Reframing Realities through Translation

by Ali Almanna (Volume editor) Juan José Martínez Sierra (Volume editor)
Edited Collection X, 290 Pages


This volume affords an opportunity to reconsider international connections and conflicts from the specific standpoint of translation as a dynamic, sociocultural activity, carried out and influenced by numerous stakeholders. The various chapters contained in this volume survey a wide range of languages and cultures, and they all pivot around the relationships that can be established between translation and ideology, re-narration, identity, cultural representation and knowledge reproduction. The ultimate aim is to shed light on the actual act of translating in which the self is well-presented and beautified and the other is deformed and made ugly. In this volume, due consideration is given to the main frames (be they characterization, interpretive or identity frames) as well as to the nonverbal factors that play a fundamental role in forming the final shape of the translated product.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Figures
  • Tables
  • Introduction: Translation as a Set of Frames (Ali Almanna)
  • 1 Adaptive Creativity: Restructuring Meaning, Language, and Identity in Translation (Joaquim Martin Capdevila)
  • 2 Sicilian Twerps and Afghan Boys: Translating Identity Issues into English from Italian Children’s Literature in 1966 and 2011 (Claudia Alborghetti)
  • 3 Negotiating Identity in Self-Translation: Stereotyping and National Character in the Speeches in English of Italy’s Ex-Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (Valeria Reggi)
  • 4 Translating Saddam: Some Problems of Ideology, Mediation and Manipulation in Arabic into English Translation (John Moreton)
  • 5 Realities Reframed through Translation: The Case of MEMRI’s English Translations of the Arabic Editorials on Daesh (Nael F. M. Hijjo and Kais Amir Kadhim)
  • 6 The Metadiscursive (Re)framing of Fact, Truth and Reality in Interpreted Political Discourse: A Corpus-based CDA on the Premier’s Press Conferences in China (Chonglong Gu)
  • 7 Translational Reconstruction of Realities: A Structurationist Approach (Shabnam Saadat)
  • 8 Ethics in the Translation of Food Labels (María del Mar Rivas-Carmona)
  • 9 Bible Translation and the Reconceptualization of the Universe: Negotiating the Christian and Traditional Igbo Conceptualizations of Life after Death (Uchenna Oyali)
  • 10 Roy Campbell’s Translations of Lorca: An Appreciation or an Appropriation? (Andrew Samuel Walsh)
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index
  • Series Index

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Ali Almanna

Introduction: Translation as a Set of Frames

Setting the scene

Just as other people consciously and subconsciously rely on certain cognitive frames to organize complex phenomena into coherent, understandable categories to make sense of them (Kaufman et al. 2003), translators also use these cognitive frames to interpret the world around them by using interpretive frames, and then represent that world to others by using representing frames. As such, translation can be seen as a set of frames, whether interpretive (activated at the stage of understanding) or representing (activated at the stage of re-expression or re-formulation).

Before going deeper in analysing the types of frames, the term frame itself needs to be defined and clarified. Following Goffman (1974/1986), who developed symbolic interactionist ideas on how the self is constructed interpersonally, van Hulst and Yanow (2016: 94) state that frames “guide the ways situational participants perceive their social realities and (re)present these to themselves and to others”, adding that “a frame reflects actors’ organizing principles that structure those perceptions”. From a cognitive standpoint, frames are defined by Lakoff (2004/2014: xi–xii) as “mental structures that shape the way we see the world”. Frames not only “shape the goals we seek, the plans we make, the way we act, and what counts as a good or bad outcome of our actions”, but they also “shape our social policies and the institutions we form to carry out policies” (ibid.). In this regard, Lemmouh (2008: 219) holds that what makes up the language user’s worldview is his/her relationship with society and the institutions that form that society:

This world view is underpinned and strengthened by a language use which is affected by the ideology of the society. Consequently, the ideology in discourse is something ←1 | 2→natural to an ordinary uncritical reader who has already been socialized into his/her society’s mode of thinking.

