Scholarly article on topic 'Meaning, Sense, Function – What is Transferred?'

Meaning, Sense, Function – What is Transferred? Academic research paper on "Languages and literature"

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{Functionalism / function / sense / skopos.}

Abstract of research paper on Languages and literature, author of scientific article — Christiane Nord

Abstract Functionalist translation theory (Skopostheorie) postulates that the intended function of the target text, explicitly or implicitly defined by the translation brief, should be the guideline for the translator's decisions. Equivalence-oriented theories, however, focus on the “meaning” or “sense” of the source text which should be “preserved” in the translation process. This article attempts to problematize the concepts of meaning, sense, and function, using a few examples to illustrate the advantages of a skopos-oriented approach for both the theory and the practice of specialized translation.

Academic research paper on topic "Meaning, Sense, Function – What is Transferred?"

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Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 231 (2016) 3 - 10

International Conference; Meaning in Translation: Illusion of Precision, MTIP2016, 11-13 May

2016, Riga, Latvia

Meaning, sense, function - What is transferred?

Christiane Nord*

Prof. extr. of the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa Home: Landhausstr. 19, Heidelberg, 69115, Germany


Functionalist translation theory (Skopostheorie) postulates that the intended function of the target text, explicitly or implicitly defined by the translation brief, should be the guideline for the translator's decisions. Equivalence-oriented theories, however, focus on the "meaning" or "sense" of the source text which should be "preserved" in the translation process. This article attempts to problematize the concepts of meaning, sense, and function, using a few examples to illustrate the advantages of a skopos-oriented approach for both the theory and the practice of specialized translation.

© 2016 The Authors.PublishedbyElsevierLtd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.Org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Peer-review under responsibility of the organizing committee of MTIP2016 Keywords: Functionalism; function;sense; skopos.

1. Introduction

Lay people (and even some linguists) understand by "meaning" the definition or paraphrased offered for a lemma in the monolingual dictionary. The term "meaning" here indicates that the specific circumstances in which the word or expression is uttered are not taken into account. This kind of meaning is thus defined at the level of type, not at the level of token (ReiB/Vermeer, [1984] 2013, p. 28). At the level of type, translating meaning is relatively simple: starting from the reference of a sign in language A we look for the sign referring to the same referent in language B. In Fig. 1, the dotted line refers to an equivalence relationship between the German and the English word for the depicted object.

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +496221166972; fax: +496221166972. E-mail address:

1877-0428 © 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (

Peer-review under responsibility of the organizing committee of MTIP2016 doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2016.09.064

2. Translating meaning

Translating meaning at the level of type is relatively easy. There may be a problem with polysemy. The English word table can refer to other objects as well: the food served at a meal, the people sitting at a table, a printed or written collection of figures, facts, or information arranged in orderly rows across and down a page (e.g. a timetable), a multiplication table, a diagram or chart, etc. (cf. COED, 2013). On the other hand, the German word Tisch shares none of these meanings, but has a few others in addition to the one shown in Fig. 1. However, except in puns that play on the polysemy of words or expressions, polysemy is rarely a problem at the level of token, where words and expressions appear in contexts that disambiguate the meaning. Since communicators want to get their messages across, they make sure that polysemy is solved by either the linguistic or the pragmatic, i.e. situational, context.

TISCH: pieceof furniture consisting of a horizontal board resting oil a support, usually of four legs, used for eatingor working... (DUW, my translation)

TABI.F: pieceof furniture with a flat top and one or more legs, providing alevel surface for eating, working etc. (COED)

Fig. 1. Equivalence between source and target language.

This means that communication does not happen at the level of type but at the level of token. At the level of token, meaning is determined by the following factors:

• By the material (phonetic or graphematic) side of the linguistic expression: Tisch [til] (= signifiant). Except in the case of borrowings, the significant usually changes in translation due to the use of another linguistic code, e.g. table / desk / mesa / Tisch, etc. This also applies to onomatopoeic expressions, although people generally assume that a cock's sounds are the same all over the world.

• By psycho-mental aspects involved in forming concepts. These aspects are always different for the target-text reception because the audience's concepts have been formed by another culture and its way of conceiving the objects and phenomena of the world.

• By the speaker and the situational context (= usage). Unless the target text is used in a source-culture situation (e.g. in simultaneous interpreting or in translated guide-books), the situational context in which the target text is received is usually different from the conditions under which the source text is or was used.

