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Queensland University of Technology

Translation and News Making:
A Study of Contemporary
Arabic Television

Aljazeera Case Study

By
Ali Darwish

A Thesis Submitted
In Fulfilment of the Requirements
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

The Creative Industries Faculty
Queensland University of Technology
March, 2009
Queensland University of Technology
Candidate’s Certificate

I certify that the thesis entitled Translation and News Making: A Study
of Contemporary Arabic Television submitted for the degree of Doctor of
Philosophy is the result of my own research, conducted during the period
2005-2008, except where otherwise acknowledged.

Signed ________________________________________________
Name Ali Darwish ___ ______
Date 21 March 2009________ ___
© Copyright by Ali Darwish, 2009
All Rights Reserved.
iii
Contents
Contents
Tables and Figures viii
Acknowledgements x
Abstract xi
Notes on Illustrations, Translations and Typographical
Conventions xiii
Abbreviations xiv
Publications from the Research xv
Preface Mediated Realities: The Twilight Zone 16
Chapter 1 Why Contemporary Arabic Television? 20
Overview ........................................................................... 20
Media effects .............................................................. 21
Mediated reality in Arab satellite television .............. 23
The case of Aljazeera ................................................. 26
Statement of the Problem .................................................. 28
Language choices ....................................................... 29
Translation mediation ................................................ 30
Television presentation as multimodal mediated social
transaction .................................................................. 32
Purpose of the Study ......................................................... 34
Significance of the Study .................................................. 35
Showcasing Aljazeera ................................................ 37
Limitations of the Research .............................................. 37
Research Questions and hypotheses ................................. 39
Research objectives .................................................... 39
Special Definitions ............................................................ 41
Thesis Structure and Organization.................................... 42
Chapter 2 Mediating Cultural Change 46
Aims .................................................................................. 47
Overview ........................................................................... 48
Satellite television ...................................................... 48
Aljazeera: the taboo-breaker ...................................... 52
The Showcase ................................................................... 53
Translation, Culture and Television ................................. 54
Mediating Cultural Change ............................................... 56
iv
Contents
Cultural change or acculturation? .............................. 58
Framing Aljazeera ............................................................ 61
How Aljazeera scooped the world ............................. 67
The Aljazeera phenomenon ....................................... 70
Losing Arab hearts and minds ................................... 72
Aljazeera challenges the world .................................. 75
Media under pressure ................................................. 76
Voices from the void: the new Arab public .............. 79
Fourth Estate or Fifth Column .......................................... 81
Out of control: the taming of the shrew ..................... 84
Mission Aljazeera ............................................................. 86
News, Language, Translation and Culture ....................... 88
Translation mediation and downstream reporting ..... 90
The making of Arab news .......................................... 93
The Role of Translation in the Media ............................. 100
Translating memes and mismemes .......................... 101
Conclusion ...................................................................... 105
Gaps in the literature ................................................ 106
Chapter 3 Conceptual Framework and Research Model 111
Aims ................................................................................ 112
Overview ......................................................................... 113
A Multimodal Conceptual Framework ........................... 115
Multimodality and multimodal analysis .................. 117
Methods .......................................................................... 119
Philosophical assumptions ....................................... 121
Design of the Study ........................................................ 123
The case study .......................................................... 124
Data Collection ............................................................... 125
Coding of programs ................................................. 127
Sampling Procedure ........................................................ 128
Data Analysis .................................................................. 129
Analysis methods ..................................................... 129
Mediated discourse analysis .................................... 130
Sources and Logistics ..................................................... 131
Research Model .............................................................. 132
Translation analysis model ...................................... 132
Rationale and assumptions ....................................... 133
Elements of the model ............................................. 137
Implications ............................................................. 137
Using the research model ......................................... 137
How the Model Works .................................................... 138
Model Categories ............................................................ 139
Direct matching translation ...................................... 141
Identitive and equative translation ........................... 142
Interventional techniques ......................................... 144
v
Contents
Compensatory techniques ........................................ 145
Supplemental techniques ......................................... 151
Types of appositive translation ................................ 153
Modulatory Techniques .................................................. 155
Reductive and expansive techniques ....................... 156
Explicatory techniques ............................................. 157
How These Translation Techniques Interact .................. 159
Conclusion ...................................................................... 160
Chapter 4 Translating the News 162
Aims ................................................................................ 163
Overview ......................................................................... 164
The role of translation in mediated realities ............ 166
Translation in the News .................................................. 166
Situationality and affinities ...................................... 172
Translating the News ...................................................... 176
Information Sources ........................................................ 180
News Translation as Reframing ...................................... 183
Ethics of Mediating News .............................................. 186
Translation-mediated framing .................................. 190
Language of the News and the Illusion of
Modernity ....................................................................... 190
Reframing the Already Framed ...................................... 192
Framing Reality .............................................................. 194
News Frames and Translation Frames ............................ 195
Semantic framing ..................................................... 197
Truth in News Translation .............................................. 198
Applying the three-tier model .................................. 200
Conclusion ...................................................................... 204
Chapter 5 Framing Realities in Arabic News 207
Aims ................................................................................ 208
Overview ......................................................................... 209
Epistemic Knowledge versus Linguistic
Knowledge ...................................................................... 210
Translation-induced metaphoric shift ...................... 211
Waking the dead and dormant metaphors ................ 213
Metaphoric imperialism ........................................... 219
Metaphor, collocation and the clash of domains ..... 225
Metaphor and genitives ............................................ 227
Reductive and Summative Metaphors ............................ 230
Euphemism, dysphemism and socio-cultural
circumlocution ......................................................... 232
Verticality ................................................................ 234
Sensory-perceptual epistemic inference .................. 236
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Contents
Deictic inference ...................................................... 237
Sources of Influence and Normalization ........................ 238
Framing through Quotatives ........................................... 239
Conclusion ...................................................................... 241
Chapter 6 Mediating Live Broadcasts 245
Aims ................................................................................ 246
Overview ......................................................................... 247
What is Simultaneous Interpreting? ......................... 247
Impact of Live Television on Simultaneous
Interpreting ..................................................................... 248
Model rationale and rules ........................................ 255
Simultaneous Interpreting Models .................................. 259
Research into simultaneous interpreting .................. 260
Conference interpreting ........................................... 260
Telecast simultaneous interpreting .......................... 262
Relay telecast simultaneous interpreting ................. 265
Time-critical, Real-time Communication ....................... 266
Interpreting Mediation at Arabic Satellite
Television ....................................................................... 268
Research Design, Data and Methods .............................. 269
Scope and limitations ............................................... 269
Technical and operational problems ........................ 270
Analysis and Discussion ................................................. 272
Information integrity ................................................ 273
Linguistic integrity ................................................... 274
Communicative integrity ......................................... 274
Interpreting and the rhetorical situation ................... 278
Modes of Operation ........................................................ 279
Expository simultaneous interpreting ...................... 280
Rhetorical simultaneous interpreting ....................... 281
The interpreter’s role within the communication
process ..................................................................... 282
Conclusion and Recommendations ................................. 285
Chapter 7 Summary and Conclusions: The Taming of the Shrew288
Aims ................................................................................ 289
Overview ......................................................................... 290
Aljazeera: from zero to pharaoh .............................. 291
Summary ......................................................................... 294
Research Findings ........................................................... 298
Research analysis ..................................................... 299
Implications .................................................................... 299
Conclusion ...................................................................... 300
Beyond the news ...................................................... 301
vii
Contents
The ten year itch ...................................................... 302
A sense of superiority: outshining the master .......... 305
References 308
Index 389
viii
Tables and Figures
Tables and Figures
Tables
Table 1— Inventory of Major Publications about Aljhazeera and
Arab Media (1993 -2007) ......................................................................... 63
Table 2— Program codes ....................................................................... 127
Table 3— Coding of research model ...................................................... 128
Table 4— Example of Translation Discourse Analysis template
(developed for the research) ................................................................... 131
Table 5—Cat and Mouse Metaphor Application .................................... 223

Figures
Figure 1—Interlocking Translation, Culture and Television ................... 55
Figure 2— Books published about Aljazeera 1990 - 2007 ....................... 63
Figure 3— A basic model of news flow in a monolingual
environment .............................................................................................. 91
Figure 4—A basic model of mediated news reporting ............................. 91
Figure 5- Downstream reporting model ................................................... 93
Figure 6— The Multimodal nature of television .................................... 118
Figure 7— Multimodal theoretical framework ....................................... 122
Figure 8 —A multimodal three-tier translation model ........................... 136
Figure 9—Translation Model Categories ............................................... 140
Figure 10—Direct matching and interventional techniques ................... 141
Figure 11—Interventional techniques .................................................... 145
Figure 12—Contexts of the translation event (source: Darwish,
2003) ....................................................................................................... 169
Figure 13—External variables ................................................................ 170
Figure 14—Internal variables ................................................................. 171
Figure 15—The Five Precepts of Journalism ......................................... 184
Figure 16—The seven standards of translation (Darwish, 2003) ........... 185
Figure 17— Iran Bans CNN or Translation Error [Source:
Bloomberg, January 16, 2006] ................................................................ 202
Figure 18— Pictorial Representation of Epistemic Reality
(Picasso, Girl before a Mirror) ................................................................ 210
Figure 19— Smoking Gun Metaphor: the terms that are related to
the meaning of the metaphor .................................................................. 212
Figure 20 - Dyadic Simultaneous Interpreting-Driven
Communication in Conference settings .................................................. 261
Figure 21 - Triadic Telecast Simultaneous Interpreting-Driven
Communication ....................................................................................... 263
ix
Tables and Figures
Figure 22 - A Basic Model of Telecast Simultaneous Interpreting ........ 264
Figure 23 - A Typical Example of RSI Rendition .................................. 278
Figure 24 - Translation (Interpreting) Interface in Bilingual
Communication ....................................................................................... 279
Figure 25—Duality and Centrality of the Simultaneous
Interpreter’s Role .................................................................................... 283
Figure 26— Globalization Process of News Media (source:
developed for this research by the author) .............................................. 303

x
Acknowledgements
Acknowledgements
O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us!
—From To A Louse, Robert Burns

I would like to acknowledge the help of the following individuals who
have contributed to the realisation of this thesis.
I would like to thank my principal supervisor, Emeritus Professor Alan
Knight, for his support, guidance and encouragement, for his stimulating
discussions of my work and for his constructive reviews of this thesis. I
would also like to thank my associate supervisor Dr Lee Duffield for his
meticulous and incisive reviews of my work. I am indebted to both of
them for helping me in making this work a reality. I am also grateful to
Emeritus Professor John Dekkers for his valuable comments on the early
drafts of this thesis. I would like to express my gratitude to Professor
Greg Hearn, Associate Professor Leo Bowman, and Assistant Professor
Michael Meadows for their valuable comments on my final work.
I would like to thank my family, especially Sheila, Alya and Ayman, and
my friends for their support and encouragement. My special thanks go to
Professor Roger Bell, Honorary Fellow of the Chartered Institute of
Linguists, Dr Zubaidah Ibrahim-Bell, Dr Pilar Orero, and Dr Hassan
Mustapha for their support and encouragement, and Iman Riman for
inspiring persistence and perseverance.

Ali Darwish
Melbourne, February 2009
xi
Abstract
Abstract
rabic satellite television has recently attracted tremendous
attention in both the academic and professional worlds, with a
special interest in Aljazeera as a curious phenomenon in the
Arab region. Having made a household name for itself
worldwide with the airing of the Bin Laden tapes, Aljazeera has set out to
deliberately change the culture of Arabic journalism, as it has been
repeatedly stated by its current General Manager Waddah Khanfar, and to
shake up the Arab society by raising awareness to issues never discussed
on television before and challenging long-established social and cultural
values and norms while promoting, as it claims, Arab issues from a
presumably Arab perspective. Working within the meta-frame of
democracy, this Qatari-based network station has been received with
mixed reactions ranging from complete support to utter rejection in both
the west and the Arab world.
This research examines the social semiotics of Arabic television and the
socio-cultural impact of translation-mediated news in Arabic satellite
television, with the aim to carry out a qualitative content analysis,
informed by framing theory, critical linguistic analysis, social semiotics
and translation theory, within a re-mediation framework which rests on
the assumption that a medium “appropriates the techniques, forms and
social significance of other media and attempts to rival or refashion them
in the name of the real" (Bolter and Grusin, 2000: 66). This is a
multilayered research into how translation operates at two different yet
interwoven levels: translation proper, that is the rendition of discourse
from one language into another at the text level, and translation as a
broader process of interpretation of social behaviour that is driven by
linguistic and cultural forms of another medium resulting in new social
A
xii
Abstract
signs generated from source meaning reproduced as target meaning that is
bound to be different in many respects.
The research primarily focuses on the news media, news making and
reporting at Arabic satellite television and looks at translation as a
reframing process of news stories in terms of content and cultural values.
This notion is based on the premise that by its very nature, news reporting
is a framing process, which involves a reconstruction of reality into
actualities in presenting the news and providing the context for it. In other
words, the mediation of perceived reality through a media form, such as
television, actually modifies the mind’s ordering and internal
representation of the reality that is presented.
The research examines the process of reframing through translation news
already framed or actualized in another language and argues that in
submitting framed news reports to the translation process several
alterations take place, driven by the linguistic and cultural constraints and
shaped by the context in which the content is presented. These alterations,
which involve recontextualizations, may be intentional or unintentional,
motivated or unmotivated. Generally, they are the product of lack of
awareness of the dynamics and intricacies of turning a message from one
language form into another. More specifically, they are the result of a
synthesis process that consciously or subconsciously conforms to editorial
policy and cultural interpretive frameworks. In either case, the original
message is reproduced and the news is reframed.
For the case study, this research examines news broadcasts by the now
world-renowned Arabic satellite television station Aljazeera, and to a
lesser extent the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC) and Al-
Arabiya where access is feasible, for comparison and crosschecking
purposes. As a new phenomenon in the Arab world, Arabic satellite
television, especially 24-hour news and current affairs, provides an
interesting area worthy of study, not only for its immediate socio-cultural
and professional and ethical implications for the Arabic media in
xiii
Notes on Illustrations, Translations and Typographical Conventions
particular, but also for news and current affairs production in the western
media that rely on foreign language sources and translation mediation for
international stories.
Notes on Illustrations, Translations and
Typographical Conventions
Unless otherwise stated, all illustrations and English translations in this
thesis have been developed by the author specifically for this research.
Several spellings of the name Aljazeera have been used in the literature
about Aljazeera (for example, Aljazeera, al-Jazeera, Al Jazeera). The
official typographical version of the name is Aljazeera. Consequently, to
ensure consistency throughout this thesis and minimize distraction, the
spelling Aljazeera is used throughout. Where the name occurs in direct
quotes, this spelling is also used.
Arabic versus Arab television
In this thesis, Arabic television refers to television broadcasting in the
Arabic language and not necessarily owned by Arabs as opposed to
television owned by Arabs broadcasting in other languages. A good
example of the former is Aljazeera, which is owned by the Arab ruling
family of Qatar and Al-Hurra, which is owned by the US government. A
good example of the latter is the English language channel Aljazeera
English.
On the use of the first person
Conventionally, academic writing has had a preference for the use of the
third person to refer to the author of the work in an attempt to give a tone
of objectivity to writing. References such as “the researcher”, “the author”
and “the experimenter” abound in academic writing. In many other
instances, the passive voice is used and abused—things happen on their
own without an agency. It is known in psychology that when one refers to
xiv
Abbreviations
oneself in the third person, chances are that such reference indicates the
presence of a psychological disorder. Consequently, in the interest of
clarity and effective communication, throughout this thesis, where
reference is made to the conductor of this research, the first person
singular is invariably used.
Abbreviations
The following table provides a list of key abbreviations used in this thesis.
Abbreviation Stands for…
AFP Agence France Presse
ART Arab Radio and Television
AVT Audiovisual translation
BBC British Broadcasting Corporation
CNN Cable News Network
LBC Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation
MBC Middle East Broadcasting Centre
MSA Modern Standard Arabic
SBS Special Broadcasting Service
SLRM Search, locate, retrieve and match
TSI Telecast Simultaneous Interpreting
VBI Vertical Blanking Interval
xv
Publications from the Research
Publications from the Research
The following publications have been generated from the present
research.
1. Translating the News: Reframing Constructed Realities. In
Translation Watch Quarterly, Volume 2, Issue 1, March 2006.
52-77.
2. A Cultural Semiotic of Women's Presence in Arabic Satellite
Television: Translating Fantasies into Virtual Reality. A
conference paper presented to the 15th annual conference of
The Asian Media Information and Communication Centre
(AMIC), Penang, Malaysia, 17th Jul, 2006 - 20th Jul, 2006.
3. Standards of Simultaneous Interpreting in Live Satellite
Broadcasts-Arabic Case Study. In Translation Watch Quarterly,
Volume 2, Issue 2. June 2006. 55-88.
4. Attributing Terror: Evidence on Authorship: Forensic
Translation Analysis of Culturally Divergent Clandestine Coded
Messages. In Translation Watch Quarterly, Volume 2, Issue 4,
December 2006. 41-66.
5. Conference Interpreting Explained. Book review. In
Translation Watch Quarterly, Volume 2, Issue 2. June 2006. 89-
93.
6. The Making of Arab News. Book review. In Translation Watch
Quarterly, Volume 2, Issue 1, March 2006. 78-83.
7. The Closed Captioning Handbook. Book review. In Translation
Watch Quarterly, Volume 3, Issue 2, June 2007. 108-112.
8. Language, Translation and Identity (2005) ISBN 0-957-751-
141, Melbourne: Writescope. 444 pages.
9. The Book of Wonders of Arabic Blunders in Journalism,
Politics and Media (2007) ISBN 0-975-741-934, Melbourne:
Writescope. 446 pages.
10. Linguistic and Epistemic Inference in Cross-Cultural
Communication in Satellite Television News Media. In
Translation Watch Quarterly, Volume 4, Issue 1. March 2008
(forthcoming).

16
Preface
Mediated Realities: The Twilight Zone
Preface
Mediated Realities: The Twilight Zone
he grey street is empty
And everything is desolate and dreary;
It’s only four in the afternoon;
The old folks sitting around the fireplace;
And drinking tea without sugar,
As they embrace the sudden brunt of the evening cold;
The years slowly take me back
As I grow distant and old, out of tune;
Beyond the brief memories of today
And beyond the raindrops falling on my window pane
As I gaze through at the wet and cold empty street—
Strangely colourless and eerie—
To a November rainy day in Beirut,
The pain in my heart intensifies as I pine for you;
With sorrow intense and acute;
Everything is full of life over there!
O! My first love!
My sleepless beautiful city!
—Wishaw, Scotland, May 1981
I had been watching CNN and the BBC on Cable and satellite television
since 1990 when the first gulf war broke out. During that war, embedded
reporters, with restricted access to military operations, were allowed to
cover the war. From my knowledge of the Arab world, its history, politics
and culture, it was all too obvious that these networks were reporting one-
sided, biased and fragmented versions of reality.
While I had access to local Arabic radio and newspapers and I had
produced Arabic programs for the Australian Special Broadcasting
T
17
Preface
Mediated Realities: The Twilight Zone
Service (SBS), I had no access to Arabic satellite television. My Scottish
wife then and I and our two little children arrived in Australia from
England in 1989 and I had been living in an entirely English-speaking
world for more than two decades since I left my homeland Lebanon.
While I had been working as a professional translator, interpreter and
media analyst since 1975, holding formal postgraduate qualifications in
translation and linguistics and achieving scholarship in Arabic writing and
translation, that period of my life characteristically lacked daily
interactions with my home culture. I was completely isolated from
anything Arab or Arabic, except for the texts I translated, the news reports
I analyzed, and the Lebanese dishes I occasionally cooked for my family.
On CNN, I watched the second Intifada (uprising) in Occupied Palestine
in 2000 and saw the two planes hitting the twin towers in New York live
on 11 September 2001 and followed the kneejerk and sometimes frenzied
reporting that ensued. Then in 2002, I had my first glimpse of Aljazeera
satellite television, and the experience was that of both ambivalence and
curiosity. From the start, there was something strange about Aljazeera. It
was not just the western style of presentation or uncontrolled and
uncensored footage of violence that drew my attention. It was more so the
language itself. There was something curious and more systematic about
the expressions that were for me unmistakeably direct translations from
English. The more I watched Aljazeera, the more I became convinced that
translation played a critical role in framing news, intentionally or
unintentionally, and I wanted to find out how translation mediation
reframed constructed realities. Now that I had access to both western and
Arab media, I could compare and contrast the style and content of reports
of the same events almost concurrently and detect variations and
deviations.
Apart from curiosity, I have had a long interest in the media. I have
previously conducted a study of the practices and standards of the SBS
18
Preface
Mediated Realities: The Twilight Zone
Arabic radio, and in 1998, I set up my own online website, dedicated to
translation and the media, boasting 62 articles and research papers about
translation and Arabic media by 2007. In 2004, I published a paper in
both Arabic and English titled How Arabic Translators Frustrated
America's War on Global Terrorism. This paper examined the Arabic
translation of surrender leaflets dropped on Iraq during the invasion of
2003 and the role of American psyopers (psychological operator) in
designing these leaflets for the Iraqi audience. This paper was followed by
a number of lengthy articles and papers about the role of translation in the
Arabic media culminating in the publication of two award-winning books:
Language Translation and Identity in the Age of the Internet, Satellite
Television and Directed Media (2005), and The Book of Wonders of
Arabic Blunders in Journalism, Politics and Media (2007).
The first book sought to develop a critical awareness of the interplay of
language, translation and identity in Arabic media and the accelerated
superficialization of human expression and experience. It touched upon
important linguistic and sociocultural aspects of this phenomenon and
sought to explain the reasons for the strong tendency to imitate foreign
linguistic patterns. It examined the role of Arabic satellite television and
the Internet in reinforcing specific usages and in accelerating the process
of change, linguistically, socially and culturally.
The second book presented a pungent critique of Arabic translation
standards in journalism, politics and the media and examined the social
and cultural impact of Arabic satellite television on modern Arab
societies! It explored various aspects of Arabic usage and incisively
examined the critical role satellite television was playing in establishing
and promoting expressions that not only violated language norms and
standards and introduced cultural mismemes but also defied logic in
language.
19
Preface
Mediated Realities: The Twilight Zone
These books grew out of a serious interest in examining a curious
phenomenon that is today sweeping the Arab world, where mass media is
once again playing a critical role not only in reporting the news but also in
shaping events and influencing public opinion, and where reporting and
news manipulation often overlap.
I have also worked in film subtitling and dubbing and in media analysis
for major news organizations for several years, and I have specialized in
translation and cross-cultural communication. I have taught translation
theory and practice at Australian universities, including seven years at
RMIT (2000-2007), and have acted as official examiner for NAATI, The
National Authority for the Accreditation of Translators and Interpreters,
from 1990 to 2002. This experience has enabled me to combine the
perspectives of the professional translator, the educator and the assessor.
In addition to the two books already mentioned, I have also published
several books on translation and cross-cultural communication. These
include The Translator’s Guide (2001), The Interpreter’s Guide (2003),
and The Transfer Factor (2003). I have also published Australia’s first-
ever international refereed journal of translation studies, Translation
Watch Quarterly from 2005 onwards. In 2007, in recognition of my
contribution to translation and cross-cultural communication, I received
the prestigious Gibran’s International Literary Award for my books and
achievements in linguistics, translation and media studies.
This current doctoral research, presented here, is a natural progression of
these foundational attempts at examining translation, the phenomenon of
Arabic satellite television and the role of translation in reframing news
reports.

Ali Darwish
Melbourne, March 2009

20
Chapter 1
Why Contemporary Arabic Television?
Chapter 1
Why Contemporary Arabic1
Television?
From television, the child will have learned how to pick a
lock, commit a fairly elaborate bank hold-up, prevent wetness
all day long, get the laundry twice as white, and kill people
with a variety of sophisticated armaments.
—Russell Baker, columnist and
author (1925- )
Overview
As Arabic satellite television gains ever-increasing prominence in the
Arab region and internationally, its role as a controversial catalyst in the
process of democratization and as an influential agent of social, cultural
and political change in the region becomes all the more important in a
rapidly changing world of democracy, globalization and shifting
allegiances. Relying primarily on translation of news and other program
contents from English and conducting program production in English and
or French, Arabic satellite television stations are causing a cataclysmic
change in Arabic language patterns and cultural representation.
Fragmentation of reality, reporting that adopts the viewpoint of the
source, which is largely in English, and translated documentaries that
retain the format, discourse and perspectives of the original are all
contributing to language displacement in various areas of social life in the
Arab world. Now flooded with foreign and franchised programs targeting
the young and disfranchised generations—with more that 300 satellite
television channels bombarding the viewers.
2

The role Aljazeera is playing as a serious news and current affairs
network in reframing the news through translation mediation is one that
has not been examined in the literature. The effects of such mediation are
21
Chapter 1
Why Contemporary Arabic Television?
not fully understood by journalists and reporters, who often find
themselves working through local translators and what Palmer and Fontan
(2007) call fixers.
3
This thesis examines the role of translation at Arabic satellite television in
the reconstruction of reality, the socio-cultural impact of translation
mediation on news making, and the process of reframing news through
translation of news already framed or actualized in another language. The
main argument in this thesis is that translation mediation reframes news
reports already framed in one language through the arrangement of
translation-mediated news artefacts. Framing in this sense must be
understood as making specific meaning mainly through selection and
exclusion and reframing as reproduction of meaning through the
application of another frame through similar mechanisms.
The best way to substantiate the assertion that translation mediation
reframes a framed message is to examine cases in which translation
mediation routinely occurs as part of news making and where examples of
accepted translation can be analysed and challenged. So in making this
assertion, examples of reframing are derived and analysed from a corpus
of news broadcasts from Aljazeera, the case study.
Media effects
The overwhelming rationale for most research into television according to
Corner (1999)
4
has been anxiety about its influence. This anxiety is
compelled by concerns about the effects of mass media on modern
democratic societies and the protection of free choice from external
influences that shape both individual and public opinion. The reason is
probably not too obvious to ordinary viewers and consumers of mass
media, but as Gerbner (1999) puts it, “most of what we know, or think we
know, we have never personally experienced. We live in a world erected
by the stories we hear and see and tell”
5
where “exposure to mass media
creates and cultivates attitudes more consistent with a media conjured
22
Chapter 1
Why Contemporary Arabic Television?
version of reality than with what reality actually is” (Pierce, 2000) .
6
The
magnificence of the human mind lies largely in its ability to construct
images and worlds from artefacts and fragments through the use of
patterns and schemas to build previously unseen or unexperienced three
dimensional images in a complex system of meaning and perception. The
nature of the media is such that a new reality is created through ongoing
fragmentation of reality and rearrangement of fragmented constructs
where the viewer’s mind plays a crucial role in the reconstruction of
reality. As Restak (1995:3-4) argues, no creature, including human
beings, can ever know any other “reality” than the representations made
by its brain. “These representations, in turn, depend upon the brain’s
organization, which differs from one creature to another and, in our own
species, from person to another” (Restak, 1995:4).
7
With these concepts in mind, the effects of media on the behaviour of
individuals and communities have received serious scholarly attention in a
wide range of disciplines. The aim has been to understand the
psychological, social, cultural, economic and political impact of media
effects and their implications, not only for democratic and relatively
stable societies but also for developing countries and volatile regions—
where new mass communication technologies, out of step with the
rhythms and speed of development, are causing more rapid and
irreversible changes to the social, cultural and political systems of
communities. In the absence of political and civic institutions that are able
to carry the change forward by translating into action the outcomes of
public debate and the values that are developed or transformed through
mass media, the ensuing change is bound to be reduced to hollow rhetoric
or to develop into disenchantment and a greater sense of alienation.
This chapter aims to situate the research in the context of the current
debate about the effects of television in general, the growing interest in
the phenomenon of Aljazeera Arabic satellite television in particular, and
23
Chapter 1
Why Contemporary Arabic Television?
as a necessary outgrowth of that undertaking, the role of remediation in
reframing broadcast messages at Aljazeera.
Mediated reality in Arab satellite television
In the Arab world, satellite television has been received with a euphoric
surge of hope for change, liberation and empowerment, as has been
debated in various forums and publications. It has been causing
cataclysmic social and cultural change across the entire region, with more
than 430
8
television channels offering a staggering range of imported,
cloned or locally produced programs. These programs include an endless
list of subtitled and dubbed Mexican soap operas, copycat and franchised
reality TV entertainment programs, documentaries and current affairs,
talk shows, children’s programs, religion, music and so on. The majority
of Arab audiences are watching game shows, music videos, and reality
television,
9
while their young children are left unsupervised or in the care
of foreign maids (a phenomenon that has dramatically increased in many
parts of the Arab world in part due to women entering the visible
10
white-
collar work force in large numbers in the last decade). These children are
being imbibed with alien social and cultural values and models that have
been cause for concern for educators and parents alike, in certain quarters
of exporting countries (see Gerbner, 1999 and Stossel, 1997). Cartoons
and animations that glorify violence and “make pain seem painless”
11
, and
depict explicit sex and gender relationships, extramarital affairs and
alternative lifestyles, are now the daily staple of a broad base of young
Arab viewers. As Stossel (1997) puts it, parents, including those in the
Arab region, “no longer have the opportunity to teach their children about
the birds and the bees gradually, in a manner they consider appropriate;
everything is exposed—so to speak—to kids all at once. The old system
of moral socialization breaks down”.
12
Without parental guidance and
taken out of their social and cultural contexts, these dubbed animations
are constructing new realities for these children, with translation playing a
24
Chapter 1
Why Contemporary Arabic Television?
critical role in the social and cultural detachment of the original meanings
from their contexts. Without sounding standoffish or prudish, it is not
unusual today to hear animated characters on Arab television talking to
each other in the following manner.
13

“Stop chasing other people’s wives! I saw you flirting with
my wife asking her to a dance!”
“O Dear! What is that mark [hickey] on your neck? Let me
get some medicine to remove it”.
“I am sure my father has left my mother for his secretary. He
will never come back after today.”
In this complex Arab region, two opposing currents have been pulling
communities apart in two opposite directions: (1) regimes strengthening
their hold on their people through greater emphasis of national identity,
sovereignty, autonomy and rivalry and (2) a transnational undercurrent of
aspired unity of some sort at the grassroots motivated by persistent
regional troubles and a religious ‘awakening’ that seems to translate into
violence and sanguine confrontations. In this socio-political environment,
these television channels span political and geographic boundaries, cross-
fertilize ideas and concepts and accelerate the rate of political
galvanization, compelling governments to devise ways to counter the
sudden onslaught of satellite television and to combat calls for reform and
political and social freedom.
In this regard, Alterman (2005) observes, albeit with a degree of naiveté
about the supposed or implied monolithic nature of Arab views in the pre-
Aljazeera era, that the governments of the Middle East are losing their
stranglehold on their publics. In the “age of media plenty”, as he calls it,
“any notion that there is a single ‘Arab line’ on a matter of interest is
demolished nightly on Aljazeera, Al-Arabiya and a host of other stations.
It is fascinating to see how different the new generations growing up in
this environment are from their elders: so much more questioning of their
identities, so much more individualistic, so much more impatient” (37).
But to make an early point, there has never been a single Arab line ever
25
Chapter 1
Why Contemporary Arabic Television?
on any matters of interest, and one would get the impression that
Alterman is referring to North Korea, or some other totalitarian regime,
and not about the Arab world, which is known at least to its own
inhabitants as a cauldron of opposing and contradictory ideas and views.
For decades, the Arab world has been polarized between Pan-Arabism
and western-backed conservatism
14
, to leave it at this high level, which
has translated into armed conflicts and wars in various parts of the region
and has polarized societies and communities within the same country.
Without getting into the historical and political aspects of this complex
region, people, in varying degrees and in a variety of guises where
despotic regimes for instance did not allow freedom of speech and
expression, talked and argued and discussed and marched and rallied and
fought with one another over the full spectrum of issues and views in their
homes, schools, universities and so on. That they did not have Aljazeera
to air these argumentations and views publicly does not mean that such
diversity did not exist, and it is naive and simplistic to believe that
Aljazeera and the Arab media are doing this.
Even the notion of public sphere, which seems to be the catchphrase of
the day, is arguably misinformed and at best misunderstood as far as the
region is concerned. However, whether this exaggerated trend which
Alterman is referring to is going to lead to a renewed sense of
transnational identity within a new pan-Arab framework or a further sense
of alienation and disfranchisement is something that cannot be predicted
at this point. What is certain, however, is that the media are playing a
critical role in bringing to the fore diversity of opinions, reshaping and
redefining social and cultural values and encouraging dissension in an
unbridled manner. It is not a smooth and easy process. In established
democratic societies, there are rules for debate and protocols that lead to
productive outcomes. Take these away, and you end up with stampedes,
riots and civil unrest. The New York City Blackout of 1977 is a poignant
26
Chapter 1
Why Contemporary Arabic Television?
example of the law of the jungle, just when electricity went out, as a worst
case scenario
15
. In its most benign form, guests shouting over one another
in a talk show, or viewers calling vox populi forums to air their
grievances and frustrations with their regimes and political events, clipped
and censored, in undemocratic countries or countries gradually
transitioning towards democracy, are like tilting at windmills.
The case of Aljazeera
One satellite television that stands from the crowd in effecting change
through mediation of reality is Aljazeera. Making its debut in 1996 with
uncensored political programs, this Arabic language satellite network is
said to have sent a shockwave across the Arab world, which up until then
had not been used to such a confrontational, no-holds-barred approach to
political or public debate on television. Hailed as the best thing ever to
have happened to the Arab world in recent times, Aljazeera has been seen
by many observers as an agent for democracy and change in the Middle
East.
16
Aljazeera has been considered “one of the most important de facto
Arab political parties” (Hafez, 2005).
17
Nonetheless, after a decade of
exaggerated publicity and intense public debate of almost every taboo
subject and a daily staple of dramatic violence that immediately resonates
in real-life situations in hotspots everywhere in the Arab world, Aljazeera
is now seen to have failed to deliver on its promised reform and openness.
While it continues to rake up controversial issues, Aljazeera has reached a
disappointing anticlimax—beaming conflicting images and narratives to
an Arab world thrown into chaos and turmoil and disenchanted viewers
trying to make sense of a skein of contradictions, dissonance and disarray
that gnaw at the social fabric of consumer societies, where unemployment
is one of the highest in the world and illiteracy rates are higher than the
international average, with more than 60 million adults illiterate, the
majority of whom are women
18
, and the looming crisis of food shortage
seriously threatening the stability of the region.
27
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Why Contemporary Arabic Television?
A possible explanation for this bathos is that Aljazeera acts as a stress
relief, or as Zayani (2005) puts it, “plays the role of preventative medium
and an outlet for the disfranchised public, thus providing a safety valve in
what may be described as a suffocating atmosphere in Arab countries”
(9). This palliative role however is seen in a more sinister light by those
who subscribe to the notion of conspiracy theory and other observers less
so inclined but not so gullible as to believe in the wholly altruistic motives
of Aljazeera. In the larger context, Aljazeera is seen as part of the efforts
of its sponsor, the state of Qatar, to normalize relations with Israel and the
West at large, and the contrast between what Aljazeera portrays and the
presence of the United States Central Command a few hundred meters
away from its headquarters in Doha is a constant reminder of this
contradiction that adds fuel to its nebulous role. Antagonists do not miss a
chance to point this out at every occasion when Qatar is thrown into the
debate about political and social reform in the region. On this point,
Gambill (2000)
19
confirms that sponsoring Aljazeera has helped Qatar
achieve a level of regional and international influence greatly
disproportionate to its military and economic strength. However, like
many observers, Gambill puzzles over the precise function of Aljazeera as
an instrument of Qatari foreign policy. He maintains:
“decisions as to the content of the station’s news coverage and the
participants in its televised political forums do not appear to be
influenced by specific foreign policy objectives. If there is a
cornerstone to Qatar’s foreign policy, it is its development of
friendly ties with all countries of the region (including Iraq, Iran
and Israel), an objective that does not appear at first glance to be
easily compatible with sponsoring a satellite news station that
broadcasts interviews with their political dissidents, reports on
their human rights abuses, and open debates on their religious
practices”.
20

However, as noted in the previous section and elsewhere in this thesis,
Aljazeera in this instance “can stir up anger, but not anger of the kind that
can be sublimated by voting a local politician out of office, let alone by
changing a government. In that sense, there has always been something
28
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Why Contemporary Arabic Television?
artificial about it, as if it had taken up residence in a realm of pure theory”
(Bernhard, 2006:2).
21

The Arab world is changing dramatically on the political, social, cultural
and economic levels. Recent events in Iraq, Occupied Palestine and most
recently Lebanon are precursors of such dramatic and irreversible change.
In a typical, simplistic and curious Orientalist vein, Alterman (2005)
observes that the process by which the Arabs will move into the Twenty
First Century will be messy, perplexing and sluggish and will suffer
setbacks. But what is most exciting to him is “the creativity that these
changes are unleashing. There is no guarantee that young Arabs’ future
will be better than their past, but the tools at their disposal to help make it
so are more powerful than those of their parents, and their grandparents
before them” (42). Undoubtedly, Arabic satellite television is one such
tool that is effecting irreversible change in the social system and in the
identity and outlook of modern Arabs. The role of translation mediation
of imported programs as well as home-made ones, as will be explored in
this thesis, cannot be underestimated in the process of reconstructing
mediated realities.
Statement of the Problem
The fast rise to fame (or notoriety, depending on the point of view) of
Aljazeera in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 attacks on the United
States has raised awareness in both the academic and professional
domains to a new media phenomenon that has been endemically
spreading across the Arab world.
Before then, there had been very little interest in the diffusion of Arabic
satellite television despite the serious changes the numerous television
channels beamed at the region had been introducing to the culture,
identity and social values of the Arabs. The sudden impact of Aljazeera’s
broadcasting of the Bin Laden tapes has motivated academics, media
29
Chapter 1
Why Contemporary Arabic Television?
analysts and political commentators to examine this phenomenon, taking
a special interest in the political, social and cultural aspects of Aljazeera.
Aljazeera has been criticized for its graphic coverage of victims of
violence and war, and has been regarded with suspicion by both Arab and
western commentators. On the one hand, it has been seen as the CNN of
the Arab world and as a shill for terrorists, on the other. In this regard,
Johnson and Fahmy (2008) report that “Aljazeera has been praised for its
hard-hitting and independent style of journalism, its refusal to regurgitate
the official line of Arab government officials and its commitment to
accuracy and balance while at the same time showing an Arab perspective
on the news” (Johnson and Fahmy, 2008:338). Examining Aljazeera’s
credibility, they confirm the view that Arab governments and US officials
regard Aljazeera as an unreliable or dangerous source of information.
Language choices
In a less malevolent light, Aljazeera has been seen as a bull in a china
shop. It has been accused of flouting journalistic ethics by showing
uncensored images of war, dead American soldiers in Iraq, and western
hostages about to be executed. It has also been criticized for presenting an
array of programs that have been bombastic, defiant and irresponsible,
tackling taboo subjects and issues deemed culturally, religiously and
politically sensitive. As an Arabic-language television network, Aljazeera
has adopted a high variety of Arabic often referred to by western linguists
as Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), in contrast to the low variety or
colloquial Arabic, which has been predominantly used by other Arabic
satellite television stations, particularly on entertainment channels. As
Riman and Darwish (2008: 190-191) observe, the colloquial variety of
Arabic has been spreading in the Arabic media throughout the Arab world
and Aljazeera is now aware of its critical role as a standardization
medium of Arabic. However, the influence of English is so critical in this
standardization process since, as alluded to at the beginning of this
30
Chapter 1
Why Contemporary Arabic Television?
chapter, Aljazeera relies primarily on translation of news and other
program contents from English. Therefore, this aspect must not be
underestimated in the current climate of global political uncertainties and
in light of the change that languages are undergoing, due to the influence
of the English language, which is claimed to have been the result of the
cultural dimensions of its use which “have altered key words and
concepts, such as freedom, justice, and truth…” (Zournazi, 2007: 1-2).
This alteration makes mediating “corrupt” concepts corrupt both the
original message and the mediated one.
Translation mediation
However, seemingly forgotten in all of the commotion about the effects of
Arabic satellite television is the role and impact of translation mediation
or information re-mediation in actually translating and transforming social
and cultural values through television. Scanty research into the effects of
translation on reframing the original messages has been carried out
despite the large body of literature in both Translation Studies and Media
and Communication Studies. Only in the last couple of years has interest
in this phenomenon begun to develop. At the very basic level of
description, translation always involves transformation and transformation
intrinsically results in transmutation of the original message.
In Arabic television, the focus of this study, in particular, translation
performs two functions at two different levels: translation proper; that is
the translation of discourse from one language to another; and translation
as interpretation in a broader sense of the word. In Arabic television, or
generally in receptor languages and cultures, the second level of
“translation” is actualized through a process of re-mediation.
This dual function of translation at the text level and at the social and
cultural level of transfer involves interpretation and adaptation of the
dynamic forces of narrative, metaphor, meaning and semiosis of salient
and inconspicuous characteristics to create a reality based on re-creation
31
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Why Contemporary Arabic Television?
and reconstruction of already constructed realities. Given that the bulk of
programs broadcast by Aljazeera and other Arabic television stations is
transmitted and translated from other languages, mainly English,
translation plays a major role in repackaging programs and reframing
reality. How meanings are produced or rather reproduced in television has
a great deal to do with how language is used and how visual signs are
framed and interpreted. The tenuous and dialectical relationship between
the original sign in the source language and its replica in the target
language on the one hand and the way both the original sign and its
replica are interpreted at various stages of reproduction and reception by
both reproducers and viewers on the other is also a process of primary
and intermediate interpretation of interpretation where narrative forms and
images assume meanings, which are inevitably and by their ontic nature
necessarily different from the original meanings which the original signs
were intended to convey. One could argue that translation at both levels is
to a large extent a process of disturbance, dislocation and violation of the
original signs—the symbolic, iconic and indexical signs—and relocation
and transplantation of these signs in another language and culture for
another reader, or viewer in this instance, to interpret and respond to in
order to make meaning of the reconstructed narrative forms and images.
The process entails re-mediation and repurposing of the original artefacts
into a new intermediated reality where these signs may not necessarily
correspond in type to their original counterparts. A symbolic sign for
example, may not translate into a symbolic sign of the same nature or at
all or an indexical sign in the source may not be indexical in the target.
For example, the indexical link between terrorism and Islam or war and
democracy in western media and the metaphorical production and
reproduction of these signs may not necessarily be the same in the
intermediated versions. Such incongruence leads to cognitive dissonance
and tension between the sign and the viewer’s perception of the
32
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Why Contemporary Arabic Television?
indexicality of the sign that is resolved only through rationalization,
normalization and change of perception of the sign.
In other words, while there are no pregivens as far as the interpretation of
meaning of these signs goes, there are givens as far as the signs are
concerned. This is driven by the distinction between the ontic nature of
things and their epistemic reality. When those two do not match, cognitive
dissonance occurs, which languages remedy by shifting to metaphor as a
means of rationalization, normalization or changing the perception of the
sign. The process of semiosis may differ from person to person, in terms
of the symbolic, iconic and indexical relations of signs. However, no
communication can take place without conventional agreement within any
speech community about the meaning of words or signs that refer to
things. Our communication would not be possible without it.
Television presentation as multimodal mediated social transaction
According to Harris (2004:19), our relationship with the media is so
profound because it responds to a deeper understanding of our
psychological needs and in many respects contributes to our
psychological development and confirms that the bulk of social research
on media has been more focused on television than on other forms of
media. Television as an audiovisual medium may be regarded as a
mediated social transaction that takes place between the presenter and the
viewers through multimodalities. This may be understood in terms of a
basic psychological definition of transaction as “a behavioural event or
aspect thereof the essential nature of which is captured by interactions
between the actor, other individuals involved and the environment”
22
and
transactional communication theories which emphasize “the importance
of social context as a determinant of communicative outcomes”
23
. It might
be argued that this definition of transaction does not apply to television
since transactional communication is a simultaneous two-way process and
television is a one-way communication process. It can be counter-argued,
33
Chapter 1
Why Contemporary Arabic Television?
as I do in this thesis, that this view of transactional communication is
confused with interactive communication and that if we are to assume that
the media have effects on the behaviour of viewers, such assumption rests
on the notion that television is a mediated transaction that takes place
within a specific timeframe. This notion of transaction is important in
determining how television positions itself vis-à-vis the viewers and vice-
versa.
In television that relies on foreign language sources for its packaging,
translation is inextricably intertwined with the multimodalities of the
audiovisual representation. As de Ruiter (2004)
24
contends, language
remains the primary form of communication, even in multimodal systems
and that “language can encode and transmit complex information that is
very hard, if not impossible, to express in non-linguistic modalities” (1).
Consequently, a study of the role of language in television must accord an
important central role to translation, and since translation provides the
framework for both the discourse and the representation, I will address it
at various points of my discussion of the various aspects of Arabic
television. Translation as a rewriting process recreates an original text
written in a source language in another form in a target language, which
may introduce new forms and concepts. “All rewritings, whatever their
intention, reflect a certain ideology and a poetics and as such manipulate
literature to function in a given society in a given way […]. Rewriting can
introduce new concepts, new genres, new devices, and the history of
translation is also the history of literary innovation, of shaping power of
one culture upon another.” (Zlateva, 1993:vii). She also argues that
rewriting “can also repress innovation, distort and contain” (ibid). In this
sense, it can also be argued, as I do in this thesis, that translation is a
process of simplification; where such rewriting suspends the rhetorical
properties of the target language in favour of those in the source language.
Consequently, alien rhetorical features that only work in the source
language are introduced to the target language. These features largely do
34
Chapter 1
Why Contemporary Arabic Television?
not have the same rhetorical effects as in the source, and the introduction
of new genres is merely a by-product of such a simplification process and
not the result of a greater design of ideological manipulation except
perhaps in the adoption of a translation strategy conducive to such results.
Purpose of the Study
This research Translation and News Making: A Study of Contemporary
Arabic Television has sought to examine the social semiotics of
translation mediation in Arabic satellite television, with a special focus on
Aljazeera. “No process of thinking occurs without a cause”
25
. One of
these causes, according to Carroll (1964), is motivation, and the
motivation for studying social semiotics of translation mediation in
Arabic satellite television is lies in the detection if the stark dissonance
between what is known about language and cultural behaviour and what is
being transmitted by Arabic television that calls for closer examination of
this phenomenon.
“A language is a socially institutionalized sign system. It is the
result of centuries of gradual development and change at the hand
of many generations of speakers, but at any one point in history it
exists as a set of patterns of behavior learned and exploited in
varying degrees by each member of the speech community in
which it is used” (Carroll, 1964: 8).
However, the widespread saturation and unprecedented speed of
dissemination of translation-mediated information content is accelerating
the development process, causing the deinstitutionalization of a sign
system and introducing a new set of behavioural patterns that are
changing the social and cultural tapestry of Arab communities. Moreover,
as Baker (2006) confirms, translation is not a by-product, a consequence
of social and political developments, or a by-product of the physical
movement of texts and people. It is rather an integral part of the very
process that makes these developments and movements possible in the
first place (Baker, 2007:6). Consequently, translation mediation plays a
fundamental role in shaping and reshaping social reality.
35
Chapter 1
Why Contemporary Arabic Television?
This thesis examines three aspects of translation-mediation (or
remediation) at Arabic satellite television: translation, telecast interpreting
and voiceover and subtitling. These aspects are analyzed in terms of the
extent of framing and reframing they cause the original message to
undergo.
Significance of the Study
So significant is the emergence of Aljazeera that never has a media
phenomenon attracted so much attention in recent history, in both the
academic and professional worlds. From the moment Aljazeera aired the
Bin Laden tapes in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, there has been a
flurry of academic and professional activities seeking to understand this
new curious phenomenon of Arabic satellite television and more
specifically Aljazeera and to place it in the context of a region long
regarded with suspicion and contempt in many quarters of the West—a
perception that has been perpetuated by the media itself. Several books,
articles and research papers have been published about Arabic satellite
television, and various inquisitive studies have been undertaken in
western universities, by westerners and Arabs alike—researchers in media
and communication, political science and cross-cultural anthropology, in
the first instance, have looked at the social, political, economic and
cultural aspects and impact of Arabic media, particularly Aljazeera (for
example, Zayani, 2005; Sakr, 2001; Lynch, 2006; Tatham, 2006; El-
Nawawy and Iskandar, 2002; Miles, 2005; Darwish, 2005; Qusaibaty,
2006; Zayani and Sahroui, 2007).
Some of the books that have been published in recent years bear the
hallmarks of politically motivated or propaganda-propelled campaigns by
outsiders to the language and culture of the Arab region, or by starry-eyed
insiders, climbers and sycophants, barely scratching the surface of this
important phenomenon that is set to change the region forever if it hasn’t
already. An interesting point to note here is that almost all the studies that
36
Chapter 1
Why Contemporary Arabic Television?
have been published about Aljazeera and contemporary Arab satellite
television and media in general have been written by Arabs living abroad
or by foreigners. Ironically, while Aljazeera was the first home-based
satellite television channel to broadcast to the entire Arab world and
beyond and while its controversial programs had caused daily ruffles to
Arab governments and agitated conservative sections of the Arab society,
the discovery of Aljazeera, academically and professionally happened at
the hands of Arabs and academics in the west.
As a social phenomenon, Aljazeera is claimed to have been able to change
not only the way news and current affairs are reported, but also how the
Arabs see themselves in relation to the rest of the world. But Aljazeera
has been accompanied by a flood of satellite television channels that are
no less significant in shaping public opinion and changing social and
cultural values. Yet the main focus of analysts and observers remains
trained on Aljazeera and to some extent its rival Al-Arabiya, which for a
variety of reasons does not have the same appeal or impact as Aljazeera
does.
Underlying this phenomenon is the role of translation in bringing
Aljazeera to the viewers and the social semiotics of the multimodalities of
Arabic television. Obvious is the combination of words, voice, body
language and visual effects to produce television news, but not so easily
discerned is the role of translation in the remediation process of news
artefacts created or produced in another language into the language of
broadcasting. There are hardly any studies conducted on the effects of
translation on news reporting at large and on Arabic television and more
specifically Aljazeera.
26
Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests a causative
relationship between translation and two modalities of news presentation
at Aljazeera: (1) news reporting and (2) interpretation.
37
Chapter 1
Why Contemporary Arabic Television?
Showcasing Aljazeera
Not only are other Arab networks emulating Aljazeera, but also
undoubtedly, in less than ten years, Aljazeera has become etched into the
consciousness of the Arabs and has become an integral feature of their
daily life. Naomi Sakr (2001) reports that “surveys conducted in Saudi
Arabia and the UAE have shown a high proportion of respondents
watching television for more than three hours a day, with those on lower
incomes spending most time in front of the screen” (6). The pattern is
most likely the same in other parts of the region, with Aljazeera ranking
highest on the remote control scale. Moreover, social and political
movements in the Arab world have realized the vital role the media can
play and the significance of Aljazeera in exerting pressure on
governments and influencing domestic and international public opinion.
The year 2005 has been regarded as the year of the media in the Middle
East. The non-violent demonstrations and popular civic action that took
place in post-communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe in the
first half of the decade and which spread in 2005 to parts of the Middle
East have been described by media and political commentators as colour
revolutions. The Purple Revolution in Iraq (purple inked fingers), the
Blue Revolution in Kuwait and the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon were
three social manifestations of social and political reform movements in
the Middle East that were in many respects played out for the cameras of
regional and western cameras. What is peculiar about the demonstrations
in Kuwait and Lebanon is their appeal to the international community and
more specifically the western world, particularly the United States,
through the use of slogans and placards written in English.
Limitations of the Research
The research focuses mainly on broadcasts by Aljazeera Arabic channel,
as the case study of this research. Bearing in mind that a case study
method usually focuses only on one case and makes inferences and is
38
Chapter 1
Why Contemporary Arabic Television?
often criticised for its inability to offer grounds for “establishing
reliability or generality of findings”
27
, this research is aided by a limited
contrastive analysis of LBC, Al-Arabiya, Abu Dhabi TV and Al-Manar,
especially as access to these and other satellite channels became feasible,
particularly through live television streaming on the Internet.
According to Bachor (2000)
28
, a fundamental requirement in reporting
case studies is to conduct the case study in a way that enables the result to
be communicated to the reader. Consequently, the reader should be able
to determine the nature of the argument from the evidence presented, and
how and why the conclusions were made. “The evidence must follow
convincingly and - when the purpose of the presented case is to move
beyond description to explanation- should allow the reader to determine
the basis upon which any generalization(s) are being advanced” (Bachor,
2000). In conducting the present case study, a set of guidelines were
drawn up. These guidelines are discussed in Chapter 3: Conceptual
Framework and Research Model.
One of the limitations of this study is the lack of access to Aljazeera’s
internal processes or to process documentation—if any—that might shed
light on how news is packaged through translation. Consequently, the
analysis focuses mainly on content analysis of programs and informal
communication with media professionals. As Gamal (2007) confirms,
“experience over the past fifteen years has shown that a large number of
state-owned and privately-owned television channels are reluctant to
show, let alone share their “Subtitler Manual”. The same problem exists
in the privately-owned media production companies that offer subtitling
services” (86).
29
This observation also extends to other areas of translation
work at these channels.
39
Chapter 1
Why Contemporary Arabic Television?
Research Questions and hypotheses
This research addresses the fundamental problem of translation mediation
in Arabic television. Taking Aljazeera as the focus of its case study, this
research examines how Aljazeera satellite television employs translation
frames to report the news. This problem can be hypothesized as follows:
Translation mediation reframes the original message.
This hypothesis is situated within the framework of framing theory, which
posits that “an issue can be viewed from a variety of perspectives and be
construed as having implications for multiple values or considerations.
Framing refers to the process by which people develop a particular
conceptualization of an issue or reorient their thinking about an issue”
(Chong and Druckman, 2007: 103). The hypothesis poses the following
research questions:
RQ1 How does translation reframe the news?
RQ2 How does the multimodality of television affect translation-
mediated reframing of news?
Research objectives
The research objectives, which are driven by the research questions, are
to:
• Undertake a review of the literature on translation studies, mass
communication and the phenomenon of Aljazeera and Arabic satellite
television to:
1. Identify existing research in the area of study to determine
gaps in the main body of knowledge relevant to the
research topic; (RQ1)
2. Identify and critique contemporary research approaches to
translation studies associated with news production in
order to develop a theoretical framework within which a
40
Chapter 1
Why Contemporary Arabic Television?
research operational model can be utilized to examine the
process of news translation; (RQ1)
3. Examine the main arguments that have been put forward in
relation to Aljazeera and Arabic satellite television to
determine their credibility and reliability and the validity
of their premises and conclusions about Aljazeera’s role as
a mediated-news provider. (RQ1)
4. Determine the elements of translation-mediated reframing
in Arabic satellite television in order to understand how
reframing is actualized in Arabic news. (RQ1)
5. Examine the nature of multimodal translation-mediation as
opposed to other modes of translation mediation. (RQ2)
• Develop and utilize a translation model in the assessment of
translation-mediated news discourse, based on the analysis of data, in
order to:
1. Determine why and how reframing occurs in translation.
(RQ2)
• Use a case study approach to examine:
1. The translation process within the context of television
news production; and (RQ2)
2. The effects of translation on the reframing of news in the
context of Arabic satellite television. (RQ2)
The research was motivated by the striking peculiarities of language
usage in Arabic newscasts and translated news reports mainly at Aljazeera
and comparatively at other television networks such as AlArabiya, LBC
and Al Manar (as this became later available for as short period on the
Internet) on the one hand and the semiotic dissonance of packaged
programs on the other. These two aspects of modern Arabic television are
41
Chapter 1
Why Contemporary Arabic Television?
extraordinarily alien to both the language and culture and are curiously
interrelated.
The main research method employed is qualitative content analysis of
primary data recorded over a period of two years with additional on-going
recordings of programs identified in the research as contributory or
consolidating factors. This analysis is carried out within a critical
interpretive framework that provides a structured method of inquiry
consisting of identification, observation, critical analysis and
interpretation and allows a meaning-centred critical approach to mediated
cultural changes. According to Munhall (2006:441)
30
, when critical theory
is employed within an interpretive framework, its primary goal is to tease
out the hidden or overlooked meanings or practices that bind experience
to the social world rather than social change as such. In this context,
television may be seen as a critical representation of cultural change.
Additionally, within this interpretative framework and following Kress
and van Leeuwen (1996) and Bell (2001), social semiotics analysis of the
visual communication of television, was employed in order to describe the
semiotic resources and perform content analysis of the visual images in
terms of values, variables and modality.
Special Definitions
Cultural dependency
Cultural dependency relates to the properties of text that are culture-
bounded. These properties reflect the social attitudes and mores and
intellectual perspective of those who speak the language of a certain
culture.
Downstream reporting
Downstream reporting is defined here as news reports originating in
English mainly by news providers and translated into other languages
locally by news monitors, translators and editors, or translated by
translators working at or for these news providers.
42
Chapter 1
Why Contemporary Arabic Television?
Intermediation
In the context of this study, intermediation is the act of intervening
between the source text and target text through translation. For a source
text to become comprehensible in a target language, it must go through
translation mediation.
Remediation
Bolter and Grusin (2000) have argued that “a medium is that which
remediates. It is that which appropriates the techniques, forms, and social
significance of other media and attempts to rival or refashion them in the
name of the real” (66). Remediation according to them is reform in the
sense that media reform reality itself. It is not that media merely reform
the appearance of reality. It is rather that "virtual reality reforms reality by
giving us an alternative visual world and insisting on that world as the
locus of presence and meaning for us" (61).
Native form
Native form refers to the form of the original text or discourse.
Thesis Structure and Organization
This thesis is organized in the following manner.
Chapter 1: Why Arabic Satellite Television. This chapter introduces the
thesis.
Chapter 2: Mediating Cultural Change. This chapter reviews landmark
publications about Aljazeera and Arabic satellite television. It critically
reviews the literature that has been produced about Aljazeera and Arabic
satellite television in the last ten years. It also examines the current
theories, and models of translation that have relevance to the present
research, with the aim to gain insight into these theories and models and
to identify relevant arguments and shortcomings with respect to the
impact of translation on news making and on the social semiotics of
television.
43
Chapter 1
Why Contemporary Arabic Television?
Chapter 3: Conceptual Framework and Research Model. outline the
conceptual framework and methodology employed in addressing the
research questions and to describe the theoretical framework in which the
research is grounded. It outlines the methodology employed in this
research and describe the theoretical framework in which the research is
grounded. This chapter also describes the methods used for data
collection, sampling and analysis.
Chapter 4: Translating the News. This chapter examines the strategies
and approaches utilized in translating the news at Aljazeera and other
Arabic satellite television networks and their impact on framing news
stories.
Chapter 5: Framing Realities in Arabic News. This chapter presents a
discussion of the salient features of translation-induced reframing of
Arabic news explored in this research, along with the subsequent
chapters.
Chapter 6: Mediating Live Broadcasts. This chapter examines the
simultaneous interpreting in the delivery of live broadcasts at Aljazeera.
Chapter 7: Summary and Conclusions: The Taming of the Shrew. This
chapter summarizes the research, discusses its implications and presents
conclusions derived from the research.
References provides a list of publications referred to in the thesis either
directly or indirectly.
Index provides a quick reference to key topics discussed in the thesis.
Notes

