Cogency: Am I Making Myself Understood?

The ability to formulate an argument (written or spoken) that logically sustains itself is not perceived the same way in every part of the world, a fact which makes the work of a translator quite peculiar in certain instances.  In fact, the intersection of language and culture yields some incredibly interesting dilemmas, with regards to which a translator must be able to take a step back from their Source Text and contemplate the over-arching rational constructs of their Target Language.

Cogency is the property of rational sensibility; the dictionary defines the word “cogent” in the following way: “appealing forcibly to the mind or reason,” and offers “convincing” and “valid” as its synonyms.  The issue besetting translators is the fact that the linguistic constructs that contribute to the fulfillment of this role in one language/culture may result overly verbose or confusing in another language/culture, detracting from the cogency of a Target Text that has been strictly constructed in a point for point fashion from the Source Text.

An example of this phenomenon can be found in Spanish>English Translation; whereas in Spanish it is common to find a large amount of connectives in both casual and formal documents, in English they are used to a much lesser degree.  Hence, although words or phrases like “luego,” “sin embargo,” “por otra parte” and so on and so forth are a dime a dozen in Spanish texts, their reproduction in an English Target Text would seemingly corrode the argument being made, stilting and fragmenting beyond recognition what would otherwise be a perfectly understandable and convincing argument.

Therefore, when translators want to make sure that their Target Texts are able to be understood by the intended audience, they need to contemplate variations in what constitutes cogency on either side of the linguistic/cultural divide they are strattling.  Failure to do so constitutes a serious dereliction of duty on their behalf.