• By the objects, qualities, conditions of the real world themselves to which the text refers, i.e. the referents. These may be objectively the same, but they often have different prototypes or different values in a culture's value system. A prototypical dining table, for example, is much lower in Vietnam or Japan than in European cultures, so that people sit on a cushion or on the floor when having a meal. This may lead to incoherence in the reception of a text in which the height of a table is not explicitly specified.

Thus, it seems much more difficult to translate the meaning of a word, let alone of a text, at the level of token. If it were the meaning of a text that has to be preserved in the target text, due to all the differences with regard to material, psycho-mental aspects, usage and prototypical forms of even the simplest objects, translation would indeed be impossible. But what about translating sense?

3. Translating sense

According to skopos theory, the decisive requirement for translation is that it must be acceptable in a real-life situation of the "same" kind, so that it "makes sense" for a recipient. It is in a situation that the meaning of a text takes form as "sense" (cf. Vermeer, 1972, p. 63-9: intended meaning, "what is meant"). The recipient can only reconstruct the intended meaning of an utterance based on the utterance as offered "information", as the meaning potential of a text. Each reception process is limited to some of all the possible ways a text may be understood and interpreted, while others are ignored or associated with different values. Translational action, thus, is not only linked to meaning but to sense (= what somebody means to say) (cf. Vermeer, 1972, p. 221), or rather to sense-in-situation.

As will be illustrated by several examples below, the target text should not only "make sense" to its audience, it should also fulfil some communicative purpose, or rather: purposes or functions for the recipients. Functions are not inherent in a text or utterance, but it is the recipients who, in a particular situation fixed in time and space attribute a function or various functions to it, depending on their communicative needs or interests. They need not be the ones intended by the sender, i.e. the intended sense. Otherwise, we would not say sometimes "Oh, I am sorry, I did not mean it" if the receiver's reaction is different from what we expected it to be. If, again, it is the receivers who make sense of the text and attribute some function(s) to it, it might be more efficient to translate (intended) functions.

4. Translating functions

Analyzing the source-text language and style and the situation in which it was used, the translator may be able to identify the functions that the source-text sender intended to be attributed to the source text by the source-culture recipients. It is part of the translator's expertise to carry out such an analysis in order not to have to rely on their own interpretation of the communicative functions verbalized in the text. When translators translate from the foreign into their own language and culture, they cannot even be sure that they correctly identify the intended functions.

In order to make sure that their text can achieve the intended functions, text producers use certain markers to indicate them to the recipient. Such function markers can be verbal or non-verbal or para-verbal (like a specific tone of voice and a smile indicating irony). A title like "Instructions for Use" clearly indicates at least one of the intended functions, and most recipients will know that, conventionally, instructions for use also contain a description of the object in question and, at least in some cultures, a kind of congratulation that the recipient has bought precisely this product. Certain conventional style features may point to a particular text type or genre, and experienced text recipients will know the functions this genre is usually meant for.

This is how communication works within a cultural framework with its communicative norms and conventions. But norms and conventions are culture-specific. A conventional form indicating a poetic function (e.g. a rhyme) in one culture (e.g. Germany) may not be recognized as a marker of this function in another culture (e.g. Spain) because there, the same function will conventionally be marked by a different stylistic feature (e.g. assonance).

This means that for the production of a text that is supposed to work in a certain way in the target culture, we have to adjust the form to the norms and conventions of this culture, using the function markers which will be correctly interpreted by the target-culture audience. If we decide not to do this but reproduce the function markers of the source culture (e.g. in order to convey "otherness"), we still have to bear the target-culture norms and conventions in mind - precisely in order to avoid them.

How do we know for which functions the target text is intended? In professional translation, and therefore in the training of professional translators as well, there should be a "brief" specifying functions the target text is meant to achieve for the target audience. In real life, however, clients or commissioners aren't normally experts in translation, and most briefs will be something like "Please, translate this text, I need it tomorrow." Apart from the deadline ("tomorrow") this brief does not specify anything, not even the target language. But if English is the translator's working language, there is no need to specify it. Or if it is a commission by a client for which the translator has worked several times before, something like "As always?" would do to confirm the expectations. In other cases, the translator may have to ask for more details with regard to the intended use of the target text, the audience (British, American, Indian, Australian English?), the medium (print, internet, oral?), and the prospective time and place of reception (now, next week, during the next few years?), etc. Of these aspects, the intended audience is usually the most important one.

