M2: Unit 1: Chapter 3 – Point of view (POV)

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Ch 1: Introduction Ch 4: Corpus-Based Translation Studies Ch 7: Limitations & Potential of Corpus Processing Tools
Ch 2: Systemic Functional Grammar Ch 4 Continued: Corpus-Based Translation Studies Ch 8: Bibliography
Ch 2 Continued: Systemic Functional Grammar Ch 5: The Feel of the Texts
Ch 3: Point of View (POV) Ch 6: Advantages of Corpus Processing Tools

Chapter 3: Point of view (POV)

Defining POV

In works of fiction, novelists create fictional worlds which are presented from a particular angle and as readers we are given access to the world of the fiction through a person’s view of the fictionally created world.

Point of view can be divided into two categories: focalisation[1], which deals with the question of whose eyes and mind witness/report the world of the fiction, and mind-style[2], which is a product of the way the characters’ perceptions, thoughts and speech are presented through language.

In narratology, there has been common assumption that the narratological structure of a text is not affected by the translation process.
For instance, Lodge (1990: 4-5) asserts that the medium of the novel is its written word but that ‘all critical questions about a novel’ are not ‘reducible to questions about language’. According to Lodge, a writer’s choice of narrative point of view is part of the deep structure of the text. It follows that the narrative point of view will remain constant when the text is translated into another language.

However, all meanings in a text are ultimately expressed through language and may thus be modified in translation. Consequently, a failure to compensate or preserve linguistic features in translation can affect the reading of the target. It thus seems that Lodge’s account is an unrealistic conception of text production/translation.

As you know, the visibility of translators has become a widely discussed topic[3] in Translation Studies. However, the issue of point of view has remained problematical even if it has come to the fore via different studies including Mossop (1983 and 1998), Folkart (1991), Hermans (1996a;b, 1998 and 2000) and Schiavi (1996). For instance, Mossop explains that  translation is reported discourse: the discourse which is being reported is the ST and the reporting discourse is the TT. Folkart (1991) also argues that both translation and reported discourse are the repetition of previously uttered words (1991: 15)[4].

Many translation studies scholars have been inspired by certain aspects of Halliday’s model and offered valuable models for the study of translations. The model received considerable attention and until recently the textual function has received the greatest attention with e.g. Baker (1992), who offers an application of the systemic approach to the thematic structure and cohesion of a text, and Hatim and Mason (1990 and 1997) who consider the way social and power relations are negotiated and communicated in translations.

However, explicit analyses of the ideational and interpersonal functions are very few.Hatim and Mason (1997) offer a more explicit treatment of some of the linguistic markers of modality and transitivity and resulting translation problems. They however study short passages of text and it seems fundamental to develop the analysis over wider and longer whole texts to see patterns and shifts emerge. This is a  view shared by Munday (1998 and 2002) who draws on SFG and uses corpus-based translation studies tools to analyse ideological aspects in translation. Another valuable account in the field of translation studies is Leuven-Zwart’s method for the analysis of shifts in translation (1989/1990), which is the most extensive and detailed model of shift analysis in translations, but is manual.

Different categories of POV

  1. The spatial point of view refers to the viewing position assumed by the narrator of a story and the temporal point of view refers to the temporal dimension in which the subject of the fiction is framed. Both categories are treated together under the label of spatio-temporal point of view and are realised most importantly through the system of deixis.Deixis in Greek, means ‘indicating’, ‘pointing’ or ‘showing. It is a term used to refer to the function of personal and demonstrative pronouns, of tense and of a variety of other grammatical and lexical features, which relate utterances to the spatio-temporal coordinates of the act of utterance.There are different types or categories of deixis: person deixis (I, you, she, etc.),demonstrative pronouns and adjectives (this and that), definite articles, spatial adverbs (now and then), locative expressions (here and there) and tenses andtemporal categories.2. Then, the point of view on the psychological plane refers to the ways in which ‘narrative events are mediated through the consciousness of the ‘teller’ of the story’ (Simpson 1993: 11). Simpson considers that the system of modality (as defined in Chapter 2) can account systematically for the different points of view exhibited by many works of narrative fiction.3. The last category Simpson mentions, point of view on the ideological plane, refers to the exploration of the value systems and sets of belief, which reside in texts (transitivity (defined in Chapter 2, modality, and deixis).

Another way to look at the notion of point of view is to look at it in terms of what Simpson calls the ‘feel’ of the text (1993: 46). According to Simpson, the feel of the text rests on linguistic manifestations, which are integral parts of the originals such as deixis, modality and transitivity. Therefore, studies investigating changes in point of view or in ‘feel’ need to be extensive because a change in one sentence could be compensated for elsewhere. Levenston and Sonnenschein raise an important issue when they question the effect that shifts in a single feature actually have on the whole structure of a text (1986: 58). Indeed, it is difficult to know when microstructural shifts in the text affect its macrostructure. One cannot help wonder if features that are inconsistently translated or constantly translated in the same direction will cause shifts in a text’s narrative point of view, and will ultimately bring about a change in the fictional universe represented in the texts, or ‘feel’ of the texts. And, as demonstrated previously POV can be investigated and you can look at the potential problems involved in the translation of linguistic features that are linked to the notion of point of view to see how the translator’s choices affect the narratological structures.

In the next chapter, we will see how the tools of corpus translation studies can be used as an asset in the study of the feel of entire texts as they not only allow targeting single individual items in the texts but also provide their wider context.

1 A term created by Genette (1980).

2 A term offered by Roger Fowler (1977).

3 See for instance Venuti’s The Translator’s Invisibility (1995) which focuses on individual translator’s presence in a text, and the literature on feminist translation strategies.

4 Translations are ‘re-enunciations’ and speaking subject ‘puts his or her stamp’ during the re-mediation (1991: 398). Given that the situation of utterance of the speaking voice differs from that of the original, it makes sense to wonder whose voice is heard in a translation: Folkart (1991: 393- 398) argues that the translator’s trace will always be present in the target text, a view also shared by Hermans.