so decontextualised that they can be transferred between documents virtually intact, irrespective of purpose or medium. Yet language professionals are also asked to work with texts that assert their materiality forcefully, often through intersemiotic dialogues that defy the facile separation of content from form. This iconicity is evident not only in works of art but also in everyday rhetorical artefacts like advertisements, websites, children’s books, comic strips and videogames, and is fundamental to specialist areas like subtitling, sign interpreting and audiodescription.
These developments bring implications for translation theory, of course. Disembodiment represents translatability taken to extremes – the victory of the transcendental signified, arguably the culmination of the process to which Western (Christian) translation has been tending since Cicero and Jerome. Materiality, on the other hand, asserts the opposite: the importance of the sign vehicle and the ultimate inseparability of signifier and signified.
This paper argues that translators need to be trained to deal with the new iconicity. The structuralist insistence on the arbitrariness of the sign is untenable in a world where the verbal is no longer privileged and communication takes place using multiple semiotic resources.
Indeed, translation itself needs to be reconceptualised to take account of the sheer physicality of multimodal encounters. Drawing upon concepts such as unlimited semiosis (Peirce), iconicity, performativity (Austin, Searle, Butler etc) and translationality (Robinson), I suggest a theoretical framework for Translation Studies that no longer privileges the verbal but instead assumes multimodality as the default mode of communication, exploring some of the challenges that this will raise.
FCSH-Nova / CETAPS, Lisbon