In the following section, a few examples will be considered to show what "translating function" means.

5. Some examples

To make things easier for both the trainee and the professional translator, I have designed a model of four basic communicative functions, each with a number of sub-functions: phatic, referential, expressive, appellative (cf. Nord, 2006). It is based on the model of three basic language functions which the German psychologist Karl Bühler suggested in his book Theory of Language (2011), and Roman Jakobson's model of language functions, from which the phatic function was borrowed (Jakobson, 1960).

5.1. The phatic function

The phatic function opens and closes the channel of communication (e.g. by a salutation in the beginning or a recapitulation at the end of the talk) and keeps it open as long as needed (e.g. by pause-filling devices or by an appropriate theme-rheme progression or functional sentence perspective, cf. Firbas, 1992). In addition to these three sub-functions specified by Jakobson, I have added a fourth. If the contact is to work as expected, the relationship between sender and receiver has to be defined and shaped in line with the interacting parties' social status and roles. The relationship is also marked by the forms of address used in the interaction or by metacommunication.

As the few examples in parenthesis show, the phatic function relies on conventional forms or even formulas, which indicate to the recipient how they are intended to function. Let us look at an example of the phatic function (for a detailed discussion of the whole text and its translations, cf. Nord 2005, p. 243ff.)

Example 1a: German original. Situation: A German tourist, tired from visiting the sights of Munich, hungry and thirsty, is sitting on a bench in a square, looking at the map to find out what to do next, and turning the map over, reads, below a picture of a summerly beer garden with a waitress with an arm full of beer mugs under the heading Spezialitäten ("Specialties"): „Liebe geht durch den Magen." Dieser Spruch findet in München seine besondere Bestätigung. Denn es gilt als ein Teil der vielzitierten Münchner Gemütlichkeit, daß man hier auch zu essen und zu trinken versteht.

The meaning: "Love passes through the stomach. This proverb finds its particular confirmation in Munich. As it is part of the often-quoted Munich hospitality that people know how to eat and drink here." Intended sense-insituation: Why don't you go and have lunch in one of the hospitable beer gardens in the neighborhood and try Munich's culinary specialties? Actual sense-in-situation: Exactly the intended one. Function: phatic. It seems to be a convention that German tourist information texts begin with a proverb or well-known phrase. This makes sense. Since proverbs are assumed to be known, it is a good way to use them as a theme to introduce the rheme, as text linguistics has taught us.

Example 1b: English translation. Situation: An English-speaking tourist (or anyone who does not know German or any other of the languages in which the map is available, i.e. French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and has therefore decided to use the one in English), tired from visiting the sights of Munich, hungry and thirsty, is sitting on a bench in a square, looking at the map to find out what to do next, and turning the map over, reads, below a picture of a summerly beer garden with a waitress with an arm full of beer mugs under the heading Specialties: "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach, it is said, and this proverb is perhaps particularly true in Munich, where some attention is devoted to good eating and drinking."

The meaning is more or less the same as in German, and so is the intended sense-in-situation; however, the heading may be little misleading since it does not specifically point to eating and drinking. Still, actual sense-insituation corresponds to that of the German text for German readers, except for sensitive women, who might not feel addressed properly. They know the proverb but would have preferred a less sexist introduction (that was absolutely acceptable in the early 1980's when the text was published). Anyway, in English tourist texts, the use of proverbs may not be as frequent as in German. Although the function has been translated, the effect may be less positive. Today, reformulation like "The way to people's hearts..." would have been equally recognizable and might have provoked a smile.

Example 1c: French translation. Situation: A French-speaking tourist, tired from visiting the sights of Munich, hungry and thirsty, is sitting on a bench in a square, looking at the map to find out what to do next, and turning the

map over, reads, below a picture of a summerly beer garden with a waitress with an arm full of beer mugs under the heading Gastronomie: »L'amour passe par l'estomac« affirme un proverbe allemand... qui se trouve à Munique amplement confirmé : l'art culinaire munichois est en effet d'une appétissante variété.«

The meaning, "Love goes through the stomach," is a German proverb., which is thoroughly confirmed in Munich because the culinary art of Munich is actually of an appetizing variety." is the same as in German. The actual sense-in-situation, however, is not in line with that of the German original. French tourists receive information about German values regarding love, which they would not expect on the reverse of a city map. The example shows the culture-specificity of proverbs, and it is not a coincidence that there is no such proverb in French. The French translation of the German proverb can therefore not be assumed to be well-known to French readers and cannot achieve a phatic function. The text confronts the readers with "new" information about German culture, which makes it difficult for them to establish coherence with the rest of the text, dealing with eating and drinking. Moreover, they may find it rather revolting that for Germans, love "goes through the stomach". The function is meta-phatic, i.e. the utterance informs about the phatic behavior. Meta-functions are by definition referential because the referent is the function itself. In addition, there may be a slightly negative appeal: strange people, these Germans.

