Text analysis in translation

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1. “Extratextual Factors in Translation Text Analysis”

Lecture 1. Systematic Framework for External Analysis


Most writers on translation theory agree that before embarking upon any
translation the translator should analyze the text comprehensively,
since this appears to be the only way of ensuring that the source text
(ST) has been wholly and correctly understood. Various proposals have
been put forward as to how such an analysis should be carried out and
how particular translation problems might best be dealt with. These
tend, however, to be based on models of text analysis which have been
developed in other fields of study, such as that of literary studies, of
text or discourse linguistics, or even in the field of theology.

But what is right for the literary scholar, the text linguist is not
necessarily right for the translator: different purposes require
different approaches. Translation-oriented text analysis should not only
ensure full comprehension and correct interpretation of the text or
explain its linguistic and textual structures and their relationship
with the system and norms of the source language (SL). It should also
provide a reliable foundation for each and every decision which the
translator has to make in a particular translation process. For this
purpose, it must be integrated into an overall concept of translation
that will serve as a permanent frame of reference for the translator.

The factors of the communicative situation in which the source text is
used are of decisive importance for text analysis because they determine
its communicative function. I call these factors “extraj textual” or
“external” factors (as opposed to the “intratextual” or “internal”
factors relating to the text itself, including its non-verbal elements).
Extratextual factors may, of course, be mentioned, i.e. “verbalized”, in
the text, and in this case we speak of “metacommunicative utterances”.
The interplay between extratextual and intratextual factors can be
conveniently expressed in the following set of “WH-ques-tions”.
Depending on their relationship to either the communicative situation or
the text itself, these questions can be assigned to the extratextual or
intratextual factors of analysis.

Who transmits On what subject matter

to whom does s/he say

what for what

by which medium (what not)

where in what order

when using which non-verbal elements

why in which words

a text in what kind of sentences

with what function? in which tone

to what effect?

Extratextual factors are analysed by enquiring about the author or
sender of the text (who?), the sender’s intention (what for?), the
audience the text is directed at (to whom?), the medium or channel the
text is communicated by (by which medium?), the place (where?) and time
(when?) of text production and text reception, and the motive (why?) for
communication. The sum total of information obtained about these seven
extratextual factors may provide an answer to the last question, which
concerns the function the text can achieve (with what function?).

Intratextual factors are analysed by enquiring about the subject matter
the text deals with (on what subject matter?), the information or
content presented in the text (what?), the knowledge presuppositions
made by the author (what not?), the composition or construction of the
text (in what order?), the non-linguistic or paralinguistic elements
accompanying the text (using which non-verbal elements?), the lexical
characteristics (in which words?) and syntactic structures (in what kind
of sentences?) found in the text, and the suprasegmental features of
intonation and prosody (in which tone?).

The extratextual factors are analysed before reading the text, simply by
observing the situation in which the text is used. In this way, the
receivers build up a certain expectation as to the intratextual
characteristics of the text, but it is only when, through reading, they
compare this expectation with the actual features of the text that they
experience the particular effect the text has on them. The last question
(to what effect?) therefore refers to a global or holistic concept,
which comprises the interdependence or interplay of extratextual and
intratextual factors.

Since the situation normally precedes textual communication and
determines the use of intratextual procedures, it seems natural to start
with the analysis of the external factors although, in view of
recursiveness and circularity, the order of the analytical steps is not
a constituent of the model. In written communication, the situation is
often documented in the “text environment” (i.e. title and/or
bibliographical references, such as name of author, place and year of
publication, number of copies, etc.). This is what is usually called a
“top down” analysis. If no information on the external factors can be
inferred from the text environment (for example, in the case of old
texts whose original situation of production and/or reception is
uncertain or unknown), the analysis of internal features, again in a
recursive procedure, can yield information from which the translator is
able to make fairly reliable conjectures about the situation the text
was used in.14 The latter procedure is referred to as a “bottom-up”

The application of the model will show that normally both procedures
have to be combined, demonstrating once more the recursive character of
the model.

Extratextual factors

External versus internal situation

In classifying the situational factors as “extratextual factors” we have
to make the following fundamental qualification. When referring to
“situation” we mean the real situation in which the text is used as a
means of communication, and not any imaginary setting of a story in a
fictional text). The characteristics of a person who speaks in a
fictional text do not belong to the dimension of sender, but have to be
regarded as an intratextual factor which is analysed in connection with
the internal dimension of “content”. It is the author of the text who
has to be regarded as “producer” of the fictitious utterance, whereas
the fictitious speaker is a “secondary sender” (S’).

This qualification also applies to the so-called complex text types,
where a text of a certain genre is embedded into a frame text belonging
to another genre. Complex text types occur not only in fiction, but also
in non-fiction. For example, in newspaper reports authors often cite
remarks made by third persons in literal quotations in order to show
that they do not share the speaker’s opinion. In this case, the sender
of the quoted utterance is not identical with the sender of the frame


After King Juan Carlos of Spain had received an honorary doctorate from
New York University, the journalist who commented on the event in a
Spanish newspaper quoted verbatim parts of the King’s speech of thanks.
For the translation of the quotation, the King has to be regarded as
sender, whereas for the translation of the framing newspaper report, the
journalist is the sender (and author). The formulation of the two texts
has to conform to the different situations and positions of the two

For both fictional and non-fictional complex texts it is advisable to
analyse the constituent texts separately according to the principle of
recursiveness. The necessary information on the situational factors of
the embedded text is usually given within the frame text.

Systematic Framework for External Analysis

If we want to encompass the whole situation of a text by means of a
model that will serve for the analysis of any text with any possible
translation skopos, we must ask the following fundamental question:

What information on the various factors may be relevant to translation?

Neubert ([1968]1981: 60) regards “age, origin, social environment,
education etc.” as relevant information about the language user. Vermeer
([1974b] 1983: 23) in a matrix relates attitude, status, role, strategy,
behaviour and activity of the participants of communication to the
corresponding features of the type of situation in order to furnish
evidence of the conformist or deviant behaviour of the participants.
Schmidt (cf. 1976: 104) lists the following data: (a) socio-economic
conditions (role, status, economic situation), (b) socio-cultural and
cognitive-intellectual conditions (text and world knowledge, education,
experience, models of reality), and (c) biographical-psychical
conditions (individual competences and dispositions, present
biographical situation, plans, intentions). Gulich & Raible (1977: 28)
even regard “hoarseness, cheerfulness, unhappiness” and the picture that
speaker and hearer have of each other as factors which may influence the
communicative act.

This list is in no way complete, but it clearly shows that the situation
or world of a text cannot be analysed by a mere compilation of
informational details. We have to find the categories by which we
conceive the world, which will apply equally to the world of a text,
i.e. to its historical situation.

This applies to the situation of a text as well.

(a) The basic categories of any historical situation are time and
space. The category of time also comprises the historic conception a
world has of itself. The first fundamental aspect of analysis will
therefore be the temporal and spatial dimension of the situation.

(b) The situation of a text is always a part of human culture. The
second fundamental aspect of analysis therefore has to refer to the
culture-specific features of the situation.

(c) In its world, the text has a function which establishes its
textuality. The third fundamental aspect therefore comprises the
relationship between situation and communicative function of the text

The communicative function of a text has to be considered within the
framework of the transcultural, possibly universal, communicative
functions of language in general.

We find four basic functions of communication: (a) the referential (also
denotative or cognitive) function, focussed on the referent or context
referred to by the text, (b) the expressive or emotive function,
focussed on the sender, the sender’s emotions or attitude towards the
referent, (c) the operative (also appellative, conative, persuasive or
vocative) function, focussed on the orientation of the text towards the
receiver, and (d) the phatic function, serving primarily “to establish,
to prolong, or to discontinue communication between sender and receiver,
to check whether the channel works, to attract the attention of the
interlocutor or to confirm his continued attention. The phatic function
is also responsible for the development of the social relationship
between sender and receiver.

Apart from space, time, and culture, it is the influence of these basic
functions that constitutes the “world” of a text. They will therefore
form the systematic framework for the range of possible questions which
can be asked regarding the situational factors of our analytical model
(see the standard or model questions in the “checklist” at the end of
each chapter). In order to illustrate the interdependence of factors and
dimensions, the last question will always refer to the expectations
raised by the analysis of the factor in question.


Sender vs. text producer

Although in many cases these two roles are combined in one persona (e.g.
in the case of literary works, textbooks, or newspaper commentaries,
which are normally signed by an author’s name), the distinction seems to
be highly relevant to a translation-oriented text analysis.

Many texts do not bear any author’s name at all. These are usually
non-literary texts for practical use, such as advertisements, laws or
statutes, or operating instructions. Nevertheless, there has to be a
sender who, even if not named explicitly, can be identified implicitly.
For example, the sender of an advertisement is usually the company
selling the product, and the sender of statutes is normally the
legislative body of a state. The fact that no text producer is named in
these cases leads to the conclusion that either they are not relevant as
a person or – as is the case with certain genres – they do not wish to
be known.

If a text bears the name of both sender and text producer, the latter
usually plays a secondary role because s/he is not expected to introduce
any communicative intention of her or his own into the text.

The sender of a text is the person (or institution, etc.) who uses the
text in order to convey a certain message to somebody else and/or to
produce a certain effect, whereas the text producer writes the text
according to the instructions of the sender, and complies with the rules
and norms of text production valid in the respective language and
culture. The formal design of the text, such as the layout, may be
assigned to another expert, and in some cases, the text is presented to
the public by yet another person (e.g. a news reader or an actor).


The imprint on the back of a tourist information brochure of the city of
Munich reads as follows: “Edited by the Tourist Information Office of
Munich (…). Text: Helmut Gerstner.” The Tourist Information Office,
which intends to inform the visitors and to promote the beauties of the
town, is the sender of the text. Mr Gerstner is the text producer, and
he is the person responsible for the stylistic features of the text, but
not for the sender’s intention. The imprints on the English, French, and
Spanish versions of the brochure contain the same information, which in
this case is obviously wrong. Although the Tourist Information Office is
the sender of these texts, too, it is the respective translators who
have to be regarded as text producers. Their names ought to be mentioned
in addition to, or instead of, that of Helmut Gerstner.

As is shown by the example, it is usually the text environment (imprint,
reference, bibliography, etc.) that yields information as to whether or
not the sender and the text producer are different persons. If the
author’s name is the only one given, she can normally be assumed to be
the text producer. However, this cannot be regarded as a hard and fast
rule, as is illustrated by the following example.


In her book Estudio sobre el cuento espahol contempordneo (Madrid 1973),
Erna Brandenberger has included the short story “Pecado de omision” by
the Spanish author Ana Maria Matute to give an example of a certain type
of plot which she calls a “fast moving story”. For the German version of
the book, Brandenberger (as sender and translator in one person) has
translated the story into German with the intention of showing the
typical features of a fast moving story. If the same story is published
in a collection of modern Spanish short stories, however, it is the
author herself who acts as sender, and in translation it would be her
intention that determines translation strategies.

The situation of a translator can be compared with that of the text
producer. Although they have to follow the instructions of the sender or
initiator and have to comply with the norms and rules of the target
language and culture, they are usually allowed a certain scope in which
to give free rein to their own stylistic creativity and preferences, if
they so wish. On the other hand, they may decide to stick to stylistic
features of the source text as long as their imitation does not infringe
the text norms and conventions of the target culture.

Another aspect of sender pragmatics is the question as to whether a text
has one or more than one sender (monologue vs. dialogue,
question/answer, discussion, exchange of roles between sender and
receiver, etc.). If there is more than one sender, the corresponding
data have to be analysed for each of them.

What to find out about the sender

Within the framework established by time, space, culture and the basic
functions of communication, what we regard as being relevant to
translation is all data which may throw light on the sender’s intention,
on the addressed audience with their cultural background, on the place
and time of, and the motive for, text production, as well as any
information on the predictable intratextual features (such as
idiosyncrasies, regional and social dialect, temporal features,
knowledge presuppositions, etc.).


a) If a text is written in Spanish, it may be vital for comprehension to
know whether the author is from Spain or Latin America, since a large
number of words are used with different meanings in European and
American Spanish. Even if a Peruvian like Mario Vargas Llosa writes in a
Spanish newspaper for Spanish readers, he can be expected to use
americanisms. b) In a Spanish edition of Cuban short stories (Narrativa
cubana de la revolution, Madrid 1971), certain cubanisms are explained
to the Spanish readers in footnotes, e.g., duro: “moneda de un peso
cubano” (which was then a five peseta coin in Spain), or neques:
“sorpresas, golpes imprevistos”. For the translator, these footnotes may
be important not only in the comprehension phase, but also – if the TT
skopos requires the preservation of the effect the book has on the
European Spanish-speaking reader – in the transfer phase, c) The
Portuguese eclogue Crisfal can be ascribed either to Cristovao Falcaos
or to Bernadim Ribeiro. In the first case, the text has to be
interpreted literally as a naturalistic poem, while in the second case,
it must be regarded as an allegory. As Kayser points out, “the words may
have a completely different impact if they come from an author who
really was put into prison for his love, who really was separated from
his lady, and whose lady really was forced to stay in the cloister of
Lorvao” (Kayser 1962: 36, my translation).

How to obtain information about the sender

How can the translation-relevant information about the sender (or the
text producer) be obtained? The first clues are provided by the text
environment (imprints, blurbs, preface or epilogue, footnotes, etc.).
The author’s name may already carry further information which either
belongs to the receiver’s or translator’s general background knowledge
or can, if necessary, be obtained. The name of a writer usually evokes
some knowledge of their literary classification, artistic intentions,
favourite subject matters, usual addressees, status, etc.; similarly,
the name of a politician evokes his or her political standpoint,
function or position, public image, etc. Since this is culture-specific
knowledge, which belongs to the “hinterland” of the text, it cannot be
presumed that it is shared by the target receiver. Therefore, the
translator has to consider whether the TT receiver might lack
information. Whenever such a lack interferes with text comprehension, it
should be compensated for by some additional piece of information given
in the target text or in the TT environment.


If ex-Prime Minister Edward Heath writes an editorial in a British
newspaper, British readers will immediately know what political party
the author belongs to. If the text is translated and published in the
German weekly paper DIE ZEIT, many German readers may not be able to
“classify” the author as easily. If, however, the classification is
relevant for the comprehension and/ or interpretation of the article,
the information has to be supplied in a few introductory lines or even
in the text itself, if possible.

Further information about the sender may be provided by other factors of
the communicative situation (either individually or as a combination of
several factors). There may be clear and unambiguous information, which
I call “data”, or there may be hints which may allow the necessary
information to be inferred. If the analyst knows, for instance, by which
medium, at what time, and for which function a text has been published
(local newspaper of the day X, death announcement), s/he is able to tell
who the sender may be (relatives, employer, or friends of the dead
person). The place of publication points to the origin of the sender or
possible origin, if the language is spoken in various countries (Great
Britain – United States – Australia – India; Portugal – Brazil; Spain –
Latin America -Bolivia), and the medium can throw light on the possible
status of the sender (specialized journal – expert; newspaper
-journalist), etc.

Sometimes it may even be possible to ask the sender in person, or a
person related to him or her.

