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  PASSAGE 2 参考译文:

  What’s so funny?

  John McCrone reviews recent research on humor

  什么这么好笑?

  ---John McCrone对近期幽默研究的回顾

  The joke comes over the headphones: ‘Which side of a dog has the most hair? The left.’ No, not funny. Try again. ‘Which side of a dog has the most hair? The outside.’ Hah! The punchline is silly yet fitting, tempting a smile, even a laugh. Laughter has always struck people as deeply mysterious, perhaps pointless. The writer Arthur Koestler dubbed it the luxury reflex: ‘unique in that it serves no apparent biological purpose. ’

  笑话从耳机中传出来:“狗哪一边的毛最多?左边。”不对,不好笑,再猜。“狗哪一边毛最多?外边。”哈!这句话的关键词语有些荒唐,却很合适,令人宛尔,甚至捧腹大笑。笑一直让人类感到神秘,或许笑没有什么意义。作家Arthur Koestler称笑为奢侈的反射作用,“笑的独特之处就在于它没有明显的生物学目的。”

  Theories about humour have an ancient pedigree. Plato expressed the idea that humor is simply a delighted feeling of superiority over others. Kant and Freud felt that joke-telling relies on building up a psychic tension which is safely punctured by the ludicrousness of the punchline. But most modern humor theorists have settled on some version of Aristotle’s belief that jokes are based on a reaction to or resolution of incongruity, when the punchline is either a nonsense or, though appearing silly, has a clever second meaning.

  幽默理论有着悠久的历史。柏拉图认为幽默就是一种因感到比别人优越而体会到的快乐的感觉。康德和弗洛伊德认为讲笑话則要营造一种精神上的紧张气氛,最后抖开笑话的包袱,让其滑稽有趣之处化解这种紧张气氛。但是大多数当代幽默理论家最终都采纳了亚里士多德的观点:笑话的基础就是一种对不和谐情况的反应或解释,这种情况下笑话的关键语句或者没有什么特殊意义,或者貌似荒唐却聪明地隐含了第二层含义。

  Graeme Ritchie, a computational linguist in Edinburgh, studies the linguistic structure of jokes in order to understand not only humor but language understanding and reasoning in machines. He says that while there is no single format for jokes, many revolve around a sudden and surprising conceptual shift. A comedian will present a situation followed by an unexpected interpretation that is also apt.

  爱丁堡的计算语言学家Graeme Ritchie在研究笑话的语言结构,不仅为了理解幽默,同时也为了了解机器的语言理解能力及推理能力他说,尽管笑话没有固定的模式,但是许多笑话都是围绕某个出其不意的概念转换展开的。喜剧演员会描述一个情景,然后给出一个出人意料却又恰如其分的解释。

  So even if a punchline sounds silly, the listener can see there is a clever semantic fit and that sudden mental ‘Aha!’ is the buzz that makes us laugh. Viewed from this angle, humor is just a form of creative insight, a sudden leap to a new perspective.

  所以,即使笑话的关键语句听起来有些荒唐,听众却可以意识到其中有一个机灵恰当的语义,而心头掠过的“对呀”这一恍然大悟的感叹就是令我们发笑的信号。从这个角度看来,幽默就是一种创造性的洞察力,一种向新视角的突越。

  However, there is another type of laughter, the laughter of social appeasement and it is important to understand this too. Play is a crucial part of development in most young mammals. Rats produce ultrasonic squeaks to prevent their scuffles turning nasty. Chimpanzees have a ‘play-face’ — a gaping expression accompanied by a panting ‘ah ah’ noise. In humans, these signals have mutated into smiles and laughs. Researchers believe social situations, rather than cognitive events such as jokes, trigger these instinctual markers of play or appeasement. People laugh on fairground rides or when tickled to flag a play situation, whether they feel amused or not.

  但是还有另外一种笑,就是社会交往中缓解紧张局面的笑。理解这种笑也是很重要的。在许多幼小的哺乳动物的发育当中,游戏都是关键的一部分。老鼠会在厮打游玩时发出超声波似的尖叫声,防止厮打变成真的争斗。黑猩猩有一种游戏表情,把嘴张得大大的,同时发出“啊、啊”的喘息声。对于人类来说,这些信号都已转化成为了微笑和大笑。研究人员认为,激发这种本能的游戏信号或缓解紧张局面信号的因素不是笑话等认知活动,而是社会场景。人们玩旋转木马或被别人逗痒,开始玩闹时,无论是否感到好笑都会发出笑声。

  Both social and cognitive types of laughter tap into the same expressive machinery in our brains, the emotion and motor circuits that produce smiles and excited vocalisations. However, if cognitive laughter is the product of more general thought processes, it should result from more expansive brain activity.

