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A Summary on Functional Theories

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  • A Summary on Functional Theories

    Functional approaches to translation
    The functional theory in translation first emerged in the 1970s and 1980s, when the translation theory shifted away from the linguistic approach so as to consider the function and purpose of translation.

    Katharina Reiss
    One of the most well-known functional theories is Reiss's type of text in which she argues that the functional equivalence should be sought on a text level by analysing the language dimension. Reiss pointed out that “the establishment of the text variety is of decisive importance for the translator, so that he may not endanger the functional equivalence of the TL text by naively adopting SL conventions” (Venuti 2004:173). Her approach is based on a systematic analysis of the SL text function to be used as an assessment of the translation process and target text. Reiss categorised three types of functions in written texts in which each text-type communicates a different situation. These three functions are stated by Reiss as follows:
    “ a. the communication of content— informative type.
    b. the communication of artistically organized content— expressive type
    c. the communication of content with a perspective character— operative type” (Venuti 2004:171).
    It is worth noting that these three forms of written communication are drawn from “Bühler’s three functions of linguistic sign”; however, these three functions are not purely realised in a given text, since some texts may have certain features of more than one function. Reiss moved on to describe two additional functions that had been introduced by Roman Jakobson which are the phatic and the poetic functions. The phatic function is essentially “the establishment and maintenance of contact” (Venuti 2004:172). However, according to Reiss, these two additional functions cannot be isolated as a text type, but merely as communicating elements in the language. Thus, it can be said that the phatic and the poetic functions can be found in each of the three functions mentioned earlier. The translator, therefore, should consider these functions when translating a certain text by first determining the function of the source text and communicating the same function accordingly in the target text. Reiss also had a set methodology for translators to follow when translating one of these functions. When translating the first text type, ‘informative text’, the translator is mainly concerned with transferring the content of the source text using ‘plain prose’; since this type is essentially communicating facts such as news articles. In the expressive text type, the translator is expected to take into account the aesthetic aspect of the language used in the source text, and to communicate this poetic language in the target text. The form of the message in the expressive text type is extremely important; the translator has to analyse the structure of the given text to convey its aesthetic form by means of semantic and syntactic features in the target language text. An example of the expressive text type is literary works. Whereas the operative text type such as advertisements aims at being appealing to the text receptor, the translator is therefore required to follow the adaptation method to translate this type by recreating an equivalent effect on the target receiver regardless of the use of new words that will achieve the required goal. Finally, Reiss realised that there is no “pure” function in a given text; therefore, “the translation method employed depends on far more than just text type. The translator’s own role and purpose, as well as sociocultural pressures, also affect the kind of translation strategy that is adopted” (Munday 2016:120).

    Katharina Reiss and Hans Vermeer
    Skopos theory is thoroughly discussed in Reiss and Vermeer’s book Grundledung einer allgemeinen Translationstheorie (1984) translated as Towards General Theory of Translational Action (2013). They proposed a general theory of translational action as a subcategory for the theory of action. Reiss and Vermeer argue that this general theory of translational action is applicable for all text types, which can be defined as a “theory of translational action begins with a situation that always includes a preceding action, i.e. the source text, here, the question is not whether and how somebody acts by whether, how and in what respect the previous action is continued (translated/interpreted). Seen in this light, a theory of translational action is a complex theory of action” (1984/2013:85). This theory is governed by rules in which the main rule is the Skopos rule. Skopos is a Greek word which means ‘purpose’. Reiss and Vermeer argued that the purpose of the translation ultimately determines which strategies the translator decides to use in the translation process; they also pointed out that the purpose of the source text might differ from that of the target text (1984/2013:92). It is worth mentioning that a translator cannot determine the skopos of a translation work unless the target readers are known; so that the translator would be able to decide on a certain function that could be seen as relevant for the target receivers.

