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Saturday, 21 January 2012 20:56

Translating Figurative Language. Bologna, December 2012

International Conference
Bologna, 12-14 December 2012


CeSLiC – Department of Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures, University of Bologna
In collaboration with ILLE (EA 4363), Université de Haute-Alsace (France)
Conference Convenors:
Donna R. Miller (donnarose.miller AT
Enrico Monti (e.monti AT

Confirmed Plenary Speakers:
Stefano Arduini (University of Urbino, Italy)
Zoltán Kövecses (Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary)
Gerard Steen (Vrij Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
(abstracts online at conference site)

Conference Venue:
Alma Mater Studiorum - Università di Bologna
Aula Prodi, Piazza S. Giovanni in Monte 2, 40124 Bologna (Italy)
Conference Website:

The conference aims at investigating issues related to the interlingual translation of figurative language.
Figurative language can be said to foreground the complexities of the translation process, as well as the strong link between language and culture that this process has to renegotiate. Metaphors, similes, metonyms, synecdoche, hyperboles and personifications are figures of speech which, far from being peculiar to literary discourse, have stylistic and cognitive functions in different types of discourse. We need only think of the importance of metaphor in scientific models, of hyperbole in advertising, metonymy in journalism, simile and metaphor in political speeches and touristic texts. Besides making different types of discourse livelier and more expressive, these figures of speech allow us to elaborate new concepts by creating analogies with concrete or known terms. They are also able to forge a privileged relationship between addresser and addressee, based on their shared background of linguistic and cultural references. On a structural level, the same thing can be said for what Halliday (1985; 1994) defines as "grammatical metaphor", which transposes the metaphorical
process to the structural level, where meanings are often expressed in less-congruent, i.e. metaphorical, ways.
Translating figurative language invariably implies translating the culture which produced that language, if we allow that any language-culture lives by its metaphors (Bildfeld in Weinrich's terms) and that those metaphors are far from being universal. Lakoff and Johnson (1980) convincingly argue that our linguistic metaphors are often the byproduct of a deeper analogical mental structure, which allows us to know and define the world around us in terms of what we know better.
It is precisely this density of linguistic and cultural factors in figurative language which proves so challenging in the passage from one language to another: it is not by chance that some scholars (Dagut 1976; Broeck 1981) locate figurative language at the limits of translatability, if not beyond. Translators have the task of adapting the world-view which has produced these instances of figurative language into the cultural paradigm and thus beliefs and values of the target-culture, and to do so while preserving that combination of force and levity which is a prerogative of figurative language.
This of course implies that the translator has first to establish priorities among the different functions that figurative language plays in the source text, and the associations that such images can activate in the mind of the reader. This must be done before choosing which of these to privilege in the not-so-rare cases of asymmetry between the two language-cultures involved. One may think for example of the difficulty of translating the catachreses of one language – metaphors once original and now more or less dormant as they have become part of everyday language – once they are re-activated in some specific poetic or ludic context, as quite often happens in literature, as well as, for instance, in journalism and advertising.
The conference is open to all language pairs and to various approaches to the issue: be they linguistic and/or literary, cognitive and/or stylistic, interdisciplinary, corpus-based, etc. Proposals dealing with statistical translation software and/or translation memories are also of interest. We welcome theoretical and/or case studies, focusing on the translation of different registers/ genres: from literature to politics, from advertising to science, from jokes to films, and so on.

A volume including a peer-reviewed selection of articles (in English and Italian) will be published in 2013. The selection and reviewing process will be handled by the scientific committee of the conference. The book, edited by Enrico Monti and Donna R. Miller, will be published online in the collection Quaderni del Ceslic (AMS Acta - Università di Bologna), and a paper version is scheduled to follow in 2014. We hope that the conference and the volume coming out of it will offer an important contribution to a domain in translation studies which is still awaiting systematic exploration.

Proposals for papers are invited for consideration and should be submitted no later than 15 April 2012

The conference languages are English and Italian. We foresee each presenter having a 30 minute slot: 20 minutes for the presentation + 10 minutes for discussion.
Abstracts should be approximately 250 words, excluding key references. They should contain a concise statement of the aim of the contribution, as well as provide a description of the main part of the presentation and key references.

Proposers are invited to send one .doc or .rtf or .odt file, which includes:
1) Presenter(s) name(s), affiliation(s) and contact email address(es)
2) Title of proposal, 3-5 keywords, and abstract with references
to the conference convenors at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

All proposals must be submitted by 15 April 2012. An acknowledgement will be sent back to you as soon as possible.
Abstracts will go through blind peer-review by members of the Scientific Committee. Notification of acceptance will be given by 15 June 2012 and registration/payment will open immediately afterwards.

Conference fees: 80 euros (fees include 2 lunches, 5 coffee breaks, conference materials)
Social dinner (optional): 30 euros

Detailed information on registration and payment will be provided on the conference website by June 15, 2012.

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