The Translation of Game/Sport Metaphors in English Business Texts into Arabic: A Cognitive Approach

Document Type : Original Article


1 Associate Professor in Translation Studies, Department of English Language, Faculty of Humanities, An-Najah National University, Nablus , Palestine

2 Language Center, Faculty of Humanities, An-Najah National University, Jenin, Palestine


Metaphor has usually been presented as a literary device which has some rhetorical and aesthetic purposes. However, in economic discourse, metaphor has a communicative function exhibited in English business texts. This study is directed towards a comprehensive analysis of metaphor translation in English business texts into Arabic. By selecting a sample of metaphors from business articles on BBC, CNN and Project Syndicate online websites, the study analyzes the data in terms of function, significance and role each metaphor plays in its context. The study also applies the cognitive approach to metaphor in the analysis of data and shows the important role this approach has on translation studies. The cognitive theory of metaphor provides significant insights into translation studies and now metaphor translatability is no longer a question of the individual metaphorical expression, as identified in the ST, but it has become linked to the level of conceptual systems in source and target cultures. Four main strategies of translating game/sport business metaphors are detected and used in the illustrative examples throughout the article. The study reveals that translators may opt for either preserving the metaphorical image of the source language metaphor or explicating its informative value; literal translation of some business metaphorical concepts presents itself as a workable solution in many cases because of the shared mood of cognition between English and Arabic language readers.



Translation as a concept bears several definitions which all revolve around the same idea of transmitting a message with all its ideas and thoughts from one language into another. Among theorists who provided definitions of translation is Munday (2008, 15) who points out that the term translation refers to several meanings: the general subject field, the product, and the process, where the process of translation “involves the translator changing an original written text (the source text or ST) in the original verbal language (the source language or SL) into a written text (the target text or TT) in a different verbal language (the target language or TL).” In this process, the translator encounters many difficulties where s/he should always be prepared to produce a high level quality of the product. Among these difficulties comes the translation of metaphor, which has been a lively debate in translation studies.

In this study, the cognitive approach to metaphor will guide us into discovering how metaphors shape our perception of business world and shed light on the role of metaphor in expressing thoughts in the world of business.  The analysis of business metaphor translation with respect to the cognitive approach to metaphor will efficiently contribute to translation studies in general and business metaphor translation in particular. 

Metaphor is frequently seen as a literary figure of speech, which has some rhetorical and aesthetic value. However, in business discourse, it has an important role and a communicative function clearly shown in English business texts. In fact, metaphor in English economic discourse has been an area of lively debate in terms of the communication a metaphor provides (Kheovichai, 2015). In the English language, metaphor is viewed as the main language characteristic of English business texts. Hence, metaphor presents itself as a problematic issue in translating business journalism into Arabic for the insightful role it plays in explaining many economic situations and concepts rather than just being an artistic aspect of texts.

Indeed, the metaphor’s surrounding context makes its translation more problematic, since metaphor is context-dependent which means that we may have a different translation each time depending on our understanding of the business context. Thus, the translator has to assess the status of metaphor in business texts a new each time and choose the appropriate translation strategy according to context. In this respect, we argue that translating metaphors in business texts imposes a difficulty on translators; a translator may misunderstand or misinterpret metaphorical expressions since they would seem as aesthetic features of a message, hence, devaluated in translation. However, the role of metaphor in business texts is not only expressive but also informative.  Metaphors can enhance the readability and comprehensibility of the business texts and facilitate understanding of many business situations for both general readership and business people.


Metaphor in Business Texts

Mccloskey (1995, 219) points out that metaphors are essential in any work issued in economics like journalism, and that economists are not aware of using this figure of speech: “Economists and other scientists are unselfconscious about their metaphors. They suppose that because they can speak an economic metaphor, it simply is. Economists are poets /but do not know it.”

     Bacovia (2011, pp. 231-240) mentions the importance of metaphor in economic textbooks and maintains that understanding metaphor is essential for economics students’ English courses. Moreover, he sees that “insights into metaphor in general will hopefully be of assistance to students whose mother tongue is not English in their struggle to comprehend economic texts” (p. 232). Bacovia also believes that metaphors in economic texts have two main functions, as a language necessity and as a cognitive tool rather than a decorative element; he sees metaphors’ essential role in “popularizing business concepts.” He also points out that the predominance of English language in published academic work has paved the way for new metaphors that firstly appeared in English texts to be adopted and copied into other languages.

     Skorczynska and Deignan (2006) study the influence of the intended readership of text and text purpose on the choice of linguistic metaphors. They classify business texts into “popular business discourse,” which refers to journalistic texts intended for expert and non-expert audience, and “scientific business discourse” intended for researchers.

