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Maxim of Manner and Metaphoric Address in Translation

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Khatuna Beridze photoNeither Grice, nor any other speech act theorist has ever opened the scope of monolingual communication, - during which speech acts arise and work, - to cross -cultural communication.

However, this cross-examination would actually make sense for pragmatic theorists, and what is more, would benefit a lot translation theorists and practitioners.

Grice points out, that “what a particular speaker or writer means by a sign on a particular occasion, may well diverge from the standard meaning of the sign (Grice, 1957, 381)

This formulation does not hold for the conventional semantic theory: to understand the utterance it is enough to know what the word “means”.

Metaphoric addresses in fiction translation appear to be particularly vulnerable to this approach.

Bilingualism can not carry out all the redemptive works here to rescue out a translator from ambiguous and obscure labyrinths of the intended language-use of the author. It behooves a translator to be a good pragmatic analyst to identify the intended meaning of the utterance, detect the implicit meaning due to the flouting of maxims, produce the same effect in the TL text so that it bear the analogous emotional and aesthetic charge.

Unfortunately, this metaphoric addresses are one of the numerous unyielding tasks, which pose even an accomplished translator to desperate mood and untranslatable extralinguistic elements. Take, for example, a slangy address form used as a pun element, like it is in the Truman Capote’s fabulous novel “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”:

“Tomato’s Tomato Missing” (p. 185).

Here, pun is based on the polysemy of the word tomato - 1. as a family name of a Mafioso and 2. an American slangy address form for a young fornicating girl.

Is it so easily translatable into Georgian or in any other language to keep the SL intended meaning in the TL text? Intention-based semantics, as Grice applied to this term, was meant to invoke conversational implicature, capable of communicating much more, than a conventional implicature.

Going back to the Grice’s theory, we would point to the fact, that four maxims can be infringed in several ways. According to Grice, conversational implicatures arise out of the break of the conversational maxims.

We focus over the fourth maxim infringement, (indicated in the “Logic and Conversation” as flouting of maxim), which means to exploit a maxim intentionally, to get a conversational implicature at a figurative level; Irony and metaphor are the two standard devices, exploited for maxim flouting and invoking implicature. Consequently, here comes an argumentation, that a figurative address “tomato” should imply a negative image-building case by the newspaper (intentionally used by the author to outline bias and prejudice leaking through the mass media approach to the issue).

“Tomato” as a slangy metaphoric derogatory marker of address meaning “sweetie”, “girlfriend”, “pussy”, is addressed to Holly Golightly, who has no love affair with the mafia head - Sally Tomato, - thereby violation of the first maxim of quality is outlined: “Do not say that for you lack adequate evidence”.

But what if the SL lexical unit “tomato” has no such slangy derogatory address marker in the TL?

An inexperienced translator may experience an ethno-cultural problem of understanding. Should then it stand as a violation of maxim of manner? (“Be perspicuous and specifically: avoid obscurity, avoid ambiguity, be brief, be orderly”).

We are for to say here “yes”. No equivalent in the TL for a metaphoric address form would definitely arise obscurity, at least at the first phase of perception and processing of information.

Therefore, the cross-cultural examination how Grice’s maxims work, how they are broken and how implication arises, shows that infringing or flouting one maxim in the SL text can invoke infringement of another maxim, maxim of manner for a translator, who definitely poses to obscurity in the SL text.

Metaphoric address forms, like: “a super-sized, king-kong-type rat - (T. Capote, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” p. 89) can flout maxim of quality in the SL text speech act. Grice’s stipulation that a metaphor in general can flout a maxim, should suggest that this stipulation holds for the metaphoric address forms as well. Therefore, we presume, that metaphors, which flout maxims of CP are inclusive of the metaphoric address forms.

Our interest of research lies within how this pragmatic phenomenon adjusts itself to the translation theory and whether there is a possibility of any fast and hard rules for practical translation.

Our interest is also directed to another issue of strategic importance: How is flouting of Grice’s maxims in the SL text speech act reflected in the TL text speech act?

To illustrate this reflection, we pick a sample from the English translation of the Georgian novel “Data Tutashkhia”:

“Bechuni, you whore, chase your bull out! They called from below (103, II).

The lexical unit - bull, has no such metaphoric usage in the English language as it has in Georgian as an address marker of derogation for a male lover.

Hence, flouting of the maxim of the CP in the SL text speech act can invoke flouting of two maxims in the TL text in the case of translation metaphoric markers of address which flout maxim of quality. Translated semantically from the SL text, without communicating the intended meaning of the author, a metaphoric marker of address leads to flouting of maxim of manner, generating therefore the second flouted maxim in the TL text.

In the translation sample above, the SL contained only one flouted maxim (of quality), whereby, the TL contains two flouted maxims (of quality and of manner).


1. Grice H. P. a. "Logic and Conversation." In Cole and Morgan, 1975.
2. Grice H. P. b. "Logic and Conversation." The Logic of Grammar, ed. Donald Davidson and Gilbert Harman, 1975.
3. Grice H. P. "Further Notes on Logic and Conversation", In Cole 1978.
4. Grice H. P. Studies in the Way of Words. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1986.
5. Виноградов В.С. Введение в переводоведение, Москва, издательство ИОСО РАО 2001.
6. Влахов С. Флорин С. Непереводимое в переводе, Москва, издательство “Международные отношения”, 1980.
7. Oxford Dictionary of Slang, Oxford University Press, 1999.
8. NTC’s American Idiom’s Dictionary, “Русский язык”, Москва, 1991.
9. Richard A. S. NTC’s Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions, third edition, NTC Publishing Group, 2000.
10. Amiredzhibi Ch. Data Tutashkhia, English translation, Raduga Publishers, 1985. Translated by Antonina W. Bouis.
Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Moscow, Progress Publishers, 1974.

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