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Cognitive Semiotics

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Multilevel poetry translation as a problem-solving task

Pedro Atã / Joao Queiroz
Published Online: 2016-11-08 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cogsem-2016-0007


Poems are treated by translators as hierarchical multilevel systems. Here we propose the notion of “multilevel poetry translation” to characterize such cases of poetry translation in terms of selection and rebuilding of a multilevel system of constraints across languages. Different levels of a poem correspond to different sets of components that asymmetrically constrain each other (e. g., grammar, lexicon, syntactic construction, prosody, rhythm, typography, etc.). This perspective allows a poem to be approached as a thinking-tool: an “experimental lab” which submits language to unusual conditions and provides a scenario to observe the emergence of new patterns of semiotic behaviour as a result. We describe this operation as a problem-solving task, and exemplify with Augusto de Campos’ Portuguese translation of John Donne’s poem “The Expiration.”

Keywords: poetry translation; multilevel systems; problem solving; hierarchy theory


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About the article

Pedro Atã

Pedro Atã is a Ph.D. candidate at Linnaeus University Centre for Intermedial and Multimodal Studies in Växjö, Sweden. His main research interests include intermediality and multimodality in cognition, and Niche Construction Theory applied to cultural evolution.

Joao Queiroz

Joao Queiroz is a professor at the Institute of Arts and Design, Federal University of Juiz de Fora, Brazil. He is a director member of the Iconicity Research Group (UFJF), member of the Linnaeus University Centre for Intermedial and Multimodal Studies, Vaxjo (Sweden), and associate researcher of the Linguistics and Language Practice Department, University of the Free State (South Africa). His main interests include Cognitive Semiotics, Peirce’s philosophy, and Intermedial studies.

Published Online: 2016-11-08

Published in Print: 2018-03-26

Citation Information: Cognitive Semiotics, Volume 9, Issue 2, Pages 139–147, ISSN (Online) 2235-2066, ISSN (Print) 1662-1425, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cogsem-2016-0007.

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