Another source of information is the text itself. If the text
environment does not provide the necessary details, the analyst has to
look for internal hints about the characteristics of the sender. The use
of a certain regional or class dialect may reveal the (geographical or
social) origin of the text producer (although not necessarily that of
the sender, if they are not the same person), and the use of obsolete
forms may tell the analyst that the text producer probably lived in
another age. These questions, however, can only be answered after
completing the intratextual analysis.


The following questions may help to find out the relevant information

about the sender:

1. Who is the sender of the text?

2. Is the sender identical with the text producer? If not, who is the
text producer and what is his/her position with regard to the sender? Is
s/he subject to the sender’s instructions? Is s/he an expert in text
production or an expert on the subject?

3. What information about the sender (e.g. age, geographical and social
origin, education, status, relationship to the subject matter, etc.) can
be obtained from the text environment? Is there any other information
that is presupposed to be part of the receiver’s general background
knowledge? Can the sender or any person related to him or her be asked
for more details?

4. What clues as to the characteristics of the sender can be inferred
from other situational factors (medium, place, time, motive, function)?

5. What conclusions can be drawn from the data and clues obtained about
the sender with regard to

(a) other extratextual dimensions (intention, receiver, medium, place,
time, occasion, function) and

(b) the intratextual features?

The difference between intention, function, and effect

In order to ascertain the dimension of intention we have to ask what
function the sender intends the text to fulfill, and what effect on the
receiver s/he wants to achieve by transmitting the text. It may seem
difficult to distinguish the concept of intention from that of function
and effect. Biihler (1984), for example, equates “author’s intention”
with “purpose and effect”. The three concepts are three different
viewpoints of one and the same aspect of communication. The intention is
defined from the viewpoint of the sender, who wants to achieve a certain
purpose with the text. But the best of intentions does not guarantee
that the result conforms to the intended purpose. It is the receiver who
“completes” the communicative action by receiving (i.e. using) the text
in a certain function, which is the result of the configuration or
constellation of all the situational factors (including the intention of
the sender and the receiver’s own expectations based on his/her
knowledge of the situation). The question “What is S aiming at with the
text?” can therefore not be assigned to the factor of text function, but
belongs to the dimension of intention.

Text function is defined “externally”, before the receiver has actually
read the text, whereas the effect the text has on the receiver can only
be judged after reception. It is, so to speak, the result of the
reception and encompasses both external and internal factors.

It is true that certain genres are conventionally associated with
certain intentions, but these need not necessarily be realized in the
communicative situation. Some ancient genres, for example, such as magic
spells or epic poems, are received today in a function which differs
considerably from that intended by the original sender.

Ideally, the three factors of intention, function and effect are
congruent, which means that the function intended by the sender (=
intention) is also assigned to the text by the receiver, who experiences
exactly the effect conventionally associated with this function.
Methodologically, the three factors have to be distinguished because
their separate analysis allows for a different treatment (preservation,
change, adaptation) in the translation process. If the intention has to
be preserved in translation, we must often be prepared for a change in
function and/or effect.

The intention of (he sender is of particular importance to the
translator because it determines the structuring of the text with regard
to content (subject matter, choice of informative details) and form
(e.g. composition, stylistic-rhetorical characteristics, quotations, use
of non-verbal elements etc.). At the same time, the specific
organization of a text marks the text type and is a pre-signal which
tells the receivers in which function they are expected to use the text.


A set of operating instructions is meant to inform the user about a
certain piece of equipment, e.g. a hairdryer, and to explain its correct
use. Therefore, the text producer chooses the conventional forms of text
organization (composition, sentence structures, lexical cliches, etc.).
Taking the text out of the box with the hairdryer, the receiver
recognizes the particular forms of text organization and immediately
knows that the sender wants to inform about the hairdryer and the way it
has to be used. Therefore receivers will normally utilize the text in
this particular function. In this case, the text type is linked with a
particular intention on the part of the sender, which leads to the
corresponding text function on the part of the receiver. The effect will
be that of “conventionality”.

The sender’s intention is also important in connection with the
principle of loyalty. Even if the text function is changed in
translation, the translator must not act contrary to the sender’s
intention (if it can be elicited).

The information on the dimension of intention can throw some light on
other external factors (e.g., what effect on the receiver might be
intended, which medium may be most appropriate or conventionally used to
realize the intention in question, or whether there is a link between
intention and genre), and, to a large extent, on the intratextual
features (e.g. composition, use of rhetorical devices or non-verbal
elements, tone, etc.).

What to find out about the sender’s intention

What different types of intention can be associated with a text? There
may be forms of “communication”, where the sender is his or her own
addressee: somebody may write something down either to ease the burden
of their memory or to sort out their ideas and thoughts, or they may
just scribble something on a piece of paper while making a phone call
(“zero-intention”). These forms would not appear to be relevant to
translation. In normal communication with two or more participants, the
possible intentions correspond with the four basic functions of
communication described above in connection with the systematic
framework. We may ask, for example, whether the sender wants to inform
the receiver about a certain issue (referential intention) or intends to
express her/his feelings or attitude towards things (expressive
intention), whether s/he plans to persuade the receiver to adopt a
particular opinion or perform a certain activity (appellative
intention), or whether s/he just wants to establish or maintain contact
with the receiver (phatic intention).

Of course, a sender may well have more than just the one intention.
Several intentions can be combined in a kind of hierarchy of relevance.
For pragmatic reasons, this hierarchy may have to be changed in

How to obtain information about the sender’s intention

Normally, the receiver is not informed explicitly about the sender’s
intention, but receives the text as the result of the sender’s
communicative purposes. One means of obtaining explicit or implicit
information about the intention(s) of the sender or text producer,
therefore, is the analysis of intratextual features.

However, if we stay with the extratextual factors (sender, receiver,
medium, place, time, motive, and function), these can throw some light
on the intention the sender may have had in transmitting the text.
Paralinguistic phenomena, such as manifestations of the sender’s
excitement or indignation, may have to be taken into account as well.

In determining the sender’s intention we have to consider the role the
sender adopts towards the receiver in or through the text, a role which
is quite separate from the “real”, status-based relationship between the
two. A sender who is superior to the receiver because of greater
knowledge about the subject in question may nevertheless try to play
down this knowledge in order to gain the receiver’s confidence. If the
analyst knows the sender’s role (in relation to status), s/he may be
able to draw some conclusions as to the sender’s intention.

The sender’s intention is of particular importance when analysing
literary texts or texts marked as a personal opinion (e.g. political
commentaries, editorials) because there is no conventional link between
genre and intention. In these cases, the translator may have to take
account of the author’s life and background, events that have influenced
his or her writings or any literary classification (such as “romantic”
or “politically/socially committed literature”). There is no doubt that
for a translation-relevant text analysis translators must exploit all
sources at their disposal. The translator should strive to achieve the
information level which is presupposed in the receiver addressed by the
author. For a literary text this will not be the level of a literary
scholar, but certainly that of a “critical receiver”.


a) Bertolt Brecht is a representative of German politically committed
literature. If the receivers know that his story “Measures against
Violence” was first published in 1930, they may take this as a clue that
the author intended to warn his readers about Nazi tendencies, b) If a
text is published in a newspaper on the pages specially devoted to
political commentaries (which in quality papers is often separate from
news and reports), this medium of publication can be taken as a clear
hint that the sender’s intention was that of “commenting” on recent
political events or tendencies, c) In a text marked as a “recipe” the
reader can be quite sure that the sender’s intention was to give
directions for the preparation of a particular dish and to give a list
of the necessary ingredients. However, if the same recipe is embedded
into a larger unit, e.g. a novel, the sender’s intention may have been
quite different.

Sometimes senders themselves give a metacommunicative explanation as to
their intentions, as is shown in the following example.


In the preface of his story Los cachorros (Barcelona 1980), the Peruvian
author Mario Vargas Llosa writes: “I wanted Los cachorros to sound like
a story that is sung rather than told, and therefore the criterion for
the choice of each syllable was not only a narrative but also a musical
one. I somehow had the impression that the authenticity of the story
depended on whether the reader really felt that he was listening to the
story and not reading it. I wanted him to perceive the story with his
ears.” (My translation)

Such a statement by the author is no guarantee that the source text
(actually, or even in the author’s opinion) conforms to this intention.


The following questions may help to find out the relevant information
about the sender’s intention:

1. Are there any extratextual or intratextual statements by the sender
as to his or her intention(s) concerning the text?

2. What intention(s) are by convention associated with the genre to
which the analysed text can be assigned?

3. What clues as to the sender’s intention can be inferred from other
situational factors (sender – especially his or her communicative role
-, receiver, medium, place, time, and motive)?

4. What conclusions can be drawn from the data and clues obtained about
the sender’s intention with regard to

(a) other extratextual dimensions (receiver, medium, and function) and

(b) the intratextual features?

Lecture 2. Audience, Medium and Place of Communication

Source-text audience vs. target-text audience

During the process of text analysis the translator elicits those textual
elements or features which can be considered to be determined by the
particular audience-orientation of the source text. Since each target
text is always addressed to receivers-in-situation different from those
to whom the source text is or was addressed, the adaptation of precisely
these elements is of particular importance.


If the source text is a report on a recent event published in an
American newspaper, it is addressed to a large, non-specific audience in
the United States. In order to capture the attention of the readers the
author chooses a sensationalistic title plus an additional, informative
subtitle and uses small text segments and quotations as sub-headings for
the paragraphs. The text is accompanied by two photos. All these
features are intended as “reading-incentives” for the receiver. If this
text is translated for a journalist who has herself initiated the
translation because she is interested in the information provided by the
text, the reading-incentives are superfluous, and the paragraph headings
may even have a confusing effect.

Every TT receiver will be different from the ST receiver in at least one
respect: they are members of another cultural and linguistic community.
Therefore, a translation can never be addressed to “the same” receiver
as the original.

Addressee vs. chance receiver

First of all, we have to distinguish between the addressee of a certain
text (i.e. the person or persons addressed by the sender) and any chance
receivers who happen to read or hear the text, even though they are not
addressed directly, such as people listening to a panel discussion or
watching a televised parliamentary debate. In some cases, the “chance
receiver” is actually a secondary addressee; for example, when a
politician pretends to be answering a question asked by an interviewer
but is, in reality, addressing his/her words to potential voters.

This aspect is relevant not only in cases where the chance receiver’s
comprehension of the message differs from that of the real addressee
(which may have consequences for the participants), but particularly
where translation or interpreting is concerned. The transfer decisions
of the translator will have to depend on which of the two audiences is
supposed to be addressed by the target text.

The case may even arise where the translator has a “chance receiver”. If
the SL participant in an interpreting session has a passive command of
the target language or if a translation is published page-to-page with
the original in a parallel text edition, the afore-mentioned SL
participant or the reader with some SL knowledge, who compares the
translation with the original, might be regarded as being a kind of
“secondary receiver” as well. They are interested not only in the
message of the text but also in the way this message is transmitted to
the TL reader. In view of such secondary receivers it may be advisable
for the translator to comment on certain translation strategies in a
preface or post-script.

What to find out about the audience

After all the available information about the intended TT receiver has
been extracted according to the normal circular course of the
translation process, then the translator can check this against the
characteristics of the ST receiver: age, sex, education, social
background, geographic origin, social status, role with respect to the
sender, etc.


A report on drugs published in a magazine for young people is written
with teenage readers in mind. In order to appeal to the receivers and
warn them of the risks of drug addiction, the author uses words and
phrases from juvenile slang and drug jargon. A translation of the text
which is also addressed to young people may use the corresponding TL
slang, whereas if the” same translation text (using slang words and
jargon) were to appear in a section of a news magazine, whose readership
is a mainly adult one, it would either not be understood or would not be
taken seriously.

The communicative background of the addressees, i.e. all their general
background knowledge and their knowledge of special areas and subject
matters, is of particular importance for translation-oriented text
analysis. According to the assessment of the audience’s communicative
background22, a text producer not only selects the particular elements
of the code that will be used in the text but also cuts or omits
altogether any details which can be “presupposed” to be known to the
receiver, whilst stressing others (or even presenting them with extra
information) in order not to expect too much (nor too little) of the
addressed readership.

How much knowledge can be presupposed in a reader depends not only on
their education or familiarity with the subject but also on factors
relating to the subject matter itself, e.g. its topicality. In this
respect, the situation often varies widely for ST and TT receivers, as
there is usually (at least in written communication) a considerable time
lags between ST and TT reception.


For a Spanish receiver, the heading “Nuestra integration en Europa”
above a commentary published in the Spanish paper El Pais in February
1984 is not a thematic title which informs about the content of the
text, but refers to the then current discussion on special agricultural
problems connected with the negotiations on the Spanish entry into the
European Community. For German ‘ ”’ or French newspaper readers the
issue was not of topical interest at that time; under the heading
“Spain’s entry into the EC” (or “Our integration into Europe”, for that
matter) they would have expected an article on the issue of Spanish (or
German/French!?) integration into the European Community.

Like the author, who has a specific intention in transmitting the text,
the receiver, too, has a specific intention when reading the text. The
receivers’ intention must not be confused either with their expectations
towards the text, which is part of their communicative background, or
with their reaction or response to the text, which takes place after
text reception and is thus part of the text effect.

The information obtained about the addressee may throw some light on the
sender’s intention, on the time and place of communication (in relation
to the receiver’s age and geographic origin), on text function (in
relation to the receiver’s intention), and on the intratextual features
(e.g. the presuppositions).

As was pointed out in connection with the sender, a fictitious receiver
is part of the “internal” communicative situation and not of the
external communicative situation. But even externally a text can be
directed at different possible receivers.


Whilst imprisoned for being a member of the Resistance movement against
the Nazi regime, the German writer G. Weisenborn (1902-1962) wrote some
letters to his wife, Joy Weisenborn, which were published after the war.
In the original situation, these letters had one precisely defined and
addressed receiver. Published later in a book together with some
answering letters from his wife and some songs and poems, they address a
group of receivers that is much larger and not so clearly defined, i.e.
anyone interested in the documents and personal testimonies of
Resistance in the Third Reich. If a young man gives this book, which
contains many tender love-letters, to his girlfriend many years later,
the conditions of reception will be different again, not to mention
those of a translation of the book into English, Dutch, or Spanish.

Therefore, the translator must analyse not only the characteristics of
the ST addressees (or receivers) and their relationship to the source
text, but also those of the TT receiver, whose expectations, knowledge
and communicative role will influence the stylistic organization of the
target text.

The stronger the orientation of the ST towards a particular SL addressee
or audience, the higher the probability that the ST has to be translated
in a documentary way, which means that the target text can only give
information about the source text in its situation but not fulfil an
analogous function.

How to obtain information about the addressed audience

As in case of the sender, information about the addressees can first of
all be inferred from the text environment (e.g. dedications, notes),
including the title (e.g. Bad Child s Pop-Up Book of Beasts). It can
also be elicited from the information obtained about the sender and
his/her intention or from the situational factors, such as medium,
place, time, and motive. Standardized genres often raise equally
standardized expectations in the receivers.