1
In reference to Arabic language television as opposed to Arab-owned television broadcasting in other
languages.
2
Darwish, A. (2005). Language, Translation and Identity.
3
Fixers are used in situations where reporters working for CNN, BBC and other western networks do
not speak the local language. These reporters work within a monolingual model of news reporting as
44
Chapter 1
Why Contemporary Arabic Television?
opposed to the downstream reporting model (discussed in this thesis) that relies on translation for news
reports derived from western sources that are in turn reliant on translators/fixers for primary
information gathering. Consequently, this does not apply to Aljazeera since it uses bilingual and
multilingual correspondents who speak Arabic paired with English, French, Spanish, Urdu, Farsi, etc.
4
Corner, J (1999). Critical Ideas in Television Studies. Clarendon Press.
5
Gerbner, G. (1999). “What do we know?” Foreword to Television and Its Viewers: Cultivation
Theory and Research, Book by Michael Morgan, James Shanahan; Cambridge University Press, 1999.
6
Terry Pierce, “An Overview of the Cultivation Theory,” (2000). Quoted in LeAnn Greunke, “The
Cultivation Theory,” www.colostate.edu/Depts/Speech/rccs/theory06.htm. Cited in Media Influence on
the Creation of the Iraqi Stereotype. Meghan Blake (2004). Retrieved 4 August 2007.
7
Restak, R. (1995). Brainscapes. Hyperion: New York.
8
Source of figure: Rafiq Nasrallah, author of the book Arab Media Security: The Problematic of Role
and Identity. Riad El-Rayyesh Books: Beirut, 2007, on Aljazeera’s talk show The Opposite Direction.
Other sources estimate the number at 350 channels.
9
See Alterman, J (2005). IT Comes of Age In the Middle East. Foreign Service Journal, December
2005.
10
The majority of Arab women in the work force are “invisible women”, according to Nadia Hijab
(2000). “Most of these “invisible” women worked in agriculture or other family-run businesses, in the
domestic economy or elsewhere in the informal sector” (42).
11
Gerbner, G. Cited in Scott Stossel (1997). Man Who Counts the Killings: George Gerbner ... Is So
Alarmed about the Baneful Effects of TV That He Describes Them in Terms of "Fascism". The
Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 279, May 1997.
12
Scott Stossel (1997). Man Who Counts the Killings: George Gerbner ... Is So Alarmed about the
Baneful Effects of TV That He Describes Them in Terms of "Fascism". The Atlantic Monthly, Vol.
279, May 1997.
13
Examples cited in Darwish, Hana (2007). The Psychological and Social Impact of Animations on
Children. United Arab Emirates. Pages 2 -3.
14
It a well known fact that the west has backed conservative regimes such as Saudi Arabia and other
Arabian Gulf countries against political and popular movements in the Arab world working for greater
Arab unity and unification. The establishment of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in the
early seventies by the two leading conservative Arab kingdoms of Morocco and Saudi Arabia was
aimed at undermining the Pan-Arab movement led by Egyptian president Nasser, pitting Islam against
Arab nationalism.
15
It is interesting to note that looting has not been observed as a phenomenon in war- or disaster-
stricken countries in the Arab world. In the Lebanese civil war that lasted more than twenty years, for
example, no mass looting was ever witnessed or reported. War lords may have organized pillaging for
their own gains and individuals may have stolen bits and pieces of property from destroyed homes, but
mass looting was never recorded. In times of civil unrest, protesters may have destroyed property, but
they never looted as witnessed in New York or Los Angeles. This is a social phenomenon that deserves
a study of its own right. The only recorded exception is the looting that took place in Baghdad during
the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Even then, looting was perpetrated by prisoners who were freed by
Saddam shortly before the invasion began.
16
See Darwish, A. (2005). Language, Translation and Identity in the Age of the Internet, Satellite
Television and Directed Media. Writescope: Melbourne.
17
Hafez, K (2005). Arab Satellite Broadcasting: Democracy Without Political Parties?
http://www.tbsjournal.com/Archives/Fall05/Hafez.html. Retrieved 7 August 2007.
45
Chapter 1
Why Contemporary Arabic Television?
18
Source of figures: Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2002, Volume IX: Number 4. How the Arabs
Compare Arab Human Development Report 2002. http://www.meforum.org/article/513. Retrieved 5
August 2007.
19
Gary C. Gambill (2000). Qatar's Al-Jazeera TV: The Power of Free Speech. Middle East
Intelligence Bulletin. http://www.meib.org/articles/0006_me2.htm. Retrieved 26 August 2007.
20
Ibid.
21
Bernhard, B. (2006). Is It Al-Jazeera Or CNN International?
http://www.nysun.com/article/43884?page_no=2 . Retrieved 24 November 2007.
22
Arthur S. Reber and Emily Reber (1985). The Penguin Dictionary of Psychology. Third Edition.
2001.
23
Kenneth K. Sereno, C. David Mortensen (1970). Foundations of Communication Theory. Harper &
Row, 57.
24
Jan Peter de Ruiter (2004). On the primacy of language in multimodal communication.
www.mpi.nl/Members/JanPeterdeRuiter/primacy . ELRA - European Language Resources Association
(CD-ROM). http://edoc.mpg.de/226536. Retrieved 17 September 2007.
25
Carroll, J. B (1964). Language and Thought. Prentice-Hall Inc: New Jersey. 81.
26
Two major publications by the author of this thesis in 2005 and 2007 addressed this problem, and a
recent book by Mona Baker (2006) Translation and Conflict, also touched upon the problem of
reframing of news.
27
http://www.gslis.utexas.edu/~ssoy/usesusers/l391d1b.htm. Retrieved 13 May 2008.
28
http://www.aare.edu.au/00pap/bac00287.htm. Retrieved 23 May 2008.
29
Gamal, M. (2007). Audiovisual Translation in the Arab World: A Changing Scene. Translation
Watch Quarterly, TSI: Melbourne, Volume 3, Issue 2, 2007. 78-95.
30
Patricia L. Munhall (2006). Nursing Research: A Qualitative Perspective. Jones and Bartlett
Publishers.
46
Chapter 2
Mediating Cultural Change
Chapter 2
Mediating Cultural Change
It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.
— Leonardo da Vinci (1452 –
1519)

In this chapter:
Aims
Overview
The Showcase
Translation, Culture and Television
Mediating Cultural Change
Framing Aljazeera
Fourth Estate or Fifth Column
Mission Aljazeera
News, Language, Translation and Culture
The Role of Translation in the Media
Conclusion

47
Chapter 2
Mediating Cultural Change
Aims
The aim of this chapter is to present a critical review of the literature
that has been produced about Aljazeera and Arabic satellite television
in the last ten years in order to tease out the main arguments that
appear in the current debate of this mediated social and cultural
phenomenon in the Arab world.
This chapter consists of two major sections: one section dealing with
the literature specific to Aljazeera and another covering translation
theories, methods and models relating to mediated news reporting.
The aim of this chapter is thus to review the landmark publications that
have examined Aljazeera to identify the main arguments and the gaps
in the literature in relation to the centrality of translation in news
reporting in Arabic television. In examining the current theories, and
models of translation that have relevance to the present research, this
chapter aims to gain insight into these theories and models and to
identify relevant arguments and shortcomings with respect to the
impact of translation on news making of television.

48
Chapter 2
Mediating Cultural Change
Overview
As alluded to in the previous chapter, the main argument of this research
is that translation mediation reframes news reports already framed
primarily in English language, through translation-mediated news
artefacts gathered and constructed by news reporters on location or by
news editors back in the network offices. The literature that has examined
the role of framing in the media barely deals with the role of translation
mediation in constructing and/or reconstructing news reports. Only
recently has interest grown in studying the effects of translation on news
reporting. Palmer and Fontan (2007) for example, examine the role of
translators/fixers in providing information to journalists operating in Iraq.
News reporting consists of several information relays that intervene
between the events and the journalists who report them, and Palmer and
Fontan (2007) examine only one aspect of information relays or
intervention: the role of the translators/fixers who work alongside western
media workers, particularly in Iraq since the Anglo-US invasion of 2003.
1
However, translation mediation extends beyond this initial stage of
information relay to encompass the entire process of news reporting and
production, especially in non-western media networks, and more
specifically the Arabic satellite television Aljazeera.
In this chapter, I will review some of the literature in three areas related to
the present research: (1) Aljazeera and transnational television; (2)
translation mediation theories; and (3) news reporting models.
Satellite television
With the diffusion of transnational television worldwide in the last two
decades, issues relating to identity, cross-cultural interactions,
globalization, dominance and control and a broad range of social,
political, economic and cultural ramifications have been raised both in the
public arena and in the academic world. The dramatic appearance of
49
Chapter 2
Mediating Cultural Change
Aljazeera on world stage in the mid nineties with its exclusive coverage
of the gulf war and airing of the Bin Laden tapes in December 2001
instigated a number of studies in government and professional circles and
in academia aiming to understand the effects of a liberal pan-Arab news
network on Arab viewers, and its implications for political, social and
cultural change. Numerous articles and papers and several books and
doctoral dissertations have been published. Some of these are
characteristically sycophantic in nature—a description which might allow
readers to understand the motivations behind the sudden surge in
publications about Aljazeera and Arab media in general and might lead to
acknowledging the fact that most of these publications are void of any
real depth and insight. Some are poorly researched and lacking validity
and reliability; presenting factual errors and erroneous information, yet
quickly merging into the body of knowledge as respected references about
the condition of Arab society and Arab media.
To explain the former observation; so much rampant is the culture of
hired journalists, writers and historians and a culture of academic deceit
and dishonesty in the Arab world, as elsewhere in the world, that authors,
especially those who have written positively about Aljazeera or its
competitors (such as El-Nawawy and Iskandar, 2002; Miles, 2005 and
Tatham, 2006), are compelled to declare that they have never received
any payment from Aljazeera in connection with their books.
2
“So many
journalists are suspected of being merely spokesmen, mouthpieces, or
“hired pens” of one political group or another. Muhammad Hassanain
Haykal, the most widely read journalist in the Arab world in modern
times, gained his popularity not only by his facility with the Arabic
language, which was conceded even by his critics, but also because his
readers were convinced that he was such a close friend of Egypt’s
President Nasser that he was in effect speaking for Nasser, the most
important leader in the Arab world” (Rugh, 2004:11).
50
Chapter 2
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The number of books written on Iraq in the twelve months preceding the
Invasion of Iraq in 2003, for example, is a potent reminder of the
synchronicity of the “intellectuals”, the media and the political apparatus,
and it would be rather naive to believe that the sudden interest in Iraq in
the twelve months preceding the invasion was a sheer coincidence. In a
similar vein, the interest in Aljazeera as a social and political phenomenon
seems to be exaggerated at times, raising similar apprehension about the
motives of some of these studies that suddenly produce experts on the
Arab world, the Middle East and associated issues such as “terrorism” and
“Islam”. Various research centres now boast of “experts” in these areas.
3
The trend extends to Aljazeera itself, where the same experts appear
regularly on news and current affairs programs to the extent that a certain
anticipatory frame of reference is created in the minds of the viewers with
respect to the differing views presented by these experts.
The latter form of inquiry—with the lack of validity of research—seems
to have educed from specific interpretive frameworks strongly wedded to
particular ideologies or from personal prejudices and presuppositions. The
notion of objectivity quickly dissolves when certain findings and
descriptions are checked against historical, geographical and cultural
records. An example of this is the following assertion: “More people in
North Africa became Arabs when they converted to Islam and gave up
their previous languages” (Jamal, 2004)
4
, which simplistically regards
conversion to Islam as an automatic racial transformation and reduces the
Arab identity to the ability to speak the Arabic language. The same falsity
is asserted by Rugh (2004) who claims that “the best definition of who is
an Arab is not in terms of religion or geography but of language and
consciousness, that is, one who speaks Arabic and considers himself an
Arab” (19). It seems however that such definition applies to most modern
nations and not just the Arabs. Another example is Rinnawi (2006) who
writes: “Although there is no one dialect of Arabic, which can be
understood among all levels of Arabic society (plagued as it is by low
51
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levels of school attendance among women, and literacy), Modern
Standard is perhaps the most widely understood, based on Qur’anic
Arabic and taught through school systems all over the Arab world” (22)
[emphasis added].
5
Apart from the tentative nature of such a statement (and the modalities
with which it is punctuated) in keeping with the tradition of academic
research of post-modernity, where nothing is absolutely certain and
nothing is certainly absolute until someone else has said something about
it (when it becomes a gospel truth), these ill-conceived and fabricated
constructs of Arab identity seem to resonate with a large number of Arab
intellectuals. So much so that any call for a broader Arab affiliation under
a pan-Arab project is immediately stigmatized, condemned and dismissed
as out of date or even racist, on Aljazeera and other Arabic television
networks of its ilk. Words such as “arbaji” (Arabism-monger) and
“qawmaji” (nationalism-monger) are often used by debaters to demean
their opponents. The derogatory “ji” suffix in colloquial Arabic denotes
an act or a thing contemptible.
As Lakoff and Johnson (1980) contend, Western culture has been
dominated by the myth of objectivity. “The view that we have access to
absolute and unconditional truths about the world is the cornerstone of
Western philosophical tradition. The myth of objectivity has flourished in
both the rationalist and empiricist traditions, which in this respect differ
only in their accounts of how we arrive at such absolute truths” (195).
But in democratic societies where freedom of expression is a sacred
precept, even academic work is above criticism or the scrutiny of
knowledgeable scholars and many a doctoral dissertation in this uncharted
area of Arabic media has escaped the scrutiny of scholarly validation, so
much so that long established historical and other facts have been
distorted or presented in interpretive frameworks that largely reflect the
views of the researchers rather than the object of inquiry. Consequently,
52
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Mediating Cultural Change
the reader, the ultimate observer and arbiter, with limited resources, is left
to judge the validity of the information presented in the findings of
research. That is why a literature review of Arabic media and Aljazeera in
particular must proceed with this cautionary caveat in mind.
Aljazeera: the taboo-breaker
Undoubtedly, Aljazeera’s unapologetic policy of taboo-breaking has
directly and indirectly opened the floodgates for a torrent of social,
political and cultural issues and topics that had been hitherto unspeakable
truths: suppression of freedom of speech, state terror, human rights,
patriarchy and women’s oppression, sexuality and ultimately religious
discontent and secularism and religious, racial and ethnic minority issues.
Spurred by a puzzling vacillation of US foreign policy on democracy and
freedom in the Middle East and egged on by successive annual United
Nations reports on human development in the Arab world highlighting
these issues, Aljazeera has provided the public forum for these issues to
be heard and debated in public, unashamedly and speciously, showing
meretricious disregard to established norms and traditions and in the
process confusing almost everyone as to the true mission of Aljazeera.
The books and articles that have been published in the last decade about
Aljazeera and Arabic media in general seem to map these issues. One is
able to trace the history of development of both, by looking at some of the
titles and chapter headings of the publications reviewed in this chapter.
Consequently, it would make perfect sense to construct the chapter on the
literature review along these lines. However, to situate the literature
review of Aljazeera and Arabic satellite television in the context of this
study, a brief review of the literature on media effects, news making and
translation, relevant to the discussion is undertaken first.
It is important at this point to emphasize that the primary purpose of this
literature review is to:
53
Chapter 2
Mediating Cultural Change
• Review landmark publications primarily about Aljazeera and
secondarily about Arab television
• Review arguments regarding the effects of television on culture vis-à-
vis Aljazeera’s role as a catalyst of change
• Review current translation theories and models relevant to the
discussion of translation mediation being explored in this thesis
• Review news reporting models
The review aims to situate the main arguments within the context of the
present research, identify gaps in the literature review with respect to the
main thesis of the research and provide a framework for the discussions
that follow in the rest of the chapters of this thesis. Subsequently, the aim
of this chapter is to present a critical review of major publications in
media studies, satellite television and translation that have direct
relevance to the main propositions of the thesis.
The Showcase
There is no doubt that Aljazeera has set everyone talking about the impact
of this new information media phenomenon in the Arab world and its
momentous potential to bring about social and political reform in the
region. But why would a television network such as Aljazeera attract such
great attention in politics, academia, the media itself and the world at
large? What makes the media in the Arab region more interesting and
worthy of research and examination than any other media elsewhere in the
world? Is Aljazeera really the media panacea that it is trumped up to be or
is it just a storm in a teacup? And what is the fuss really all about?
Considering first the novelty factor associated with a widespread all-
encompassing stereotypical view of the Arabs as being out-of-time
underdeveloped nations suddenly acquiring modern means of
communication—after all, “[A]n Arab Oriental is that impossible creature
54
Chapter 2
Mediating Cultural Change
whose libidinal energy drives him to paroxysms of overstimulation—and
yet, he is as a puppet in the eyes of the world, staring vacantly out at a
modern landscape he can neither understand nor cope with”(Said, 1978:
312). Apart from that, the influence of the media to affect sudden,
cumulative and incremental change in individuals and societies has been
widely acknowledged in mass communication studies. As Perse (2001)
6
confirms, it is presumed that media and their content have significant and
substantial cognitive, affective and behavioural effects on how
information is acquired, beliefs are structured or restructured, information
needs are satisfied; attitudes and emotional reactions to media content are
formed; and media exposure motivates social behaviour. For a long time,
the Arab world has been the centre of attention and source of concern for
western observers and strategic planners. The strategic importance of the
region to the west and more specifically the United States is paramount,
and the sudden impact Aljazeera has had on Arab society may be seen as
one of the successes of US strategy in the region. According to Oren
(2007), after thirty years of ascendancy in the Middle East, the United
States, with the invasion of Iraq, “fulfilled its centuries-long urge to instill
American-style democracy in the Middle East” (Oren, 2007: 602). It is
not far-fetched to deduce that Aljazeera’s creation was part of a strategic
move to instil such democracy in the region through the media. As
Scheuer (2008)
7
observes, “the emergence of new media, concomitant
with the new democratic potentials and new forms of violence and
terrorism worldwide, is not accidental”.
Translation, Culture and Television
Central to the notions of this research are translation, culture and
television. These interlocking concepts have been discussed separately in
cross-cultural studies. In translation theory however, there are two
different lines of enquiry into how translation operates vis-à-vis language
use. One looks at language as “a mode of communication of objective
55
Chapter 2
Mediating Cultural Change
information, expressive of thought and meanings where meanings refer to
an empirical reality or encompass a pragmatic situation” (Rubel and
Rosman, 2003:6), and “a hermeneutic concept of language that
emphasizes interpretation, consisting of thought and meanings, where the
latter shape reality and the interpretation of creative values is privileged”
(ibid).
Figure 1—Interlocking Translation, Culture and Television
Summing up what translation is in The Poetics of Translation, Barnstone
(1993) asserts, “a translation is what we perceive when we do not read the
script as primordial genesis—as the first created original” (12). However,
in news translation, the reader or viewer in the case of television is not
aware that what is being read out is anything but original despite the fact
that every news item is essentially a multi-relayed, multimodal mediated
discourse from another language and another culture. This notion of
originality versus translation has been the central issue in the debate of
translation. As Venuti (1998) observes, translation is often regarded with
suspicion because it inevitably domesticates foreign texts and results in
the formation of cultural identities and constructing representations of
56
Chapter 2
Mediating Cultural Change
foreign cultures. “The selection of foreign texts and the development of
translation strategies can establish peculiarly domestic canons for foreign
literature, canons that conform to domestic aesthetic values and therefore
reveal exclusions and admissions, centers and peripheries that deviate
from those current in the foreign language” (67). He argues that such
domestication occurs through an inscription process of foreign texts with
linguistic and cultural values that operates at every stage in the
production, circulation and reception of the translation. Yet as this thesis
demonstrates, it is those specific translation strategies employed in the
translation of news, specifically at Aljazeera, that seem to contribute to
the introduction of new canons in the target language—that is Arabic,
rather than in the foreign language that represents the source of
information. Here, in this multimodal medium of television, translation
seems to work in reverse to what Venuti claims. Authenticity of the
translation is not usually questioned except where direct speech reporting
is involved since the total new package is seen as an original production
rather than a mediated one.
Mediating Cultural Change
There is general agreement among researchers that changing behaviours
will ultimately force a change in the culture of a certain community group
and that a change in culture will in turn force a change in the behaviour of
individuals belonging to that group (Matsumoto, 2000). The dynamic and
cyclical nature of this reciprocal relationship between culture and
behaviour creates a state of tension that is often resolved through
reconciliation of the ensuing discrepancies between individual behaviours
and cultural norms and values and between individuals and factions
within the same community group. When tension of this nature occurs it
creates conflict or confliction.
8
The distinction between conflict and
confliction is that the former may take the form of negative response
while the latter may take the form of positive response. In behavioural
57
Chapter 2
Mediating Cultural Change
psychology, conflict is defined as the opposition of response
(behavioural) tendencies, which according to Avrunin and Coombs (1988)
may be within an individual or in different individuals.
9
In this respect, the news media plays a crucial role in mediating cultural
change through news stories that introduce new values, metaphors, beliefs
and norms, and in creating tension between tradition and individual
behaviour, which is played out on-screen through various fora, such as
talk shows and open debates and off-screen (in society at large) through
various forms of civil actions and reactions, until the tension is resolved.
When tension occurs, it creates either conflict or confliction. In modern
democratic societies, when tension occurs it creates confliction that is
resolved through the democratic process. However, in the absence of civil
institutions, confliction soon transforms into conflict, which may escalate
into various forms of response. As Ting-Toomey and Oetzel (2001:1)
contend, different cultures have different expectations of how conflict
should be handled as more often the underlying values and norms of a
culture frame conflict expectations.
Throughout the world, the media, according to Peterson (2003:2), have
become a part of the rhythms of human life. Such all-pervading presence
is catalyzing change in social and cultural traditions and mediating new
meanings to create social contexts that translate into behaviours and
norms. In the Arab world, Arabic satellite television is gaining ever-
increasing prominence through its mediation of social, cultural and
political change. Social and cultural contexts are being created through
primary mediation of translation of news and other programs from
English and through secondary mediation of production in English and or
French. Both primary and secondary mediations are “causing a
cataclysmic change in Arabic language patterns and cultural
representation” (Darwish, 2005:443).
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According to Barker (1999), identities are constituted in and through
cultural representations (including those produced by television) with
which ‘we’ identify (33). In this connection, Rugh (2004) contends that
the Arab mass media perform the same basic functions as media
elsewhere, though in different ways. He identifies five basic functions the
media perform. These are: (1) conveying news and information of general
interest; (2) interpreting and commenting on events, providing opinions
and views; (3) reinforcing social norms and cultural awareness by
transmitting information about the society and its culture; (4) providing
specialized information for commercial promotion (advertising) or
available services; and (5) entertaining. Rugh argues that the Arab media
convey socio-cultural values on two levels: a large pan-Arab audience and
a nation-state: “A great deal that is of cultural value to an individual Arab
is commonly shared with other Arabs throughout the area. Arab media
convey such cultural messages” (19-20). Central to these functions is the
role of the Arabic language, which according to Rugh (2004) and
numerous other writers past and present, also serves the function of
communicating cultural identity. As alluded to earlier, Rugh asserts that
“indeed, the Arabic language is an especially crucial element linking the
Arabs with each other and with their culture; it is inseparable from Arab
culture, history, tradition, and Islam, the religion of the vast majority of
Arabs. The best definition of who is an Arab is not in terms of religion or
geography but of language and consciousness, that is, one who speaks
Arabic and considers himself an Arab ” (19).
Cultural change or acculturation?
Researchers have distinguished between two types of change that occur in
a certain community: acculturation and cultural change. Berry (1995)
defines acculturation as a process that leads “to changes at the population
level when the source of change is contact with other cultures” as
contrasted to cultural changes that occur “when the sources of change are
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internal events such as invention, discoveries, and innovation within a
culture” (Castro, 2003: 8). Certainly, western media and television in
particular is a feature or agent of cultural change that comes about due to
internal events. To begin with, the television is a western invention and
western television networks usually carry domestic news programs for
their domestic viewers, thus reinforcing the values of the domestic
culture. The international versions of programs produced by networks
such as CNN and BBC are not seen by their domestic viewers in the USA
and Britain respectively. Consequently, very little interaction and
exposure, if any, to international events takes place and the domestic
viewers are largely buffered from such influences. When such exposure
occurs, it is fragmented, framed and stereotypical, again reinforcing
perceptions and misconceptions about other cultures being reported. News
stories that promote a shared outlook in the minds of the viewers are
presented positively and stories that deviate from the familiar set of
values, norms and beliefs are presented within stereotypical patterns that
are either dismissive or ignorant of other cultures. Furthermore, in the
context of globalization, western media and American media in particular
has been exporting American values, culture and lifestyle to other cultures
of the world.
In contrast, Arabic satellite television, especially Aljazeera, is rather an
agent of acculturation. It is mediating culture through the adoption of
western styles, values, norms and even beliefs, uncut, unadapted, clumsily
and boorishly presented in the name of the “truth” and without finesse.
For example, in 2004, Aljazeera carried a promotional video clip focusing
on the Palestinian Intifada. The clip showed a distraught old mother trying
to hug the severed head of her suicide bomber son in a pool of blood in
the middle of a street in occupied Palestine. Other examples of this kind
of untamed and explicit footage of hostages being slain by their captors in
Iraq, censored only by one frame, and foreign workers being shot dead as
they lay facedown on the ground, were also shown on other television
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channels, including LBC. The concept of journalistic freedom seems to be
taken to the extreme by these channels, disregarding other social norms
and values and overriding protocols that govern civilized societies. In the
last couple of years however, this kind of explicit treatment has been
toned down a little. However, as recent as December 2007, Aljazeera
broadcast explicit footage of four French tourists killed in Mauritania
showing the face of at least one victim.
In his magnificent book The Silent Language, Hall (1959) reminds us that
culture is more than mere customs that can be shed or changed like a suit
of clothes. It is a specific “way of organizing life, of thinking, and of
conceiving the underlying assumptions about the family and the state, the
economic system, and even of mankind” (23). Culture, Hall adds,
“controls behavior in deep and persisting ways, many of which are
outside of awareness and therefore beyond conscious control of the
individual” (25). When two cultures are brought together in translation,
their interactivity brings to the fore not only the organizational structures
that bind either of the cultures together but also the subconscious and
implicit properties of the cultures in juxtaposition to one another. Such
juxtaposing has a contrastive effect that highlights differences and
overlooks similarities as these do not bring attention to themselves within
the cultural domain of the other. The immediacy of translation-mediated
news television may cause a sudden impact on the receiving cultures in as
much as such mediation highlights and plays out these differences on
screen and creates dissonance between the values it carries and the values
and norms of the receiving cultures. Again, mediated news does not
necessarily mean foreign, in the sense that it carries values and norms
that belong to another culture. It should also include values that have not
been espoused by the receiving culture yet perceived by the news editor to
be acceptable to the audience of that culture, and consequently cause
value shift across viewers in defining and redefining their expectations.
For example, showing uncensored footage of dead bodies or men kissing
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the faces of relatives, or touching the bodies of martyrs killed in violence
to receive blessing, is not something that the Arab viewers have been
accustomed to, nor is the kissing of dead bodies a widespread practice in
the Arab world. Yet this kind of uncensored and uncontrolled footage
becomes the daily staple of Aljazeera and other Arabic satellite television
networks to be seen by millions
10
of viewers of varying age groups, with
such necrophiliac or unusual practice gradually or eventually becoming
an accepted practice or cultural norm. In this sense, Arabic satellite
television, and particularly Aljazeera, has been playing a serious role in
introducing news-mediated cultural values that are causing cultural
change. The following section reviews major publications that have
examined Aljazeera.
Framing Aljazeera
Since its inception, Aljazeera has attracted a great deal of attention in both
the academic and professional worlds, but serious interest in Aljazeera
began in earnest immediately after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Before this date, hardly any books or papers were published about
Aljazeera. Although other Arabic satellite television stations such as
MBC (1991), ART (1993) and Orbit TV (1994) had been in operation
before Aljazeera, their presence did not attract worthwhile attention
outside their immediate viewership base. The situation was set to change
after 2001.
From the moment Aljazeera aired Bin Laden’s tapes in the aftermath of
September 11, 2001, there has been a flurry of academic and professional
activities seeking to understand this new curious phenomenon and to
place it in the context of a region long regarded with suspicion and
contempt in many quarters of the West. Several books, articles and
research papers have been published about Arabic satellite television, and
various inquisitive studies have been undertaken in western universities,
by westerners and Arabs alike. Researchers in media and communication,
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political science and cross-cultural anthropology, in the first instance,
have looked at the social, political, economic and cultural aspects and
impact of Arabic media, particularly Aljazeera. “Some of the books that
have been published in recent years bear the hallmarks of politically
motivated or propaganda-propelled campaigns by outsiders to the
language and culture of the Arab region or by starry-eyed insiders,
climbers and sycophants
11
, barely scratching the surface of this important
phenomenon that is set to change the region forever”
12
.
A number of books have been written in the last ten years about the new
Arab media phenomenon and more specifically about Aljazeera.
Peculiarly, the titles of these books map the historical development of this
phenomenon, and it would be a productive approach in this chapter to
construct the discussion of these titles in a storyboard that reflects this
timeline development. A chronology of publications from 1990 to 2007
reveals a correlation between major Middle East-related world events and
books published about Aljazeera in the latter half of the first decade of the
twenty-first century. The first book to appear was in March 2002, titled
Aljazeera: How the Free Arab News Network Scooped the World and
Changed the Middle East, followed by Framing Terrorism in 2003, which
included a chapter on CNN and Aljazeera’s Media Coverage of America’s
War in Afghanistan, and another book in 2004 titled Women and Media in
the Middle East: Power through Self-Expression, reaching a climax in
2005 with five books. See Figure 2— Books published about Aljazeera
1990 - 2007.
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Figure 2— Books published about Aljazeera 1990 - 2007
Academic and professional interest in Aljazeera coincides with events that
followed the September 11, 2001 attacks. Given that it takes a year to
write a book and at least three years to complete a doctoral research, the
initiation of some of these publications does not necessarily coincide with
these events. Table 1 lists the major publications about Aljazeera and
Arab media from 1993 to 2007.
Table 1— Inventory of Major Publications about Aljhazeera and
Arab Media (1993 -2007)
Year Relevant
Event
Publication Title Author Type of
Publication
Language
1993 Mass Media, Modernity,
and Development: Arab
States of the Gulf
Fayad E. Kazan Book English
1998 Transnational Media and
Social Change in the Arab
World
Jon Alterman Paper English
1999 Transnational Broadcasting
Studies Journal premier
issue
editor, S.A.
Schleifer
Online journal English
1999 Mass Media, Modernity,
and Development: Arab
Fayad E. Kazan Book Arabic version
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Year Relevant
Event
Publication Title Author Type of
Publication
Language
States of the Gulf expanded
2000 George W.
Bush defeats
democrat vice
president Al
Gore
September,
Second
Palestinian
Intifada
(uprising)
Egyptian Media Waxes and
Wanes in Its Attacks
Against Al-Jazeera
S. Abdallah
Schleifer
Article English
2001 September 11
attacks.
Attack on
Afghanistan
Aljazeera airs
Bin Laden’s
tapes
The Changing Scene of
Lebanese Television
Nabil H. Dajani Paper English
2001 September 11
attacks
Attack on
Afghanistan
Aljazeera airs
Bin Laden’s
tapes
Satellite Realms Naomi Sakr Book English
2002 Aljazeera airs
Bin Laden’s
tapes
Aljazeera: How the Free
Arab News Network
Scooped the World and
Changed the Middle East
Mohammed El-
Nawawy and
Adel Iskandar
Book English
2002 Aljazeera airs
Bin Laden’s
tapes
Journalism after September
11
Barbie Zelizer
and Stuart Allan
(editors)
Book English
2002 Aljazeera airs
Bin Laden’s
tapes
New Media, New Politics?
From Satellite Television to
the Internet in the Arab
World.
Jon B. Alterman Paper English
2003 Invasion of Iraq Framing Terrorism: The
News Media, the
Government, and the
Public
Pippa Norris,
Montague Ken,
Marion Just
Book English
2003 Invasion of Iraq Media and Arab Culture:
the position and mission
tayseer Abu
Arjah
Book Arabic
2003 Invasion of Iraq Control Room documentary Jihane Noujaim Film English
2004 Tsunami
disaster
Aljazeera airs
Bin Laden’s
tapes
Will Aljazeera Bend? John R Bradley Article English
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Year Relevant
Event
Publication Title Author Type of
Publication
Language
2004 Tsunami
disaster
Aljazeera airs
Bin Laden’s
tapes
Women and Media in the
Middle East: Power through
Self-Expression

Naomi Sakr
(editor)
Book English
2005 Saddam
Hussein’s trial
London
underground
bombing
War on terror
Iraqi elections
The Impact of Arab
Satellite Television on the
Prospects for Democracy in
the Arab World
Abdullah
Schleifer
Paper English
2005 Saddam
Hussein’s trial
London
underground
bombing
War on terror
Iraqi elections
The Aljazeera
Phenomenon: Critical
Perspectives on New Arab
Media,
Mohamed
Zayani, Editor
Book English
2005 The Making of Arab News Noha Mellor Book English
2005 Saddam
Hussein’s trial
London
underground
bombing
War on terror
Iraqi elections
Language, Translation and
Identity in the Age of the
Internet, Satellite Television
and Directed Media
Ali Darwish Book Arabic with
English
abstracts
2005 Saddam
Hussein’s trial
London
underground
bombing
War on terror
Iraqi elections
Aljazeera: How Arab TV
News Challenged the
World
Hugh Miles Book English
2005 Saddam
Hussein’s trial
London
underground
bombing
War on terror
Iraqi elections
Translational Television
Worldwide: towards a new
media order
Jean K.
Chalaby
Book English
2006 Saddam
Hussein’s trial
London
underground
The Rise of Aljazeera Nicolas Eliades Paper English
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Year Relevant
Event
Publication Title Author Type of
Publication
Language
bombing
War on terror
Iraqi elections
2006 Hamas wins
the majority of
seats in the
Palestinian
Legislative
Council
elections.
Aljazeera
launches its
new English
language news
channel
Voices of the New Arab
Public: Iraq, Aljazeera and
Middle East Politics Today
March Lynch Book English
2006 Israel-Lebanon
war
Saddam
Husain’s
execution
Media Under Pressure:
Aljazeera Toeing the Red
Lines
Olivia Qusaibaty Book English
2006 Israel-Lebanon
war
Saddam
Husain’s
execution
Losing Arab Hearts and
Minds: the Coalition,
Aljazeera and Muslim
Public Opinion
Steve Tatham Book English
2006 Israel-Lebanon
war
Saddam
Husain’s
execution
The Media: Value Order
and Power Dominance
Sabah Yassin Book Arabic
2006 Israel-Lebanon
war
Saddam
Husain’s
execution
The BBC World Service
Arabic TV: Revival of a
Dream or Sudden Death by
the Competition?
H. Amin Paper English
2007
2007 The Culture of Aljazeera:
Inside an Arab Media Giant
Mohamed
Zayani and
Sofiane
Sahrouni
Book English
2007 Mission Aljazeera: Build a
Bridge, Seek the Truth,
Change the World
Josh Rushing Book English
Alterman (2002) has analyzed the phenomenon of Aljazeera and Arabic
satellite television at large. According to him, the rise of Arabic satellite-
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broadcast television stations in the last decade has caused a revolution in
the Arab world. These stations have challenged traditional state
monopolies over television broadcasting, and “have played a significant
role in breaking down censorship barriers in the region. They have
encouraged open debates on previously taboo subjects like secularism and
religion, provided fora for opposition political leaders from a number of
countries, and given a voice to perspectives that were previously absent
from the Arab media” (Alterman, 2002). To understand this phenomenon
it must be seen within the larger context of the global, regional and local
changes that have contributed to its emergence. The following review
sheds some light on these factors within the framework of Aljazeera.
How Aljazeera scooped the world
In a book titled Aljazeera: How the Free Arab News Network Scooped the
World and Changed the Middle East, the first to be published about
Aljazeera, dedicated to the victims of September 11, 2001, Egyptian born
American resident Mohammed El-Nawawy and Egyptian Canadian Adel
Iskandar (2002) chronicle the rise of Aljazeera to global prominence.
Curiously, the dedication smacks of the apologetic and of being more
royal than the king. Why would a book about Aljazeera, written by two
Arabs living in Canada, be dedicated to the victims of September 11?
What is the connection between Aljazeera and this tragic event? In the
preface to the book, the authors make this link in a rather reductionist
tone.
We wholeheartedly believe in intercultural, inter religious, and
interracial dialogue for better understanding of our common
humanity. This book should be read as not only a historical
account of how a satellite television network emerged in the
Middle East; it is also the story of peoples’ quest for freedom of
opinion and expression, a quest that if curtailed—as it has been
for many years—can lead to catastrophes like those the world
witnessed on September 11. The emergence of militant religious
fundamentalism is a product of decades of oppressive regimes and
the virtual non-existence of a public sphere where issues are
discussed and resolved (ix-x).
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However, reducing the reasons for the emergence of militant groups to the
absence of freedom of expression and opinion is rather simplistic and
dismissive of other historical, social, cultural and economic factors.
This book, which consists of a preface and eight chapters, opens with an
account of how Arab migrants in Canada discovered Aljazeera. Relating
the story of two neighbours: a Muslim Palestinian family and a Coptic
Egyptian family, the authors epitomize the harmonious superficial
relations between Arabs who belong to different religious affiliations
when they live outside their native environments and employ the story to
communicate the message that Aljazeera has provided first time exposure
to opposing voices, “using the power and persuasion of television” (11).
“Traditionally, most discussion programs on Arabic TV stations are non-
controversial and do little else but serve as a public relations outlet for
governments” (11).
Commenting on Aljazeera’s controversial role in the Middle East and
appeal to the Arab viewers, the authors of this self-serving, proclamatory
publication conclude that perhaps one of the reasons for Aljazeera’s
success is the manner and language in which it presents Arab views. “It is
intrinsic within many Arab cultures to consider Palestinians who are
killed by Israeli soldiers in the Palestinian territories as shuhada’
(“martyrs”)…” (53), and Aljazeera has been accused by many Westerners
of being biased toward the Palestinian cause because it “has the practice
of describing Palestinian suicide-bombers who strike in Israel as
“martyrs”, which many consider a violation of objective news reporting”
(52).
This claim soon falters on examining the reporting of news from Iraq,
where Aljazeera has continued to refer to the insurgents who are killed by
US-led coalition forces as qatla (killed persons) until the British Daily
Mirror published a leaked memo early this year alleging US President
George W. Bush had planned to bomb Aljazeera’s headquarters in Doha,
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Qatar. A cautious shift in this paradigm has been detected in the present
research but not as far as using the term “martyrs” to describe those who
are killed fighting the coalition forces. Yet terms such as “resistance
fighters” and “resistance” to describe the insurgents have been detected,
which indicates inconsistency of editorial policy. However, in the recent
inner fighting between the main Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas,
Aljazeera referred to civilian victims caught in the crossfire and
Palestinian combatants as “killed persons”. Only those who are killed by
Israeli fire are described as “martyrs”.
The authors emphasize that Aljazeera strives to have different sides listen
to each other. “Its philosophy is built on demonstrating how objectivity
can be attained only if all subjective views and opinions on any issue are
presented and aired. The coverage must exhaust all possible ideas and
perspectives’ (27). While it is not always possible to be exhaustive,
Aljazeera endeavours to present both sides of the argument. The problem
with this kind of approach in a polarized region where “traditional”
connections play a central role in deciding who should go on air and who
should not, and where very few intellectuals are prepared to talk about
controversial issues in public, soon Aljazeera runs out of guests and the
same faces and personalities are regularly seen on Aljazeera, so much so
that they have become part of the extended family of Aljazeera.
Whether the “experts” Aljazeera hosts nightly are on its payroll is hard to
tell, but in the last five years of Aljazeera a cyclic, discursive pattern has
developed and the regular guests have achieved the same or more or less
the same celebrity status as their hosts. This in a major way undermines
the nature of objectivity which Aljazeera strives to achieve. But perhaps
this is the subjective nature of objectivity. Acknowledging Aljazeera as a
force for democracy in the Middle East, the authors conclude their book
by asserting that “Aljazeera may not be perfect, but it is the only choice
for Arab self-determination, political openness, and democracy. What the
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Arab world needs now are more media services like Aljazeera, not fewer”
(206). Such a leap of faith in Aljazeera’s ability to introduce democracy is
being tested every day by sceptics. Sooner than later, Aljazeera will run
out of ideas and will find itself repeating itself until the next natural
disaster, military invasion or unplanned event. Even the once exciting and
intriguing Osama bin Laden tapes have lost that excitement and intrigue
and Aljazeera cannot expect to continue to garner viewers’ interest in
rehashed materials. Whether “the only cure for the ails of democracy is
more of it”, as the authors conclude, it is by transforming Aljazeera into
CNN Arabica, or “Al-Foxeera” as Danny Schechter, (2007) puts it, that
Aljazeera will cease to be.
In The Impact of Arab Satellite Television on the Prospects for
Democracy in the Arab World, Schleifer (2005) contends that for many
Arab viewers, Aljazeera’s "Cross-fire" types of political talk shows that
would pit critics of Arab regimes against their defenders: Islamists against
either liberal secularists or Arab nationalists”, have had the greatest
appeal. “While debates that were unimaginable on the state national
television channels flowed back and forth, the audience could join in by
telephone, again expressing their own opinions, and doing so in a manner
also unimaginable only a decade ago” (Schleifer, 2005).
The Aljazeera phenomenon
The first decade of the twenty-first century will probably go down in
history as the decade of phenomena in the world. From the phenomenon
of terrorism, to Harry Potter, the Internet, globalization and transnational
broadcasting, the obsession with the word “phenomenon” seems to be
contagious. A search on Amazon.com returns 239,870 publications with
the word “phenomenon” in the title or subtitle. Everything seems to be
regarded as a phenomenon. In The Aljazeera Phenomenon: Critical
Perspectives on New Arab Media, Mohamed Zayani (2005), editor of this
collection of papers, argues that few phenomena in the Arab world are
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more intriguing that Aljazeera. But what is intriguing about a pan-Arab
24-hour news and current affairs satellite television station that is funded
and sponsored by the head of state of Qatar? Zayani argues that since
Aljazeera catapulted to international fame it has been surrounded by
controversy and paradoxically loathed and loved. He observes that
Aljazeera is a relatively free channel operating in a region that is regarded
by many observers as not so inclined towards freedom of expression. This
assertion is amazingly generalized; it obfuscates the distinction between
society and the political systems that govern these societies and paints a
picture of a Stalinist-like Arab world. Perhaps it is political freedom that
is curbed and curtailed in various parts of the region, but to claim that the
whole region is less inclined towards “freedom of expression” is a rash
generalization. Zayani later explains that what is peculiar about Aljazeera
is its ability to “expand what people in the Arab world can talk about” (6).
But if people cannot talk freely how can Aljazeera expand on that which
has not been talked about? This is rather paradoxically juxtaposed with
the comment that the “kind of debate championed by Aljazeera is
something new in the Arab world where public political debate is
considered subversive” (6).
Foreign diplomacy by-product
Aljazeera may be seen as an indirect by-product of Qatar’s foreign
diplomacy. Zayani (2005) argues that Qatar’s newly acquired status is not
simply due to sponsoring and hosting Aljazeera. He stresses that it is
rather the result of active diplomacy as a mediator in regional disputes
such as in Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia, and in its role to build
rapprochement between Iran and the Arab states, and between Iran and
the United States. Zayani however is doubtful whether Qatar’s diplomacy
has achieved a great deal or Aljazeera has done more than give Qatar a
limited diplomatic presence and a heightened regional and international
profile. It is worth noting here however, that Qatar has been reaching out
to South East Asia and the Indian Subcontinent as mentioned elsewhere
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using Aljazeera’s successful profile as the vehicle for its efforts in this
direction. The rest of the book explores Aljazeera and regional politics,
and the public sphere; Aljazeera programming; and Aljazeera and
regional crises. I will return to each one of these areas elswhere in this
chapter.
Losing Arab hearts and minds
“To win the hearts and minds of the Arabs” was the catchphrase of the
last three years in western political discourse, gaining intensity and
salience in 2006. So void of any substance and real meaning, this trite
expression has been used ad nauseam by politicians and observers of the
Arab world and more specifically as regards the role of the media in
actually achieving that. This is where linguistic creativity stops, winning
neither heart nor mind. In this regard, Zahrana (2003) observes:
With such a concerted effort at the highest levels of the American
government to get America’s message out, to ‘win the hearts and
minds’ of the Arabs and Muslims, one would expect an increase
in understanding and support of American policy. Instead, it
appears the opposite has occurred. America’s intensified public
diplomacy initiative has met with more misunderstandings, and
support for American policies has declined globally—not just in
the Arab and Muslim world (73).
13

