis upon the linguistic aspects of traditional philosophical problems,” then we are obliged to state that no one can understand the word “cheese” unless he has an acquaintance with the meaning assigned to this word in the lexical code of English. Any representative of a cheese-less culinary 厨房的,烹调的 culture will understand the English word “cheese” if he is aware that in this language it means “food made of pressed curds凝乳” and if he has at least a linguistic acquaintance with “curds.” We never consumed ambrosia 特别美味的,神的食物 or nectar 花蜜 and have only a linguistic acquaintance with the words “ambrosia,” “nectar,” and “gods” - the name of their mythical users; nonetheless, we understand these words and know in what contexts each of them may be used.(人们对词义的理解,进而也是对整个语言含义的理解,而并非取决于人们的生活经验以及对世界的认识,而首先取决于语言本身,取决于对语言的翻译。只要理解了人们赋予词语的意义,也就理解了语言。)

The meaning of the words “cheese,” “apple,” “nectar,” “acquaintance,” “but,” “mere,” and of any word or phrase whatsoever is definitely a linguistic - or to be more precise and less narrow - a semiotic fact. Against those who assign meaning (signatum非感官性的记号义) not to the sign, but to the thing itself, the simplest and truest argument would be that nobody has ever smelled or tasted the meaning of “cheese” or of “apple.” There is no signatum without signum. The meaning of the word “cheese” cannot be inferred from a nonlinguistic acquaintance with cheddar or with camembert一种乳酪 without the assistance of the verbal code. An array 排列of linguistic signs is needed to introduce an unfamiliar word. Mere pointing will not teach us whether “cheese” is the name of the given specimen样本, or of any box of camembert, or of camembert in general or of any cheese, any milk product, any food, any refreshment点心, or perhaps any box irrespective of contents. Finally, does a word simply name the thing in question, or does it imply a meaning such as offering, sale, prohibition, or malediction? (Pointing actually may mean malediction诅咒; in some cultures, particularly in Africa, it is an ominous 不祥的gesture.)

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