A housewife normally expects a recipe to contain instructions for the
preparation of a certain dish, and, indeed, that is why she reads it.
Her attention is directed at the content of the text (e.g. what
ingredients will she need, what has she got to do?). Recipes usually
have a rather conventionalized form, not only with regard to their
composition (first a list of ingredients, then the instructions in
chronological order) but also with regard to syntactical structures
(e.g. imperatives, parataxis) and lexical features (e.g. terminology and
formulaic expressions, such as “bring to the boil”, “stirring
constantly”, etc.). The reader will only become aware of the text form
if it is not as expected: if, for example, the recipe is written as a
poem or if the list of ingredients is missing.

The expectation of the receiver can sometimes lead to a certain
tolerance. For example, when reading a menu, whose text function can
clearly be inferred from the situation, but which is translated badly
into their own language, tourists in a foreign country may not feel
annoyed, as they normally would, but rather amused by the orthographic
mistakes or unidiomatic collocations as long as they get some
information about what to eat or drink.

Normally, of course, the text producer will try as far as possible to
meet the expectations of the addressed audience. There are cases,
however, where an author disregards or even deliberately ignores the
addressees’ expectations in order to make them sit up and take notice or
to make them aware of certain patterns of thinking, etc.


The following questions may help to find out the relevant information

about the addressed audience and their expectations:

1. What information about the addressed audience can be inferred from
the text environment?

2. What can be learned about the addressees from the available
information about the sender and his/her intention?

3. What clues to the ST addressee’s expectations, background knowledge
etc. can be inferred from other situational factors (medium, place,
time, motive, and function)?

4. Is there any information about the reactions of the ST receiver(s)
which may influence translation strategies?

5. What conclusions can be drawn from the data and clues obtained about
the addressee regarding

(a) other extratextual dimensions (intention, place, time, and
function), and

(b) the intratextual features?


Speech vs. writing

The concept of medium or channel has to be interpreted rather broadly.
We refer to “medium” as the means or vehicle which conveys the text to
the reader (in communication theory, “channel” stands for sound waves or
print on paper). The translator is, however, interested less in the
technical distinctions and more in the aspects of perceptibility,
storage of information and the presuppositions of communicative

First of all we have to ask whether the text is being transmitted in a
face-to-face communication or in writing. The means of transmission
affects not only the conditions of reception, but more particularly also
those of production. It determines how the information should be
presented in respect of level of explicitness, arrangement of arguments,
choice of sentence types, features of cohesion, use of non-verbal
elements such as facial expressions and gestures, etc. The effect of the
chosen medium on the intratextual factors can be illustrated by looking
at the deictic aspect: situational references, which in face-to-face
communication do not have to be verbalized explicitly because the
participants are a part of the situation, must be expressed much more
clearly in written communication.


In face-to-face communication, deictic expressions, such as here, by my
side, or today, or expressions referring to the participants of
communication, such as all of us, or as the speaker before me correctly
remarked, are unambiguous. However, in a written text they can only be
decoded correctly in connection with the information on time, place,
sender, receivers, etc. given in the text itself or in the text
environment, such as title page, imprint, introduction lead, etc.

The categories of speech and writing cannot, however, always be
separated completely, as there are spoken texts which are reproduced in
a written form (e.g. a statement made by a witness) and written texts
which are spoken (e.g. lectures). Crystal & Davy (1969) therefore
introduce the concept of complex medium, comprising “language which is
spoken to be written, as in dictation, or language written to be spoken,
as in news-broadcasting”, and even subclassifications such as “language
written to be read aloud as if written”.

This shows that for our purposes it would not be wise to aim at a mere
“labeling” of texts as regards medium. What we have to do is elicit
specific features of the medium such as coincidence or discontinuity of
text production and reception, indirect or direct form of communication,
spontaneity of text production, opportunities for feedback operations,
one-way communication, etc.

What to find out about the medium

In spoken communication, the dimension of medium includes the technical
devices for information transfer (such as telephones or microphones),
and these, of course, affect the production, reception and comprehension
of the text. In written communication, on the other hand, it is the
means of publication that is referred to as the “medium”, i.e.
newspaper, magazine, book, multi-volume encyclopedia, leaflet, brochure,
etc., as well as subclassifications such as business news, literary
supplement, etc.

The dimension of medium is relevant because it provides some clues as to
the size and identity of the addressed audience. The readership of a
national daily newspaper is not only much larger, but usually represents
a different level of education and information with different
expectations and different standards of stylistic quality from that of a
medical, not to mention a neurosurgical, journal. The cheap paperback
edition of a novel would be expected to reach a wider public than an
expensive, multi-volume collection of Cantonese love poems. A personal
letter is directed at one individual receiver whereas a standard
business letter can be addressed to any number of companies on a mailing
list, and a poster on an advertising board is targeted at anyone passing
by, etc., etc.

In addition, the specification of the medium may give some clue as to
the sender’s intention (e.g. in the case of a poster or a picture
postcard) and to the motive for the communication (e.g. in the case of a
death announcement in a newspaper). Since the range and conventions of
medium use may vary from culture to culture and from one generation to
another, the specification of medium may even give some idea of the time
and place of text production.

Although the choice of a particular medium obviously provides
pre-signals for the receiver’s expectations regarding the intended text
function, function and medium must not be automatically associated or
even equated. The receivers’ expectations are certainly based on their
experience with the medium in question, but, again, a particular sender
may intend to surprise or disappoint the receiver by using a medium for
a purpose quite different from that usually associated with it. For the
translator it is important, too, to take into account the fact that the
“same” media may have quite different functions in another culture.

As a general rule, however, the medium determines the receiver’s
expectations as to text function. A leaflet distributed at the entrance
of a famous church is expected to contain basic information on the
objects of interest in the form of a guided tour. The text in a
guidebook usually has the functions of information plus advertising, and
an article in an encyclopedia is expected to provide detailed
information not only on the positive but also on the negative aspects of
a place.


a) This plan draws your attention to some of the main features of the
building. More details may be obtained from guide books on sale in the
shop. The Nave, begun in 1291 and finished in the 1350’s in the
Decorated Gothic style, is one of the widest Gothic naves in Europe. It
is used for services throughout the year. The pulpit on the left
commemorates Archbishops Temple and Lang, and the brass lectern has been
used since 1686. The Great West Window is being repaired and cannot at
present be seen. (First paragraphs of the information leaflet Welcome to
York Minster. There is a plan with numbers on the opposite page.)

b) THE MINSTER (by the late Chancellor F. Harrison)

Beloved to Yorkshiremen, renowned the world over. This is true. Of great
and noble churches in this country, probably three attract the greatest
number of visitors. These three are Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s
Cathedral and York Minster). (…) The east window deserves a note of
its own. Seventy-six feet high and thirty-two feet broad, containing
therefore more than two-thousand square feet of medieval glass – the
great window at Gloucester Cathedral measuring seventy-two feet by
thirty-eight feet, and containing more than two-thousand-three-hundred
square feet of glass, but not wholly coloured – this great and grand
window never ceases to excite admiration and wonder. The master-glazier,
John Thornton, of Coventry, received for his work, in all, the sum of Ј
55 in three years, worth in modern currency – Ј 2,000? Who knows, even
approximately? This was the pay of only one man. (From the brochure City
and County of the City of York, Official Guide, 112 pages. I have left
out the 12 pages on the history of the Minster.).

c) There are many small old churches, quaint and often glorious towers
and the breathtaking spectacle of the Minster. It took two-and-a-half
centuries, from 1220 to 1470, to complete this poem in stone. Inside, a
kaleidoscope of light explodes from windows of medieval stained glass
that are among the art treasures of the world. (Last of the three
paragraphs on York, from the book AA Illustrated Guide to Britain, 544

d) York Minster is the largest of England’s medieval cathedrals. The
result of 250 years of building, it shows a variety of styles. The
transepts are the earliest part of the present building, dating from
1220-1260; the nave, chapter house, and vestibule were built in
1291-1345 in Decorated style; the choir in 1361, the central tower in
1400-1423, and the western towers in 1433-1474 in early and late
Perpendicular. The Minster contains some of the earliest glass and the
biggest acreage of stained glass in Britain. The lancet lights of the
“Five Sisters” in the north transept are a particularly fine example of
13th-century grisaille glass. (Paragraph on York Minster – under the
heading “York” -from The New Caxton Encyclopedia, 18 vols.)

For translation-oriented text analysis, it is most important to elicit
features typical of the medium, i.e. features of content and/or form,
and to classify them as culture-specific or transcultural or even
universal. This is particularly relevant in those cases where the target
text is to be transmitted through a medium or channel different from
that of the source text.

How to obtain information about the medium

If the source text is not available in its original medium, but only in
a copy or typescript (which actually occurs fairly frequently in
translation practice), the translator must insist on having detailed
information about the medium, as it is rather difficult to identify the
medium from intratextual analysis alone. There may be some clues in the
dimensions of the sender and his/her intention or motive; time and
place, too, sometimes narrow the field of possible media. In some cases,
the choice of medium is determined by convention since there are
favourite media for particular communicative purposes in every culture
(e.g. posters or newspaper advertisements for product promotion,
leaflets for tourist information, etc.).


The following questions may help to find out the relevant information
about the dimension of medium or channel:

1. Has the text been taken from a spoken or a written communication? By
which medium was it transmitted?

2. Which medium is used to present the text to the target audience? Is
there any extratextual information on the medium?

3. What clues as to medium or channel can be inferred from other
situational factors (sender, intention, motive, function)?

4. What conclusions can be drawn from the data and clues obtained about
the medium as regards

(a) other extratextual dimensions, such as the addressees and their
expectations, motive, and function, and

(b) the intratextual features?

Place of communication

The dimension of space refers not only to the place of text production,
i.e. the actual situation of the sender and the text producer, but also,
at least in connection with certain media, to the place of text
reception. It cannot be equated with the dimension of medium. The
dimension of space is of particular importance where languages exist in
various geographical varieties (such as the Spanish spoken in Spain as
opposed to Latin America or even Peru, Mexico, Argentina etc., and the
English spoken in Great Britain as opposed to the United States,
Australia, India etc..


The Portuguese version of the information brochure published by the
Tourist Office of Munich was accepted unhesitatingly as being correct
and appropriate by a group of Brazilian teachers in a seminar on
translation, whereas their colleagues from Portugal classified the text
as “more or less understandable, but unidiomatic and not conforming to
normal usage”. In this case, an analysis of the dimension of place could
not throw any light on this problem because the text had been produced
in Munich for “Portuguese”-speaking receivers. As the name of the
translator was not specified in the text imprint, the participants in
the seminar could only assume that the translator – whether he or she
was a native speaker or not – had used the Brazilian variety of
Portuguese. The sender/initiator (the Tourist Office) had probably not
been aware of the problem. For the German version of this brochure,
however, the dimension of place (of reception) would suggest that the
text is written in the variety used in Germany (as opposed to Austria or

In addition to the linguistic aspects, the dimension of space can be
important for the comprehension and interpretation of a text in that the
place of text production may be regarded as the centre of a “relative
geography”. The distance or significance of other places must often be
judged in relation to this centre. The translator has to take into
account that the “relative geography” from the standpoint of TT
production may be quite different from that of ST production.


a) The difference in cultural or social level could be called
“downgrade” or “upgrade”, depending on whether it is seen from the lower
or the higher level.

b) The distance between London and Liverpool is much “shorter” as
perceived by a Texan than by an Englishman,

c) The names of places, areas and tribes listed in Act 2, 9-11, do not
make sense as a description of the “horizon of the Jewish world” unless
Syria is assumed to be the place of text production, and not Jerusalem,
where the Pentecostal event is set.

What to find out about the dimension of space

In the dimension of space we have to consider not only linguistic
aspects but also cultural and political conditions. A text published in
a country where literature is censored must be read “in another light”
than a text whose author has not been subject to any restrictions, since
authors under censorship often write “between the lines”.

In addition to the name of the state or country the text comes from, it
may even be necessary to know the exact area or town of text production
in order to be able to interpret the deictic elements correctly. This
applies to the ST as well as to the TT, which would normally be read in
the target cultural environment.


In the case of newspaper articles, the place where the paper is
published is normally taken to be the place of text production as well.
Therefore, readers of the Sunday Times can assume that the information
“Mortgage cut in sight” refers to Great Britain, while all articles on
the first page of the international edition of the Herald Tribune have
to indicate the place the article refers to: “U.S. Banks Lower Prime
Interest Rate”, “In Leipzig, Protesters Fear Resurgence of Communist
Power”, “Tamil Guerrilla Army Nears Goal in Sri Lanka”, etc. If
correspondents send their reports from somewhere else, the place of text
production is usually specified together with the author’s name (“By
David Binder, New York Times Service, Bucharest”) or at the beginning of
the text (“LEIPZIG, East Germany”), so that the reader can interpret a
sentence as “Now everything is quiet around here again” correctly. In a
translation, too, the dimension of place has to be specified either
externally (e.g. in an introduction) or internally (e.g. “Now everything
is quiet around Leipzig again”).

Information about the place of text production also gives an indication
of the cultural affiliation of the sender and/or the addressees, the
medium (in the case of culture-bound or culture-specific media), the
motive (at least where combined with the dimension of time) arid the
in-tratextual features (such as regional dialect or deictic

How to obtain information about the dimension of space

As a rule, information about the dimension of space can be found in the
text environment in the form of the place of publication, the name of
the publishing company, the first edition details, or newspaper
headlines, or in the secondary literature. Sometimes, it is presupposed
to be part of the receiver’s general background knowledge (e.g. in the
case of publications by international organizations or institutions or
by world-famous writers). From the intratextual point of view, certain
linguistic features may provide a clue as to where the text was written
or intended to be read.

Other clues may be obtained from the information about the sender (e.g.:
Where did s/he live, work, etc.?), the addressed audience (e.g.: What
culture-specific information may be presupposed to be known by the
receiver?), medium (e.g.: Is it bound to a certain culture?), or motive
(e.g.: Is it a culture-specific motive?).


The following questions may help to find out the relevant information
about the place of communication:

1. Where was the text produced or transmitted? Is any information on the
dimension of space to be found in the text environment? Is any
information on space presupposed to be part of the receiver’s general
background knowledge?

2. What clues as to the dimension of space can be inferred from other
situational factors (sender, receiver, medium, motive)?

3. What conclusions can be drawn from the data and clues obtained about
the dimension of space as regards

(a) other extratextual factors (sender, receiver, medium, motive) and

(b) the intratextual features?

Lecture 3. The relevance of the dimension of time and text function

Time of communication

Every language is subject to constant change in its use and its norms.
So the time of text production is, first and foremost, an important
pre-signal for the historical state of linguistic development the text
represents. This applies not only to language use as such (from the
sender’s point of view) but also to the historical comprehension of
linguistic units (from the receiver’s point of view), which is itself
bound to a certain period or epoch, since linguistic changes are usually
determined by socio-cultural changes.

Moreover, this process of change affects the area of text types. Certain
genres are linked to a particular period (e.g. oracles and epic poems as
opposed to weather reports and television plays), and, of course, genre
conventions also undergo change. Depending on the age of the text, the
receiver/translator may have totally different expectations as to the
typical features of the text type in question. S/he may even expect
obsolete forms that are not used any more.


Being asked what they thought to be the typical syntactic feature of a
German recipe, the majority of competent native speakers of German
mention the subjunctive of the present tense: “Man nehme…”, whereas
modern German recipes are written exclusively in infinitive
constructions. Today, the subjunctive is used only to give a recipe an
old-fashioned touch, as if it was from Grandmother s Recipe Book.

