Friday 1 January 2016

The Semantics of Line Drawings IV, Douglas Hofstadter's Metaphor for Translation

[ The Semantics of Line Drawings III, Appointing a Representative | The Semantics of Line Drawings V, Helveticality Dissipating into the Darkness ]

Here's a lovely metaphor for translation, from Douglas Hofstadter's essay "Analogies and Roles in Human and Machine Thinking" in his book Metamagical Themas. In the PDF, it's on page 588. I'm posting it here because I'll need it in future posts.
FIGURE 24-7. A metaphor for translation. A stream (symbolizing reality) has two sets of stepping-stones (symbolizing the basic ingredients of a language, such as words and stock phrases) in it. The black stones (Burmese, say) are arranged in one way, and the white stones (say, Welsh) in some other way. A pathway linking up a few black stones (a thought expressed in Burmese) is to be imitated by a "similar" pathway joining up white stones (translated into Welsh). One possibility is the speckled pathway, located at nearly the same part of the stream as the original pathway but not terribly similar in shape to it (a fairly literal translation), while a rival candidate (a more literary translation, needless to say) is the pathway located a distance upstream and resembling the original in some more abstract ways, including patterns in some of the "overstones" of the main stones (the similar archipelagos in Burmese and Welsh stones running roughly parallel to the far bank).

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