The catchphrase has also been picked up by the Arab media with such
hilarity that both the catchphrase and its translation have become
synonymous with empty talk and propaganda. The modern style of news
presentation is reductionist and simplistically summative—all major
events are reduced to a headline phrase or strapline: “Operation Iraq”,
“New Iraq strategy”, “War on Terror”, etc. These convenient straplines
frame the message in a way that invokes certain images and responses and
plays on uncertainty and fear rather than to inform and educate, as the role
of the media was once stated to be.
Reversing the catchphrase in the title of his book Losing Arab Hearts and
Minds, Tatham (2006), observes the reaction of the American media to
the United States response to the attacks on 11 September 2001. “To
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many, particularly in the United States, it appeared that Samuel
Huntington’s prophecy of a ‘clash of civilisations’ might indeed be
fulfilled. An indignant American media did little to counter the
perception, moving into overdrive as it pored over the question ‘why
us?’” (1). There is always a state of tension in the “normal conflictual/
cooperative relationship” between the media and governments that are
trying to govern with the least interference from the media. This tension
intensifies during conflict, which according to Tatham, often presents the
international media with difficult decisions that may force the media to
offset ideological or political beliefs against national interests. The
dilemma that faces journalist trying to objectively and accurately cover
conflicts in which their countries are involved worsens—a criticism
levelled at Aljazeera for its coverage of the recent Israeli war on Lebanon.
In this book, Tatham gives an insight into how the war in Iraq was waged.
He presents an account of the British views on the conflict, how the Arab
world reacted to the war and the state of pulling contrasts of the lesser of
the two evils that existed, the United States “empires of evil” doctrine,
and the Fox Factor. Tatham observes:
If there is one media organisation more than any other that has
become associated with neo-conservatism and the US Republican
Party it is Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Television. By any national
measure the channel’s coverage was at times so uniformly
subjective, ultra-patriotic and hugely biased in favour of the
President’s actions that its strap line ‘We report, you decide’
appeared almost comically disingenuous. A selection of the
thoughts on war from its correspondents and anchors more than
adequately illustrate this point. (35).
Highlighting the connection between media bias and audience
perceptions, Tatham explains that the influence of television and movies
on real life is widely debated in society. “Yet there is strong empirical
evidence that the way in which individuals and cultures are portrayed
does influence audiences, particularly those who do not themselves travel
much beyond the borders of their own country” (54). How the Arabs are
portrayed in the media is a topic that is addressed in this book. Tatham
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asks the question: Is there any correlation between the way the Arab
world has been portrayed in films and the prevailing attitudes of the
audiences that watch them? To answer this question, Thatham makes
references to Edward Said’s work on Orientalism. However, one does not
need to go farther than one’s own experiences in this area. In the early
eighties, I sat in a conference room at an American Information
Technology company I worked for in the United Kingdom listening with
more than fifty delegates from various parts of Europe and from the
United States, to our general manager presenting the company’s product
strategy. On the white board, he presented the products by name, one by
one, until he reached the Arabic products—Arabization of computer
products was still in its early stages in those days. Instead of displaying
the product names, he displayed the picture of a camel. This sums up the
early inculcation of stereotypes by the media of the Arabs. When people
are reduced to a camel status, it does not take a lot of imagination to
figure out how those indoctrinated with such stereotypes would react.
Tatham observes that in many Arab states the media are closely
monitored if not controlled by the state. He claims that the output of state
media may sound comical and asserts that it lacks maturity and modernity
when compared with organizations such as the BBC. But such an
observation is a little skewed as he does not offer us a definition of
“modernity” in the media. However, he alludes to this by saying that in
the Arab press a large space on front pages is dedicated to photographs of
members of the regime welcoming dignitaries or performing functions of
state. Consequently, this is the antithesis of modernity. But what he is
actually describing are Saudi Arabia and other gulf states. This is
certainly not the practice in Lebanon for example. Like most other
publications that tackled Arab media, Tatham falls into the same trap of
generalizations treating Arab media as a monolith and overlooking the
peculiarities of each Arab country vis-à-vis the media. Nonetheless, these
differences, while not spelled out, can be educed from the detailed
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account. Tatham concludes his observations by arguing that Aljazeera’s
programs can be revolting, sensational and overstimulated and while
Aljazeera experiences almost similar problems to other 24-hour news
broadcasting networks throughout the world, such as the BBC and even
“the heavily-slanted” Fox TV, it is subject to the watchful eyes of critics
who spare no occasion to seize on its occasional slip-ups. “But even if
you accept a small percentage of the nonsense that is written about it,
there is one undeniable truth that cannot be distorted: it is the nearest the
Arab world has to an independent media organisation. And given the
importance placed by the United States on free speech and the enthusiasm
for it that US supporters for emerging democracy in the Middle East once
expressed, the criticisms are unsustainable” (203).
Aljazeera challenges the world
Why would a book about Aljazeera carry such a title? Is Aljazeera
challenging the world and why? These are the first questions that come to
mind on picking up this book Aljazeera: How Arab TV News Challenged
the World, by Hugh Miles (2005). Pitting Aljazeera against the world in
this manner is somewhat puzzling, especially when this satellite television
network has been striving to emulate western forms of news and current
affairs as faithfully and obediently as a young martial arts disciple. In the
introduction to the book, Miles observes that everything on Aljazeera is in
classical Arabic, the lingua franca of the Middle East. There are two
problems with this assertion, as I have already argued in this thesis—one
regarding the erroneous description of standard Arabic as ‘classical
Arabic’ and one regarding Arabic being the lingua franca of the Middle
East. Notwithstanding, in this book Miles takes us through several events
that have occurred in the Arab world, where Aljazeera was on the ground
covering the second Palestinian uprising, Intifadah, September 11,
Afghanistan, and the invasion of Iraq.
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His vivid account of these events and Aljazeera’s controversial coverage
brings us to the conclusion that free speech is contagious and has a
domino effect. In this regard, Miles contends that in the west “it has
become an article of faith that a freer Arab media heralds social and
political change in the Middle East”. He reminds us however, that in the
entire hubbub about Aljazeera, we tend to forget that the most popular
shows on Arab television are Egyptian and Lebanese soap operas and
films, in addition to imported western game shows. Aljazeera is acting as
a tranquilizer. “Arabs have been mulling over the pros and cons of
democracy for almost two hundred years: what is meant is that today
Arab public opinion matters for the first time” (389), thanks to Aljazeera
and the rest of Arab media that are shaping Arab public opinion towards
the west for the first time, as Miles contends.
Media under pressure
Aljazeera’s coverage of the invasion of Iraq brought upon it the wrath of
western governments, particularly the United States and Britain. Showing
images of charred and bloodied bodies of dead US soldiers along with
five prisoners in Iraq in March 2003 was the ultimate sin any news
network could commit, let alone Aljazeera. “Either you are with us or
with the terrorists”, President George W. Bush warned the whole world in
an address to the US Congress on 20 September 2001. Where fact and
fiction are confused in the minds of decision makers and where the foot is
made to wear the shoe and not the shoe to fit the foot, many childhood
fantasies and folklore about “getting out of town by sundown” and “you
can run but you can’t hide”, and other metaphors such as “carrot and
stick”, become the drivers and framers of media events. Even before
Aljazeera showed these images of the US soldiers and before the airing of
the Bin Laden tapes after the September 11 attacks, the US administration
had been exerting pressure on the Emir of Qatar to curb Aljazeera’s free
broadcasting and to tone down its content. According to Konstantin
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Kilibarda (2001), “it was important for Washington to neutralize its
biggest potential source of contradictory images and alternative
commentary before launching its Afghan campaign”.
14
Kilibarda (2001)
reports:
In early October US officials opened with a salvo of verbal
attacks on the station and began applying a number of pressures
on Qatar and Aljazeera in order to influence its coverage.
Washington claimed to be upset by the fact that it continued to air
a 1998 interview with bin Laden that allegedly incited Muslims to
rise-up against the United States. The US also objected to the
airtime given to analysts who either expressed overtly anti-
American perspectives or attacked US policies in the region, and
it began pressuring the Emir of Qatar as well as the station’s
managers to set aside more time for US press conferences, key US
officials, and paid political advertisements explaining America’s
position towards the Islamic world.
In Media under Pressure: Aljazeera Toeing the Red Lines, Qusaibaty
(2006) uses qualitative data analysis to examine the patterns of change in
the Arab world and pressures for reform, and evaluate Aljazeera’s ability
to provide a perspective other than that of its western and Arab
competitors. Olivia Qusaibaty starts from the premise that she does not
consider the Arab world a unified entity due to the important political,
social, economic, cultural and religious differences that characterize the
region. Qusaibaty observes that much of the literature on Aljazeera has
adopted a generalized approach and has painted this news network with a
strong positive or negative bias towards it. However, as the literature has
revealed so far, there is more praise than dispraise. Qusaibaty argues that
Aljazeera has helped in creating a public space for dialogue in the Arab
world and has provided an alternative to other media outlets, such as the
BBC and CNN. She contends that Aljazeera’s controversial coverage has
increased its credibility and popularity among audiences and that the Al
Arabiyah network was founded to provide a more moderate alternative.
Qusaibaty utilizes a framing/discourse analysis approach to select
program episodes. She reports that a framing analysis of the various
programs has revealed specific patterns in the framing of various issues.
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Her analysis of the way interlocutors conduct themselves in debating
issues of three programs. For Women Only, The Opposite Direction and
Open Dialogue, shows the following characteristics:
(1) Dichotomy of “them and us” (the west and the Arab world). This
dichotomy, Qusaibaty claims, presents itself in several ways, but
mainly as paranoia of western socio-political and economic invasion.
(2) Focus on the west and particularly the United States. In this regard,
Qusaibaty observes that while the debaters relentlessly criticize the
west, they ironically replicate English terminology, frame events and
situate their arguments using Anglo-Saxon frameworks.
(3) Subjective framing. Programs, such as The Opposite Direction, use
Yes or No closed questions to introduce the topic of debate and poll
viewers.
(4) Host’s interference. The host interrupts the speaker and influences the
debate.
While these are valid observations they raise a question about whether
they are specific to Aljazeera programs or are universal features of
contemporary television debate in general. For example, observation of
Tim Sebastian, former BBC Hard Talk presenter reveals similar patterns.
Sebastian is known for his combative style of interviewing. This is what
he says about his own style of interviewing:
I have no particular bias towards any of them [guests]. I'm looking
for holes in their arguments, whoever they are and whatever
political stripe they happen to represent. They all have holes in
their arguments, some more glaring than others. My job is to show
them up, expose them—as I say, expose the gap between rhetoric
and reality. That's true of everybody, so everybody gets the same
hard time when they sit down, because of the nature of the
program. There are softer programs on option on the BBC; this
happens to be a hard version. We can't drag people into the studio,
they come into the studio knowing what kind of treatment they're
going to get, and acquiescing to that. And a lot of people like to
take you on. A lot of people think it's a badge of honour to come
through the program and having done well, or put me in my place,
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or whatever—and many people do put me in my place. That's
absolutely fine.
15

Qusaibaty concludes by reiterating what other writers and researchers
have said ad nauseam: “By breaching taboos and uncovering sensitive
issues, Aljazeera has allowed previously forbidden discourse to emerge
from behind closed doors into the public field, especially as concerns the
Arab world” (48). She contends:
“the contrasting responses the channel has generated indicate that
it provides merely a reflection of the reality it seeks to portray.
Aljazeera may then resemble a messenger with less stringent
filters than government-controlled media. Nevertheless, such
editorial policy implies that Aljazeera toes a very fine line subject
as concerns pressure from governments and other interested
parties. In doing so, the channel’s framing of events is not linear,
but rather depends on the divergent opinions voiced in responses
to particular issues” (48).
This assertion however discounts other factors that contribute to the
framing of issues apart from viewer responses. While Aljazeera is
motivated by the momentum of its earlier successes, it is certainly not a
running train. Its awareness of the significant role it is playing in Arab
politics cannot be reduced to a mere reflection of “reality”. Aljazeera must
be seen in the larger context of what Qatar is trying to do on the world
stage. For about three years now, Qatar has been focusing on supporting
development projects in South East Asia as well as playing a role in Arab
politics. Its critical role during the Israel-Lebanon war in July 2006 when
the rest of the Arab countries did little to stop the hostilities has won it
admiration and support in the Arab world, and if it is any indication, in his
speech at the UN General Assembly on 25 September 2007, the Emir of
Qatar indirectly criticized the US policy in Iraq, saying that Iraq could no
longer remain the responsibility of just one country and calling for a
strengthening of the United Nations’ role.
Voices from the void: the new Arab public
Public sphere has invariably been a recurring theme in publications on
Aljazeera and Arab media. It seems to be an in-vogue concept in this area
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of inquiry with sketchy details of what this concept signifies. Public
sphere according Habermas is “a realm of our social life in which
something approaching public opinion can be formed. Access is
guaranteed to all citizens. A portion of the public sphere comes into being
in every conversation in which private individuals assemble to form a
public body” (49).
16
A public sphere is a precondition for deliberative
arguments, which according to Goodnight (1998) necessarily pertains to
the domain of probable knowledge: “that kind of knowledge, which
although uncertain, is more reliable than untested opinion or guesswork.
Public deliberation is probable because the future is more and less than
expected. The full worth of a policy is yet to be seen” (251).
17

In his book Voices of the New Arab Public: Iraq, Aljazeera, and Middle
East Politics Today, Lynch (2006) argues that Aljazeera and other
satellite television channels have transformed Arab politics over the last
decade. How? By breaking state control over information and giving a
platform to voices that have been stifled for quite a long time, and by
encouraging open debate about a host of issues such as Iraq, Palestine,
Arab identity, these television networks have redefined what it means to
be an Arab. Using Iraq as the vehicle for his arguments and exploration of
the state of Arab media, Lynch warns that it is not sufficient to say an
Arab public sphere exists. The question is what kind of public sphere is it
and what kind of impact is it likely to have? What kinds of arguments
dominate within it and who are the participants? Citing Gamson (2001),
Lynch reiterates that mass media has been long criticized for tending to
demobilize societies and to discourage political action. In contrast, the
new Arab media assumes an active role in trying to “mobilize mass
publics to become politically involved” (52).
In this regard, Zayani (2005) asks the questions: can Aljazeera be a
vehicle for political change? Does a network like Aljazeera enhance or
eviscerate democracy? Zayani argues that so far the Arab public seems to
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be content with satellite democracy. “Add to this yet another danger, and
that is the increasing marginalization of the role of the media in
development and modernization. The media discourse is increasingly
embroiled in an oppositional ideological underpinning” (33). Moreover,
El-Oifi (in Zayani, 2005)
18
argues that Aljazeera is influence without
power. “Aljazeera has become a weapon to contend with and a source of
influence at the disposal of a tiny country [Qatar] which does not possess
any of the classical elements of power…This extraordinary shift of
power—in fact, the revenge of the micro state over Arab countries that
have a weight in the region—points to momentous changes or imbalances
which are shrewdly exploited by the American administration.” (76).
Nonetheless, Lynch (2006) again observes that there is a noticeable
amount of reflexive, self-conscious discussion within the Arab public
sphere about itself and contends that ironically this self obsession may be
one of the things that most identifies it as a public sphere. “Aljazeera
regularly airs programs devoted to questioning its own importance, its
own behavior, its own mistakes” (55).
Fourth Estate or Fifth Column
Since its launch a decade ago, Aljazeera has been received with
ambivalence in the Arab world and by the Arab diaspora. Perhaps this
mixed reaction to a liberal news and current affairs television reflects the
great social and political divide across the Arab society at large. There are
those who have regarded Aljazeera as the harbinger of democracy and
social liberation and those who have seen it as a western saboteur. For
societies that have been used to police-state oppression and an
authoritarian form of puppet media, the sudden introduction to
uncontrolled public free speech and public debate must have been a real
cultural shock. For those who have always been suspicious of imported
western liberalizations in the absence of liberal and democratic systems,
Aljazeera must have been received with a degree of apprehension and
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cynicism, and along other entertainment television channels, as a fifth
column. The culture of fifth column had been widespread in Arab politics
for most of the second half of the twentieth century and any departure
from the official political party line had been seen as dissention.
In the pre-Aljazeera and more specifically pre September 11, 2001 period,
the Arab world was divided into three major social-political systems:
conservative, semi-liberal and authoritarian-populist. This delineation,
which was taking shape during the Cold War, became more pronounced
in the decade that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and
the successive political and military events that took hold of the region.
Interestingly, these social-political systems have been translated into four
dynamic forms of media, which Rugh (2004) calls: mobilization press,
loyalist press, diverse print media and transitional print media. The
mobilization press includes Syria, Libya, Sudan and pre-2003 Iraq. The
loyalist press includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, the United
Arab Emirates and Palestine. The diverse print media include Lebanon,
Kuwait, Morocco and Yemen. Transitional print media include Egypt,
Jordan, Tunisia and Algeria. Rugh (2004:23) argues that the Arab media
systems do not fit neatly and completely into any of the categories of the
standard classification of authoritarian, libertarian, social responsibility or
totalitarian. However, he confirms that in most Arab countries, the media
operate under variations of the authoritarian theory and concludes that the
media system in the Arab world “cannot be understood without specific
reference to the political and other conditions prevailing at the time in the
country” (23).
The common definition of the media being the fourth estate rests on the
notion that the media functions as a guardian of the public interest and as
a watchdog on the activities of government. While this concept of the role
of the media has recently come under fire in the west, it seems to have
been embraced wholeheartedly yet somewhat abnormally in the Arab
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media. For example, Stockwell (2004) argues that the fourth estate gives
journalists the dual benefit of placing them inside the political process but
outside the institutions of governance. He contends that the traditional
explanation of journalism based on the notion of fourth estate has been
undermined because audiences no longer find traditional journalism as
important and sustaining as they once did. News and current affairs in
both Australia and United States are losing ratings “indicating a rising
level of dissatisfaction with mainstream news”(4)
19
. In contrast, news and
current affairs in the Arab world seem to be gaining prominence with the
liberalization of the media in the last decade thanks to the dramatic
influence of Aljazeera and the interest it has aroused in the Arab world.
Moreover, Baker (2006:142) argues that the fourth estate notion has no
relation to the general quantity, quality and diversity of speech.
On the role of Aljazeera as a fourth estate, Khalid Rhoub (2006) argues in
the Lebanese English language Daily Star that despite Aljazeera’s
importance in the creation of an “Arab” public sphere, its contribution to
political change is at best limited and contends that this seeming paradox
remains an enigma to many analysts. Hroub confirms the general current
view of Aljazeera as follows:
The creation of a “regional media public sphere” has been central
to Aljazeera's policy over the past 10 years. Motivated by the
success of the Qatar-based station - envious too, no doubt - a
number of trans-terrestrial Arabic-speaking television stations,
chiefly Saudi, Egyptian and Lebanese, were established in
competition. Most of these modeled themselves on Aljazeera, in
style if not in substance: challenging existing political, social and
religious systems became the name of the new media game. The
newly created virtual sphere of free debate and news access
effectively rendered old-style state-controlled Arab media
obsolete.
20

But whether Aljazeera is creating consensus around undermining state-
controlled media is doubtful.
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Out of control: the taming of the shrew
For many viewers in the west, Aljazeera, at least in the early years of its
operation and during the period from 2003 to 2006, may have come
across as a wild, untamed and bombastic news and current affairs channel.
In many ways it is. The little boy with the handgun metaphor may aptly
describe how Aljazeera, unbridled and unguided by any clear policy, has
been dealing with the events in the region, and capture the state of
fluctuation and irrationality of news coverage. The transformation that has
taken place over the last two years, however, has transported Aljazeera
into another phase of television news broadcasting, and while rationality
may have been needed to streamline Aljazeera’s editorial policies,
Aljazeera today is another foreign language replica of CNN. Whether this
is a natural outcome of maturation and adaptation or the result of a
conscious policy on the part of decision makers is hard to ascertain. Most
likely, it is a combination of these two factors.
In an interview with MSNBC on May 13, 2004, Jihane Noujaime, the
director of “Control Room”, spoke to Alison Stewart about the reasons for
making this documentary about Aljazeera.
21
For the full transcript, see
the Appendix. Noujaime challenges the basic notion of objective
reporting and calls objectivity a “mirage”. Explaining why she made the
move, she states:
I was really just curious in terms of figuring out who these people
were that were going to Qatar to cover the news. Umm…With
Aljazeera I thought they really had to have a belief in some kind
of independent press because many of those come from state-run
news institutions. So many of them I knew were going to be
frustrated from the world they had come from and excited to be
part of what they saw as the freest press in the Middle East.
The American media, I thought was, you know, we live in a time
where 24 hour news coverage, you need to get on the story right
way. The individual journalists, David Shuster from MSNBC,
Tom Mantier from CNN, were fantastic people and had a lot of
integrity, as journalists and as people. I think it’s difficult… Tom
described it to me really well, when the Jessica Lynch story came
out for example. He was really frustrated with what was going on,
because he said, look they are burying the lead. There is
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something going on. They are not telling us what’s going on. But
at the same time, everybody else is reporting about Jessica Lynch,
so he had to stand up there and report on Jessica Lynch. I think
there has also been a lot of pressure. A lot of journalists, I can say
the names, obviously, said look, since September 11, there has
been a really enormous pressure not to criticize the President, to
criticize what we are doing. We need to be patriotic. But the
difficult part about that if wee are not seeing what the other side is
thinking and I think that puts us in a very dangerous situation as
Americans.
In a network that spends lavishly, one impression that American
journalists walk away with is what David Shuster of MSNBC
experienced: “Aljazeera, they’ve got the best food, the best food,
Aljazeera, they are also the nicest guys” [emphasis added] (Control
Room, 2004). However, cutting through the delicacies of cuisine, Shuster
confirms:
“First of all, we respected Aljazeera in the sense that they were
doing something that hadn’t been done in the Arab world, and
they were reaching a lot of viewers, and they were ruffling a lot of
feathers, which is a great part of journalism. The worst part
Aljazeera is struggling with is how when there isn’t over a long
tradition of being independent and being able to say anything you
want in any one of these sorts of kingdoms, how do you establish
that now? We’ve got some 200 years of being to build on that in
our country and I think this helps journalism”.
But Aljazeera’s role or rather frivolity cuts deeper into the consciousness
of its media workers than the trimmings of its recent journalistic tradition
might show. In a special program making the fortieth anniversary of the
1967 war and the defeat of the Arabs to Israel, aired in June 2007, a
random sample of young and old Arabs was surveyed in several Arab
countries about what they knew about the war. Strikingly, while Aljazeera
lamented the fact that most of the surveyed participants could not
remember the war, the promotional video clip and program trailer showed
collaged still pictures of three deceased Arab leaders, Egyptian President
Gamal Abel Nasser, Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, and Palestinian
leader Yasser Arafat, with bare footprints and shoeprints treading all over
them. This symbolism of the passage of time, which probably escaped the
attention of most Arab viewers, was most likely symbolic of how
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Aljazeera sees past Arab leaders. It was certainly an insult to those who
noticed the pictures, which were flashed on screen.
Mission Aljazeera
Aljazeera, Mission Aljazeera by Josh Rushing (2007) offers the reader a
blend of a personal story and observations of a media professional who
has so far viewed both sides of the equation. More telling however is the
career transition from a US Marine to a reporter at Aljazeera, as this gives
us insight into how Aljazeera operates to recruit personnel.
Rushing (2007) tells the readers that he is as American and patriotic as
any ex U.S. Marine can be. He recounts how he joined the Marines at the
tender age of seventeen, as he puts it, how he joined the Defense
Information School to study journalism, how he ended up at U.S. Central
Command (CentCom) in Doha, Qatar as a talking point for Aljazeera, and
how his encounters with Aljazeera journalists opened his eyes to the Arab
culture.
Rushing paints a bleak picture of how the American military command
viewed not only Aljazeera as a hostile media network, but also how
democracy-exporters despise and look down on the very people they have
come to liberate and educate in the ways of democracy and freedom of
speech in the Arab world. While this view has been communicated to the
Arabs through persistent stereotypical Hollywood portrayals, Rushing
offers a first-hand account and insights into these perceptions and
attitudes and the workings of the war propaganda machine. Rushing
writes:
To Fox News viewers, which described the majority of my
CentCom colleagues, Aljazeera was a hostile network, and its
portrayal of the United States’s actions frustrated my superiors,
who would be outraged at the station’s reporting and vow to cut
off all access to its reporters. (50).
I would argue that time on Aljazeera’s airways—for better or
worse—gave CentCom our only opportunity to reach the audience
we most needed to reach: the Arab people […] I argued my case
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so strongly that at one point an Air Force lieutenant colonel came
to me and said, “Check your uniform and see what name is on it.
You need to remember which side you’re on.” It wouldn’t be the
last time I would be accused of being a traitor.
Towards the end of the book, Rushing assumes the role of spokesperson
for Aljazeera. Now that he is in the employ of the mega network empire,
he speaks in the same manner as he did when he was a talking point at
CentCom:
A lot of people want to know why Aljazeera decided to launch an
English language network. The answer is simple: We launched
Aljazeera English because the Emir of Qatar said to do it. He has
never publicly said why he thought an English-language iteration
was needed, leaving us as well as the rest of the world to
speculate on his thinking, but his instincts have proven right so
far. His growing media empire (which includes Arabic channels
for news, sports, children’s programming, C-SPAN-like public
affairs coverage, and documentaries) has been a product of his
hunches and vision, one that he keeps fairly private. And while
conspiracy theories inside and outside the Arab world have
claimed it’s a stalking horse for a political movement, or a target
meant to draw fire from the more controversial Aljazeera Arabic,
all I’ve heard as far as our mission goes is to be as credible as
possible.
Credibility is a watch word at Aljazeera and I think it’s fair to
surmise that one thing the Emir wants to do is to extend the
credibility he has established with the Arab network to a broader,
international audience. (193-194)
This is where the credibility of the book begins to falter a little and for
cynics and sceptics, it sounds rather odd to have someone working for
Aljazeera not to say something good about Aljazeera. But in all fairness,
throughout the book, Rushing has tried to be as transparent and honest as
possible and this comes across in his narrative and detailed account of the
events that make up this book. In many ways too, the book manages to
add a human touch to the phenomenon of Aljazeera that other books, too
engrossed in political analyses, theoretical fancy footwork and academic
methodologies and procedures that give the illusion of objectivity and
scientific enquiry, have failed to do. When I heard about the book I had
almost completed my literature review, but a review of the literature about
Aljazeera could not be complete without reading Mission Aljazeera,
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which in many ways can be described as the icing on the cake. I
approached the book with scepticism, but half way through, I was touched
by the ingenuity of observation and description, Rushing came across as a
genuine and credible narrator who finally declares “I was a former
Marine, but I also understood the Arab media. I am that bridge I had
always imagined I could be, without worrying about the lanes” (228).
News, Language, Translation and Culture
The vital role of language is probably nowhere as salient and influential
as in news media. Allen Bell (1991) highlights the importance and
widespread influence of language in the media. He contends that
“…media language is heard not just by one or two people but by mass
audiences. It is the few talking to the many. Media are dominating
presenters of language in our society at large” (1), with news being “the
primary language genre” within the media. In the Arab world today,
Aljazeera is carrying this all-pervading influence of news language to
millions of viewers and accelerating the standardization process of the
Arabic language at a rate unprecedented in the modern history of the
region.
22

Before the introduction of satellite television to the Arab world, there
have been claims of conscious moves within journalism to simplify the
Arabic language. Translating Mroue (1961), “the refined easy style we
have achieved in Arabic writing today is not attributable to language
teachers in schools and colleges, nor is it attributable to writers and
ancient men of letters. It is in the first place owing to the journalism of
today” (111). However, much as these early pioneers would like to think
that the shift in style of Arabic writing is due to the conscious efforts of
the press, it can be argued that the shift was due to the direct influence of
translation. As is the case today, foreign press was the primary source of
information for Arabic newspapers and journalists in the second half of
the twentieth century. With the widespread coverage of satellite television
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in the Arab world and real-time accessibility to foreign language satellite
television, such as CNN, BBC, NBC and so on, the influence of
translation on Arabic linguistic and thought patterns has become more
readily pronounced that will be demonstrated in this research, and the
correlation and causality between translation and the Arabic media
language become stronger and arguably more established.
Highlighting the role of journalists as language custodians, Denmark-
based Egyptian writer Noha Mellor (2005) echoes Mroue’s view asserting
that the “news media have thus played a role in the modernization of the
language. Television plays an important role as a medium even for
illiterates, but television sets are not yet available in certain rural areas,
where radio is still the medium of necessity” (126). Mellor further
confirms the views made here and elsewhere (Darwish, 2004, 2005)
regarding the role of translation in journalism and the impact of
translation on the language.
“The short deadlines that rule journalistic practice have forced
editors and journalists to depend on quick translation of incoming
news from international news agencies and sources, paving the
way for the introduction of new terms and expressions in the
MSA [Modern Standard Arabic] used in the news (Abdelfattah,
1990:42f)”.
While Mellor’s reference goes back to 1990, the situation is even more
pronounced today at Aljazeera and other Arabic news media networks.
There is more emphasis on literalizations and absolute literalization of
English expressions. However, although high-powered newsroom
production places ever-increasing pressures on journalists-cum-translators
(or vice-versa), the introductions of neologisms into news media language
has more to do with the lack of a systematic approach to translation, as
will be illustrated in this research, and that such neologies are not just
confined to terms and expressions of limited or confined impact. They
extend to thought and logical patterns as well as argumentation patterns
and paradigms, which largely contribute to the reframing of the original
message. This influence derives from translation being a process of
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deconstruction and reconstruction of the original text. In literalization, an
extreme form of literal translation where expressions are reduced to
lexical meanings, the rhetorical devices of the target languages are usually
suspended, giving way to source language patterns to dominate the
rendition.
As far as Aljazeera is concerned, the claim that it has “set a new standard
of excellence [emphasis added] in translation and is used as a benchmark
by professional translators all over the world” (Miles, 2005: 335) is
empirically unsupported. A close examination of the translation standards
used at Aljazeera reveals serious flaws with these standards, which are far
from being excellent. In fact, the literalization style that has been adopted
by Aljazeera is gravely contributing to mistranslations, misinterpretations
and misrepresentations. A prelude study to the present research has
examined the standards of telecast simultaneous interpreting at Aljazeera,
and has revealed serious problems with the mode of delivery and
standards of rendition employed at Aljazeera (Darwish, 2006: 75).
Translation mediation and downstream reporting
The role of translation in news media is no less important than language
itself. As the following figure illustrates, in a monolingual news media
environment, the news flows from the primary sources through the
reporter/news editor and is read out (animated) by the news presenter to
an audience.
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Figure 3— A basic model of news flow in a monolingual environment
In contrast, in the translation-mediated model of news reporting, the news
flows from the primary sources in its native form through primary
reporting in mediated form to the news editor and text animator to an
audience.
Figure 4—A basic model of mediated news reporting
In the monolingual model, translation plays a secondary role (however
essential in the news gathering process), whereas translation plays a
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central role in the downstream reporting model. Downstream reporting is
defined here as news reports originating in English mainly by news
providers and translated into other languages locally by news monitors,
translators and editors, or translated by translators working at or for these
news providers.
As mentioned earlier in this thesis, the role of the translators and/or fixers
within this monolingual model was examined (while the present research
was still in progress) by Palmer and Fontan (2007). Examining the
problems faced by western journalists working in Iraq, Palmer and Fontan
focused on the first stage of information relays depicted in the model that
intervene between the events and the journalists who report them and the
role of the translators/fixers in facilitating information gathering from
local sources. They confirm the argument maintained throughout this
thesis that the overwhelming majority of the journalists working on
location spoke no or very little Arabic and that all of the non-Arabic
journalists had used interpreters. They report that mistranslations and/or
omissions of significant material, inability to understand the local culture
and the fixer forming the journalist’s view of the situation.
In the downstream model, the information relays become more complex
as translation-mediation occurs more frequently in the information flow
between the event and audience.

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Figure 5- Downstream reporting model
The making of Arab news
With the exception of two books, no publications examining Arab news
exist. Most publications at hand have addressed various aspects of Arab
media but they have not tackled the role of language or translation in the
making of Arab(ic) news. In The Making of Arab News, by Noha Mellor.
Written by an Arab living in the West, this scholarly book brings a fresh
insight into the intricate nature of the Arab media. In the preface, Mellor
sets out to explain her motivation for writing the book: “AS A NATIVE
ARAB LIVING [emphasis in original] in Europe and working in the field
of media—both as a scholar and a journalist—I have had the privilege of
being able to access information and publications in both English and
Arabic.
23
I have deliberately chosen to share this privilege with my
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readers by consistently presenting the views of Arab scholars and
professionals side by side with the views of their western, and particularly
American, counterparts” (xi). Certainly, the book goes beyond sheer
juxtaposition of these views to a deeper and more incisive analysis of
Arab(ic) news and how it is viewed in the west, dispelling some of the
long-held misconceptions in western media and political circles about
Arab journalism, and unfortunately (as discussed later) perpetuating a few
fallacies about the language and culture. Mellor states again,
“[s]crutinizing media coverage in both spheres, although a worthy
exercise per se, shows only reactions on the surface but does not go
deeper than that” (2). Since this book is the only book that actually
address Arab news making, it is worth examining very closely in this
section.
The book opens with an introduction about the emergence of Aljazeera as
an alternative source of news stories in the Arab world, “…challenging
American media hegemony” (1), and about global convergence not only
in the importation of western music and entertainment genres, “but also in
the development of news genre in the Arab media and the development of
television journalism, which is said to have been non-existent in the Arab
world television” (2). The book, which consists of an introduction and
two parts, explores in Chapter 1, The Arab Region: Similarities and
Differences, the similarities and differences that exist in the Arab world,
shedding light on some important aspects of language, identity and
political and civil rights, literacy and policy. Falling back on statistics and
information primarily from UNESCO, Mellor paints a grim, realistic
picture of the state of affairs not only of journalism but also of the general
social and political climate in the Arab region. Mellor concludes this
chapter by saying that “despite similarities among Arab states, their
efforts to launch mutual cooperation projects, particularly in the media
field, have not been successful” (23).
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Chapter 2, History of Arab News, gives a thorough and informative
account of the beginning, development, function and current status of
Arab news. This chapter looks at the news as a unifying tool and form of
control. It then examines the role of Arab news agencies and their main
function “to assist the government in disseminating its information and
controlling the incoming news from foreign sources” (38), concluding
that “Arab news agencies fail to provide a rich source of Arab news to
Arab media and thereby reduce their dependence on foreign (western)
news sources” (45), which perhaps to some degree explains why Arab
news relies primarily, and in most situations solely, on foreign news
sources. “The amount of foreign news in the Arab media is in fact higher
than that in the American media” (43).
Chapter 3, Categorization of the Arab Press: Rugh’s Typology Revisited,
reexamines William Rugh’s (2004) typology of Arab news and presents a
critique by scholars of this typology, “which stems from western theories
of the press”. Mellor then explores agenda-setting issues in the Arab
press, confirming that “the indulgence in foreign policy issues is not only
deep rooted in the history of news reporting in the Arab region but also in
officials’ attitudes towards news media” (60). This chapter also looks at
Arab newspapers published outside the Arab region in the past three
decades, and examines the reasons for this drive, arriving at the
conclusion that the “reasons that drove these newspapers abroad—lack of
technology, access to information, and censorship—seem to have
diminished, as several pan-Arab newspapers are now returning to the
Arab world” (63).
In Chapter 4, News Values, Mellor examines the values by which the
news in the Arab press is selected vis-à-vis western news values. Mellor
confirms the dominant view that “the criteria journalists use for selecting
the news vary from one culture to another, reflecting various ideological,
political, and cultural realities” (75). Regarding news in terms of politics,
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social responsibility, objectivity, prominence, and newness, Mellor
examines news values in the Arab region and the west, particularly in the
United States, through these variables, concluding that American
journalists tend to see their mission as exposing the truth, whereas this
role is rare in Arab news media.
In part two, Chapter 5, The News Genre examines the news genre in the
Arab media compared to western media. Mellor contends that the
development of the news genre in the Arab press was a long, hard
process. This short chapter (103-107) very briefly touches on the different
types of news genre and sub-genres. In this chapter, the comparison stops
there and Arabic news is treated as an isolated phenomenon. Citing
Ayalon (1995) and Haeri (2003), Mellor claims that the “new medium
demanded new genres of writing: clear and understood by a wider
audience. However, the journalistic genres sprang from classical Arabic,
which had been used primarily in literary genres addressing the small
community of intellectuals…” (105). This flawed argument, which
indirectly assumes that the so-called “classical Arabic” lacked clarity and
precision, begs the following questions. What was the role of schools in
teaching the so-called “classical Arabic” (as a separate thing; a totally
different language that has no connection or bears no resemblance to the
“spoken” form) and could all pupils and students who were taught this
“variety” of the language understand it in the same way as present-day
students learn and understand a totally alien language such as English, for
example, so much so that it had no direct impact on their lives or means
of communication? A crucial distinction that most people, scholars and
laypersons alike, fail to make in their analysis of this phenomenon is that
between “al-fus_ha” ([\]^_`) and “al-faseeha” (a\b]^_`) varieties of
standard Arabic; the former being “the most eloquent”, pure and perfect
(pristine) version of Arabic, which no longer exists, and the latter “an
eloquent” version of Arabic, recognizing the elements of “lahn” (c\_)
(solecism) or “foreignness” that have crept into the Arabic language since
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the Arabs’ first contact with other nations, which has been erroneously
labelled “classical Arabic” by Orientalists—a label faithfully adopted by
Arabs (see Darwish, 2005).
Chapter 6, MSA: The Language of News, continues to explore language
issues related to the news. Setting the scene for the discussion that follows
here and in chapter 7, the chapter opens with a recount of a snippet from
the autobiography of Egyptian feminist Leila Ahmed recalling the time
she was working in Abu Dhabi, her first (and probably last) encounter
with other Arabs from other nationalities and how it suddenly dawned on
her that Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) was not her mother tongue and
that her mother tongue was Egyptian Arabic. “She finally realized why
English and Egyptian Arabic felt closer to her than MSA: they were living
languages”. This non sequitur (were the other Arabs speaking MSA?)
represents the psychological trap that most so-called educated Arabs find
themselves in when it comes to standard Arabic. Their sense of alienation,
westernism and the so-called gentleman’s complex (cultural cringe) takes
them as far as considering English closer to them than Arabic. Again, this
misconception stems from the erroneous definition of “living language”.
A living language is a language that is in active function or use, and it
would be naive to claim that MSA is not a living language by this
definition. For these people, a living language is largely a spoken
language, a dialect.
Ironically, the late Saudi King Faysal Ibn Abd al-Aziz is reported to have
said to the late Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nassir at an Arab summit
sometime in the early seventies that “Egyptian Arabic’ was the closest to
standard Arabic in terms of terminology, phraseology and structure. Yet
whenever and wherever educated Arabs meet, they complain endlessly
and peevishly about their different dialects all in their own local dialects,
without the slightest glitch in communication.
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The chapter presents a brief account of the development of MSA as a
deliberate move on the part of the rulers to standardize the language
during the peak of the Islamic Empire. This account relies on Versteegh’s
(1997) analysis of such alleged “standardization”. This chapter would
have benefited from studies by prominent Arabic language scholars such
as Subhi as-Salih, instead of relying on Orientalists and outsiders to
account for the various phenomena of the Arabic language that very few
people are able to appreciate and for which others do not hesitate to
suggest remedies based on their understanding of their own languages.
Jaroslav Stetkevych, for example, cited in the present volume and in
Darwish (2005), has suggested that “the future of the Arabic language
will thus lie not in artificial compromises between the two native
linguistic sources of classicism and colloquialism, which work against
each other [emphasis added], but rather in a straight line of development
out of a classical morphology towards a new, largely non-Semitic syntax
which will be dictated by the habits of thought rather than the habit of live
speech. Only then in possession of a language by which to think [emphasis
added], will the Arabs be able to overcome the problem of conflicting
colloquialism and classicism” (109). Such audacious linguistic
imperialism and condescension is probably not seen anywhere else except
in the studies of Arabic by foreigners who can only understand the
language through their own. Sadly, such ideas will always find their
misguided and starry-eyed enchanted followers in the Arab world.
Colloquialism has existed alongside “classical” Arabic since the early
days of the Arabs, and has never prevented them from “thinking” and
from achieving intellectual and scientific greatness to which modern
civilization owes a great deal of debt. Certainly, successive imperialist
and colonialist powers in the last centuries played a serious role in
stunting the natural literacy process of societies of the colonized
countries. By imposing their own languages on the local population (for
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example, the French in Algeria) and/or encouraging the use of the
vernacular as a means of upward mobility in society (for example, the
British in Egypt), these colonial powers contributed significantly to
relegating standard Arabic to a lower status in education and professional
life. Today however, thanks to Aljazeera and other Arabic satellite
television networks—despite the numerous criticisms one might level at
them—the perceived gulf between standard Arabic and the local dialects
is diminishing at an unprecedented accelerated rate. It is expected that
within the next twenty-five to thirty years, major dialectical differences
will have merged into standard Arabic or an “educated” streamlined
version already in use in many quarters of inter-Arab interaction.
Chapter 7, Values in Language, provides specific examples of Arabic
news with back translations. Back translation follows an arbitrary
approach that weakens the point these examples try to illustrate. Arabic
expressions that have crept from English through translation in the first
place are lost in back translation. For example, the trite Arabic expression
(d_e [_f) (ila tHalika) (literally, “to that”), which is used and overused ad
nauseam in Arabic news today, is translated into “About this” (page 131),
when in fact it is a direct poor translation of the linking device “to this
end”.
More to the point, this chapter completely ignores translation as a critical
and defining factor in the development of these styles (see Darwish, 2005)
and the fact that most Arabic news is translated from various foreign news
agencies. In chapter 2, the author discusses the role of foreign news
agencies from a sociopolitical viewpoint and admits that Arab news
media depend on foreign news sources. Yet she fails to make the
connection between the increased reliance on these foreign sources and
their impact on the style of news language through poor translations. A
discussion of active vs. passive voice, attribution, hierarchy of textual
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representation, tense and deictic, cannot be complete without exploring
the influence of translation on these aspects of Arabic news.
Most of those who translate the news from foreign sources are journalists
who are by all accounts untrained, ill-equipped and unqualified as
translators. Low translation standards, and literalization—a misguided
notion of literal translation as a means of innovation, modernization and
creation of new writing styles in journalism—are adversely contributing
to copycat representations. It contradicts the claim that “the discovery
that there was a mysterious link missing for a successful thought
transfusion from the Western into the Arabic culture became a source of
frustration [emphasis added], particularly for the literary generation active
in the first quarter of the present century, as it was fully committed to
innovation. At the same time, it was this generation which put modern
Arabic on its present course, which unknowingly defined modern Arabic,
and which produced the first firmly rooted and consequential cultural
communication with modernity. What enabled all this to happen was the
gradual appearance of affinities between Arabic and the modern European
family of languages” (Stetkevych, 1970),
24
certainly through literalization
and mimicry. The final chapter sums up the present volume, arriving at
the conclusion that the Arab news media have pushed the limits of
freedom and enforced a healthy spirit among media outlets, fostering new
journalistic practices. One striking oddity about this book is that while the
author lives in Europe, her analysis of western media focuses solely on
American media. British and other European media of equal importance
are completely ignored, and the book, it seems, is catering for the
academic taste of American scholarship.
The Role of Translation in the Media
This section of the literature review addresses itself to translation and the
role of translation in the media in general and Arabic media in particular.
Strikingly, there is hardly any significant literature on the role of
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translation in the news despite the central role translation plays in the
process of news reporting.
Translating memes and mismemes
It makes sense at this point in our discussion of the role of translation in
news reporting at television in general to examine the influential concepts,
theories and models of translation at large. This will help elucidate some
of the problems encountered in translation of news reports. The
realization among translation writers in the past 30 years that translation is
a complex system has been gaining momentum with the globalizing effect
of mass communication technologies and the convergence of cultures in
one global media culture. Characteristically, translation theories have
tagged along the various intellectual changes elsewhere and translation
theories have reflected the dominant trends of thought of the day.
Depending on the prevalent trend of thought at every juncture of
development of human thinking, be it hermeneutics, structuralism,
semiotics, post-structuralism, psychoanalysis, postmodernism, and so on,
a translation model or theory is developed within the limits of these
frames of thought.
These theories and corollary models have spanned the translation
phenomenon on two axes: a vertical axis that examines the paradigmatic
relationship of translation to text at different levels of structure and a
horizontal axis that examines syntagmatic relationship of translation to the
various applications of text. This relationship has governed translation
strategies and approaches.
25

According to Schulte and Biguenet (1992), all acts of communication are
indeed acts of translation, now that “it has become clear that translational
thinking is fundamental to all acts of human communication...” (6). In
their view, thinking is basically a process of translating. As Octavio Paz
(1971) observes, “when we learn to speak, we are learning to translate;
the child who asks his mother the meaning of a word is really asking her
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to translate the unfamiliar term into the simple words he already knows.
In this sense, translation within the same language is not essentially
different from translation between two tongues” (152).
26
Paz argues that
the very medium that makes translation possible—that is language, is
essentially a translation.
Here, a clear distinction must be made between thinking and the verbal
expression of thought because thinking is not translating — verbalizing
thinking is. However, this notion becomes a metaphor that is applied to
other areas of interpretation. Iser (2000) for example, observes that we
usually associate translation with converting one language into another,
be it foreign, technical, vocational, or otherwise.
“Nowadays however, not only languages have to be translated. In
a rapidly shrinking world, many different cultures have come in
close contact with one another, calling for mutual understanding
in terms not only of one’s own culture but also of those
encountered. The more alien the latter, the more inevitable is
some form of translation, as the specific nature of culture one is
exposed to can be grasped only when projected onto what is
familiar. In tackling such issues, interpretation can only become
an operative tool if conceived as an act of translation. In Harold
bloom’s words: ‘interpretation’ once meant ‘translation’ and
essentially still does” (5).
However, Umberto Eco (2003)
27
warns against using translation to mean
interpreting in this sense. He argues that something can act as the
interpretant (following Pierce’s model) of a given expression without
being a translation of it—“at least in the proper sense of the word” (127).
Agreeing with Gadamer (1960), he argues that it cannot be refuted that
every translation is always an interpretation. However, Eco refutes the
proposition that every interpretation is a translation. For Eco,
paraphrasing and rewording within the same language is not translation.
With this in mind, let us proceed to the concept of translation-mediated
interpretation, that is interpretation of something in one language through
the translation of discourse describing or defining that something into
another language. Assuming that access to the full significance of that
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something can be achieved through a target-language bounded mind or
through translation proper of the discourse describing the thing, some
kind of interpretation takes place. In importing foreign styles and
practices of broadcasting to package news and programs, interpretation of
these artefacts occurs. At the same time, translating discourse and
narrative accompanying these artefacts and constituting the content of
packaged programs entails a degree of interpretation. The dilemma of
nativization of such borrowed artefacts (including metaphors) in Arabic is
a real one since in the absence of intersubjectivity between the source and
the target cultures is bound to produce mistranslations that in turn produce
pseudo cultural memes (or mismemes). While these pseudo memes are
circulated through the media they remain alien to the linguistic and
cultural perspective of the Arabic language and reframe the original
message in a particular way that was not intended in the source. Without
reconstructing source intersubjectivity within the linguistic and cultural
interpretive framework of the target language, cultural memes become
cultural mismemes. Consequently, the present research examines both
aspects of packaged news, which both involve social semiotics.
The concept of memes was first introduced by Dawkins (1976). A meme,
according to The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is an idea, behaviour,
style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture. As
such, memes are cultural replicators, or units of imitation, that are
supposed to transmit such ideas within a culture. They can also work as
cross-cultural transmitters to other cultures through cross-cultural
communication, knowledge transfer or translation mediation. When such
replicators fail to transmit these ideas correctly because of mistranslation
or a specific translation strategy, they produce mismemes that replicate a
defective meme. Take for example the English expression the moment of
truth. This expression was first introduced by American novelist Ernest
Hemingway in his story Death in the Afternoon (1932), as a translation of
the Spanish expression el momento de la verdad, signifying the point in a
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bullfight when the matador makes the kill, and later developing into the
idiomatic meaning “a critical or decisive time on which much depends; a
crucial moment”. The moment of truth is more critical to the matador than
it is lethal and final for the bull itself. This is derived from the way the
matador raises both arms and the sword above his head a moment before
he thrusts the sword into the bull’s neck to finish off the bull.
Figure 6-The Moment of Truth (source: Darwish, 2005)
A translation of this expression has found its way into the Arabic media
and has been widely used by news editors and reporters. Literally
translated into (agbg\_` ah\_), this expression, which means very little in
Arabic, has been used incorrectly. Consider the following example
(source: Darwish, 2005: 334).
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ci_ ) agbg\_` ah\_ ( j`klm nop qros cbp tuov wxty tu
zg{ cb|} ~ t•v€ w•} k‚ ah\•_` ƒ„… †‡ˆ{ , ‰`Šˆ_` ‹Œ• ~ Ž{
••pŠ‘u cu ~’Š“_` ”•tg–€m Ž‚`Š“_` —“˜_` cbp a‚™“_` cuš
••‚Š˜u [_f ...
Back translation:
But (the moment of the truth)
28
has never been for one day
between George Bush and Saddam Hussein only. Such a
moment has also occurred thousands of times during the time
of relationship between the Iraqi people and their Arab
brethrens from their Maghreb to their Levant.
Clearly, using this expression in this loose manner in Arabic is unusual.
While a back translation may not quite highlight problem, the Arabic
version does not convey the meaning of the English original of
decisiveness, criticality or cruciality, and it is evident that the translation
is a cultural mismeme.
Conclusion
In a recent telephone conversation with my younger sister, a journalist
who lives in the United Arab Emirates, regarding my recent book The
Book of Wonders of Arabic Blunder in Journalism, Politics and Media,
and its scathing critique of media practices in the Arab world, she made
the poignant comment that it was rather pitiful that most constructive and
daring criticisms of media practices regarding translation and language
standards were made from outside the Arab world and that people living
in the region were unable to express these views more freely from within
the Arab countries. To a very large extent, this observation is true. Despite
the noise, clamour and remonstrance that have accompanied Aljazeera,
Aljazeera was not discovered initially by researchers, analysts and
commentators living in the Arab world. Rather it was discovered by
Arabs living overseas, as the preceding literature review has revealed.
Soon after, everyone seems to have jumped on the bandwagon and now
hardly any centre or university anywhere, including the Arab world has
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not engaged a student or two in research about Aljazeera and Arab media
looking at Aljazeera from various angles and different perspectives. In
The Social Construction of Aljazeera, Walker (2006) has argued that
Aljazeera has been “described as a challenger of the Arab status quo, a
dangerous cultural phenomenon, a beacon of democracy, anti-Semitic, a
harm to Arab unity, a challenge to hegemony in the Middle East, a
diplomatic boon for Qatar (its host country and chief financial sponsor), a
purveyor of Al Qaida propaganda, and an international broadcaster
competing successfully against the BBC and CNN”.
29
These descriptors,
Walker contends, comprise the Idea of Aljazeera.
Gaps in the literature
This chapter has reviewed landmark publications that have tackled the
idea of Aljazeera from the vantage point of external observers. These
observers have traced Aljazeera’s development and have recorded the
circumstances that have made it possible for Aljazeera to take centre stage
in media and politics and turn into a household name worldwide. One
recurrent theme that seems to resonate through the literature on Aljazeera
and Arab media in general is social and political change within the
framework of democracy and liberalization. Public sphere, increased
latitude of freedom of speech and expression, objectivity and bias,
mobilization effect, organizational culture, women’s representation, and
gender and identity are issues that have been addressed in the current
literature on Aljazeera and Arab media in general. These studies have
relied on qualitative and quantitative research methods to make sense of
the sudden impact of the Aljazeera phenomenon.
Interviews, formal and informal, surveys, field studies and content
analyses have been utilized in the analysis and development of the
research findings. These studies have not adopted a clear theoretical
framework, and what can be discerned from the literature review are
interpretive or historical models informed by political postulates grounded
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in the eventuality of democracy, thus allowing a linear mode of
interpretation of political, social and cultural manifestations of media
phenomena. Characteristically, both qualitative and quantitative
approaches have yielded similar results and more or less arrived at similar
conclusions. What transpires however is while there is a bipolarity of
opinions about Aljazeera, there is also a common thread across views and
arguments for and against Aljazeera. Aljazeera has changed the media
landscape in the Arab world. Rinnawi (2006) for example, attributes the
emergence of Aljazeera in the Anglo-European world to larger changes in
the media environment in the Arab world, which have translated into
transnational satellite broadcasting.
Despite the misgivings of Arab and western politicians and governments
about the role Aljazeera is playing, as Aljazeera develops and reaches
maturity as a media organization, a more positive view seems to reinforce
itself, not only in the literature reviewed in this chapter but also outside
the confines of academic and institutional walls. Nonetheless, the social
and cultural impact Aljazeera has been causing through translation-driven
language changes and semiotic packaging of programs, more specifically
the news, cannot be underestimated. Yet so far it has been almost totally
ignored in the literature at hand. Those who have addressed this problem
in this review, such as Mellor (2005), have regarded the changes in the
journalistic style as a favourable outcome of the contact between Arabic
and other languages, especially English. As this research has established,
translation plays a critical role in the process of change that is taking place
in the Arab media and Arab communities that are being affected by
Aljazeera. An interesting observation to made here is that minority or
ethic media services, such as the Australian Special Broadcasting Service
(SBS), have also been influenced by the translation-defined stylistics
employed by Aljazeera and Arab satellite television. What is baffling
about the whole process of translation-mediated news at Aljazeera and
other Arabic television channels is that expressions, concepts and
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metaphors that defy the logic of language are being used by Arab
journalists throughout the full spectrum of Arab media and are being
accepted by viewers and other language and news consumers. To
conclude this section with an example of such anomalies, the English
word “reactions”, in the plural, is translated into something like
“responses to the actions” (›t“{œ` •m•r) instead of “responses to the action”
(†“^_` •m•r), when the intended meaning is several actions in response to
one event. This anomaly clearly demonstrates how translation mediation
is introducing new expressions that are incorrect translations that reframe
the original message. In this example, it gives the idea that there are
several events and several responses to these events. This is short of
accurate reporting to say the least.
The literature at hand on translation, news and media, and Aljazeera in
particular, does not address the role of translation in reframing the
original message. This chapter has revealed that there is clearly a serious
gap in the literature and body of knowledge with respect to the impact of
translation on news making.

Notes

1
Palmer J. and Fontan, V. (2007), Our Ears and Our Eyes. Journalism. Sage Publication, London, p5.
2
In the Acknowledgements section of his book Al-Jazeera: How Arab TV News Challenged the World,
Hugh Miles (2005) writes: “I have never received any payment from Al-Jazeera in connection with this
book.” Steve Tatham (2006) also declared in the Acknowledgments section of his book Losing Arab
Hearts and minds, The Coalition, Aljazeera and Muslim Public Opinion: “The author received no
financial remuneration from any of the media organisations discussed in the book.” In the preface to
their book, El-Nawawyi and Iskandar (2002) state: “More important, in a world where agendas are
determined by channels of interest, readers should understand that the authors of this book remain
independent, autonomous of any governmental or personal influence; they are not connected with any
vested media interest”.
3
A simple quick internet search of “experts + middle east” reveals this trend.
4
Ali Abbas Jamal (2004). The Political Influence of Al-Jazeera Network on Kuwaitis: A Uses and
Gratifications Study: Doctoral Dissertation: The University of Southern Mississippi
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5
This is simply not true. The Egyptian dialect, for example, has been widely understood by the Arabs
and has been incorporated into many facets of other Arabic dialects.
6
Media Effects and Society. Elizabeth M. Perse; Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2001. (p3)
7
Excerpt from the back cover of the book The Aljazeera Effect, by Philip Seib (2008). Jeffery Sheuer
is author of the Big Picture; Why Democracies Need Journalistic Excellence.
8
By using these terms in this sense, I make a distinction between the negative and positive forms of
“conflict”.
9
The Structure of Conflict Book by George S. Avrunin, Clyde H. Coombs; Lawrence Erlbaum
Associates, 1988.
10
Aljazeera claims that 70 million viewers watch it.
11
See note 1.
12
Darwish, A. (2006). The Making of Arab News. A book review of Millor, N. (2005). In Translation
Watch Quarterly, Volume 2, 2006, Issue 1: 78. Also see Note 1.
13
Prepared statement of Dr. R.S. Zaharna, School of Communication, American University. American
Public Diplomacy and Islam. Hearing before the Committee on Foreign Relations. United States Senate
One Hundred Eighth Congress, First Session, February 27, 2003. Available via the World Wide Web:
http://www.access.gpo.gov/congress/senate. Retrieved on 26 September 2007.
14
http://www.infowar-
monitor.net/modules.php?op=modload&name=soundbyte&file=index&req=viewarticle&artid=3&page
=6. Retrieved on 27 September 2007.
15
The Art of the Interview. http://www.abc.net.au/rn/learning/lifelong/stories/s1174641.htm. Retrieved
30 September 2007.
16
http://www.wfu.edu/~zulick/MovementTheory/glossary.html. Retrieved on 27 September 2007.
17
Goodnight, G. T. (1998). The Personal, Technical and Public Sphere of Argument: A Speculative
Inquiry into the Arto f Public Deliberation. In Contemporary Rhetorical Theory: A Reader By Celeste,
M., Condit, S., Caudill, and Lucaites, J. L (editors).
18
El Oifi, M. (2005). Influence without power: Aljazeera and the Arab Public Sphere. In Zayani, M.
(2005), (ed). The Aljazeera Phenomenon. 66-79.
19
Stephen Stockwell (2004). Reconsidering the Fourth Estate: The functions of infotainment.
www.adelaide.edu.au/apsa/docs_papers/Others/Stockwell.pdf. Retrieved on 20 September 2007.
20
http://www.dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=10&categ_id=5&article_id=76024. Retrieved 20
September 2007.
21
http://video.msn.com/?mkt=en-
us&brand=msnbc&tab=m5&rf=http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4971287/&fg=&from=00&vid=e282b4
42-9336-4da4-852b-fbd056809b56 . Retrieved 20 September 2007.
22
Literal translation is introducing change that violates the basic language rules and norms. For
example, to say in English "sit on the table" instead of "sit at the table" is a violation of the English
language norm. Similar violations are taking place in Arabic through the media and through translation
mediation that is based on the literal tradition. This phenomenon is not restricted to immediate
translations of foreign language reports. The wholesale literal borrowings are breaking up the
constraints of collocations, and word-level borrowings are being applied out of place to other linguistic
situations where these borrowings do not collocate. For example, when an Arabic news reporter tells us
that the island inhabitants enjoy thyroid cancer, one has to stop and think about the sources of influence
of such expression (do the inhabitants really enjoy cancer?). The influence of English on Arabic should
not be underestimated. The arguments about the influence of such literal translation on the language
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should not be understood as a call for the maintenance of some sort of linguistic purity. They rather
alert to the impact of absolute literal translation of idiomatic expressions that lose their intended
meanings and at the same time violate basic linguistic rules of Arabic.
23
People living in many parts of the Arab world have the same if not better access to similar sources,
thanks to the Internet and global satellite television.
24
Source: http://www.adath-shalom.ca/history_of_hebrew.htm.
25
See Darwish A. (2003). The Transfer Factor.
26
Paz, O. (1971). Translation: Literature and Letters. Translated into English by Irene del Corral. In
Schulte, R. and Biguenet, J. (1992). Theories of Translation: An Anthology of Essays from Dryden to
Derrida.
27
Eco, U (2003). Mouse or Rate? Translation as Negotiation. Weidenfeld and Nicolson: London.
28
The word “truth” in Arabic requires the definitive article “the”.
29
Walker, K. (2006). The Social Construction of Aljazeera.
http://www.rhetoricalens.info/index.cfm?fuseaction=feature.display&feature_id=22. Retrieved on 27
December 2007.
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Conceptual Framework and Research Model
Chapter 3
Conceptual Framework and Research
Model
Every discourse, even a poetic or oracular sentence, carries
with it a system of rules for producing analogous things and
thus an outline of methodology.
—Jacques Derrida (1930 -2004)

In this chapter:
Aims
Overview
A Multimodal Conceptual Framework
Methods
Design of the Study
Data Collection
Sampling Procedure
Data Analysis
Sources and Logistics
Research Model
How the Model Works
Model Categories
Conclusion
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Aims
The aim of this chapter is to outline the conceptual framework and
methodology employed in addressing the research questions and to
describe the theoretical framework in which the research is grounded.
This chapter also describes the methods used for data collection,
sampling and analysis, including the research model employed in the
analysis of the data.

