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2 – Translating and Interpreting as Audience Design. a nd socio-textual practice Ian Mason Sichuan University, October 2013. Functionalist theories. Human activity generally goal-directed. Translating is a human, social activity.

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2 translating and interpreting as audience design

2 – Translating and Interpreting as Audience Design

and socio-textual practice

Ian Mason

Sichuan University, October 2013

Functionalist theories

Functionalist theories

  • Human activity generally goal-directed.

  • Translating is a human, social activity.

  • Overriding consideration is the purpose (skopos) of the task.

  • ST as an “offer of information”.

  • Appropriateness of TT comes before ST/TTequivalence. (Vermeer, Nord, etc.)

St tt relationship

ST/TT relationship

  • Nord: ‘loyalty’

  • Toury: moral principle inappropriate in a descriptive model.

  • Participants assume each other’s cooperation (Session 3)



  • action in relation to end-user

  • action in relation to end-use

  • action in relation to allother participants

  • (assumed cooperation: action in relation to intended meanings of ST).

Participants in translation events

Participants in translation events

  • The ST producer

  • The commissioner

  • The translator as receiver and producer

  • The editor/reviser

  • The publisher

  • Intended receivers of the translation

  • Unintended readers (the public)

The translation process

The translation process

SL textual record



assumptions Editor/Reviser/


TL textual record

assumptions TL Receivers

The court interpreting process

The court interpreting process


Defence lawyersJUDGE


Prosecution lawyers WITNESS

Court officials

Public area

Participation framework

Participation Framework

  • Not just speaker + hearer (or writer + reader).

  • Footing

    • ‘the alignment of an individual to a particular utterance, whether involving a production format, as in the case of the speaker, or solely a participation status, as in the case of the hearer’

    • (Goffman 1981: 227)

Production format

Production format

  • Animator “the sounding box from which utterances come”

  • Author “the agent who puts together, composes or scripts the lines that are uttered”

  • Principal “someone who is committed to what the words say”

Participation status

Participation status

  • Addressees

    • Known, recognised participant, addressed

  • Auditors

    • Known, recognised participant, not addressed

  • Overhearers

    • Known, not recognised participant, not addressed

  • Eavesdroppers

    • Not known

  • Audience design bell 1984

    Audience design (Bell 1984)

    • Accommodation theory

      • Travel agency experiment

      • mirror neurons

  • Speaker style influenced by addressee

  • Auditors less than addressees

  • Overhearers less than auditors

  • Audience design

    Audience design

    • Applies to spoken AND written translating

    • But:

    • Responsiveand Initiative Design

    • Referee groups (in-group/out-group)

    An example translating an airline magazine

    An example: translating an airline magazine

    • The Spanish airline Iberia has a magazine with articles in Spanish and English about Spain and its culture.

    • An article about a traditional fiesta in a small village describes la vaquilla(‘the wild cow’)and los judios o motilones(‘the Jews or shorn-heads’).

      • Sutton (1997) reported in Baker (2006)



    Association between Jews and head-shaving = Nazis/anti-semitism.

    The translator is conscious of his audiences.

    Participation framework1

    Participation framework

    • ST addressees = Spanish tourists + business travellers.

    • TT addressees = international tourists + business travellers.

    • Auditors = editors, publishers

    Translator s production footing

    Translator’s production footing

    Translator (as animator): ‘Jews or shorn-heads’

    Translator (as author): ‘Jews’ or ‘friars’

    (friar = monk)

    Translator (as principal): omit the reference

    Participation framework2

    Participation framework

    • Overhearers: Simon Wiesenthal Center (New York).

    • Demands an apology from Iberia and a commitment by Spain to eliminate racist stereotypes from fiestas.

    • Court case

    • Apology by American ambassador to mayor of the village.

    Footing and audience design

    Footing and audience design

    Footing (production format + participation status).

    Now frequently applied to the analysis of interpreting.

    Equally relevant to the analysis of other kinds of translation event:

    The translator’s audience design.

    Two more examples

    Two more examples

    • Published translation of the works of a famous French historian:

    • FernandBraudel

    • ST: addresses readers directly.

