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Processing metaphorical expressions in sight translation: an empirical-experimental research

Zheng, Binghan; Xia, Xiang


Xiang Xia


This empirical-experimental study focuses on the processing of metaphorical expressions in sight translation (STR), a particular branch of interpreting. In order to test whether linguistic metaphors pose cognitive challenges for sight translators, we designed a within-subject experiment with 30 undergraduate taking an intermediate-level interpreting course at a Chinese university. Three streams of data, namely processing times, translation quality assessments, questionnaires and retrospective interviews, were collected and analysed for triangulation purposes. The results showed that metaphorical expressions took more time to process, and their presence resulted in more translation failures. In other words, the inclusion of linguistic metaphors slowed down the speed of production and compromised the quality of translation, meaning that the STR of metaphors requires more effort than for their literal counterparts. The results also suggested that the extra effort was mainly invested in the reading phase, rather than the production phase. The data revealed that mistranslations resulting from incomplete understanding, and the ensuing imbalance in the allocation of processing capacity between the reading and production tasks, far outnumbered those resulting from the failure to find appropriate target-language terms. By adopting STR as the vehicle for examining metaphorical expressions, this study also shed some light on how metaphors are processed in a bilingual environment.


Zheng, B., & Xia, X. (2013). Processing metaphorical expressions in sight translation: an empirical-experimental research. Babel. Revue internationale de la traduction, 59(2), 160-183.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2013-11
Deposit Date Jan 11, 2013
Publicly Available Date Nov 12, 2013
Journal Babel. Revue internationale de la traduction
Print ISSN 0521-9744
Electronic ISSN 1569-9668
Publisher John Benjamins Publishing
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 59
Issue 2
Pages 160-183
Keywords Reading and production, Sight translation, Translation quality, Processing time, Metaphorical expression.


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