Example 1d: Spanish translation. Situation: A Spanish-speaking tourist, tired from visiting the sights of Munich, hungry and thirsty, is sitting on a bench in a square, looking at the map to find out what to do next, and turning the map over, reads, below a picture of a summerly beer garden with a waitress with an arm full of beer mugs under the heading Especialidades: «El amor pasa por el estómago», es una [!] adagio que vale especialmente para Munich. Entender de comida y bebida forma parte de la tan citada «Gemütlichkeit», la acogedora atmósfera de Munich.

The meaning is: "Love passes through the stomach," is a proverb that is particularly true for Munich. Knowing about eating and drinking forms part of the often-cited "Gemütlichkeit", Munich's hospitable atmosphere." Sense-in-situation: The recipients are puzzled. It is hard to believe that this is a Spanish proverb because it is not in line with the value system of Spanish-speaking cultures, where love is certainly not something that "passes through the stomach". The text is incoherent because it presents something as a proverb which is no such thing. And then there is this strange German word, hard, if not impossible, to pronounce for Spanish tongues. It does not really sound very "hospitable", nor is it often-cited - how could that be? The only function that this bit of text seems to achieve is bewilderment in the receivers, which is neither phatic nor referential but (negatively) appellative (see below).

The Italian and the Portuguese translations follow the same strategy. They present a strange sentence as a proverb, and a strange word or concept as "often-cited". The only aspect of the source text that is translated is the meaning, but it does not make sense nor does it achieve the desired function for the target audience.

What can a translator do if the target culture does not have an "equivalent" proverb or saying? First of all it has to be emphasized that there is no rule demanding that a proverb should be translated by a proverb. If we want to translate the channel-opening function, we could also refer to the situation in which the audience receives the text: "Now you have seen a lot of this beautiful city, and you certainly will feel hungry and thirsty. Why don't you go to one of our hospitable beer gardens or restaurants? "Or we might find another proverb or saying that can serve as an introduction to the topic "eating and drinking". In Spanish, Cervantes is always a goldmine. Don Quijote's companion Sancho Panza almost always speaks in sentences most of which have become proverbial. In our text, something like "Panza vacía, corazón sin alegría" might do, which means: If your stomach is empty, your heart is without joy!" would be appropriate to fulfil the phatic function.

5.2. The referential function

The referential function is responsible for the transfer of new information about the objects and phenomena of the world. As we have seen in the first example, new information has to be preceded by a reference to something that can be assumed to be known to the audience. Thus, the referential function relies on shared knowledge and an appropriate balance between "new" and "given" (i.e. assumed to be known by the audience) information. Example 1 shows how this works at the beginning of a text.

A text that provides too much given and too little new information lacks interest, whereas a text presenting too much new information, which the audience cannot link to anything they know, is hard to understand or even incomprehensible. For the source text, the author has taken the assumed previous knowledge of the source-culture

audience into account. For the target text, the translator has to consider the target audience's assumed previous knowledge. Unless both audiences share the same amount of knowledge about the object in question, the balance between given and new has to be readjusted in the translation process. This means that information that is not verbalized but implied because it is assumed to be part of the audience's knowledge has to be explicitated (or vice versa: information that is verbalized in the source text but can be assumed to be part of the target audience's knowledge has to be implicitated). Explicitation and implicitation are therefore normal procedures in any translation process.

