Impact of Mistranslations on Cognitive Retention: Case of Force Dynamics

Katarzyna Wisniewska, University of Eastern Finland


My poster is based on my pending publication (Wisniewska, 2022) and ongoing PhD research, part of a project aiming at constructing a systematic description of translation at sentence level, following the conceptual schematic systems elaborated by Talmy (2000/2001): the Configurational Structure System, the Attentional System, the Perspective System and the Force-Dynamics System. Previous results include evidence of the dissociation of linguistic and cognitive retention in translation for the Attentional System and the Force-Dynamics System. Based on these findings, the Cognitive Retention Hypothesis has been proposed: When describing translation from a source text to a target text, it is possible to distinguish linguistic and cognitive levels, and it is the cognitive level that is primarily retained in translation (Mäkisalo and Lehtinen; 2014, 2017, 2019).

In my research, I concentrate on the retention of Force Dynamics in translation and on the evidence found on dissociating linguistic and cognitive description in translation. The study follows the proposed hypothesis, and its objective is to explore how information is retained in translation at both linguistic and cognitive levels, arguing that the multilingual approach to the Force-Dynamics theorisation provides a broader perspective to describe aspects of language and cognition than most cognitive theories.  The stated issues are studied on small-scale, self-compiled corpora of phrases containing Force-Dynamics patterns from fragments of English, Finnish and Polish literary texts. Literary data allows to focus on translations theoretically undergoing very few changes, with a tendency to be faithful, yet creative and, at times, surprising in translation solutions. A modification in Force Dynamics during translation can be illustrated with the example: I can try to help you in English translated into Finnish as Antaisit minun yrittää auttaa (back-translated as You should let me try to help). It clearly shows that Force Dynamics in the source is modified in the target. There is a psychological force that appears as an activity between the two participants. Also, there is a change in force direction. The focus is shifted from the addresser (I can try [&]) to the addressee (You should let me [&]).

In my poster, I focus on mistranslations found in the compiled corpora and account for their impact on distorting the Force-Dynamics event scenarios found in the studied source texts. The analysis discusses the notion of cognitive economy, which is a way of processing information based on intuition and, thus, often leading to overlooking crucial details of the original (Hietaranta, 2017).