  无论是社交场合中的笑还是认知活动中的笑,都是我们大脑中的同一表达机制在起作用。情感和运动神经网络令人微笑,并发出笑声。但是,如果认知活动中的笑是更多元的思维过程的产物的话,那么这种笑应当源干更广泛的大脑活动。

  Psychologist Vinod Goel investigated humour using the new technique of ‘single event’ functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). An MRI scanner uses magnetic fields and radio waves to track the changes in oxygenated blood that accompany mental activity. Until recently, MRI scanners needed several minutes of activity and so could not be used to track rapid thought processes such as comprehending a joke. New developments now allow half-second ‘snapshots’ of all sorts of reasoning and problem-solving activities.

  心理学家Vinod Goel使用“单事件”官能磁共振成像这一新技术对幽默进行调查研究,磁共振成像扫描仪使用磁场和无线电波跟踪伴随着心理活动的充氧血液中发生的变化。直到最近,这种扫描议都还需要数分钟的时间才能完成扫描,所以无法用于跟踪理解笑话这样迅速的思维过程。而新的进展使所有的退理和解决问题活动都能在半秒钟就快速成像。

  Although Goel felt being inside a brain scanner was hardly the ideal place for appreciating a joke, he found evidence that understanding a joke involves a widespread mental shift. His scans showed that at the beginning of a joke the listener’s prefrontal cortex lit up, particularly the right prefrontal believed to be critical for problem solving. But there was also activity in the temporal lobes at the side of the head (consistent with attempts to rouse stored knowledge) and in many other brain areas. Then when the punchline arrived, a new area sprang to life — the orbital prefrontal cortex. This patch of brain tucked behind the orbits of the eyes is associated with evaluating information.

  尽管Goel感到弄清了大脑内部的活动并不能完美地解决笑话的理解问题,他却发现理解笑话需要思维的大转换。他的扫描仪显示听笑话的人在笑话开始时前额脑皮层会发亮,尤其是对 解决问题起关键作用的右前额会发亮。但是在头部侧面的颞叶也会有活动,表明在试图激发已有的知识,大脑其他许多区域也有活动。然后,当包揪抖开时,一个新的区域——前额眼眶脑皮层活跃起来。这个蜷缩在眼眶后边的大脑区域是与处理信息相联系的。

  Making a rapid emotional assessment of the events of the moment is an extremely demanding job for the brain, animal or human. Energy and arousal levels may need to be retuned in the blink of an eye. These abrupt changes will produce either positive or negative feelings. The orbital cortex, the region that becomes active in Goel’s experiment, seems the best candidate for the site that feeds such feelings into higher-level thought processes, with its close connections to the brain’s sub-cortical arousal apparatus and centres of metabolic control.

  无论人脑还是动物的大脑,迅速对眼前的事件作出情感上的判断都是一件非常艰巨的任务。能量和受激反应的程度都要在一眨眼的功夫作出调整。这些突然的改变产生的感觉既有积极的又有消极的。在Goel实验中变得活跃的眼眶脑皮层区域由于与大脑的次脑皮层唤激结构和新陈代谢控制中枢有着密切的联系,似乎最有可能是将这些感觉转入更高一层的思维过程的区域。

  All warm-blooded animals make constant tiny adjustments in arousal in response to external events, but humans, who have developed a much more complicated internal life as a result of language, respond emotionally not only to their surroundings, but to their own thoughts. Whenever a sought-for answer snaps into place, there is a shudder of pleased recognition. Creative discovery being pleasurable, humans have learned to find ways of milking this natural response. The fact that jokes tap into our general evaluative machinery explains why the line between funny and disgusting, or funny and frightening, can be so fine. Whether a joke gives pleasure or pain depends on a person’s outlook.

  所有的温血动物对外界变化的刺激都在不断地作出细微的调整,但人类由于拥有语言而有着更为复杂的内心活动,所以人类不仅会对周围的环境产生感情上的反应,而且会对自身的思维产生感情上的反应。一旦某一苦苦寻找的答案出现了,人就会突然产生一种快乐的认可感。由于创造性的发现是令人愉悦的,人类学会了寻找猎取这种自然反应的途径。笑话可以进人我们的一般评估机制,这就说明有趣与恶心,或者有趣与恐怖之间的界限是十分微妙的。一个笑话给人带来的是快乐还是痛苦取决于一个人的价值观。

  Humor may be a luxury, but the mechanism behind it is no evolutionary accident. As Peter Derks, a psychologist at William and Mary College in Virginia, says: ‘I like to think of humour as the distorted mirror of the mind. It’s creative, perceptual, analytical and lingual. If we can figure out how the mind processes humor, then we’ll have a pretty good handle on how it works in general.’

  幽默可能算是一种奢侈品,但其背后的机制却不是进化过程中的偶然事件。正如弗吉尼亚州威廉—玛丽学院的心理学家Peter Derks所说:“我乐意将幽默想像成是思维的歪曲镜,幽默是创造性的,感性的、与分析和语言有关的。如果我们能够找出思维是如何处理幽默的,我们就能从整体上处理好其运作机制。”

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