chapter  Chapter 2
30 Pages

Exploring time, context and culture through language

WithStella Cragie, Ann Pattison

Language can be manipulated to suit a specific time or context. Linguistic features (such as the mood and tense of verbs or the use of elegant variation to avoid repeating a noun) often reflect the context of situation and the context of culture. Translating is often seen nowadays as a cultural procedure since culture is intertwined with both time and context, and all three perspectives are reflected in discourse conventions. Where an author breaks away from convention, this may impact on whether the translator adopts a semantic or communicative approach.

Textual features to consider include theme, purpose, genre, lexis, register, syntax, logic and viewpoint. The potential readership and the translator’s brief are factors to consider when deciding whether domestication or foreignization is the best strategy. In literary texts, form presents particular challenges, especially when translating poetry. In fiction, unusual genres such as fantasy, Harry Potter stories and time-slip novels test the translator’s ingenuity, and sometimes a pseudo-archaic style is appropriate in the target language. Neologisms, proper nouns and language change are other problems. To recreate the cultural and temporal context an author has created, the translator may need to study the social structures and values within this fictional world.