Term Paper, 2005, 10 Pages
2 The Functional Translation Theory
2.1 Model of Intercultural Communication
2.1.1 Scenes – and Frames - Theory
2.1.2 The Skopos Theory
2.1.3 Factor-Model of Translation (Katharina Reiß)
3 The Nature of Translation
3.1 Linguistic Forms
3.1.1 Reactions of the Receptors
3.1.2 Typical Circumstances
3.1.3 Problems of Translation are Analysed from the Standpoint of the Types of Audience
Translation ist eine Sondersorte des kommunikativen Handelns, welches kulturspezifisch ist. Ihr oberster Primat ist der funktionale Zweck. Die Skopostheorie sieht im Translat ein Informationsangebot in der Zielkultur über ein Informationsangebot aus einer Ausgangskultur. Wichtiger als die Nähe zwischen Ausgangs- und Zieltext ist die kulturspezifische Kohärenz des Translats.
This is an appropriate summary of what the functional translation theory according to Radegundis Stolze is about. In this paper I want to explain what the fundamental ideas are, how exactly this theory works and where some of its difficulties lie.
I will also show the theory of translation Nida and Taber developed originally to translate texts from the Bible, but that can be used in every situation. Because of this universality Nida and Taber’s theory of translation can be well compared to the functional translation theory as both consider function as a priority.
The so-called functional translation theory dates from the 80s, when the main emphasis of translation was shifted from the structural linguistics of a text to the pragmatic aspect of linguistics, a new orientation towards the function of language (cf. Stolze ).
Katharina Reiß and Hans J. Vermeer developed the functional translation theory in clear opposition to the traditional, linguistic translation theory, the paradigms of this new approach necessitating a new terminology (cf. Reiß/Vermeer 4 in Stolze 155-156). Going beyond the Translation Studies of James S. Holmes (1985), the authors postulated the general validity of their approach. Before, one spoke about source and target language, text, author, reader etc. but now the terms are source text, receptor text and receptor. Translation is seen as a process with what is translated as the product and the translator as the one who is acting (cf. Stolze 156).
This theory is based on the assumption that language and culture are interdependent (cf. Stolze 156).
Eine Theorie enthält (1) die Angabe ihrer Basis, (2) die Deskription ihres Gegenstandes, (3) ein Regelinventar (Einzelheiten).
Das Regelinventar einer Translationstheorie enthält (1) allgemeine Regeln auf Objektebene, (2) spezifische Regeln auf Objektebene, (3) Metaregeln.
While the general rules list the conditions which make translation possible on the whole (1), the specific rules give details of cultural, linguistic and textual circumstances (2). Meta-rules, finally, show the terms on which the efficiency of a translation can be described (3).
The drawback of this theory, according to Stolze, is that it is dependent on a huge academic apparatus and results in complicated language.
Because the functional translation theory is based on the inter-dependence of language and culture, here the science of translation is part of linguistics (section pragmatism) and at the same time of cultural studies (cf. Reiß/Vermeer 1-2 in Stolze 156).
Every statement being influenced by inner and outer circumstances, not everything can be said everywhere. As partners of communication, producer ad receptor of a text are subject to a situation, and the situation is embedded into the context of a culture, of which language is part (cf. Stolze, 157). Reiß and Vermeer base their theory on the idea that a translator has to start from a text that is given to him, to understand and interpret it and then formulate the receptor text. As the source text is an offer of information to the receptor from the producer in the source language, it is the translator’s task to formulate a translation that is an offer of information, too, in the receptor language (cf. Reiß/Vermeer19 in Stolze 157).
After having stated the general conditions and rules valid for the act of translating, a model of intercultural communication in outlined to make them universally applicable. The person (P) is a member of the society (G) and his/her behaviour is determined by the circumstances of time and place in which the person exists. These circumstances are: social circumstances (culture), outer circumstances (situation) and the inner, current disposition. P now wants to pass on the information to the receptor (R). In doing this P has a certain aim and he has to take R’s personal circumstances into account as he wants to make himself understood as completely as possible. In case R belongs to another society or culture than P, P needs the help of a person who knows both cultures, the translator. He has to decide what should be communicated and how it should be done to make sure that the intended information is established. That means that the translator is the decisive factor and himself the agent (cf. Stolze 157-158).