     Their study demonstrates that popular business texts employ a higher frequency of metaphor tokens than a scientific business discourse does. Most importantly, Skorczynska and Deignan (2006) present a classification of metaphor functions in business texts motivated by Henderson’s (1982) metaphor function classification, which includes: 1) a textual decoration, where metaphor does not enjoy a central role in the text, which they name “illustrating;” 2) metaphor used as a textual organizing device, which they name “generic”; 3) metaphors used as a mechanism for exploring economic situations and conceptualizing economic notions, which they name “modelling.” Moreover, Skorczynska and Deignan (2006) developed another metaphor function, which is “filling terminological gap.” In the latter added class, metaphor is found to be created out of economic discipline need of a term; thus, metaphor here is a developed term that emerged from the language need to describe or argue on a specific situation. A good example on `the latter classification is “cash flow.” Their study results show that “popular business discourse” uses more generic metaphors and less genre-specific ones where the majority served to fill a terminological gap. “Scientific business discourse,” on the other hand, is found to avoid generic metaphors and uses few metaphors to illustrate and other genre- specific metaphors are used as modelling metaphors. Finally, they argue that the difference in metaphor functions in both genres compared is attributed to different readerships a text is intended for, different subject matters’ understanding level and texts’ reading motivation; they indicate that readership and text purpose are main controllers of metaphor choice.

     White (1997, 242), in his analysis of metaphors used in the press and dealt with a currency crisis, points to the effects of overwhelming metaphor usage in journalism dealing with this economic topic. Firstly, he says, “the hosts of interrelated linguistic expressions which accompany each metaphor forcefully contribute to the cohesion of the text.” Secondly, the metaphor’s structural logic helps to demonstrate the consistency of the text argumentation, thus establishing the coherence of the text. Thirdly, the cohesion of the text is established by the semantic connections of lexical items, which demonstrate field relations’ networks. White (1997, 243) also mentions that the role of metaphor as a “contributor to ease of perception on the part of the readers” is the reason for its prevalence in journalistic discourse. By the same token, the extent to which metaphor is used in newspaper discourse is evidence that it has an “essential communicative role in journalism.” Respectively, the text is defined by De Beaugrande & Dressler (1981) as a communicative occurrence which meets seven standards of textuality: cohesion, coherence, intentionality, acceptability, informativity, situationality, and intertextuality. Indeed, cohesion and coherence as two main aspects of any text can be empowered by using metaphors.


Cognitive Approach to Metaphor

Unlike the typical view of metaphor, which presents metaphor as a figure of speech that serves some rhetorical purposes, the cognitive theory of metaphor mainly argues that metaphor is a cognitive tool found in our daily life and that our conceptual system is metaphorical.

     One of the most influential studies on metaphor is Lakoff and Johanson’s (1980, 3), where they demonstrate a cognitive view of metaphor and argue “our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature.” Thus, they claim that all human thought system is metaphorical and what makes metaphors possible is the existence of metaphors in humans’ conceptual system. This claim suggests their precedence in metaphor cognitive approach Lakoff and Johanson (1980, 5) also pinpoint that “the essence of metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another”. Thereby, metaphor is presented as a cognitive mechanism, where one conceptual domain is understood by (or mapped into) another conceptual domain.


Conceptual Metaphors and Metaphorical Linguistic Expressions

It is important to establish a clear-cut distinction between conceptual metaphors and metaphorical linguistic expressions. One of the definitions adopted in this study is by Kovecses (2010, 3) who distinguishes between conceptual metaphors and metaphorical linguistic expressions, where a conceptual metaphor is defined as “understanding one conceptual domain in terms of another conceptual domain,” and a conceptual domain is “any coherent organization of experience.” Metaphorical linguistic expressions are “words or other linguistic expressions that come from the language or terminology of the more concrete conceptual domain.”

     For example, people talk about arguments in terms of war; hence, aspects of arguments are expressed in the domain of war as in the following sentences (Kovecses, 2010, p. 6):

Your claims are indefensible.

He attacked every weak point of my argument.

His criticism was right on target.

I never won an argument with him.

     Thus, we understand aspects of argument by our understanding of aspects and qualities of war. All the metaphorical linguistic expressions above that describe arguments with its relation to aspects of war are derived from one conceptual metaphor: an argument is war (p. 6).

Source Domain, Target Domain and Mappings

Preliminary notions such as: “source domain”, “target domain” and “mapping” are essential in order to have deeper insights into conceptual metaphor; hereby, conceptual metaphor consists of both source domain, which is “the conceptual domain from which we draw metaphorical expressions”, and target domain, which is the conceptual domain that is understood by the more concrete source domain. In this respect, the more abstract concept is understood by its resemblance to the more concrete concept (Kovecses, 2010, p. 4). Thus, with respect to conceptual metaphor theory, any metaphor is conceptualized according to source and target domains where the target domain is more abstract and less structured and is understood by its connection to qualities attributed to the more concrete domain: “the source domain” from which we draw the metaphorical expression.