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Overview
The preceding literature review has revealed a serious lack of attention to
the role and impact of translation in news making, in terms of news
content and news production, not only in Arabic television but also in the
media at large. There is hardly any landmark publication or known
research in this area in both translation and mass communication studies.
Only a handful of publications dealing with news translation directly or
indirectly exists. These include Clausen (2003), Kuo and Nakamura
(2005), Millor (2005), Darwish (2005, 2006, 2007), Baker (2006), and
Palmer and Fontan (2007). Only recently has interest been taken in this
area, culminating in a conference held in England in June 2006.
1
Recent examples of erroneous or contentious translations of news reports
and political statements have highlighted a shortage of serious studies on
the causal relationship between translation and news reporting and a lack
of appreciation of the different approaches to translation. Most research
on translation has examined the broader problem of translation, while the
literature on translation heuristics has largely concerned itself with
problems of style, genre and text typology across language and
knowledge domains. A translation-focused study of the news remains
lacking.
Furthermore, the media’s emphasis on the precepts of objectivity,
neutrality, fairness, truthfulness and accuracy, enshrined in the codes of
ethics of journalists, suggesting rationality and stability of the discourse,
is sharply contrasted by the absence of any attention to translation in these
codes of ethics as a major critical factor in ensuring these precepts are
upheld. This contrast is further compounded by the paradox that exists
between the traditional notion of meaning as a fixed production that has
dominated the approach to translation for decades and the multimodal
notion of meaning-making “in any and every sign, at every level, and in
any mode”
2
that has been increasingly dominating current theories of
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meaning. Post-modernist theories of meaning that have influenced
translation theories and models have created a dichotomy of referential
versus contextual production and reproduction of meaning:
“In traditional theories of meaning, signifiers come to rest in the
signified of a conscious mind. For poststructuralists, by contrast,
the signified is only a moment in a never-ending process of
signification where meaning is produced not in a stable,
referential relation between subject and object, but only within the
infinite, intertextual play of signifiers”
3
.
When the signifier and signified are associated they become a sign that
has signification, but as poststructuralists have argued, the relationship
between the signifier and signified is not permanently fixed. As Holmes
(2005) explains, the arbitrariness of this relationship means that language
is a system without positive terms. “To repeat a signifier it is not
necessarily true that a signified associated with it in a former signification
will also be repeated” (Holmes, 2005:125). In his breakthrough work on
semiotics, Saussure proposed that it is the relationship between systems of
signifiers rather than between signifier and signified within any one
system that “determines the kinds of thought concepts that are associated
with any one signifier” (Holmes, 2005:125). However, Saussure’s notion
of stable systems of signifiers was strongly criticized by Derrida who
argued that there was no such thing as a stable sign system. “What is
problematic in Saussure is that he regarded the relation between a
signifier and a signified to be a cozy one-to-one correspondence, as in a
parallelism, as if all signs were constituted by symmetrical values (that
could be measurable) of the signifier and signified” (Holmes, 125).
However, this notion of fixed signification has been a central problem in
translation studies.
The literature review has also established grounds for selecting framing
theory within an interpretive, multimodal, social-semiotics theoretical
framework for this study. Social semiotics provides the mechanisms for
the analysis and interpretation of the news content and the visual
communication that accompanies the discourse of television.
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The present chapter describes the conceptual framework adopted in the
analysis of some of the salient features of Arabic satellite television,
Aljazeera in particular, in addressing the question of translation in news
making. The primary aim of this study has been to examine the role of
translation in the making of Arabic news and in representations of social
and cultural values through translation mediation.
A Multimodal Conceptual Framework
How to reconcile the paradox created by the two contrasting views on
meaning described in the preceding paragraphs is a challenging task. An
attempt to extend multimodality to a social semiotic analysis of
translation in television might help to reduce the paradox to an operational
model that can be used for both production and evaluation of translation
mediation in television with universal applicability.
The conceptual framework for this research is thus based first on the
assumptions that translation is a constraint-driven process. It is a process
that is constrained by several variables such as space, time, quality of
information, problem-solving aptitude or ideologies. These constraints
always circumvent the realization of an optimal approximation.
The second assumption is that translation is only an approximation of the
original and not an exact replica of the original. Central to the debate on
translation is the notion of equivalence and whether complete translation
is achievable across the different levels of expression. Baker (1992)
argues that although equivalence is achievable to some extent, it is usually
influenced by various linguistic and cultural factors; therefore it is always
relative. One can argue that the relativity of equivalence is governed by
the conditions of multimodality of the communication process within
which translation operates. In translating live broadcasts, such relativity is
clearly illustrated in the problem of translating dialogues, especially when
two linguistically and culturally divergent languages, such as English and
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Arabic, are involved. The dilemma here is real. If equivalence is
achievable on the linguistic level, it might not be so, on the cultural level.
Even if linguistic and cultural equivalences are found, the communicative
function of such equivalence is doubtful — the cognitive, linguistic and
pragmatic distance between the dyads within the cross-lingual
communication situation might not be achievable at all.
Ultimately, translation is a multimodal communication process that takes
place in a temporal-spatial environment. It operates at several levels
simultaneously: linguistic, cognitive, socio-cultural, psychological, geo-
historical (time and space), and aesthetic. These levels are bound to be in
conflict with one another across languages. A certain expression in one
language might find its equivalence only on one or two levels, but not at
all levels at once. For example, when Robert Burns’ “My love is like a
red, red rose.” is translated into another language, all six levels are
activated in terms of the intrapersonal and interpersonal perspectives of
communication and linguistic, social and cultural reality— the translator’s
ability to understand and communicate the socio-cultural reality
embedded in the text is always governed by his or her distance from the
text.
According to Watson (1993), every text has a certain perspective on
reality. Reality is external to the text, but the reader seeks it as presented
in the text through its semantic context. Communicating such perspectives
on reality through the medium of translation involves a process of
reconstructing and imaging reality in the target language. The imaged
reality, no matter how close it is to the original, is bound to be an
approximation only. How exact the image depends only on the degree of
matchability between source and target textual realities and the distance
between them, and on the translator’s ability to understand, interpret and
match. This problem, which is inherent in the relative nature of the
relationship between the text and the mental picture it creates in the mind
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of its reader (for example, the word table may evoke different images of
table in different readers or in the same reader in different contexts),
becomes more complex in translation, as the text is reconstructed outside
its native environment.
The study of television as an audiovisual phenomenon rests on
observation, which requires not only seeing but looking. As Sturken and
Cartwright (2001) remind us, “to see is a process of observing and
recognizing the world around us. To look is to actively make meaning of
the world. Seeing is something that we do arbitrarily as we go about our
daily lives. Looking is an activity that involves a greater sense of purpose
and direction” (10). In order “to make an observation one must have an
idea of what could be seen, and a framework of beliefs, both confirming
and disconfirming, may be interwoven”.
4
Consequently, observing the
social semiotics of television must be done within a structured framework
that enables the observer to ask adequate questions about the observed
phenomenon. As Ahl and Allen (1996) contend, observation is a
structured experience that is always interpreted by cognitive models,
which operate at the boundary between the internal and external worlds.
At no point does the observer access the external world directly.
The multimodal theoretical framework of this multi-level research draws
primarily on four theoretical sources, which provide the basic concepts for
describing the social semiotics of translation mediation in Arabic satellite
television at different levels of analysis. These are: (1) remediation, (2)
contrastive translation analysis, (3) visual communication analysis, and
(4) critical discourse analysis, which all operate within framing theory.
Multimodality and multimodal analysis
Television as an audiovisual, static-kinetic communication medium is
multimodal. It combines three major modes that subsume submodes.
These modes are visual, audio and kinetic. All of these modes mostly
simultaneously combine to produce a meaning in totality. As Kress and
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Van Leeuwen (2001:2) explain, in this kind of multimodality common
semiotic principles operate in and across different modes. Subsequently,
these different modes cannot be treated as separate, strictly bounded and
framed specialist tasks. Every television production creates its own
semiosis through a visual, auditory and kinetic synthesis. Figure 7
illustrates how these modes combine to produce meaning.
Figure 7— The Multimodal nature of television
The conceptual framework is supported by a transactional analysis model.
The model is used to establish the transactional nature of television and
the transactional roles television presenters assume in the delivery of
programs. Briefly, Transactional Analysis (TA), which was advanced by
Berne (1964) posits that at any given moment in social intercourse
individuals “will exhibit a Paternal, Adult or Child ego state and that
individuals can shift with varying degrees of readiness from one ego state
to another” (Berne, 1964: 24). A transaction, which is the unit of social
intercourse, may take any of the following combinations in a social
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aggregation: Parent-Parent (critical gossip), Adult-Adult (problem
solving), Child-Child or Parent-Child (playing together). Transactional
analysis is concerned with diagnosing or identifying the ego states of the
individuals engaged in the transaction. When the response is appropriate
and expected and follows the natural order of healthy human
relationships, the transaction is said to be complementary. When it is not,
a crossed transaction occurs, resulting communication breakdown and
social difficulties. In as far as the present research is concerned, an
analysis of the social semiotics of Arabic television is facilitated by
gaining insights into which ego states Aljazeera, its media workers and
viewers assume in the transactions that take place either within Aljazeera
programs as displayed on screen, or between the media workers and the
viewers in terms of positioning and interactivity. More specifically, as I
discuss in Chapter 4, Translating the News, transactional analysis is
useful in the analysis of situationality and affinities of the news makers,
including the translators; how they see themselves and where they belong
vis-à-vis the original text and the translation. This in part may account for
the strategies they employ to reframe the original message and may
explain why they adhere to literal rather than functional translation.
Broadly speaking, a Parent-Child relationship between the source text
originator (assumed and not present) and the translator may result in such
a translation strategy as the translators may hold sacred the original
message and may in a way determine their definition of fidelity of
meaning.
Methods
Stressing the point that research methods should flow logically from the
questions one asks and calling for making use of more multidimensional
methods, Deacon (2000) contends that “our research traditions, by and
large, privilege either numbers or words and focus on the use of numerical
measurement instruments or interviews for data collection. More active
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and tangible methods for data collection (e.g., videos, photography,
artwork) are rare in both quantitative and qualitative research literatures.”
(96-97). Since the purpose of this research is to examine the causative
relationship between translation mediation and news content and
production in reframing the original message, and in as far as such
framing is taking place in a multimodal environment, to examine the
social semiotics of news presentation in Arabic satellite television,
through an examination of data from Aljazeera, the central question that
remains unanswered is restated as:
Translation-mediated news causes the news to be reframed.
To establish this assertion at the linguistic, social, cultural and ideo-
political levels within the context of the study, the logical research
method needs to address three areas of this assertion: translation,
mediation and framing. To understand what these interrelated phenomena
are, the ontology informing this research is an interpretive research
utilizing (1) framing theory, (2) critical discourse analysis that emphasizes
the role of vocabulary choices in process categorization (Fairclough,
1995), and (3) social semiotics as defined by Thibault (1991) with
particular attention to the notion of contextualization. As Dirkx and
Barnes (2004) confirm, virtually all forms of inquiry and research aim at
some form of interpreting an aspect of the world.
“We seek to explain, understand, or some way, make sense of an
aspect of that world that has, in one way or another, become
problematic. Our motivations for engaging in this process of
interpretation vary widely, and the process itself is shaped by a
host of presuppositions and assumptions that we bring to the
inquiry, including our worldviews, paradigms, perspectives,
theories, and beliefs” (1).
In seeking to understand the phenomenon of translation-mediated news
production, where at least two language and cultural systems are usually
interactively engaged in production and reproduction of meaning, and
construction and reconstruction of realities, a contrastive critical discourse
and content analysis approach was employed. That was placed within a
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structured three-tier model of translation that seeks to account for
variances and discrepancies and error detection and analysis across
translations. This model, which informs the epistemology of the research,
sought to explain the phenomenon of translated-mediating reframing in
relation to news making and the social signification of reframed news
discourse.
Philosophical assumptions
Different theoretical models have different philosophical assumptions.
Øvretveit (1998:58-59)
5
argues that if we can recognize the different
philosophical assumptions underlying a research study, we can relate the
theoretical models to the context of the study through causality or other
types of influences, since these philosophical assumptions define how the
objects of study are conceptualized. Identifying these philosophical
assumptions enables us to set clear boundaries around the area of research
and define the objects of enquiry within these boundaries.
Consequently, as alluded to earlier in this chapter, the multimodal
framework utilized in this research was grounded in four interrelated
theoretical models: critical discourse analysis, functional pragmatic
translation model, visual communication analysis within framing theory
and visual social semiotics. Framing theory enabled the critical discourse
analysis of news production in its native form and the constraint-driven,
three-tier translation model should enable a structured and rational
analysis of translated news, informed by a rhetorical contrastive approach.
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Figure 8— Multimodal theoretical framework
Framing theory offers a sound framework for the analysis of translation-
mediated news. As Schudson (2003) and numerous other scholars
confirm, framing is a central concept in the study of news. “It moves the
analysis of news away from the idea of intentional bias. That is, to
acknowledge that news stories frame reality is also to acknowledge that it
would be humanly impossible to avoid framing” (35). This is an
important aspect of the concept of framing in the study of translation-
mediated news production since the reframing occurs as a product of the
translation process, which is beset by a myriad of constraints that
generally inhibit the realization of the original message in the target
language. Consequently, the analysis of frames in this manner will enable
the research to explore the factors contributing to or influencing certain
translation outcomes, or rather translation frames.
Following on from the preceding discussion, it becomes clear that framing
is a multimodal process. As Kress and Van Leeuwen (2001:3) argue,
“there can be framing, not only between the elements of a visual
composition, but also between the bits of writing in a newspaper or
magazine layout…”. One could go one step further and argue that in
television, framing also occurs between modes; the visual, auditory and
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kinetic. Critical linguistic analysis emphasizes the role of vocabulary
choices in the process of categorization (Fairclough, 1995) utilizing
contrastive analysis. Social semiotics is concerned with the study of
meaning-making in social contexts.
“The basic premise is that meanings are made, and the task of
social semiotics is to develop the analytical constructs and
theoretical framework for showing how this occurs. Meanings are
jointly made by the participants to some social activity-structure.
They are made by construing semiotic relations among patterned
meaning relations, social practices, and the physical-material
processes which social practices organize and entrain in social
semiosis. In social semiotics, the basic logic is that of
contextualization” (Thibault, 1991).
The functional pragmatic translation analysis approach is based on
optimality theory that posits that forms of the language arise from the
resolution of conflicts between lexical, grammatical, and rhetorical
constraints (after Kager, 1999 and Prince, 1993). Finally, as Deacon
(2006:106) concludes, “qualitative research can be systematic and
rigorous and still be innovative, creative, and actively dynamic”. The
semiotic nature of television and dynamic nature of the translation process
lend themselves to an interpretive qualitative research method.
Design of the Study
The design of the study was closely aligned to the multimodal nature of
the object of inquiry. Consequently, the study was designed to judge two
distinct yet interwoven modes of contemporary Arabic television that
reinforce cultural norms and values and have a causal effect on these
socio-cultural values: translation and visual presentation. The study was
also designed to examine the effects of translation mediation on both the
textual content (discourse) of news and the modality of presentation.
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The case study
The research adopted an interpretive qualitative approach to the study of
the phenomenon of Arabic satellite television taking Aljazeera as its case
study.
As I have already highlighted in the previous chapter, it is claimed that
Aljazeera is objective in its reporting of the news. It is also claimed that
Aljazeera has set the standards for translation. Both assertions are
challenged in this thesis, which makes the case for a contrastive view on
both objectivity and translation. In this medium of communication, these
two aspects of news reporting are intertwined, as translation mediation not
only plays a major role in the provision of information for the content of
news stories, but also frames these news stories in a manner that reduces
their objectivity. Consequently, this case study has sought to examine the
relationship between “objective” reporting and translation as practised at
Aljazeera.
An interpretive approach is premised on the notion that there exist
multiple realities of a phenomenon and not a single reality and that these
realities can differ across time and place. Tamanaha (1999)
6
observes that
issues in social science have been framed in either interpretivism or
positivism term and that a shift has occurred towards recognition that both
approaches can complement each other. “A pragmatic reaction to this
state of affairs should be obvious: apply whichever approach or a
combination of approaches proves to be useful and informative” (58).
A case study method was used in this research. According to Stake
(2000), case studies are widely believed to be useful in the study of
human affairs because they are down-to-earth and attention-holding, but
they are not a suitable basis for generalisation. However, Stake also
contends that “case studies are the preferred method of research because
they are epistemologically in harmony with the reader’s experience and
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thus to that person a natural basis for generalization” (Stake, in Gomm,
Hammersley and Fosters, 2000:19).
7
Moreover, case study research belongs to a quasi-experimentation
approach, as Campbell (2003)
8
confirms. According to Yin (2003:1)
9
,
case studies are the preferred strategy when “how” and “why” questions
are asked and when the researcher has little control over the events and
when the focus of study is on a contemporary phenomenon in a real-life
context. In scholarly circles, case studies are frequently discussed within
the context of qualitative research and naturalistic inquiry.
10
This method
of enquiry is appropriate for the analysis of translation-mediated news,
where the researcher/analyst has no control over how the news discourse
is constructed and reconstructed, be it through straightforward translation,
editorial intervention, or a combination of the two—and where access to
the cognitive and operational processes of such discourse production is
not possible. As a method of uncovering knowledge, a case study is used
to examine one specific example. Huber and Snider (2005:95)
11
confirm
that a great deal of information can be gleaned from the case study
method. However, they contend that the weakness of the case study
method lies in that the conclusions are derived from one case only, which
is hardly sufficient to make a generalized conclusion. Nonetheless,
according to Gerring (2007:1)
12
, in all instances, the case study rests on
the existence of a macro-micro link in social behaviour, and a strong link
exists between the overall editorial processes and the sub-processes of
translation at the discourse production level.
Data Collection
The research was conducted outside the Arab world by monitoring
Aljazeera broadcasts made possible through a pay-TV subscription. Since
the research was concerned with the product rather than with the
processes and procedures of production or with the reactions of viewers to
Arabic television, no interviews or surveys were conducted.
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Consequently, no human participants were involved and no ethical
clearance was required. Data collection focused on the content of
programs broadcast by Aljazeera.
Due to the dynamic nature of Arabic satellite television and the
accelerated rate of development and change taking place at Aljazeera in
response to various factors, the data was derived from recordings of news
broadcast sources, primarily Aljazeera, and secondarily Al-Arabiya, and
LBC, preliminarily in 2004, and then in 2005 and the first half of 2006
and ongoing. This enabled the research to compare and detect persistent
and changing patterns, variations and paradigm shifts over a tenable
period of time. The primary and secondary sources of news and current
affairs programs were governed by three considerations:
1) Aljazeera being the main focus of study as a 24-hour news and current
affairs broadcaster;
2) The limited access to Al-Arabiya (Al-Arabiya is carried by ART twice
a day for a one-hour news and or current affairs segments) although it
is also a 24-hour news and current affairs broadcaster;
3) LBC (Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation) being an assortment
broadcaster of news and entertainment programs. It is not a 24-hour
news and current affairs broadcaster. While LBC broadcasts news and
current affairs are of a serious nature, these are mostly localized.
Both Al-Arabiya and LBC were used for comparison purposes in order to
detect observable similarities, patterns or difference in relation to
Aljazeera. These recordings were coded for easy identification and
classification, categorised and analysed systematically and inductively
within a three-tier model, in terms of the degree of transfer to determine
the extent of reframing. Pattern analysis was utilized.
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Coding of programs
A structured method of classification was adopted for the coding of
programs. The following table shows the coding system developed for
categorising the programs recorded. For certain programs, such as For
Women Only, sub codes were also used. These codes were used for
identification and classification purposes; consequently no numeric values
were assigned to them.
Table 2— Program codes
Code Meaning Program Channel
ALJNEWS01 Aljazeera newscast main bulletin Newscast Aljazeera
ALJNEWS02 Aljazeera news cast news in brief News brief Aljazeera
ALJOPDIR Aljazeera Opposite Direction Talk Show Aljazeera
ALJMTO Aljazeera More than one opinion Talk show Aljazeera
ALJDHAR Aljazeera Day’s Harvest Newscast & current affairs Aljazeera
ALJWO Aljazeera For Women Only Current Affairs Aljazeera
ALJBENEWS Aljazeera Behind the News Current Affairs Aljazeera
ALJSHARIA Aljazeera Islamic Law and Life Religious Program Aljazeera
ARBNEWS Al Arabiyah newscast News Al Arabiyah
ALMNEWS Al Manar newscast News Al Manar
LBCNEWS LBC newscast News LBC
LBCCAFF LBC current affairs Current Affairs LBC
LBCMUSIC LBC music video clips Music LBC
LBCENT LBC entertainment Entertainment LBC
LBCREAL LBC Reality TV Entertainment LBC
The following table presents the coding system developed and employed
in the content analysis using the research model discussed in the second
part of this chapter.
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Table 3— Coding of research model
Code Meaning
DM Direct matching
DM IDEN Direct matching Identitive
DM EQT Direct matching Equative
INT Interventional
INT CMP Interventional Compensatory
INT MOD Interventional Modulatory
INT EXP Interventional Explicatory
Sampling Procedure
According to Fowler (1993:11)
13
, a sample is not evaluated by the results
or the characteristics of the sample but rather by examining the way by
which it is selected. With this in mind, a representative sample of
materials was selected from a huge collection of programs recorded
during the research period in three program categories: news bulletins,
talk shows, current affairs and documentaries, with the following criteria:
• Translation mediation: discourse or narratives that are clearly
translated from foreign news providers
• Interpreting mediation: programs had interviews or debates with
foreign guests through the mediation of a simultaneous interpreter
• Semiotic dissonance: instances where the visual representation did
not match the social and cultural values of the viewers.
Due to the protracted period of the research and the ad hoc nature of of
anomalies across programs, the sampling and selection of text followed a
naturalistic critical-viewer approach. This approach enabled the research
to assume the role of the viewer critically responding to mediated
anomalies.
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Data Analysis
Data analysis utilised a mixed approach that employed a variety of
techniques. This approach was adopted because it allows multimodal
analysis.
Analysis methods
An integrative qualitative content analysis method was used to analyse the
collected data. Critical analysis was utilised to explore correlation and
causality among translated data.
Semiotic and discourse analysis was used to analyse translation-mediated
language, images, metaphors, and other elements that contribute to the
reconstruction of frames. Semiotics is a formal mode of analysis used to
identify the rules that govern how signs convey meanings in a particular
social system (Eco, 1979, in Fiol, 1989 and Fiol, Harris and House, 1999).
Within semiotics, several analysis techniques have been developed by
various researchers (Fiol, 1989). For the proposed study, narrative and
visual semiotic techniques were used to uncover the patterns that
determine translation-induced socio-cultural framing.
Visual semiotic analysis examined the cultural perspectives of visual
representations in terms of the positioning of elements within each image
or frame. Visual semiotic analysis examines “the composition of spatial
syntagms with regard to the ‘informational value’ of the positioning of
elements within an image” (O’Neill, 2005). Left to right orientation and
visual representations as indicators of cultural shift were explored.
The present research relies on Arabic examples from Aljazeera
broadcasts. While these examples have been selected randomly, a
consistent pattern emerges from the analysis of data that points to serious
translation anomalies.
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Mediated discourse analysis
Each news item was analyzed against the following criteria (Darwish,
2003)
14
.
• Information integrity
• Linguistic integrity
• Translation integrity
• Fitness for purpose
As previously defined
15
, information integrity refers to the ability to retain
the same information in terms of accuracy, correctness, completeness and
intention —both the informative and communicative. Linguistic integrity
on the other hand, refers to the ability to render the text in a sound
language in terms of grammar, structure (both micro and macro levels),
coherence and cohesion, while translation integrity refers to the
translation strategies adopted by the translator and to his or her ability of
comprehension, production, matchability, and approximation. Fitness for
purpose refers to the ability to render the text suitable for its purpose. This
latter criterion rests on the notion that text can be repurposed for various
media, audiences and application.
In the translation-related discourse analysis, the rules in the model
described later in this chapter were applied to the level the translation was
operating at, and the following template was developed and used to
capture the analysis in a manner relevant to the model.

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Table 4— Example of Translation Discourse Analysis template (developed for the
research)
Semiotic Source
IJKLMN OPQR STUVW XYZ[N X\]^_ I\`KJ aKbcdZ e^dJ fbc_ TgMW .. hUYid_ TgMWN
jZk [l\gm nopZ[ qKiZ[ rstu r[vw v[xydMs[ . [lz{|W KdZ IoT_TQZ[ Ig^Q}Z[ ~Q•_ €•m ‚^Z
jZk KU_ [l\gm XYZ[ I•oT}\Z OKƒoW n„ZN …†^\J .
Original Text I feel desperately sorry for Ken Bigley, for his family, who have behaved with extraordinary
dignity and courage. I feel utter revulsion at the people who did this, not at the barbaric nature
of the killing, but the way frankly they played with the situation in the past few weeks.
Back Translation I feel deep sorrow for the tragedy of Bigley’s family who showed nobility and courage. I feel
utter disgust towards those people who did this, not because of the barbaric nature of what they
committed, but the way they did it.
Analysis
Norm
Constraint Lexical Semantic Pragmatic Rhetorical
Model Tier Primary Operative Interpretive Ideological
Type of Translation
Operation
Direct Matching Interventional
Assessment
Cultural Frame
Sources and Logistics
As stated in the foregoing section Data Collection, Analysis and
Interpretation, data was collect from television broadcasts from
Aljazeera, Al-Arabiya and LBC. Monitoring, recording and analysis of
collected data was conducted ex situ—that is at the location where the
researcher is based. Access to Aljazeera and other Arabic satellite
television networks was made possible through a standard monthly
subscription to a cable television service provider to gain access to the
Arabic television channels relevant to the research. Since this research
was concerned with the product rather than with the processes that the
producers (the professionals working at these television networks) of the
broadcasts follow, no field study was conducted. Instead, the content of
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recorded programs was analyzed within the theoretical framework
outlined and the research model detailed in this chapter.
Research Model
In order to analyze the impact of translation-mediation that accompanies
the visual images of news reports, a translation analysis model was
developed. This model is characteristically a functional, production model
that seeks to map a set of operations that take place within the translation
process.
Herce et al (2003)
16
distinguish between two types of model: research
model and production model. They contend that there is a difference
between these two types of models and argue that a production model is
better suited to well-defined, repetitive tasks. They also argue that all
models, irrespective of type, require assumptions that greatly simplify
reality.
Translation analysis model
To evaluate the validity and reliability of translation-mediated discourse
of news reports within a multimodal remediation framework, a
dynamically adaptive constraint-driven translation model has been
developed for this research. The model is a further development of a basic
three-tier model previously developed as a generic operational translation
model consisting of primary, operative and interpretive levels of operation
(Darwish, 2003). Each of these levels has a set of translation techniques
that can be used to achieve an optimal rendition within the constraints
each text and language pair present.
This multimodal model rests on the notion that translation is not a
haphazard cognitive activity that involves arbitrary choices, but a
constraint-driven, dynamically adaptive decision-making system, where
choices are governed by the degree of transparency and opacity and
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convergence and divergence that exists at any given level between any
two languages in process—in other words the degree of translatability.
Different languages employ different syntactic, pragmatic and rhetorical
devices to express the same ideas or concepts. In translation, awareness of
these differences is critical in deciding the most appropriate device in the
target language that does not compromise the integrity of the source text,
in terms of information content, informative communicative intentions or
perspective.
Rationale and assumptions
The problem of discrepancy between the original message and its
translation and variance across different translation versions of the same
text may be analyzed and accounted for within an enhanced multimodal
three-tier model of translation. This model consists of three levels of
operation that vary in intensity and salience within the same text and
across translations. The primary level relies heavily on literal and lexical
meanings derived from dictionary-based data at three structural levels:
word, sentence and paragraph. The dilemma that faces translators is the
state of tension that exists between two divergent languages and the quest
to convey both intentions of the original text: the communicative and
informative. Working around constraints while trying to represent the
internal structures of the text, becomes a daunting task in the absence of a
structured translation framework. The problem is further complicated by
the lexical field and range of possible alternatives and synonyms at word
level. The operative level is concerned with functional meanings derived
from the communicative intention of the text and functional-pragmatic
application of the language. The interpretive level is concerned with the
informative intention of the source text and the function of the translation
in the target language. At this level, without safeguards, the risk of
distorting the message is a real one.
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The model is anchored in optimality theory and regards translation as a
temporary system of conflicting forces that are embodied by constraints.
Following Kager (1999) each translation constraint makes a requirement
about some aspect of equivalent output. “Constraints are typically
conflicting, in the sense that to satisfy one constraint implies the violation
of another” (4). Empirical and anecdotal evidence has shown that no
translation form can satisfy all constraints simultaneously. Therefore,
there must be a mechanism of selecting [translation] forms that incur
‘lesser’ constraint violations from others that incur ‘more serious’ ones
(after Kager, 1999:4). To manage these conflicting constraints, the model
provides explicit rules for translation production and analysis. These rules
include the following.
1) The point of departure is the closest point between source and
target languages. This means the most direct translation is the
primary option.
2) IF this fails to preserve the informative and communicative
intentions of the source, THEN a shift to the operative level is
warranted.
3) IF the operative level fails to preserve the informative intention of
the source, THEN a shift to the interpretive level is required.
4) To make explicit in the translation what is implicit in the source so
long as what is implicit in the source is readily accessible to the
intended reader of the source.
The fourth rule is critical in determining whether the translator/interpreter
should intervene to recover in the translation the shared knowledge (or
intersubjectivity, as Hewes and Planalp, 1987 call it) between the writer
and the reader of the source text.
The model is also driven by the following assumptions:
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1) A high level of uncertainty about the source text will increase the
degree of indeterminacy about the intended meaning of the source
text.
2) A high level of uncertainty about the source text will cause greater
translatorial interference.
3) A high level of uncertainty will produce a literal translation.
In the contrastive analysis of text and translations, the model also
integrates functional pragmatics, which is based on the notion of action-
centred understanding of text, where “pragmatic aspects are not simply
added to non-pragmatically understood linguistic forms” (Titscher et al,
2000:171). This integrates thought and logical pattern analysis to identify
the structural and reasoning schemas in the message. For example, the
concept of verticality in English and how it translates into Arabic is a
focus area in the analysis of the thought and logical aspects of transfer.
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Figure 9 —A multimodal three-tier translation model
This model is also guided by the following principles of equivalence.
• Equivalence is relative. What is expressed in one language can be
expressed in another. An idea, notion or thought that is expressed in
one language can be expressed in another in a similar or different
fashion.
• Equivalence is dynamic. Two linguistic items or verbal expressions
may match in “contextlessness”, but they may not correspond in
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context. A Source Language word or verbal expression changes
counterparts in different Target Language contexts.
• Equivalence is interactive
• Equivalence is contextual
• Equivalence is approximate
Elements of the model
The model outlined in Figure 9 —A multimodal three-tier translation
model is important for our understanding of the relationship of the factors
that are brought to bear on the original message when it is re-mediated
through translation. The model consists of six fundamental components:
source text, source text semiotic environment, translator, editor and
animator, target text semiotic environment.
Implications
The implications of this model for the production and evaluation of
translations are explored through the analysis of the constraints and the
causal relationship between the translation choices and constraints and the
development of translation categories for each level within the model.
The model implies the establishment of explicit rules that bring a measure
of control to the translation process and the evaluative process of
translation products.
Using the research model
The research model was used in the analysis of the translation of news
monitored on Aljazeera.
A basic version of the research model was developed by the author
(Darwish, 2003) and has been successfully used by several researchers in
relation to aspects of the translation problem. For example, Merkle
(2005)
17
used the model to examine the external pressures on the
translator and their relationship to censorship. Kulwindr Kaur Sidhu
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(2005a, 2005b, 2006) used the model extensively to study the translation
of scientific text from English into Malay.
18

The model has proved to have universal applicability in terms of
understanding the phenomenon of translation and the choices and
decisions involved. Closely related to the present research, Abusalem
(2008) employed the basic version of this model as the main framework
for analysis in examining the role of translation in reporting translated
scripts by Aljazeera. He confirms that the three-tier model “allows for the
explanation of script manipulation through translation. […] The model
provides an effective framework to determine the degree of such
interpretation” (126).
19

How the Model Works
These three modes are not watertight divisions and may overlap or coexist
within the same translation. The primary mode involves direct matching
techniques, while the operative and interpretive modes will always require
translatorial intervention that takes the form of supplemental, reductional
or substitutional data. Such intervention is necessary and sometimes
obligatory to place the translation in the context of the translation
situation for the target language readers who do not have access to the
same extralinguistic information that enables them to make assumptions
about the informative and communicative intentions of the text and make
inferences to understand the text.
The following translation techniques may be used in translation within the
three-tier model of operation. These techniques vary in response to
different translation situations within the same text and may involve the
entire sentence or parts of it.
Any departure from direct translation however must be driven by the
constraints imposed by the degree of convergence and divergence that
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exists between the source and the target languages, and not by arbitrary
choices or personal preference alone.
Model Categories
Within the three-tier model, translation techniques fall into two main
categories:
• Direct matching techniques
• Interventional techniques
Direct matching techniques include identitive and equative techniques
while interventional techniques include: compensatory, modulatory and
explicatory techniques.
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Figure 10—Translation Model Categories
The following section explains these categories and their application in
more detail.
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Direct matching translation
In a one to one relation, direct translation through matching linguistic
components is the most common translation technique. It consists of two
main techniques:
• Identitive translation
• Equative translation
Figure 11—Direct matching and interventional techniques
The shortest distance
Direct translation must not be confused with literal or verbatim
translation. Direct translation is choosing the shortest distance between
the source language and the target language and starting from the closest
point possible between them. There is no real justification, moral,
professional or otherwise, for moving away from direct translation, unless
such a departure is dictated by the nature of transfer, the degree of
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translatability of the original text and the extent of cooperativeness of the
target language to express the information content of the source.
Consequently, the first recourse is to match the target to the source
through direct matching, (identitive or equative translation), where a one-
to-one relation does exist between the source and the target, or by
substitutive translation, where there is a lexical or conceptual gap in the
target language. However, in certain translation situations, identitive or
substitutive translation is not always possible and other compensatory
techniques such as supplemental translation may be used.
Identitive and equative translation
Identitive translation is used when all characteristics of a match in the
target language are identical to the source language item lexically,
semantically and pragmatically. Equative translation is used when an
identical counterpart does not exist in the target language.
Identitive translation
Identitive translation is a direct translation technique where two concepts
have identical characteristics and are usually expressed by established,
crosslingual one-to-one synonymies on the same level of abstraction and
within a similar communicative situation. For example, “mother” and
“mutter”, “unknown soldier” and “jundi majhul”.
Equative translation
Equative translation on the other hand, is a direct translation technique
where two concepts with identical characteristics are expressed with
words that are also identical on the morphemic level as well as on the
lexical, semantic and pragmatic levels. Let us consider the word
“unknown” in a different context.
The teacher was unknown to the students. But they realized soon
enough that he was an authority on the subject he taught.
Here the word “unknown” takes on a different meaning in English and
requires a different translation technique. In Arabic for instance, the
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notion of “unknown” in this context may be expressed directly with
equative translation: un + known = ghayr ma’ruf as follows:
Equative translation should be differentiated from the substitutive calque
translation condition where only the literal sense of the source language
expression is calqued or equated. See Calque Translation under
Compensatory Techniques later in this chapter. Consider the following
examples.
Original The following publications are available. Please take
note of the copyright message of each publication if you
plan to download or reproduce them in any way.
Translation Las publicaciones siguientes están disponibles. Por
favor tome nota del mensaje de derechos de propiedad
literaria de cada publicación si usted planea
descargarlas o reproducirlas de cualquier manera.
Here a one-to-one relation exists between the following sentences:
• The following publications are available.
• Las publicaciones siguientes están disponibles.
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English Spanish Type of Modification
the las Grammatical, plural form
following siguentes Grammatical, plural form, adjective –noun
transposition
publications publicaciones Grammatical, plural form
are están None
available disponibles Grammatical, plural form
Identitive/equative translation is matching by identical one-to-one
“synonymy”. Cross-lingual synonymy is conventional in nature and is
dependent on similarities of the communication situation in both
languages and on two factors: community and individual. A speech
community may collectively choose a certain counterpart for a foreign
word or phrase. Also a person may choose his or her own counterparts of
source language expressions based on their own understanding and
matching abilities. In both situations, one must guard against introducing
“common” mistakes into the target language. For example, in Arabic the
collective identitive translation of “negotiating table”, as expressed by
leading Arabic media outlets, is “ma’idat al-mufawadat” (‰t¢mt^ˆ_` £k•tu)
instead of “tawilat al-mufawadat” ( t^ˆ_` a_mt¤ ‰t¢m ). Strictly speaking, the
word “ma’idat” means “banquet-laden table” and the banquet (food)
itself.
Interventional techniques
When a gap exists in the target language, or where constraints in the
target language prevent the realization of direct matching (identitive and
equative), interventional techniques are used to fill the gap or remove the
constraint. These interventional techniques are:
• Compensatory
• Modulatory
• Explicatory
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Figure 12—Interventional techniques

The following section examines these techniques. When these techniques
are used unjustifiably in the translation, interference occurs. Within the
three-tier model of translation, there are three categories of interventional
techniques in terms of distance from the source: primary, operative and
interpretive interventional. These categories correspond to the three
modes of operation in that model.
Compensatory techniques
When direct identitive or equative translation is not possible at any given
level of textuality, compensatory techniques may be used. These
techniques include the following subcategories:
• Substitutive
• Supplemental techniques
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Substitutive techniques
Where a one-to-one match does not exist between the source and target
languages, the translator may substitute the closest counterpart available
in the target language for the missing match using any of the following
substitutive techniques. Such counterpart might consist of one or more
than one word. Within the three-tier model of translation, there are three
categories of substitutive techniques in terms of distance from the source:
primary substitutive (that is in the primary mode), operative substitutive
(in the operative mode) and interpretive substitutive (in the interpretive
mode).
Substitutive techniques include:
• Loan translation
• Claque translation
• Modulatory substitution
• Implicative translation
• Intersectional translation
• Disjunctive translation
• Privative (negational) translation
• Supplantive translation
• Transplantive translation
• Metonymic translation
Loan translation
Loan translation is a substitutive technique that borrows the words or
expressions of the source language, where there is a lexical or conceptual
gap in the target language and represents them in the target language
through transliteration, transcription or native-form notational
transplantation. The borrowed linguistic items may retain their native
pronunciation or be adapted to the phonetic system of the host language.
For example, weekend = Le weekend.
Native-form notational transplantation (is also used as a supplemental
technique, where a source language word is embedded as is in the
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translation (or more generally in target texts) to supplement translated
information.
An important distinction is made here between loan translation and claque
translation (see the following section Claque Translation). Loan
translation is borrowing the source target words themselves, while calque
translation is borrowing the meaning parts of the source language words.
Calque translation
Calque translation is a type of borrowing which traces the contours of the
original source language expression (which may be a word, a phrase or a
short sentence) and translates it as a verbatim mirror-image of the
original. For example, “space shuttle” is calqued into Arabic as makUk
fada’i (Ž•t•{ ¥oiu).
Calque translation should not be confused with loan translation. Calque
translation is essentially copying or tracing the meanings of individual
parts of the source language word while loan translation is basically
borrowing the words or expressions of the source language.
Modulatory substitution
Modulatory substitution is a paradigmatic substitutive translation where a
source language condition placed on the action in the sentence is
modulated in terms of permission, obligation, or ability by different types
of substitutive structures. This translation technique derives from
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grammatical modulation that exists in language. Consider the following
example.
All of these sentences are expressing the same modal condition.
Modulatory substitution may be used as a substitutive technique when one
type of structure cannot be realized in the target language for syntactic,
semantic, pragmatic or rhetorical reasons.
Implicative translation
Implicative translation (or translation by implication) is a substitutive
technique that translates a concept in terms of another concept that either
subsumes it (hyponymy) or is subsumed by it (hypernymy). For example,
“vehicle” and “car”. Car is subordinate to vehicle. This technique is
sometimes used where there is a conceptual gap in the classification
system of the target language, or the parallel classification systems are out
of synch with one another in the way they classify concepts. Certain
languages conflate concepts and others break or rather slice them down
into sub-concepts.
Intersectional translation
Intersectional translation is a substitutive technique used where a source
language concept intersects or overlaps with a target language concept
and where no direct identitive translation or counterpart exists. For
example, “sword” and “knife”, and to a certain extent, “crusaders” and
“mujahideen”, “suicide”, “kamikaze” and “istish-had”. Intersectional
translation is usually target language focused and is concerned with core
meanings shorn of cultural register.
Disjunctive translation
Disjunction translation is a substitutive translation technique used where
the concepts exclude one another on the same level of abstraction. For
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example, adolescent: boy ¦ girl, adult: man ¦ woman. The technique is
sometimes used where one language is gender-sensitive and one gender-
neutral. As a rule of approximation, disjunctive translation should be
avoided when gender differentiation is not an essential part of the
message and where gender differentiation introduces markedness in the
translation.
Privative translation
Privative (or negational) translation is a substitutive technique used where
one concept contains the characteristics whose negation occurs as
characteristics of another concept. For example, Humanize = dehumanize,
flammable= inflammable, compression = decompression. In translation,
negation is employed where no direct positive match is found in the target
language. Translation by negation is used when a direct translation is not
possible because of syntactic and semantic restrictions.
Consequently, privative (negational) translation must be used very
carefully because the negation of one state does not always necessarily
mean the opposite state. For example, non-violent and peaceable are not
interchangeable.
Supplantive translation
Supplantive translation is a translation technique that involves
supplantation of one concept, convention, standard or system in the
source language with an adjacent one that has an identical function in the
target language. Examples of translation situations where supplantation
may be applied are with measurement systems (Imperial versus metric),
currency, calendars (Gregorian, Islamic (Hegira), lunar, Iranian, etc).
When used in conjunction with the source text counterparts, as it is often
the case, supplantive translation becomes appositive translation (see
Appositive Translation under the following section Supplemental
Techniques). However, in certain situations, supplantive translation
replaces the source language components altogether.
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Like appositive translation, supplantive translation is target language
reader focused. Supplantive translation is a useful technique to inform the
target language reader specifically when referential integrity is not
compromised by the technique.
Transplantive translation
Transplantive translation is a type of loan translation that involves the
transplantation of a source language item (word, phrase, acronym or
abbreviation) into the target language text without translating the
borrowed item. In language pairs that share the same foundational script
system (Latin-based, Arabic-based, Cyrillic, Kanji etc), transplantation is
hardly noticeable. However, in language pairs that do not, such as English
and Arabic, French and Japanese, transplantation is readily noticeable and
requires special attention on the part of the translator.
Transplantive techniques work with language pairs that share a common
script such as English and French, Arabic and Farsi, or Japanese and
Chinese. On its own, transplantive translation is not an effective technique
with languages that do not share a common script. If such is the case, it is
imperative that the translator should employ appositive translation as a
supplemental technique. Using transplantive translation on its own is
insufficient.
Metonymic substitution
Metonymy is a figure of speech in which one word or phrase is
substituted for another with which it is closely associated, as in the use of
Washington for the United States government or of the sword for military
power [American Heritage Dictionary].
Etymologically, the term “metonymy” is derived from the late Latin word
met nymia, from Greek met numi : meta-, meta- +onuma, name; see. It
literally means beyond seeing. In Arabic the term is known as “kinaya”
(avt§y), which means to conceal or cover. So when we say Lion-heart for
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instance, we conceal the real name of King Richard by substituting the
quality of being very brave for the proper noun.
Within the same language, there are at least four types of metonymy:
• Substitution of cause for effect
• Substitution of effect for cause
• Substitution of proper noun for one of its qualities and
• Substitution of one of the qualities of a proper noun for the proper
noun
Metonymy follows the principle of economy in language. It is culture and
situation informed.
Metonymy is not always readily translatable into another language, and
the relationship between the two parts of metonymy is not always the
same. Certain metonymies acquire the same metonymic relation in
translation. Others do not. In this case, intervention is needed and
metonymical translation techniques may be used. Metonymies, especially
conventional metonymies, are also closely related to collocation —
another reason for their resistance to translation.
When a metonymy is not translatable, the substituted entity is translated.
For example, “the kettle has boiled” may legitimately be translated into
“the water has boiled” where, strictly speaking, no other translation works
to reproduce the metonymical expression.
Supplemental techniques
Supplemental techniques add data to make up for the deficiency in direct
translation where substitutive techniques are inadequate or ineffective.
Within the three-tier model of translation, there are three categories of
supplemental techniques in terms of distance from the source: primary
substitutive (that is in the primary mode), operative supplemental (on the
operative mode) and interpretive supplemental (in the interpretive mode).
Supplemental techniques include:
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Appositive translation and additive translation
Appositive translation
Appositive translation is the use of an apposition construction in which a
noun or noun phrase is placed with another as an explanatory equivalent
or alternative and where such information is not explicitly stated in the
source. Appositives identify or explain the nouns, pronouns or phrases
which they modify.
Apposition is when two words, phrases, or clauses in a sentence have the
same relationship or reference to other elements in the sentence as in the
following example.
The US president, Mr Bill Clinton, will be visiting Australia later this year.
In this sentence, Mr Bill Clinton is an appositive or in apposition to The
US President as it refers to the same person. It identifies or specifies The
US President.
There are two types of appositives in language: restrictive and non-
restrictive.
A restrictive appositive delimits or restricts the meaning of the word it
modifies. It is usually a single word that follows a noun, pronoun or
phrase. It provides essential information necessary to maintain the
meaning of the sentence. In English, restrictive appositives are not set
within commas.
The teacher John Smith will give a lecture tonight.
A non-restrictive appositive provides additional, non-essential
information that can be omitted without changing the basic meaning of
the sentence. In other words, it does not restrict or delimit the preceding
noun or pronoun. Non-restrictive appositives are usually set within
commas to indicate their non-restrictive function.
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Steve Bracks, the Premier of Victoria, urges Victorians to become water
savers this summer.
In translation, appositives may be used when the word, phrase or clause
expresses a concept alien to the target language and does not have a direct
closest natural equivalent, or when the closest natural equivalent belongs
to a different register or is not common.
Appositive translation is used to ensure the referential integrity of the
translation, which would not otherwise be ensured. Such referentiality
ties down the information in the translation to the source text or to the
knowledgebase of the source. Within the three-tier model of translation,
there are three categories of appositives in terms of distance from the
source: primary appositives (that is in the primary mode), operative
appositives (on the operative mode), or interpretive appositives (in the
interpretive mode).
Most if not all appositives in translation are non-restrictive even when
they may function as restrictive appositives in the target language
translation.
Types of appositive translation
The following are the main types of appositive translation:
• Juxtapositional alternative appositives
• Parenthetical appositives
• Parenthetical native-form appositives
• Parenthetical interpretive appositives
• Explanatory appositives
Juxtapositional appositives are appositives that are positioned side by
side. The purpose of juxtapositional appositives is to provide an
alternative translation that is more familiar or clearer to the target
language reader. This type of appositive usually involves transplantive
translation.
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Parenthetic appositives are qualifying or explanatory alternatives that are
set off within parentheses. In translation, parenthetic appositives function
in the same way, where a word, expression or concept is new to the target
language and needs explanatory intervention on the part of the translator.
Parenthetic native-form appositives are appositives that retain their native
form. It is standard and best practice in non-Latin based scripts such as
Arabic to use parenthetical native-form appositives juxtaposed to
translated or transliterated terms where no lay terms exist in the target
language. This is usually cited on first instance to help the reader
understand the newly introduced and less common terms, which may not
be readily understood by the lay person. This technique of information
presentation is applied to ensure referential integrity.
Removing the parenthetical native-form appositives from the
translation compromises the integrity of information especially where
the intended users of the information will have to consult with source
language speakers through interpreters who are most likely unfamiliar
with the target language terms.
Parenthetical interpretive appositives are appositives that take the form of
phrasal interpretations of the word or phrase in question.
Additive translation
Additive translation is the use of a word or phrase to qualify a source
language item without which identitive translation fails to communicate
the intentions of the source text.
Additive translation techniques include:
• Genitive additive and
• descriptive backing
Genitive additive translation
Genitive additive translation is explicitization of a word by adding a
descriptor that explains the nature or kind of that word. For example, the
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sentence “At the time of her construction, the Titanic was the largest ship
ever built” may be rendered in Arabic as follows:
¨™¤©` [•ª t…«t§p •¬ £Š-tp Š®y€ wxty dxt¯vt¬ a§b^° wb§p tuk§ª.
This literally means: “When the ship Titanic was built, it was absolutely
the largest steamship the construction of which completed.”
In this example, the translator employed additive translation to qualify the
source word “Titanic” as a ship because on its own, “Titanic” means
nothing to those who do not know what Titanic is.
To avoid repeating the word “ship” in the same sentence, the translator
used the word safina (a§b^°) in the first instance and the synonym bakhira
(£Š-tp), in the second. Bakhira literally means steamer or steamship.
However, in modern Arabic both bakhira and safina are used
interchangeably.
Additive translation may also involve partial apposition.
Descriptive backing
Descriptive backing is changing a proper noun into a generic noun to
denote a predominant characteristic as in “She is a Thatcher”, in reference
to a strong personality. As a supplemental compensatory technique,
descriptive backing is extended to any lexical category as a discriminative
qualifier.
Modulatory Techniques
Modulatory techniques are concerned with adjusting or adapting the
source text, which may be a word, a phrase or a sentence in order to
communicate the intentions of the source and remove the constraints.
Modulatory techniques include:
• Reductive and expansive techniques as a compensatory technique to
convey the meaning of the source text in a natural target language
form.
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• Extricative translation techniques, which include translation by form
extrication when a semantic component is derived from linguistic or
grammatical form and translation by condensation and obversive
translation.
Within the three-tier model of translation, there are three categories of
modulatory techniques in terms of distance from the source:
• Primary modulatory (that is in the primary mode)
• Operative modulatory (on the operative mode)
• Interpretive modulatory (in the interpretive mode)
Modulatory techniques are target-language focused.
Reductive and expansive techniques
Translation by reduction or expansion is a modulatory technique to
convey the meaning of the source text in a natural target language form. It
is therefore target-language focused. This subcategory includes three
classes:
• Compactive translation
• Expansive translation
• Subtractive translation
• Extricative translation
Reductive translation
Translation by reduction is the reduction of lexical items to a smaller
construction to avoid awkward renditions caused by divergent rhetorical
techniques. Translation by expansion is the reverse of contraction.
Compactive translation
Certain languages employ a rhetorical technique known as hendiadys,
which is the expression of an idea by two nouns that have overlapping
meaning connected by "and" instead of a noun and its qualifier. Arabic is
a good example of this tendency. In translation from such languages into
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English or other languages that do not place emphasis on hendiadys, the
translator may condense the two nouns into one or change them into noun
and qualifier.
Transpositional translation
Transpositional translation is a translation technique where a part of a
sentence is transposed on to another position within the sentence
(intrasentential transposition) or a sentence is transposed into a new
position within a string of sentences or paragraph (intersentential
transposition). Such transposition is dictated by the syntactic, semantic or
rhetorical rules of the target language where a direct translation is not
possible.
Explicatory techniques
Explicatory techniques seek to explain a source language text (a word,
phrase, or sentence) where no direct match is found and where none of the
compensatory techniques is adequate to convey the informative and
communicative intentions of the source text. Explicatory techniques are
interventional techniques if prescribed by the discrepancy between the
source and the target and are target reader oriented. They can be an
integral part of the text without textual markers or annotations pointing to
them as distinct from the original text or parenthetic explanations alerting
the reader to their interpolative annotative nature.
Within the three-tier model of translation, there are two categories of
explicatory techniques in terms of distance from the source: operative
explicatory (in the operative mode) and interpretive explicatory (in the
interpretive mode).
Explicatory techniques include:
• Definitional translation is the use of a phrase or sentence to define a
term or a phrase in the source by stating its precise dictionary-based
meaning instead of translating it directly.
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• Descriptive translation is the use of a description to translate a term
or a phrase in the source by characterizing it instead of translating it
directly.
• Explicative translation is the use of a term, phrase or sentence to
explain a term or a phrase or even a mechanical device in the source
instead of translating it.
• Exemplificatory translation is dynamic translation technique where
an example is used as a parenthetic partitive appositive to provide an
example that is more familiar to the reader of the target language than
the actual concept itself.
Theses categories often overlap and coexist with other translation
techniques such as appositive translation, loan translation and claque
translation.
Definitional translation
Definitional translation is the use of a phrase or sentence to define a term
or a phrase in the source by stating its precise dictionary-based meaning
or its non-conventional implicative meaning instead of translating it
directly. A definition is stating a precise meaning or significance;
formulation of a meaning in the interpretive mode of translation.
Descriptive translation
Descriptive translation is the use of a description to translate a term or a
phrase in the source by characterizing it instead of translating it directly.
Descriptive translation is the process picturing an object or a concept in
the source language.
Descriptive translation may be used where no one-to-one relationship
exists between source and target language material, and where none of the
other interventional techniques is adequate to convey the intended
meaning of the source. Since description is bound to be partial or
exclusive, that is it focuses on certain aspects from a specific viewpoint, it
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may produce a shift in focus thus distorting the communicative intention
of the source.
Explicative translation
Explicative translation is the use of a term, phrase, sentence, or even a
mechanical device to explain a term or a phrase in the source instead of
translating it. Sometimes, explicative translation is used in conjunction
with other compensatory translation techniques such as loan translation or
claque translation.
Exemplificatory translation
Exemplificatory translation is a dynamic translation technique where an
example is used as a parenthetic partitive appositive to provide an
example that is more familiar to the reader of the target language than the
actual concept itself. It is a way of explaining a general or unfamiliar
concept by citing a specific, familiar example.
This technique is usually target-reader oriented. It should be strictly used
where no other technique works and should be clearly indicated as
translatorial annotation, preferably within square brackets. Otherwise, it
might be seen as interference.
Exemplificatory translation is used to recover intersubjective data by
citing an example closer to or derived from the culture of the target
language.
How These Translation Techniques Interact
Starting from the closest point possible between the source language and
the target language, and employing direct translation,
1) Apply an identitive translation technique, where a one-to-one
direct match is found.
2) If no direct match is found, apply an equative translation
technique.
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3) If equative translation fails to convey the intended meaning, or
where a lexical gap exists in the target language, interventional
translation is required.
4) Apply a suitable compensatory technique, substitutive or
supplementary.
5) Failing that, apply a suitable modulatory technique, or barring
that, use an explicatory technique to remove the constraint.
Conclusion
The study was conducted within an interpretative multimodal social
semiotics framework utilizing an adaptive three-tier model and was
largely informed by an integrative theoretical approach derived from
literature in the fields of social semiotics (Van Leeuwen, 2001, 2005),
visual communication analysis (Bell, 2001), multimodal discourse
analysis (O’Halloran, 2004) and transactional analysis (Berne, 1964). The
three-tier model was informed by optimality theory and theory of
constraints and has benefited from work previously developed by the
researcher.
This chapter also introduced a comprehensive model of translation within
three tiers of operation: primary, operative and interpretive. By using this
research model, problems of translation mediation were detected in the
analysis of data collected from Aljazeera’s news broadcasts. The
following chapters present the findings of the study.
Notes

1
Translation in Global News is a conference that was held in June 2006 at University of Warwick in
England. It focused “on news translation, a largely unexplored area which falls in between academic
disciplines. Translation studies has traditionally ignored a field in which the process of interlingual
transfer is performed by journalists and not translators. Media studies has remained largely
monolingual in its approach and blind to the crucial intervention of translation in news production. Yet,
since the establishment of the modern journalistic field, translation has been pivotal in the circulation of
news which describes a highly interconnected world”.
2
Kress and Van Leeuwen (2001), 4.
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3
http://www.gseis.ucla.edu/faculty/kellner/pomo/ch1.html
4
Ahl and Allen, 1996:13.
5
Øvretveit, John (1998). Comparative and Cross-Cultural Health Research: A Practical Guide.
Radcliffe Publishing. http://books.google.com/books. Retrieved on 30 December 2007.
6
Brian Z. Tamanaha (1999). Realistic Socio-Legal Theory: Pragmatism and A Social Theory of Law.
Oxford University Press.
http://books.google.com.au/books?id=6hdyaQ9q2CwC&pg=PA58&dq=Interpretivism&sig=uXpqj3gv
nL8w2hEs5z1c4vbBmgQ. Retrieved on 31 December 2007.
7
Stake, R. E. (2000). The Case Study Method in Social Inquiry. In Gomm, R., Hammersley, M. and
Foster, P. (eds) (2000). Case Study Method: Key Issues, Key Texts. Sage Publications. London.
8
In the foreword to Yin (2003).
9
Case Study Research: Design and Methods By Robert K. Yin, 2003.
http://books.google.com.au/books?id=BWea_9ZGQMwC&dq=case+study
10
http://writing.colostate.edu/guides/research/casestudy/pop2a.cfm.
11
Huber, R. B. and Snider, A. C. (2005). Influencing through Argument. IDEA: USA.
12
Gerring, J. (2007). Case Study Research: Principles and Practice. Cambridge University press:
Cambridge.
13
Fowler, Floyd J. (1993). Survey Research Methods. Sage Publications: UK.
14
Following Darwish, A. (1995). A Model for Designing Decision-based Translation Tests. At-
turjuman online and Darwish, A. (2003). The Transfer Factor. Writescope: Melbourne.
15
Darwish, A. (1995). A Model for Designing Decision-based Translation Tests. At-turjuman online
and Darwish, A. (2003). The Transfer Factor. Writescope: Melbourne.
16
Herce, J. A., Duchin, F., Fontela, E. and Lindh, T. (2003). To Sum Up: Avoiding Unsustainable
Futures. Futures. Volume: 35. Issue: 1. Page Number: 89+. Adams Business Media.
17
Merkle, D. (2005). External and Internal Pressures on the Translator: Relationship to Censorship.
Université de Moncton. www.ln.edu.hk/eng/staff/eoyang/icla/Denise%20Merkle.doc. Retrieved on 31
December 2007.
18
See Kulwindr Kaur Sidhu (2005). Parallelism between Language Learning and Translating.
Translation Journal http://accurapid.com/journal/33edu.htm. Retrieved 31 December 2007; and
Kulwindr Kaur Sidhu (2006). Translating Scientific Texts English to Malay. University of Malay
Press.
19
Abusalem, A. (2007). Pan-Arab Satellite Television Phenomenon: A Catalyst of Democratization
and Sociopolitical Change. Queensland University of Technology. Queensland, Australia. A doctoral
thesis.
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Chapter 4
Translating the News
News is not a mirror of reality. It is a representation of the
world, and all representations are selective.
—Jeffrey C. Alexander, The
Sociology of News, 2003
In recent years, there have been studies of the semantics of
non-Western languages done in very great detail—sufficient
detail to demonstrate that the conceptual systems underlying
some of them are fundamentally different from, and
incommensurable with, our conceptual system.
Mark Johnson, 1987, The Body in the Mind, xiii.
In this chapter:
Aims
Overview
Translation in the News
Information Sources
News Translation as Reframing
Ethics of Mediating News
Language of the News and the Illusion of Modernity
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Aims
With cable and satellite television networks spreading rapidly and
competitively across the globe, news and current affairs television is
increasingly becoming a primary source of information for viewers
worldwide for both domestic and international stories. While critically
relying on translations of news from international providers, these
networks are contributing to the reframing of news events and creating
information and cultural misfits, often unintended by the original
sources and sometimes unwelcome by the intended viewers. This
chapter examines the impact of translation on news making and argues
that by submitting news to translation it undergoes a reframing process
that entails a reconstruction of a constructed reality already subjected
to professional, institutional and contextual influences.
This chapter should pave the way in the subsequent chapters for a
discussion of the specific aspects of news translation at Aljazeera.

