Schemata in translation: the role of lexical competence


Mohammed Farghal (Kuwait)


Schemata are cumulative cognitive structures which comprise our knowledge of the universe( Rumelhart and Ortony 1977; Rumelhart 1981; Carrel 1983). They manifest themselves in the form of content, formal, and strateg schemata (Casanave 1988). Our meaningful interaction with discourse, whether spoken or written, depends entirely upon our possession of corresponding schemata or, by way of analogy, our possession of cognitive harbors where meaning as encapsulated in ideas or, more technically, propositions may be appropriately processed. The ease or difficulty of the processing of information in a text is a correlate of informativity as an important standard of texuality (Beaugrande de and Dressler 1981). This means that the more predictable the schematic structure, the less informative and subsequently the easier the processing, while the less predictable, it is the more informative and subsequently the more difficult the processing.


Translation activity, essentially being a form of communication, is ipso facto subject to appropriate schematic interpretation. Correct text comprehension, which is based on a successful matching and integration between the schematic structure in the text and the schemata available in the translatorís encyclopedic repertoire, is the only guarantor for producing a workable translation. To this is added the fact that lexical competence may play a key role in mediating between existing schemata and their appropriate activation, because lexis is not only a vehicle to express thought but also a vehicle to understand thought.

The present paper establishes empirical evidence for a schematic model of translation in which markedness plays a pivotal role in lexically-induced schemata. An ambiguous text was deliberately given two working titles that schematically called for different translations. The majority of the subjects, regardless of their lexical competence, opted for the unmarked schema in the body of the text in spite of the fact that their translations were incongruent with the marked schema in the title. This proves that schematic markedness is a more robust factor than lexical competence in translation activity.



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