Translation on the Basis of Frequency: Compliment and Compliment Response
Compliments are a social phenomenon. In English, there are general rules of their usage, but because of a series of social factors, they vary according to the situation. They also consist of frequently occurring structures/words. In this article, compliments together with compliment responses are briefly discussed. Then, we will try to show that a structure/word that frequently occurs in the source language should be translated to a structure / word occurring with a fairly similar frequency in the target language.
Key words: compliment, compliment responses, translation
In the semiotic trichotomy developed by Morris, Carnap, and Pierce in the late 1930s, syntax deals with formal relations of signs to one another; semantics deals with the relations of signs to what they denote; and pragmatics with the relation of signs to their users and interpreters. More generally, contemporary pragmatics is "the study of linguistic acts and the contexts in which they are performed" (Stalnaker 1972); it involves the context-dependent aspects of meaning.
II. General points about compliment and compliment responses
"A compliment is a speech act which explicitly or implicitly attributes credit to someone other than the speaker, usually the person addressed, for some good (possession, characteristics, skills, etc.) which is positively valued by the speaker and the hearer" (Holmes 1988). The compliment event is a two-unit turn adjancency pair operation (Schegloff and Sacks 1973) in which the first pair part and the second pair part are linked by both temporal and relevancy conditions. In
A: That’s a beautiful sweater.
B: Thanks, my sister made it for me.
B is relevant to and dependent upon A. A compliment and its response are related to each other so that the first part predicts the second to the extent that the absence of the second part is clearly noticeable. However, the two have been treated independently in the literature. Wolfson and Manes (1980) have examined the structure and content of the first on American compliments, while Herbert (1986) and Pomerantz (1978) have treated compliment responses.
Despite the fact that linguists have treated the first and the second pair parts independently, complimenting and responding to compliments are two intimately linked acts. Both function as negotiating solidarity. The primary function of compliments in everyday conversation, according to most analysts, is social; although they can serve a variety of functions, their purpose is to establish, negotiate, maintain, or consolidate social solidarity (Manes and Wolfson 1981, Holmes (1988), Herbert 1990, Johnson and Roen 1992).
Compliments operate within the scheme of conversational postulates such as make the hearer feel good (Lackoff 1975, Goody 1918).
Likewise, wrong translation can be avoided by equipping translation learners with the necessary sociolinguistic information concerning the common speech acts. One such speech act is complimenting. Compliments are surprisingly regular (Wolfson 1983): 85% of the compliments use only three syntactic patterns; two verbs, like and love, account for 86% of the verbs in compliments; only five adjectivesnice, good, beautiful, pretty, and greatconstitute two-thirds of the adjectives used. This high degree of fixedness has strong implications for teachers, translators and interpreters.
The analysis of compliments indicated outstanding semantic and syntactic regularity. Almost all the compliments were semantically loaded (93.7%), and this semantic load was found to generally be adjectival (83.5%); only five adjectives accounted for 67.4% of all the adjectival compliments. The syntactic regularity is also striking: only two syntactic patterns accounted for more than two-third (78.2%) of the compliments. 12 types of compliment responses were distinguished; three of them accounted for 43.8% of the responses. The frequent occurrence of set phrases was also remarkable: 50.4% of all the responses were accounted for by ten formulas.
Wolfson and Manes, in a series of interesting articles on American compliments (Manes 1983; Manes and Wolfson 1980; Wolfson 1981, 1983), found out that the structures of compliments are surprisingly similar: 85% of the compliments they studied consisted of three main syntactic patterns:
1. NP is/looks (really) ADJ
Your raincoat is really nice.
2. I (really) like/love NP
I really like your hair.
3. PRO is (really) a ADJ NP
That’s a neat jacket.
The first pattern covered 53.6% of the compliments in the corpus; the second and third accounted for 16.1% and 14.9%, respectively. Wolfson and Manes also found that only two verbs like and love, accounted for 86% of the positively evaluative verbs. Moreover, it was found that five positive evaluative adjectives- nice, good, beautiful, pretty, and great accounted for two-thirds of the adjectives used, the two most common ones being nice (22.5%) and good (19.6%).