Consequently a translation is realized as a transfer between different cultures. The text must be understood and it has to be interpreted in a certain situation. The translator has to be familiar with both cultures and he has to decide which parts of all the possible implications and interpretations he must take into consideration and which can be left out. What is translated is an offer of information in the receptor language and the receptor culture about an offer of information from the source language and the source culture. A verbatim translation is not possible because of the difference of cultures, and therefore it is necessary to try to reach an equivalent reproduction. That would imply that because of the cultural difference there is necessarily a difference of situations, which means that the “source” message is changed into a new “altered” receptor message.
In order to elucidate the act of translating as to the difference of cultures, Vermeer/Witte refer to the scenes-and-frames-theory of Vannerem/Snell-Hornby. According to this theory a scene is an image of the world in the mind of a person, which is dependent on the culture, situation and disposition of the individual (Vermeer/Witte 54 in Stolze 162). In order to put this “scene” into words, a “frame” is used. You may say that this “frame” is the expression of a “scene”, which again cannot be objective but depends on the circumstances of the transmission (cf. Vermeer/Witte 60 in Stolze 162).
The translation strategy is to imagine the scenes of the source text and to find an appropriate frame in the receptor language (cf. Vermeer/Witte 99 inStolze 162).
This theory says that the theory of translation as a transfer between cultures is integrated into the theory of action because texts are produced to serve a particular purpose and person – that means that they represent actions designed to interact and communicate with others. The translation is therefore seen as a special kind of interactive action. This action starts from a situation which always already contains a source text as the primary action. It is not the task of the translator to decide if to act, but what to transfer and how to continue acting. In this respect a theory of translation can be called a complex theory of action (cf. Reiß/Vermeer 95 in Stolze 163). Skopos is synonymous with the terms: purpose, goal and function. The Skopos of what is translated need not be completely identical with that of source text (change in function), but what is translated has to be coherent in itself, and there also has to be coherence between the original and the translation (cf. Stolze 163). It is important for whom and why something is translated (cf. Stolze 164).
A summary of the general translation theory would then look like this:
(1) Ein Translat ist skoposbedingt.
(2) Ein Translat ist ein Informationsangebot in einer Zielkultur und –sprache über ein Informationsangebot in einer Ausgangskultur –sprache.
(3) Ein Translat bildet ein Informationsangebot nichtumkehrbar eindeutig ab.
(4) Ein Translat muss in sich kohärent sein.
(5) Ein Translat muss mit dem Ausgangstext kohärent sein.
(6) Die angeführten Regeln sind untereinander in der angegebenen Reihenfolge hierarchisch geordnet („verkettet“).
This means that the function of a text is the foremost factor of every translation.
As already mentioned, there can be no complete identity between the source text and the receptor text, yet equivalence can be achieved to a varying degree. The quality of the equivalence can only be judged with reference to the conditions of its origin. Just as the source text can only be completely understood if the situation of its origin is known, so can the textual equivalence of a translation. Reiß/Vermeer developed a “factor model” for translation which was supposed to represent objectively the structure of the conditions influencing the process of translation. The translator holds the central position in this process because as the recipient of the source text and the producer of the receptor text all the decisions in respect to the translation are up to him. Yet he himself, just as all the other factors, is not fixed, but a variable quantity, these factors being e.g. the producer, the text, the culture, the context. The decisive factor for translation remains the sociocultural context which is always influenced by factors like time and place. The context of the situation of what is translated is then often different from that of the source text (cf. Reiß/Vermeer 149-153 in Stolze 166).
 Radegundis Stolze, Übersetzungstheorien – Eine Einführung (Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag,
1994), p. 155.
 Katharina Reiß/Hans J. Vermeer , Grundlagen der modernen Translationstheorie – Ein Leitfaden für Studierende (Tübingen: 2. Aufl., 1991), 3 in Radegundis Stolze, Übersetzungstheorien – Eine Einführung (Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag, 1994), p. 156.
 Katharina Reiß/Hans J. Vermeer , Grundlagen der modernen Translationstheorie – Ein Leitfaden für Studierende (Tübingen: 2. Aufl., 1991), 119 in Radegundis Stolze, Übersetzungstheorien – Eine Einführung (Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag, 1994), p. 164
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