Example 2a: From the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 6, Verse 17. Situation: Jesus had gone up on the mountain to pray with the Twelve, while many people were waiting for him on the plain, eager to listen to his preaching. 17 Kai Kaxaß^ ^sx' aùxrôv saín sni xónou tcsôwoù [...] Kai aùxôç snâpaç xoùç ô^BaX^oùç aùxoù siç xoùç ^aB^iaç aùxoù sXsys^

Meaning: And he came down with them and stood in the plain [...]. And he lifted up his exes on his disciples and said:. Sense-in-situation: Since they had to wait for a long time, I imagine they were sitting on the ground, talking, when they suddenly saw Jesus coming down from the mountain. Where was Jesus when he started to preach? Why was he looking up at them and not down on them? It is difficult to make sense of this verse. For us, it seems rather incoherent. Nevertheless, almost all translations of this verse, especially the older ones, translate the meaning and not the sense, let alone the referential function (cf. Example 2b). More audience-oriented translations try to avoid the incoherence by simply omitting the detail (cf. Example 2c).

Example 2b: And he came down with them and stood in the plain [...] And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples and

said... (King James Authorized Version, no year)

Et lui, ayant levé les yeux sur ses disciples, dit:. (Loisy, 1922)

Y alzando él los ojos a sus discípulos, decía... (RVR, [1569]1996)

Example 2c: Jesus looked at his disciples and said. (GNT, 1992)

He looked across the faces of His disciples (The Voice, 2012)

Jesus looked at his followers and said:... (ERV, 2006)

Then he spoke. (MSG, 2002)

Here, the translators decided to avoid the incoherence. Thus, each recipient may imagine the scene as they like, or rather: as is in line with their culture-specific expectations. In modern cultures, a teacher or preacher usually stands, whereas the audience is sitting.

Example 2d: Jesus setzte sich, sah seine Jüngerinnen und Jünger an und sagte:. (Berger, & Nord, 1999)

Meaning: "Jesus sat down, looked up at his disciples, women and men, and said:." This is the only translation (of those I have seen) that explicitates what is happening. In the source culture, the teacher was usually sitting, while the audience was standing around him. It also makes clear that there were women and men in the crowd.

5.3. The expressive function

The expressive function refers to sender's value statements or expression of emotions with regard to the object of reference. It can be either explicit or implicit. Explicit expressivity uses verbs, nouns, etc. which express connotations. Implicit expressivity is apparently referential at the surface, but within the framework of a certain culture-specific value system, the expressive function can be identified. Thus, implicit expressivity relies on shared value systems.

Example 3a. Situation: Simone de Beauvoir writes a book about her mother's last days before her death. The title of the book is Une mort très douce.

Meaning: A very sweet death. Sense-in-situation: The relationship between mother and daughter had been rather difficult, but when the mother was dying, they got to an understanding. The title expresses the daughter's feelings with a metaphor. Intended function: expression of positive feelings. Example 3b. English translation: A Very Easy Death.

Sense-in-Situation: The mother did not suffer much when she was dying. Function: Expression of positive evaluation, perhaps also relief on the part of the daughter (= emotive). For me, the evaluative subfunction is dominant. A doctor could have talked about an "easy death".

Example 3c. German translation: Ein sanfter Tod.

Meaning: "A gentle death." Sense-in-situation: The mother did not suffer much, and the daughter was relieved. Function: Expression of positive evaluation plus positive feelings. For me, the emotive aspect is dominant because of an additional poetic subfunction. The melancholy tone of the title is produced by dark vowels with a descending climax [ai-a-o:] and a gentle rhythm. The translator omitted the emphasizer sehr (for très), which would have destroyed both the rhythm and the sound effect, producing a sharp hissing sound by a cacophonic alliteration sehrsanft, which would have been even worse had douce been translated literally by süss: sehr süss. Example 3d. Spanish translation 1: Una muerte muy lenta.

Meaning: "A very slow death" or "Dying very slowly." The French adjective doux is polysemic, it can mean both "sweet" and "slow". Sense-in-situation: It took the mother a long time to die. The daughter must have been very sorry for her. Function: referential + implicit negative evaluation. Example 3e. Spanish translation 2: Una muerte muy dulce.

Meaning: A very sweet death. Sense-in-situation and function: the same as for the original. Example 3e. Italian translation: Una morte dolcissima.

Meaning: A very sweet death. Sense and function the same as for the original and for the second Spanish translation, which was published some time after the first.

It is interesting to note that in the three Mediterranian cultures (France, Spain, Italy) a meaning-based translation works much better than in the North-European cultures. But we should be careful not to take this as a general rule.

5.4. The appellative function

The appellative function aims at moving the audience to react or respond in a particular way. To achieve this aim, the text producer has to anticipate the state of mind, the knowledge and the values of the audience correctly. For the source text, this was the author's task; for the target text, it is the translator who has to take the target-audience's sensitivity, knowledge, values or even secret desires into account.