In addition to the linguistic aspects, the dimension of time can throw
some light on the communicative background of the sender and the
addressed audience, and thus provide a clue to understanding the
sender’s intention. In the case of text types of topical interest, such
as news items and news reports, political commentaries, election
speeches, weather reports, etc., the dimension of time can be the
decisive criterion as to whether there is any point in a text being
translated at all, or, if there is, under which circumstances and with
which skopos it may be worthwhile.

In connection with the dimension of space, deictic elements refer
directly to the situation. Like spatial deixis, temporal deixis can only
be interpreted correctly if the receiver knows the time of text


In the International Herald Tribune of January 9, 1990, we find the
following notice: “NEW YORK – The hopes entertained that the grippe was
relaxing have been destroyed by the mortality returns of yesterday (Jan.
7), which show an increase of nearly 100 over the toll given three days
ago, with 134 deaths traceable to the epidemic.” No need to be alarmed:
the notice is to be found under the heading “100, 75 and 50 years ago”,
and dates from 1890.

However, it may also be necessary to know the genre conventions in this
respect, as the following example shows.


In Madras, I was surprised to read in the morning paper lying on my
breakfast table that “there was a train crash this afternoon”. Of
course, the text had probably been written late at night, and the author
was quite right to say “this afternoon” – but in a German newspaper (and
normally in British and American papers as well) the author would have
written yesterday afternoon because it seems to be a convention here for
newspaper writers to imagine themselves in the situation of the reader
who receives the text the next morning, whereas obviously the Indian
readers are expected to put themselves in the writer’s shoes.

Sometimes it may be wise for the translator to check on the validity of
the information given in the source text (if possible) or at least to
point out to the initiator that some information in the text may not be
up to date.


In some tourist information leaflets, the information on opening hours,
prices etc. or warnings such as “is being repaired” (cf. example
3.1.4./2a) are not up to date. For example, the latest (translated)
published information on the famous Altamira caves in Northern Spain
specifies that the caves can be visited by anybody “on request”. When I
went there to have a look at the prehistoric paintings, I found out that
there was a pavilion with beautiful reproductions of the paintings – but
the caves had not been open to the public for the past few years. Only
persons presenting proof of a particular research project were allowed
to enter.

The dimension of time influences directly or indirectly the dimensions
of sender (e.g.: Is s/he a contemporary of the receiver/translator or
not? What situational presuppositions can be made?), intention, audience
(expectations, temporal distance between ST and TT addressees), medium
(historical or modern forms of medium), motive (e.g. topicality), and,
above all, intratextual features (e.g. presuppositions, historical
language variety, deictic elements).

The traditions and conventions of translation

The dimension of time encompasses not only the time of ST production and
reception but also that of TT production (= translation) and reception.
The original communicative situation as well as the inter-cultural
communicative situation are determined by their respective temporal

In connection with the dimension of time, we must therefore look at the
traditional translations of classical texts and consider the problems
involved in translating or re-translating old texts. Whether and how the
dimension of time has to be taken into account for the translation of,
say, Homer’s Iliad, Shakespeare’s King Lear, or Cervantes’ Don Quixote
depends on the translation skopos. Popovic ([1977]1981: 103f.)
distinguishes between the “synchronous translation” of a contemporary
author and modern translations of older texts, which in his opinion can
be either “re-creative” (i.e. actualizing) or “conservative” (i.e.

Which approach is regarded as the “correct” one depends on the
prevailing translation tradition or concept, which may be regarded as a
kind of culture-specific convention.

How to obtain information on the dimension of time

Information on the dimension of time can sometimes be inferred from the
date of publication of the text or other clues from the text
environment, although this is not always reliable, as texts are often
published years after they have been written. However, they cannot be
published text type, it will be mainly the following intratextual
features that are determined by the motive of communication: content
(insofar as the motive is explicitly mentioned in the text), vocabulary
and sentence structure (e.g. in a memorial address), suprasegmental
features (memorial address vs. election speech), and non-verbal elements
(e.g. black edging round a death announcement).

How to obtain information about the motive for communication

Although the motive for communication is closely linked with the
dimension of time, the two factors must not be confused. While the
dimension of time is part of the communicative situation (in the
narrower sense), the dimension of motive relates the communicative
situation and the participants to an event that is outside, or rather
prior to, the situation.

It is not always easy therefore (and not always relevant to
translation!) to find out which event has motivated a certain text.
Sometimes the motive is referred to in the text or mentioned in the text
environment (e.g. in the title: To Honor Roman Jakobson on the Occasion
of his 70th Birthda); but there are communicative situations in which
the motive is only an indirect reason for the author to deal with a
loosely connected subject.


On March 12th, 1984, the Spanish daily paper El Pais published a
commentary under the title “El Dfa de la Mujer” (International Women’s
Day). It is the motive for text production this title alludes to and not
the subject matter, because the text deals with the situation of working
women in Spain in 1984. The newspaper reader was expected to be familiar
with the occasion, International Women’s Day, since it had been
commented on quite frequently at the time. If the text is to be
translated, it is the motive for translation (as well as the dimensions
of time and place) that has to be taken into account. Only a few days
later the date will have been pushed into the background by other
events, and a title like “International Women’s Day” will arouse
specific expectations about the subject matter, which the text cannot

As is illustrated by the example, the dimension of motive is of as much
interest to the translator as that of time, because s/he has to contrast
the motive for ST production with the motive for TT production and find
out the impact this contrast has on the transfer decisions. While the
motive for ST production is often to be found in the “environment” of
the sender or text producer, the motive for TT production can be
inferred from what is known about the transfer situation, i.e. the
initiator and the translation brief. The effect of the motive on
intra-textual features – as opposed to that of the dimension of time –
is often merely an indirect one.

We can restate that the clues as to the motive or motive type are to be
inferred from certain situational factors, such as medium (e.g.
political section of a newspaper), place and time (in connection with
the receiver’s general background knowledge), and, of course, text
function, if this is specified by unambiguous pre-signals, such as genre
designations (e.g. “protocol”) or text-type features (e.g. black
edging). The information obtained on the sender and the intention
usually permits only indirect conclusions as to the motive for


The following questions may help to find out the relevant information
about the motive for communication:

1. Why was the text written or transmitted? Is there any information on
the motive of communication to be found in the text environment? Is the
ST receiver expected to be familiar with the motive?

2. Was the text written for a special occasion? Is the text intended to
be read or heard more than once or regularly?

3. What clues as to the motive for communication can be inferred from
other extratextual dimensions (sender, intention, receiver, medium,
place, time, function)?

4. What conclusions can be drawn from the data and clues obtained about
the motive for communication as regards

(a) other extratextual factors (expectations of the receiver, sender and
intention), and

(b) the intratextual features?

5. What problems can arise from the difference between the motive for ST
production and the motive for translation?

Text function

The relationship between text function and genre

Let me briefly restate that the notion of text function means the
communicative function, or the combination of communicative functions,
which a text fulfils in its concrete situation of production/reception.
It is derived from the specific configuration of extratextual factors
(sender/sender’s role, intention, receiver/receiver’s expectation,
medium, place, time, and motive). The notion of text function is related
to the situational aspect of communication, whereas the notion of genre
is related to the structural aspect of the text-in-function. It is like
looking at the two sides of a coin: they cannot be separated, but they
are not the identical.

As was pointed out above, text can be classified on various levels of
generalization. It is therefore not surprising that some authors specify
text types as “newspaper reports”, “sermons”, or “resolutions”, while
others prefer a more general categorisation into “informative”,
“expressive”, or “operative” texts.

Literariness as a text function

The notion of text function as a particular configuration of situational
factors can be illustrated by the special function of literary texts.
The senders of a literary text are usually individual authors who are
also text producers and who in the literary context are known as
“writers”. Their intention is not to describe “reality”, but to motivate
personal insights about reality by describing an (alternative)
fictitious world. Literary texts are primarily addressed to receivers
who have a specific expectation determined by their literary experience,
and a certain command of the literary code. As a rule, literary texts
are transmitted in writing (= medium), although sometimes orally
transmitted texts (such as fairy tales) are included in literature as
well. The situational factors (place, time, motive) may not be of great
significance in intracultural literary communication but they do play an
important part in literary translation because they convey the
culture-specific characteristics of both the source and the target

The importance of ST function for translation

The basic principle of functionalism in translation is the orientation
towards the (prospective) function of the target text. Since I have
argued that a change of function is the normal case, and the
preservation of function the special case in the process of
intercultural text transfer.

If a translation is an offer of information about the source text, there
can be two fundamental kinds of relationship between source and target
text. Here again we find the two translation theories which have split
translation scholars into two camps: the supporters of liberty and the
adherents to fidelity. The target text can be (a) a document of a past
communicative action in which an SC sender made an offer of information
to an SC receiver by means of the source text, and (b) an instrument in
a new TC communicative action, in which a TC receiver receives an offer
of information for which the ST provides the material. Accordingly, we
can distinguish between two translation “types”: documentary and
instrumental translation.

Documentary translations (such as word-for-word translation, literal
translation) serve as a document of an SC communication between the
author and the ST receiver, whereas the instrumental translation is a
communicative instrument in its own right, conveying a message directly
from the ST author to the TT receiver. An instrumental translation can
have the same or a similar or analogous function as the ST.

In a documentary translation, certain aspects of the ST or the whole
ST-in-situation are reproduced for the TT receivers, who is conscious of
“observing” a communicative situation of which they are not a part. A
documentary translation can focus on any of the features on each rank of
the source text, pushing others into the background. In a word-for-word
translation, for example, which aims to reproduce the features of the
source language system, the focus is on the morphological, lexical, and
syntactic structures presented in the source text, whereas textuality is
bound to be neglected.

An instrumental translation, on the other hand, serves as an independent
message-transmitting instrument in a new communicative action in TC, and
is intended to fulfill its communicative purpose without the receiver
being aware of reading or hearing a text which, in a different form, was
used before in a different communicative action. This translation type
comprises three forms. First, if the target text can fulfill the same
function(s) as the source text, we speak of an “equi-functional”
translation (used, for example, in the case of operating instructions or
business correspondence). Second, if the ST functions cannot be realized
as such by the TT receiver, they may be adapted by the translator,
provided that the TT functions are compatible with the ST functions and
do not offend against the sender’s intention (e.g. the translation of
Swift’s Gulliver s Travels for children). This form is referred to as
“heterofunctional translation”. The third form is intended to achieve a
similar effect by reproducing in the TC literary context the function
the ST has in its own SC literary context. This form is often found in
the translation of poetry.

How to obtain information about text function

The most important source of information is, again, the text
environment, since designations like “operating instructions” or
“anecdote” call on the receivers’ reading experience of the text type in
question and build up a specific expectation as to text function(s). It
is obvious that these “labels” can be misleading if they are used
inadequately by the author or sender (whether intentionally or
unintentionally). On the other hand, it may be assumed that in normal
communication such designations are in fact intended as a guideline for
the receiver.

If there is no genre designation, the text function or functions have to
be inferred from the configuration of the external factors. This is why
text function should be analysed last when as much information as
possible is available. As was illustrated by the example of literary
texts, the intention of the sender and the expectations of the receiver
are the crucial dimensions in this respect. However, other factors may
also narrow the range of possible functions, such as sender (e.g. a
candidate for presidency), medium and place (e.g. a public speech in the
market place of a mountain village), time (e.g. shortly before the
general elections), and motive (e.g. an election campaign).

The pragmatic relationships between sender, receiver, medium, and
motive, provide the translator with a number of pre-signals announcing a
particular function, which will be either confirmed or rejected by the
subsequent analysis of the intratextual features. If the translator
finds his or her expectations confirmed, s/he has reason to believe that
s/he has elicited the correct function – if not, there are two possible
explanations: either the author has intentionally violated the norms and
conventions of the text type, or the translator has interpreted the
pre-signals wrongly and therefore has to go through the process of
eliciting the text function on the basis of pragmatic pre-signals again.


The following questions may help to find out the relevant information
about text function:

1. What is the text function intended by the sender? Are there any hints
as to the intended function in the text environment, such as text-type

2. What clues as to the function of the text can be inferred from other
extratextual dimensions (motive, medium, receiver, intention)?

3. Are there any indications that the receiver may use the text in a
function other than that intended by the sender?

4. What conclusions can be drawn from the data and clues obtained about
text function as regards

(a) other extratextual dimensions (sender, intention, receiver, medium,
time, place, and motive), and

(b) the intratextual features?

The interdependence of extratextual factors

The checklist questions suggested in connection with the extratextual
factors illustrate the interdependence of the extratextual factors on
the one hand, and of the extratextual and intratextual factors (which
have so far not been specified), on the other. Data and clues about a
single factor can be derived from the data and clues obtained about the
other factors.

The most important principle, however, is that of recursiveness. This
type of analysis is no one-way process, but contains any number of
loops, in which expectations are built up, confirmed, or rejected, and
where knowledge is gained and extended and understanding constantly
modified. This applies not only to the analysis of the text as a whole
and to the individual text factors but also, if the analysis and
translation of microstructures leads incidentally to new discoveries
requiring previous transfer decisions to be corrected, to the processing
of smaller text units such as chapters or even paragraphs.

The interdependence of the extratextual factors is illustrated by a
diagram (Figure 5), in which arrows are used to show the course of the
analytical procedure. Those steps which yield reliable data are depicted
by a continuous line, while the steps which merely lead to clues are
represented by a dotted line.

2. “Intratextual Factors in Translation Text Analysis”

Lecture 1. Basic notions

It is the verbal elements (lexis, sentence structure and the
suprasegmental features, i.e. the “tone” of the text) which are most
important for conveying the message. In both written and spoken texts
suprasegmental features serve to highlight or focus certain parts of the
text and to push others into the background. All these elements have not
only an informative (i.e. denotative), but also a stylistic (i.e.
con-notative) function.

The intratextual features are influenced to a large extent by
situational factors (e.g. the geographical origin of the sender, the
special requirements of the chosen medium, the conditions of the time
and place of text production, etc.), but they can also be determined by
genre conventions or by the sender’s specific communicative intention,
which affects the choice of the intratextual means of communication. We
also have to account for the fact that stylistic decisions are
frequently interdependent. If, for example, the sender decides on a
nominal style in the area of lexis, this will naturally affect the
choice of sentence structure.

We distinguish eight intratextual factors: subject matter, content,
presuppositions, composition, nonverbal elements, lexis, sentence
structure, and suprasegmental features. In practical analysis it has
proved effective to deal with the factors in the order in which they
appear here. However, there is no real reason why this cannot be
changed, since the principle of recursiveness again allows any feedback
loops which may be deemed necessary.

In the practical application of the model it may not always be necessary
to go through the whole process of intratextual analysis step by step.
Some translation briefs will be such that merely a cursory glance at the
intratextual features is sufficient (just to find out, for example,
whether or not the framing of the text corresponds to genre
conventions), whereas others may require a detailed analysis right down
to the level of morphemes or phonemes.