Further works, following Pomerantz (1978) have expanded the unit of analysis to cover both the compliment and its response. (Hurbert 1990; Holmes 1988; Johnson and Roen 1992; Olshtain (1989). In English, the correct (preferred) response to a compliment is unanimously felt to be thank you; the socialization advice to children (say thank you) is also indicative of this. But Herbert (1990) found enormous variation in actual collection of compliment responses. Drawing on the complaint by foreigners about the difficulty of how to accept a compliment, he attributes the difficulty to the "dual semantic-pragmatics" components of compliments, namely 1. Assertion of positive valuation by the speaker, and 2. Verbal gifts offered to the addressee. Pomerantz (1978) claimed that the act of responding to a compliment is governed by two general conditions:
The addressee’s dilemma is how to agree with the speaker, and not to seem to praise oneself. Herbert (1986, 1989, 1990) found 12 types of compliments responses:
Herbert reports that only one-third of American compliments are accepted. Of course this does not invalidate the compliment behavior as an act of offering (negotiating) solidarity since if the speaker intends to make the hearer feel good, the addressee does the same by choosing to avoid self-praise although he indicates that he recognizes the compliment to be a pleaser; hence, he tries to make the speaker feel good. Moreover, we can summarize Pomerantz’s two principles into a broader interpretation of the solidarity principle; one can confirm solidarity either by agreeing with the speaker or avoiding self-directed praise (Herbert 1990). Return responses, anyhow, seem to fulfill the two conditions by establishing balance between speakers by the mutual exchange.
Compliment events were, for ease of reference, classified into four classes depending on their content.
Compliments are expression of positive evaluation; a speaker wishes to "make hearer feel good" (Goody 1978) through expressing that he (the hearer) has a certain positive feature. This positive evaluation may be semantici.e. through words like adjectives or verbs or syntacticthrough structural markers such as what, how. For example, "You’ve got a nice coat" owes its positive load to the adjective nice, while what a fountain pen! has a marker for its positive load. Almost all the compliments in the corpus (gathered translations from different books and from numerous translation students) are semantically loaded (93.7%), and this semantic load is found to generally be adjectival (83.5%). It is mainly adjectives that provide semantic load in the four content areas.
The range of adjectives used in compliments is quite vast; adjectives occur in the data, in a range from a single occurrence (delicate, great) to some adjectives very frequently used (nice).
Frequency and percentage of adjectives in the four content areas
Compliment structures are found to be highly patterned as on the semantic level. To be exact, 43% of the compliments in the corpus utilize a single syntactic pattern:
NP (kheili/very) ADJ/ADV V.
Kote-e qashang-I dari. You’ve got a nice coat.
Another pattern accounts for 35.2% of the compliments:
Che/cheqadr/ajab what NP ADJ (V)!
Ajab khodkar-e qashang-i!
What a nice pen!
Recent work in the analysis of conversational discourse has included the study of compliment responses among English-speaking American monolinguals (Pomerantz 1708), Americans, and South Africans (Herbert 1986, 1989, 1990).
On the basis of written translations, 12 types of compliment responses are distinguished.
Sociolinguistics is a new branch of study which came into life through the amalgamation of the sciences of sociology and linguistics. Linguistics studies a language regardless of the person, the group, or the society which speak the language, but sociolinguistics studies a language in relation to people in a group or a society. In the past, for becoming a translator, learning rules of grammar and vocabulary was considered enough but now, in addition to grammar and vocabulary, rules of use are also regarded to be important and essential. A specific high-frequency structure/word n the source language should be translated to a structure /word occurring with a fairly similar frequency in the target language. When we encounter them to translate them appropriately, it is clear that we need good mastery of the two sides.
For example, Iranian students in translation studies should know that although Persian allows use of several titles before a name, only one title is
allowed in English.
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Published - February 2013
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