     For example, in the metaphorical expression “you should defend your point,” the target domain is the argument, which happens to be an abstract concept, and is understood by using the source domain “war” since “defend” is a quality attributed to war. Thus, we draw the metaphorical expression from the more concrete and structured domain “war.”

Kovecses (2010, 8) talks about metaphor “mappings” which are “the set of systematic correspondences between the source and the target domain in the sense that constituent conceptual elements of B correspond to constituent elements of A.” In this regard, in any metaphorical expression, we find elements of source domain mapped into target domain elements by set of correspondences between them. Mapping, as a conceptual metaphor related notion, is fundamental in cognitive theory of metaphor. Kovecses (2010) says: “In giving the correspondences, or mappings, we reverse the target-source order of the conceptual metaphors to yield source –target. We adopt this convention to emphasize the point that understanding typically goes from the more concrete to the more abstract concept” (ibid, 8).

     For example, the conceptual metaphor "social organizations are plants" manifests many metaphorical linguistic expressions as in the following example which is taken from Kovecses (2010, 10)  

Social organizations are plants.

He works for the local branch of the bank.

Our company is growing.

They had to prune the workforce.

The organization was rooted in the old church.

There is now a flourishing black market in software there.

His business blossomed when the railways put his establishment within reach of the big city.

Employers reaped enormous benefits from cheap foreign labour.


The corresponding set of mappings are the following:

Source: PLANT                            Target: SOCIAL ORGANIZATION

The whole plant                          the entire organization

A part of the plant                      a part of the organization

Growth of the plant                       development of the organization

Removing a part of the plant                      reducing the organization

The root of the plant                        the origin of the organization

The flowering                             the best stage, the most successful stage

The fruits or crops                         the beneficial consequences

(Kovecses 2010, 10)


The figure below describes in brief how we can see source domain, target domain and mappings and the relation between them:




This study examines popular economic discourse metaphors, which target both experts such as businessmen and general readership, and are published on three authentic popular news websites BBC, CNN,and Project Syndicate. The analysis includes 14 illustrative examples of English business metaphors (ST) and their Arabic counterparts (TT), taken from news reports published in the period between December 18th, 2015 and February 12th, 2016. For convenience’s sake, each metaphorical expression is bold typed in both the ST and the TT. The reports were selected for the special and remarkable metaphors employed in them, which empower this study with very insightful data. These metaphors are described and classified under the most frequent source domain:  Sport\Game domain and analyzed in light of the cognitive approach which departs from the traditional view of metaphor as a rhetorical device used only for aesthetic purposes.  The study also elaborates on the different strategies used in translating the identified business metaphors and then deep analysis into the implication of the chosen translation strategy is conducted.

     The chosen methodology provides a deep analysis of each metaphor inside English business texts and media business articles’ headlines from a cognitive perspective, which would be helpful in understanding the metaphor’s role and function in business texts. Furthermore, the analytical analysis of these metaphors and their Arabic provided translation would highlight patterns of translation practice and manners on which translation decision is made.


Analysis of Data and Discussion

 In the literature, metaphors are categorized into three source domains: Sport\Game metaphors, War metaphors, and Health\Illness metaphors. This study will examine and analyze Sport/Game metaphors and handle the other two in another paper. The analysis of 14 Sport/Game metaphors will focus on the function of these metaphors in business texts or headlines and more attention will be given to genre-specific metaphors due to the very precise and specified role this type of metaphor plays in business texts. Generally speaking, the most commonly used and frequent source domain as presented by Kovecses (2010, 20) is games and sport where he sees that properties of sport and games are used for metaphorical purposes. In the same context, Kovacs (2006) sees that the language of business is overwhelmed with metaphorical expressions from this source domain. Respectively, the aspects of game and sport such as players, competitors, rules, loss and gain resemble some aspects of business since business also has rules and companies; businessmen are players competing with each other and use different strategies to win.

     It is not long before when one encounters metaphorical expressions from game and sport source domain. As a matter of fact, metaphorical linguistic expressions from this source domain enjoy the highest frequency; this can be attributed to the objectives this type of metaphor serves by conceptualizing business situations and phenomenon in terms of game and sport aspects.


Translation Strategies Adopted for the Translation of Business Metaphor

Newmark (1981) discuses the translation of metaphor where he sees metaphor’s role is to describe events or entities in a more complex, concise, and understandable way that literal language could not provide. Moreover, metaphor livens up many types of texts, especially in journalism to make them more colorful, dramatic and emotive. Newmark (1981) distinguishes between two types of metaphors: the simple one –word metaphors and the complex metaphors that consist of two or more words or idioms. He also presents seven metaphor translation procedures in an order of preference (see pp 84-96). Moreover, Newmark (1981) points out that many of the newspapers, textbooks, and periodical metaphors are short-lived and can be disregarded in translation. However, metaphors in finance, among other areas, are remarkable for their redundancy. He also sees the prominence of stock and original metaphors in West European financial columns as a way of jiggering up a series of passionless statistics or ruthless mergers.