If a strongly conventionalized text, such as a weather report, has to be
translated in such a form that the target text conforms to the
target-culture conventions of the text type, there is no need to analyse
all the intratextual details of the source text, once it has been stated
that they are “conventional”. Since the intratextual framing of the TT
has to be adapted to TC conventions anyway, the intratextual framing of
the ST may be regarded as irrelevant for translation.

When we analyse the linguistic features of a particular text, we soon
realize that they all have to be evaluated in a different way, depending
on the function they have in the text. There are features that depend on
situational conditions which cannot be controlled or modified by the
sender (e.g. pragmatics of time and space, geographical or
socio-cultural background of the sender himself) or features that may
have been determined by a decision taken prior to text production (e.g.
choice of medium or addressee orientation). Then, there are other
features which are dictated by social norms (e.g. text-type or genre
conventions and so on). During the process of analysis, therefore, the
translator constantly has to go back to factors which have already been
analysed (= principle of recursiveness). Lastly, there is a type of
feature which depends on the sender deciding on one out of several
alternative means of expression, a decision determined by the intention
to produce a certain effect on the receiver.

General considerations on the concept of style

In order to be able to understand a stylistic signal or sign, the
receiver has to be equipped, like the sender, with a knowledge or
command of stylistic patterns and of the functions that they are
normally used for. This knowledge is part of text competence and will
enable the receiver to infer the intentions or attitudes of the sender
from the style presented in the text. It is based on the fact that most
communicative actions are conventionalized and that text producers
almost always proceed according to a given pattern. In ordinary
communication an intuitive, unconscious, or “passive” knowledge of
stylistic patterns will be more than sufficient to ensure the
comprehension of the text. However, the receiver/translator cannot
manage without an active command of such patterns of expression both in
SL and TL, since it enables them to analyse the function of the
stylistic elements used in the source text, and to decide which of these
elements may be appropriate for achieving the target function and which
have to be changed or adapted.

Subject matter

How to obtain information about the subject matter

As was mentioned above, the conventions of certain text types seem to
dictate that the title or heading or the title context (comprising main
title, subtitle(s) and the like) represent a kind of thematic programme.
An example of this is the following title of a linguistic article:
“Understanding what is meant from what is said: a study in
conversationally conveyed requests” (Clark & Lucy 1975).

Where the information is not given by a thematic title like this, the
subject matter of a text can be formulated in an introductory lead, as
is very often the case, for example, in newspaper articles (cf. Liiger
1977: 49ff.) or in the first sentence or paragraph which can then be
regarded as a kind of “topic sentence” paraphrasing the thematic essence
of the text.


The Soviet Disunion


While 1989 was the year of eastern Europe, 1990 may be the year of the
Soviet Union. Confronted by growing nationalist unrest and economic
mayhem, the empire is beginning to come apart at the seams. James Blitz
in Moscow reports on the crisis in the Kremlin (…). (The Sunday Times,
1 January 1990, p. A l.)


Title: Ford Is Rebuffed By Mazda Sub-title: No Chance Seen For Larger

TOKYO – Mazda Motor Corp. said Monday that it saw no opportunity for
Ford Motor Co. to enlarge its stake in the Japanese company and that
Mazda had no plans to raise funds by issuing new shares, warrant bonds
or convertibles. (…) (InternationalHerald Tribune, 9 January, 1990, p.

This applies not only to titles which are a shortened paraphrase of the
text, but also to descriptive titles, e.g. of literary works.


The original title El sigh de las luces (“The Age of Enlightenment”)
indicates the subject matter of the novel, while the titles of the
English and the German translation (Explosion in A Cathedral Explosion
in der Kathedrale) use the name of a picture that plays a symbolic part
in the story. The reader, however, cannot recognize it as such and will
probably interpret it as an indication of the subject matter or content.
This may lead to a (wrong) classification of the book as a kind of

If the subject matter is not described in the title or title-context, it
can be elicited by reducing the textual macro-structures to certain
basic semantic propositions or information units, which constitute a
kind of resume or “condensation” of the text. Occasionally, the
translator is even asked to produce a short version of the text (i.e. a
summary, abstract, or resume) in the target language. In translation
teaching, the production of summaries can be used for checking text

Condensing and summarizing, however, does not in all texts lead to an
elicitation of the real subject matter, since in some cases this is
obscured by a “false” subject occupying the foreground of the text. In
these cases it is the analysis of other intratextual factors, mainly of
lexis, which may lead to success.

The crucial concept in the analysis of the subject matter at the level
of lexical items is that of isotopy. Isotopic features are semes shared
by various lexical items in a text, thus interconnecting the lexical
items and forming a kind of chain or line of isotopies throughout the
text. The lexical items linked by isotopy are referred to as the
“isotopic level”, which may indicate the subject matter(s) of the text.
There can be various isotopic levels in a text, either complementing
each other or hierarchically subordinate to one another.


The following questions may help to find out the relevant information
about the subject matter of the text:

1. Is the source text a thematically coherent single text or a text

2. What is the subject matter of the text (or of each component of the
combination)? Is there a hierarchy of compatible subjects?

3. Does the subject matter elicited by internal analysis correspond to
the expectation built up by external analysis?

4. Is the subject matter verbalized in the text (e.g. in a topic
sentence at the beginning of the text) or in the text environment
(title, heading, sub-title, introduction, etc.)?

5. Is the subject matter bound to a particular (SL, TL, or other)
cultural context?

6. Do the TC conventions dictate that the subject matter of the text
should be verbalized somewhere inside or outside the text?


General considerations

Where the translator has a good command of the source language and is
fully conversant with the rules and norms governing text production,
s/he will usually have little or no difficulty in determining the
content of a text. Even so, it would still be useful to have some means
of checking this intuitive understanding. It would be even more useful,
of course, to have some guidelines available in translator training,
where competence in this area is still inadequate.

Paraphrase as a procedure for content analysis

By “content” we usually mean the reference of the text to objects and
phenomena in an extralinguistic reality, which could as easily be a
fictitious world as the real world. This reference is expressed mainly
by the semantic information contained in the lexical and grammatical
structures (e.g. words and phrases, sentence patterns, tense, mood,
etc.) used in the text. These structures complement each other, reduce
each other’s ambiguity, and together form a coherent context.

Therefore, the starting point for the analysis of content has to be the
information carried by the text elements linked on the surface of the
text by the text-linguistic linking devices, such as logical
connections, topic-comment relationships, functional sentence
perspective, etc.

Since at this stage the external analysis of the communicative situation
has been completed, the meaning of the text can be elicited, as it were,
“through the filter” of extratextual knowledge.

Analysing the content of syntactically or semantically complicated texts
can be made easier by a simplifying paraphrase of the information units,
which can be formulated independently of the sentence structure.
However, in so far as they are explicitly verbalized in the text, the
logical relationships between these units should be noted. This
procedure permits the translator to identify (and possibly compensate
for) presuppositions, and even defects in coherence, which frequently
occur in texts.

These paraphrases have to be treated with great caution, however. The
paraphrased information units form a new text which is in no way
identical to the original. Paraphrases can only be used in order to
simplify text structures, making them more transparent. When
paraphrasing lexical items we also have to take account of the
connotative content, which has to be preserved, or at least marked, in
the paraphrased text.

In any case, it must not be the simplified paraphrase which should be
taken as a starting point for translation, but the original source text.


The amount of information verbalized in a text includes not only
denotative but also connotative (or “secondary”) meaning, i.e. the
information expressed by a language element by virtue of its affiliation
to a certain linguistic code (stylistic levels, registers, functional
style, regional and social dialects, etc.). By selecting one specific
element in preference to another from a number of possible elements the
author assigns a secondary meaning to the text. Since the connotative
meaning can only be analysed in detail in connection with the stylistic
values of lexis, sentence structure and suprasegmental features, I would
recommend at this stage of the analysis provisionally marking those text
elements which can be intuitively classified as “probably connotative”.
The extratextual category of text function often provides a certain
expectation here.


Kate Saunders in The Sunday Times, 7 January 1990: Career woman – or
just the little woman?

Chic dinner tables are resounding with funereal orations over the
twitching corpse of the women’s movement – they come to bury it,
certainly not to praise it. It was so selfish, so uncaring, so unnatural
– surely home-building is nicer and more fulfilling than hacking through
the professional jungle? The Eighties’ ideal was the woman who ran a
business, made breakfast appointments with her own husband, and spent 20
minutes’ “quality time” a day with her children. But women are wondering
now whether the effort of juggling home and career was worthwhile. All
you got for your pains was nervous exhaustion, and kids who spoke
Icelandic because they were brought up by the au pair. How much simpler
to give up the struggle and devote yourself to stoking the home fires.
Part of the problem seems to be that women are discovering the real snag
about equality – work is a pain. Any man could have told them this.

Certain connotations are a part of every speaker’s communicative
knowledge whether they speak the standard language or a particular
regional and/or social dialect. They are linked so closely to a lexical
item that they would be specified in the dictionary (e.g. kid is marked
“slang” in OALD 1963, and “informal” in OALD 1989, whereas snag is
marked “colloquial” in OALD 1963 and not marked at all in OALD 1989).
Connotations such as these, even though they may change in the course of
time, must be considered to be part of the “linguistic competence” of
sender and receiver. Other connotations, however, are merely valid for
certain persons, since they can only “work” if the participants know
particular social, political, regional or cultural phenomena, e.g.
career woman vs. the little woman or the allusion to Shakespeare’s
Julius Caesar in example 3.2.274. Such connotations belong to the
“horizon” of sender and receiver.

In his famous book How to Be an Alien, George Mikes gives a humorous


“You foreigners are so clever,” said a lady to me some years ago. First,
thinking of the great amount of foreign idiots and half-wits I had had
the honour of meeting, I considered this remark exaggerated but
complimentary. Since then I learnt that it was far from it. These few
words expressed the lady’s contempt and slight disgust for foreigners.
If you look up the word clever in any English Dictionary, you will find
that the dictionaries are out of date and mislead you on this point.
According to the Pocket Oxford Dictionary, for instance, the word means
quick and neat in movement, skilful, talented, ingenious. (…) All nice
adjectives, expressing valuable and estimable characteristics. A modern
Englishman, however, uses the word clever in the sense: shrewd, sly,
furtive, surreptitious, treacherous, sneaking, crafty, un-English,
un-Scottish, un-Welsh (Mikes 1984: 42).

The “internal situation”

The information in the text can be “factual”, i.e. based on the facts of
what is conventionally regarded as “reality” by sender and receiver, or
“fictional”, i.e. referring to a different, fictitious world imagined or
invented by the author, which is quite separate from the “real world” in
which the communicative action takes place. However, this distinction is
not of immediate importance for content analysis. Fictionality is a
pragmatic property which is assigned to a text by the participants in
communicative interaction. Its definition depends on the notion of
reality and the norms of textuality prevailing in the society in
question. If the notion of reality changes, then a text which was
intended to be factual might be read as fictional, or vice versa. If we
look at Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World or George Orwell’s 1984 we might
come to the conclusion that a fictional text describing a Utopian
situation could even become factual if reality were to change
accordingly. However, the question of fictionality or factuality really
becomes relevant to translation when we consider presuppositions.

Nevertheless, an analysis of content will have to specify whether or not
the internal situation of the text is identical with the external
situation. If it is not, the internal situation will have to be analysed
separately, using the same set of WH-questions applied in the external
analysis. This is very often the case in fictional texts, and in factual
texts of the complex text type which contain embedded texts of another

In an internal situation there might be an internal sender (speaker,
narrator), who may adopt various attitudes or perspectives towards the
narration (e.g. “author’s perspective”, or “camera-eye” perspective), or
there might be an implicit reader or listener, and implicit conditions
of time and place; there may also be hints as to the medium used, the
motive for communication and the function assigned to the particular
embedded text. The internal situation may even, like the famous Russian
doll, contain further embedded situations.

The situational factors of an embedded text are normally mentioned
explicitly in the frame text, whereas the internal situation of a
fictional text (i.e. its “setting”) can often only be inferred from
hidden clues or indirect hints, such as proper names of persons and
places, references to culture-specific realities, elements of regional
dialect in a dialogue, etc.

However, there are cases where an analysis of the external situation
yields information on the internal situation, as shown in the following


In one of his short stories written in his French exile in Paris, the
Argentinian author Julio Cortazar describes an urban environment which
is not named explicitly, but hinted at by the information that from the
window of his multistorey apartment block the auctorial narrator sees a
sign saying Hotel de Belgique. The reference to the setting is not
crucial to the interpretation of the story, which deals with the problem
of daily routine and the hopelessness of life in modern society. The
plot might equally well be set in any big city of the Western industrial
world. But still, by describing (or pretending to describe) the view
from his own window, the author gives a “personal touch” to the story,
which makes it more authentic. This may be important for the translator
when she has to decide whether to translate the description of a routine
breakfast situation (tomamos cafe con leche) by “we drink our morning
coffee” (neutral), “we have our coffee with milk” (non-specific
strangeness) or “we have cafe au lait” (specific strangeness, explicitly
referring to France as the setting of the story) or even “we have our
ham and eggs” (receiver-oriented adaptation).


The following questions may help to elicit the relevant information

about the content of the text:

How are the extratextual factors verbalized in the text?

Which are the information units in the text?

Is there a difference between the external and the internal situation?

4. Are there any gaps of cohesion and/or coherence in the text? Can they
be filled without using additional information or material?

5. What conclusions can be drawn from the analysis of content with
reference to other intratextual factors, such as presuppositions,
composition, and the stylistic features?


What is a presupposition

The notion of presupposition is rather complex because What we mean here
is the “pragmatic presupposition”. These presuppositions are implicitly
assumed by the speaker, who takes it for granted that this will also be
the case with the listener. Communication can therefore only be
successful if speaker and listener both implicitly assume the same
presuppositions in sufficient quantity.

For example, the answer Twelfth Night or What You Will presupposes the
knowledge on the part of the receiver that this is the title of a play,
and this presupposition forms the basis on which the joke “works”.

In everyday communication it is usually the factors of the communicative
situation which are presupposed to be known to the participants and
which are therefore not mentioned explicitly. Nevertheless, they have to
be taken into consideration when the utterance is made. If, for example,
the referent of the information is a person present in the room, the
speaker may lower or raise his/her voice or choose simple or complicated
or even coded formulations, etc. Of course, it is usually superfluous to
mention the things and persons one can point at.

Presuppositions comprise all the information that the sender expects (=
presupposes) to be part of the receiver’s horizon. Since the sender
wants the utterance to be understood, it seems logical that s/he will
only presuppose information which the receiver can be expected to be
able to “reconstruct”.

Presuppositions may refer not only to the factors and conditions of the
situation and to the realities of the source culture, but can also imply
facts from the author’s biography, aesthetic theories, common text types
and their characteristics, metric dispositions, details of subject
matter, motives, the topoi and iconography of a certain literary period,
ideology, religion, philosophy and mythical concepts, cultural and
political conditions of the time, media and forms of representation, the
educational situation, or the way a text has been handed down.

