Deconstructing Text

The very meaning of “meaning” is under threat. Everything that translators do and have done through the ages has been to question the very essence of “meaning” and as such we have slowly and painstakingly helped to chip away at the fundaments of significance, implication, the signified and implicature. Translators actively help to erode language and languages. Sometimes, they help smooth certain meanings while at other times they fashion meanings which are very different from what might be regarded as “faithful” or “accurate”. We carve out what we feel is appropriate, and not necessarily that which is generally regarded as appropriate.

Deconstruction provides an interesting look at the work of the translator and the processes surrounding the formulation of meaning and bridging the gap between signified and signifier. Let us take the following Polish text:

“To nie był mój dzień, ale mogłoby być gorzej.”

When considering a translation, deconstruction allows us to look at all possibilities and strike out those that we reject. For example:

It  simply  just wasn’t my day, but it  could’ve  could  have been  be  a great deal  a lot much  worse  than it was.

Deconstruction creates a parallel universe of meanings that go on endlessly rather like a bizarre perverted game of translational Chinese Whispers. In fact, we can use apply deconstruction as a way of interpreting the process of language change and decay. Let us take for example, the word weird and its close counterpart wierd (or more usually, wyrd). Both come from the same Anglo-Saxon root, however, the first means unusual or strange, whereas the second means eldritch, uncanny or unearthly.

Etymology is, of course, an important part of element in the construction of meaning and is therefore crucial to the translator’s know-how work. How we translate meaning rests lies deeply within our knowledge of the whole string of meanings that can be attached to a given word. Deconstruction does embue imbues the translation process with a sense of relativism, however, in doing so it allows us to consider the whole of meaning, orthography, phonology and therefore language in its entirety and then, through a process of selection, chosse choose what we believe to be the most appropriate solution, which is of course a highly subjective process action in itself.

The circle turns, the number of interpretations correlate directly with the number of speakers of a language of a word multiply endlessly, however idiosyncratic they might be. And so language moves on, grows and transforms again. With every new reading, there is a new interpretation and the only pseudo correct meaning seems to be the subjective notions of the (critical) masses and this mass quality is what many believe to be the process by which we arrive at the ultimate signified, the transcendental signifier.


6 thoughts on “Deconstructing Text

  1. ok, what strikes me is the fact that non-native speakers use a lot of such unnecessary phrases. Moreover, they tend to use them in larger quantities still. But, I see the point in the mass quality of a text/sentence/etc. With a clear set context we don’t need a lot of words to understand its meaning 😉

  2. Not only do non-native speakers use lots of unnecessary phrases, but also native speakers also. That, perhaps, is the joy and the curse of language. We are free to use whatever words, phrases or constructions we want. Deconstruction is a very interesting method for looking at text.

  3. In my opinion deconstruction is helpful when we are looking at the text in more theoretical way. Then, paradigmatic and syntagmatic aspects of lexis can be easily noticed. For instance, one will see that some linguistic forms are mutually exclusive, whereas others are likely to be in sequential relationship to one another. That is why the rules of establishing the relationships between lexical items are certainly of utmost importance.

  4. Magda Chrzanowska:
    Yes, deconstruction IS a valuable theoretical technique, however, it gives us a truly valuable insight into the way language and our minds (and our linguistically-motivated minds) work.

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