Example 4a. Situation: Opening a box of chocolates of a Danish brand which you find in duty free shops all over the world, the buyer finds a slip of paper with a guarantee certificate, which praises the excellent quality of the product and promises to replace the chocolates should there be any complaint. The first sentence of this Danish guarantee certificate runs as follows: "Anthon Berg har altid bestrœbt sig for at levere varer af fineste kvalitet."

Meaning: "Anthon Berg has always been anxious to deliver products of the finest quality." Intended function: present the producer as a trustworthy company and convince the recipients that they have really bought a quality product, i.e. appellative through description of positive qualities and implicit or explicit expressivity. Since Denmark is a small country, packaging is not an issue. The Danish text is in line with Danish genre conventions, where unnecessary verbosity is not appreciated.

Example 4b. English translation: Anthon Berg of Copenhagen, Denmark, famous chocolate makers since 1884, has built its reputation on the exclusive use of the finest raw materials available, combined with the strictest quality control and most careful packaging.

Meaning: "Anthon Berg is a Danish chocolate producer, with a long tradition, famous for their excellent chocolates, which should reach you in perfect conditions." Sense-in-Situation: The recipients are convinced that they have got an excellent product in perfect conditions. Functions: appellative through expressivity and reference to long tradition, which has a positive connotation. The text is in line with English-language genre conventions, where mentioning the year of the foundation of the company is used as a quality marker, wherever possible. Example 4c. German translation: Anthon Berg, Kopenhagen, seit 1884 berühmte Schokoladenfabrik, hat ihren Ruf auf Verwendung feinster Rohstoffe, strengster Qualitätskontrolle und sorgfältiger Verpackung aufgebaut.

Meaning: "Anthon Berg, Copenhagen, famous chocolate company since 1884, has built its reputation on the use of the finest raw materials and most careful packaging." Sense-in-Situation: The same as for the English text. The only difference is that German recipients are obviously assumed to know that Copenhagen is in Denmark. Functions: Appellative through expressivity and reference to long tradition that is also conventional in this genre in German-speaking cultures.

Example 4d. Spanish translation: "Anthon Berg de Copenhague, Dinamarca, famosos chocolateros desde 1884, debe su buena reputación al uso exclusivo de las más finas materias primas, combinado esto con el más estricto control de calidad y un empaquetado sumamente cuidadoso."

Meaning: "Anthon Berg of Copenhagen, Denmark, famous chocolate makers since 1884, owes its good reputation to the exclusive use of the finest raw materials, combined with the strictest quality control and most careful packaging." It is probably not a coincidence that the meaning is exactly like in the English translation, which may have been the source for the Spanish translation. Like English-speaking recipients, Spanish-speaking recipients may come from outside Europe and are not assumed to be familiar with the fact that Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark. The text as a whole seems rather redundant in style, which leads to the sad fact that it ends rather abruptly in the middle of a sentence, obviously for lack of space. This sheds a negative light on the reputation of the company, no matter how good the chocolate is!

6. Conclusions

Let me sum up the findings in a few basic assumptions.

Instead of trying to preserve meaning or sense in spite of different conditions in source and target communicative situations, as postulated by equivalence-based theories, it seems more appropriate to use "function" as a tertium comparationis for translation. "Function" is an abbreviated way of speaking about function or functions or hierarchy of functions, since texts are rarely intended for one single function, as we have seen in the examples. However, often one of the functions may take precedence over the others, which then support the dominant function.

A text is an "offer of information". Thus, a translated text, a translatum, is an offer of information about another offer of information (Reiß & Vermeer 2013, p. 18). Texts do not "have" functions; they are intended to achieve certain functions. Each individual recipient assigns a particular set of functions to a text they receive in a particular situation. Even the same recipient at different moments of their lives may assign different functions to the "same" offer of information.

This means that functions cannot be "preserved" in translation because the conditions for functioning are different in the source and the target culture. To achieve "the same" or a similar function in the target culture, more transformations may be necessary than for preserving the meaning while changing the function.

For each translation, a translation brief (or an interpretation of it) must specify a purpose or skopos, which determines the function or functions the target text is intended to fulfil for a particular target audience. These functions may be different from those that the source text can (or could) achieve for the source-culture audience.


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