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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access December 31, 2019

The Role of Context in Translating Colour Metaphors: An Experiment on English into Estonian Translation

  • Anu Kalda EMAIL logo and Mari Uusküla
From the journal Open Linguistics


Contemporary theory on metaphor states that metaphor is conceptual, conventional, and part of the ordinary system of thought and language. It has been argued that metaphors can become a translation problem, since transferring them from one language and culture to another may be restricted by linguistic and cultural differences. We investigated how colour metaphors are translated from English into Estonian. To understand how metaphors are translated, a cognitive empirical study was carried out with 21 colour metaphors. The experiment was conducted with two separate groups of volunteers. The first group participated in a context-based translation task, the second in a context-free one.

The experiment indicates that colour metaphors are culture specific. It also revealed that context plays a crucial role in the comprehension and translation of colour metaphors. The more novel and original the metaphor is, the more varied are the translation strategies used by the participants (e.g. yellow-bellied person). Differences in translation choices were obvious between translators and non-translators. Qualitative differences appeared as translators were more target culture oriented and non-translators more source culture oriented, for example.


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Received: 2019-10-16
Accepted: 2019-07-20
Published Online: 2019-12-31

© 2019 Anu Kalda et al., published by De Gruyter

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Public License.

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