     In discussing Katharina Reiss’s text type approach as a functional theory of translation, Munday (2008, 75) presents a criticism on how in her approach, where language functions, text types and translation strategies are linked together, how translation methods would be applied in translating business and financial texts. Business text is considered by Reiss as informative and its main purpose is to present facts, information, knowledge and opinions; thus, the translation strategies linked to this text type are decided on the basis that the TT should “transmit the full referential or conceptual content of the ST.” In the same manner, “the translation should be in plain prose, without redundancy and with the use of explication when required” (p. 78). On the basis of the density of metaphors in business texts, where metaphors add expressive function to the texts’ informative function, the logical “plain –prose” method of informative text is questioned because of the added aesthetic expressive form of metaphors which requires an “identifying” translation method. Thus, the focus of translator is shifted from content to form.

     According to the data inspected, it seems that translators resorted to rendering business metaphor in English business news reports into a same metaphor in Arabic as a main translation strategy. From the cognitive perspective of metaphor, that sees metaphor as a reflection of our conceptual system and way of thinking, the domination of this translation technique in translating business metaphor suggests a shared mood of cognition and thinking of business notions, situations and phenomenon between English language and Arabic language readers.

The second strategy, which involves translating English business metaphor into another business metaphor in Arabic, is perceived as a shift in the metaphor’s source domain in the ST into another domain in the TT. 

The third strategy, which involves translating English business metaphor into Arabic non-metaphor, assumes the scarifying of the English business metaphor’s metaphorical image and seeking more informative and explicit rendering of the message that is judged by the translator to be a priority and more acceptable rendering of the metaphor.

     Finally, the fourth translation strategy detected, which is rarely used, involves the rendering of English non-metaphor into Arabic business metaphor. Translators are found to use this technique to seek more sensory-rich rendering of the message that facilitates understanding of the business situation in hand or to give the message more intensity and esthetic character especially in business news reports headlines.

     It was found out that GAME/SPORT metaphorical expressions are detected in 12 articles out of 18 articles under investigation and include 14 metaphorical expressions, where each of the linguistic metaphors “beat” and “blow” occurred three times. Most importantly, by analyzing the translation into Arabic of Sport\Game metaphorical English expressions, it became evident that translators mainly use same metaphor in the TL as a main translation technique. In other inspected cases, they   scarify the English Game / Sport metaphor and render it into Arabic non-metaphor.

First and foremost it should be noted that generic and genre-specific metaphors of Sport\Game metaphors include the following metaphors:

• Generic metaphors: blow, game, play, biggest winners, biggest fallers, hitting record, beat, pass, race, victory, losers, winners, slammed

• Genre-specific metaphors: players, major players

     The section below categorizes the metaphorical expressions collected according to the translation strategy used to convey them into Arabic. Essentially, each metaphorical expression will be analyzed from a cognitive perspective in its wider English context. The Arabic translation of each metaphor is given immediately after its English context and a thorough analysis and discussion of   translation strategies adopted by translators in rendering the English business metaphors into Arabic is given.

     Table (1) below shows the frequency of the translation strategies used in translating GAME/ SPORT metaphor into Arabic and gives an example on each:


Table 1.

Translation Strategies Used in Translating Sport\Game Metaphors

Translation strategy

English metaphor

Arabic translation

Frequency of translation technique/strategy

Metaphor into same metaphor

Getting all players lined up

وضع جمیع اللاعبین فی ساحة واحدة

11 occurrences

Metaphor into non-metaphor

biggest winner

وحققت أسهم... أعلى ارتفاع

5 occurrences

Non-metaphor into metaphor

beat Apple’s current valuation

لتهزم أبل فی السباق الحالی

1 occurrence

Metaphor into different metaphor

Will Google pass


هل ستطیح "غوغل" بعرش "ابل" ؟

1 occurrence



English Metaphor into Same Arabic Metaphor

Derived from the conceptual metaphor “Business is a Game /Sport”, 11 metaphorical expressions out of 17 Sport/Game metaphors detected were translated using a similar equivalent metaphor. In other words, this technique appears to be the most favorite method of translating Sport/Game metaphor.

