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Review of  The Role of Discourse Analysis for Translation and Translator Training

Reviewer: Louise Brunette
Book Title: The Role of Discourse Analysis for Translation and Translator Training
Book Author: Christina Schäffner
Publisher: Multilingual Matters
Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
Issue Number: 13.2168

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Schaeffner, Christina, ed. (2002)
The Role of Discourse Analysis for Translation and in Translator Training.
Multilingual Matters Ltd, 95pp, hardback ISBN 1-85359-503-4,
Current Issues in Language and Society.

Announced in

Louise Brunette, Concordia University

As far as Translation Studies are concerned, reviewing a book in
Current Issues in Language and Society is evaluating the whole series
for they all have the same format and similar objectives. This one is
no different. After a presentation of one scholar's theory on a given
matter, each book presents a debate i.e. responses to the position
paper followed by a number of individual papers and the final comments
by the author of the key presentation. This time the subject under
study is the role of discourse analysis (DA) in Translation Studies in
general and in translator training in particular with Anna Trosborg as
the guest, and Beverly Adab, Rodica Dimitriu, Carmen Millan-Varela,
Peter Newmark, Palma Zlateva, and Christina Schaeffner (ed.) as

In her Introduction, Schaeffner explains why and how to do discourse
analysis for translation, and she presents DA as a tool to help
translation students make adequate translation decisions and comment
on them. DA is seen as a model for developing translation competence.

The position paper by Anna Trosborg presents her approach to textual
analysis (TA) which would eventually guarantee the quality of the
product, the translated text, as well as that of the process, the
translation operation. Being told that the in-depth analysis of the
source text (ST) is paramount to the quality of the target text (TT),
one is not surprised to read that Trosborg is a follower of Juliane

To begin with, Trosborg introduces the theoretical concepts of textual
analysis (TA): the extra-textual features are composed of the
situational aspects and the genre. The components of the intra-textual
features are the ideational function, the interpersonal function, and
the textual function that all remind the reader of Halliday, Albrecht,
Hatim & Mason, Searle, and Lyons, amongst others. It should be noted
that before dealing with the ideational function, the author has never
referred to translation as such. It is only in the second quarter of
her lengthy exposition that those interested in translation will feel

In this first part, the emphasis is undoubtedly on the interpersonal
function, with the detailed presentation on the composing
communicative functions as seen by Searle and by Jakobson. At the same
time, the level of formality of a text is given as the other component
to be analyzed before translating the ST. As for the elements of the
textual function, they are the mode or medium (related to the
situational context), cohesion (reiteration and lexical cohesion or
coherence) and are borrowed to different authors including Baker,
Albrecht, and Halliday & Hasan. As for the lexical cohesion also
called collocation, it is said to be achieved by different devices,
including the thematic (theme/rheme) organization.

The second part of Trosborg's paper is a sample, an actual textual
analysis taking into account the various functions posed as essential
to an in-depth comprehension of the source text. For practitioners,
this will be by far more interesting than the first
part. Unfortunately, it is impossible to account for such an example
in a review but let's say that the text in question is closely looked
at for the situational features: time and place of communication,
supposed social class of the readers, purpose of communication or
author's intention, register (domain of the text), genre, sender
(messenger), receiver (reader), and sender/receiver relationship. When
the author comes to the ideational features of the language used, she
deals with what she calls the linguistic realization of field,
basically the taxonomy of the text, the
participant-process-participant structure describing and naming the
physical actions or describing the qualities and attributes of the
actors in the text, and the circumstances of the latter: the temporal
aspects of it, its various locations and the apparent stance of the
writer or author. These features also include, for analysis purposes,
the lexical chains, that is every element directly and more or less
actively linked to the topic of the text to be translated.

The metaphors of the text under study are also closely looked at,
suggesting that this part of discourse analysis should apply to all
ST. It should be said that the examples put forward are
convincing. The final element appearing under the heading 'ideational
functions' refers to the intertextuality of the text and is
illustrated by examples of culture-specific elements that are intended
for the source-culture reader and then must be examined before being
brought into the receiving culture.

Important features of this second part are the interpersonal features
of language made of the communicative functions and the level of
formality. What is particularly looked at is the intention of the
writer or the dominant function of the ST, the choice of lexis and the
connotations of adjectives and adverbials as well as the overall mood
of the text. As regards he level of formality, special attention is
paid to the structure of the text as well as to its grammatical and
syntactical complexity.

Finally, the textual function is addressed, and text type, cohesion
and thematic organization are explored. The author elicits the text
type of the given ST noting its composite nature. Cohesion is
threefold: lexical, grammatical (conjunctions), and lexico-grammatical
(the previously mentioned sustained metaphors). Continuing with the
organization of the ST, topical themes and interpersonal themes as
well as textual themes are presented as elements for analysis. It is
at this stage that the author draws her first conclusion as regards
translation, deciding that the marked themes are to be kept in the
TT. As for the last part of these lines on textual function, they
bring the reader back to the theme/rheme progression.

Part three of the position paper, at last, deals with translation as
such. At first, Anna Trosborg introduces two models of translation,
the equivalence theory and the skopos theory, both being certainly
known by translator trainers. What is put forward as a translation
strategy is to compare the skopos of the source text with the purpose
of the translation in order to make the appropriate changes and
preserve what should be kept in the TT. The final comments of the
author could certainly be summarized as follows: there is no other
approach to translation than a top-down one.

The debate section poses certain questions on the exposed theory and
challenges its use in the real world, mainly as regards translation
pedagogy. The most important comments deal with the teaching strategy,
the contents of a course on discourse analysis for translators (some
critics vehemently challenge the need of an in-depth analysis in a
translation course; others will praise the presentation for having
stressed the importance of genre conventions in translation studies).
Once again, the question is raised of theory vs practice. We find
debaters criticizing the use of an eclectic or mixed model; others are
more than happy with this eclectism. Considering the number of the
theories referred to, no wonder that terminological discussions were
raised by the presentation.

Amongst other criticisms, the structure of the model is questioned for
being not well organized or too fragmented. Some will express doubt as
to the detailed analysis leading to better translators or better
translations. Others disagree with the detailed analysis of the ST
while so little emphasis is being put on the end product or TT.

The last section of the book is made of six individual papers,
including Trosborg's reply to some negative comments. One author
insists on teaching concepts offered by discourse analysis but within
the framework of the functionalist (skopos) approach while bringing
forward the necessity to teach a standard DA terminology. Another one
thinks translators-to-be should be offered a simpler version of DA and
one that should assign a greater importance to the socio-cultural
situations. Another debater goes as far as saying that the Trosborg's
model is pedagogically totally irrelevant. Finally, one paper
reproachfully notes that the proposed approach is lacking moral
factors. If there is a common complaint, it is about the small space
allocated to the target text. There is also a general agreement:
discourse analysis is a valuable tool and skill for any translator.

Considering the format of the book which consists of a critical
evaluation, any further comments would add nothing to this very
fruitful exchange of ideas.

Dr. Louise Brunette teaches translation and revision at Concordia
University in Montreal. Her main interest is in Quality Assessment
in Translation (TQA) and in the sociopolitical aspects of translation.