Therefore, when we come across a system of beliefs, assumptions, worldviews and experiences that are inconsistent with our own, we become aware, in one way or another, of these differences and we may act accordingly. This is in line with Goffman’s (1974: 345) view that not only do we perceive frames, but we take actions based on how these frames are perceived by us. Our actions can be easily identified when we translate a text containing systems of beliefs and assumptions which are different from our own, in particular when we reframe realities differently. This is because people in general, including translators, tend to construct frames differently, activating some interpretive frames that feed into their accumulated value systems, and blocking others that seem irrelevant or counter-intuitive. Similarly, certain representing frames are activated while others are excluded, thus reframing realities and reproducing knowledge in different ways, despite the fact that we talk about the same events, participants, and circumstances.

The same event(s) encoded in the original text can be framed in different ways, thus promoting “competing narratives, with important implications for different parties to the conflict” (Baker 2006: 107). As devices injected into a text by the language user in order to evoke a certain image, frames are a dynamic conscious operation of constructing reality. In this context, it is not only the language user’s linguistic competence that may affect how people understand the world around them and how they talk about it, but also many external factors. This is consistent with the view stated by Lemmouh (2008: 219) that the “appropriateness of forms of language is established by societal factors outside the control of the language users, and the process of choosing an appropriate form of langue is governed by socialisation”. In order to make this point clear, let us consider the following BBC news item quoted along with two translations suggested by translation students (Almanna 2014: 61–62):

←2 | 3→

Despite the fact that the denotative meaning of the adjective dead is “no longer alive”, thus easily transferred into Arabic with words like مات [to die], لقي حتفه [to meet one’s death], وافته المنية [to meet one’s death], لفظ أنفاسه الأخيرة [to emit the last breath], ميت [dead], etc., the translator of TT2 has activated a particular interpretive frame at the stage of understanding and a particular representing frame at the stage of reformulation, thus transforming the neutral lexical item dead into a politically and religiously loaded lexical item استشهد [to be martyred]. By doing so, s/he produces a text that meets his/her own system of beliefs, assumptions, experiences and worldview, thus activating a narrative different from that promoted by the first translation, where the adjective dead has been translated with the more neutral توفي [to pass away].

Frames are used by some individuals as tools to rationalize their attitudes towards what exists in the real world and to engage as many people as they can when representing the event to their audience. To bring more people to their cause, translators need to give full consideration to others’ “conceptual and/or emotional setting or viewpoint in relation to which a situation is experienced” (Watzlawick et al. 1974, in Kaufman et al. 2003: online), which they do by knowing the recipients of their texts and trying their best to live up to their expectations.

People adhering to different political systems and religions, with their different beliefs and assumptions, tend to view the other through a set of characterization frames that can be positive or negative. When they are positive, the self will be influenced by the other relatively easily. However, ←3 | 4→when they are negative, the self will see the other as a threat by virtue of an identity frame, whereby people view themselves as having a certain identity in the context of specific conflict situations (Rothman 1997). This frame leads individuals to criticize the others and consider them outsiders, focusing on pieces of information and views that forcibly feed into their own identity and reinforce affiliations with like-minded groups. In this respect, van Dijk (1998: 33) states that when we talk about good acts, “OUR people tend to appear primarily as the actors”, but in the case of bad acts, they are assigned to THEIR people. This is because one of the main functions of group ideology is the representation of ours and theirs as two opposing extremes, whereby good acts are highlighted and linked to the “in-group”, while bad acts are underlined and linked to the “out-group” (van Dijk 1998; Lemmouh 2008). The following example, from the Saudi Arabia Al-Riyadh Newspaper, published on 3 April 2015, illustrates the point:

Being influenced by their own accumulated value systems and/or certain conventions and norms formed over time for selecting, producing and consuming news items, the news producers opted for certain lexical items and expressions that feed into their own identity and reinforce affiliations with like-minded groups. Hence, while good acts and relations such as نصرة [support] and إخوان [brothers] are linked to the in-group, bad acts and qualities such as فئة باغية منحرفة [a deviant aggressive group] and استئثار باليمن [to seize Yemen] are ascribed to the out-group. Let us compare the above news item with another version, this time offered by Al-Sabah Al-Jadid Newspaper, published in Iraq also on 3 April and referring to the same event:

←4 | 5→

In this example, those responsible for producing the news item are subject to a different authority and different dispositions, which have led to the choice of lexical items such as تعرض [to be subject to], قصف مدفعي وصاروخي [cannon and missile bombing] and تدخل [intervention], thereby creating a narrative different from that adopted by those supporting Saudi forces.