     The following two examples are taken from a business article that talks about flooding of the oil market with oil by Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Example (1)

“But like the UAE, he too left the door open to production cuts if there is a commitment from all the major players”. (CNN, 2016)

"لکنه فی الوقت ذاته وکما فعلت الامارات، لم یغلق الباب أمام التقلیل من الانتاج فی حال الوصول الى اتفاق مع عدد من اللاعبین الاساسیینفی السوق  ".(CNN Arabic, 2016)

Example (2)

Getting all players lined up is certainly no simple task”. (CNN, 2016)

" لکن وضع جمیع اللاعبین فی ساحة واحدة لیست بالمهمة السهلة"(CNN Arabic, 2016)

The metaphorical expression “major players” presents the UAE and Saudi Arabia, which both accepted to reduce oil supply in order to stabilize the market. In the text, the expression “major players” conceptualizes the worlds' biggest oil producers as football players who play together on the playground. Indeed, the “major players” metaphor is mainly evoked by our knowledge of the powerful role oil suppliers enjoy. Primarily, the idea this metaphor stands for is that in the oil market, the countries of the highest oil production are discussing issues and control decisions of oil production and cuts. What we should highlight here is that “major player” in business is a genre-specific metaphor where in its definition refers to "a leading company or individual in a particular market or industry" In this matter, it is conceivable to use this metaphor to refer to the leading world oil producers.

     Similarly, the metaphor "player" can be considered as genre-specific metaphor since it has a definition in business dictionary. For example, it is outlined that "player" is used in economy as "informal concept": "informal, an investor one who trades actively.” Accordingly, to use the metaphor "major players" is to point to the strongly active role of the oil exports in controlling the market as major players control the playground.

As for readers of ST and TT, they can easily infer what the metaphor "player" refers to when reading the text; in fact, it gives the text a touch of playfulness that can assist in accessing readers to the text offered information. In other words, as a genre-specific metaphor, "player" can be found in every business text whenever the writer is talking about an actively involved investor or trader in the market and use "major player" whenever that trader or investor is a leading one in the market. In a similar manner, to use the expression "all players lined up" in example (2) above instead of mentioning all the market oil investor and explaining how it is difficult to reach an agreement on oil price on the part of all investors successfully simplified this complex thought with an expressive image that shaped the text and ensured its consistency by using the metaphor in two occasions.

     It can be assumed that the metaphorical image is intensified by the frequent mention of the linguistic expression “players” in addition to the expression “lined up” in the second example. In its turn, this can assist in structuring the text’s development since both were mentioned in the same text. In the first example, the translator chose to convey the metaphor to the TT in order to preserve the metaphor’s function in the text since it has successfully simplified the article’s complex thoughts in a very creative way. Similarly, in the second example, the translator enforces the image of players in the playground by adding the expression "فی ساحة واحدة.” Eventually, we all watch football, and such game metaphors help to intensify and enrich the text and make it more memorable. Hence, the translator would find conveying the metaphor as a workable solution to preserve the metaphor's function in the text. Indeed, the frequent, common and natural use of the metaphor “player” and “major players” to refer to investors and traders in both English and Arabic language prompts translators to choose same Arabic metaphor of the English metaphor as a favored and an appropriate technique.

The examples below show how the world of business can be displayed and conceptualized as boxing or wrestling game:

Example (3)

“Brexit’s blow to globalization”. (Headline) (Project Syndicate, 2016)

"الخروج البریطانی و الضربة التی یسددها للعولمة  ".(Project Syndicate, 2016)

Example (4)

“The global financial crisis dealt a significant blow to globalization, especially in terms of trade and finance, now brexit has dealt another blow, adding labor mobility to the list.”(Project Syndicate, 2016)

"لقد وجهت الأزمة المالیة العالمیة ضربة قویة للعولمة و خاصة فی مجال التجارة و التمویل و الآن سدد الیها الخروج البریطانی ضربة اخرى ". (Project Syndicate, 2016)

     The first example is of a headline on British exit from the European Union, which has had a big influence on the global markets. Clearly, the headline visualizes a boxing game between two boxers “Brexit” and “globalization, where “Brexit” gives a blow to “globalization” in a semi-boxing match. Moreover, the pain a boxing blow causes is similar to Brexit blow, which has some serious effects on trade, labor mobility and finances and happens to negatively affect “globalization”. Using the metaphorical image of boxing in the headline gives it a rhetorical effect and helps to attract the readers' attention. Therefore, in order to preserve the metaphor function and attain its same effect, the most suitable translation strategy to be adopted would be choosing an equivalent Arabic metaphor that would reproduce the ST metaphorical image. By the same token, in order to reproduce this metaphorical image, we find that the translator added the expression "التی یسددها" (lit. which he blows) to the Arabic text. In other words, the translator may opt to add specific words to support the metaphoric image of the ST in order to emphasize the metaphorical image the writer or the journalist of the ST seeks to present. 

     The second example is also taken from the same article. However, this time the “global financial crisis” is the boxer who gives the blow to globalization. Indeed, the choice of the boxing game metaphor in both examples gives a significant insight into the economic situation in the markets following Brexit.  It can be said that the metaphor presented in the headline and the one mentioned in the same article share the same metaphorical image.  In other words, the conceptual metaphor “Business is a Boxing Game” has shaped the whole article and the coherence of the text is enhanced by the frequent usage of metaphorical expressions that are derived from the same source domain. Respectively, in order not to deviate from this conceptual metaphor and the scenarios it draws in the text when translating it into Arabic, we can assume that reproducing the metaphorical image of the headline and inside the text will support the text's coherence and preserve the flow of ideas in the whole text.