    Christiane Nord
    Nord criticised Skopos theory for not being applicable to all text types. She also pointed out that Skopos theory does not analyse the source text on a micro-level (Nord 1997:109-22). In her book Text Analysis in Translation (2005), Nord proposed two types of translation: the documentary translation and the instrumental translation. Whereas the former “serves as a document of a source culture communicate between the author and the ST recipient” (Nord 2005: 80), the latter “serves as an independent message transmitting instrument in a new communicative action in the target culture, and is intended to fulfil its communicative purpose without the recipient being conscious of reading or hearing a text which, in a different form, was used before in a different communicative situation” (Nord 2005:80). With documentary translation, the translator is expected to use a similar strategy to the literal translation by preserving the cultural- specific wordings such as food and clothes. It is considered to be a great method for literary translation, since the literary works consist of many cultural-specific words that may raise issues for the literary translator. The TT receiver is aware that they are reading a translated work by acknowledging some of the cultural-specific wordings that are embedded in the TT. Whereas, the instrumental translation may communicate a purpose that is similar to the ST. In the instrumental translation, the translator attempts to reproduce a TT that is read as if it is the source text by preserving the function of the ST. This type of method is considered to be applicable to non-literary texts.
    Last edited by Amani Dhmadi; 03-12-2018, 08:42 AM.

  • #2
    The term “cultural turn” was first coined in the 1990s when describing the shift of translation studies towards an analysis of texts from a cultural perspective. Among the major concepts discussed within cultural studies in translation are ideology, gender and postcolonialism. There are two major theorists Lefevere and Venuti, whom I have briefly discussed their theories regarding the translation of literary texts.

    1 André Lefevere

    Lefevere in his book Translation, Rewriting and the Manipulation of Literary Fame (1992) discusses translation as a form of rewriting in which it “occupies a dominant position among concrete factors” such as “power, ideology, institution, and manipulation” (1992:2). Rewriting in translation is driven mainly by two motivations/constraints, which are ideological and poetological. The translator is considered to be one of two factors that control the function of rewriting, since translators along with other professionals can decide on whether to transfer the poetics or the ideology in a given literary work to the TT. A good example of translation as rewriting that combines both the poetological and ideological motivation is given by Lefevere of the translator Edward Fitzgerald who rewrote Omar Khyyam’s Rubayyat: “Ideologically Fitzgerald obviously thinks Persians inferior to their Victorian English counterparts” and “Peotologically he thinks they should be made to read more like the dominant current in the poetry of his own time” (1992:8). The other factor that controls the system of rewriting, according to Lefevere, is patronage which “is usually more interested in the ideology of literature than in its poetics, and it could be said that the patron “delegates authority” to the professional where poetics is concerned” (1992:15). Patronage can be practiced by many parties such as powerful individuals, groups of people such as publishers, and institutions such as the media and newspapers.

    2 Lawrence Venuti and the role of translator from a sociocultural perspective

    In his book The Translator’s Invisibility: A History of Translation (2008), which was first published in 1995, Lawrence Venuti examines the role of the translator on determining the strategies used to convey certain cultural aspects. Venuti distinguishes two types of translations: domestication and foreignization, in which the former is identified as “an ethnocentric reduction of the foreign text to receiving cultural values, bringing the author back home”(2008:15); while the latter as “an ethnodeviant pressure on those values to register the linguistic and cultural difference of the foreign text, sending the reader abroad”(2008:15). These two methods can be traced back to the German philosopher and theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher’s ‘alienating’ and ‘naturalizing’ methods. In his lecture On the Different Methods of Translating Schleiermacher pointed out that “In my opinion, there are only two possibilities. Either the translator leaves the writer in peace as much as possible and move the reader toward him; or he leaves the reader in peace as much as possible and moves the writer toward him” (Schleiermacher 1813-2012:49). From his lecture, one can clearly see that Schleiermacher opted for “moving the reader towards the writer”, i.e. the foreignization method. Like Schleiermacher, Venuti preferred the foreignization method in literary translation; however, for an entirely different rationale. With Schleiermacher, the foreignization method should be used by the German translator for nationalistic values such as enriching the German language by obtaining a diverse culture and introducing new concepts through the translation works; whereas, Venuti’s preference for the foreignization method is to resist “the ethnocentric violence of translation”(Venuti 2008:16). On the one hand, Venuti argues that the domestication method is a dominant practice in Western culture (2008:33) in which the literary translator’s role in the translated literary works will eventually be concealed, since the target text is thoroughly adhering to the target linguistic aspects as well as the cultural concepts. On the other hand, the foreignization method aims at signalling the cultural- specific codes by using unfamiliar words and syntax structure which results in making the translator more visible to the TT receiver.


    • #3
      Amani Dhmadi If this is something that you have written yourself, make sure to copyright it before posting it here or any other place.
      للمشاركة في االدروس اضغط هنا

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      • Amani Dhmadi
        Amani Dhmadi commented
        Editing a comment
        Ya I did :) , but I'm not sure how to copyright it??

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