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Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Revue de l'Association Internationale de Sémiotique

Editor-in-Chief: Danesi, Marcel

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Agenzia Nazionale di Valutazione del Sistema Universitario e della Ricerca: Classe A

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Volume 2013, Issue 196


The translating and signifying subject as homo interpres and homo significans: Victoria Welby's concept of translation – a polyfunctional tool

Pirjo Kukkonen
Published Online: 2013-08-23 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2013-0059


Victoria Welby's concept of translation is a vital point for all modes of translation. In translation studies, which is a discipline dealing with interpretation, understanding, and communication between signs and sign systems in two semiosic systems, in source and target languages, societies, and cultures, Welby's concept of translative thinking is a relevant starting point in semiotics and in translation as communication focusing on the “translator”/”interpreter.” This is true, not only in translation proper, that is, interlingual translation, but in all other modes of translation, including intralingual translation and intersemiosic translation. Translation is, literally, trans-position. Furthermore, translation as a cognitive process uses thought-signs in interpreting, understanding, and signifying. It will be argued that for Welby, translation is a polyfunctional tool to understand, to not misunderstand, and to promote the self-understanding of humankind. The translating subject is a signifying subject, a homo interpres and a homo significans, dealing with the never ending sign process of semiosis. Moreover, the method of translation is a tool for the mind and for reasoning with thought-signs, for the dialogue between source and target languages in translation proper, or for intersemiotic translation between all types of sign systems in understanding life-signs, texts, societies, and cultures. In existential semiotics, the subject, the “I,” and “the Self” with the semiotic modalities are the very core. The translating subject is also a semioethic subject, a signifying subject, dealing with sense, meaning, and significance from an axiological point of view. Welby's concept of translation not only covers the interpretative-cognitive aspect of knowledge in the process of gaining new knowledge, and testing knowledge, but it covers the very idea of human thinking in the universe of discourse.

Keywords: Victoria Welby; significs; theory of signs; theory of value; translation; translative thinking

About the article

Pirjo Kukkonen

Pirjo Kukkonen (b. 1949) is a professor at the University of Helsinki 〈 〉. Her research interests include language, literature, translation studies, and semiotics. Her publications include Det sjungande jaget. Att översätta känslan och själen. Den lyriska samlingen Kanteletar i svenska tolkningar 1830–1989 [The singing I. Translating emotion and soul. The lyric collection Kanteletar in Swedish interpretations 1830–1989] (2009); Det översättandet jaget: homo significans – homo interpres [The translating subject: Homo significans – homo interpres] (2010).

Published Online: 2013-08-23

Published in Print: 2013-08-15

Citation Information: Semiotica, Volume 2013, Issue 196, Pages 261–281, ISSN (Online) 1613-3692, ISSN (Print) 0037-1998, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/sem-2013-0059.

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