    • TT: different readers

      • Intercultural dimension

    1 populations

    1. populations

    ST: We are more than 50 million

    people today.

    TT: There are about 50 million people

    living in France today.

    2 the economic cycle

    2. the economic cycle

    ST: I believe that the reader will accept the extension I give to the word ‘cycle’, for this particular usage.

    TT: I am confident that the general reader will be sufficiently familiar with the language of economics (if only from his or her daily paper) to accept the extension of meaning I have given to the word cycle.

    Intercultural adjustment

    Intercultural adjustment

    There is much evidence that translators and interpreters do make cultural adjustments for target-language readers.

    Especially where semiotics (cultural signs) are concerned.

    Intercultural semiotics two examples

    Intercultural Semiotics: Two examples

    • President George W. Bush in a speech after 9/11:

      • a ‘crusade’ against terror

    Intercultural semiotics two examples1

    Intercultural Semiotics: Two examples

    • President George W. Bush after 9/11:

      • a ‘crusade’ against terror

    • UK Prime Minister David Cameron in Beijing, November 2010:

      • symbolism of the poppy (罂粟 yingsu)

    Beyond words intertextuality

    Beyond words: Intertextuality

    • We recognise entities (words, texts) because we have met them before;

    • A text is made up of elements of previous texts;

    • Text users have their own intertextual history;

    • Communities of practice develop their own socio-textual practices.

    Socio textual practices

    Socio-textual practices

    • Genres (language used in relation to particular social occasions)

    • Discourses (language used to express the values and attitudes of social institutions or groups)

    • Text types (formats used for particular rhetorical purposes)

      • All these are cultural signs used within communities of practice



    • Genres: the birth certificate, the legal contract, the business letter

    • Discourses: military discourse (‘collateral damage’, ‘friendly fire’…), environmentalism (‘sustainable’, ‘carbon footprint’, ‘eco-friendly’…)

    • Text types: the counter-argument (‘Of course… However…’)

    Case study 1 genre and discourse

    Case study 1: genre and discourse

    • Iraq War: case for Weapons of Mass Destruction.

    • US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, presented to the UN Security Council on 05.02.03 recordings of three intercepted conversations between Iraqi military officers, with an English translation.

    2 translating and interpreting as audience design

    • “Modified vehicle”

    • “forbidden ammo”

    • “OK buddy”

    Signs and sign values

    Signs and sign values

    • What is the accepted value of these signs within the specialised genres of the Iraqi military?

    • What was the set of indicators and assumptions available to the translator?

    • What is the (discoursal) value of the distinction between ‘ammunition’ and ‘ammo’ in English? What does (not) constitute ‘ammo’?

    • What ST sign triggered the TT distinction?

    Case study 2 structure and text focus

    Case study 2: structure and text focus

    • Context <-> Structure <-> Texture

    • Each culture develops structures for particular purposes:

      • Ways of describing, narrating, arguing, etc.

    • English:

      • [given] – [new] information structure

      • use of cohesion (links) to direct the reader.

    Case study 2 structure and text focus1

    Case study 2: structure and text focus

    • Text sample 1

      • [panda] [Sanxingdui] [Jiuzhai] brought together at end of paragraph (as a conclusion).

      • sentence 2: [new] – [given] structure

      • Jiuzhai: ‘fairyland’ first.

  • Text sample 2

    • [panda] [Sanxingdui] [Jiuzhai]: organizing sentence first.

    • [given] – [new] structure throughout.

    • ‘fairyland’ last.

  • Conclusions assumptions about translation

    Conclusions: Assumptions about translation

    • In international diplomacy, business, public service and among general public:

      • Automatic; input = output

    • Among Translation Studies scholars:

      • Choice: range of possible versions.

      • Even the word “equivalence” is unsafe because it implies that such a thing is possible across cultural boundaries.

    The source text

    The Source Text

    • A textual record.

    • Produced in a particular participation framework in a particular culture.

    The translator

    The Translator

    • Participation framework: commissioners, editors, etc.

    • Footing – as receiver and producer

    • The translation ‘brief’: instructions

    • Intertextual history

    • Audience design and text design (cf. Skopos theory and documentary versus instrumental translation)

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