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Overview
I began writing this chapter to a backdrop of two major events taking
place in the Middle East: (1) Saddam’s death sentence passed down by
the Iraqi Supreme Court against controversies about the legitimacy of the
court, the trial and the sentence, and (2) Israeli occupation forces
launching their military offensive against Palestinian militants in Gaza
and the West Bank. Both events have received extensive media coverage
on Aljazeera and other media networks in varying degrees, with both live
and recorded broadcasts evidently relying primarily on translated reports
from various news sources. The news stories covering these two events
have been widely inconsistent, not so much in terms of the actualities of
the events, but rather in terms of the inconsistent approach to the
translation of news artifacts originally transmitted via the English
language. While some of the terms and expressions used to describe
aspects of these events have been dictated by the original source text—for
example, if the English source used “topple” to describe the ousting of
Saddam, the Arabic translation remained faithful to the source without
editorial intervention—other linguistic artifacts have been translated
haphazardly and inconsistently, even within the same network and across
news bulletins. It should be stated from the outset that remaining faithful
to the literal sense of the words of the source does not necessarily mean
faithfulness to the intent of the original message, nor does it prove the
intentional adoption of the expression of the original message. In most
situations, the adoption of absolute literal translation is believed to be the
cause of dissonance between the source and target versions of news
stories broadcast on Arabic satellite television. The case study of
Aljazeera is no exception. This kind of approach to translation of news
sources is also believed to be a critical factor in reframing the news in a
certain way as to elicit specific responses form the viewers, perhaps
subliminally.
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Furthermore, despite glaring infelicities, and as alluded to in the early
chapters of this thesis, no serious research has so far been undertaken to
examine this critical aspect of news reporting and mediation, and it is only
now that attention has been given to news translation. Translation in
Global News is a conference that was held in June 2006 at the University
of Warwick in England. It focused “on news translation, a largely
unexplored area which falls in between academic disciplines. Translation
Studies has traditionally ignored a field in which the process of
interlingual transfer is performed by journalists and not translators. Media
Studies has remained largely monolingual in its approach and blind to the
crucial intervention of translation in news production. Yet, since the
establishment of the modern journalistic field, translation has been pivotal
in the circulation of news which describes a highly interconnected
world”.
1
While this claim has some validity to a large extent, it is not quite true
that interlingual transfer is performed solely by journalists. As we
examine in this chapter, news agencies have always recruited translators
to do the translation of foreign language sources, while journalists may
have relied on these translations to frame their news stories. As Knight
(2000) confirms, western correspondents rely heavily on the English
language while gathering information for their stories. “Foreign language
skills would appear to be critical for correspondents who sought to
explore the subtleties of the stories from the countries to which they were
posted” (79). However, whichever is the language used to gather
information for the news stories, which in itself is problematic, the
translation of these stories adds another dimension of complexity to the
process of reproducing the news.
This chapter is an expanded and revised version of a paper published prior
to the Warwick conference, in March 2006 as part of the current research.
It applies the three-tier model outlined in the previous chapter.
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The role of translation in mediated realities
The role of translation in mediated realities cannot be overlooked or
underestimated in a study of contemporary Arabic television, and more so
of Aljazeera as a serious news and current affairs television network. By
its very nature, translation is a deconstruction-reconstruction process of a
text constructed in another language. The view taken in this chapter is that
translation is a constraint-driven process. Translation is a process that is
driven by many constraints at different levels of text—that is, lexical,
semantic, syntactic, pragmatic, functional and semiotic—and at various
stages of development and production. “These constraints affect the
perceived and desired quality of the translation and dictate the choices and
decisions the translator makes” (Darwish, 2003:91).
To reiterate, it has been claimed that Aljazeera has set the international
standards for translation in the media (Miles, 2005). If this surmise were
true, it would be a frightening proposition and a sad reflection of the state
of affairs of both the media and translation worldwide, since a close
analysis of translations at Aljazeera and other Arabic satellite networks
reveals horrifying quality standards. The argument maintained throughout
this research is that Aljazeera and all other Arabic news providers are
operating at an absolute literal translation level (down to the preposition
levle) that is causing the original message to be distorted and the target
language to be undermined at the lexical, idiomatic and metaphorical
levels of composition. As it is illustrated here and in the subsequent
chapters this claim is supported by evidence derived from a corpus of
news broadcasts from Aljazeera.
Translation in the News
Translation has recently received some attention in the news with
controversies over the translation of the Bin Laden tapes by CNN,
Aljazeera and other news outfits, highlighting an inconspicuous problem
of translation-mediated communication and the critical importance of
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accuracy and precision of translated messages, especially in times of crisis
and global instability. The German genius Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
(1749–1832) once asserted that the translator must act “as mediator in this
commerce of the mind, making it his business to further this intellectual
exchange. For whatever one might say about the inadequacy of
translation, nevertheless it is and will remain one of the most important
and worthy occupations in the general intertraffic between peoples.”
2
More so in today’s globalization
3
and global television news media,
translation-mediated knowledge transfer is becoming increasingly
important in “the complex chains of global interdependencies”
4
; “being
able to transmit vast amounts of information rapidly from continent to
continent, we have transformed a widely spread and diverse world into a
single global megapolis” (Devlin, 1999:12). Different times however
assign different value to the importance of translation. The situationality
of the translator within the larger context of the social transaction plays a
major role in the translation strategies chosen at a particular instance in
the process of knowledge transfer, especially in an area of human activity
as viscous and ephemeral as news media, where often “voracities and
verities are sometimes interacting”
5
. In one respect, motivated by the
doctrine of fidelity, the translator seeks to be faithful to the original. Yet a
host of situational factors are willy-nilly brought to bear on this quest for
the truth in translation. The state of tension and conflict is often resolved
through reframing that conforms to specific editorial policy, norms and
formulas.
Translations are not made in a vacuum, as Andre Lefevere (1992)
confirms. “Translators function in a given culture at a given time. The
way they understand themselves and their culture is one of the factors that
may influence the way in which they translate” (Lefevere, 1992: 14). This
view has been articulated by several writers and scholars in translation
studies. As Gentzler and Tymoczko (2002) observe, “most contemporary
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translation studies scholars view the process of translation as
heterogeneous with different issues addressed by different translations
and different translators at different times and different places, depending
on the specific historical and material moment” (xx).
Toury (1995) for example, contends that “[I]n its socio-cultural
dimension, translation can be described as subject to constraints of several
types and varying degrees. These extend far beyond the source text, the
systemic differences between the languages and textual traditions
involved in the act, or even the possibilities and limitations of the
cognitive apparatus of the translator as a necessary mediator” (54). He
asserts that socio-cultural factors influence and likely alter the translator’s
cognition, and different translators performing under different conditions
will choose different translation strategies and produce different products.
Regarding translation as a norm-governed activity, Toury (1995) argues
that translation has to contend with two languages and two cultural
traditions. The translator’s basic choice is to work towards the norms of
the source text or the target culture as an initial norm. This will define
whether the translation subscribes to the norms of the source text or to the
norms of the target culture, thus entailing different strategies that
ultimately produce different translation products.
It follows that translations take place in various situations and
environments where the translator may change locations, and linguistic,
cultural, ideological, temporal and/or spatial affinities and perspectives.
These interactive and interdependent influential variables consciously and
subconsciously influence the actor’s cognitive behaviour, responses, and
attitudes to both source language and target language realities (Darwish,
2004). They also influence the actor’s cognitive and affective responses to
the source text and product, and ultimately affect the nature, focus, quality
and pace of knowledge transfer and they may act as a reinforcing positive
or negative factor in defining the overall translation strategy. These
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relationships in the translation process can be understood in terms of the
following model.
Figure 13—Contexts of the translation event (source: Darwish, 2003)
The relationship and interaction between these entities within the
translation event dictate the strategy and decisions that the translator
follows. “Each entity within the hierarchy imposes its own constraints and
norms on the translation process. On the micro level, the translator has to
deal with constraints imposed among other things by the text, his or her
aptitude and system of meaning and the idiosyncrasies of matching two
distinct linguistic entities. On the meso level, the translator has to deal
with external group standards, specifications and values. On the macro
level, the translator has to deal with constraints imposed by organizational
or institutional values and system of beliefs, which are in turn informed or
dictated by the mega level. On the mega level, the translator has to deal
with constraints imposed by society at large. All of these levels impose
immediate constraints on the translation process”.
6
In previous work
7
, I identify two types of translation variables: external
and internal. External variables can be further broken down into extrinsic
and intrinsic. Extrinsic variables are those physical variables that are
extraneous to the act of translating, yet form an integral part of the
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translation event. Extrinsic variables include: the environment, time and
space, standards, norms, protocols, tools, technology, systems, machines.
Intrinsic variables are those variables that belong to the act of translating
and are a manifestation of the translation act. Intrinsic variables include:
information medium, readability, legibility and audibility of discourse.
Internal variables are those nonphysical variables that constitute the core
cognitive activities of the act of translating. These include the cognitive,
textual, interlingual and attitudinal variables that have an impact on the
act of translating.
Figure 14—External variables
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Figure 15—Internal variables
In many translation-mediated news reporting situations and environments,
particularly in television news media, the manner in which these variables
are played out on and off screen in relation to each other, vis-à-vis a
particular news story will substantially affect the perspective of the story
causing accuracy and precision to vary in salience and producing a
reconstruction of an already constructed reality.
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As Tuchman (1978) confirms, news is the product of news workers who
draw upon institutional processes and practices to make information
available to consumers. “News is located, gathered, and disseminated by
professionals working in organizations […]. It is the product of
professionalism and it claims to interpret everyday occurrences to citizens
and other professionals alike” (Tuchman, 1978: 4-5). Such interpretation
is a construction of reality as these news workers see it, influenced by the
institutional processes and practices of the organizations in which they
work. Consequently, not only do they bring their own perspectives, but
they also frame their interpretation within the institutional context and
situationality of these organizations. Furthermore, translators and or
translation-journalists work under the same conditions, influences and
constraints. In news translation in particular, the interplay of all of these
factors and variables is more pronounced, intense and immediate, where
the various situationality-driven affinities may act as a reinforcing
positive or negative factor in defining the overall translation strategy.
Situationality and affinities
In any translation situation, at least seven interrelated influential variables
are brought to bear on the translation process. These are: (1) location, (2)
time, (3) language, (4) language proximity, (5) cultural dependency, (6)
ideology and (7) purpose.
Location
In terms of location, the translator may physically exist in the location of
the source language (SL) text. An example of this is translations of
English documents produced in Australia and translated for the ethnic
communities within Australia. However, the translator may physically
exist in the location of the target language (TL). This has generally been
the case with most translation work, where in receptor languages and
cultures, documents written in one language are translated by local
translators. Another possibility is where the translators may exist in
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neither SL nor TL location. For example, a text written in The United
States is translated into Arabic for the United Arab Emirates by Arabic
speaking translators living in Australia. In the 1990s, major Japanese
computer companies commissioned translators in Singapore to translate
Japanese manuals into English for the Australian market and other
English speaking countries.
Location plays a critical part in the psychological, cultural and ideological
affinities of the translator to the text being translated. Not only does it
impose logistic constraints, but it also defines the ownership of text in
terms of how the translator regards the text he or she is translating and
whether such sense of ownership gives the translator licence to modify the
text to suit certain target language requirements or objectives. In
translation-mediated news reporting, in situ reporting, that is the reporter
being physically in the location of the news event or story being reported,
imposes a mode of operation that is different from ex situ reporting, where
the reporter is physically elsewhere.
Time
In terms of time, the translator may exist in the same time interval of the
Source Language and the Target Language, or the translator may exist in
the same time interval of TL but not SL. The translator may exist in
neither SL nor TL time.
Language
In terms of language, we have the following situations:
• The translator’s “native” language is the same as SL.
• The translator’s “native” language is the same as TL. The translator’s
“native” language is neither SL nor TL.
• The translator’s “native” language is a variation or a derivative of SL
or TL.
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Language proximity
Languages are said to be convergent or divergent depending on the degree
of similarity between them in terms of syntax, lexis and idiom. In
translation, SL and TL are convergent or divergent languages. This may
be measured in terms of the operations required to render one sentence in
one language in another language.
Any translation activity involves a number of operations aimed at
reproducing the source language text in the target text through the path of
least resistance. The path of least resistance is often the shortest point
possible between the source and the target and the most direct translation.
However, routes routinized through pattern recognition and pre-alignment
of these patterns may be used as off-the-shelf solutions, which are not
necessarily the most direct translation.
Furthermore, the distance between any two languages varies on a
continuum from close convergence to wide divergence. Any given text
that is submitted to the process of translation is bound to vary in terms of
transparency and subsequently congruency to target language, depending
on the degree of difference between these languages. Such variability
determines the degree of translatability between languages in translation,
the number of operations required to complete the translation, and the
techniques and strategies employed. Convergence and divergence
variability may be intrinsically linguistic, that is the linguistic properties
of language such as lexis and syntax may vary across languages, or
linguistically manifested socio-technological developmental
characteristics.
On the linguistic level, as a general rule, languages that belong to the
same family of languages are usually convergent and families that belong
to different families of languages are usually divergent.
The distance between source and target languages is measured by the
degree of similarity phonologically, morphologically, lexically,
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syntactically, semantically, pragmatically, rhetorically and schematically.
Phonology in translation helps in determining word matches more easily,
especially in the case of related languages. However, phonological
similarity does not necessarily entail semantic or pragmatic matchability.
This phenomenon is known in French as Les Faux Amis or false friends in
English. Words may sound or look similar, but their meanings may be
somewhat different. Moreover, rhetorical differences also play a critical
role in determining the translatability.
Cultural dependency
Cultural dependency relates to the properties of text that are culture-
bound. These properties reflect the social attitudes and mores and
intellectual perspective of those who speak the language of a certain
culture. Many expressions in language are specific to the cultures to
which they belong. They evoke images closely related to social behaviour
and temperament. Some of these expressions are universal and can be
transferred with some ease across cultures and languages. Many other
expressions are inherent to one specific culture and cannot be easily
transferred, at least directly, without losing some of their associative
meanings. Take for example the expression “smoking gun”, which has
recently been parroted with sickening frequency by almost all English
media outlets in reference to almost everything on earth from weapons of
mass destruction in Iraq to Alzheimer’s disease. A smoking gun is a
culturally laden figurative expression that means “something that serves
as indisputable evidence or proof, especially of a crime”. Most likely, the
imagery originally comes from American Western movies, where a
gunslinger is caught with his gun still smoking. The expression is
attributed to US Republican congressman Barber Conable during the
Watergate investigation although Arthur Conan Doyle, in The Gloria
Scott, a Sherlock Holmes story published in April 1893, is said to have
been the first to use the phrase smoking pistol albeit in a non-figurative
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sense: "the chaplain stood with a smoking pistol in his hand." Regardless
of when and who said it first, the figurative sense of “smoking gun” is
untranslatable in the same figurative manner.
Translatable texts are texts that are transparent. Transparency of text is the
quality of text to be transparent to other languages. A transparent text is a
text that presents universal information in a neutral style of writing, free
from jargon, catch phrases and cultural idiosyncrasies.
Translating the News
Despite its crucial role in news making, translation in the news has thus
far occupied a very small area of research into translation and
communication studies in general. Translation-mediated news production
is generally acutely under-researched and particularly not researched at all
in Arabic television. There is little research to date into the effects of
translation on English-language news and on news translated primarily
from English into other languages, and more to the point, the Arabic
language.
A review of the literature at hand indicates serious research deficiencies in
this area. The major publications (including 115 books) in both media and
translation studies have neglected this area, with the exception of Darwish
(2005, 2007) and Clausen (2003), who slightly touches upon language
import through news.
The role of translation in framing the news seems to be severely neglected
in both journalism and translation studies. Despite the centrality of
translation in shaping the news, none of the major publications in either
discipline pay serious attention to how translation affects news making
and reporting, and while translation-mediated news reporting has had a
long history in international relations, and while television news, in
particular, has been at the center of “academic hyperactivity” for the past
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twenty-five years (MacGregor, 1997: 44), news translation has so far
occupied a miniscule area of the research.
Translation has recently received some attention in the news with
controversies over the translation of the Bin Laden tapes by CNN,
Aljazeera and other news outfits. For over sixty years, the US Foreign
Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), a federal agency that monitors and
translates foreign media into English; the BBC Monitoring Service; the
Associated Press; and Reuters, to name the main ones, have provided
daily feeds of extensive coverage of open source intelligence information
(obtained from full text and summaries of newspaper articles, conference
proceedings, television and radio broadcasts, periodicals, and non-
classified technical reports), monitored worldwide, serving thousands of
daily newspaper, radio, television and online customers with coverage in
all media and news.
Not only is translation a vital component of the work of these
organizations, it is also an essential part of the operations of non-English
news providers worldwide, which for the main part rely on these
organizations for their news and other information sources. Yet
surprisingly despite its centrality in the production of news in both
directions, translation in this area has so far received little attention in
both communication and translation studies.
With the advent of satellite television and Internet technologies in several
languages, viewers are able to compare the same news reported by
different channels and are able to intuitively discern the subtle differences
in the reporting, whether in the same language (for example, English-
language CNN, BBC and Fox TV, Arabic-language Aljazeera, Al-
Arabiyah and LBC) or across languages (for example, CNN and
Aljazeera). Anecdotally, some of these differences are translation-induced
and as the original news reports are submitted to the translation process
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they also undergo a reframing process, which for the main part attempts to
reconstruct a constructed reality.
It has been argued that although the news media present reality "the way it
is" news writers and editors construct a subjective picture of reality by
selecting and organizing information in a way that makes sense to them
and their audiences through framing (Ryan, 1991). Confirming this view,
Dobkin (1992) explains that “News stories are organized according to
standard production formulas; television audiences need not only to be
informed but also seduced, entertained, and in the proper state of mind for
advertisers. News stories are also based on the intuitive, professional
assumptions of news journalists and producers. These characteristics of
news help determine the telling of the news stories and the way in which
audiences are likely to interpret them” (27).
According to former foreign editor of The Guardian, Martin Woollacott
(2005), journalists are instinctive moralists. “The first thing journalists
want to know in a crisis is what are the rights and wrongs of it. They want
a briefing on the physical facts, too—names, places and numbers, some
history and geography—but the moral grid is primary. If they simply
stuck with this as a given, they would indeed be poor creatures, and
sometimes that does happen on stories of brief prominence. But on the
bigger stories the moral view is debated; it evolves and is distinctly
autonomous, insulated to some extent from the pressures of government”.
This moral grid, as Woolacott calls it, is responsible for framing news
reports and stories. Consider the following excerpt form CNN’s foreign
correspondent Christiane Amanpour in Baghdad:
AMANPOUR: Obviously, for so many people here and probably
around the world, as well, a deep sense of satisfaction that
Saddam Hussein and, in this case, seven of his henchmen, co-
defendants, are sitting trial, finally facing justice for some of the
crimes they're alleged to have perpetrated through that long, long
brutal reign of his. [source: CNN, emphasis added]
8
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The moral stance is framed in the phrases “deep sense of satisfaction”,
“seven of his henchmen”, and “finally facing justice for some of the
crimes”. This is far from objective reporting. The correspondent has
already made up her mind about Saddam’s guilt, rightly or wrongly, and
has framed news facts in a biased manner. More interesting is the
surreptitious logical contradiction caused by the use of “alleged”. How
can they be facing justice for crimes they are alleged to have perpetrated?
Using the expression “face justice” in its loosest sense to mean “stand
trial” frames the news report because the expression “face justice”
connotes guilt on the part of the accused. The following excerpts illustrate
the presumption of guilt connoted in this expression.
US President George W. Bush vowed today that Saddam Hussein
would face "justice he denied to millions", but warned that the
ousted dictator's stunning capture would not end deadly attacks on
US forces in Iraq. [The Age]
9
Being aware of your planned visit to Indonesia, another outcome
of the meeting was the resolution to bring to your attention our
strong views and lasting commitment to ensure that those known
Indonesia figures who have documented involvement the
attempted genocide of the East Timorese will face justice.
10

In translation-mediated news, this framing process involves two things:
(1) first-hand account of such events as witnessed or heard in their native
form and submitted to the translation process by often bilingual
correspondents and field reporters, who transmit their own translations to
their news networks (and the Big Four), and (2) formal and ad hoc
translation of text processed in its original form in situ and ex situ. It can
be argued that in doing so, the original frames are subjected to a
reframing process that changes the perspective and meaning of the
original frames.
In the western media, foreign information sources, especially translations
(with the exception of direct quotes and statements) are usually used as
raw material that submits to a synthesis process to produce the news
report. In contrast, in the Arabic media specifically, foreign information
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sources are translated verbatim down to the sentence and phrase levels.
The synthesis process in this case is largely limited to basic text
rearrangement that is subject to distortion, obfuscation, and translation
mediated reframing. Although access to the operations of news
production at media outlets such as Aljazeera, is not always possible, the
operational aspects of news production can be gleaned from the product
itself. Having worked in newsrooms and information media outfits in the
past, I have firsthand experience and knowledge of how newsrooms
operate. For these newsrooms, translation constitutes the primary source
of information.
Information Sources
Most international news is provided as daily feeds by major news
agencies from open-source information, where translation plays a central
role in the making and production of news. As Knight (2000) reminds us,
news agencies have a powerful and invisible influence on the news that
appears in the newspapers, radio and television. The “pervasive nature of
agency material can help set agendas for those organisations which have
placed their correspondents in the field” (115). And as political scientist
Leon V. Sigal (1986) contends, “News is not what happens, but what
someone says has happened or will happen”. Most international news is
ready-made; either conveyed by foreign correspondents or raw-translated
by in situ or ex situ monitors from open sources of news already framed.
For over sixty years, the US Foreign Broadcast Information Service
(FBIS)
11
, a federal agency that monitors and translates foreign media into
English; the BBC Monitoring Service, and the so-called Big Four:
Reuters, Associated Press, United Press International and Agence France
Presse, have provided daily feeds of extensive coverage of open source
intelligence information (obtained from full text and summaries of
newspaper articles, conference proceedings, television and radio
broadcasts, periodicals, and non-classified technical reports), monitored
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worldwide — serving thousands of daily newspaper, radio, television and
online customers with coverage in all media and news.
According to Boyd (1999), “an estimated million words a day stream
directly into newsroom computers and spill out from agency printers,
Reuters, PA, AP, UPI, which instantly identifies the source. BBC
Monitoring in Caversham listens in to radio, TV and news agencies of
140 countries in seventy different languages and passes on the world’s
most important stories. Domestic copy is supplied by the BBC’s General
News Service” (190). This “enormous productive news processing”, Boyd
confirms, requires taking “the mass of raw material coming in and refine,
reshape and rewrite it into the 100 hours of regular radio news programs
broadcast…” (190). The raw material is in fact raw translations of these
open source news broadcasts. On a regular day, a monitor-translator
listens to the broadcast live on radio or television, and while recording it,
he or she types up a summary of the news into the computer. The items
are prioritized and translated according to editorial policy or instructions,
and the raw translation is edited by the duty editor and then dispatched to
the news room, where it is submitted to “productive news processing” and
reframing. With technological advances, this operation has become
increasingly more efficient. The transition from the typewriter and reel-to-
reel recording devices to computerized and digitized processing has meant
shorter turnarounds and more pressure to produce ever increasing
information loads and a higher potential for error and misinterpretation.
With globalization, outsourcing open-source information to translation
agencies and freelance translators has become a more cost-effective
option for some of these operators. It is not unusual these days for news
feed providers to outsource news media material captured primarily from
the Internet, the preferred medium for most news material of low priority,
to translation agencies and for these agencies, to mete it out to their pool
of freelance translators for exploitative payment and dubious quality
standards.
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Clausen (2003) contends that these international news agencies play a
strong role in globalization in their function as international wholesalers.
“The international news agencies have great influence in international
newsrooms. Their strong agenda-setting function, however, does not
necessarily lead to ‘homogenisation’ of international information flows”
(17). This may in part be attributable to the fact that most news feeds
provided by these agencies are routinely translated into other languages,
which results in further fragmentation, reframing and interpretation.
As Bell (1991) also confirms, “most news outlets carry far more news
originated by other organizations than by their own journalists. Almost all
international news derives from the “Big Four” news agencies: Reuters,
Associated Press, United Press International and Agence France Presse”
(16). In most situations, minor editorial changes are made to the news
feeds received from these sources, and any major discrepancies between
the English language news feed and the source language text or discourse
can be traced back to the originator of the news feed. The following
example illustrates the situation where the same news item is repeated in
its native form (English) by various news media providers unchanged and
retaining the original frames.
Ali said earlier that his house had been destroyed. His young son
was buried in rubble but pulled out unharmed, he said. (Reuters)
Ali said earlier that his house had been destroyed. His young son
was buried in rubble but pulled out unharmed, he said. (The
Telegraph, Calcutta, India)
Zulfiqar said earlier that his house had been destroyed. His young
son was buried in rubble but pulled out unharmed, he said. (The
News International, Pakistan)
How the news item was put together in English in the first place and what
happens to it when it is translated into other languages are two questions
worthy of study, for not only is translation a vital component of the work
of these organizations (The Big Four), but it is also an essential part of the
operations of non-English news providers worldwide, which for the main
part rely on these organizations for their news and other information
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sources. Consequently, translation into these languages adds another
dimension to the problem of open source information. Yet surprisingly
despite its centrality in the production of news in both directions,
translation in this area has so far received little attention in both
communication and translation studies.
News Translation as Reframing
Despite the crucial role translation plays in framing domestic and
international news, a survey of more that 370 codes of ethics and codes of
practice adopted by different media outlets around the world shows a
serious lack of attention to translation. With the exception of the code of
ethics adopted by the Press Foundation of Asia, enshrined in the
Principles on Reporting Ethnic Tensions, which evolved from a nine-
nation journalism conference held in Davao City (in the Philippines) in
April 1970, none of the surveyed codes mention translation as a principal
factor in ensuring accuracy and objectivity, and none of the United
Nations fifty-one founding member states cite translation in the codes of
ethics of their media and journalism associations, accessed during this
survey.
Furthermore, neither “translation” nor “language” (except occasionally) is
entertained in the codes of ethics of journalism and media associations
and institutions in advanced first world countries, such as Australia,
Britain, France, Germany, USA, and Canada, which boast ethnically,
culturally and/or linguistically diverse communities. In Australia for
example, the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) provides foreign
language services in several community languages. These services use
translations of primary English information sources in their news
broadcasts and other current affairs programs. Yet while the SBS code of
practice recognizes “English as the common language of Australia and
therefore as a major vehicle through which SBS can promote cross-
cultural awareness”, hardly any attention is given to translation as a
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defining factor in news production, except casually in the treatment of
subtitling and voiceovers for television.
Almost all of the surveyed codes of ethics focus on ensuring: accuracy,
fairness, truthfulness, objectivity and neutrality, and rehash the same
principles in almost the same carbon-copy format. How can these be
upheld when foreign language sources are translated? Recent world
events have clearly demonstrated that such is a consistently risky
undertaking fraught with problems relating to language, culture, politics,
editorial policy, and ideology, among other things.

Figure 16—The Five Precepts of Journalism (source: author)
Generally, foreign information sources, especially translations (probably
with the exception of direct quotes and statements) are usually used as
raw materials that are submitted to a synthesis process to produce news
reports that supposedly conform to editorial policy. In most situations
however, information gathered and packaged as news feeds by newswire
agencies, such as Reuters, Associated Press, and AFP (Agence France-
Presse), are used and reused wholesale by various news and media outfits
worldwide. It is not highly unusual to come across the same news item
repeated “as is” by different news and information media providers.
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For most non-English news media providers, news feeds constitute the
primary source of information on international and surprisingly domestic
and regional events. In the Arabic media for example, foreign information
sources are translated verbatim down to the sentence and phrase levels.
The synthesis process in this case is largely limited to basic text
rearrangement that is subject to distortion, obfuscation, and translation
mediated reframing of source information. Given the poor translation
skills of most journalists and translators and the lack of structured
methodologies in news translation that ensure accuracy, fairness,
truthfulness, objectivity and neutrality of reported news and transferred
information through translated documentaries, major violations of these
principles are inevitable, as evidenced in this chapter.
Figure 17—The seven standards of translation (source: author, 2004)
12

This chapter examines translation-driven framing of news in Arabic
satellite television vis-à-vis international and domestic codes of ethics and
codes of practice. It highlights the central role translation plays in framing
and reframing news and documentaries and argues that factors such as
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metaphor, metonymy, euphemism, allusion and quotatives, are real and
potential culprits in translation-driven framing of news.
Ethics of Mediating News
In an unprecedented initiative, Aljazeera published its code of ethics in an
ostentatious launch on the back of a media conference in Doha, Qatar on
12 July 2004, perhaps bowing to US pressure to toe the line after a spate
of controversies that saw Aljazeera and the US Administration drift apart
and relations sour in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq. Since then,
excerpts from this code of ethics have been promoted by Aljazeera in
regular program ending and inter-program breaks highlighting ten major
points
13
.
1) Being a globally oriented media service, Aljazeera has
adopted the following code of ethics in pursuance of the
vision and mission it has set for itself:
2) Adhere to the journalistic values of honesty, courage,
fairness, balance, independence, credibility and diversity,
giving no priority to commercial or political considerations
over professional ones.
3) Endeavour to get to the truth and declare it in our
dispatches, programmes and news bulletins unequivocally
in a manner which leaves no doubt about its validity and
accuracy.
4) Treat our audiences with due respect and address every
issue or story with due attention to present a clear, factual
and accurate picture while giving full consideration to the
feelings of victims of crime, war, persecution and disaster,
their relatives and our viewers, and to individual privacy
and public decorum.
5) Welcome fair and honest media competition without
allowing it to affect adversely our standards of performance
so that getting a "scoop" will not become an end in itself.
6) Present diverse points of view and opinions without bias or
partiality.
7) Recognise diversity in human societies with all their races,
cultures and beliefs and their values and intrinsic
individualities in order to present unbiased and faithful
reflection of them.
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8) Acknowledge a mistake when it occurs, promptly correct it
and ensure it does not recur.
9) Observe transparency in dealing with news and news
sources while adhering to internationally established
practices concerning the rights of these sources.
10) Distinguish between news material, opinion and analysis to
avoid the pitfalls of speculation and propaganda.
11) Stand by colleagues in the profession and offer them
support when required, particularly in light of the acts of
aggression and harassment to which journalists are
subjected at times. Cooperate with Arab and international
journalistic unions and associations to defend freedom of
the press.
Hailed as a progressive approach to journalism and the media in the Arab
world, the new code of ethics adopted standard Arabic as the language of
broadcasting at Aljazeera. In the section titled “Composition and
Treatment”, left un-translated into English, the Code of Practice (or
conduct), which is obviously at least in part a translation from an English
textbook on journalistic writing, states:
1) Poise and not sensationalism is what wins your audience’s
respect. Consequently, you should avoid exaggeration when
describing events, presenting the news, or talking to people
with expertise or opinion. This requires non-emotionalism
[emotional detachment] towards the events in a manner that
such emotionalism does not suggest to the viewer that there
is sympathy or bias towards one party or another—even
through what is called body language (gestures, facial
expressions, etc).
2) Adjectives and attributes of a general nature most often cast
doubt on the credibility and neutrality of the story (heinous
conduct, barbarism, savagery).
3) Simplified standard Arabic is the language of the channel—
that is [the language which is] free from complexity and
affectation, in other words, what is known as the language of
journalism. However, simplification should not mean
resorting to slang words unless the context requires that
(such as citing a slang phase).
4) Language is a communication tool, and a journalist must
master it in order to be able to use its vocabulary and phrases
in a manner that will serve the news/report/topic because not
using the correct word or phrase undermines the accuracy of
the journalistic material. Equally, language errors and weak
constructions negatively affect the channel’s reputation.
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5) Avoiding trite rhetorical devices [literally, tricks] and
memorized pre-cast phrases (such as [Arabic expressions]),
and using correct and easy expressions that have direct
significations to communicate the required meaning. Words
and sentences that have more than one meaning or which
may be construed to underestimate or abuse any belief, race,
culture or individual.
While the focus of these principles is news reporting, content analysis of
both news broadcasts and current affairs programs soon reveals that these
principles have not been uniformly and consistently observed in either
news broadcasts or regular programs. A good example of principle three
is the weekly program presented by veteran Egyptian journalist
Muhammad Hasanain Haykal, Ma’a Haykal: tajribatu hayat (With
Haykal: A Life’s Experience). This program is presented from start to
finish in colloquial Egyptian, with occasional standard Arabic. This
violates the rule that Standard Arabic will be used. Hayakal is regarded by
Aljazeera’s journalists as Le grand maître de journalisme arabe, and is
approached with awesome reverence. Consequently, it seems he has been
given licence to conduct his program in his own Egyptian dialect. What
this tells us though, socially, is that Aljazeera is willing to break its own
rules when it is unable to enforce them.
Nowhere is translation mentioned in these codes of ethics and conduct,
and it is rather indicative of the lack of awareness or underestimation of
the role and impact of translation in the realization of all of the above
instructions. There may be some guidelines for translation that exist
somewhere in a separate document, but information gathered through
informal personal communication with translators working at Aljazeera
prior to the launch of its Code of Ethics confirm that no such guidelines
document existed. What is interesting however is if such a document now
exists, how does it link whatever guidelines there are to both the Code of
Ethics and more specifically the Code of Conduct? This remains
speculative and what is known to date supports the view taken here that
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translation ranks low on the list of priorities of developers of these codes
despite the centrality of translation in the daily productions at Aljazeera.
Aljazeera’s code of ethics has been seen as a reaction to the mounting
pressure from the US administration over its coverage of the war on Iraq.
During the war, US officials accused Aljazeera of shoddy and biased
journalism and providing a media platform for terrorists. The then
Aljazeera spokesperson Jihad Ballout is reported to have said that the
code of ethics is designed to have the network “adhere to professional
core values, distinguish between what is news and what is opinion and
analysis, and monitor its output, acknowledging unintended mistakes if
and when they occur and ensuring they do not recur.”
14
However, the
distinction is not that simple and a set of rules, which are subject to
interpretation, cannot guarantee that separation, especially when reports
are mediated through translation and there are no clear standards or
policies to guide the translation process. Evidence we have to date
suggests a predominant absolute literal translation approach permeating
not only Aljazeera’s news reports but also every single news agency and
network across the full spectrum of Arabic media.
Moreover, Aljazeera’s adoption of a code of ethics should not be
puzzling. As a media network modelled after the western school of media,
it was only a matter of time before a code of ethics was seen as a cutting
edge solution for the apprehensions surrounding Aljazeera’s professional
standards. As Coady and Bloch (1996) observe, the 1990s were
characterised by what could almost be an obsession with ethics in the
west and across professions. Trailing behind its western masters, it is not
surprising that Aljazeera adopted a code of ethics. However, what is really
surprising is the absence of translation as a defining and constitutive
factor in upholding these ethics.
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Translation-mediated framing
Translation mediated framing is framing that is informed or driven
primarily by translation—its techniques, processes, strategies and
constraints.
Why is translation a process of approximation? In the presence of
constraints that prevent an exact replication of a source text, an absolute
equivalent is not possible at all levels of text (lexical, semantic, syntactic,
pragmatic, rhetorical). The ultimate objective of true translation is to
convey the message of the original text in its totality, but this is not
always possible and tradeoffs have to be made. These tradeoffs affect the
degree of approximation between the source and the translation. However,
a translator’s choices are not always driven by constraints. A translator
may choose a specific strategy to realize a specific objective in the
absence of constraints.
Language of the News and the Illusion of Modernity
Looking at the impact of literal translation on language, thought and
expression in Arabic journalism today, one could contend that translation
is a process of simplification; it (ideally temporarily) suspends the
rhetorical properties of the target language in favour of those in the source
language. Consequently, alien rhetorical features that only work in the
source language are introduced to the target language—features which
largely do not have the same rhetorical effects as in the source.
In this sense, I argue that modern writing styles of Arabic journalism
today are not the product of original invention or ingenious planning, but
rather a translation-induced “Mickey-Mouse” recreation of western styles
through adherence to form stripped of its rhetorical features. I argue that
what are regarded as underdeveloped old Arabic styles of writing by
English language standards are highly developed and sophisticated styles
that have become out of step with modern Arabic due to the decline of
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Arab civilization during the Ottoman rule and European colonization and
post-colonial imperialist domination. Compared to Arabic writing styles
in the Golden Age, modern styles represent a primordial stage of
development. These old styles served well when linguistic development
was on a par with intellectual progress in literature, science and
technology and were more or less emulated in a reversed simplification
process when the bulk of knowledge store was translated into European
languages.
It is wrong to assume that the so-called “simplification” of modern Arabic
has been due to a deliberate act on the part of Arab journalists in the last
half of the twentieth century. Some Arab journalists and researchers have
given in to the illusion that the professional body of Arab journalism
decided one day to change the Arabic language writing styles deliberately
and consciously and that they collectively decided to lay down a clear and
decisive strategy to achieve this goal—so much so that the Lebanese
journalist Adeeb Mroueh (1961) confidently declares:
“[t]he refined easy style we have achieved in Arabic writing today
is not attributable to language teachers in schools and colleges,
nor is it attributable to writers and ancient men of letters. It is in
the first place owing to the journalism of today” (111).
There is no doubt that the twentieth century saw various individual and
collective moves and campaigns to simplify and modernize the Arabic
language. Some of these misguided or misled “reformers” went as far as
calling for giving up the standard Arabic language in favour of the
vernacular. There is nothing surprising about this, as Afifi (1980) asserts.
“For the calls of today are the same as those of yesterday—a combination
of ignorant voices driven by incompetence and lack of culture and
education and voices motivated by racist claims or historical hatred
waiting for the opportunity to spread their venom. Sometimes, they
choose the call for reform or renewal to turn away suspicion and doubt
about their real motives”. However, there is no need today to resort to this
kind of camouflage, diversionary tactics and political correctness, as
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blatant foreign interference has become a clear policy. On the pretext of
fighting global terrorism, Western powers led by the USA, have
attempted to force a language and cultural change in the Arab region to
the extent that a new American “sanitized” version of the Quran has been
published by the US government.
There is no doubt also that Arabic writing styles became stale and archaic
during the Ottoman influence and European colonialism that followed
after these writing styles reached a superlative degree of refinement,
complexity and artistry during the Golden Age of the Arab and Islamic
Empire. During that time, geniuses such as al-Farabi, Ibn Rushd
(Averroes) and Ibn Khaldun, whose writing styles were highly refined and
sophisticated, were shining examples of clear, effective and powerful
communication styles.
During the most influential Ottoman rule, a hybrid variation of the
Turkish language, mixing Turkish with Arabic and Farsi, became the
language of administration and Arabic was confined to religious studies.
Reframing the Already Framed
Despite the cloning effect globalization of news media has had on
regional and national terrestrial and satellite television, the visual clutter
and graphic razzmatazz that accompany news presentation, and the
reproduction of almost the same presentation format—for example, all
news media networks have a news crawl at the bottom of the screen (see
figures)—most news information carried by these media outlets is already
framed at the source. Usually, it is in their representation to the viewers
through translation mediation that the frames are reframed.
Turner (1991) argues that the phenomenon of global news the
CNNization of the world, does not mean “just the advent of globally
available television services, but the fact that such services have begun to
play a role in international politics” (MacGregor, 1997:5) and regional
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social and political change. But as noted elsewhere (Darwish, 2005),
Aljazeera, and other Arabic media networks, such as Al-Arabiyah, are
contributing to social and cultural change in an unbridled and unplanned
manner, and there seems to be a lack of a clear strategy on how to
implement this agenda. The newly found “freedom” of the press suffers
from oscillation and sporadic instrumentalization of inter-state feuds and
rivalries, detected in innuendos, insinuations, indirect contextualization
and below the belt punches. Here is a sample from Aljazeera’s tabloid
program al-ittijah al-mu’akis (The Opposite Direction), presented by
Faisal Al-Qasim, aired on January 3, 2006.
[Original text]
•°tg_` †]b{ : ”hª`oˆp ŽyŠbuœ` ²b•Š_` jŠi¯v Œ `etˆ_ ~j`Ši_` ³´k…t˜u a®b¤ ab\¬
µŠ-œ` abpŠ“_` aˆhxœ` †… ~•…k}€ ›¶t|¯v ·tvro° [•ª Œf a^b¸|_` ab¤`Šgˆvk_`
• av•o“|_` Ž{ ab¤`Šgˆvk_` ¹b®º¬ cª tuov nop »k\¯v •_ `etˆ_ ·abxo¤™{€ ‰tb¤`Šgˆv
·t•b{ a“vŠ˜_` •i} ¥rtp ”xtˆvf ¼Š{ cu ”x€ j€ ·[º°o_` ½mŠg_` agvŠ¤ [•ª auoi\ˆ_`
[Translation]
FAISAL AL-QASIM: Good greeting[s] my dear viewers. Why
doesn’t the American President deign to make his absurd
democratic sermons except to Syria? Someone wonders: Are the
other Arab regimes platonic democracies? Why hasn’t Bush ever
spoken out about applying democracy in Saudi Arabia, which is
ruled in the manner of Medieval Times? Or is it because of his too
much faith he has already blessed the Shari’a law over there?
This kind of contextualization and framing is used over and over in the
same and other programs.
The following example from Aljazeera may highlight this problem.
avŠi|“_` ”¬¾p ¿•¸p ”but\u Š®ª ‹Š˜u k•“¬ cu jtv€ k“p ½™ª©` ¶tsm .
£kvks ab°t•r avŒo_ ABCDEFG HIJK tu `ef ÀbÁ_` £•tb‚ cª Ž•¸¯_`m
Literal Translation:
The announcement came days after Musharraf undertook through
his lawyer to take off his military uniform and give up the
command of the army should his election be returned [that is, re-
elected] for a new presidential term.
15

The problem with this Arabic news item, which was also carried in the
same way by other leading English language news outlets, is that
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Musharraf was not elected in the first place. Musharraf seized power in a
bloodless coup in 1999. Here is the same news from the BBC and
Reuters.
Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf will give up his post of
army chief if he is re-elected for another term of office, his chief
lawyer has said.
16
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf
will give up his post of army chief if he is re-elected president and
will be sworn in for a new term as a civilian, his lawyer told the
Supreme Court on Tuesday.
17
Framing Reality
The general view among media researchers and practitioners alike is that
the news is a representation of the real world; it is not the real world. It is
a window on the world, as Tuchman (1978) puts it, through the frame of
which we learn about the world. However, she contends that like any
frame that delineates a world, the news frame is problematic in its
characteristics and the perspectives it presents. Echoing this view,
Schudson (2003) states, “news is not a mirror of reality. It is a
representation of the world, and all representations are selective. This
means that some human beings must do the selecting; certain people make
decisions about what to present as news and how to present it” (33).
Journalists are at the forefront of those making such decisions, and as
Alan Knight (2000) explains in Reporting the Orient, “Journalists inhabit
a culture of ideas which shape the way they report, select, edit and
prioritise news. These ideas reproduce and reinforce themselves in the
news making process, re-creating apparently flexible ways for imagining
the world outside the newsroom.” (21).
To understand the role of news frames, we may turn to framing theory for
answers. As a theoretical perspective, the concept of framing has become
increasingly common in understanding mass communication, “whether in
the fields of social psychology, public opinion, or media studies” (Norris
et al, 2003:10), because it offers plausible explanations for the way news
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is constructed and presented to the viewers and readers. A frame is a
property of a message, and as Hallahan (1999) confirms, “a frame limits
the message’s meaning by shaping the inferences that individuals make
about the message” (207), [emphasis in original].
According to Kauffman, Elliott and Shmueli (2003), “framing involves
both the construction of interpretive frames and their representation to
others”. These interpretive frames reflect judgments made by the creators
or framers of the message (Hallahan,1999:207). Furthermore, Rhoads
(1997) defines a frame as “a psychological device that offers a perspective
and manipulates salience in order to influence subsequent judgment.”
This definition focuses on two relevant elements of framing: perspective
and manipulation. One of the major problems of translating news or any
kind of text for that matter is a phenomenon known as shift in focus. This
shift in focus is practically a shift in perspective through linguistic
manipulation and reconstruction. One could argue that obligatory
syntactic shifts in translating news reframe the message through shifting
the focus from the subject to the verb in Arabic for example. To illustrate,
the standard simple sentence structure in Arabic is Verb + Subject +
Complement as opposed to the English simple sentence structure Subject
+ Verb + Complement. This constraint requires an obligatory shift to
conform to the linguistic syntax norms of the target language. By doing
so, a shift in focus is introduced that frames the message differently.
English sentence structure: The boy went to school.
,z, ..¸..ii _i¦ .i¸ii .
Arabic sentence structure : Went the boy to school.

