Dissertation > Language, writing > Linguistics > Translation Studies

A Research on Verbal Humor Translation Strategies From the Perspective of Relevance Theory

Author LiDongXue
Tutor ZhangZhiQiang
School Henan Normal
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Relevance Theory Optimal Relevance Verbal Humor Translation Strategies
CLC H059
Type Master's thesis
Year 2012
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Relevance theory, which was first put forward by Dan Sperber and Deirdre Wilson in their joint bookRelevance: Communication and Cognition in1986, provides a more unified theoretical framework fortranslation study and explores the communicative nature of translation. So the present study aims to explainsome issues of humorous utterance translation from the perspective of relevance theory with a close casestudy of the English version of Zhao Benshan’s comic sketch “Bu Cha Qian”.Relevance theory holds the idea that human communication is an ostensive-inferential cognitiveprocess and relevance is the principle that guides the audience to grasp the communicator’s communicativeintention against all other contextual assumptions. Gutt (1991) considers translation as a mechanism of thebrain involved in cognitive inferential process and it is verbal communication behavior. The object oftranslation study is the mechanism of the brain not utterance itself or the process of producing utterance.Verbal humor translation, as a special kind of cross-cultural communication, also has the same nature oftranslation, thus relevance theory can also give a satisfactory explanation over verbal humor translation.Zhao Benshan has always been regarded as “the Oriental Comic King” and most of his humor worksare full of wit and language skills that trigger laughter. However, that laughter is the most difficult part toconvey in translation fields. With a close analysis of both the original text and the English version of “BuCha Qian”, this thesis tries to explore some translation strategies applied in the translated text from theperspective of relevance theory. Some translation can very well achieve the humorous effects whereas someare not that satisfactory due to the obvious differences between cultures and other factors.Through the research of this paper, we can make the conclusion as following: According to relevancetheory, verbal humor translation involves two processes of ostensive-inferential communicative activity andthree participants. The translator plays a double role in the whole process, that is to say he is the audienceof the first communicative process and the speaker of the next one. In each process, a translator shouldkeep in mind that optimal relevance is the criterion of translation activity and guarantees the success ofcommunication. Besides, the mechanism of laughter-provoking is due to two principles. One is thedisparity between maximal relevance and the optimal relevance; the other is the assessment of relevance, which is determined by the proportion between contextual effects and processing effort. Humorousutterance is always implicitly and indirectly expressed, so when doing humor translation the translatorshould try to translate the original humor in an ostensive way and at the same time has a correct evaluationof the cognitive environments and the inferential abilities of the target audiences so that optimal relevancecan be achieved.

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