     The example below discusses the influence of cheap oil on Saudi Arabia finances where the writer visualizes this economic situation as two boxing players who are playing, where the "cheap oil" could give a slam to the "Saudi Arabia finances":

Example (5)

“Saudi Arabia finances are getting slammed by the crash in oil prices”. (CNN, 2015)

"تتلقى المالیة السعودیة ضربات مؤلمة جراء هبوط أسعار النفظ". (CNN Arabic, 2015)

Indeed, the metaphor gives deep impact to the situation in hand and attracts readers’ attention. In similar manner, the translator succeeds in preserving the metaphor function by choosing equivalent rendering "تتلقى ضربات" (lit. receives blows) and   adding the adjective    "مؤلمة" (lit. painful) which reinforces the metaphorical image and assures the negative influence of the cheap oil on Saudi Arabia economy.

Let’s consider more examples on this domain:

Example (6)

“Varoufakis’s Great Game”. (Headline) (Project Syndicate, 2015)

"فاروفاکیس و لعبته الکبرى". (Project Syndicate, 2015)

Example (7)

“Greece is playing to lose”. (Headline) (Project Syndicate, 2015)

"الیونان تلعب لتخسر". (Project Syndicate, 2015)

     The first headline is about the Greece's finance minister “Yanis Varoufakis’s” plan to exit Greece from the Eurozone. The other headline is about Germany’s confrontation with Greece, which   demands a debt reduction to face its financial crisis but Germany resists any debt write-offs. However, Germany, with the international Monetary Fund on its side, is the strong side in the game. Therefore, as drawn by the metaphor, in spite of Greece’s participation in the game, it is taken for granted that it is the weak side in the game and seems not to be able to find a debt relief or any other solution for its financial crisis. In brief, Greece is more like a player who enters a game and knows that he does not have the potentials needed to win the game and thus is prepared to lose.

     In both headlines, we find that the translator kept the metaphorical image by literally translating the headlines; needless to say, headlines in news reporting usually have certain aesthetic features used to catch the readers' attention; using metaphorical linguistic expressions from the Game/Sport source domain allows a better description of the situation to be portrayed. Consequently, the translator’s priority is to preserve this effect by reproducing the metaphorical image, which is simply attained by literal translation in our example above.

     Ultimately, by translating Sport\Game business metaphors in English language into same metaphors in Arabic language guaranteeing the same degree of naturalness, we can assume that readers of both languages have similar conceptualization of business world as a competition, business loss and gain in terms of game winning and losing; companies and traders are the players while business difficulties are boxing game blows.

English Metaphor into Arabic Non-Metaphor

Hatim and Munday (2004, 4) point out to the fact that “for a wide variety of texts and given a diverse range of readers and purposes of translations, there is often a need for some ST explicitation and adjustment.” In this respect, it is inevitable for translators to intervene in the translation of the ST in order to assure the quality of the TT.

     In business texts, although metaphor has a very significant role and translators’ main strategy is to reproduce the ST metaphorical image in the TT, in some cases, the translator may opt to explicitation and adjustment as a translation technique to highlight the informative value of the metaphor and make it more explicit. Strictly speaking, the translator has to assess the value and the function of the metaphor in the business text and decide whether to keep the metaphorical image of the source text or translate it non-metaphorically by making the communicative or informative meaning of the metaphor more explicit. 

     In the following example, the hospital operators GCA holdings are viewed as a winner in a game and obtain the highest score in it:

Example (8)

 “Hospital operators GCA Holdings was the biggest winner among S&P 500 shares”.

(BBC, 2016)

“لبورصة نیویورک S&P 500فی مؤشر   وحققت أسهم شرکة إتش إیة لإدارة المستشفیات أعلى ارتفاع بین الأسهم المدرجة .” BBC Arabic, 2016)

     Obviously, the translator does not opt to reproduce the metaphorical image evoked by the metaphorical expression “biggest winner”; rather, he chooses to paraphrase the whole sentence and scarify the metaphor. To some extent, to reproduce the metaphorical image may fall short of accounting for the informativeness of the whole sentence; hence, the metaphor is downplayed for the sake of informative nature of the text type.

Example (9)

 “Chevron and Exxon mobile were among the biggest fallers”. (BBC, 2016)

“فکانت أسهم شرکات الطاقة هی الاکثر تأثراًبهبوط أسعار النفط العالمیة فی مقدمتها شرکتاشیفرون وإکسون موبای (BBCArabic, 2016)

     In the example, the writer conceptualizes the two energy companies who have been deeply affected by the fall in oil prices as two competitors who have fallen a game among other fallers. Essentially, the expression “biggest fallers” is used metaphorically to explain a business phenomenon, which is the deep negative influence of oil prices fall on the two companies “Chevron” and “Exxon Mobile”.  In the TT, the translator is found to make this fact about the two companies clearer and more explicit by scarifying the SL metaphor.