News Frames and Translation Frames
Ryan (1991) contends that “far from being an objective list of facts, a
news story results from multiple subjective decisions about whether and
how to present happenings to media audiences” (54). The selection
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process produces a news frame where “an entire newscast rather than a
single story can carry news frames” (Ryan, 1991:54). These news frames
“are almost entirely implicit and taken for granted. They do not appear to
either journalists or audience as social constructions but as primary
attributes of events that reporters are merely reflecting” (Katy Abel, 1985,
cited in Ryan, 1991:54).
Baker (2006) defines frames as:
“structures of anticipation, strategic moves that are consciously
initiated in order to present a narrative in a certain light. Framing
is an active process of signification by means of which we
consciously participate in the construction of reality” (167).
The following excerpt form a news item broadcast recently by Channel
Nine may illustrate this selection and construction process.
These are images of the three young men police want for
questioning for the cowardly stabbing.
Detectives are now focusing the investigation on what they call a
pack of young Middle Eastern men who allegedly went on a
vicious rampage, following the December eleven riot. [Channel
Nine, 2006]
Of special interest in this example is the use of the American month-day
format instead of the standard Australia day-month format. In analyzing
this news excerpt, one is inclined to conclude that this shift of date format
is a subtle (conscious) semantic framing at the micro level, which is
operating in a larger frame or meta frame—that is the frame of terrorism
and the September 11 events.
How this news excerpt translates into other languages and retains the
same news frame will depend on the translation strategy and approach
chosen by the translator and on the editorial intervention of the news
editor. Most likely, the word “cowardly” would be edited out of the
translation as it might be deemed culturally inappropriate, while the
“December eleven” would be lost to both the translator and the news
editor, since making the semantic connection requires active elicitation of
the original news frame. In either case, a new news frame is created.
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Semantic framing
One of major areas of translation reframing of news occurs at the
semantic level. The choice of words frames the news report to produce a
specific semantic meaning. Consider the following excerpts from a
newspaper headline and Arabic news broadcasts showing how the words
“deposed” and “toppled” have been mirror-translated into Arabic. In the
first instance, the Arabic word (Âo•¸u) “makhlu’” is used. This word
means “plucked out, torn off, and pulled up by the roots”. Colloquially,
the word also means someone who is of weak or loose character”, akin to
the standard Arabic word (¿b•-) “khalee’”, which means “wanton”, among
other things. In the second, the Arabic word (”p Ãtºu) “mutah bihi” is
used. This Arabic word is a derivative of the verb (Ãt¤) “taha”, which
means “to perish or almost perish, to get lost in the land”.
[al-Hayat online]
Ž‚`Š“_` ²b•Š_` o•¸ˆ_`  job_` ¶t•g_` jtu€ a“°t¯_` £Šˆ•_ ... j`kl Š®ÁÄb° ¶tª•Œ`
a_t‚Åp ½o®_tºvm a|•Á_` ½o“¤tgv ½out\ˆ_`m aˆi\ˆ_` ro•} [•ª £og_tp ½`šŠpm
Ž¢tg_` .
ÆÇ

[Translation]
The deposed Iraqi president for the ninth time before justice
today...Prosecution will force Saddam and Barzan by force to
attend the court and the lawyers boycott the session and demand
the dismissal of the judge.
[Aljazeera, 18/10/2005]
_.i¸sii ¸,.¸ii ..st.. _¸Ii.ii _,.. ,i..
[Translation]
Trial of deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.
[BBC, Arabic, 13/06/2003]
..L.. ..¸t.. .,i¸: .,s,¸.Yi ii¸.ii _¦ _i¸sIi _s,¸.Yi ,st.ii ¸.,¸, ¸¸, ¸t.
_.i¸sii ¸,.¸Ii _,ii¸.ii _. _¸Ii.ii .. _I. _¸L¸i., _,.ii¸ _,.. ,i..
¸.. _.t,. ,,¸i: it,I.s, .t..ì t. _. .i¸. .
Š‹

[Translation]
Paul Brimmer, the American Ruler of Iraq, said the American
forces are facing organized resistance from loyalists to the
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deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, who are getting
involved, as he says, in what he called sheer political sabotage
operations. [ash-sharq al-awsat]
20
... .s¡, _.ii i.¸ii _. t,t., ¸ii _. _.ts:ii ,.., ,¸.i _¸,s¸,.Yi ,¸.,ii .,.
_.i¸sii ¸,.¸ii ,tL. _tL.ii _,.. ,i.. ., .
[Translation]
[…] at the time when the American soldiers are asserting that they
are about to deal with the remnants of the regime of the toppled
Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.
Let us now consider how English media framed the event.
From only a short distance away, the toppled Iraqi president
coldly watches witnesses testify about unspeakable torture under
his regime. At times Hussein's rage forces him to his feet and a
judge orders guards to silence him. [CNN, December 5, 2005]
21
The New York Times first reported the withdrawal saying
Saddam's son Qusay and one of the toppled Iraqi president's
personal assistants, Abid al-Hamid Mahmood, carried a letter
from Saddam authorising the huge cash removal. [The Guardian,
May 6, 2003]
22

The chief lawyer for deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein
says he has been denied access to his client for the first time in
more than a year. [BBC, 5 February 2006]
23

Ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is in custody following
his dramatic capture by US forces in Iraq. [BBC, 14 December
2003]
24

In recent newscasts, Aljazeera opted for “the former Iraqi president”, a
more neutral descriptor, thus creating a new semantic frame.
Truth in News Translation
Generally, journalism is often seen as the pursuit of truth. However, as
Windschuttle (1997) explores, this view is not widely held, and the belief
that journalism can report the world truthfully and objectively is
considered by various scholars not only wrong but naïve. To a large
extent, this is an indirect admission of the numerous constraints imposed
on the process of news reporting. Arguing against this view, Windschuttle
contends that “the claim that journalism is a pursuit of truth and an
attempt to report what really happens is not refuted by the fact that many
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journalists often fail to achieve these goals. It is obvious that there are
good and bad journalists just as there are good and bad scientists, doctors
and builders. One of the most common fallacies made by contemporary
media criticism is to draw from the premise that some reporting is
misleading and inadequate, the conclusion that all reporting is misleading
and inadequate, or even more fallaciously, that news reporting is
inherently misleading and inadequate” (Windschuttle, 1997:5) [emphasis
in original].
By the same token, the famous Italian proverb “traduttori, tradittori”
(translators, traitors) is essentially an admission of the limitation of
translation in conveying the truth of the original message. In his book
About Translation, Newmark (1991) decrees that translation “is
concerned with moral and factual truth. This truth can be effectively
rendered if it is grasped by the reader, and that is the purpose and the end
of translation” (Newmark, 1991:1). However, this is not any easy goal to
achieve. As BeDuhn (2003) contends, accurate, unbiased translations are
based on three major factors: linguistic content, literary context and
cultural environment. “The very same three things are consulted to assess
a translation once it is done” (xvi).
Finally, neither journalism nor translation is an exact science. Both belong
to human behaviour, and human behaviour is the least exact. Human
behaviour is complex, adaptive, unpredictable and individual. However,
human behaviour can be organized, rationalized and controlled. This will
vary from individual to individual and from situation to another. No two
individuals are the same. Different individuals acquire languages
differently, and languages are dynamic and constantly changing in
response to the changing environment. Moreover, apart from their
inherent structural and developmental differences, in interlingual
interaction, languages converge and diverge on a continuum of proximity.
Yet pursuit of truth in translation is predicated on the notion that
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translation is a rational, objective-driven, result-focused process that
yields a product meeting a set of specifications, tacit or expressed, and not
a haphazard activity (Darwish, 2003)— and mechanisms must be found to
ensure the process remains under control.
As Wolfgang Iser (2000) maintains, “each interpretation transposes
something into something else” (5). Interpretation is primarily a form of
translatability, Iser confirms, and as such, interpretation is bound to be
different in three situations: (1) when different types of texts are
transposed into other types, (2) when cultures or cultural levels are
translated into terms that allow for an exchange between what is foreign
and what is familiar, and (3) “when incommensurabilities, such as God,
the world, and human kind—which are neither textual nor scripted—are
translated into language for the purpose of grasping and subsequently
comprehending them” (6).
Furthermore, translators and or translation-journalists work under the
same conditions, influences and constraints, and their work is essentially
an act of interpretation, which is an act of translatability, to adopt Iser’s
view. In news translation in particular, the interplay of all of these factors
and variables is more pronounced, intense, immediate and complex.
Applying the three-tier model
A serious example of erroneous translations is the initial rendition by
Arabic media networks of the US President George W. Bush’s reportedly
improvised phrase “crusade” in the aftermath of September 11, 2001
terrorist attacks as a “Cross-ade War”
25
, which has framed the US
response ever since in the minds of viewers of these Arabic networks. The
translation-mediated framing of the President’s message forced the White
House to explain the pragmatic aspects of the usage of the term “crusade”,
with a small “c” rather than “Crusade” with a capital “C”. In a damage-
control exercise, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer soon
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afterwards told reporters that President Bush only meant to say that this is
a "broad cause" to stamp out terrorism worldwide.
"I think to the degree that that word has many connotations that
would upset many of our partners or anybody else in the world,
the president would regret if anything like that was conveyed. But
the purpose of his conveying it is in the traditional English sense
of the word, it's a broad cause," said Fleischer. [source: Newsday,
Inc.]
Other examples do not have immediate reactions as this one, but the
incremental effect contributes to the reframing of the original message.
Consider the following excerpt from the British Prime Minister Tony
Blair’s statement on the brutal killing of British hostage Ken Bigley in
Iraq, aired on Aljazeera in October 2004 and the Arabic translation
voiceover.
Original English text:
I feel desperately sorry for Ken Bigley, for his family, who have
behaved with extraordinary dignity and courage. I feel utter
revulsion at the people who did this, not at the barbaric nature of
the killing, but the way frankly they played with the situation in
the past few weeks.
Arabic voiceover:
aªtÁ–m É™®x ‰Š•Ê€ Ž¯_`m Ž•‘bp a••tª £t°Ëˆ_ ¹bˆª Ì°Ëp Š“–€ .. [•¯§ˆp Š“–€m
d_e `o•“{ cv„_` Ít§_` ¶ŒÎ… ¶`šf š`¾Ïˆ–Œ` . tˆ_ avŠpŠ®_` a“b®º_` —®|p zg{ ²b_
€ d_e t•p `o•“{ Ž¯_` agvŠº•_ Ét•v€ ci_m ~”b•ª `ouk‚ .
Back translation:
I feel deep sorrow for the tragedy of Bigley’s family who showed
nobility and courage. I feel utter disgust towards those people who
did this, not because of the barbaric nature of what they
committed, but the way they did it.
Here, we can immediately see the extent of reframing that has taken place
in the translation, which is inaccurate, imprecise and stripped off its
original rhetorical effects. Most serious is the shift in focus from the
victim, the man who lost his life, to the tragedy of his family (sorrow for
the tragedy of Bigley’s family). There is no mention of “Ken Bigley” in
the translation. Moreover, the expression “they played with the situation”
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is rendered as “the way they did it”. These infelicities can be
summarised in the following Translation Analysis template.
Semiotic Source
IJKLMN OPQR STUVW XYZ[N X\]^_ I\`KJ aKbcdZ e^dJ fbc_ TgMW .. hUYid_ TgMWN
jZk [l\gm nopZ[ qKiZ[ rstu r[vw v[xydMs[ . QZ[ Ig^Q}Z[ ~Q•_ €•m ‚^Z [lz{|W KdZ IoT_T
jZk KU_ [l\gm XYZ[ I•oT}\Z OKƒoW n„ZN …†^\J .
Original Text I feel desperately sorry for Ken Bigley, for his family, who have behaved with extraordinary
dignity and courage. I feel utter revulsion at the people who did this, not at the barbaric nature
of the killing, but the way frankly they played with the situation in the past few weeks.
Back Translation I feel deep sorrow for the tragedy of Bigley’s family who showed nobility and courage. I feel
extreme disgust towards those people who did that, not because of the barbaric nature of what
they committed, but the way they did that.
Analysis
Norm
Constraint Lexical x Semantic x Pragmatic x Rhetorical x
Model Tier Primary x Operative Interpretive x Ideological
Type of Translation
Operation
Direct Matching Interventional
Assessment Lexical constraints dictated by collocations in the source text (for example, desperately sorry)
seem to be the cause of operating at the operative level.
Cultural Frame
The following recent example further illustrates the risks of news
mistranslation.
Figure 18— Iran Bans CNN or Translation Error [Source: Bloomberg, January
16, 2006]
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Moreover, as I have discussed elsewhere (Darwish, 1998, 2001, 2003,
2004, 2005), translation is at best a process of approximation where two
systems of approximates—individual and general—coexist and
sometimes compete. On the individual level, these approximates; lexical,
syntactic, semantic and pragmatic, are dependent on the individual’s own
competence and system of classification. On the general level, a speech
community may choose by convention to adopt a system of approximates
that filters through to the individual system of approximates. Sometimes,
there are irreconcilable differences between the two systems. In cross-
lingual mediated communication, the translation act is always an act of
intervention to reconcile these two systems of approximates. Excluding
individual differences among translators in terms of competence and
performance, the process is subject to the laws of relativity, optimality
and approximation.
Again, while translation is an attempt to communicate aspects of the
original message in another language, it is not immune to the translator-
writer’s idiosyncratic features of style, diction and convictions. These will
be brought to bear on any rendition, motivated or otherwise, and which
play a crucial role in the extent of loss, interference and perspective of the
translation.
It is therefore necessary for journalists, news producers, news translators
and translation educators to forge an understanding of the relationship
between translation and news framing in order to define, develop and
employ effective translation strategies that ensure objectivity of news
reporting, or at least raise awareness of the potential risks of translation to
news framing.
Fairclough (2003:8) argues that texts have immediate causal effects in
that they bring about changes in our knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, values
and so on, and long-term causal effects. It can also be argued that by
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subjecting text to the translation process, there is the possibility of
introducing new causal effects that are not intended in the original text.
Conclusion
Straddling tradition and modernization, Aljazeera has set out to be
something different. With a clear agenda to lead the Arab world into the
twenty-first century and a dream of western-style democracy, it has for
the main part managed to strike a balance between two opposite poles.
However, its overnight rise to fame in the aftermath of the September 11,
2001 terrorist attacks and US-led war on the Taliban regime in
Afghanistan that followed, has forced other countries in the Middle East
to set up their own copycats— a case in point is the launch of the Dubai-
based Al-Arabiya in March 2003. This has placed a great deal of demand
on these Arabic satellite television stations to vie for influence as
international Arab media players and as presumed regional
democratization and normalization agents in the Arab world.
Consequently, these television stations have experienced a marked
increase in news and current affairs programs that rely on juxtaposing
different and contrastive views of East and West. These networks have
been quickly pressed into service to provide live world-class news and
current affairs programs, and have been undergoing a process of
refinement, adjustment and sometimes spells of atavism.
While there are similarities between Aljazeera and Al-Arabiya in terms of
news production and presentation, there are also stark differences in the
way they frame the news. For example, in their recent coverage of
Saddam Hussein’s trial, Aljazeera has referred to Saddam as “the former
Iraqi president”, while Al-Arabiya as “the deposed Iraqi president”,
despite the fact that both channels have used the same news feeds
provided by the international news agencies and despite their claim to
objective and unbiased reporting. There are also serious discrepancies
within the same television channel across news stories, indicating internal
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inconsistency of editorial policies and that the concept of framing and
translation-induced framing is not fully understood, discussed or
addressed. For the Arabic news media, the definition of truth seems to be
a viscous one depending on the duty editor. Ironically, Al-Arabiya’s
slogan is: “Al-Arabiya keeps you closer to the truth”.
Nonetheless, in their over-reliance on translations of news from
international providers, these television networks are contributing to the
reframing of news events and creating information and cultural misfits,
often unintended by the original sources and sometimes unwelcome by
the intended viewers. Over-reliance on translation as the main source of
information is certainly a major contributor to the creation of target
language news frames.
Notes

1
http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/ctccs/research/tgn/events/tgn/.
2
Quoted in McFarlane, J. (1953). Modes of Translation. The Durham University Journal. Vol XLV,
No 3. June 1053. UK.
3
The influence of global media processes has certainly caused linguistic shifts in English speaking
countries. Evidently, the impact of these processes on non-English speaking countries is different and
is still very little understood, especially in the case of Arabic. American English remains part of the
body of the English language and its logic and the fact that English speaking countries have adopted
Americanisms has no relation to the effects of English on other languages, especially Arabic.
4
Quotation from Globalization: A Very Short Introduction by Manfred B. Steger (2003:2).
5
From the title of a poem by Marianne Moore (1887 - 1972).
6
Darwish, A. (2003). The Transfer Factor. Writescope: Melbourne. 128-129.
7
Darwish, A. (2003). The Transfer Factor. Writescope: Melbourne.
8
Source: http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0510/19/lol.02.html. Accessed February 16, 2006.
9
Source:http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/12/15/1071336846380.html?from=storyrhs. Accessed
February 16, 2006.
10
Source: http://www.etan.org/news/2001a/10mcnr.htm. Accessed February 16, 2006.
11
Source: http://www.fas.org/irp/fbis/riddel.html.
12
A PowerPoint presentation by the author (2004). The illustration is developed by the author
specifically for this thesis. www.translocutions.com/translation/seven_standards_translation_new.pdf
13
http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/4B3ABFB8-9082-4B05-B399-7BF68D4A39D6.htm
14
http://www.usatoday.com/life/columnist/mediamix/2004-07-18-media-mix_x.htm
15
http://www.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/22C26017-A9C5-4A97-BE3B-1C1845968113.htm
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16
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low/south_asia/7000120.stm
17
http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSISL1129520070918?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNe
ws
18
Source: al-Hayat online: http://www.daralhayat.com/arab_news/levant_news/01-2006/Item-
20060131-22115bd6-c0a8-10ed-0013-5f0aeba0db69/story.html
19
Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/arabic/news/newsid_2985000/2985222.stm
20
Source: ash-sharq al-awsat. http://www.asharqalawsat.com/sections.asp?section=4&issue=9169
21
Source: http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/meast/12/05/robertson/
22
Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,950307,00.html
23
Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4684238.stm
24
Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3317429.stm
25
The conventional Arabic translation of “Crusade war” is “harb salibiyyah” ( . .... ,I. ,¸ ... ,, .... . ), which
literally translates into English as: “cross- + (attributive article meaning) pertaining war”.
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Chapter 5
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In this chapter:
Overview
Epistemic Knowledge versus Linguistic Knowledge
Translation-induced metaphoric shift
Waking the dead and dormant metaphors
Metaphoric imperialism
Metaphor, collocation and the clash of domains
Metaphor and genitives
Reductive and Summative Metaphors
Euphemism, dysphemism and socio-cultural circumlocution
Verticality
Sensory-perceptual epistemic inference
Sources of Influence and Normalization

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Aims
This chapter presents a discussion of salient features of translation-
mediated reframing of Arabic news broadcasts transmitted by Aljazeera
and other Arabic satellite television channels. It aims to identify the
relationship between the linguistic and epistemic realities of news
discourse in the translation-mediated process of reframing, focusing on
the dissonance that this kind of mediation causes between the
epistemic and linguistic knowledge as embodied in the discourse of
news broadcasts. This chapter takes a different approach to the
discussion of framing and reframing in that it focuses on cognitive
dissonance as a psychological state of contradictory cognition of the
same reality expressed in two different languages, which creates
discourse that contributes to sociocultural change.
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Overview
Modern languages have developed linguistic patterns that are often in
consonance with the epistemic knowledge of the world. For the main part,
epistemic knowledge is inferred from such linguistic patterns and when
dissonance occurs between linguistic and epistemic inferences, language
compensates by utilizing certain linguistic patterns and rhetorical
techniques to realign linguistic and epistemic realities. For example, the
English hypothetical conditional antecedent "If I were you" is a
compensatory linguistic technique to achieve concordance between
linguistic and epistemic inferences when it is physically impossible for
one person to be another person physically. Languages differ in their
linguistic representation of epistemic knowledge and when any two
languages are juxtaposed, they are bound to produce cognitive dissonance
due to the disagreement that ensues between the linguistic forms within
the language pair used to express the same epistemic phenomena. Left
irreconciled, such infelicities are bound to change the shared experience
of a speech community or surreptitiously reconstitute its social and
cultural model.
This chapter examines aspects of translation-induced dissonance in
linguistic and epistemic inference and aspects of reframing that such
dissonance creates in translated newscasts and argues that translation
mediation is a primary causative factor of dissonance that plays a major
role in reframing news items, not just immediately but also incrementally
over time.
This chapter draws on examples from Arabic news and current affairs
corpus of the Aljazeera satellite television network.

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Epistemic Knowledge versus Linguistic Knowledge
Our knowledge of the world’s phenomena is often expressed in linguistic-
epistemic forms that express these phenomena metaphorically or define
them conventionally. As our knowledge of these phenomena changes
through discovery and scientific enquiry, a shift in the epistemic
definitions of these phenomena occurs causing dissonance with the
epistemic forms used to express them linguistically. Other epistemic
forms may include pictorial and audio-visual representations of epistemic
knowledge. Sherry and Trigg (1996:38) define epistemic forms as models
of information. “An epistemic form is a target structure that guides the
inquiry process. It shows how knowledge is organized or concepts are
classified, as well as illustrating the relationships among the different
facts and concepts being learned”.
1
Epistemic forms include charts, maps,
process flows, that visually organize information.
Figure 19— Pictorial Representation of Epistemic Reality (Picasso, Girl before a
Mirror)
2
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Translation-induced metaphoric shift
When epistemic shifts occur, the linguistic patterns in most situations do
not concur with the epistemic knowledge. For example, “the sun rises” is
a linguistic form that originally described a natural phenomenon as
observed by people who understood it that way. While our knowledge of
this phenomenon has changed—that is, we now know that the sun does
not rise—the epistemic form remains in use. To avoid this dissonance
between our epistemic knowledge and linguistically represented epistemic
form, the form is transferred into a metaphor that invokes a perceptual and
cognitive representation consistent with the new epistemic reality, which
for all intents and purposes may be in disagreement with its ontic nature.
3
Consequently, metaphors act as re-constitutive epistemic forms that
reconcile linguistic and epistemic realities. When such reconciliation
occurs, metaphors become dead or dormant metaphors—they lose the
idea or phenomenon they initially denoted. A good example of such
metaphors is the term “heartburn”, once believed to be related to ailments
of the heart, and now known to have nothing to do with the heart. Yet we
continue to use the term metaphorically to refer to the burning sensation
in the stomach.
Heartburn (n) an uneasy burning sensation in the stomach,
typically extending toward the esophagus, and sometimes
associated with the eructation of an acid fluid. [American
Heritage Dictionary]
However, readjustment does not happen right away and a metaphoric lag
persists until the cognitive epistemic schema is reset. Only then does
complete reconciliation take place. This is an important aspect of
metaphors because “their meanings (the ground of the metaphor) are
captured by terms that are not lexically related to the lexical items in the
metaphors” (Hasson and Glucksberg, 2005: 4). This property of
metaphors makes them susceptible to epistemic shifts, when subjected to
a translation process that focuses on the lexical items of the metaphor
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rather than on the terms that are related to the meaning of the metaphor.
The following figure illustrates this dynamic nature of metaphors.
Figure 20— Smoking Gun Metaphor: the terms that are related to the meaning of
the metaphor
4
In this connection, Searle (reported in Johnson, 1987) contends that
“every literal utterance ultimately presupposes a nonrepresentational,
nonpropositional, preintentional “Background” of capacities, skills, and
stances in order to determine its condition of satisfaction. The meaning of
any metaphor will be determined only against a preintentional background
that cannot be represented propositionally” (Johnson, 1987:72).
Reinforcing this notion of metaphor, Benzon and Hays (1987) make a
distinction between physiognomic and propositional representations as
one between a photograph of a scene and a verbal description of the
scene. They argue that the filtering or extraction process which underlies
metaphor, which in the context of our discussion creates consonance
between two types of epistemic representation, “is fundamentally one
involving physiognomic representations. The linguistic form of the
metaphor is propositional. Hence metaphor is a device for regulating the
interaction of propositional and physiognomic representations, that is to
say, for recognition” (59), and subsequently for creating or restoring
consonance between the epistemic and linguistic realities.
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This semiotic status of metaphors, according to Hatim and Mason
(1990:69), constitutes the crucial factor in deciding how a metaphor
should be translated, since metaphoric use of language invariably conveys
additional meaning. “Solutions to problems of translating metaphor
should, in the first instance, be related to rhetorical function” (Hatim and
Mason, 1990:233), and should seek to understand the “writer’s whole
world-view” (4). This world view is actually the epistemic reality which
is for the main part in congruence with the linguistic reality as expressed
by the chosen epistemic form of metaphor and with the epistemic schema.
Waking the dead and dormant metaphors
The purpose of metaphor, according to Newmark (1988) is twofold:
cognitive-referential and aesthetic-pragmatic. “Its referential purpose is to
describe a mental process or state, a concept, a person, an object, a quality
or an action more comprehensively and concisely than is possible in
literal or physical language; its pragmatic purpose, which is simultaneous,
is to appeal to the senses, to interest, to clarify ‘graphically’, to please, to
delight, to surprise” (Newmark, 1988:104). However, beyond their textual
considerations, one of the functions of metaphors, according to Kövecses
(2000:17), is that they “can actually “create,” or constitute social, cultural,
and psychological realities for us”. Kövecses contends that conceptual
metaphors do not simply reflect cultural models; they are in fact
constitutive of cultural models. It can be argued however, that metaphors
do both. For a child, for example, hearing the metaphors constructs the
model; for an adult, hearing and using the metaphor reflects and
constitutes the model for others.
Based on this constitutive view of metaphor, culturally bound metaphors
that seek to align these realities are particularly problematic in translation.
Applying the three-tier model outlined earlier in this thesis, whichever is
the level of operation, the translation of these metaphors is bound to frame
the original message in a way that is not intended in the source text. For
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instance, take the verb (create) in English and its metaphoric sense of
“make, invent”, as in “create a peaceful environment”, “create web
pages”, “create an illusion”, and so on. The Arabic counterpart for the
verb “create”, (¹•-) (khalaqa), which means (1) “to create or cause to
come into being from nothing”, (2) “fabricate; fake”, and (3) “to assess or
evaluate” [old usage], is usually an attribute of God in sense (1). In
translating English expressions comprising the word “create” into Arabic,
dissonance between the epistemic knowledge and linguistic form occurs,
which is increasingly left irreconciled in daily usage of both the colloquial
and standard forms, causing cognitive dissonance in alert minds when
encountered, gradually changing the frequency, currency and
foregrounding of the primary and secondary meanings of the verb and
eventually causing metaphoric shift. Operating at the primary level and
applying an absolute literal translation, Arabic news editors and
translators at Aljazeera and elsewhere are contributing to the framing of
metaphors in such a dissonant manner. The concern here is not merely
with how the original message is reframed to produce a certain primary
interpretation by the audience, but rather with the social semiotics of such
reframing and its compounded and incremental effects on the thought
patterns and cognitive schemata of the recipients.
Another example of this kind of dissonance is the Arabic translation of
the word (astronomical) in the sense of “extremely large; exceedingly
great; enormous”, as (abi•{) (falakiyyah) in the sense of “pertaining to
astronomy”, a rendition no less moronic and retarded than the Arabic
rendition of (create) which has been obstinately circulated and repeated by
Arabic media producers and news editors. In this example, the concrete
sense of the word (falakiyyah) is reversed, producing faulty metaphors.
Faulty metaphors resulting in metaphoric shifts cause cultural and
linguistic changes and mismatches of shared experience among members
of the same speech community. When this happens, the likelihood of
communication breakdown or misunderstanding increases.
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1.1 .‰t“‚o¯_` ¨o^¬ abi•{ ros€
1.1a ujurun falakiyyah tafuqu at-tawaqqu’at.
1.1b Astronomical wages exceed expectations.
1.1c Pertaining to astronomy wages exceed expectations.
The problem with this infelicitous metaphor is that the word (falakiyyah)
does not invoke the same (back)ground meaning of (as considerable as the
vastness of the universe) as its English counterpart in the same context. It
always invariably refers to astronomy in its epistemic reference to “outer
space, especially the positions, dimensions, distribution, motion,
composition, energy, and evolution of celestial bodies and phenomena”
5
.
Another example of metaphoric shift occurs when a source language
metaphor is erroneously translated to produce a different pragmatic
application of the translationally reproduced metaphor. For example, the
idiomatic expression (to break the ice) has been translated into Arabic
verbatim as (kb•Á_` Š|y) (kasru al-jalid) and is now being used in quite a
different fashion from its English counterpart.
Break the ice: (1) make people who have not met before feel
more relaxed with each other. (2) start a conversation with
someone you have not met before. (3) make a start, pave the way
Normally Arabic would loosely express the same notion with a similar
metaphor
6
that emphasizes the state, condition or action of the object
rather than the object itself as in (2.1).
2.1 ,¸.,ii ¸.s
2.1a kasru al-jumud.
2.1b To break the freeze.
The word (jumud/•oˆs) means freeze, solidity and by extension, standstill.
The rendition in (2.1) is normally used in sense (3) of break the ice.
However, the new metaphor is used in senses (1) and (2) however in
situations where breaking the ice is not called for. This is a clear case of
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compounded linguistic-epistemic dissonance. Consider the following
example.
2.2
_i¦ ¸.Yi ..I, i¸:.i " .,I,ii ¸.s " .s¸t±.ii t¸i _,. _:ii .i¸LYi _,,
_.L¸ii ¸i¸.it, _I. _t.:Yi¸ " .,.,.¦ ...z " ...
2.2a Yesterdays session ended (up) in “breaking the ice” between
the parties that have previously participated in the national
dialogue and in agreeing to a “media truce”.
7
Example (2.2), which describes aspects of the current Lebanese political
crisis, is typical of this infelicitous usage of “breaking the ice”. Breaking
the ice usually happens between total strangers and not with bedfellow
politicians who have had rounds and rounds of private talks and
discussions and vicious and flagrant mud slinging matches in public and
in the media. It is rather ironic that in a region, where the next war is
predicted to be over water and where whatever is left of its water
resources is rapidly drying up or filling with refuse, that such an
expression (break the ice) is insanely spreading in media and political
circles and fatuously parroted by laypeople at large. As a point of interest,
Flavell and Flavell (1992) trace the origin of this metaphor to Europe:
“This idiom is at least five hundred years old. It is not unique to
English, but it is found in other European languages also. The
allusion is thought to be to the hard ice that formed on European
rivers in severe winters centuries ago. In years gone by it was
indeed possible to skate on the Thames. But ice was not enjoyed
by those whose livelihood depended on plying a small boat up and
down the river. Their first task was that of breaking it up so that
work could begin.
Originally the expression was used to mean just that, making a
start on a project. Gradually it came to mean embarking upon a
relationship and breaking down the natural reserve one feels in the
presence of strangers [emphasis added]” (Flavell & Flavell,
1992:113).
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This is definitely an alien metaphor culturally and geographically. So, to
go back to example (2.2), if (break the ice) is used in the sense of “making
a start”, then why “break the ice between the parties”? If it is used in the
sense of “breaking down the natural reserve one feels in the presence of
strangers”, these seasoned politicians are no strangers to one another and
have the temerity, audacity and brazenness to conduct any meeting with
anybody in the same manner as they have reportedly run down the
country and brought it to ruins. Long before the advent of Arabic satellite
television and the rise to prominence of inept translators, journalists and
copycat news editors, the expression (a^•i_` ¿{r) (raf’u al-kulfa) had been
naturally used in this context. This expression literally means (to lift the
shyness). The word (kulfa) is an interesting one because it has
compounded conceptual and metaphorical meanings: (1) unusual redness
of the face, sometimes associated with bashfulness, (2) discomfort and
inconvenience, which may result in redness of the face, (3) formality,
which implies redness of the face because of discomfort or shyness,
which sometimes occurs when meeting total strangers, and (4) outlay or
cost; and since cost is sometimes associated with discomfort and
discomfort with redness of the face, it makes perfect sense to express the
notion of (break the ice) in a manner that is native to the environment and
culture where ice does not occupy a large area of consciousness. So when
one “lifts kulfa”, in this context, one removes formality, discomfort and
inconvenience.
To this end, Casnig (2003) contends that “[a] metaphor's only cause of
death is the acceptance of its poetic meaning into the normal vocabulary
of the host language. It is difficult to clearly distinguish the living
metaphor from the dead because a language is dynamic, and
individualistic – and therefore never a singularity. If one has never heard a
given word in a specific metaphorical context, they will more likely see it
as a living metaphor; where one who has accepted the use of this word in
this same context as normal, will not likely identify it as a metaphor at
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all”.
8
Furthermore, Grey (2000) confirms that “[t]he difference between
live and dead metaphor is that dead metaphor is just an ordinary part of
our literal vocabulary and quite properly not regarded as metaphor at
all”.
9
Grey also reminds us of an intermediate category of metaphors:
dormant metaphors which consist of expressions “which we use without
being conscious of their metaphorical character, but if we attend to them
we can see at once that they [are] unmistakable metaphors. These are
metaphors in the process of expiring”, but they can be easily revived.
10

Consequently, a dead or dormant metaphor in one language may translate
into a live metaphor or a live metaphor into a dead or dormant metaphor
in another causing major epistemic dissonance. Furthermore, most
discussion of metaphor has assumed a progression from live metaphor to
dead metaphor. But not all metaphors start out as live metaphors and they
then die or become dormant and so on. Certain metaphors start out as
concrete, physical expressions of epistemic reality, as in our earlier
example of “the sun rises”. Both the pre-metaphoric state of expression
and the metaphoric lifecycle (pre-metaphoric, metaphoric, and post-
metaphoric) are not necessarily in full correspondence across languages
and cultures.
Furthermore, regardless of the translation strategy or level of operation
(within the three-tier model), once a metaphor in one language is
transplanted in another, the potential of the metaphor losing its nexus to
the original meanings and applications in its native environment and
taking on a life of its own in the host environment is real, as illustrated in
(2.2) and in the following examples.
2.3
_¸s:. _z it,ti:.Yi _. ¸.sii _¸i.ii ) .,t,¸ii _.. ( _. ts,¸.ì ,t..;
·_.i¸sii _..:..ii
2.3a
Will the elections be the hard way out of the “bottleneck” to
save America from the Iraqi quagmire?
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2.4
Yi .L±.ì ¸,i _. .,,¸sii .sIii¸ ,itLii _,, ..:ii ¸¸., .t., .:,t..ii¸ ¸t.:
¸¸.ii it.t. _. ..I:i.ii .
2.4a
Building bridges of the trust between the student and Arabic
language through various communication and conversation
activities in the classrooms.
In example (2.3), it is not clear whether parenthesizing bottleneck is
motivated by the awkwardness of usage or presumed newness of the
metaphor. But it is clear from the combination of (bottleneck) and
(quagmire) and the missing (or implied) subject of the metaphor
(bottleneck) that the latter metaphor is applied incorrectly. One picture
that this metaphor might evoke when linked to the (quagmire) metaphor
in this sentence is that the (quagmire) has a (bottleneck), which further
illustrates the confused application of the metaphor (bottleneck). In
example (2.4), using the metaphor (building bridges of trust) “between
students and the Arabic language” is a clear case of a metaphor gone
awry, since bridges of trust are normally metaphorically built between
individuals or between corporal entities.
Metaphoric imperialism
Lakoff and Johnson (1980) have argued that our conceptual system “plays
a central role in defining our everyday realities” (3). It is fundamentally
metaphorical in nature and essentially culturally based. Making several
observations on the role of metaphors in defining the structures of our
daily activities, Lakoff and Johnson confirm that our metaphor-based
conceptual system governs our everyday functioning, down to the most
mundane details. Consequently, metaphors act as social framers. In this
regard, Phillipson (1992) alludes to the imposition of new mental
structures in language contact. He asserts the following.
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“What is at stake when English spreads is not merely the
substitution or displacement of one language by another but the
imposition of new ‘mental structures’ through English”
(Phillipson, 1992:166).
Elsewhere, he argues that asymmetrical interaction is a central feature of
such imposition of imperialist structure as can be clearly seen in what he
terms “media imperialism”, one of the branches of cultural imperialism
(Phillipson, 1992:61). This downward asymmetrical interaction is
nowhere more obvious than in news media translation, and more
specifically in Arabic satellite television. Culturally dissonant metaphors
are creeping into the language and are defining and redefining viewers’
mental structures and world views. In this connection, undoubtedly, the
idiom (carrot and stick) is a culture-specific condescending, downward
expression. It is always used in reference to a higher authority or a
domineering power enticing and threatening a subordinate group,
community or nation. It is unheard of for example to say: “the trade union
is resorting to a carrot and stick policy to secure wage increases”, or “Iran
is using carrot and stick diplomacy in its negotiations with the US and
Europe over its nuclear energy program”. Yet this culturally dissonant
metaphor seems to be used ad nauseum in both Arabic media and politics.
Most Arab journalists use it without a second thought. This kind of
stubborn insistence on absent-minded, politically and intellectually inept
journalism is unwittingly causing a metaphoric shift in Arabic that smacks
of linguistic imperialism, or more accurately social and cultural
submissiveness through metaphoric acculturation. Not only are the
journalists adopting faulty metaphors, but they are also importing
culturally dissonant ones and they seem to be at home with the
obsequious roles such downward metaphors define for them. By
collectively indulging in this practice, they are unwittingly embracing the
linguistic forms of social and cultural subordination models, which
compound the problems of already repressive social, political and cultural
systems.
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2.4
¸.ì _i¸¸L i.sì _ì ..t,. " s¸¸,ii¸ t.sii " ,¸sii t¸..i:., _:ii t¸.t..;
t¸,I. ,¸s.. ..t..ii .,¸¸.ii t¸:tLt±. ..¸, _t.i;t, .
2.4a
Tehran stressed yesterday that the “stick and carrot” policy
which the West is using to convince it to stop its sensitive
nuclear activities is doomed to fail.
11

Eleanor Roosevelt has been quoted as saying, “No one can insult you
without your permission”. From a social semiotics viewpoint, metaphors
such as this one (carrot and stick) are indicative of subservience, deeply
ingrained in the psychological and social makeup of those who adopt
them without adjustment. It is wholly reasonable to expect that over time,
these metaphors of subservience cause a social and cultural shift through
the imposition of new mental structures and epistemic realities.
Another role- and relationship-defining metaphor that seems to have equal
appeal to Arab journalists and political commentators, and which is used
mindlessly in Arabic news, is the metaphor (a game of cat and mouse).
This English metaphor is usually used to describe a situation where one
person is more powerful than another and uses this advantage in a cruel or
unfair way. Yet it seems these journalists are oblivious of this skewed
relationship of cops and robbers, heroes and villains, cowboys and
Indians, which the metaphor establishes to the extent of reinforcing
submissiveness and acceptance of an imported, inappropriate cultural
superiority model. Here, Bugs Bunny always defeats Daffy Duck, Road
Runner outmaneuvers the resourceful and tenacious Wile E. Coyote, the
dumb Tweety Bird outsmarts Sylvester the Cat, and Chuck Norris, with
one bullet and a broken leg, overruns the clumsy and squint Arab and
Vietnamese terrorists, who cannot for all the evil in their hearts shoot
straight, where the forces of nature and laws of physics work in cahoots,
being invariably bent and broken to favour the superior man, and where a
feeling of injustice rankles in the hearts of the viewers or those reacting to
this model with some sense of justice.
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2.5
..,Iii it,¸i¸ì ¸¸. .,.,¸Yi ,i¸.Yi¸ ..¸s.ii _,, ¸i.ii¸ L.ii .,si iì.,
.s¸:±.ii .
2.5a The game of cat and mouse has started between the Jordanian
government and [political] parties over the priorities of the
joint committee.
2.6
: _i¸¸L¸ _L.±i¸ _ì ¸.,, ¸.iii ¸¸.ii it.t.:,i _ì¸ .¸i.ii¸ L.ii .,si _t,sI
.,sIii ,¸¸i .,¸¸¸.ii _.t.¸ii _.. _. i:t, .
2.6a
It seems that Washington and Tehran are playing the game of cat
and mouse and that the meetings of the five countries have become
part of the necessary means required for the game.
In these examples, the epistemic reality is defined by the metaphor (a
game of cat and mouse). In the logical progression of the sentences, the
cat and mouse tally with the Jordanian government (the cat) and parties
(the mouse) in example (2.5) and Washington (the cat) and Tehran (the
mouse). This rhetorical matching is not always adhered to and cognitive
dissonance ensues between the epistemic reality of the metaphor and the
linguistic reality. Consider the following examples.
2.7
.,.I,ii¸ _,i¸,:.ii ..t,ii _,, ¸i.ii¸ L.ii .,si _¸:.: _:. ·
2.7a
When will the game of cat and mouse between the peddlers and the
municipality end?

2.8
¸.t¸ii i.z t¸,. .,¸, _:ii its.:,.ii _. t.t,.ì .¸i.ii¸ L.ii .,si t.,ì Jt.z
s.ii¸ ..t..ii _,, .s¸.Ii ..¸ ...
2.8a
There is also the game of cat and mouse, sometimes in societies
that have this margin of movement [leeway] between the press and
the government.
The sequence in both examples requires additional cognitive acrobatics to
link the cat to the municipality and mouse to the peddlers in example (2.7)
and the cat to the government and the mouse to the press in example (2.8).
This may be a moot point, but it shows how the epistemic reality of the
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parts of the metaphor is organized in the writer’s mind or epistemic
schema in each instance.
Table 5—Cat and Mouse Metaphor Application
Example Tenor Vehicle Dimension
2.6 Municipality Cat Chase, harass, bully, intimidate
Peddlers Mouse Chased, harassed, bullied,
intimidated
2.7 Government Cat Chase, harass, bully, intimidate,
coerce
Press Mouse Chased, harassed, bullied,
intimidated, coerced
As Lakoff and Johnson (1980) again suggest, “[m]etaphors may create
realities for us, especially social realities. A metaphor may thus be a guide
for future action. Such actions will, of course, fit the metaphor. This will,
in turn, reinforce the power of the metaphor to make experience coherent.
In this sense metaphors can be self-fulfilling prophecies”(156).
Consequently, a submissive metaphor will reinforce submissiveness and a
defeat metaphor will engender defeatism.
Boorstin (1993) argues that peoples cannot be expected to share the
intellectual product of a certain nation if they have not shared the
processes from which it came. Calling for encouraging peoples of the
world to make their own metaphors, Boorstin, asks: “How does it benefit
the world when people freeze the metaphors of alien history into
ideology? For ideology itself is a contradiction and denial of man’s
endless powers of novelty and change which are suggested by the very
idea of progress”. The carrot and stick metaphor is one such metaphor that
is turning into ideology. If the Internet is anything to go by, a search in
Google for “carrot and stick” returns around 445,000 results.
Such metaphoric infelicities are seldom encountered in borrowings or
transfers from other languages say into English in the normal course of
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knowledge transfer. For instance, when the then Egyptian foreign minister
and current general secretary of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, told a
press conference at Sharm al-Shaikh in Egypt in October 2000 that “the
position of the Arab countries towards Israel is clear” in Arabic ( ›mk_` Ì‚ou
cu abpŠ“_` Ñ¢`m †b•`Š°f ), the interpreter conveyed this statement in English
as: “the attitude of the Arab countries towards Israel is clear”. With no
access to the Arabic utterance, the CNN reporter relayed the interpreter’s
rendition in English as: “the position of the Arab countries towards Israeli
is clear”. This immediate reconciliation of epistemic reality and linguistic
reality, that is the swap from attitude to position, is a good indication of
how these realities are normally reconciled. Arabic news media seem to
be ill at ease with this kind of treatment and a blinkered approach is
almost always invariably the prevalent solution resulting in absolute
literal translations.
The social semiotics of metaphors cannot be discounted in assessing
linguistic-epistemic dissonance. An example of such social semiotics is
the metaphor “money laundering” (concealing the source of illegally
gotten money). This metaphor has its origins in the use of public
Laundromats in American cities. The idea is that when one washes dirty
clothes in one tumbling washing machine, they get mixed up. It also
stems from the fact that Laundromats were owned by the mafia as a
legitimate business front for illicit earnings—a combined social semiotic
that does not exist in this fashion elsewhere. This metaphor is translated
into Arabic as (›`ouœ` †b|Ò) (ghasil al-amwal) (money washing). Now,
whether (money washing), as a new metaphor in Arabic, conveys the
same metaphoric meaning as its English counterpart is extremely
debatable. But one thing is certain: it does not convey the same epistemic
reality.
Within this category, the Lebanese metaphor (Lebanon is a country of
minorities)
12
has been recently translated verbatim by both Lebanese
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politicians and Western news media reporters, such as Octavia Nasr,
Senior Editor of Arab Affairs at CNN in a recent comment on the events
in Lebanon. The Arabic original (‰tb•‚œ` k•p ½t§®_) (lubnan baladu al-
aqalliyyat) (that is, Lebanon is a country of minorities) was a clever if not
devious invention by pre-civil war politicians as group therapy for a sick,
irredeemable, census-resistant
13
, endemically corrupt
14
, anachronistically
feudal and sectarian, and superficially democratic social and political
system, where the concepts of safety in numbers and divide and rule
overlapped. Thin-slicing the social composition into small constituents of
more than sixteen sects and small denominations; mass (inbound)
ethnically and religiously driven immigration and naturalization policies
designed to tip the demographic balance in favour of certain
denominations, and divisive foreign language policies
15
have certainly
changed the social tapestry of the country in the sixty years that followed
its independence from colonial France in 1943. However, while an
analysis of this complex and peculiar sociopolitical phenomenon is
interesting in its own right, what is relevant to our discussion here is the
fact that the Arabic metaphor was treated as an absolute truism when
translated into English. Also, the metaphor seems to have lost its
metaphoric sense over time even in Arabic as revealed in the translation
by Arabic speaking “experts”. Apparently, people have come to believe
their own lie and are lost forever.
Metaphor, collocation and the clash of domains
Metaphors permeate language and no language can be effective and
efficient without metaphors. They enable language to operate on the basis
of the economy principle, expressing a world of knowledge in a few
words. They paint a mental picture worth a thousand words, thus
abbreviating and compacting the number of words needed to express
thought. Let us go back to our example at the beginning of this chapter
(the sun rises). Apart from the elevation of the expression to a metaphor
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to restore the linguistic-epistemic consonance, to express the phenomenon
as we now know it would take a few sentences. By the time we finished,
we would probably need to describe the sunset!
Words such as digest (as in digest a report) and absorb (as in absorb an
idea, absorb a loss), for example, are metaphors that resemble the act of
mental assimilation to the act of digesting food and the act of taking in,
utilizing and incorporating ideas, loss, and other notions, to a sponge
soaking up water respectively. For these metaphors to maintain their
linguistic-epistemic consonance, collocations of all types (such as free,
restricted, idiomatic) are used to denote a figurative condition. McKeown
and Radev (no date)
16
, argue that because of the arbitrary, recursive and
language-specific nature of collocations, “substituting a synonym for one
of the words in a collocational word pair may result in an infelicitous
lexical combination” (3-4). The infelicity they refer to is a result of the
disruption in the epistemic form causing linguistic-epistemic dissonance.
For example, to say in English “cast a question” instead of “raise a
question” is an infelicitous lexical combination that would cast doubt on
the epistemic reality of the expression since “cast” belongs to the throw-
domain and “question” to the question-domain. By the same token, to say
(Étgbg\¬ ѯ^v) yaftah tahqiqan “open an investigation”, in Arabic, instead of
( Š–t®v / tÉgbg\¬ €k®v ) yubashir/yabda’ tahqiqan “start/commence an
investigation” is an equally infelicitous lexical combination. The
disruption in the epistemic form of these miscollocations is a direct result
of a clash between two incongruent domains, where usually (after
Johnson, 1987) a system of implications in one domain interacts with the
implicative system of another domain. This interaction is essentially
metaphorical in nature. For example, the English collocation (jump to
conclusion) is a metaphoric relationship between (jump) that is to leap,
spring over or skip (rather than walk) and (conclusion) being the end or
final part of something, (the finish line), which is represented
physiognomically.
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When these collocated metaphors are translated verbatim, they create
epistemic dissonance in the target language. A case in point is the Arabic
rendition by Arab journalists of the preceding idiomatic expression “to
jump to conclusion” as (Ó•t¯§_` [_f ¾^gv) yaqfizu ila an-nata’ij, which literally
means to jump to the results. This rendition is an inane expression since
(¾^gv) yaqfiz and (Ó•t¯x) nata’ij do not collocate to create an acceptable
metaphor and consequently fail to invoke the same mental picture as their
English counterpart in English. In other words, it is a dud, born-still
metaphor. Not only do these incongruities “make a perspicacious reader
laugh at something you want him to take seriously”, as Gowers (1948)
17

reminds us, but they also distort the epistemic reality of the original
metaphor.
Two factors make such renditions infelicitous: “scope of metaphor”
(Kövecses, 2000) and “metaphor creep” (Darwish, 2004, 2005). Kövecses
(2000:35) argues that conceptual metaphors have a limited scope. “…the
source domains of conceptual metaphors do not have unlimited
applications. That is, particular source domains seem to apply to a clearly
identifiable range of target concepts”. Changing the original application
of the metaphor in translation renders the metaphor out of scope.
Similarly, the infelicity in translating the metaphor, ironically by adhering
to the lexical items of the metaphor, introduces new metaphors in the
target languages that distort the meaning of the original metaphor,
resulting in metaphor creep (Darwish, 2004, 2005).
Metaphor and genitives
Another aspect of translation-induced linguistic and epistemic dissonance
is seen in the genitive construction of metaphors. In most situations the
discrepancy (which is also found in non-metaphoric constructions) is
caused by a mismatch between the functions and categories of genitive
relationships across languages: attributive, partitive, possessive,
subjective, objective, descriptive, and so on. In English genitives,
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prepositional phrases beginning with “of” are used to describe nouns.
They can be used to change nouns into adjectives to indicate a number of
relationships, and typically an “objective” grammatical relationship while
the possessive forms and adjectives are used to express the “subjective”
grammatical relationship.
18
This latter aspect is important because it
causes inaccuracies of rendition into languages with different genitive
constructions, such as Arabic, and creates different epistemic realities.
Arabic distinguishes between two major types of genitives: real and
metaphoric, which serve to define or specify. Real genitives (also known
as semantic genitives) express an intrinsic relationship between the nouns.
Metaphoric genitives (also known as lexical genitives) express an
extrinsic or transient relationship between nouns. The following table
illustrates how genitives are constructed in Arabic.
The Arabic genitive is marked morphosyntactically. Stand-alone
indefinite nouns are usually realized with full terminal nunation—that is,
doubling the inflectional sound (nÔn)
19
(for example, aynun). When the
noun is added to another noun in the genitive construction, the nunation is
suspended to a single inflectional sound as in our example (aynu + ar-
rajuli). The suspended nunation works in exactly the same way as the
English (of).
20
The relationship between the genitive constituents is
determined by the type of genitive in this construction; that is, real or
metaphorical, denoting possessive, explicative or partitive.
Let us consider the current English metaphor (bridges of trust).
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2.9 Successful collaboration depends upon bridges of trust between
people working together.
In this example, the genitive type of the metaphor (bridges of trust) is
nonsensical if it simply means (trust).
2.9a Successful collaboration depends upon trust between people
working together.
However, if the genitive type indicates a type of bridge, and if the of-
genitive can be used to change nouns into adjectives, it should be possible
to express this adjectival relationship by inverting the genitive
construction to produce (trusted bridges).

In other words, trusted bridges, or bridges that can be trusted. The
metaphor goes something like this: entity A and entity B need a
connection between them to improve relations: a bridge. What kind of
bridge? A bridge that can be trusted (a confidence-building measure or
device). Otherwise, why need a bridge? It would be simpler and less
convoluted to say building trust.
In contrast, the Arabic literal translation of (bridges of trust) (jusuru ath-
thiqa/ag‡_` ro|s) points to a bridge that belongs or leads to (trust). This
usage can be gleaned from English translations of this borrowed metaphor
as (bridges of confidence), since both (trust) and (confidence) usually
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translated into Arabic as (thiqah/agÕ), which could be either trust or
confidence.
2.10
, _I..ii _.:,.ii _. .L¸±ii ¸t,¸¸ _Li¸.ii _,, .i,t,:.ii ..:ii ¸¸., .t. ...
2.10a Building bridges of mutual trust between the citizen and the
police (policemen) in the local community…
As the back translation reveals (2.10a), the genitive (bridges of the mutual
trust) does not denote a description of the bridges, but a partitive
relationship between (bridges) and (trust), which is further reinforced by
the insertion of the word (mutual). In contrast, the English expression
(build bridges of trust) may imply mutuality. After all, a bridge by
definition “provides passage over a gap or barrier” in either direction.
Reductive and Summative Metaphors
Finally, as Benoit (2001) maintains, “[m]etaphors help us understand and
interpret the world and the events, ideas, and people in it […].They can
influence audience perceptions or interpretations of the world”. By
explaining one thing in terms of another, metaphors function as a
terministic screen (Burke, 1965, 1966, cited in Benoit, 2001). In effect,
they act as epistemic frames, which are reductive, summative and
exclusionary in nature. They highlight a one-dimensional representation
of reality to the exclusion of other dimensions since depending on the
vividness and force they evoke, metaphors set a frame around only one
aspect at a time of epistemic reality, Here is an example from Arabic
news.
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3.1
_.i¸sii _..:..ii _. .I±:., st,. _¸L _. ±.,, _sit.ii !
3.1a Al-Maliki is looking for a lifeline to pull him out of the Iraqi
quagmire [swamp].
In this example (3.1), the metaphor of quagmire, which is compounded
and reinforced by the (lifeline) metaphor, evokes a one-dimensional
pictorial summary of Iraq. This tunnel vision is reinforced in a host of
borrowed metaphoric expressions such the following example.
3.2
.s, _ts¸, .z¸. _I. ,,,ii _ì iI.¸ ¸¸.Yi _i¦ ¸i¸.ii .si ii.,:.i¸ .s,¸.,ii .L..
.sI, .¸,i¸.ii¸ _..:ii .
3.2a The country is [sitting] on the mouth of a volcano after things
have reached the point of no return and the language of dialogue
has been replaced with the language of challenge and
confrontation.
Of interest in this example (3.2) is the expression (point of no return). Not
many speakers are aware that this expression comes from aviation,
“where it signifies the point where an aircraft does not have enough fuel
to return to the starting point”
21
and has come to mean “the point in a
course of action beyond which reversal is not possible”. In the latter
sense, the deterministic expression has been exported to other languages,
including Arabic. But neither the original expression nor the translation
implies continuing on the course of action yields positive results when in
fact either outcome is possible.
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Euphemism, dysphemism and socio-cultural circumlocution
Euphemism is another area of cross-cultural communication where
linguistic-epistemic dissonance occurs. Allan and Burridge (no date)
22

define Euphemism as follows:
“A euphemism is used as an alternative to a dispreferred
expression, in order to avoid possible loss of face: either one’s
own or, by giving offense, that of the audience, or of some third
party”.
According to Neaman and Silver (1983), we tend to substitute another
word free of negative associations when unpleasant elements of response
attach themselves strongly to the word used to describe those negative
associations. They argue that “[h]owever culturally and historically based
euphemisms may be, the psychological and linguistic patterns underlying
their formation are the same” (9). Furthermore, euphemisms are
intrinsically language and culture-specific, reflecting the social mores of
the times and the system of beliefs of the people who belong to a certain
language and culture. They are dynamic and adaptive to the internal and
external social changes and are more relied on in taboo-governed societies
and oppressive political systems. The famous Arab poet-philosopher Abu
al-Alaa al-Ma’arri (973 - 1058) lived in an era of religious and political
despotism. Through euphemism and symbolism he was able to express his
thoughts and escape the wrath of the rulers. The first call ever for family
planning and contraception may be ascribed to him in the following verse
(Darwish, 1989-2001).
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3.3
.ii ,.,,ì _. Lì t. .L¸ii ..i ,t..,Yi ..z _. Y¦ ¸¸ì
3.3a
Khaffifi el-wata’a ma athunnu adima al-ardi il-la min
hathihi al-ajsadi.
3.3b
Walk lightly! Methinks the surface of the ground is but of
these bodies.
3.3c
Decrease copulation! Methinks the surface of the ground is
but of these bodies.

