Functional theories of translation
The 1970s and 1980s saw a move away fromthe staticlinguistic typologiesof translation shiftsand theemergence and flourishing in Germany ofa functionalistand communicative approach tothe analysis oftranslation.
In thischapter, we look at:1.KatharinaReiss'searly work on text type and language function;2.JustaHolz-Manttari'stheory of translational action;3.Hans J. Vermeer'sskopostheory whichcentredon the purpose oftheTT;4Christiane Nord'smore detailed text-analysis model whichcontinued thefunctionalist tradition in the 1990s.
A functionalist and communicative approach to translation
Texttype-KatharinaReiss's work in the 1970s builds on the concept ofequivalence.- She views the text, rather than the word or sentence, as the level at which communication is achieved and at which equivalence must be sought.
Herfunctional approachaims initiallyat systematizingthe assessment of translations.ItborrowsKarlBuhlerl’sthree way categorizationof the functions oflanguage.Reiss links the three functions to their corresponding language 'dimensions' and to the text types or communicative situations in which they are used.
Themain characteristics of each text type aresummarizedbyReissasfollows:1.Informative text types:-'Plaincommunication of facts':information, knowledge, opinions,etc-Thelanguage dimension used to transmit the information is logicalor referential,Thecontent or 'topic' is the main focus of thecommunication.
2. expressivetext types:Theauthor uses the aesthetic dimension oflanguage. e.g.creative compositionThe author or 'sender' is foregrounded, as well as the form ofthe message.3operativetexttypes(Theappellativefunction)Toappeal to or persuade the reader or 'receiver' of the text to act ina certainway.The form of language is dialogic.Thefocus isappellative.
4.Audiomedialtexts, such as films and visual and spokenadvertisements.They supplementthe other three functions with visualimages, music, etc.
Followingthis diagram, thereference workis thetext varietywhich is the most fullyinformative text type;the poemis ahighlyexpressive, form-focused type, andan advertisementis the clearestoperative texttype(attempting to persuade someone to buy or do something).
Between these poles are positioned a host of hybrid of types. Thus, a biography mightbe somewhere between the informative and expressive types, since it provides information about the subject while also partly performing theexpressive functionof a piece of literature.
Similarly, a sermon givesinformation(about the religion) while fulfilling the operative function by attemptingto persuadethe congregation to a certain way ofbehaving.
Despite the existence of such hybrid types, Reissstates that'thetransmission of the predominant function of the ST is thedetermining factorby which the TT is judged'.Shesuggests 'specific translation methodsaccording to text type' (Reiss 1976: 20). These methods occupy the last two
1. TheTT of an informative text shouldtransmit the full referentialor conceptualcontent of the ST. The translation should be in 'plain prose', withoutredundancy and with the use ofexplicitationwhen required.
2.The TT of an expressive text shouldtransmit the aesthetic and artistic form of the ST. The translation should use the 'identifying' method, with the translator adopting the standpoint of the ST author.
3.The TT of an operative text should produce the desired responsein theTT receiver.The translation should employ the 'adaptive'method, creatingan equivalent effect among TT readers.4.Audio-medial texts require the'supplementary' method, supplementingwritten words with visual images andmusic.
Reissalsolists a series ofintralinguisticandextralinguisticinstructioncriteriabywhich theadequacyof a TT maybeassessed.Theseare:1.intralinguisticcriteria:semantic,lexical,grammaticalandstylisticfeatures.2.extralinguisticcriteria: situation, subject field, time, place,receiver,senderand 'affective implications' (humour,irony,emotion, etc.).
Although interrelated, the importance of these criteria vary accordingto texttype.For example, the translation of anycontent-focusedtextshould first aim at preservingsemanticequivalence.
However, while a news item TT would probably place grammatical criteria in second place, a popular science book would pay more attention to the individual style of the ST. Similarly, Reissfeels that it is more important for a metaphorto be retained in the translation of an expressive text than in an informative TT, where translation of its semantic value alone will besufficient.