Structure of the volume

The ten chapters contained in this volume afford an opportunity to reconsider international connections and conflicts from the specific standpoint of translation understood as a dynamic activity carried out by various stakeholders and not just by a translator alone.

In Chapter 1, issues such as adaptive creativity, restructuring meaning and identity are discussed in direct relation to the translator’s work. Joaquim Martin Capdevila holds the assumption that translators are agents who bridge gaps between cultures and, accordingly, translation is a culturally informed interpretation sieved through the prism of very individual perspectives. The moment these cross-cultural differences need to be tackled, the process of translation at the micro level becomes an act of adaptive creativity used by translators to reshape one contextually constructed meaning into another.

The analysis of translations that deal with the (perceived) identity of immigrants can cast light not only on the attitude of the source culture towards these people, but also on how this attitude may change when the text is mediated for a different culture through translation. In Chapter 2, Claudia Alborghetti lays emphasis on the growing number of immigrants reaching Italy and argues that, despite the fact that European ←5 | 6→governments have strived to integrate minority populations into the national life, the question of national identity versus foreign immigration is open to debate. After analysing a number of representative examples taken from two Italian novels, Il treno del sole (Reggiani 1962, translated by Creagh 1966) and Nel mare ci sono i coccodrilli (Geda 2010, translated by Curtis 2011), Alborghetti suggests that the less mediation, the more shared knowledge is expected from the target public, who are thus invited to learn about the other and understand more about the problems related to immigration.

In Chapter 3, Valeria Reggi discusses the dynamics of identity negotiation in institutional communication, with particular reference to the implicit and explicit use of national stereotypes in second language production (self-translation). She presents a pilot study on the speeches in English of the Italian ex-Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and discusses his use of clichés and references to Italianness as a means to embody and reproduce the myth of the nation. The data for analysis were collected by sampling two videos of speeches in English that Renzi delivered to a general audience at Georgetown University in 2015 and Harvard in 2016. The author applies Munday’s model for evaluation in translation to foreground the evaluative stance of the speaker while testing some methodological integrations. The study reveals the complex interplay of rhetorical resources that Renzi used to construct the prototype of Italianness, and his appeal to emotions to naturalize the myth of the nation. Indeed, despite his iconoclastic message, the view of Italy that emerged from his rhetoric was traditional and stereotypical. This was particularly noticeable in the speeches that he delivered in English to a “lay” audience, when he frequently improvised and was not supported by interpreters. Although his culturally loaded message may have been caused by the self-perpetuating, change-resistant nature of stereotypes in general, he may have deliberately played with clichés and commonplaces to build shared knowledge and reinforce a comforting nationalistic tradition.


X, 290
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2020 (April)
Translation Studies Narrative Culture, Ideology and Identity
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2020. X, 290 pp., 14 fig. b/w, 5 tables

Biographical notes

Ali Almanna (Volume editor) Juan José Martínez Sierra (Volume editor)

Ali Almanna holds a PhD in Translation Studies from Durham University and an MA in Linguistics and Translation from Westminster University. Currently, he is Head of the Department of English Language and Literature at Al-Zahra College for Women in Oman, where he teaches linguistics and translation. His recent publications include The Routledge Course in Translation Annotation, Semantics for Translation Students, The Nuts and Bolts of Arabic-English Translation and The Arabic-English Translator as Photographer. Juan José Martínez Sierra works as a senior lecturer in the Department of English and German Studies at the Universitat de València, where he teaches Written and Audiovisual Translation, Intercultural Communication and English Language at undergraduate and graduate levels. He specializes in the teaching and researching of Audiovisual Translation from an intercultural perspective.


Title: Reframing Realities through Translation