Since it is one of the social conventions of communication that an
utterance must be neither trivial nor incomprehensible, the sender has
to judge the situation, the general background knowledge of the
addressee, and the relevance of the information that will be transmitted
in the text, in order to decide which presuppositions can be made and
which cannot. This convention applies not only to the relationship
between the ST sender and the ST receiver, but also to that between the
TT producer, i.e. the translator, and the TT receiver. The translator
has to take account of the fact that a piece of information that might
be “trivial” to the ST receivers because of their source-cultural
background knowledge (and therefore is not mentioned in the source text)
may be unknown to the TT audience because of their target-cultural
background knowledge (and therefore has to be mentioned in the target
text) – or vice versa.

How to identify presuppositions in the text

Since a presupposition is by definition a piece of information that is
not verbalized, it cannot be “spotted” in the text. In their role as ST
receivers, translators are familiar with the source culture and –
ideally -understand the presupposed information in the same way as a
source-culture receiver. This makes it rather difficult to discover the
presuppositions which are contained in the text.

In order to identify the presuppositions, the translator has first of
all to ascertain which culture or “world” the text refers to (which may
have already been established in the content analysis). Here, an
important distinction must be made between factual and fictional texts.
Factual texts claim to make a proposition about reality (as generally
accepted in the culture in question) whereas fictional texts make no
such claim – or at least not in the same way as factual texts. The
difference lies in the relationship between the text and the (assumed)
reality. Fictional texts are, of course, as real as factual texts, and
fictitious information can be contained both in fictional and factual

The categorization of a text as factual or fictional does not primarily
depend on the structure of the text itself. It is the author and, above
all, the reader who classifies the text according to the concept of
reality prevailing in their culture – a concept which is, of course,
determined by philosophical and sociological conventions. A text
intended to be factual by the ST sender can therefore be “understood” as
fictional (and vice versa) by a TT receiver who has a different,
culture-specific view of what is “real”.

If the ST is “anchored” in the world of the source culture, some
information on this world will usually be presupposed in the text
because of the maxim of relevance, to put it in Gricean terms. If, on
the other hand, the ST refers to the world of the TT receiver, which
cannot be assumed to be familiar to the ST receiver, it would seem
logical for the ST producer to verbalize a certain amount of information
for the ST receiver which then would seem irrelevant to the TT receiver.
In either case, the translator will normally adjust the level of
explicitness to the (assumed) general background knowledge of the
intended TT audience using, for example, expansion or reduction

If the ST refers to a world that is equally “distant” to both the ST and
the TT receivers, it is less probable that translation problems will
arise from the contrast of ST and TT presuppositions. In these cases the
subject matter dealt with in the ST can be regarded as “generally
communicable” or, at least, as “transculturally communicable”, i.e.
between the two cultures involved in the translation process.

The level of explicitness varies according to text type and text
function. It is interesting in this context to note that in fictional
texts the situation is often made more explicit than in non-fictional
texts. While the comprehension of factual texts is based on the fact
that sender and receiver share one model of reality, the fictional text
has to start building up a model of its own, either referring explicitly
to a realistic model or creating a fictitious one in the text, which can
then be related in some degree to an existing realistic model. It can
even be contrary to the normal truth values of non-fictional utterances
(e.g. in fairy tales). A fictional text must, however, also contain some
reference or analogy to the receivers’ reality because otherwise they
would not be able to find access to the world of the text.

If the information on the internal situation is hidden in certain
elements of a fictional text, such as in proper names, regional or
social dialect (e.g. Shaw’s Pygmalion) etc., it is often extremely
difficult to transmit it to the target text, as for instance in the
following example, because in a literary text it is often not
appropriate to use substitutions, explanatory translations or footnotes.


In Ana Maria Matute’s short story Pecado de omision the characters are
socially classified by their names. The main character, a simple village
boy who in spite of his talents does not get the chance to train for a
profession, is only called by his Christian name Lope, whereas his class
mate, whose father can afford to let him study law, is introduced by
Christian name and surname: ManuelEnriquez. Lope’s uncle, the village
mayor, has the rather pompous name Emeterio Ruiz Heredia; the school
teacher is referred toby the respectful combination of don together with
his Christian name (don Lorenzo). The simple shepherd with whom Lope has
to stay in the mountains cannot even boast an individual name: he is
called Rogue el Mediano (i.e. “Roque the middle one”).

These hidden clues cannot be explained to the TT receiver without
running the risk of losing the literary charm of the text. Fortunately,
most authors do not rely exclusively on implicit characterizations, but
include some explicit hints, as does Ana Maria Matute in the
above-mentioned text.

Presupposition indicators

The probability of presuppositions being present can be calculated from
the distance of the ST and TT receiver to the cultural environment of
the subject matter, as well as from the level of explicitness and the
level of redundancy. Text contains certain “elements of crystallization”
which may indicate presuppositions. These elements might be attached to
certain syntactic or lexical structures, such as the gerund, infinitive,
or passive constructions, modal auxiliary verbs or valences of lexemes,
as in the following example.


“John will be picked up at the station. Peter is always in time.” Since
the verb to pick up requires two actants, semantically specifiable as
agent and patient, the reader will automatically know that Peter has to
refer to the person who is going to pick up John at the station. If the
two sentences are to constitute a text, the existence of the agent is
presupposed in the first sentence .

Other signals pointing to presuppositions can be provided by the
intra-textual dimensions of subject matter, content, sentence structure,
and suprasegmental features. The negation left out in an utterance meant
to be ironic can, for example, be signalled by a certain intonation:
“How very, very clever of you!” Non-verbal elements, such as a photo
showing the skyscraper environment of the “immaculate garden flat”, can
also illustrate presupposed situational conditions.

The analysis of the extratextual dimensions of sender, receiver, time,
place, and motive of communication can also reveal presupposed
information, as has been pointed out above. With their TC competence,
translators will be able to check the comprehensibility of the
verbalized information from the TT receiver’s point of view. Thus, any
possible information gap or surplus in the background knowledge of the
intended TT receiver, as described by the translation brief, can be
localized and, if necessary, compensated for.


The following questions may help to discover the presuppositions made in
the source text:

1. Which model of reality does the information refer to?

2. Is the reference to reality verbalized explicitly in the text?

3. Are there any implicit allusions to a certain model of reality?

4. Does the text contain redundancies which might be superfluous for a
TT receiver?

5. What information presupposed to be known to the ST receiver has to be
verbalized for the TT receiver?

Lecture 2. Text Composition

General considerations

The text has an informational macrostructure (i.e. composition and order
of information units) consisting of a number of micro-structures. The
text segments forming the macrostructure are marked or delimited
primarily by the continuity or discontinuity of tenses.

There are several reasons why both the macro and microstruc-ture of the
text are important aspects of a translation-oriented text analysis.

1. If a text is made up of different text segments with different
situational conditions, the segments may require different translation
strategies according to their different functions.

2. The special part that the beginning and end of a text play in its
comprehension and interpretation means that these may have to be
analysed in detail in order to find out how they guide the reception
process and influence the effect of the whole text.

3. For certain genres, there are culture-specific conventions as to
their macro and/or microstructure. The analysis of text composition can
therefore yield valuable information about the text type (and, perhaps,
the text function).

4. In very complex or incoherent texts, the analysis of informational
microstructures may serve to find out the basic information or subject
matter of the text.

Text ranks

A source text can be part of a unit of higher rank, which we may call a
text combination or hyper-text. Thus, a short story or a scientific
article might be included in an anthology or a collection, in which the
other texts constitute a frame of reference, and a novel might be
intended to form part of a trilogy or tetralogy. The different texts can
be related and linked in various ways.

In the practice of professional translating, the parts of a text
combination are sometimes translated by different translators, as is
shown in the following example.


The German version of the textbook on linguistics edited by Andr6
Martinet (Martinet 1973) was produced by two translators: Chapters 1 to
25 were translated by I. Rehbein, and Chapters 26 to 51 by S. Stelzer.
Each of the chapters is an independent text and, at the same time, part
of a larger unit, whose characteristics have to be taken into account by
both translators.

The inclusion of a text in a unit of higher rank is usually signalled by
the title and/or the title context, which can be regarded as a sort of
“hyper-sentence” or “metacommunicative utterance”.

On the highest rank this hyper-sentence is often replaced by the
information about the communicative situation which the receiver infers
from extratextual clues. If the extratextual analysis shows, however,
that the situation of the TT will differ considerably from that of the
ST and that the TT receiver cannot infer sufficient information about
the ST situation, the translator may feel obliged to add some kind of
hyper-sentence (e.g. in the form of an introductory lead) to the


In German newspapers, comments taken from other papers are usually
introduced by hyper-sentences, such as “President Reagan’s speech before
the UN is commented on by The Times (London)” (cf. Suddeutsche Zeitung,
Oct. 26/27, 1985; my translation). The form of these hyper-sentences is
culture-specific, and they may even be rather elliptic. In the
International Herald Tribune, for example, texts quoted from other
papers are printed in a special column under the heading “Other
Comments” and signed with the name and place of publication of the
reference paper, e.g. “Asiaweek (Hong Kong)”.


Metacommunicative sentences of the type “A says (to B)” can also be
signals for the beginning of an embedded text (cf. example 3.1.0./1),
these signals separating the different levels of communication. This is
particularly important in translation, because, as was pointed out
earlier, each level of communication may require a situational analysis
of its own. One of the crucial aspects in the analysis of macrostructure
is therefore the question of whether there are any sub-texts or in-texts
embedded in the ST.

Other forms of in-texts are quotations, footnotes, and examples (e.g. in
scientific texts, such as the present study). The main task of the
translator is to find out which function the in-text fulfils in the
embedding text. Although other extratextual factors (e.g. audience,
place, time, medium) may be the same for the embedding text and the
in-text, the function must be analysed separately.


Quotations, like other texts, can have an informative, expressive,
appellative, and phatic function. The function of a quotation is
basically independent of that of the embedding text, although there
seems to be a certain correlation between genre and quotation types. For
example: In scientific and technical texts we find more informative
quotations, whose form is rather conventional (especially where
bibliographical references are concerned) than in popularizing texts or
(literary) essays, which more often contain expressive quotations
stressing the author’s own opinion, or quotations appealing to the
reader’s own experience or which are intended to impress the reader by
citing a famous authority, such as Aristotle or Shakespeare.

Footnotes inserted into a target text in order to provide background
information or give additional explanations, can also be regarded as
in-texts. Since the effect that a text with footnotes has on the reader
is different from that of a text without footnotes, the translator has
to consider carefully whether other procedures, such as explanatory
translations or substitutions, would be more appropriate to the genre
and function of the target text than footnotes.

The relationship between the in-text and the embedding text can be
compared with that between titles or heading(s) and the text they belong
to. A title is a metatext which tells us something about the co-text in
question and can equally fulfil various other communicative functions.


The title of Chapter VII of Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers not
only informs the reader about the contents of the chapter but also
recommends the text to the reader: “How Mr. Winkle, instead of shooting
at the pigeon and killing the crow, shot at the crow and wounded the
pigeon; how the Dingley Dell cricket club played All-Muggleton, and how
All-Muggleton dined at the Dingley Dell expense; with other interesting
and instructive matters.” The metacomrnunicative function of the title
is in this case signalled by the form of an indirect question introduced
by how. In the title of Chapter I of Jonathan Swift’s A Voyage to
Lilliput it is made even more explicit: “The author gives some account
of himself and family (…)”.

Inclusions commenting on the text itself (e.g. so to speak or as I
pointed out earlier or to put it into a nutshell) can also be regarded
as metacommunicative utterances. At the same time they have the (phatic)
function of giving a signal to the receiver, thus representing the
(extratextual) audience orientation by intratextual means.

Within the text itself, macrostructure is defined from a semantic point
of view. Hierarchical delimitations of text sections (chapter, chunk,
paragraph, complex sentence, non-complex sentence, etc.) can only
provide a rather superficial orientation. Since the days of classical
rhetoric, the beginning and the end of a text are considered to be of
particular importance in the interpretation of the whole text. This is
why they should be analysed separately.

The beginning and end of a text can be marked by certain verbal or
non-verbal features, which in some genres will be even conventional,
such as the moral at the end of a fable or the expression once upon a
time at the beginning of a fairy tale. The end tends to be less
frequently marked than the beginning (the words The End at the end of a
film are probably a remnant from the time when the end of a text was
conventionally marked by finis). The imminent end of a text can also be
signalled by the shift to a higher level of communication, e.g. a
metacommunicative recapitulation like “in conclusion, let me
restate…”. Thus, in the fable The Lover and his Lass, for example, the
moral (“Laugh and the world laughs with you, love and you love alone.”)
establishes a direct communication between sender and receiver.

The example of the fable shows that certain features of text composition
are genre specific. Certain text types are characterized by a particular
macrostructure and particular structural markers, as well as particular
means of conjunction between the text parts. A good example is the text
type “letter” with the conventional text segments date, address,
salutation, message, and complimentary closing. In an instrumental
translation the translator should observe the target-cultural convention
for the text type in question.


Both in macro and microstructure we have to distinguish formal and
semantic or functional structures. If the highest rank is that of
meta-communication and the second rank is constituted by macrostructural
units such as chapters and paragraphs (formal structure) or beginning
and end (functional structure), the third rank will be that of simple
and complex sentences (formal structure). From the semantic or
functional point of view we can distinguish information units,
utterances, steps of the course of action or plot, or logical relations,
such as causality, finality, specification, etc. The fourth rank will
then be that of sentence-parts and their relation, such as the
theme-rheme structure (TRS).

In written texts, a “sentence” is the unit between two full stops (or
question marks, exclamation marks, etc.). In spoken texts it is
delimited by intonatory devices, such as pitch or lengthy pauses. In
either case, grammatical completeness is not taken into account as a
criterion. In spite of all possible reservations regarding this
definition, the division into sentences can provide a first
approximation to the micro-structure of a text. Moreover, it will lead
into the analysis of sentence structures. In a second step, the analyst
has to prove whether the formal division into sentences corresponds to
the semantic division into information units.

In narrative texts, the information units can coincide with the steps of
the course of action. One of the intratextual features of text
composition is, in this connection, the order of tenses used in the

A composition which follows the course of action represents a structure
with an analogy to objects and situations in the real world (“ordo
naturalis”), which is not language-specific and therefore does not raise
unsolvable problems for the translator – at least where there is no
great distance between SC and TC. This applies also to dialogues, which
can be regarded as a (chronological) sequence of various monologues.

Composition structures which do not follow the “ordo naturalis” are
determined – both on the macro and microstructural level – by
culture-specific norms. They are marked by language-specific linking
devices (such as renominalization, adversative conjunctions, etc.) or
even by means of metre, rhyme, alliteration, and other sonorous figures,
which may help to structure the text.

Thematic organization of sentences and clauses

The semantic and functional division of sentences or information units
into theme and rheme (TRS, also topic and comment), which belongs to the
microstructure of a text, is independent of the syntactic structures,
although it is frequently combined with certain syntactical features.
Linking the information units by the device of thematic progression the
writer at the same time produces a certain macrostructure. Thus, TRS is
a feature overlapping micro and macrostructural composition.

For translation-oriented text analysis, we can confine ourselves to the
context-bound aspects of TRS. From this point of view, the theme refers
to that part of the information presented in a sentence or clause which
can be inferred from the (verbal or non-verbal) context (= given
information) whereas the rheme is the non-inferrable part of the
information (= new information). Irrespective of its grammatical
function as subject or predicate or its position at the beginning or the
end of the clause, the theme refers to the information stored in what
Brown & Yule (1987) call the “presupposition pool” of the participants.
This pool contains the information gained from general knowledge, from
the situative context of the discourse, and from the completed part of
the discourse itself. Each participant has a presupposition pool and
this pool is added to as the discourse proceeds.