There are, of course, occasions,when the functionof the TT may differ from that of the ST. An example she givesis JonathanSwift'squlliuer'sTravels. Originally written as a satirical novelto attackthe government of the day (i.e. a mainly operative text), it isnowadays normallyread and translated as 'ordinary entertaining fiction' (i.e. anexpressive text).
Alternatively, a TT may have a different communicativefunction fromthe ST: an operative election address in one language may betranslated foranalysts in another country interested in finding out what policies havebeen presented and how (i.e. as an informative and expressive text).
Discussion of the text type approach
One of the main advantages of the approach is that it movestranslation theory beyondlowerlinguisticlevelstowards a consideration of the communicativepurpose of translation..
However,one ofthe criticisms is why there should only be three types of languagefunction. Nord, although working in the same functionalist tradition asReiss, perhapsimplicitly accepts this criticism by feeling the need to add afourth'phatic'functioncoveringlanguage thatmaintains contact betweenthe parties involved in thecommunication.
A simple example would be a greeting or phrase suchas 'Ladiesand gentlemen' that is used to signal the start of a formal speechor anannouncement made by a company employee to clients.
The'plain-prose' method for the informative text can be called intoquestion. For example, businessand financial texts in English contain a large number ofsimple andcomplex metaphors: markets arebullishandbearish, profitssoar,peak,diveandplummet.
Some of these have a fixed translation in another language, but the more complexand individualisticmetaphors do not.This implies thatthe translation of businesstexts intoEnglish requires more than just attention to the informative value ofthe ST, since such a method could create an English TT that is lacking in theexpressive function of language.
Co-existenceof functionswithin the same ST and the use of the same ST for a varietyof purposesare evidence of the fuzziness that fits uneasily into Reiss'sclear divisions.Thetranslation method employed depends on farmore thanjust text type. The translator's own role and purpose, as well associocultural pressures, also affect the kind of translation strategy that is adopted
Themodel proposed byHolz-Manttaritakes up concepts from communication theory and action theory.It aims to provide a model and guidelines applicable to a wide range of professional translationsituations.Translationalaction views translation as purpose-driven,outcome-orientedhumaninteraction and focuses on the process of translationasmessage-transmittercompoundsinvolvinginterculturaltransfer
Interlingualtranslationis described as 'translational action from a source text' and as a communicative process involving a series of roles and players.theinitiator: the company or individual who needs the translation;the commissioner: the individual who contacts the translator;
the ST producer: the individual within the company who writes theST, notnecessarily always involved in the TT production;theTTproducer: the translator;the TT user: the person who uses the TT; for example asteaching materialor sales literature;the TT receiver: the final recipient of the TT; for example the studentsin aTT user's class or clients reading the translated sales literature.
Translatorialactionfocuses very much on producing a TT that isfunctionally communicativefor the receiver. This means, for example, thatthe formand genre of the TT must be guided by what is functionally suitable inthe TT culture, rather than by merely copying the ST profile. What isfunctionally suitablehas to be determined by thetranslator.
The translator isthe expertin translational action. Hisrole is to make sure that theintercultural transfertakes place satisfactorily.Inthe 'translational text operations' (thetermHolz-Manttariuses for the production of the TT), the ST isanalyzed solelyfor its 'construction and functionprofile.
The needs of the receiver are the determining factors for the TT. Thus, asfar asterminology is concerned, a technical term in an ST manual mayrequire clarificationfor a non-technical TT user. Additionally, in order to maintaincohesion for the TT reader, a single term will need to be translated consistently
Discussion of the model of translational action
The value ofHolz-Manttari'swork is the placing of translationwithin its socioculturalcontext, including the interplay between the translator andthe initiating institution.Shelater also describes the 'professional profile' ofthe translator.Translatorialaction is considered relevant for alltypes oftranslation and the theoryprovidesguidelines for every decision tobe takenby thetranslator.