In this verse, the word (al-wata’a) (¶¼o_`) is an infinitive root noun that has
two meanings: (1) to tread on and (2) euphemistically, to engage in sexual
intercourse. While the latter meaning has been demoted in terms of
currency, frequency and distribution in Modern Standard Arabic (that is,
restricted to religious text), in Al-Ma’arri’s days, it functioned as a strong
secondary meaning. Being the cynical and satirical philosopher that he
was, it is highly likely that his euphemistic message was “to go easy on
sexual intercourse because the earth is being covered with the remains of
too many people.”
23
Such a call would have been a certain death sentence
in those times.
In modern times, various social and political movements have introduced
euphemisms, from affirmative action to political correctness to
international conflicts, which are linguistically and culturally driven. For
example, the use of “partner” to refer to “a husband or a wife; a spouse, or
the other person in a relationship with equal status, irrespective of their
sex”, is a social euphemism that is specific to Anglo-American cultures
and is made feasible linguistically by the gender-neutrality of the English
language. This is not so feasible in gender-sensitive languages such as
Arabic, where the word “partner” is normally morphologically marked
either as a male partner (sharik/dvŠ–) or a female partner (sharika/aivŠ–).
Consequently, a complete congruence does not always exist across
languages, and while certain euphemisms in one language may find their
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counterparts in another, the register and pragmatic usage of such
euphemisms may not coincide. Furthermore, certain euphemisms lose
their euphemistic nature when translated verbatim, or worse still become
dysphemisms. Allan and Burridge (no date), again define dysphemism as
follows:
A dysphemism is an expression with connotations that are
offensive either about the denotatum or to the audience, or both,
and it is substituted for a neutral or euphemistic expression for
just that reason.
In other words, dysphemism is euphemism in reverse. While euphemism
is employed to make negative or offensive things sound less offensive or
neutral, dysphemism is employed to make positive things sound
euphemistically offensive or negative.
Both euphemism and dysphemism are frequently used in political and
social discourse, defining the social or political stance of those using
them. Words such as “war on terrorist”, “insurgents”, “martyrs”, “line of
duty”, “bring to justice”, “target” (versus “liquidate”), are all euphemisms
or dysphemism used for maximum effect, that constitute a specific
epistemic reality. These and similar euphemisms and dysphemisms are
translated verbatim into other languages and in this case Arabic. For
example, the word “space” used in combinations such as “Eurospace”,
“Euro Mediterranean space”, is a euphemism that has been transmitted
literally into Arabic, however with “space” meaning “outer space”. While
the Arabic word (fadha’/.t..) originally means “vast and unlimited space,
empty space or void”, it has gradually come to mean “outer space” in its
primary meaning.
Verticality
Verticality is a common feature across languages.
24
Verticality is a
conceptual metaphor of action, condition or state invoking an upward or
downward movement or direction to express intensity. In English, it
occupies a large space in idiomatic expressions. For example, almost all
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positive things are expressed in terms of being “up”, “high” and “highly”,
as in “cheer up”, “high quality” and “highly appreciate”; and almost all
negative things are expressed in terms of being “down”, “low” and
“under”, as in “downturn”, “low quality”, “under siege”. Consequently,
verticality constructs an epistemic reality consistent with native English
speakers’ vertical view of the world. This elevatory experience is a
universal feature of all languages and cultures and is also found in
expressions of elation and “high spirits”.
7.1 I am so happy I could fly.
7.2 _¸.ii _. ¸,Li.
7.2a sa atiru mina al-farah.
7.2b I will fly with (literally, from [because of] the) happiness. (Arabic)

In his classic, much-quoted and controversial article, Robert Kaplan
(1966) observes different rhetorical movements in discourse patterns
across languages. He confirms that English employs a top-down linear
(vertical) pattern while other languages exhibit a variety of circular,
parallel, zigzag patterns. “An English expository paragraph usually begins
with a topic statement, and then, by a series of subdivisions of that topic
statement, each supported by example and illustrations, proceeds, to
develop that central idea and relate that idea to all the other ideas in the
whole essay, and to employ that idea in its proper relationship with the
other ideas, to prove something, or perhaps to argue something” (Kaplan
13-14). The linearity of discourse is extended to and enforced by its
building blocks, which create the epistemic forms of verticality.
At this level also, other languages favour a horizontal perspective and
express intensity in degrees of energy, severity, strength and weakness.
For example, Arabic traditionally expresses these notions in terms of
intensity, immensity or enormity. Yet a peculiar translation-induced
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phenomenon in Arabic today is the all-pervasive adoption of the English
language perspective of verticality in the daily parlance, idiomatic
expressions and specialized terminologies of modern Arabs. Wholesale
borrowing of English expressions, such as highly appreciate, high quality,
high competence, high performance, high skills, high professionalism,
high definition, deep concern, deep doubts, deep regret, deep crisis, deep
conflict, under the circumstances, under construction, under siege, raise
awareness, and so on, are being used willy-nilly everywhere in the Arab
world, by laypersons and specialists alike, in every quarter of human
thought and action.
This alien usage, which is in stark violation of Arabic norms, standards
and rules, is causing a surreptitious linguistic-epistemic shift. Teachers,
doctors, engineers, politicians, journalists, translators, thinkers and tinkers
are daily parroting these expressions in such a bizarre fashion unaware of
this incongruence. Instrumental in all of this mass linguistic chaos is the
media. With the profusion of hundreds of satellite television channels
beaming across the Arab region, translation-induced, flawed journalistic
styles and expressions are being propagated at an unprecedented rate and
are being adopted in other areas of human activity. For over a decade
now, Arab viewers have been bombarded with literal translations of the
examples above, and a generation of children has grown up in this
linguistically contaminated environment. This psychosomatic linguistic
disorder is set to change modern Arabic forever thanks to translation and
journalism.
Sensory-perceptual epistemic inference
Linguistic-epistemic dissonance occurs with perceptual expressions such
as (sound) and (seem). English uses both to express an epistemic reality
visually and auditorily.
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8.1 That sounds good to me.
8.2 It seems the Republicans will lose the next presidential elections.

Arabic in this instance normally expresses both perceptual notions
visually and it is almost impossible to express the notion of (sound) in
Arabic without producing affected forms.
8.3 i.,, _i ¸.,, i.z .
8.3a hazha yabdu li jayyidan.
8.3b This seems to me good. [this seems good to me].
8.4 ..,t.ii .,.t.¸ii it,ti:.Yi _¸¸.i,. _,,¸¸¸.,ii _ì ¸.,, .
8.4a yabdu anna al-jumhuriyyeen sa yakhsaruna al-intikhabat ar-
ri’asiyyah al-qadimah.
8.4b (it) seems that the Republicans will lose the next presidential
elections.
This clearly demonstrates the different perspectives of both languages and
the different epistemic forms that express the sensory perceptual
experience of epistemic realities. While the difference does not cause a
major problem in knowledge transfer it certainly does change the
epistemic form.
Deictic inference
Another point worthy of note in our discussion of linguistic-epistemic
dissonance in translation is deixis. Curiously, the shift from (that), which
refers to someone or something more remote in place, time, or thought in
(8.1) to (this), which refers to someone or something nearer in place, time,
or thought in (8.3) changes the perceptual distance of reference.
The distinction between the existential and referential functions of deictic
elements is sometimes confused.
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9.1 .L.. ..t,.Ii t.z _i¦ _:i, _. Jt.z
9.1a hunaka man ya’ti ila huna lis-siyahati faqat.
9.1b there who comes to here for the tourism only.
9.1a There are those who come here for tourism only.

While the existential (there) and referential (here) can occur in the same
sentence in English, Arabic normally avoids this combination, given the
compacted nature of the syntactic structure (as illustrated in 9.1b). Both
instances of (there) and (here) may be construed as referential deictic
elements, at least on first reading/listening.
Sources of Influence and Normalization
Cross-cultural interaction through translation is unavoidable. In modern
times, news and current affairs satellite television is playing a critical role
in causing epistemic-linguistic dissonance through adherence to
literalization of form irrespective of the pragmatic function of language
both in the source and target. The bulk of news is translated from daily
news feeds supplied by major news agencies such as Reuters, Associated
Press and Agence France Press, into all languages of the world. Time-
critical deliveries and poor translation skills are causing these news feeds
to be translated verbatim into most languages, including Arabic.
It can be said with confidence that translation reveals the way one
understands the source language. It is a window to the cognitive processes
of the translator or journalist-cum-translator. The volume of literalizations
causing epistemic shifts in translations from English into Arabic, for
example, is considerable. Apart from the literal transfer of technical terms
and basic discourse, idiomatic expressions such as carrot and stick, go
back to square one, the ball is in your court now, the devil is in the
details, break the ice, bridge the gap, and bring to justice, are brazenly
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transferred into Arabic in their literal sense, changing as we have already
seen the perspective and perception of these epistemic phenomena.
During the recent conflict between Israel and Lebanon (July 2006), some
Arab politicians and their media mouthpieces described Hezbullah's
military operation of capturing the two Israeli soldiers, as ( ¸,. s¸.ts.
.,¸...) (mughamarah ghayr mahsubah), literally meaning (uncalculated
adventure).
25
The Arabic term, which is actually a bad translation of the
English term (uncalculated risk), uttered by installed, undemocratically
elected or parachuted Arab politicians, most likely under the influence of
English language instructions from their masters and or negative
translations by inexperienced, sloppy or absent-minded Arabic translators
was back-translated into English as (uncalculated adventure*).
Neither the Arabic term in Arabic nor its English translation makes much
sense in either language. Yet both the Arabic and English oxymora have
been parroted in news reports in Arabic and English language news
media, and no one seems to be any the wiser. By definition, the Arabic
word (s¸.ts.) (mughamarah) is a reckless, thoughtless act. Consequently,
(mughamarah) and (.,¸... ¸,.) (ghayr mahsubah) do not collocate. By the
same token, (uncalculated) and (adventure) do not normally collocate in
English either. This dissonance between the epistemic reality and
linguistic reality in both languages remains unreconciled.
Framing through Quotatives
Quotatives are employed to frame the news item in a manner that
attributes the content of the message to its source.
A quotative evidential is an evidential that signals that someone else is the
source of the statement made.
26
Statements are attributed through the use
of quotations, which can be direct purporting to be the exact utterances of
the person who made them (sensory evidential) as in example (A), or
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indirect reporting the utterances but not necessarily in the same exact
words (quotative evidential) as in example (B).
Example A
As President Bush said in an address to Congress on September
20, 2001, “Our war on terror begins with al-Qaida, but it does not
end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach
has been found, stopped, and defeated.”
27

Example B
President Bush has told Congress that the war on terror begins
with al-Qaida, but it does not end there and that it will not end
until every terrorist group of global reach has been found,
stopped, and defeated, according to a White House source.
While Aljazeera has been increasingly using quotative evidentials (such
as according to him, as he described it, as he alleges) in reporting the
news to attribute utterances, problems of the kind seem to filter through.
In a bid to create a perception of objectivity and neutrality of news
reporting, Aljazeera is guilty of using these quotatives in such an irritating
frequency. Consider the following example from a recent Beyond the
News program (16 March 2009) about a new Bin Laden voice recording.
Arabic original
_¦ _,Y _, ¸t.¸ tzt.. t. .,I... .s,t.¸ ,¸. _i,¸t: ±.. s¸. ..¸.., .
t:., _..Yi _i¦ _,¸Lii _ì .t.ì¸ ..,t. ii,t,. _i¦ _ . _,Y _, t.,¸ _.
,zt.. .t±.¦ _i¦ _,.,t.ii _.,.;i ,itsii .t.Is, tzt.. t. ...t.. ..,z .
Translation
And Bin Laden said that what he called the Gaza holocaust is an
important historic event and a decisive calamity. He added that
the road to Al-Aqsa required honest leaderships. Bin Laden called
upon whom he called the truthful (honest) scholars of the Islamic
World to establish what he called a consultation commission.
This is short of comical in Arabic since it ignores the intrinsic
grammatical functions of articles, words and sentence structures that
signal to the listener that what follows is a speech ascribed to the person
reported to have uttered it.
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Not only that, most recently, Aljazeera has abandoned the use of phrases
such as ”war on terror”, “terrorists”, “terrorism”, which Western media
have been using unconditionally in describing events in Afghanistan, Iraq,
Pakistan and other hotspots in the “greater” Middle East, in favour of the
conditional quotatives “what is called the war on terror”, “the so-called
terrorism”, and the like. These attributives reframe the original message in
Arabic signalling to the audience that Aljazeera does not embrace these
source language descriptors. While Aljazeera might think that the use of
such quotatives is its way of ensuring neutrality, they are producing an
opposite effect. Assessed within the three-tier translation model outlined
in this thesis, these quotatives fall within the “interference” category,
which from a purely translation perspective are unjustifiable. However,
from an editorial viewpoint, they overemphasize the point that Aljazeera
does not adopt the descriptors in the original message. This all too
obvious and ‘in your face” technique is in a way forced by the fact that
the news source is not Arabic and that within the bounds of the original
text, certain adjustments are made, which are a poor and too explicit a
way of ensuring neutrality and objectivity.
Conclusion
Languages normally compensate for epistemic-linguistic dissonance
within the same language environment by elevating the linguistic form to
a metaphor or by adjusting existing metaphors through metaphoric shifts.
However, epistemic-linguistic dissonance that occurs in translation
between divergent languages is usually the result of culturally
incongruent, skewed epistemic frames. Apart from the immediate
distortion of source-language epistemic realities, skewed epistemic frames
contribute to psychological and social change, which is not always
necessarily positive, by changing the social and cultural perspective, and
cause communication breakdown due to loss of shared experiences and to
the way they frame reality.
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In translating news sources, unreconciled linguistic-epistemic dissonance
seems to be more prevalent in translations into Arabic than in translations
from Arabic into other languages. This is largely due to incompetence and
short deadlines that force journalists-cum-translators to adhere to the
surface structures of source text and operate at the primary level of
rendition. It is also a deep-rooted translation tradition that seems to be
further entrenched in the psyche of most translators and translation-reliant
thinkers and intellectuals across the Arab world. Furthermore, framing
and reframing through linguistic-epistemic dissonance is an ongoing
process that has implications beyond the immediate message of the
original to the fundamental thinking patterns of those who adopt such
dissonant forms. Since going to air in 1996, Aljazeera has been
contributing to linguistic-epistemic dissonance in the Arabic language
through adherence to a primary level of rendition and literal translation
strategies.
This chapter has taken a different approach to the discussion of framing
and translation-mediated reframing by focusing on cognitive dissonance
as a psychological state of contradictory cognition of the same reality,
expressed in two different languages.
Notes

1
Sherry, L., & Trigg, M. (1996). Epistemic forms and epistemic games. Educational Technology,
36(3), 38-44. Retrieved 10 October 2006.
2
Picture courtesy of Overstock Art. http://www.overstockart.com/girbefmir.html.
3
It can be argued that the expression (the sun rises) is relatively speaking not a metaphor, but rather a
propositional representation of a physiognomic perception of an epistemic reality. To our perception
the sun still rises. For a farmer and a sailor for example, dawn/daybreak and sunrise are different, and
we need a term to describe the latter. We know it does not rise, but that is not the point. It appears to,
and it often looks beautiful when it does.
4
Clipart courtesy of http://www.inmagine.com/iconica-photos/imagezoo-iz024
5
American Heritage Dictionary.
6
It must be noted that even this metaphor (2.1) is a calque translation of the English expression (to
break the standstill) introduced into Arabic during the Cold War era.
7
Source of Arabic text: http://www.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/EA06A1BB-E07E-4FBE-8657-
0DD0C274DBED.htm. Retrieved 15 November 2006.
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8
http://knowgramming.com/metaphors/metaphor_chapters/living_and_dead_metaphors.htm. Retrieved
15 November 2006.
9
http://www.ul.ie/~philos/vol4/metaphor.html. Retrieved 10 November 2006.
10
Interestingly, using air quotes or intonation with a dead metaphor in speech or typographically
emphasizing it in writing immediately brings it back to life.
11
Source of Arabic text: www.annaharonline.com/htd/ARAB061023.HTM. Retrieved from cached
pages 12 November 2006.

12
An assumed representational metaphor of a country comprised of minorities, where everyone is a
minority.
13
One orphan census was conducted in pre-independence Lebanon in 1932.
14
“Corruption is widespread in Lebanon. The reasons are, inter alia, low salaries and high living,
education and health costs and red tape which provides civil servants with opportunities. High profile
cases of corruption among politicians have had a negative impact on the public perception of the
integrity of the political class. An anticorruption law was drafted in 2002, but has not yet been
presented to the Parliament” (Commission Of The European Communities, Commission Staff Working
Paper, Annex to: “European Neighbourhood Policy”, Country Report: Lebanon, {COM(2005) 72
final}), ec.europa.eu/world/enp/pdf/country/lebanon_country_report_2005_en.pdf.
15
For quite some time, Lebanon has been divided along sectarian-driven foreign language lines. Being
the second official language, French has been the second (if not the first) language of most Christians
while recently introduced English the second language of most Muslims. The introduction of English in
the early fifties may be seen as a direct result of US intervention. The landing of the Fifth Fleet in
Beirut in 1958 at the request of the Lebanese President Camille Chamoun to quell pro Pan-Arab civil
unrest marks the beginning of American influence in Lebanon. Roughly around that time, English was
introduced to primary schools of private and charity organizations (such as al-Maqasid Islamic
Charitable Association, owned by the late Sunni Prime Minister Sa’ib Salam) and later to government
schools in predominantly Muslim areas. For largely Christian Lebanese francophones, cultural
affiliation to French was a straightforward matter, given the French colonial legacy in Lebanon and
France as a single francophonic point of reference. In contrast, cultural affiliation to English was not as
straight forward given the bipolarity of Anglophonic reference (American and British). While
American culture was more attractive to most youths aspiring after freedom, democracy and American
values, especially in the sixties, there was ambivalence towards affiliation to American culture given
the prevalent official and popular attitude towards American foreign policy in the region. British
culture did not offer such dynamism or have the same appeal.
16
http://www.tangra.si.umich.edu/~radev/papers/handbook00.pdf . Retrieved 15 November 2006.
17
http://ourcivilisation.com/smartboard/shop/gowerse/chap7.htm#Target. Retrieved 15 November,
2006.
18
http://omega.cohums.ohio-state.edu/latin/grammar/of_english.htm. Retrieved 10 November 2006.
19
The way nunation works is by terminating the word with and additional (unn) sound. For example,
the Arabic word for heart is (—•‚) qalb (zero inflection); with full inflection: qalbun (subjective), qalban
(objective), and qalbin (dative/genitive). In genitives, the nunation is reduced to a single inflection.
20
In colloquial and lazy spoken Arabic, the inflection is omitted (zero inflection), for example, ayn ar-
rajul.
21
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Online version .
22
www.latrobe.edu.au/linguistics/LaTrobePapersinLinguistics/Vol%2001/1AllanandBurridge.pdf.
Retrieved on 10 November 2006.
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23
This is based on the Quranic verse “You have been too busy propagating until you have visited the
graveyards” (Propagation, 1).
24
Further explored in Darwish, A. (2005). “English Verticality in ‘Square’ Arabic Translations”.
Online publication at at-turjuman.com online. Language: Arabic.
25
Further explored in Darwish, A. (2006). Arab Politicians and "Uncalculated" Translations. ”. Online
publication at at-turjuman.com online. Language: Arabic.
26
http://www.sil.org/linguistics/glossaryOflinguisticTerms/WhatIsAQuotativeEvidential.htm
27
http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/pgtrpt/
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Chapter 6
Mediating Live Broadcasts
In this chapter:
Aims
Overview
Impact of Live Television on Simultaneous Interpreting
Simultaneous Interpreting Models
Interpreting Mediation at Arabic Satellite Television
Analysis and Discussion
Modes of Operation
Conclusion and Recommendations
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Aims
In the previous two chapters, I explored the central role of translation in
news production at Aljazeera. In this chapter, I examine the emerging
styles of delivery of simultaneous interpreting in Arabic satellite
television and highlights aspects of two distinct modes of operation,
expository and rhetorical, that seem to vary in salience of specific
functional qualities that reframe the original message.
The role of interpreter-mediated, real-time, cross-cultural and
multilingual communication becomes crucial in live debates, talk shows
and newscasts that seek to effect regional change through international
interaction with officials, political observers, analysts and
commentators. Soon enough, in a fledgling industry that is growing at
an amazing pace, house style modes of delivery are beginning to evolve
through a refining development process. These modes of delivery
reframe the original message and produce variances and infelicities,
which are for the most part unintended by the producers of such
mediated programs.

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Overview
The preceding chapter established, through examination of the
predominant translation models at Aljazeera and other Arabic television
networks, the role of translation as a framing process of news making and
reconstruction of constructed realities. The primitive method of
literalization, which is motivated by an equally primitive notion of
fidelity, and which ignores the dynamic nature and pragmatic functions of
languages, is unmistakably a distinctive hallmark of Arabic translation not
only in the media but almost everywhere translation is required. Whether
by tradition or lack of scientific translation methods, Arabic translators
seem unable to deviate from the literal surface translation of text so much
so that the United Nations General Assembly passed a critical resolution
at its fifty-fourth session on 21 June 2000 regarding literal translation in
UN Arabic documentation. Article eleven highlighted the problem:
11) It notices with concern that some of the documents
produced in Arabic tend to follow a consistent pattern of
excessive literal translation, by focusing on words rather
than on the purport of the original language, and calls on the
Secretary General to ensure that this situation is corrected.
1
Typically however, when the broadcasters move away from the literal
sense, they more often get it critically wrong. The original intentions of
the message are lost especially when the concepts are culture-specific,
unfamiliar and or colloquial. In this chapter, I examine another aspect of
translation mediation that plays an equally crucial role in transmitting
news and current affairs programs live as they unfold and in framing the
messages they carry to the viewers: simultaneous telecast interpreting.
What is Simultaneous Interpreting?
Simultaneous Interpreting (SI) today is an important aspect of live
international satellite broadcasts since it facilitates ad hoc cross-lingual
communication and brings to the viewers arguments and
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counterarguments by foreign experts, analysts and observers about
domestic and international issues in a time-critical manner.
For Arabic satellite television stations eager to portray themselves as
standard bearers of western-style democratisation, political and cultural
change, and to engage “the other” in the debate, simultaneous interpreting
has become the bread and butter of live current affairs programs and news
broadcasts. It is a recent phenomenon that has rapidly gained prominence.
At the same time, it has highlighted major operational and performance
shortcomings and weaknesses relating to the competency standards of
interpreters hired for this crucial task and inconsistent broadcasting
policies pertaining to telecast simultaneous interpreting (TSI).
The overnight success of Arabic media networks such as Aljazeera, Al-
Arabiya and LBC (Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation) has been partly
attributed to their ability to bring to the Arab viewers ad hoc views and
opinions through simultaneous interpreting as the program unfolds. None
of these outfits however seems to have been prepared for this kind of
delivery or has anticipated the pivotal importance of simultaneous
interpreting. This can be gleaned externally from the quality of
interpreting and linguistic and paralinguistic skills of the interpreters hired
for these roles, and the high levels of interpreting staff turnover.
This chapter focuses only on the modes of delivery of simultaneous
interpreting at these satellite television stations monitored over the period
of research and examines the role this type of mediation plays in framing
and reframing the original message.
Impact of Live Television on Simultaneous Interpreting
Live simultaneous interpreting for television broadcasts is a form of
interpreting that requires skills and modes of delivery that are quite
different from other forms of simultaneous interpreting, such as
conference interpreting. While conference interpreting has a long
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developmental history that goes back all the way to 1945 when the first
United Nations conference on international organization was held, live
television interpreting is somewhat younger. In Europe for example,
simultaneous interpreting for television had an early beginning at the
height of the cold war in the early 1960s. More recently, simultaneous
interpreting has gained global significance with the dramatic changes on
the world stage. Embedded reporting, live broadcasts from war zones,
on-the-go interviews with local figures, analysts and observers, and on the
scene press conferences, on CNN, BBC and other international cable
television stations, have given impetus to simultaneous interpreting into
English (and other languages).
In the Arab world, live simultaneous interpreting is quite a recent
phenomenon dating back to the early 1990s. As discussed in the
preceding chapters, the discovered popularity of the Cable News Network
(CNN) among the Arabs, particularly during the first gulf war and the
invasion of Kuwait, “triggered [a] series of developments that led to the
establishment of private television in Arab countries, inaugurated with the
1991 launching in London of the Middle East Broadcasting Corporation
(MBC) by Saudi business interests with the support of the royal family”
(Kraidy, 2002). According to Alterman (2002), the rise of these Arabic
satellite-broadcast television stations in the last decade has caused a
revolution in the Arab world. These stations have challenged traditional
state monopolies over television broadcasting, and “have played a
significant role in breaking down censorship barriers in the region. They
have encouraged open debates on previously taboo subjects like
secularism and religion, provided fora for opposition political leaders
from a number of countries, and given a voice to perspectives that were
previously absent from the Arab media” (Alterman, 2002). Undoubtedly,
the advent of these Arabic satellite television stations in the Arab world
has dramatically changed the way news and current affairs programs are
presented in Arabic today. The supposedly fortuitous rise to fame of
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Aljazeera in the aftermath of the September 11 events and US-led war on
the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, has placed a great deal of demand on
Arabic satellite television stations to vie for first place as an international
Arab media player and as a regional democratization and normalization
agent in the Arab world. Consequently, these television stations have
experienced a marked increase in news and current affairs programs that
rely on juxtaposing different and contrastive views of East and West. This
in turn has created a critical demand for professional, qualified
simultaneous interpreters. The obvious lack of experience on the part of
these satellite stations in simultaneous interpreting on the one hand, and
the scarcity of adequately trained competent Arabic interpreters on the
other, have created a problem that presents itself to the viewers, as
symptoms of a more serious problem, since no comprehensive academic
field study has been carried out to date. These symptoms range from (1) a
high level of staff turnover (discerned from the sudden absence of
interpreters and change of interpreting voices and garnered through
analysis of informal communication), (2) inconsistency of delivery
modes, to (3) instances of on-the-spot corrective instructions by frustrated
program presenters to these unfortunate interpreters (for example, it is not
uncommon for a program presenter to chide the on-duty interpreter for
supposedly making a mistake), and emergence of “mutual admiration
societies” so to speak and camaraderie between interpreters and more
appreciative and sympathetic program presenters (who in some instances
try indirectly to aid the interpreter by explicating their Arabic utterances
with English translations). In some respect, these symptoms give us a
glimpse of the kind of pressure simultaneous interpreters find themselves
working under at these television stations.
Attempts to compare and analyze live broadcasts of major world events
on CNN, BBC and Arabic satellite television reveal major flaws,
discrepancies and distortions in the messages conveyed. While it is not
the intention here to focus on these aspects of telecast simultaneous
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interpreting (TSI), it is worth noting that TSI suffers from poor standards
relating to language, comprehension and information transfer competence.
Standard Arabic, the high variety of the language, which is the medium of
delivery for telecast simultaneous interpreting, presents serious
difficulties for some of these simultaneous interpreters: idiom,
grammatical inflections
2
, syntax, enunciation, pronunciation, and
suchlike.
3
Comprehension problems have also been detected. A case in point is the
live rendition of the controversial term “crusade” uttered by the US
president George W Bush straight after the September 11 events, as a
“Christian holy war”
4
. As noted earlier, Arabic translation and
interpreting work in general is characteristically literal. Thus, it is not
surprising to hear English idiomatic expressions rendered verbatim in
Arabic. Today, examples of clumsy and nonsensical literal renditions of
idiomatic expressions—such as “in cold blood”, “fat chance”, “money
laundering”, “throw a spanner in the works”, and “carrot-and-stick” to
name a few—abound in Arabic translations.
Literal translation is an old legacy in Arabic literature and translation that
has been perpetuated in both directions by both Arab and Arabist
translators, and continues to make a serious dent in the lexis, idiom and
structure of the Arabic language. In certain instances, this approach has
been responsible for the evolution of new ideologies and cultural
mismemes based on erroneous translations from other languages and
cultures (Darwish, 2004). The approach is partly due to the foreign
language teaching methods employed in Arab education institutions
generally and the absence of professional development of translators and
interpreters. Anyone with a smattering of another language and the right
connections can become an interpreter overnight. Adequate formal
interpreting and translation training remains out of reach of would-be
interpreters and confined to a handful of universities and institutes.
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Furthermore, despite repeated calls and recommendations
5
(Darwish,
1988; Baker, 1998) dating back to 1979 and 1987, and major efforts to
develop a pan-Arab program for translation by various organizations
(Baker, 1998) no serious attempts have been made to set up a professional
Arab organization for interpreters and translators. The recommendations
by the Conference on Arab Cooperation in Terminology held in Tunis in
1986 called for “setting up national translator associations or unions at
state level under the aegis of a pan-national Translators Federation”
6
. To
date, endeavours of this nature have remained confined to virtual reality
or have soon faltered. A report by the National Council on Interpreting in
Health Care (Bancroft, 2004) was “unable to locate a professional
[emphasis added] association of interpreters in the Middle East with the
exception of Israel” and “no codes of ethics and standards of practice have
been developed to date in Arab countries or Israel. However,
paradoxically, a number of universities in the region offer four-year
degrees in interpreting and translation, perhaps a signal that both are
emerging professional fields. Arab[ic]-speaking countries in North Africa
appear to be at a similar stage of development” (Bancroft, 2004: 36-37).
More importantly however, literal translation is caused by the lack of a
structured translation-mediated knowledge transfer methodology, and as
already stated in this chapter, the misguided and antiquated notion of
fidelity and meaning in translation that posits that literal translation is
faithful translation. Such persistent views, which ignore the fact that
translation is first and foremost an act of dynamic communication, may
have their strong roots in the tradition of translating the Holy Qur’an— a
tradition that has strongly affected other forms of translation. According
to Mustapha (1998), “[m]ost translations of the Qur’an are source-
oriented; accommodating the target audience is not generally favoured
given the Qur’an is the Word of God, revealed in Arabic to the Prophet
Muhammad. This may explain the extensive use of notes in many
translations, and the lengthy introductions that tend to precede them” (in
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Baker, 1998: 203). This phenomenon can be illustrated within the three-
tier model of translation outlined in this thesis. To remind the reader, this
model consists of primary, operative and interpretive levels and four
modes of orientation: source, target, reader and author (with their
combinations), where the primary level refers to the closest point possible
between the source and target languages, the operative level refers to the
functional properties of rendition, and the interpretive level refers to the
informative intention of the source text and the function of the translation
in the target language. Most translators tend to work at the primary level
of rendition, largely ignoring the dynamics of both languages in
expressing the same notions with different rhetorical techniques, even in
the presence of constraints that prevent the realization of both the
communicative and informative intentions of the source. The tendency is
to violate rather than satisfy the constraint, and to produce literal
translations that basically compromise the integrity of information in
terms of what is carried across to the other language and how it is
perceived by the target language. Consider the following example.
_.,. ¸.=\· ..=¸
Source text
wa’dã al-hurri dyn.
Transliteration
Promise [genitive] the free [unmarked]
[implied copula] [zero article] debt.
Verbatim Translation
The promise of the free is debt.
Literal translation
A free man’s promise is a debt.
Primary level
A promise made is a debt unpaid.
Operative level
A promise made by a free man out of free
will is like a debt that is unpaid.
Interpretive level
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While the Arabic nominal sentence rendered as a copula sentence in
English at the primary level makes sense to the Arabic translator because
it mirrors the Arabic construction and because of access to the source text,
it forces native speakers of English to submit the sentence to further
cognitive processing and analysis to arrive at the intended meaning.
Primary renditions are valid only in the absence of constraints that prevent
the realization of source meaning in the translation. Otherwise, the
translator (or interpreter) tries to satisfy the constraint by moving to the
operative level, and if the translation still does not convey the source
meaning, a shift to the interpretive level is necessary. In the above
example, the operative, target-oriented rendition is adequate to convey the
intentions of the source message. Let us examine a more serious example
7
within this three-tier model.
_\»=\· .,\· _= ¸,= ',\=\· .,\· .
Source text
alyadã al-‘ulya khayrun min al-yadi
as-sufla.
Transliteration
The hand the upper [post modifier]
[implied copula] better from the hand
the lower [post modifier].
Verbatim Translation
The upper hand is better than the
lower hand.
Literal translation
The upper hand is better than the
lower hand.
Primary level
It is better to give than to receive.
Operative level
It is better to give charity than to ask
for alms.
Interpretive level
Again, most Arabic interpreters (and translators) would automatically
render this example at the primary level, which clearly shows how they
can inadvertently convey the wrong message through “metaphor creep” in
this instance. In other words, by adhering to the literal form of the source,
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the interpreter has introduced an English idiomatic expression “the upper
hand”, which means “superiority or advantage” rather than being
“charitable” or “magnanimous”, thus seriously distorting the intentions of
the source and reframing the original message. Again, the operative level
here should capture the essence of the Arabic metaphor.
On the interpreter’s side, the number of cognitive processing operations
depends on two factors: (1) the distance between the languages coupled in
the translation process and (2) the inventory of matched patterns.
Efficiency in retrieving data will depend on the interpreter’s linguistic
pattern recognition ability within larger patterns and his or her ability to
match and align these patterns at appropriate levels of approximation. If
the interpreter has confined such patterns to the rudimentary level, errors
of the nature described above are bound to occur during performance. In
time-critical decision-making, the path of least resistance is always taken.
This is bound to be the shortest route between the two languages or routes
routinized through pattern recognition and pre-alignment of these
patterns. Prefabricated language makes up a large portion of the linguistic
stock, and it is often said that we all speak in clichés—nothing is really
invented. As such, the success of interpreting is governed by the
interpreter’s ability to pre-align prefabricated linguistic data and bridge
the distance that exists between the two languages, cultures and various
communicative situations through such alignment.
Model rationale and rules
The rationale for this three-tier model was discussed in Chapter 3
Conceptual Framework and Research Model. To recapitulate, the model
is based on the notion that translation is a process of approximation driven
by constraints and that “the ultimate goal of any translation strategy is to
solve the underlying problem of translation-mediated communication and
to remove the external and internal constraints imposed on the translation
process in order to unlock potential alternatives” (Darwish, 2003, 117-
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118) and “…to achieve optimal approximation between the source and
target versions of text in terms of utility and appeal” (Darwish, 2003,
112).
The model enables us to address the question of accuracy, precision and
appropriateness of TSI rendition and to determine whether the rendition is
optimally approximated to the source in terms of its informative and
communicative intents. The model, which is anchored in optimality
theory, regards translation as a temporary system of conflicting forces that
are embodied by constraints. Following Kager (1999), each translation
constraint makes a requirement about some aspect of equivalent output.
“Constraints are typically conflicting, in the sense that to satisfy one
constraint implies the violation of another” (4). Empirical and anecdotal
evidence has shown that no translation form can satisfy all constraints
simultaneously. Therefore, there must be a mechanism of selecting
[translation] forms that incur ‘lesser’ constraint violations from others that
incur ‘more serious’ ones (after Kager, 1999:4). Logically, this must mean
that the overriding consideration in selecting these forms is the
preservation of the semantic and pragmatic aspects of the original
message. To manage these conflicting constraints, the model provides
explicit rules for translation production and analysis. These rules include
the following as discussed in Chapter 3 Conceptual Framework and
Research Model.
1. The point of departure is the closest point possible between source
and target languages. This means the most direct translation is the
primary option. Direct translation does not necessarily mean literal
translation, rather a conventional equivalent or counterpart.
2. IF this fails to preserve the informative and communicative
intentions of the source, THEN a shift to the operative level is
warranted.
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3. IF the operative level fails to preserve the informative intention of
the source, THEN a shift to the interpretive level is required.
4. To make explicit in the translation what is implicit in the source so
long as what is implicit in the source is readily accessible to the
intended reader of the source by virtue of the intersubjectivity that
exists between the source writer and the source reader.
In certain translation/interpreting situations, when a wide gap exists
between the source and the target languages, the interpretive mode is the
only mode of operation available to the translator/interpreter to produce a
sound translation. However, if pre-alignment has been confined to the
rudimentary level, as mentioned earlier, shifting to the interpretive mode
in time-critical responses imposes a serious constraint causing linguistic
incongruence between the two languages, thus producing interpreting
dissonance. Let us examine one more example.
The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings,
but shorter tempers; wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints; we
spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy it less.
The power of this English text derives from the rhetorical technique of
contrast between taller buildings and shorter tempers, wider freeways and
narrower viewpoints, and so on, and from the collocations of adjectives.
However, this rhetorical technique, which is an essential component of
the original meaning of the message, does not work in the same way in
other languages (for example, Arabic), mainly because of the condition of
collocations. In English, a building is normally described as tall rather
than high (tall and building collocate), while in Arabic a building is high
rather than tall (high and building collocate, tall and building do not).
8
Also in English both short and quick collocate with temper, while in
Arabic sharp and temper collocate— hence the compounded problem of
translating the above example in the primary or operative mode. To
maintain the contrast without violating the norms of the target language,
certain adjustments will have to be made at the operative level. Let us
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consider one representative example of interpreting dissonance caused by
faulty pre-alignment.
Original:
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended the
unlimited detention of suspected terrorists saying, in an
interview that it benefited the United States and the entire
world.
Translation:
•mk\ˆ_` ŠbÒ štÁ¯}Œ` cª ²v`r t|b_mkxoy abyŠbuœ` absrt¸_` £Švšm w“{`•
_ ••b{ ”®¯˜ˆ_` cbbpt…rÛ a“^§u `e ½ty d_e ½Ëp t•“u wvŠs€ a•ptgu Ž{ Éa••t‚
¿ˆs€ •_t“_`m £k\¯ˆ_` ‰tvŒo•_ .
Back translation:
The American Foreign Minister Condoleezza Rice defended
the unlimited detention of the terrorists suspected of them
saying in an interview held with her that that was of benefit
to the United States and the entire world.
In the English construction suspected terrorists, the adjective (suspected)
qualifies and delimits the noun (terrorists). In other words, the terrorists
are not yet terrorists. In contrast, the adjective in the Arabic noun +
adjective construction (obligatory syntactic transposition) describes and
does not qualify or delimit. Nonetheless, the phrase suspected terrorists is
almost invariably translated into Arabic as “terrorists suspected in (i.e. of)
them” (obligatory transposition and anaphoric pronoun”), despite the fact
that the Arabic post-modifier (suspected in them) is a descriptive
permanent attribute, in this case producing an oxymoron. How can they
be terrorists and at the same time suspected of being terrorists? This is
how the noun + adjective construction works in Arabic, and the
dissonance-free rendition of (suspected terrorists) in Arabic is normally a
phrase meaning (persons suspected of being terrorists). However, by
using the traditional Arabic method of analogy to coin new words, one
can produce a word that captures the English phrase “suspected
terrorists”. Without running the risk of being too technical here, Arabic is
based on word patterns. In this instance, the pattern (mustaf’al) means
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“someone or something deemed something”. For example, the word
“musta’da’f”, which is based on this pattern, means “deemed weak”. In
the same vein, one could coin the new word “mustarhab” to mean deemed
terrorist and by extension, suspected terrorist.
In his remarkable work, the late scholar James S. Holmes (1994) proposed
a system of hierarchy of correspondences between the source and target
languages, where the translator may assign priority to close matching of
the semantic content depending on the type of text, or to establishing
correspondences of appeal “even at the cost of having to overhaul the
semantic message completely" (86). The three-tier model described in this
chapter is informed by the constraints and limitations imposed on the
translation process rather than by the translator’s choices, where failure to
satisfy the constraints results in a skewed translation that falls outside the
acceptable range of approximation and the parameters of the original
message.
Simultaneous Interpreting Models
For obvious reasons, simultaneous interpreting is often associated with
conference interpreting. The image of a diplomat addressing the United
Nations General Assembly or Security Council through an interpreter is
conjured up whenever simultaneous interpreting is generally discussed.
However, as Gentile (1988) contends, “conference interpreting as an
umbrella term does not do justice to the varieties of interpreting which are
carried out in Australia [and elsewhere] even though these can be
considered varieties of simultaneous and consecutive interpreting” (480)
[insertion added]. The term also fails to account for other forms of
interpreting that have nothing to do with conference settings. For
example, there is a fundamental difference between conference
interpreting and telecast simultaneous interpreting in terms of modes of
delivery, environment, physical presence of the interlocutors, and so on. It
is therefore important for the purposes of this study to make a clear
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distinction between telecast simultaneous interpreting and conference
interpreting.
Research into simultaneous interpreting
Research in interpreting began in earnest in the period that followed the
Bay of Pigs Crisis in 1961. The crisis and the flurry of diplomatic
activities that accompanied this major political event highlighted
shortfalls in our understanding of the interpreting phenomenon. Initial
research focused on intuitive accounts of the interpreting process, and by
mid-1970s interest had shifted to theoretical analysis and empirical
research culminating in a multistage view of interpreting by the late 1970s
(Moser-Mercer, 1997).
Within this developmental framework, two types of simultaneous
interpreting models developed by various researchers have been
identified: full process and partial process. These information processing-
oriented models offered formal representations of the interpreting
phenomenon that did not correspond to real life (Moser-Mercer, 1997).
Moser-Mercer concludes that “a powerful model of the interpreting
process must be broad enough to include aspects that reflect the complex,
time-constrained multitasking environment of simultaneous interpreting
that involves a high degree of cognitive processing” (in Danks et al, 1997:
194).
Conference interpreting
Conference interpreting (CI) is a dyadic, one-way bilingual (or
multilingual) communication that takes place between a speaker (dyad 1)
and an audience (dyad 2) via an interpreter or several interpreters (in
multilingual settings and relay interpreting, where the interpreter who
does not know the speaker’s language piggybacks another interpreter who
does)
9
. The speaker is usually visible and audible to the audience. His or
her speech is air-transmitted via loudspeakers to the audience and via a
one-way closed circuit communication system to the simultaneous
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interpreter who usually sits in a special soundproof booth. In ideal
conference conditions, the interpreter can see both the speaker and the
audience. However, this is not always possible and sometimes “blind”
booths are used that block the interpreter’s visual contact with the speaker
and audience. During performance, the interpreter translates the speaker’s
source discourse into the target language as it is received, and transmits
the target rendition simultaneously to the target language audience via a
one-way closed circuit communication system.
Figure 21 - Dyadic Simultaneous Interpreting-Driven Communication in
Conference settings
As Gile (1995) confirms, scripted simultaneous interpreting occurs
frequently, especially in conference interpreting settings such as the
United Nations. “Simultaneous interpretation with text occurs frequently,
when speakers read [out] a text which has also been given to interpreters
[beforehand]” (184). Gile observes that while this mode of simultaneous
interpreting, which combines sight translation of the speech, offers the
interpreter “visual presence of information, which reduces memory
problems”, it presents new problems relating to the density and peculiar
linguistic construction of written texts, as opposed to oral discourse, and
the risk of linguistic interference (185). However, observation of
simultaneous interpreters working from scripted speeches in settings of
this kind shows that seasoned interpreters, being aware of the speaker’s
potential departure from the scripted speech, would anticipatorily use the
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script as prerecorded notes, and would pre-highlight key ideas in the
speech to help them cope with any deviation from the written text. To this
end, Gile concedes that scripted simultaneous interpreting “does seem to
make interpretation possible under acoustic and delivery conditions which
would be prohibitory without the text” (185). Nonetheless, this raises the
question whether this form or mode of performance (that is, scripted
interpreting) can actually be termed “simultaneous interpreting” or
whether it is pseudo interpreting or another form of revoicing.
Telecast simultaneous interpreting
Pöchhacker (1995) observes that simultaneous interpreting in live
broadcasts is one of the more specialized forms of language transfer in the
audiovisual media. It has a narrower scope of application than dubbing,
subtitling and other translation-mediated techniques since it is confined to
live unscripted interviews, discussions and talk shows. In recent years,
simultaneous interpreting has increasingly covered live ad hoc and
scheduled press conferences and speeches by statesmen and women and
politicians as well as news broadcasts utilizing sign language.
10
Yet as
Pöchhacker (1995) confirms, as a rule, interpreting into the target
language is “broadcast as a voice-over, with the original speaker still
audible in the background” (207). However, as we shall see later in this
chapter, this is not necessarily the case in the study under investigation
and the rule is not always observed.
Generally, Telecast Simultaneous Interpreting (TSI) is a triadic, two-way
bilingual communication process that takes place between a foreign
language speaker (dyad 1), who may be in the same studio as the program
presenter and sometimes other guests, or at a remote location, and the talk
show presenter (dyad 2), and occasionally the other guests
11
, via a
simultaneous interpreter, who may be at the same location where the talk
show is being produced or at a remote location, for the benefit of a
television audience (viewers) (dyad 3) who act as passive receivers in as
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far as interacting directly with the other dyads is not possible. The foreign
speaker is visible and audible to all parties in the studio, and to the
audience through controlled camera shots. The talk show presenter and
the onsite and offsite guests may or may not know the language of the
foreign speaker.
Figure 22 - Triadic Telecast Simultaneous Interpreting-Driven Communication
During performance, the interpreter translates the foreign speaker’s source
discourse into the target language of the audience as it is received, and
transmits the rendition to the target language audience via a television
broadcasting system. The interpreter also communicates the utterances of
the program presenter (and the guests, as it may), via a closed circuit
communication system. This is not audible to the viewers. The situation
can increase in complexity when there is more than one foreign speaker at
different locations and or in the studio where the talk show is being
conducted. It is also not uncommon to have at least two interpreters; a
primary interpreter and a relief interpreter assigned to the TSI task.
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Figure 23 - A Basic Model of Telecast Simultaneous Interpreting
Unlike other forms of simultaneous interpreting, such as conference
interpreting, Telecast Simultaneous Interpreting is seldom scripted. Given
the ad hoc nature of most programs, TSI interpreters are increasingly
under pressure to respond to live adlibbed discourse. This increases the
potential for errors and other performance anomalies and reduces the
quality of output to unacceptable levels, especially when “in some
respects the level of output expected in media interpreting is even
considerably higher” (Pöchhacker, 1995:207) than conference
interpreting. Consequently, attentive listening skills and synchronicity of
receiving source discourse, processing, and transmitting target discourse
become more vital for effective performance. Many TSI interpreters fail
to perform effectively because they tend to listen to the speaker pre-
emptively without defining the various levels of communication in the
source discourse and without recognizing the different levels of
abstraction at which they can work within the parameters of the original
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discourse. The advice frequently given to interpreters to concentrate on
ideas rather than on words has been often misused and misunderstood. As
noted in previous work, “moving from words to ideas does not mean to
have a free rein to change, add or omit utterances at will. It is rather
moving from one level of abstraction to another where the interpreter can
separate the utterance from the words and content from form” (Darwish,
2003:170). In this regard, MacWhinney’s cue validity concept discussed
earlier can be put to practice with effective results. Furthermore, the
balance between listening and speaking may become affected by
inappropriate acoustics, fatigue and too much concentration on rendition
to the extent that the speaker’s voice may be drowned by the interpreter’s
own voice at certain critical segments of the speaker’s utterances, causing
major distortions or omissions.
In other TSI settings
12
, the public speaker addresses an immediate
audience, physically or virtually present (in television broadcasts) in a
monolingual environment. The public speaker’s address is broadcast to a
global television audience through a simultaneous interpreter who may be
physically located onsite or remotely at the television station.
Relay telecast simultaneous interpreting
In certain situations, relay interpreting is employed where the station’s
primary interpreter is not qualified to work from the language of the
foreign speaker (primary passive language) and piggybacks another
interpreter at the same or another station who is competent to work into
the primary interpreter’s passive language (from which the interpreter is
competent to interpret professionally into his or her active language). For
example, a Japanese Foreign Minister’s speech is interpreted into English
by a CNN Japanese-English interpreter and relayed from English into
Arabic by the Arabic satellite station’s English-Arabic interpreter. This
scenario adds to the complexity of TSI, in these specific instances, since
the station’s primary interpreter relies solely on the interpreter at the
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source station. Speed, coherence and precision of delivery depend on the
source interpreter’s quality of rendition and mode of delivery.
Time-critical, Real-time Communication
Much of the literature dealing with the types and modes of interpreting
has focused primarily on three main types: simultaneous, consecutive and
liaison. With the exception of liaison interpreting, which has attracted a
great deal of attention in the last decade particularly in Australia, the
literature at hand does not sufficiently examine the modes of delivery of
each of these types. For example, paralanguage as a feature of interpreting
mode of delivery has been discussed in forensic linguistics within the
context of court interpreting, which is primarily consecutive or quasi-
simultaneous. However, Poyatos (2002) contends that despite twenty-five
years of research or rather recycling of poorly understood fundamental
ideas about paralanguage, it has not been fully exploited as “the
nonverabal long-term qualities of the voice, the many modifiers of it
which result in marked formal and semantic changes, and the many
independent word-like sound constructs, which we use consciously or
unconsciously supporting, contradicting, accompanying or replacing the
linguistic and kinesic message…either simultaneously to or alternating
with them” (in Pöchhacker and Shlesinger, 2002: 240).
Pöchhacker (2004:150) also confirms that the interpreter’s spatial position
and the co-construction of interactive spoken discourse, which involves
the full range of communicative devices, including paralinguistic, kinesic
and proxemic behaviours, has been the subject of few corpus-based
studies on nonverbal communication in dialogue interpreting. The
differences in modes and styles of delivery remain severely under-
researched.
More specifically, a significant aspect of simultaneous interpreting seems
to have received little attention, or at least has not been articulated
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explicitly. Simultaneous interpreting is live communication that takes
place in real time. It is a time-critical performance that requires a
heightened level of awareness and cognitive priming to enable the
interpreter to make accurate time-critical decisions (Darwish, 2003). This
crucial SI factor adds to the complexity of action as it affects the quality
of performance, the rate of delivery, the Search, Locate, Retrieve and
Match (SLRM) mechanisms, recovery strategies and synchronicity of
performance. Moser-Mercer (1997) confirms that in time-constrained
tasks, such as simultaneous interpreting, how and when to apply a
particular strategy is of crucial importance leading to the conclusion that
“the emphasis shifts from knowledge structures to the dynamic nature of
their use” (194). That is because the organization of knowledge is more
crucial for the retrieval and response times than possessing the
appropriate knowledge structures.
Live satellite television “simultaneous” interpreting however is not quite
simultaneous. Live broadcasts usually utilize time-delayed, multi-track
asynchronous, resynchronized transmission. This technique sometimes
enables the interpreter to gain a few seconds (the delay is usually 3 to 5
seconds or up to 10 frames per second) to formulate his or her utterances
in advance of the actual broadcast. With poorly managed technologies,
this delay sometimes results in the interpreter’s getting ahead of the
speaker thus producing dissonance and voice lag. All the same, despite
this inconspicuous advantage, simultaneous interpreting remains a high-
powered, stressful real-time task.
As already noted, the unprecedented rapid success of Arabic satellite
television stations has taken them by surprise. With the sudden demand
for simultaneous interpreters, the stations seem to have recruited
interpreters drawn primarily from the United Nations pool of interpreters
and retired interpreters as well as others from regional countries such as
Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Algeria. Those interpreters were not
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initially equipped to perform “live, simultaneous” interpreting proper
probably because simultaneous interpreting as practised at the United
Nations is for the main part pre-scripted, as already noted. In this regard,
al-Ashmawi (1983) asserts “…hardly anyone [at the United Nations]
listens to simultaneous interpreting except those who are utterly ignorant
of the other language. Consequently, they accept whatever they hear with
no argument. UN meeting rooms have seen a great deal of argumentation,
disagreement and paroxysms of anger because of errors,
misunderstanding or inaccuracies on the part of the simultaneous
interpreter, or because the interpreter has skipped a sentence or two while
trying to catch up to the speaker.”
13