The discussion below is on the sport-clothing maker Under Armour shares' fall:

Example (10)

“Those shares have lost almost a third of their value since hitting a record last September.” (BBC, 2016)

"وکان سبب خفض التصنیف هو فقد أسهم الشرکة لأکثر من ثلث قیمتها منذ وصولها الى ارتفاعتاریخی فی سبتمبر\أیلول الماضی ." (BBC Arabic, 2016)

     The metaphorical expression “hitting a record” is derived from the Game/Sport source domain, which stands to describe the best performance in sporting events. In the ST, this expression is used as a metaphor to conceptualize the most remarkable achievement of a company in the business market as an athlete who held a world record for his highest performance. In the translation of metaphor, the translator opts to dynamic equivalence, which helps to make the meaning of the metaphor clearer in terms of its informative and communicative meaning. In the narrow sense, such strategy can be justified on the basis that both the ST metaphor and its equivalence in the TT have attained the communicative content without distorting the meaning; it makes the ST expression more transparent to ensure comprehensibility. This is also supported by Hatim and Munday (2004, 42) “if in the translator's judgment a form of words that is not sufficiently transparent, in the TT is likely to pose a threat to comprehensibility …the translator would need to resort to more dynamic forms of equivalence.”

     Most importantly, all of the three previous examples on translating metaphor into non-metaphor from the Sport/Game source domain are taken from the same business news report; this indicates the connectivity between the text’s presented ideas and the portrayed images evoked by the conceptually connected metaphorical expressions. Typically, this relation is a defining property of a text, which is referred to as “texture”. As pointed out by Hatim and Mason (1996, 192), texture “ensures that a text hangs together, both linguistically and conceptually”; therefore, it should be noted that, throughout the ST, all the metaphorical linguistic expressions “winners, fallers and hitting a record”, are related to the same conceptual metaphor “Business is game”, all of which demonstrate the logical relation between all text parts. Accordingly, it is safe to assume that the choice of the metaphorical linguistic expressions from the same conceptual domain has supported the coherence of the ST.

     In conclusion, if the translator chooses to scarify the metaphors of a business news report by focusing on their informative value, this decision necessitates that the translator keep that wish in mind in dealing with any metaphor in the text in order to preserve the connectivity of thought presented and, consequently, this will assure a more coherent TT.

Example (11)

“Apple sees iPhone sales drop again but beats forecasts”. (Headline)(BBC, 2016)

تراجع مبیعات ای فون مجددا لکن أقل من التوقعات" .(BBC Arabic, 2016)

     In discussing the falling of iPhone sales in the market, it is found that the sales drop is not as bad as market forecasts showed. Accordingly, the sales, though not as much as Apple looks for, are satisfying for being above forecasts.

     This economic situation is conceptualized in the headline by using the term “beats” metaphorically, hence, creating a competition scenario between the competitors “iPhone sales” and “market forecasts”. In fact, the use of game scenario in the ST’s headline endows it with more appealing effect and more depth that could easily attain the readers’ attention as a key requirement of any news headline. However, the translator is found to downplay the metaphor’s decorative role in the headline and chooses a more explicit translation; in effect, though the translation is acceptable, it falls short of accounting for the SL metaphorical image. The metaphor’s decorative function in news headlines should be preserved since metaphors in headlines have a double function of communicating certain meanings and creating a certain image that beautifies the headline, generates a rhetorical effect and attains readers' attention. Accordingly, a good translation could be:

“تراجع مبیعات ای فون مجددا لکنها تهزم التوقعات" .

Example (12)

“As in prior episodes of contagious financial turmoil, the victory of the ‘‘leave’’ vote sent skittish global investors toward the usual safe havens”. (Project Syndicate, 2016)

""وکما حدث فی وقائع سابقة من الاضطرابات المالیة المعدیة, دفع التصویت لصالح "الخروج" المستثمرین الى الملاذات الآمنة المعتاده.(Project Syndicate, 2016)

     In the article, the writer discuses the British withdrawal from the European Union, where votes split into “leave” and “remain”. The expression “victory of the leave” conceptualizes “leave” and “remain” votes as two competitors in a game where the “leave” won and got the victory in the competition. Apparently, the translator is found to abandon the “victory” image in highlighting the metaphor’s implied meaning. In fact, the rendering is found very appropriate in communicating the implied meaning of the metaphor by focusing on the informative value of the message.