However, the model couldbecriticizedfor the complexity of its jargon (forexample message-transmittercompounds), which does little to explain practicaltranslation situationsfor the individualtranslator.Itfails to consider cultural difference in more detail or in the kindsof termsproposed by the culturally orientedmodels.
Nordalso criticizesHolz-Manttari'sdisregard of theST. Shestresses that, while 'functionality is the most important criterion fora translation', this does not allow the translator absolutelicence(carte blanche)There needs tobe a relationship between ST and TT, and the nature of this relationship isdetermined by the purpose orskopos.
SkopostheorySkoposis the Greek word for 'aim' or 'purpose' and was introduced into translationtheory in the 1970s byHans J. Vermeeras a technical term forthepurpose of a translation and of the action oftranslating.purpose of a translation and of the action of translating.
The major workonskopostheory(‘Groundworkfor a General Theory of Translation'),a bookVermeer co-authoredwith Katharina Reiss (Reiss and Vermeer 1984).
TheSkopostheoryis to beconsideredpartofHolz-Manttari'stheory of translational action.It focuses onthe purpose of the translation, which determinesthe translationmethods and strategies that are to be employed in order toproducea functionally adequate result.This result is the TT, which Vermeercalls thetranslatum
Inskopostheory, knowing why an ST is to betranslated and what the function of the TT will be are crucial forthe translator.
Reiss and Vermeer aim at ageneral translationtheory for all texts. The first part sets out a detailedexplanation ofVermeer'sskopostheory; the second part, 'special theories',adaptsReiss'sfunctional text-type modelto the general theory.
Thebasic underlying 'rules' ofthe theory(Reiss and Vermeer1984).Theseare:1.Atranslatum(or TT) is determined by itsskopos.2.A TT is an offer ofinformationin a target cultureand TL concerning an offer of information in a source culture and SL.3.A TT does not initiate an offer of information in a clearly reversible way.4.A TT must be internally coherent.5.A TT must be coherent with the ST.6.The five rules above stand in hierarchical order, with theskoposrulepredominating.
This down-playing (or 'dethroning', as Vermeer terms it) of the status of the ST is a general factof bothskoposand translational actiontheory.An important advantage ofskopostheory is that it allows thepossibilityofthe same text being translated in different ways according to thepurpose ofthe TT and the commission which is given to the translator.
For example, anambiguity in a will written inFrench wouldneed to be translated literally, with a footnote or comment, fora foreignlawyer dealing with the case. On the other hand, if the willappeared ina novel, the translator might prefer to find a slightly differentambiguity thatworks in the TL without the need of a formal footnote, so as nottointerruptthereadingprocess.
In order for the translational action to be appropriate for the specificcase, theskoposneeds to be stated explicitly or implicitly in the commission . Vermeer describes the commission as comprising (1)a goaland (2)theconditions under which that goal should be achieved(including deadlineand fee), both of which should be negotiated between the commissioner andthe translator.
The nature of theTT 'isprimarily determined by itsskoposor commission' and adequacy to override equivalence as the measure of the translational action.In Reiss andVermeeradequacy(unlike equivalence) describesthe relations between ST and TT as a consequence of observing askoposduring the translation process. In other words, if the TT fulfils theskoposoutlined by the commission, it is functionally and communicatively adequate.
Discussion ofskopostheoryNord (1997)andSchaffner(1997) discusssome of thecriticisms thathave been made ofskopostheory by other scholars. These includethefollowing
1.Skopostheory does not pay sufficient attention to the linguistic nature of the ST nor to the reproduction ofmicrolevelfeatures in the TT. Even if theskoposis adequately fulfilled, it may be inadequate at thestylistic orsemantic levels of individual segments.
2. Otherpossible criticisms are similar to those made ofHolz-Manttiri, namelythat jargon such astranslatumdoes little to further translationtheory, where workable termsalready exist, and that consideration of culturalissues anddifferences must surely be essential when deciding on how, if at all,theskoposcan be achieved.