The nature of language and the possible correlation between language, thought, and world have been one of the traditional problems that philosophy has had since ancient times. Even though those matters go beyond translation, they are sometimes ignored when it comes to the actual practice of it. However, if we consider that the pillars of the translation process arecomprehension and expression (that is, the interpretation of a text in a certain language and its reformulation in a different other), it is fundamental to highlight some explanatory models of language and some of the features of its operation. Therefore, the difficulties of defining translation are associated to those of approaching language; as a result, language theories can help the translatorunderstand the limits of the translation’s practice which are not only determined by the abilities one may possess, but also by the unreachable character it has to several philosophers, anthropologists, and linguists.
The Nature of Language
There is not a neutral position when it comes to the nature of language. Rather, philosophers have adopted either a confident one or a skeptic oneregarding it. The first group believes that every term, expression, or linguistic sign refers somehow to certain reality that is not within it. The second one highlights the independence of the terms, expressions, and linguistic signs to certain extent that they give them a reality outside the sign which is hardly intelligible. One example of the first position is Russell’s logic atomism by which heseeks for the perfect language; that is, a language without ambiguity, strictly denotative, in which it is impossible to talk about something that is unknown to us in a direct way. This kind of knowledge, says Russell, is the one formulated by our memory, memories, mental states, and universal facts as opposed to the knowledge by description which does not come from sensitive data. This doctrineuses the logic (propositions linked by logic connectors that can be true or false depending on the simple propositions that form them) in order to know how natural language works, and, therefore, know something about what is being described (the world). One example of the second one is Wittgenstein’s position which denies the designative capacity of words. In other words, it proposes that naturallanguage is much richer than logic’s formal language which is unable to provide a clue about the world. Both approaches are considered to be extreme and could be distant from our interests as translators. Translators are constantly confronted with situations in which they have to choose between a confident and a non-confident position towards language.
Pragmatic Analysis: Usage ImportanceRussell and Wittgenstein’s philosophical discussion arouse interest towards language usage. Pragmatic analysis states that in order to interpret the meaning of what is being said, it is important to state that it is an object in the hands of the speaker (either a mental or a material one) which is used with determined purposes. This analysis has tried to establish a theory of meaning based on its usageand on the situations in which it is used.
The three fundamental concepts in Pragmatics are: presupposition, speech acts, and implications. First, Strawson denominates presupposition as the relationship established between two utterances when the truth of an implicit utterance is the condition for the truth or falseness of an explicit utterance. Second, John Austin affirms that when we usewords, most of the times, we do it in order to achieve something (speech acts); he distinguishes between the fact of saying something (locutionary act), what is done when saying something (illocutionary act), and the effect it has on people (perlocutionary act). At the same time, Paul Grice elaborates a theory of meaning based on the speaker’s intentions. He analyzed the relationships between...