TRS has to be regarded as a semantic universal which is realized in
different ways by different languages.

Markers of text composition

The macrostructure of a text is first and foremost signalled by formal
devices used to mark the boundaries of segments of both written and
spoken discourse which form large units, such as chapters or paragraphs
in written texts and “paratones” in spoken texts. Chapters are marked by
chapter headings or numerals, paragraphs by indentations, and paratones
by intonation, pauses of more than a second, etc. These non-verbal
markers are often combined with lexical markers, e.g. adverbial clauses
in initial (first – then -finally) or focussed position (on the one hand
– on the other hand). In text types with a conventional “ordo naturalis”
(e.g. reports) the composition is marked according to subject matter and

Microstructures are marked by means of syntax structures
(main/subordinate clauses, tenses, inclusions, etc.) or lexical devices
(e.g. cataphora) and by suprasegmental features (focus structures,
punctuation, etc.).


The following questions may help to discover the main characteristics

of text composition:

1. Is the ST an independent text or is it embedded in a larger unit of
higher rank?

2. Is the macrostructure of the text marked by optical or other signals?

3. Is there a conventional composition for this type of text?

4. Which form of thematic progression is realized in the text?

Non-verbal elements

General considerations

Signs taken from other, non-linguistic, codes, which are used to
supplement, illustrate, disambiguate, or intensify the message of the
text, are referred to by the functional concept of “non-verbal
elements”. The term, comprises the paralinguistic elements of
face-to-face communication (e.g. facial expressions, gestures, voice
quality, etc.) as well as the non-linguistic elements belonging to a
written text (photos, illustrations, logos, special types of print,
etc.). However, intonational features, pauses, etc. and the graphical
devices that perform analogous functions in written communication
(punctuation, capitalisation, itali-cisation, etc.) are classified as
“suprasegmental features”.


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Non-verbal elements are particularly audience-oriented.

Forms and functions of non-verbal elements

We have to distinguish non-verbal elements accompanying the text (e.g.
layout or gestures) from those supplementing the text (e.g. tables or
graphs) or those constituting an independent text part (e.g. pictures of
a comic strip) or replacing certain text elements (e.g. the * that
replaces a taboo word).

In face-to-face communication we tend to use gestures of the face and
the body (such as winking or shrugging). We distinguishe between
gestures used more or less involuntarily by speakers to express their
feelings and those used intentionally with a specific meaning. While
involuntary gestures constitute a universal phenomenon, which, apart
from differences in temperament and certain culture-specific
conventions, are common to all the peoples of the world, intentional
gestures are signs belonging to a culture-specific code. In an
interpreting situation it may therefore be necessary for the interpreter
to verbalize certain gestures made by the speaker, if there is any risk
of misinterpretation. The receivers only see the gestures of the ST
speaker and do not usually notice the interpreter in the booth
“translating” the gestures into a TC code.

The interplay of verbal and non-verbal text elements is particularly
important on the stage. Plays in which the word is subordinate to the
gestures are less problematic in translation than plays in which there
is a carefully balanced tension between words and gestures. This tension
should be regarded as an intentional feature of the text, which the
translator may have to reproduce in the TT.

In spoken discourse there are situations where the hearer would not
perceive any mimical expressions or gestures of the speaker because of
the spatial distance between them (e.g. in an electoral speech on a
market square). And there are text types or functions where the use of
non-verbal signals is conventionally forbidden. In these cases,
non-verbal elements are more and more replaced by suprasegmental
linguistic signs, such as stress, intonation, slowing down, etc., which
can even develop into genre-specific features (e.g. sermon).

In written communication, mimical expressions or gestures cannot be
used; but the reduced pragmatic contextuality of written texts must, of
course, be compensated for. This is done partly by the selection of
particular verbal elements, especially those representing
supra-segmental features in writing (e.g. punctuation, dash, bold type),
and partly by additional non-verbal means, such as pictures (a photo of
the author, a cartoon illustrating the subject, a drawing showing how to
hold the handle of a machine). It may happen that the non-verbal
elements convey a piece of information that is even more relevant to the
reader than the message transmitted by the text. A number in small print
on the label of a wine bottle may in itself be of little interest, but
it tells the “connoisseur” more about the quality of the wine than the

The range of non-verbal elements used in literature extends from the
ancient acrostics to the typographical means which are found in the
poems of Klopstock or Stefan George, Apollinaire or E. E. Cummings.

Non-verbal elements can belong to the conventional form of certain text
types, such as the shorter lines of traditional poetic texts or the
“small print” in contracts.

Of course, it is not always the author or sender with their specific
communicative intention who is responsible for the layout and format of
a text. But no matter who makes the final decision on text organization
– the effect that these elements produce on the receiver remains the
same. If the translation skopos requires “equivalence of effect”, the
translator must, therefore, take account of all types of nonverbal

Illustrations, diagrams, drawings of certain operations, etc. are
conventional supplements or even form an integral part of operating
instructions or manuals. In some cases it may even be convenient for the
translator to try and carry out the instructions him or herself in order
to check the coherence of verbal and non-verbal elements and the
functionality of the text.

The analysis of non-verbal text elements usually yields some information
about the aspects of text composition (e.g. paragraph markers),
presuppositions (e.g. marks of omission), lexis (e.g. facial expressions
which suggest an ironic meaning), and suprasegmental features (e.g.
shortened lines in a poem). Of the extratextual factors it is mainly the
intention of the sender and the function of the text which may be
characterized by non-verbal elements.

The importance of non-verbal elements in translation Non-verbal text
elements are, like verbal elements, culture-specific. Within the
framework of a translation-relevant ST analysis the translator has to
find out which of the non-verbal elements of the ST can be preserved in
translation and which have to be adapted to the norms and conventions of
the target culture. A particular logo or name which is intended to have
a positive connotation in the source culture may be associated with a
negative value in the target culture; the TC conventions may not allow
the graphic representation of a certain piece of information; the TC
genre norms may require non-verbal instead of verbal representation,
etc. What is taken for granted as regards linguistic text elements (that
they have to be “translated”), is not always accepted for non-verbal
elements, because initiators are often unwilling to commit themselves to
the extra expense involved in adapting nonverbal material.

It is not difficult to identify the non-verbal elements of the source
text, as they are usually fairly obvious and often predictable in
certain media or text types. But it is important in each case to analyze
the function of these elements. Quotation marks, for example, can point
to an ironical meaning (in which case they represent a suprasegmental
feature, i.e. a certain intonation) or to a neologism introduced ad hoc
and explained in the text or to a reference to somebody else’s
utterances (in which case the text producer may want to express a mental
reservation, which would have been marked by a wink of the eye in spoken


The following questions may lead to a functional interpretation of

non-verbal elements:

1. Which non-verbal elements are included in the text?

2. Which function do they perform with regard to the verbal text parts?

3. Are they conventionally bound to the text type?

4. Are they determined by the medium?

5. Are they specifically linked to the source culture?

Lecture 3. Lexis and Sentence


The choice of lexis is determined by both extra and intratexrual
factors. Therefore, the characteristics of the lexical items used in a
text often yield information not only about the extratextual factors,
but also about other intratextual aspects. For example, the semantic and
stylistic characteristics of lexis (e.g. connotations, semantic fields,
register) may point to the dimensions of content, subject matter, and
presuppositions, whereas the formal and grammatical characteristics
(e.g. parts of speech, word function, morphology) refer the analyst to
predictable syntactic structures and suprasegmental features.

Intratextual determinants of lexis

The selection of lexical items is largely determined by the dimensions
of subject matter and content. Depending on the subject matter, certain
semantic fields will be represented by more items than others, and the
textual connection of key words will constitute isotopic chains
throughout the text.

In this context, morphological aspects (suffixes, prefixes,
compositions, acronyms, etc.), collocations, idioms, figurative use
(metonymy, metaphor), etc. have to be analysed from the point of view of
textual semantics. Componential analysis, etymological investigations,
and comparative lexicological studies can also be helpful when the
meaning of certain words, especially of neologisms, is not clear.

Extratextual determinants of lexis

The field of lexis, on the other hand, illustrates particularly well the
interdependence of extratextual and intratextual factors. The
extratextual factors not only set the frame of reference for the
selection of words, but they are themselves often -directly or
indirectly – mentioned in the text. I will therefore deal with the
extratextual factors one by one in order to explain the impact these
factors can have on the choice of lexical items.

The first question is whether or not the expectations deriving from the
external information and clues as to the general character of the sender
(time, geographical and social origin, education, status, etc.) or
his/her particular position regarding the analysed text (e.g.
communicative role) are verified by the text. This also applies to any
internal sender who may be mentioned or presupposed in the text, e.g. in
the case of quotations or in fictional texts. If the analysis confirms
the expectations, such characteristics can be assumed to be
non-intentional; if not, it seems likely that by disappointing the
receiver’s expectations the sender wanted to produce a certain effect.
If there is little or no external information on the sender, the
analysis of the pragmatic aspects of lexis may provide some clues to the
person of the sender.

The second question is whether the author is mentioned in the text as
sender. In such a case, the use of the first person, of expressions like
in my view in contrast with other persons’ opinions, etc. gives the
readers the impression that the sender is addressing them directly. In
non-fictional texts we can assume that the first person really does
refer to the author. For some text types, there are even conventions as
to how authors should refer to themselves, e.g. the use of the first
person plural or the third person singular

As far as the impact of the sender’s intention on lexis is concerned, we
have to ask whether and how the intention is reflected by the selection
of words or, if there is no external information, what intention can be
inferred from the use of words in the text. It is the pragmatic aspect
of intentionality in the sense of “concrete interest” underlying the
text production which is being analysed in this context.

This intentionality is reflected by those characteristics of lexis which
are not due to the specific situational conditions or to norms and
conventions, as well as by those features which appear to signal an
intentional “violation” of any norms and conventions valid both for the
genre in question and for the conditions of medium, place, time, and
motive of communication characterizing the situation of the text. This
means that a feature of lexis can be assumed to be intentional if the
translator has to analyse the interest and the purpose which induced the
author to use precisely this expression, this figure, this word.


Language can be used, for example, to camouflage the real significance
of an event, as is shown in the following paragraph from an article on
“doublespeak”: “Attentive observers of the English language also learned
recently that the multi-billion-dollar stock market crash of 1987 was
simply a fourth-quarter equity retreat; that aircraft don’t crash, they
have uncontrolled contact •with the ground; that janitors are
environmental technicians; that it was a diagnostic misadventure of a
high magnitude which caused the death of a patient in a Philadelphia
hospital, not malpractice; and that Ronald Reagan wasn’t really
unconscious while he underwent minor surgery, just in a
non-decision-making form.” (THE SUNDAY TIMES, 7 January 1990)

In order to elicit the sender’s intention it seems advisable to analyse
the “degree of originality” of the lexis used in the text. This is
common practice with similes and metaphors. But it can also be applied
to other figures of speech, such as the adoption of words from other
areas of lexis (e.g. language for special purposes in a general text),
other registers (e.g. slang words in a formal text), or from regional or
social dialects, and to the metonymic use of words (e.g. the Pentagon
for the US Ministry of Defense). In all these cases the translator has
to examine whether the choice of words is common or at least
standardised for certain text types or whether it can be regarded as
original or even extravagant.

The analysis of various lexical items in a text can often show that a
particular stylistic feature is characteristic of the whole text. If the
translation skopos requires the preservation of such features,
individual translation decisions (in the field of lexis as well as
content, composition, sentence structure, etc.) have to be subordinated
to this purpose. The translator has to plan the translation strategies
with this overall purpose in mind, looking for the stylistic means which
serve to achieve this purpose in the target language and culture instead
of translating metaphor by metaphor or simile by simile.

Similarly, the translator should also assess the stylistic implications
of the author’s “semantic intentionality”. Semantic intentionality
refers to the reasons which have induced the author to select one
particular piece of information for his or her text from the wide range
of all possible information, and to the effect that this choice has on
the audience. This can be of particular importance in fictional texts
since it may be assumed that the number of informational details which
the author may choose from is limited only by the situational
conditions. The decision to take one specific detail rather than another
constitutes an important clue to the author’s (stylistic, literary)

A text may not only contain implicit clues to the sender’s intention,
but also explicit expressions or (often conventional) cliches by which
the sender’s intention is announced.


“Our aim is therefore to replace a sporadic approach with a systematic
one; to minimise – we can never remove – the intuitive element in
criteria of analysis.” (From the Introduction to Crystal & Davy 1969:

The medium mainly influences the level of style of the lexical elements
(colloquial, formal), word formation (e.g. abbreviated words or acronyms
as used in mobile phone messages) and deictic expressions (e.g.
operating instructions, which come to the receiver together with the


Just a few examples of typical newspaper abbreviations and compounds,
collected from one page of THE SUNDAY TIMES (7 January 1990, p. El);
Ј215m fraud, pre-tax profits, RAF, ISC, CSF, GEC, GrandMet, Bond Corp, a
pubs-for-breweries swap, the UK dairy-produce company, cash-rich
institutions, PR group.

The aspect of time is also reflected in deictic elements, in internal
time references, and in temporal markings of certain lexical items. This
last aspect is particularly relevant both to the translation of old
texts and to that of texts whose language is marked as “modern”. In old
texts we would not expect “modernisms” (and vice versa).

However, the translator has to decide whether the translation skopos
requires a “synchronous” or an “actualizing” translation. As it might be
difficult for a 21st century translator to render a text in the language
of the 18th century, s/he should at least take care not to use typically
21st century lexis (e.g. fashion words).

In Jonathan Swift’s A Voyage to Lilliput, archaic forms like giveth,
mathema-ticks, physick, Old Jury instead of Old Jewry, my self and words
like hosier (in the 1735 edition, reprinted in Gulliver s Travels,
Everyman’s Library, London 1940) mark the text as “old” without being an
obstacle to comprehension. The German translation (Swift 1983), however,
is written in unmarked modern German.

Certain text types, such as legal documents, are characterized by
archaic lexis.

The motive or occasion for communication may influence the choice of
lexis by requiring a particular level of style (e.g. in a funeral
address) or certain formulas or cliches. This can be an important aspect
when the target text is intended to be used on a different occasion from
that of the source text.

Text function (in correlation with the text type) is also frequently
reflected in the choice of lexical items. For example, some examples of
typical lexical features of the language of newspaper reporting: complex
pre and postmodification, typical adjective compounds such as more and
faster-arriving, sequences of adjectives; emphatic and colloquial lexis,
etc. Language for special purposes and metalanguage are other
function-specific fields of word use. Genre conventions point to the
fact that the sender is interested in subordinating form to content,
thus setting guidelines for a particular effect of the text. If the
function changes within the text, the use of text-type conventions or of
functional style can signal a particular stylistic interest on the part
of the author.


The following questions may be helpful in analysing the lexis used in a

1. How are the extratextual factors reflected in the use of lexis
(regional and social dialects, historical language varieties, choice of
register, medium-specific lexis, conventional formulas determined by
occasion or function, etc.)?

