Research Output
The metaphorical landscape of the concept of ‘untranslatability’: cultural limitations and affordances
  This paper considers opportunities to explore ‘inbetweeness’ in differing conceptualisations of ‘untranslatability’. Three ontological pathways will be considered as to the potential of different lexicons to capture and mediate cultural differences: one which brings out seemingly unsurmountable gaps between cultures (in a deficit orientated approach positing that equivalence is impossible in translation); a second pathway which considers ways to bridge semantic differences between two languages; and a third pathway which glorifies semantic and cultural unicity by forefronting untranslatability. The examples considered will draw from three particular cross-cultural communicative interfaces: literature, bilingual dictionaries and advertising.
The second pathway which provides the empirical focus of this paper will examine the translations of glosses in bilingual dictionaries which aim at bridging perceived cultural gaps by providing referential ‘stepping stones’ between two cultures (Tallarico, 2013). This will be illustrated by a comparative sample between two large bilingual English French dictionaries with questions raised as to the selection of particular cultural referents.
Consideration of these pathways will be situated in an academic context which considers the potential of linguistic translation as learning opportunities to apprehend, mediate and appreciate values other than one’s own (Cook, 2010).

  • Type:

    Conference Paper (unpublished)

  • Date:

    19 June 2017

  • Publication Status:


  • Funders:

    Edinburgh Napier Funded


Penman, C. (2017, June). The metaphorical landscape of the concept of ‘untranslatability’: cultural limitations and affordances. Paper presented at 17th International Conference of the International Association for Languages and Intercultural Communication. Interrogating the 'Third Space': Negotiating meaning and performing 'culture'., Edinburgh


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