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Zooming In

Micro-Scale Perspectives on Cognition, Translation and Cross-Cultural Communication


Edited By Wojciech Wachowski, Zoltan Kövecses and Michał Borodo

This book explores the influence of culture and cognition on translation and communication and brings together revised versions of papers delivered at the First International TransLingua Conference, organized in 2015 by the Institute of Modern Languages and Applied Linguistics and the Department of English at Kazimierz Wielki University in Bydgoszcz, Poland. The volume investigates various languages and cultures (including Japanese, Hungarian, English, Czech, Polish, German and Swahili) and examines a range of linguistic and translation issues from a micro-scale perspective. Alongside these case studies, it also includes reflections by two internationally renowned scholars, Elżbieta Tabakowska and Zoltán Kövecses, on the interplay between language, culture and cognition and the influence of collective and individual memory on translation.

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1 The interplay between metaphor and culture (Zoltán Kövecses)


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1 The interplay between metaphor and culture

Introduction: Cultural meaning-making

As our starting point, we can take the definition of culture as offered by Clifford Geertz (1973), who wrote: “Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun. I take culture to be those webs, and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretative one in search of meaning” (Geertz 1973: 5). Geertz’s definition of cultures as webs of significance allows us to think of culture as a non-monolithic social construction.

We have meaning-making not only in the sense of producing and understanding language but also in the sense of correctly identifying things, finding behaviour acceptable or unacceptable, being able to follow a conversation, being able to create or generate meaningful objects and behaviour for others in the group, and so forth.

The brain is the organ that performs the many cognitive operations that are needed for making sense of experience. These include categorization, figure-ground alignment, framing knowledge, metaphorical and metonymic understanding, conceptual integration and several others (see, for example, Kövecses 2006). It can be assumed that the same cognitive operations that human beings use for making sense of experience in general are also used for making sense of language.

In the emergence of meaning, that is, in the process of something becoming meaningful, the human...

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