2. Which features of the lexis used in the text indicate the attitude of
the sender and his/her “stylistic interest” (e.g. stylistic markers,
connotations, rhetorical figures of speech, such as metaphors and
similes, individual word coinages, puns)?

3. Which fields of lexis (terminologies, metalanguage) are represented
in the text?

4. Are there any parts of speech (nouns, adjectives) or patterns of word
formation (compounds, prefixed words, apocopes) which occur more
frequently in the text than would normally be the case?

5. Which level of style can the text be assigned to?

Sentence Structure

General considerations

The formal, functional and stylistic aspects of sentence structure are
mentioned as an important factor in almost all approaches to
translation-relevant text analysis, although they are not dealt with in
any systematic way.

In spite of the transcultural repertoire of syntactic figures of speech,
such as parallelisms, chiasms, rhetorical questions, etc., the effect of
these figures may vary slightly according to the different language
structures. Complex hypotactic sentences are generally regarded as an
appropriate means to describe complex facts. However, in German,
hypotactic sentences are much more likely to look complicated and
intricate (partly because the verb has to be put at the end of
subordinate clauses) than, for instance, in Spanish, where the syntax
has a principally linear character and where isolated non-finite
constructions (gerund, participles, infinitives) are often preferred to
subor-i clinate clauses.

The analysis of sentence structure yields information about the
characteristics of the subject matter (e.g. simple vs. complex), the
text composition (“mise en relief, order of informational details), and
the suprasegmental features (stress, speed, tension), and some syntactic
figures, such as aposiopesis, may indicate presuppositions. Among the
extratextual factors it is primarily the aspects of intention, medium
and text function that are characterized by particular sentence

How to find out about sentence structure

The translator gets a first impression of the typical sentence structure
of a text by analysing the (average) length and type of the sentences
(statements, questions, exclamations, ellipses) and the other
constructions which replace sentences (infinitives, past and present
participles, gerunds), the distribution of main clauses and subordinate
clauses -and inclusions – in the text (paratactical vs. hypotactical
sentence structures), and the connection of sentences by connectives,
such as conjunctions, temporal adverbs, substitutions, etc.. On the
basis of such an analysis, s/he is able to find out how the information
given in the text is structured. I wish to stress the point, however,
that the analysis of sentence structure is not an aim in itself but must
lead to a functional interpretation.

Below the level of sentences and clauses it is the order of the
constituents (such as Subject-Predicator-Complement/SPC) or words (e.g.
the position of adverbials) that may lead to a further structuring.
Depending on their respective norms of word order, intonation, pitch
patterns, etc., different languages use different means of focussing
certain sentence parts or of giving a “relief to the text. By analysing
the different aspects of syntax (e.g. distribution of main and
subordinate clauses and non-finite constructions, “mise en relief by
tense and aspect) the translator may achieve a solid basis for text

In addition to the classical figures of speech it is (mainly, but not
only, in literary texts) the deviation from syntactic norms and
conventions which is used in order to produce a particular stylistic
effect. In these cases, the translator has first to find out what kind
of deviation is used and how it works before s/he can decide, whether or
how to “translate” it (in the widest sense of the word) in the light of
the translation brief.


In his short story Los cachorros (“The Little Dogs”), the Peruvian
author Mario Vargas Llosa plays with syntactic structures, boldly mixing
narration, direct speech and stream-of-consciousness technique: “Y un
dia, toma, su mama, corazon, le regalaba ese pic-up, ipara el solito?,
si…”. By a syntactic analysis, we can separate the narrative sentence,
which conforms to the syntactical norms (“Y un dia su mama le regalaba
ese pic-up”), from the inserted elements of direct speech toma, corazon,
si) and interior monologue Qpara el solito?). Reversing these steps of
analysis, the translation is easy: “And one day, here you are, his
mummy, darling, gave him that record-player, just for him?, yes…”

The syntactic features, too, depend on various other intratextual
features, especially content and composition (e.g. distribution of
informational details both in the text and in the sentences), lexis
(e.g. verbal or nominal constructions), and suprasegmental features
(especially focus, intonation). Among the extratextual factors it is
mainly the aspects of intention, audience, medium (e.g. speech vs.
writing), and function (e.g. conventional structures), which affect the
syntactic features.


The following questions may be helpful in analysing sentence structure:

1. Are the sentences long or short, coordinated or subordinated? How are
they linked?

2. Which sentence types occur in the text?

3. Does the order of sentence constituents correspond to the theme-rheme
structure? Are there any focussing structures or deviations from normal
word order?

4. Is there any text relief?

5. Are there any syntactic figures of speech, such as parallelism,
chiasm, rhetorical question, parenthesis, aposiopesis, ellipsis, etc.?
What function do they perform in the text?

6. Are there any syntactic features which are determined by audience
orientation, text-type conventions, or by the medium? Does the
translation skopos require any adaptations?

Suprasegmental features

General considerations

The suprasegmental features of a text are all those features of text
organization which overlap the boundaries of any lexical or syntactical
segments, sentences, and paragraphs, framing the phonological “gestalt”
or specific “tone” of the text.

The particular framing of a text depends, first and foremost, on the
medium by which the text is transmitted. In written texts, the
suprasegmental features are signalled by optical means, such as italics,
spaced or bold type, quotation marks, dashes and parentheses, etc.

In spoken texts, the suprasegmental features are signalled by acoustic
means, such as tonicity, modulation, variations in pitch and loudness,
etc.. This applies both to spoken texts which are produced spontaneously
(e.g. a contributions to a discussion, a statement by the witness of an
accident) and to written texts which are presented orally (e.g.
lectures, radio and television news, etc.).

It is important to distinguish suprasegmental features, in their
function as features of verbal text organization, from the non-verbal or
para-verbal elements accompanying the text, such as facial expressions,
gestures, etc. On the other hand, habitual psycho-physical and physical
features of speech (such as quality of voice or excitement) as well as
features resulting from biographical factors (such as origin, age,
status, e.g. social or regional dialect) must be distinguished from
“controllable” functional features, i.e. features depending on the
sender’s intention or on other situational factors such as the
relationship between sender and receiver etc.

Prosody, intonation, and stress

The concept of intonation refers to “the totality of prosodic qualities
of utterances which are not linked to individual sounds”. It includes
the general features of tonicity and pitch, modulation, rhythmicality,
speed, loudness, tension and pauses.

Intonation as a means of text organization (as opposed to intonation
indicating psychical states, habitual characteristics of the sender or
even psycho-pathological phenomena) serves mainly to mark the
information structure and to divide the speech stream into tone units
separated by pauses. The tone units usually correspond to information
units. Another function of intonation is to mark the semantic nucleus of
the sentence.

Moreover, intonation helps to disambiguate the various possible meanings
of a sentence (e.g. serious vs. ironic meaning in the sentence “That was
very clever of you!”). The “meaning” conveyed by intonation is
independent of, i.e. not subordinated but coordinated to, that of
lexical and semantic units. Intonation signals the attitude of the
speaker towards the message and, in this respect, its function can be
compared with that of the stylistic function of lexis and sentence
structure. It can be analysed only in connection with the other two

The analysis of prosodic features is of particular relevance to the
interpreter. It facilitates the comprehension of content and text
composition, since stress markings are a textological instrument for
making the relations of coherence between sentences explicit. For
example, the stress on the word money in the sentence “John found some
money today” points to it in the following sentence: “But he spent it
immediately.” In simultaneous interpreting, the analysis of intonation
therefore can make it easier for the interpreter to anticipate how the
text will continue. The pauses between the informational elements,
whether “empty” or “filled” by sounds such as ah, hum, etc., divide the
stream of speech and give a breathing space to the interpreter.

On the other hand, “contrastive” stress may reveal the speaker’s
intention. In the sentence pair “John found some money today” and “Peter
found happiness”, the stress on money forms a paradigmatic contrast with
the stress on happiness. Syntagmatic contrast is produced by the two
stress points in the sentence “John found some money today” if the
following (or preceding) sentence is “He found happiness yesterday”. In
English, contrastive stress is often combined with certain syntactic
structures, such as clefting: “It was John who found some money today,
but Peter was the one who found happiness.” Contrastive stress, too, can
be very helpful to the interpreter because it limits the variety of
possible “next sentences” and thus makes anticipation easier. Of course,
the procedures for source text analysis have to be automatized or
internalized in interpreter training, since there is not much time to
start thinking about contrastive stress in the process of simultaneous

Word stress can serve to differentiate meaning, e.g. in conduct vs.
conduct, whereas tone-unit stress sets focus points (e.g. “a clever
child” vs. “a stupid child”), and sentence stress often signals
emphasis. Some forms of sentence intonation or “intonation contour” are
linked by convention with certain sentence types (e.g. question,
inclusion, incomplete sentences, etc.) or rhetorical intentions.

Certain genres, such as a radio commentary of a football match or the
arrival of a train being announced by loudspeaker at a railway station,
are characterized by a specific intonation which we would be able to
identify at once even if we did not understand the information or if we
heard the text in another place.

The “phonology” of written texts

The representation of suprasegmental features in writing

The phonological organization of a text is represented in writing by the
selection of particular words, word order, onomatopoeia, certain
features of typeface such as italics or spaced words, orthographic

In this sense, we can distinguish between “syntactic” or “discoursive”
punctuation marks (full stop, comma, question and exclamation marks),
which serve to guide comprehension by conventional signals, and
“stylistic” punctuation marks which give “elegance and expressivity” to
the sentence. Thus, punctuation, whether conventional or stylistic, is
used principally as a means of representing intonation and prosody in

The analysis of suprasegmental features often yields information about
the content (e.g. irony) and the subject matter (e.g. the “solemn” tone
of a funeral address), as well as presuppositions (e.g. an interruption
of the intonation contour in allusions) and composition (e.g. pauses,
stress on the rhematic parts of the utterance). Of the extratextual
factors, it is the aspects of sender, intention, place and
motive/occasion and text function which are mainly characterized by
suprasegmental features.

e. How to elicit suprasegmental features in a written text Affectivity
and expressivity are mainly reflected in the choice of lexis. Certain
affirmative words, such as actually or in fact, and emphatic evaluations
like fantastic or great seem to attract sentence stress.

In syntax, it is mainly focusing structures, such as clefting (e.g. It
was John who kicked the ball), inclusions, which are spoken in a lower
tone and at a higher speed than the embedding sentence, ellipses, or
aposiopeses which seem to suggest special intonation patterns. Asyndetic
enumerations, for example, are characterized by a higher speed than
polysyndetic enumerations John, Peter, Mary, Paul were there vs. John
and Peter and Mary and Paul were there).

If not supported by lexical or syntactic means, contrastive stress is
usually produced by the context. If the context is not sufficiently
clear, the reader has to be guided by graphic features, such as
underlining, spaced or bold type or italics, quotation marks, etc.

Finally, the phonological image of a text is also determined by
theme-rheme structures. Since the thematic element normally links a
sentence to the preceding utterance, it is often put in initial position
with the rheme forming the end of the sentence, which is, of course, the
appropriate place for the elements which the sender wants to stress. A
deviation from this pattern causes surprise or leads to a certain
tension between the two sentences, which is also reflected in the
intonation contour.

For the translator, these considerations on phonology and intonation are
of particular importance because the reader’s acoustic imagination is
determined by language-specific patterns. Each receiver reads a text
against the background of their own native knowledge of intonation and
stress patterns. Since in most cases this is an intuitive knowledge,
they may not be able to adapt themselves to strange patterns even if
they are told that they are reading a translation. After analysing its
functions, the translator should therefore adapt the ST intonation to TL


The following questions, referring to prosody and intonation in spoken
texts and their graphic representation in written texts, may be helpful
in analysing suprasegmental features:

1. Which suprasegmental features are present in the text? How are they
represented graphically?

2. Are the suprasegmental features genre specific?

3. Do the suprasegmental features provide any clues to the habitual
characteristics or to the emotional or psycho-pathological state of the

4. Can the text be divided into prosodic units? Does the intonation
contour indicate the sender’s intention to clarify, stress or focus any
elements of the utterance?

5. Do the suprasegmental features correspond to the theme-rheme
structure of the text?

6. Does the translation skopos require any adaptations of suprasegmental
features to TL patterns?

Example of Intratextual Text Analysis


Bertolt Brecht: Measures Against Violence

When Mr. Keuner, the Thinking Man, pronounced himself against violence
in front of a large audience, he noticed that his listeners backed away
from him and left the room. He turned round and saw behind him –

“What did you say?” asked Violence.

“I pronounced myself in favour of violence.”

After Mr. Keuner had also left, his disciples asked him where his
backbone was. Mr. Keuner replied: “I haven’t got a backbone. It is me
who has to live longer than Violence.”

And he told the following story:

One day, in the time of illegality, there came to the house of Mr. Egge,
a man who had learned to say no, an agent who presented a document
signed by those who held sway over the city, which stated that to him
should belong any house in which he set foot; similarly any food should
be his for the asking; and any man that he set eyes on should serve him.

The agent sat down, demanded food, washed himself, went to bed, and
said, with his face to the wall, “Will you be my servant?”

Mr. Egge covered him with a blanket, shooed away the flies, and watched
over him while he slept; and, as he had done on the first day, so did he
obey him for seven years. But for all that he did for him, there was one
thing he took good care not to do, and that was to say a word. And when
the seven years had passed and the agent had grown fat by all the
eating, sleeping and giving orders, the agent died. And then Mr. Egge
wrapped him in the tattered, old blanket, dragged him out of the house,
cleaned the bed, whitewashed the walls, breathed a sigh of relief and
replied: “No.”

As the title suggests, the subject matter of the text is what can be
done against violence. Mr. Keuner is a fictitious person who also
appears in some other of Brecht’s stories. Therefore he can be
introduced by his name as somebody “known” to the reader. It may be
assumed that the name Keuner is a distortion of keiner (“nobody”). Mr.
Keuner, who is characterized by the epithet the Thinking Man, exhibits a
particular behaviour towards violence: having pronounced himself to be
against violence in public, he denies his conviction when personally
confronted with violence. By means of the parable of Mr. Egge he tells
his disciples, who wonder why he shows so little backbone, that it is
more important to outlive violence than to become its victim. Mr. Keuner
(and Mr. Egge) apparently submit to violence in order to outlive it.

The content of the story points to the subject matter suggested in the
title: measures (i.e. “non-measures”, in an ironic meaning) against
violence, and determines the composition of the text. It is a frame text
embedding a parable. The frame does not appear again at the end of the
story because the readers are supposed to draw their own conclusions.
The narration consists of two parts which are formally linked by the
cataphoric element following story.

The subject matter and the content have a strong influence on lexis. In
the first part the word violence is mentioned four times, twice as an
abstract and twice as an allegory (indicated by the capital letter in
the English translation). In the second part the word violence is not
mentioned, but the concept is paraphrased in different forms. The
document signed by those who held sway over the city states that the
“agent” is a representative of violence, which is supported by the story
(things belong to him, he demands, gives orders, and his behaviour in
Mr. Egge’s house shows his superior position). The isotopy of serving
(belong to, serve, servant, obey and Mr. Egge’s activities: covered him,
shooed away, watched over him) characterize the contrasting semantic

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