Linguistics and English Language

Language in context seminar

Speaker: Professor John E. Joseph (University of Edinburgh)

Title: Énonciation in English: Émile Benveniste and the (re)translation of an ambiguous utterance

Abstract: The concept of énonciation (enunciation) is the principal legacy of the late work of Émile Benveniste (1902-1976), the pre-eminent French linguist of the mid-20th century, who defined it as "putting the language to work through an individual act of use". It is a difficult term to translate into English, because the word enunciation is already established with the completely different meaning of careful pronunciation. Benveniste's took his inspiration for the concept from English-language work, in particular the use of the term utterance by the linguist Leonard Bloomfield, the anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski, and the philosopher J. L. Austin. The word utterance was in the process of a shift in meaning from the act of uttering (the equivalent of Benveniste's énonciation) to the product of that act, the words produced (what Benveniste called the énoncé, the equivalent of Ferdinand de Saussure's parole), and a close look at the use of utterance by Bloomfield, Malinowski and Austin shows them shifting between the older and newer meanings, exploiting the ambiguity. This leaves us in a quandary over how to translate énonciation into English. Possible solutions are explored, in the light of traditional and current translation theories and methods.


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Feb 27 2019 -

Language in context seminar

2019-02-27: Énonciation in English: Émile Benveniste and the (re)translation of an ambiguous utterance

01M.469 Room 12 (Doorway 3), Medical School (Old Medical School), Teviot Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9AG