English Metaphor into a Different Arabic Metaphor

This translation strategy involves a shift in the ST metaphor’s source domain to another source domain in the TT. Such a strategy would suggest a different mood of realization of the business situation or phenomenon in the TL; therefore, the translator would shift the ST metaphors’ source domain to another in the TT as a way to conceptualize the business situation, which the metaphor stands for, in a different manner that s/he believes will be more conceivable to the TT audience. 

     In fact, the data of the study shows that this translation strategy is only used once in the data collected. Hereafter, the example will be analyzed comprehensively:

Example (13)

Will Google pass Apple as most valuable company?”(Headline)(CNN, 2015)

"سباق التریلیون دولار: هل ستطیح "غوغل" بعرش "ابل" ؟". (CNN Arabic, 2015)

     The article describes a competition between two companies, “Apple” and “Google”, where both are visualized in the headline’s metaphor as two athletes competing in a race to win the biggest shares in the market where the winner will become the “trillion-dollar company.”

     As we see in the translation of the English headline, the Arabic headline begins with the nominal statement: "سباق التریلیون دولار:" (lit. trillion dollar competition) followed by a colon. The nominal statement is not stated in the ST, but it can be assumed to be a successful creative addition on the part of the translator since it strengthens the metaphorical image of the race competition initially used in the ST headline by the term "pass". Ostensibly, such an addition helps to introduce the main idea in the ST headline and the colon addition indicates more specific information that is then provided. Such technique is highlighted by Bazza (2012, 14) who discusses the translation of English news reports' headlines into Arabic and points out that: “the use of the colon to introduce more specific information is effective without causing misunderstanding. For this reason there is an increasing trend of using the colon in Arabic headlines”.

     Both the ST headline and its Arabic translation successfully serve the goal of attaining the readers’ attention. However, the translator changes the ST metaphorical expression’s source domain, which is “sport”. Thus, whereas the two companies “Google” and “Apple” are visualized as two athletes in a race, another source domain is used in the TT, which is “war”. Indeed, the conceptual metaphor “business is a war”, is widely used and well known. However, by this shift, the translator visualizes the competition between the two companies as one between kingdoms where the winner will get the throne.

     Moreover, when reading the article, it becomes evident that the ST article uses other metaphorical expressions in the text, which are all related to the same source domain “sport” and its sub-domain “race”, for example: (beat, race, run, market cap race, outperform). Accordingly, the suggested translation below keeps the same source d`omain metaphor:

"هل ستتخطى "غوغل" أبل فی سباق التریلیون دولار؟"

     In fact, a translation that keeps the metaphor’s source domain can well preserve the flow of ideas in the whole TT. Hence, keeping the SL headline metaphor as it is in the TT should be given priority. 

 English non-Metaphor into Arabic Metaphor

Only one metaphor is detected on rendering English non-metaphor into Arabic metaphor: 


Example (14)

“Google only needs to go up 15% to beat Apple’s current valuation”. (CNN, 2015)

"غوغل تحتاج نموا بمقدار15 فی المائة فقط لتهزم أبل فی السباق الحالی".(CNN Arabic, 2015)

     In discussing the market fierce competition between Apple and Google, the writer refers to the fact that Google may be able to win and become the most valuable company especially if Google could go up 15%. The translator is found to render the English non-metaphor “valuation”, which refers to market assessment of the two companies, by the Arabic metaphor "سباق" (lit. race). Indeed, we can argue that such technique is favored in this specific case since the whole text is structured around the theme of sport or games. More specifically, the ST includes many metaphors from this source domain that are interrelated and successfully draw readers’ attention to the market competition between Google and Apple as a race game between two athletes. This is demonstrated at the very beginning of the text where the headline uses the metaphor of racing by using the expression “pass”; later on, the writer uses many other metaphors from the same source domain as race, beat and outperform. Therefore, we can assume that adding the metaphor "سباق" in the TT is motivated by the theme of game that structured the text, and it is also safe to assume that rendering the non-metaphor in such occasion into a metaphor has succeeded in supporting the text coherence that is already enforced by using different metaphors of the source domain.


The aim of this study was to initiate a comprehensive analysis of English business metaphor translation into Arabic with respect to a cognitive approach to metaphor. The study offered a cognitive analysis of metaphor in English business texts and its Arabic counterpart and highlighted the role of business metaphor as an efficient cognitive tool that contributes to our cognitive system rather than just a decorative element whose role is limited to artistically shape the text. The study found out that metaphors are wildly used in business news reports’ headlines as an essential tool in communicating the focus of the news report and attaining readers’ attention. It is recommended that translators have good background knowledge of the cognitive approach to metaphor to gain insights into the significant role of metaphor as a reflection of our way of thinking and our conceptual system in general.

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Volume 5, Issue 1
April 2020
Pages 21-40
  • Receive Date: 01 April 2020
  • Revise Date: 09 April 2020
  • Accept Date: 18 April 2020