Framework for Creative Mental Processes

Kussmaul, P. (2017). A cognitive framework for looking at creative mental processes.
1. Introduction
This chapter first describes the main features of a translation as a creative product, few traditional notions of the creative process are then discussed, and finally a number of cognitive models and notions are presented, in order to show how they could be applied to the explanation of creative translation processes.
2. A few basic assumptions about
translation as a creative product
If we can show that translating in general involves creativity, sometimes to a similar degree to that involved in the writing of an independent text, we may, among other things, help improve the status of the profession
One might say that the looser the link (to the source text), the greater the chance for a translator to be creative.
In creativity research the creative product is defined as both novel and appropriate for the task (see Preiser 1976: 5).
Accordingly, we may say that a creative translation is a translation which (a) involves changes when compared with the source text, thereby bringing in something that is novel, and which (b) is also appropriate for the task that was set, i.e. the translation assignment (or purpose).
3. Some traditional notions
of the creative process
The traditional idea, to which I do not subscribe at all, is that the creative process is a mystery.
Translation scholars often use the word 'creative', but, with a few exceptions (notably Wilss 1988: 108-128), unfortunately also in a rather prescientific way.
Only recently have attempts been made to approach creative thought in translating in a rational and scientific way (see Beylard-Ozeroff et al. 1998).
Cognitive linguistics provides us with a number of models and notions that may serve to analyze the creative process. .
4. Some cognitive models
4.1. Fillmore's scenes and frames
The perhaps most comprehensive model is Fillmore's scenes-and-frames semantics. The words we hear or read in texts, according to Fillmore (1976 and 1977), are the frames which stimulate mental pictures or scenes in our memory.
I think it is important to see that Fillmore, by making use of the term 'scene', refers to our minds, i.e. our memories. Meaning is not just derived from a linguistic system but involves people's experiences.
In translation decision making, asking students/translators to try to think of (i.e. visualize) examples of (the translation problem) in their daily lives,
Now, scenes-and-frames semantics rests on prototype semantics with its basic notion of core elements and fuzzy edges.
Thus one might put forward the hypothesis that it is the choice of core elements of a scene that leads to adequate creative translations.
figure/ground alignment
Langacker makes use here of the notion of canonical viewpoint, which is the usual and natural way of looking at things (Langacker 1987: 123).
Using the terms 'scene' and 'frame' we may say that the technique used here was that of changing the frame,
4.3. Roger Schank's thematic organization points (TOPs)
Schank (1982) uses the notion of thematic organization points (TOPs) to explain connections between events in the human memory. TOPs are responsible for our iability to:
1.Get reminded of a story that illustrates a point.
2. Come up with adages such as "A stitch in time saves nine" or "neither a borrower nor a lender be" at an appropriate point.
3. g Recognize an old story in new trappings.
4. Notice co-occurrences of seemingly disparate events and draw conclusions from their co-occurrence. (Schank 1982: 111)
Thinking via TOPs may, however, be a useful technique not only for finding quotations, but also for the solution of other problems. Analogies, for instance, can also be regarded as 'seemingly disparate events'. They are often used to illustrate abstract and difficult ideas, frequently in scientific texts.
5. Conclusion and possibilities for further research
The notions of frames, scenes, core and fuzzy edges, focusing and figure/ground alignment seem to be quite illuminating for understanding the role of comprehension and the creation of sense in the translation process.
As to the verbalization of sense in the target text, the techniques of picking out scene elements, changing ( or preserving) the focus, and using TOPs seem to lead to creative translations.
Our models may, of course, also serve to explain what goes on when translating is not successful. They can, for instance, be used to show that preconceived ideas prevent translators from seeing what the text is really about, as when the scenes in their minds do not fit into the frames of the text, and they might help us in evaluating translations by making use of the notion of a core and fuzzy edges.
The models presented are taken from cognitive linguistics and cognitive psychology (Schank), in other words, from theories of normal language processing.
When applied to translation, the cognitive models might have to be modified, or we may find that some of the models are more applicable than others. But then, the models could also be used to show in what respect translation differs from normal language processing.
We may find that turning around the figure/ground alignment, changing the focus and thinking via TOPs are rather rare in normal language processing and are typical only of solving specific translation problems.
Finally, I would like to mention a pedagogical line of research. Does knowledge of these (possibly modified) models produce creative translators?
The basic idea is that one cannot understand the meaning of a single word without access to all the essential knowledge that relates to that word...Thus, a word activates, or evokes, a frame of semantic knowledge relating to the specific concept to which it refers (or highlights, in frame semantic terminology). (wikipedia)