Twenty years on, the situation does not seem to have considerably
improved, and pre-scripted translated speeches are routinely distributed to
participants beforehand. With English having become the predominant
language of communication globally, it is quite rare and indeed surprising
to find a UN delegate who could not speak or comprehend English.
Delivering lengthy speeches in the UN official languages other than
English is just another formality that the United Nations is still unable to
get rid of. Simultaneous interpreting has reportedly become more of a
cushy “mimesis” job. Having said that and in light of the new mode of
performance required by live television broadcasts and the obvious lack
of a consistent simultaneous interpreting policy, a general mediocre
competency standard seems to prevail. Notwithstanding the various
serious to trivial interpreting errors that are detected from time to time,
two major styles of delivery are observed.
Interpreting Mediation at Arabic Satellite Television
Initial informal observation of Arabic satellite television indicated major
discrepancies and variations of styles and modes of delivery of Telecast
Simultaneous Interpreting (TSI). To further explore the different styles of
TSI delivery, Aljazeera and LBC were chosen for the case study.
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Empirical evidence was gathered from live and repeated broadcasts over a
period of research with the majority of programs recorded in the second
year due to a marked increase in international and regional activities
requiring live TSI.
The major focus of this study was to examine the delivery modes of TSI
at Aljazeera, with LBC occasionally utilized where possible for
comparison purposes only, to define these modes and provide an analysis
of identified styles of delivery in order to determine their salient features,
idiosyncrasies and communicative effectiveness in live television
broadcasting. In addition, the impact of these modes on framing and
reframing the original message was also a major consideration of the
study.
Research Design, Data and Methods
The modes of delivery of simultaneous interpreting at these satellite
television stations were monitored over a period of two years. First
regular talk shows, newscasts, ad hoc conferences and international events
were recorded, analysed, compared across stations, and against English
language stations, such as CNN and BBC, broadcasting the same events,
transcripts and other documentary evidence. These programs were later
grouped into two major categories: ad hoc live events, and live talk shows
and current affairs programs, and were further analysed within the three-
tier model outlined earlier in this chapter.
Scope and limitations
Ad hoc live events included unscheduled, on-the-scene press conferences
and statements by US and British political leaders. These events provided
good data for analysis. However, due to the ad hoc nature of these events
live recordings had their limitations in terms of completeness and
coherence. Nonetheless, it was possible, albeit in a very limited fashion,
to compare segments of recorded statements and speeches to source
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discourse aired by English language television stations such as CNN, and
BBC and more so to scripts available from other sources on the Internet.
In contrast, scheduled live talk shows and current affairs programs,
including the news, offered more reliable recordings, providing a better
platform for gathering information. However, due to Aljazeera’s muting
of the voice of the source language speaker, recourse to the original
discourse was not feasible and analysis of data focused solely on the
production of discourse in the target language in terms of what is natural
and conventional elocution. Consequently, any elocutionary features
perceived to be similar to English elocution relied on what is known to be
the accepted mode of delivery at CNN and the BBC. The programs in the
latter category included the following talk shows: al-ittijah al-mu’akis
(opposite direction), hiwar maftuh (open dialogue), min washinton (from
Washington) and akthar min ra’y (more than one opinion). For
comparison of styles and modes of TSI delivery at Aljazeera to those
employed by interpreters at LBC, one LBC current affairs program that
occasionally hosted American and European guests was primarily used,
namely al-hadath (the event). It is worth noting that Aljazeera and LBC
do not necessarily broadcast similar types of programs to enable a
comparison of content and performance levels across the two stations.
Technical and operational problems
The technical management of simultaneous interpreting at these satellite
stations has been inconsistent. Without a close examination of the internal
operations and work conditions in which simultaneous interpreting takes
place, analysis of technical operations is currently restricted to the product
itself and its on-air delivery
14
. The following features have been observed
over a period of two years.
• In initial broadcasts, the foreign speaker’s voice is muted and dubbed
over with the interpreter’s voice. In recent broadcasts, the policy
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seems to have shifted to allow the speaker’s voice to be slightly
audible with the interpreter’s overlapping voice dubbed over.
• The interpreter is never on camera. Only the voice is heard. Generally,
the voice quality of the interpreters was not suitable for broadcasting.
Unnatural nasal pronunciation has been a distinct feature of certain
deliveries.
• While a two-way simultaneous interpreting is taking place, only the
Arabic rendition of the foreign speaker’s utterances is heard. The
English translation is always inaudible (except on rare occasions
where there is cross talk due to technical fault or signal interference).
• It seems that at times two interpreters perform in different language
directions: One for Arabic-bound rendition (which is always audible)
and one for English-bound rendition (which is always inaudible).
• On occasion, where more than one foreign speaker is present, two
separate interpreters have assumed the alternate roles in a
dramatization of the communication transaction, sometimes with the
original voices muted or slightly audible. Contrastive modes of
delivery have been detected.
• Certain interpreters have employed a rhetorical simultaneous
interpreting (RSI) approach to interpreting, incorporating
paralinguistic properties and theatrics into their performance. This
will be discussed later.
• Because of the time-delayed synchronicity
15
, the interpreter is often
getting ahead of the speaker. Given that the speaker’s voice is audible,
such out of step performance sometimes produces comic relief effect.
• Linguistic standards have varied in terms of grammatical correctness,
enunciation, elocution, and public speaking skills from good to very
poor, with semiliterate renditions occasionally detected. Faulty
parsing and word grouping have contributed to distortion of original
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discourse. Furthermore, regional accents were easily discernable
despite the neutralizing nature of standard Arabic elocution, thus
reflecting the educational levels of interpreters and presenters alike.
Generally, Aljazeera seems to have adopted the BBC recommendations
set out in The BBC News Style Guide, which warn against "singsong"
and staccato sentences. Most Aljazeera newsreaders (including
interpreters and translators who are expected to do voiceovers)
16
are BBC
voice-trained. They seem to have adopted English language rules of
elocution, presentation style and news-reading mechanics most-suited to
English broadcasting. Moreover, there seems to be confusion among the
ranks of presenters regarding the interpretation of end of sentence word
stresses and pauses normally recommended for English language
broadcasting.
Analysis and Discussion
Analysis of simultaneous interpreting has to be carried out within a
clearly demarcated framework that ensures the following aspects of
simultaneous interpreting performance are examined and assessed.
• Information integrity: completeness, precision and accuracy of
information content.
• Communicative integrity: elocution, articulation, enunciation, fluency,
comprehension.
• Linguistic integrity: sound, error-free grammar, syntax, lexis, idiom
and so on.
• Propositional integrity: original thesis, line of argument, sequencing
and thought patterns.
• Performance: confidence, effective and efficient delivery, attitude,
recall, recovery strategies.
• Modes of delivery: rhetorical and expository.
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Assessment of these features has been rated in translation metrics as
minor, major and critical defects within the three-tier model of translation
described earlier. Minor defects are localized self-contained errors. Major
defects are generalized errors causing major distortions, and critical
defects are serious errors and discrepancies causing serious
communication breakdown. The shift of mode from primary to operative
or interpretive has been assessed in terms of constraint satisfaction or
violation.
While these features have been analyzed and assessed within the three-tier
model, part of a larger scope of study, the main focus of analysis for the
purposes of this chapter has been the modes of delivery utilized to carry
across the message in terms of deviation from the norm within the model
rules.
Information integrity
Based on a previous definition (Darwish, 1995), linguistic integrity refers
to the ability to render the text in a sound language in terms of grammar,
structure (both micro and macro levels), coherence and cohesion.
Information integrity refers to the completeness of the information content
of the text. In interpreting, information integrity refers to the ability to
retain the same information in terms of accuracy, correctness,
completeness and original intentions (both informative and
communicative).
Information integrity has been examined in as much as it has been
possible to compare recorded performances to original speeches and
statement broadcast by English-only media companies such as CNN,
BBC, Sky News and other local television and radio stations. Validating
content is not possible in current affairs and talk shows since the original
speaker’s voice is either muted or hardly audible to make enough sense of
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the information content of source discourse. The same applies to
validating the communicative integrity of English source discourse.
Where it has been possible to compare target rendition to source
discourse, analysis has shown major discrepancies, omissions, distortions
and inaccuracies ranging from minor to major to critical.
Linguistic integrity
Linguistic integrity refers to the ability to render the text in a sound
language in terms of grammar, structure (both micro and macro levels)
and coherence and cohesion by conforming to the lexical and syntactic
norms and conventions of the target languages. Linguistic errors that
compromise the meaning of the source text are of serious nature. Analysis
of the linguistic standards of delivery has revealed serious problems of
basic grammar, lexical transfer, and syntactic conventions.
Communicative integrity
Communicative integrity refers to the ability to preserve the
communicative intentions of the source discourse in terms of elocution,
articulation, enunciation, fluency, comprehension. Again, communicative
integrity has been examined in as much as it has been possible to compare
target rendition to source discourse and vis-à-vis known conventions,
standards and norms in both source and target languages. The analysis has
revealed discrepancies and defects in elocution, articulation and
comprehension of source discourse. These have also been rated minor,
major and critical.
Arabic is a stress-timed language, with word stress predictable and
regular. Phrase and sentence rhythms are similar in Arabic and English.
While intonation patterns in Arabic are similar to those of English in
contour and meaning, especially with primary stresses, suprasegmental
features, that is intonation and vocal stresses, of Aljazeera’s Arabic
interpreters are noticeably non-Arabic. Boyd (1997) points out that “a
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common failing of untrained newsreaders is to imagine that due stress and
emphasis means banging out every fifth word of a story and ramming the
point home by pounding the last word of each sentence” (159). Both
Arabic newsreaders and interpreters at Aljazeera have exhibited the
tendency to pound the last word of each sentence in an unnatural rising
pitch (for example, al-iraAQ
q
= al-Iraq) as in English. In the absence
of clear standard training for interpreters in the Arab world and for TSI
interpreters in particular, one assumption is that TSI interpreters have
been given the same guidelines as the newsreaders.
To illustrate the significance of these features to the overall integrity of
the rendition, let us now examine the following excerpt from statements
by US President George W. Bush at his press conference with the interim
Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi in Washington on 23 September 2004,
together with simultaneous interpreting as carried by Aljazeera.
Transcript of original utterances
“And I believe that if we wilt [beat] or leave, America's
security will be much [beat] worse [beat] off [beat]. I believe
that if we fail in Iraq, it's the beginning of a [elongated voice]
loooong struggle; we will not have done our duty to our
children and our grandchildren. And so that's why I'm
consistently telling the Iraqi citizens that we will not be
intimidated. That's why my message to Mr. Zarqawi is, you
cannot drive us out of Iraq [beat] by your brutality.
“It's tough work, everybody knows that. It's hard work. But
we must not allow [beat] the actions of a few [pause] - and I
emphasize that. I say that because there are 25 million Iraqis,
by far the vast majority of whom want to live in a free
society. [beat] And we cannot allow [beat] the actions of a
few to determine the fate [beat] of these good people [beat]
as well as the fate of the security of the United States.[stop]”
Arabic simultaneous interpreting
" t§ˆ‚ tu `ef ”x€ kg¯ª€m [beat] £r•t‘ˆp [beat] ܨ`Š“_` [beat] cuœ` ½Å{
€o°€ ¿¢m Ž{ ½oib° ŽyŠbuœ` . ƒ„… Ž{ €k®x ½€ ¨`Š“_` Ñ_tl cu ½€ µr€m
ayŠ“ˆ_` [elongated voice] voº_` ÝÝÝÝÝÝÝÝ ’t…r©` k¢ a• ... c\xm ... [not
audible] ... cb§¤`oˆ•_m tx•t^}œm t§•t§pœ ci_m . [pause] ¿•¸xm ›„Ä x c_
}œ` ƒ„•p ÝÝÝ »`k [rising pitch ending in a pause] . ¿•¸x ½€ ciˆv Œm
”p jogv tˆ_ [rising pitch with end pause] _` ´mt‚r¾ [pause] ~ ƒ„…m
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ab˜}o_` rising pitch with end pause] £o|g_` ƒ„…m [rising pitch
ending in a long pause] .
Ét“bˆs c\x †ˆª ”x€ ••“x Ít‚ [beat] †ˆªm —“l [beat] ~ ½€ —Áv Œ ci_m
a•g_` †®‚ cu ›tˆªœ` ƒ„… †‡ˆ_ ш|x [rising pitch ending in a pause] .
ky«€ tx€m d_e [beat] d_e w•‚m [beat] . Þß ½€ ½mkvŠv ••¯b®_tÒ Ž‚`Šª ½ob•u
Š} ¿ˆ¯Áu Ž{ `o˜b“v [rising pitch with end pause] . ciˆv Œm ½€
a•b•g_` aÏ^_` ƒ„•_ ¿•¸x [rising pitch with end pause] cu Šb‘¬ Ži_
¶ŒÎ… †®g¯|u [trailing falling pitch] ƒ„… m€ [elongated voice]
v™ˆ_` ÝÝÝÝÝÝÝ Ž‚`Š“_` —“˜_` cu cb . tyŠbu€ cu€ Ét•v€ `„…m .[pause] "
Back translation
“and I believe that if we get up [beat] and leave [beat] Iraq
[beat], the American security will be in a worse situation.
And I see that it is in the interest of Iraq that we begin this
[elongated voice] looong battle against terrorism…and we
[not audible], but for our children and grandchildren and the
citizens. We will not be humiliated and subjugated by these
[rising pitch] events. And we cannot yield to what [rising
pitch with end pause] az-Zarqawi is doing and that brutality
and that cruelty.
“We all know that it is harsh work [beat] and hard work
[beat], but we must not allow such acts by the few [rising
pitch with end pause]. And I stress [beat] and I said that
[beat]. Twenty five million Iraqis, the majority of whom
want to live in a free society [rising pitch with end pause].
And we cannot submit to this small group [rising pitch with
end pause] to change the future of those or these [elongated
voice] milliiiiions of the Iraqi people. And this is also
America’s security. [pause]”
This back translation, which follows the formal contours of the Arabic
text, clearly shows a few major problems in the Arabic rendition relating
to accuracy, precision, informative and communicative intentions and
completeness. The following is a summary.
• The verb “wilt” was probably mistaken for “will” and was translated
as such in the Arabic rendition.
• “America’s security” became “American security”. The intensifier
“much” in “much worse off” was omitted.
• The addition of “it is in the interest of Iraq” changed the informative
and communicative intentions of the utterance; it distorted the
propositional integrity and rhetorical technique of the sentence.
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• The conflation of “…our children and our grandchildren. And so that's
why I'm consistently telling the Iraqi citizens” into “…our children
and grandchildren and the citizens” produced a serious translation
error.
• Breaking down the sentence “And so that's why I'm consistently
telling the Iraqi citizens that we will not be intimidated” into two and
changing the rhetorical technique of the sentence “That's why my
message to Mr. Zarqawi is, ‘you cannot drive us out of Iraq by your
brutality’” from a direct quotative to an indirect quotative changed the
evidential integrity of the sentence.
• Breaking down “brutality” into “brutality” and “cruelty” also changed
the rhetorical technique. This may be seen as a recovery technique
with the “elliptical rather”, or a form of hendiadys [two words with
overlapping meanings to express a single notion] often used in Arabic.
• Another significant mistranslation is the rendition of “fate” as
“future”.
• The modulation of the sentence “And we cannot allow the actions of a
few to determine the fate of these good people as well as the fate of
the security of the United States” into “And we cannot submit to this
small group to change the future of those or these millions of the Iraqi
people. And this is also America’s security” is also a major distortion.
The Arabic rendition is said to be carried out in RSI mode, with the
following distinctive contours:
1. Mimicking of source discourse beats, pauses and stops
2. Pitched up emphasis of words
3. Elongated words [long and million]
4. High rising pitch with end pauses
5. Fast-pace of strings of words mimicking source discourse
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The following is a typical example of high rising pitch.
“We will not be humiliated and subjugated by these [rising
pitch] events. And we cannot yield to what [rising pitch with
end pause] az-Zarqawi is doing and that brutality and that
cruelty.”
»`kÝÝÝ}œ` ƒ„•p ¿•¸xm ›„Äx c_ . ¿•¸x ½€ ciˆv Œm
”p jogv tˆ_ ´mt‚r¾_` ~ ab˜}o_` ƒ„…m £o|g_` ƒ„…m .
events
brutality cruelty Az-Zarkawi
Figure 24 - A Typical Example of RSI Rendition
Interpreting and the rhetorical situation
Interpreting-mediated communication is a response to a rhetorical
situation. Bitzer (1968) defines the rhetorical situation as a complex of
sociocultural features that include elements such as “persons, events,
objects, and relations presenting an actual or potential exigence, which
can be completely or partially removed if discourse, introduced into the
situation, can so constrain human decision or action as to bring about the
significant modification of the exigence”. Understanding how these
elements apply to the simultaneous interpreting situation enables us to
understand the significance of interpreting vis-à-vis the rhetorical
discourse and the situationality of the interpreter in the rhetorical
situation.
A rhetorical situation must exist as a necessary condition of rhetorical
discourse whereby interlocutors engage in rhetorical exchanges to inform,
influence and persuade one another. In live simultaneous interpreting, the
rhetorical situation is extended to include the interpreter as a mediator.
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The nature of this mediation is both epistemic and rhetorical. It is
epistemic because it carries knowledge about a specific topic that the
interlocutors intend to exchange and rhetorical because it seeks to
reproduce the rhetoric of the interlocutors that seek to persuade and
influence. The question here is whether it is the function of the
simultaneous interpreter to recreate the verbal rhetorical effects of
rhetorical discourse or to provide a coded-switching interface between
two distinct systems of communication that are temporarily coupled in a
translation domain within the communication environment.
Figure 25 - Translation (Interpreting) Interface in Bilingual Communication
17

Modes of Operation
The literature on Telecast Simultaneous Interpreting (TSI) rarely
discusses the modes of delivery in terms of elocution and their effect on
mediated communication, perhaps because the languages studied do not
exhibit stark elocutionary differences as those that exist between say
Arabic and English.
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Pöchhacker (1995) discusses TSI in terms of accent and voice, fluency of
delivery, cohesion, consistency, completeness and correctness. Since
Arabic TSI interpreters use Standard Arabic (SA), the native accent is not
an issue. While regional features are sometimes detected in the timbre,
prosody, and vocabulary of interpreters, delivered properly, SA has the
tendency to remove or level regional accents, and where regional
variations are detected they are accepted as native variations. Moreover,
while fluency of delivery, cohesion, consistency, completeness and
correctness are critical factors in elocution so far as defects and poor
performance are concerned, they are not a defining element of style of
delivery. Similarly, segmentation of input and rate of input and output
have been treated as part of cognitive management and elicitation of
meaning. Russo (2005) describes a mode of delivery in simultaneous film
interpreting where “sufficient emotional involvement”, high register, and
the interpreters being “to a certain extent part of the same communicative
context” are features of delivery.
In the present study, an analysis of the modes of operation by the various
interpreters across Arabic satellite television stations has revealed two
major modes of simultaneous interpreting that have nothing to do with a
clearly defined interpreting policy on the part of these stations. These
modes, which are not documented or described in the reviewed literature,
are here termed: expository simultaneous interpreting (ESI) and rhetorical
simultaneous interpreting (RSI). The distinction is drawn from the
definition of exposition as informative discourse, and rhetorical as the
persuasive effect of informative discourse realized by means additional to
the informative content of discourse.
Expository simultaneous interpreting
The ESI mode carries the informative and communicative intentions of
the speaker’s utterances without the verbal paralinguistic features such as
quality of voice, pitch, speed, interjections, fillers, or vocalizations. This
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mode of delivery takes into account the communication medium used to
deliver the message and the visual and auditory presence of the speaker.
Expository simultaneous interpreting focuses primarily on the content and
propositions of the speaker’s utterances or discourse and seeks to convey
these qualities by alignment of linguistic patterns. It does not focus on the
speaker’s actions or body language. Consider the following example of an
English utterance rendered in Arabic.

Is that a joke? [laughing] huhhh! [angrily, with a rising pitch]
I don't. [emphatically and punctuated] I [beat] honestly [beat]
don't.[stop] Umm…[beat] I really respect everybody's
opinion and [pause] umm…but that was sort of – umm… a
tough decision.
Œ tx€ ·a}¾u ƒ„… †… ! Œ axtu€ †ip ! d_e ½ty ci_m m ¿ÝbˆÁ_` ¶`rà jŠ¯}€ Étg} tx€
tu Étªox ... t®“l ÉÉ`r`Š‚ .
The speech fillers were not transferred into Arabic. Only the rhetorical
techniques—orders and logical patterns—were aligned. Rhetorical
techniques are “those elements that bind together the items of information
in a piece of discourse” (Trimble, 1985:52). Orders include time order,
space order, causality and result.
Rhetorical simultaneous interpreting
In contrast, the RSI mode attempts to re-enact the speaker’s utterances
with full verbal (and sometimes nonverbal) paralinguistic features
including auditive information such as intonation, emphasis, volume,
pitch, speech patterns, interjections, fillers, false starts, tone of voice,
vocalizations, and other rhetorical and illocutionary theatrics. RSI is
usually employed in missionary stage-bound performances. Consider the
previous example rendered into Arabic this time with the speech fillers,
stops, and verbal paralinguistic features.
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Is that a joke? [laughing] huhhh! [angrily, with a rising pitch]
I don't. [emphatically and punctuated] I [beat] honestly [beat]
don't.[stop] Umm…[beat] I really respect everybody's
opinion and [pause] umm…but that was sort of – umm… a
tough decision.
·a}¾u ƒ„… †… [laughing] ”••Ý… ! [angrily, with a rising pitch] tx€
Œ ! [emphatically and punctuated] tx€ [beat] axtu€ †ip [beat] Œ
[beat] ! ààààà .... [beat] m ¿bˆÁ_` ¶`rà jŠ¯}€ Étg} tx€ [pause] àààà ... ci_m
tu Étªox d_e ½ty àààà ... t®“l É`r`Š‚ .
RSI has been used successfully in religious settings by evangelists and
other preachers for maximum illocutionary effect. It has also been used in
the courtroom in certain countries and by interpreters who chose this form
of delivery. Controversially, Gonzalez et al (1991), confirm that “the
interpreter has an obligation to convey every aspect of the witness’s
testimony, not only words but also paralinguistic elements such as pauses,
false starts, and tone of voice. The importance of these paralinguistic or
non-verbal elements cannot be overemphasized” (480). However, for the
reasons expounded in this chapter, overemphasis of these features in TSI
is a serious distracting factor.
In most situations RSI is scripted and rehearsed. Consequently, it ceases
to be RSI proper, since an essential element of simultaneous interpreting
is arguably the extemporaneity of delivery.
It is important to note that the term “rhetorical” in reference to this mode
of delivery refers to the performative features of rhetorical artistry in a
speech act, which include tone of voice dynamics, pacing, interaction with
an audience, and kinaesthetic gestures.
The interpreter’s role within the communication process
The interpreter’s role within the communication process can be viewed
within the following rhetorical communication model of interpreting. The
model assumes that all interpreting is rhetorical communication, as
defined by McCroskey (1978) since no interpreting is produced but with
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the intention of communicating the message of the original in another
language.
Following McCroskey’s (1978) definition of rhetorical communication as
goal directed, translation-mediated communication is always rhetorical
irrespective of the type of communication in the source language text,
since translation is always motivated and goal-directed; it seeks to
stimulate a source-selected meaning in the mind of the target language
reader by converting source language code into target language code to
evoke more or less the same meaning and the same effect, however
circumvented, and by striving to reconstruct the source language textual
reality in the target language by desperately working to an ideal
hypothetical model or blueprint. This blueprint is often conditioned by a
number of variables.
Figure 26—Duality and Centrality of the Simultaneous Interpreter’s Role
This figure illustrates the cyclic process of converting information into
knowledge as part of the extended rhetorical situation created by the
transmutative interpreting process in which the interpreter plays a dual
role of receiver and transmitter of the source discourse as target discourse
for a target language audience. Within this process, the distinction
between information and knowledge is a critical one. As Carey (1988)
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confirms, information and knowledge are generally regarded as identical
and synonymous. “It is assumed that reality consists of data or bits of
information and this information is, in principle, recordable and storable.
Therefore, it is also possible, in principle, for a receiver to know
everything or at least to have access to all knowledge” (195). Carey
contends that “information” about the world does not exist without
conceptual systems that create and define the world. In line with this
distinction, information can be defined as inactive knowledge comprising
data, known facts or things used as the basis for inferences or reckoning.
When the text is submitted to translation, the information is converted
into knowledge as perceived by the translator.
Knowledge is active information that involves recognition, understanding
and identification. In other words, in simple terms, information becomes
knowledge when the receiver makes meaning of it. At this point, the text
is reframed into another text in another language.
Within the two modes of operation described above, the simultaneous
interpreter plays two different roles in the cross-cultural communication
process. These roles are fundamentally different. In the ESI mode, the
interpreter assumes a detached role acting as a conduit of source discourse
to target language. This role enables the interpreter to remain neutral in as
far as the paralinguistic and extra-linguistic properties of rendition are
concerned. It also enables the viewer to feel comfortable with a clearly
demarcated division of roles within the communication process. By
contrast, in the RSI mode, the interpreter assumes an engaged imitative
role that transforms the triadic cross-cultural communication process into
a tetradic communication process. In recreating the paralinguistic
properties of source discourse, the simultaneous interpreter runs the risk
of mimesis, role shift and becoming the fourth dyad.
Simultaneous interpreting is characterized by rapidity. Assuming a
Rhetorical Simultaneous mode of delivery tends to lead to a high
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involvement style, which is an active, fast-paced, overlapping mode of
delivery. An essential feature of interpreting is the ability to guard against
becoming emotive towards the dyads in the communication. To remain
empathetic without becoming sympathetic is of paramount importance
ethically and operationally to ensure the interpreter does not become a
passive yet influential dyad in a tetradic communication transaction. The
high involvement imitative style tends to shift the role of the interpreter in
this direction and leads to elocutionary errors and errors of meaning.
Given the emotive involvement of the interpreter in RSI, regional
dialectal contours and extra linguistic features become more pronounced
in Arabic. This observation is crucial in simultaneous interpreting for
television broadcasters who aim to appeal to the full spectrum of Arab
society spread over two continents. Regional dialectical idiosyncrasies
and personal traits may distract viewers and undermine the credibility of
content in a region where traditional national and tribal rivalries have
weakened and divided the region along superimposed political borders.
Moreover, when the source speaker’s voice is audible, RSI is bound to
cause verbal dissonance between the source speaker’s and the
interpreter’s paralinguistic features. Such dissonance occurs when these
features are out of synchronization with one another in terms of voice
qualities and rhetorical and illocutionary aspects. In live broadcasts,
verbal dissonance may distract from or distort the speaker’s message and
lower the quality of delivery.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Telecast simultaneous interpreting is certainly an important phenomenon
that must be analysed in order to understand its implications for the
Arabic satellite stations’ credibility and relevance and for the interpreting
profession in general. It is important for the simultaneous interpreter to
remain professionally detached from the interpreting setting. To maintain
cognitive empathy with the subject-matter and broadcasting event is
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equally important. It is not the role of the simultaneous interpreter to
mimic the speaker and theatrically reproduce the utterances of the speaker
in the target language. Such behavioural mirroring is not acceptable as a
mode of delivery for two main reasons: (1) it runs the risk of transiting the
interpreter from empathy to sympathy, and (2) it is superfluous and
distracting in a visual medium where all participants in the broadcasting
event can see and hear the speaker. It is only reasonable to think that we
are all human beings and our expressions of emotions, feelings and
actions, while may have slightly different contours, are basically and
essentially the same. An interpreter is not an actor who is seeking to win
an Oscar or Amy award for his or her performance.
For these reasons, the Expository Simultaneous Interpreting mode of
delivery is recommended. Furthermore, un-muting the original voice of
the speaker in this communication medium also adds to the authenticity
and realism of the source discourse and to the richness of the viewers’
experience, especially in a culture that has a long history of subtitling
experience. Certainly, hearing the original voice obviates the need for
artificial and faulty mimicry of the paralinguistic features of voice.
Finally, Arabic satellite television stations have been quickly pressed into
service to provide live world-class telecast simultaneous interpreting
(TSI). Despite their initial state of unreadiness and apparent teething
problems, these stations have made major inroads into professional
telecast simultaneous interpreting within a very short developmental
timeframe. The current study has yielded useful information that will
contribute to our understanding of telecast simultaneous interpreting at
Arabic satellite television in particular and broadcasting at large. New
modes of delivery seem to have emerged over that period of study that
will certainly undergo refinement and enhancement. Further research into
these modes of delivery and other aspects of TSI at these stations is bound
to reveal new data and should consolidate these initial findings.
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Notes

1
Original text in Arabic, my translation. A copy of the resolution obtained from the Syrian
Ambassador to Australia.
2
Standard Arabic is a highly inflectional language. In some instances, basic inflections indicating the
person of the speaker have been violated by interpreters. For example, the inflection of the suffix “t” in
the verb “qul-t” indicates whether it refers to the first or second person. “qul-tu” means “I [have] said”,
with “tu” being the pronoun “I” and “qulta” means “you [have] said”, with “ta” being the pronoun
“you” — a fundamental norm that has been violated in interpreting renditions.
3
Many interpreting courses focus primarily on the students’ foreign language to the neglect of their
“native” language needs.
4
It might be argued that this is not a comprehension problem as such, but rather a conditioned reflex
caused by dictionary-based second language acquisition.
5
Proposed by the author to the Conference on Arab Cooperation in Terminology, Tunis, 1986 and
adopted as a recommendation.
6
Reported in Darwish, 1988.
7
Attributed to Prophet Muhammad.
8
To express the notion of tall, Arabic usually uses the compound word tawil (long) + al-qama
(stature).
9
Relay interpreting is used when more than one interpreter is required to complete the bilingual
communication transaction.
10
Most recently, Aljazeera has introduced sign language interpreted news broadcasts using a claimed
"Universal Arabic Sign Language".
11
These guests may act as dyad 1 or dyad 2 during interaction in a variety of combinations
12
This is not a full inventory of TSI settings. Other TSI settings may vary.
13
Original text in Arabic, my translation.
14
Due to the highly protective nature of operations at this network, access has not been feasible.
Additional information for the purposes of this study has been obtained through informal lines of
communication with staff members and colleagues.
15
The audio and video signals of a television program are transmitted simultaneously on separate high
frequency radio waves and at different speeds causing a “lip sync” problem in television broadcasts.
This is usually fixed by using audio-video synchronizers. With digital television systems and
geosynchronous satellite transmissions, the video is delayed and the audio is received first. In this case,
audio-video resynchronization is achieved by delaying the audio signal to match the associated video
signal. The same time delay synchronizers allow the TSI interpreters to listen to the audio stream.
16
A condition of hiring translators and interpreters at these outfits, including the BBC, is for applicants
to have “a voice suitable for broadcasting”. At LBC, newsreaders occasionally perform simultaneous
interpreting.
17
Adapted from Darwish (1998).
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Chapter 7
Summary and Conclusions: The
Taming of the Shrew
In this chapter:
Aims
Overview
Summary
Research Findings
Implications
Conclusion
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Aims
In the preceding chapters, this thesis has examined the process of
translation-mediation framing of news within the phenomenon of
Arabic satellite television. The research aim of this thesis was to explore
the nature of the translation-mediated reframing process of news in
Arabic television.
The focus of the study has been Aljazeera television. In this concluding
chapter, I present a brief summary of the study, the implications of the
findings for future research and the conclusions.
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Overview
It has been argued throughout this thesis that translation mediation causes
a message already framed in one language to be reframed in another and
that in news making such mediation plays a critical role in reconstructing
realties at different levels of multimodality in satellite television. By
analysing this phenomenon at Aljazeera within the framework of a unique
three-tier translation model, I have found sufficient evidence to establish
causality between translation and the way the message is ultimately
framed in the target language.
Translation-mediated news is illusory in the sense that while the overall
news report or broadcast for that matter is packaged without translation
mediation, translation mediation substantially influences the overall news
report at a lower level of construction. This gives the impression to the
viewers that the news report is natively prepared and any frames (or
reframes) are most likely accepted as such, including the language
anomalies they contain.
Furthermore, translating between two linguistically and culturally
divergent languages, such as English and Arabic, is not always a
straightforward task. As we have already seen in the previous chapters,
different syntactical structures, incongruent lexical fields, dissonant
rhetorical techniques and dissimilar metaphorical representations—all
contribute to the complexity of transfer. The task becomes more complex
when the subject matter and the rhetorical techniques are so intertwined
and the message is overloaded with cultural references that are alien to the
culture of the target audience. Texts and discourses of this nature present
tension between preserving the style and intentions of the original and
producing a natural sounding translation. The result is discrepancy and
dissonance and in more ways than one, incremental loss of vital
information.
1
In news making, not only do editorial policy and ideology
play a crucial part in the direction and outcome of translation, but also the
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translation strategy chosen for translating news artefacts is even more
critical as translation patterns and techniques become more habitual and
customary.
Aljazeera: from zero to pharaoh
“When the history of the Arabs at the end of the twentieth century and
beginning of the following century is written, Aljazeera must be recorded
as a prominent landmark in the maps of the Arabs and in particular, as an
influential element in the collective conscience, with an effective role in
raising the awareness and reconstructing memory,” writes Fahmy
Howeidy, deputy chief editor and columnist at the leading Egyptian
newspaper Al-Ahram, in an article titled Setting the News Agenda in the
Arab World, in Aljazeera’s tenth anniversary publication The Aljazeera
Decade 1996-2006. He continues:
“I am not in a position which allows me to determine what the
relative influence of coincidence and actual planning were in the
launching of Aljazeera Channel. Nor am I in a position to define
the local, regional and international factors in giving birth to the
Channel. But I can say without hesitation that its emergence
constitutes a response to a pressing historic demand where Arabs,
or if you wish, Muslims appeared to lack a different platform
allowing an opportunity to read events with their own eyes—not
through European or American eyes—and to express their
yearnings with audacity and a loud voice, at the same time
focusing on the principal causes of the Ummah (Muslim
community)” (Aljazeera, 2006:128).
While these so-called Arab eyes are arguably not so Arab after all, as
Fahmy and others have claimed, this passage, which is clearly a poor
translation from Arabic, sums up the general view among both the
skeptics and the believers of Aljazeera in the Arab world and elsewhere,
and highlights Aljazeera’s importance not only to the Arabs but also as a
significant manifestation of media power, influence and interplay with
politics. The changes in editorial policy Aljazeera has recently gone
through must also be seen in light of Qatar’s own shift of political stance
towards the Arab-Israeli conflict. Most recently, as a repercussion of the
Israeli offensive on the Palestinians in Gaza, Qatar closed Israel’s Trade
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Office in Doha and expelled its staff from Qatar. Qatar has also been
establishing strong ties with Syria and Iran and has been accused of
supporting Hezbollah and Hamas in what pro-Israel commentators call the
Iran-Syria-Qatar-Hezbollah Axis. According to Carmon, Yehoshua,
Savyon, and Migron (2009) from the Middle East Media Research
Institute (MEMRI):
“as part of Iran's bid for regional hegemony, a political and
military axis has formed, comprising not only Iran and the Shi'a in
Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen, but also various Sunni forces that
have an interest in opposing Saudi Arabia and Egypt. It was
during the 2006 Lebanon war that a distinct Iran-Syria-Qatar-
Hizbullah axis first emerged to oppose the Saudi-Egyptian camp.
At a later stage, this axis expanded to include Hamas, which has
in recent years received increasing support from Iran, as well the
Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Lately, Syria and Iran have been
striving to add Turkey to their ranks, and have met with some
cooperation on the part of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip
Erdogan.
2
While Aljazeera strives to portray itself as a neutral and objective news
and current affairs television network, the fluctuation of its editorial
policy runs in tandem with the about-face change of the Qatari
government’s political position.
Yassin (2006) contends that in the aftermath of the occupation of Iraq in
2003, there has been a fundamental shift in how the Western media have
handled the Arab situation.
The West and particularly the United States have resorted to two means of
communication with the Arab people: (1) direct communication in Arabic
through radio networks such as the BBC and Voice of America, and
satellite television networks such as the failed BBC Arabic channel and
the American channel Al-Hurra, which began broadcasting in February
2004 using the official frequency of the pre-invasion Iraqi satellite
television, and (2) indirect and more influential communication behind
the façade of Arab media networks through funding, secret buyouts, and
advertising, or through buying and even bribing writers who have
embraced the American view (45). As Seib (2008) observes, the battle for
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the hearts and minds in the Middle East is not only being fought on the
streets of Baghdad but also on the news casts and talk shows of Aljazeera
and other news media. Seen as a symbol of a new media-centric world,
Aljazeera is claimed to affect global politics and culture and help foster
unprecedented cohesion in the worldwide Muslim community, through
broadcasting in Arabic and English, and probably later in other languages,
providing a new paradigm of new media’s influence.
3
As a new phenomenon in the Arab world, Aljazeera has undergone major
transformations since its inception. These transformations can be loosely
summarized into the following three overlapping phases. Phase 1:
Idealistic journalism that followed a utopian and somewhat naïve model
of journalism that sought to provide neutral and objective reporting of
news and current affairs. During this phase which ends in 2003, values
and concepts of democracy, freedom and human rights were promoted
within a crude western model of television news reporting. Phase 2:
Indeterminacy and oscillation (2003 -2006) where editorial policy
teetered between neutrality and adoption of a pro-Arab stance towards the
events in the region. This was more prominent during the US invasion of
Iraq. Expressions such as “war on terrorism”, “terrorists” and ‘insurgents”
were used to describe the resistance in Iraq and Palestine. Phase 3:
Coverage post the Bush plot to bomb Aljazeera, characterized by a clear
pro Arab stance towards the events in the region, and in the reporting of
the Israeli war on Lebanon in 2006 and the latest Israeli military
operations in Gaza Strip in 2008. Characteristically however, a common
feature of these phases is the role translation plays in framing and
reframing the news to produce news stories and create new constructs of
reported realities as demonstrated in this research.
With the realization that Aljazeera has become a force to be reckoned
with in the media, this research has set out to examine the role of
translation in its quest to be a neutral and objective media network.
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Summary
Recent attempts to describe and explain the phenomenon of transnational
Arabic satellite television and more specifically Aljazeera have been
largely concerned with the political ramifications and impact of increased
freedoms on the Arab viewers. While research has tackled the problem of
language in general, no study has so far addressed the role of translation
in framing and reframing already constructed realities and the effects of
translation-mediated reporting of news.
This research examined the causative relationship between translation and
news making at Arabic satellite television, with Aljazeera as the main
focus of the study. It explored the social semiotics of Arabic television
and projected socio-cultural impacts of translation-mediated news in
Arabic satellite television on the Arab viewers. This is a multi-layered
research problem of how translation operates at two different yet
interwoven levels: translation proper, that is the rendition of discourse
from one language into another at the text level, and translation as a
broader process of interpretation of social behaviour that is driven by
linguistic and cultural forms of another medium resulting in new social
signs generated from source meaning reproduced as target meaning,
bound to be different in many respects. While words and expressions may
find their matches across languages, they more often do not correspond
within the context of communication. As we have seen in the previous
chapter, this condition creates new linguistic expressions that bear little
relation to the meanings intended in the source language.
Throughout the preceding chapters it has been emphasized that translation
plays a critical role in framing news and current affairs programs
broadcast by Aljazeera. It has been argued and demonstrated that without
a structured approach to translation, the translation process is bound to be
affected by a host of internal and external factors. This has implications
for both the translators reproducing text from foreign language sources
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and those seeking to implement a specific editorial policy. Naturally,
within any given program there is considerable variation between
translators and interpreters in their style of delivery and competence.
However, without a clear method of translation that considers the role of
reframing, infelicities and distortions will result that are bound to change
the character and logical patterns of the target language.
When news in January 2006 about a leaked British government
memorandum that US President George W Bush wanted to bomb
Aljazeera reached Aljazeera, it was received with disbelief. The
immediate editorial reaction was anti-American. A shift in the editorial
policy soon became more pronounced as Aljazeera abandoned its
adoption of the terms “terrorism” and “war on terror”. Instead, Aljazeera
has since then increasingly adopted quotatives to qualify the use of such
terms. As discussed in the preceding chapters, the use of these quotatives
gives the impression of neutrality and objectivity. However, total
neutrality and objectivity is a myth, and the use or rather overuse of
quotatives may alienate the very people Aljazeera is trying to win over—
namely, its Arab audiences. This is so because in this instance quotatives
distance the news reporter from the political and socio-cultural context of
the news report or event and give the impression of indifference (or sitting
on the fence) to the ills and woes, aspirations, serious concerns and
sentiments of the majority of the Arab viewers.
To understand how other researchers and commentators viewed
Aljazeera, Chapter 2 presented a critical review of the literature that had
been produced about Aljazeera and Arabic satellite television in the last
ten years, in order to tease out the main arguments that appeared in the
current debate of this largely translation-mediated social and cultural
phenomenon in the Arab world. This chapter consisted of two major
sections: one section dealing with the literature specific to Aljazeera and
another covering translation theories, methods and models relating to
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mediated news reporting. The aim of this chapter was thus to review the
landmark publications that have examined Aljazeera to identify the main
arguments and the gaps in the literature in relation to the centrality of
translation in of news reporting in Arabic television. In examining the
current theories and models of translation that have relevance to the
present research, this chapter aimed to gain insight into these theories and
models and to identify relevant arguments and shortcomings with respect
to the impact of translation on news making of television. As discussed in
this chapter, a major gap in the literature was identified vis-à-vis the role
of translation in news reporting, giving significance to the current
research.
Chapter 3 outlined the conceptual framework and methodology employed
in addressing the research questions and described the theoretical
framework in which the research was grounded. This chapter also
described the methods used for data collection, sampling and analysis,
including the research model employed in the analysis of the data.
Employing a qualitative-interpretive method of analysis within a three-tier
model of translation analysis, this chapter lay the grounds for the analysis
of examples from the corpus of data collected from Aljazeera over the
period of research and enabled a structured approach to examining the
role of translation in reframing already framed realities.
Chapter 4 examined the impact of translation on news making and argued
that by submitting news to translation it undergoes a reframing process
that entails a reconstruction of a constructed reality already subjected to
professional, institutional and contextual influences. This chapter paved
the way in the subsequent chapters for a discussion of the specific aspects
of news translation at Aljazeera.
Chapter 5 presented a discussion of salient features of translation-
mediated reframing of Arabic news broadcasts transmitted by Aljazeera
and other Arabic satellite television channels. It aimed to identify the
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relationship between the linguistic and epistemic realities of news
discourse in the translation-mediated process of reframing, focusing on
the dissonance that this kind of mediation causes between the epistemic
and linguistic knowledge as embodied in the discourse of news broadcast.
This chapter took a different approach to the discussion of framing and
reframing in that it focuses on cognitive dissonance as a psychological
state of contradictory cognition of the same reality expressed in two
different languages, which creates discourse that contributes to
sociocultural change.
Languages normally compensate for epistemic-linguistic dissonance
within the same language environment by elevating the linguistic form to
a metaphor or by adjusting existing metaphors through metaphoric shifts.
However, epistemic-linguistic dissonance that occurs in translation
between divergent languages is usually the result of culturally
incongruent, skewed epistemic frames. Apart from the immediate
distortion of source-language epistemic realities, skewed epistemic frames
contribute to psychological and social change, which is not always
necessarily positive, by changing the social and cultural perspective, and
create communication breakdown due to loss of shared experiences and to
the way they frame reality.
In translating news sources, irreconciled linguistic-epistemic dissonance
seems to be more prevalent in Arabic than in the other direction. This is
largely due to incompetence and short deadlines that force journalists-
cum-translators to adhere to the surface structures of source text and
operate at the primary level of rendition. It is also a deep-rooted
translation tradition that seems to be further entrenched in the psyche of
most translators and translation-reliant thinkers and intellectuals across
the Arab world. Furthermore, framing and reframing through linguistic-
epistemic dissonance is an ongoing process that has implications beyond
the immediate message of the original to the fundamental thinking
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patterns of those who adopt such dissonant forms. Since going to air in
1996, Aljazeera has been contributing to linguistic-epistemic dissonance
in the Arabic language through adherence to primary level of rendition
and literal translation strategies.
Chapter 6 examined the emerging styles of delivery of simultaneous
interpreting in Arabic satellite television and highlights aspects of two
distinct modes of operation, expository and Rhetorical, that seem to vary
in salience of specific functional qualities that reframe the original
message. The role of interpreter-mediated, real-time, cross-cultural and
multilingual communication becomes crucial in live debates, talk shows
and newscasts that seek to effect regional change through international
interaction with officials, political observers, analysts and commentators.
Soon enough, in a fledgling industry that is growing at an amazing pace,
house style modes of delivery are beginning to evolve through a refining
development process. These modes of delivery reframe the original
message and produce variances and infelicities, which are for the most
part unintended by the producers of such mediated programs.
Research Findings
The fundamental finding of the research was to establish a causative-
correlative relationship between translation mediation and news making.
This was formulated into the following research hypothesis.
Translation mediation reframes the original message.
The employment of the multimodal three-tier model within a social
semiotics, interpretative framework, enabled the critical analysis of news
items broadcast by Aljazeera over the research period.
The research sought to answer the following questions.
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Question Narrative
Q1 How does translation reframe the news?
Q2 How does the multimodality of television affect translation-
mediated reframing of news?
The research questions were addressed by conducting a critical review of
the literature that had been published about Arabic satellite television,
with special attention to Aljazeera as the case study, and by a critical
discourse analysis of sample data from Aljazeera broadcasts.
To answer the primary research questions: “How does the translation
mediation reframe news in Arabic television?” and “How does the
multimodality of television affect translation-mediated reframing of
news?”, examples of news broadcasts were analysed within the three-tier
model presented in this thesis.
Research analysis
The analysis was aided and guided by a three-tier model of translation,
which provided the operational framework for analysing new broadcasts
and gauge the extent of framing in terms of interference and intervention.
Implications
This research has explored the phenomenon of Arabic satellite television
through translation mediation. It has revealed serious problems with the
way programs are packaged and with the way news and current affairs are
reported. Most importantly, the research has defined modes of operation
in simultaneous television interpreting and translation. The conceptual
framework and research model developed and employed in the analysis of
news broadcasts provide an organizational schema for the implications of
this research.
The present research has implications for both Aljazeera and news media
in general. Examining the role of translation mediation within this
conceptual framework has implications for news broadcasting that relies
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primarily on foreign sources for news making and packaging, since it
provides a universal translation analysis method that can be applied to
other translation-mediated situations in other languages. While the
findings of this research highlight major problems with reframing already
framed constructed realities at Aljazeera, they also pave the way for
further research into other areas of translation-mediated television and
other audiovisual multimodalities.
Conclusion
The aim of this thesis was to examine the relationship between translation
and news reporting and the social semiotics of packaged news.
When Aljazeera began broadcasting in 1996, it is said to have caused a
shockwave across the Arab world. Aljazeera, however, was not the first
satellite television channel to beam controversial programs to the Arabs
nor was it unique in its style of presentation. Other television channels,
such as LBC, MBC and ART, had been in operation and flooding the
airwaves with culturally and socially more controversial programs and
sometimes programs deemed religiously and morally offensive. With its
coverage of the first second Gulf war and the Palestinian Intifada,
Aljazeera brought something new to the region in terms of its daring and
uncensored reporting of events close to home for many Arabs. With the
airing of the Bin Laden tapes in the aftermath of the September 11
attacks, Aljazeera has captivated the Arab audiences and captured the
attention and interest of observers both in the Arab world and in the west.
The fact that the other channels did not have the same impact as Aljazeera
has a great deal to do with the nature of its broadcasting. Its audacious
news and current affairs programs have hit a raw nerve in the Arab
viewers, which shows the degree of sensitivity and relevance news and
current affairs are to the Arabs in a volatile and largely politically
oppressed region.
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There is no doubt that contemporary Arabic satellite is playing a critical
role in introducing language practices that violate convention, norms and
logic. These practices are becoming established and further entrenched
not only in the media but also in the wider community of Arabic speakers.
While it has been argued that these fundamental changes are restricted to
journalistic writing there is strong anecdotal evidence and well as
empirical data to support the view that the influence is widespread,
encompassing all aspects of human intellectual activity in the Arab world,
so much so that these new forms of expression are used reflexively and
ironically intuitively.
Beyond the news
Certainly, the influence of Aljazeera has not been restricted to news
reporting or to controversial broadcasting of the Bin Laden tapes in the
aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks; it has also managed to frame
these social, cultural and political issues in such a way as to make them
appeal to a wider range of viewers; and has allowed, for the first time
outside entertainment, interactivity with its audience. On this point, while
interactivity is a mode of soliciting feedback or adding excitement and
realism to current affairs and talk show programs in western media, the
nature of interactivity on Aljazeera seems to be largely deeply divisive
and polarizing with Aljazeera playing a synthesizing function of
consensus building. While its vox populi program minbar al-jazeera
(Aljazeera Forum) leaves the viewers feeling frustrated because of the
abrupt nature of interactivity and perhaps because of the patronizing role
the program facilitator usually assumes in the transactional framework
that creates a state of reactance, other programs such The Opposite
Direction (al-itijah al-mua’kis) seem to act as a good “physical” workout
since it takes issues to their ultimate finalities. The old Arabic saying “like
a (public) bath without water” epitomizes the commotion that is displayed
on this program.
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The role of translation, as the present study has established, is one of
critical importance not only in terms of the translated content from foreign
sources, but also in terms of producing live debates and live broadcasts
that involve foreign personalities that do not speak Arabic.
The ten year itch
One may like or hate Aljazeera, But an undeniably unique characteristic
of Aljazeera is that it is a learning organization. Unlike other Arabic
networks that have modelled themselves on Aljazeera or that have
benefited from the climate of freedom and increased latitude Aljazeera
has created, or simply jumped on the bandwagon to attract viewers,
Aljazeera is constantly trying to improve its performance and professional
standards. In the past four years and during the period of this research,
Aljazeera has taken great strides towards consolidating its leading
position despite the uneven and sometimes harsh and heavy-handed
criticisms that have been levelled at it. However, in doing so Aljazeera
has been gradually transformed into an Arabic version of CNN. Over the
past three years, Aljazeera has adopted presentation formats and delivery
styles that smack of a deliberate policy to tone down Aljazeera’s
programs and rationalize its style of reporting. Today there is hardly any
difference in terms of the packaging of news and current affairs programs
on Aljazeera and CNN. Ironically however, CNN in the meantime has
been gradually emulating FOX News, by adopting a similar style of
graphic representation and treatment of news, probably part of the
globalization process of news media as illustrated in the following figure.

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Figure 27— Globalization Process of News Media (source: developed for this
research by the author)
The transformation may also be seen as a response to the mounting
criticisms against Aljazeera by the US administration and other western
governments as well as Arab regimes. When Aljazeera began
broadcasting it came across as a genie out of a bottle or a bull in a China
shop, unbridled and uncontrolled. As alluded to in the literature review,
for some observers, Aljazeera is now becoming more like Fox. This
transformation may also be understood within an organizational capability
maturity model that defines five levels of capability maturity: Level 1:
Initial; Level 2: Repeatable; Level 3: Defined; Level 4: Quantitatively
managed; and Level 5: Optimizing. As Aljazeera has settled in its role and
processes, it seems externally that it has reached level 2 of capability
maturity. Its operational environment is stable and its processes are
repeatable. Consequently, routine sets in and energy is dissipated into
other areas of organizational management. This would be an interesting
and productive area to explore in future research to establish whether
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there is a correlation between Aljazeera’s outward transition and internal
management processes.
In November 2006, Aljazeera celebrated its tenth anniversary with
Hollywood-style glamorous self-indulging accolades. Whether this marks
the beginning of a new phase for Aljazeera settled in the larger landscape
of Middle Eastern politics or indicates running out of steam and entering a
cycle of rehash is quite interesting to watch in the coming years.
Describing the former dictator of Nicaragua Anastasio Somoza, the
twenty-sixth American President Theodore Roosevelt is said to have
remarked: “He may be a son of a bitch – but he's our son of a bitch”.
Many Arabs today may echo the same sentiment about Aljazeera:
“Aljazeera may be a son of a bitch—but it is our son of a bitch!”
However, it is by transforming Aljazeera into a CNN Arabica, or “Al-
Foxeera” as Danny Schechter (2007) puts it, that Aljazeera will cease to
be Aljazeera and Arab viewers will start once more looking for an
alternative, no matter how difficult this might prove to be. Nonetheless,
observations of changes that have taken place at Aljazeera suggest that it
has come full circle.
Finally, I have observed in chapter 1 that Aljazeera has become etched
into the consciousness of the Arabs and has become an integral feature of
their daily life. By the end of this research, one could easily deduce that
Aljazeera has become little more than background noise, especially
among the young generations. This is so because Aljazeera is largely seen
to have failed in becoming the Fourth Estate that keeps governments and
politicians in check. Arab viewers can easily discern biases and old-style
reporting through modern-looking and gadget-enhanced particoloured
presentations of contemporary Arabic television.
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A sense of superiority: outshining the master
In the aftermath of its coverage of the Israeli aggression on Gaza,
Aljazeera seems to have developed a quick sense of superiority in
journalism that exceeds coming of age. Now Aljazeera is challenging the
western media and questioning the objectivity and professional and moral
ethics of western journalists. In as late as 18 March 2009, Faisal Al-
Qasim, host of The Opposite Direction (al-ittjah al-muaakis) taunts and
scolds his guest Hugh Miles, British journalist and author of Al-Jazeera:
The Inside Story of the Arab News Channel that is Changing the West. In
this special episode about the role of western media in covering the Gaza
conflict Al-Qasim asserts:
You, western journalists, are nothing but a parcel of cowards. You
cannot confront the Israelis or the Israeli or Zionist lobby in the
West. You are afraid! You are afraid! You are afraid for your
morsel of bread (livelihood). […] You can’t tell the truth.
This euphoric feeling of superiority, which is also being expressed on
other programs and by other hosts and guests, is giving Aljazeera greater
influence over its viewers as it addresses their deepest concerns, and as
they say in Arabic, scratches the scab of their wounds, or soothes their
fevered brow, and becomes a voice that expresses these concerns
seemingly without fear or favour. For the purposes of our discussion of
the role of translation mediation, such influence and power over its
increasing popular base of viewers will enable Aljazeera to further
establish translation-mediated language as unquestionable norms and
standards of expression irrespective of the anomalies and aberrations that
such mediation creates in the Arabic language.
To this end, the problematic of translation mediation of news reports is
fundamentally connected to translator competence and translation quality
on the one hand and to the ideological views of the news editors on the
other. As previously argued
4
, translation quality is a central issue in the
translation profession and one of the most controversial topics in
translation studies today. From one aspect, translation quality is a direct
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result of the translation process, which cannot be separated from the
principal actor in the process, namely the translator. Subsequently,
translator competence is always called into question whenever the quality
of the translation product is questioned. In news organisations such as
Aljazeera, where mediated language is intrinsic to its news products and
central to the concepts of objectivity and bias, critical translation
mediation awareness should not be limited to the translator/editor. It
should rather encompass a broader editorial policy that takes into account
the effects of mediation on the framing of news. This approach is
predicated on the notion that translation is not a haphazard activity. It is
rather a rational, objective-driven, result-focused process that yields a
product meeting a set of specifications that are implicit or explicit.
The investigation of translation mediation in news making has yielded
results that have significance to the future studies of this phenomenon in
the news and probably beyond. Despite the ongoing debate about the
objectivity and bias of the media, one thing has to be reaffirmed at the
conclusion of this chapter. Journalists genuinely seek to tell the truth the
way they see it. If they have no critical awareness of the way translation
operates in mediated reporting and the interplay of language, translation
and discourse, chances are that reframing will undermine objectivity of
reporting.
Finally, from a semiotic viewpoint, as Best and Kellner (1991) put it,
“dramatic changes in society and culture are often experienced as an
intense crisis for those attached to established ways of life and modes of
thought. The breaking up of once stable social orders and patterns of
thought frequently evoke a widespread sense of social incoherence,
fragmentation, chaos and disorder” (viii). There is sufficient evidence in
this research that translation mediation of news is playing a critical role in
the dramatic changes to the social and language patterns that transnational
satellite television, particularly Aljazeera, is introducing to Arab society.
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Summary and Conclusions: The Taming of the Shrew
The importance of this catalytic process lies in the fact that foreign
expressions that reinforce certain perspectives and social frames are being
naturalized in Arabic through the media. As Thorne (2006) explains, the
naturalization process of a militarized language, such as English,
adversely affects the way we interact with others and renders us incapable
of living peacefully. While this claim might be a little exaggerated, there
is no doubt that the transmission of such expressions into other cultures
causes changes to these cultures. This becomes even more evident and
critical in translation-mediated meaning-making since the relationship
between language and the phenomenal world is organic, where the latter
is continually constituted and reconstituted in a perceived world through
the dynamically changing mode of language that responds to a
dynamically changing system of meaning.

Notes

1
See Darwish, A. (2006). Attributing Terror: Evidence on Authorship: Forensic Translation Analysis
of Culturally Divergent Clandestine Coded Messages. Translation Watch Quarterly, Volume 2, Issue
4, December 2006. 41-66.
2
MEMRI Latest News. An Escalating Regional Cold War –Part I: The 2009 Gaza War.
http://www.memri.org/bin/latestnews.cgi?ID=IA49209#VI. Accessed 16 March 2009.
3
Seib, P. (2008). The Aljazeera Effect: How the New Global Media are Reshaping World Politics, p ix.
4
Darwish, A. (1999, 2001). Transmetrics: A Formative Approach to Translator Competence
Assessment and Translation Quality Evaluation for the New Millennium.
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Index
Index
A
appositive translation, 149, 150, 153
C
communicative intentions, 157
compensatory, 155, 157, 159
compensatory techniques, 157
culture, 151
D
Definitional translation, 157, 158
Descriptive translation, 158
Disjunctive translation, 148
E
Equative translation, 143
explicative translation, 159
Explicative translation, 158, 159
explicatory, 157
explicatory techniques, 157
Explicatory techniques, 157
Extrinsic constraints, 169
F
form extrication, 156
I
identitive translation, 148, 154
Implicative translation, 148
interpretive appositives, 153, 154
interpretive modulatory, 156
Intersectional translation, 148
intervention, 154
interventional techniques, 157
Intrinsic constraints, 170
L
loan translation, 147, 150, 159
M
metonymy, 150, 151
mirror-image, 147
modulatory, 156
Modulatory substitution, 147, 148
modulatory techniques, 156
O
obversive translation, 156
operative, 151, 153, 156, 157
operative appositives, 153
P
primary modulatory, 156
Privative (negational) translation, 149
R
reductive and expansive techniques, 155
referential integrity, 153
S
Substitution, 151
substitutive calque translation, 143
substitutive techniques, 151
substitutive translation, 147, 148
supplantive translation, 149, 150
Supplantive translation, 149
supplemental, 151
supplemental techniques, 151
Supplemental techniques, 151
T
Translation, 156
translation technique, 147, 149, 157
translation techniques, 159
transplantive translation, 153
Transplantive translation, 150
transposition, 144, 157