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  • Event Structure Metaphors through the Body: Translation from English to American Sign Language by Daniel R. Roush
  • Rachel Sutton-Spence (bio)
Event Structure Metaphors through the Body: Translation from English to American Sign Language, by Daniel R. Roush (Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 2018, hardbound and e-book, 224 pages, $149.00, ISBN 978-9-0272-0070-9 [hardback], ISBN 978-9-0272-6409-1 [e-book])

What can research into embodied cognition tell us about translation of metaphor? How are Event Structure Metaphors (ESM) handled by Deaf translators in English-to-American Sign Language (ASL) translations? Daniel Roush's Event Structure Metaphors through the Body aims to answer these questions. Particularly, Roush looks at ESMs in English-to-ASL translations. This is not a study of the translation process or of deaf translators' strategies; rather, it considers which ESMs are maintained, altered, omitted, or added in an ASL translated text. Roush focuses as much on the metaphors behind the signs used in the translations as he does on the translation of metaphors, which also contributes to our understanding of sign origins.

What Is It?

The book is an elegantly structured text, leading readers gently through the (occasionally complex) discussion of the topic. We often find that work in applied linguistics of sign language needs some basic spadework on the language itself before we can get to what we want to know. The study on ESMs and ASL translation first needs to describe how these metaphors are produced in a chosen sign language (with the understanding that it could hold, mutatis mutandis, for other sign languages). Noting how relatively little is understood of the nature of sign languages, Roush undertakes to explicate "the unique nature of metaphor expression in ASL" and compare the presence of metaphor in the English and ASL of his parallel corpus. Roush takes [End Page 181] up much of the book with describing the different branches of the various ESM mappings and providing ASL examples. This is a major piece of research by itself, and only by chapter 7 are we ready to see how these ESMs are handled in translation.

Chapter 1 gives the background to the key concepts relevant to Roush's study, setting his research firmly within a cognitive-descriptive perspective. It provides useful working definitions of Conceptual Metaphor Theory and ESMs for those unfamiliar with the topic and outlines approaches to metaphor and translation within Translation Studies.

Chapter 2 covers the main details of Conceptual Metaphor Theory and ESMs as they have been developed in relation to spoken languages. Roush clearly distinguishes between conceptual metaphors and linguistic metaphors and then reviews studies that have applied Conceptual Metaphor theory to ASL, such as Taub's (2001) study on the relationship between iconicity and metaphor in sign languages. To prepare the reader for the analyses to come, an overview details differences between Location ESMs (using a source domain of space and an entity to be in the space, such as "I went to sleep") and Object ESMs (where change is seen as possessing or losing an object, such as "I have a headache"), with copious illustrative examples.

Chapter 3 presents a detailed reflection upon the data used: the American Freedom Speeches collection of thirteen American political speeches written in English and translated by four Deaf, native ASL signers. Roush describes and carefully justifies each step in the process of analysis. Although the texts are political texts—and despite the general acknowledgement that such texts are rhetorically and, thus, metaphorically rich (Musolf 2017)—it becomes clear that the focus is not there but on the underlying conceptual metaphors of individual lexical signs.

Chapters 4 and 5 present a detailed, systematic description of Location and Object ESMs in ASL, supporting claims that these two branches of ESMs are universal in human languages. For example, in English, "the tide of events" and "hold your horses!" are linguistic expressions of Location ESMs in English, while advise/influence and happen are parallel examples in ASL. English words in sentence-level [End Page 182] contexts, such as "I have managed to put it behind me," and lexical signs such as learn in ASL illustrate Object ESMs. The accompanying...


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pp. 181-185
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