Intercultural Pragmatics and Text Typology: An Integrated Approach to Translation Teaching

Intercultural Pragmatics and Text Typology: An Integrated Approach to Translation Teaching

Olaf Immanuel Seel (Ionian University of Corfu, Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6615-3.ch012
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Abstract

This chapter intends to integrate culture, pragmatics, and text typology in translation teaching and to raise awareness on their significance in the translation process among translation trainees. First, it offers an overview of contemporary translation theory on translation teaching from a culture-sensitive, pragmatic-functional, and text typological point of view. Then, it applies intercultural pragmatics to Greek/German translation of the special text type “obituary.” The findings of this analysis lead to the conclusion that intercultural pragmatics not only reveals translational obstacles and difficulties but also offers solutions for the amelioration of translational competence in general and in Greek/German translation of “obituaries” in particular. The chapter ends with the presentation of a short text type-specific contrastive typology for obituaries in Greek and German culture. By that, the author intends to demonstrate the significance of text prototypologies on the basis of intercultural pragmatics for the development of the translational competence of translation students and of its implementation in translation teaching.
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Introduction

The cultural turn that took place in the mid ’80s increased our awareness of the importance of culture for translation, both written translation and interpreting, and Translation Studies. Since then, translation has been regarded predominantly as a special form of intercultural communication. While the cultural element of translation has received due attention from several different standpoints, e.g. the empirical/descriptive one by the Israeli scholars Even-Zohar and Toury (Even-Zohar & Toury, Eds. 1981; Toury, 1980) and the interdisciplinary one by the English scholar Snell-Hornby (Ed. 1986; 1986a; 1988), the functional translation theory reflected in the work of the German scholars Vermeer and Reiß (Reiβ & Vermeer [1984], 21991; Vermeer, 1986; 31992) and Nord (1993) has to be regarded as one of the most decisive scholarly approaches in terms of its general theoretical and practical significance.

In functionally orientated translation theory the pragmatic dimension is a core element. Given that pragmatics is the study of language as an action with a certain aim, as well as of the social contexts in which linguistic action takes place, according to the functional translation theory, translation as a special form of intercultural communication has to be looked upon as the study of verbal and nonverbal action carried out by experts in order to functionally bridge two different cultural backgrounds. The significance of this contrastive culture-pragmatic approach in translation is grounded on the fact that it reveals the culture-specific use of language, text and mental concepts which constitutes a major translational difficulty or obstacle.

Hence, it is obvious that a solid translation competence can only be achieved if translation trainees elaborate on intercultural pragmatics of their working languages and develop awareness of the significance of culture, pragmatics and text typology in the translation process. In view of the above, contrastive intercultural pragmatics must be regarded as a core element of translation training. This is all the more important as, according to the author’s research, there is a gap in the relevant studies, for there seems to be no previous research on translation teaching in terms of intercultural pragmatics from functionally orientated translation theory.

On the basis of the above-mentioned theoretical framework, the central aim of this paper is to offer guidelines on translation teaching in terms of intercultural pragmatics. In order to achieve this goal, and after an overview of three important contemporary approaches to culturally and pragmatic-functionally orientated translation teaching, the author of this paper illustrates the significance of contrastive intercultural pragmatics for translation teaching on the grounds of one short but rather revealing special text type, i.e. obituaries, of the language pair Greek/German. According to the categorization of text types of Reiβ ([1976], 31993), this text type belongs predominantly to the category of the informative text type, but shows also a certain affinity to the category of the operative text type.

In order to achieve the central objective of this paper, the author will strive to raise awareness on the grounds of an applied contrastive culture-pragmatic analysis of the necessity for research on Translation Studies to analyze, categorize and systemize intercultural pragmatics contrastively and language pair-specifically. Then, this paper will take a further step to this direction by presenting a contrastive prototypology of obituaries based on the language-pair Greek/German. In this context, the author of this paper will elaborate on the relevant textual and cultural conventions and speech acts that can serve as guidelines on translation teaching in order to help translation trainees elaborate on intercultural pragmatics and thus foster their translation competence and accelerate the production of their output.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Culture-Specific Use of Verbal and Nonverbal Means: It refers to the different ways speech acts are realized in every culture. These differences cannot only be ascertained in the way verbal language is used but also in how and when verbal means are implemented in an intertwining with verbal means and/or in a linear, i.e. verbal language independent manner.

Contrastive Culture-Pragmatic Approach: In a contrastive culture-pragmatic approach, two working cultures are juxtaposed and analyzed from a cultural and pragmatic point of view. Special focus is placed on the functioning of the target text to be produced in the target culture.

Culture-Specific Text Type Conventions: Culture-specific text type conventions stand for the specific means and manners of textualization of a certain (special) text type that may differ from culture to culture.

Culture-Sensitive Translation Theory: It investigates the translational action in relation to the culture-specific differences of the two cultures involved. It focuses on the divergence in the perception of the world, norms and conventions and the culture-specific use of verbal and nonverbal language in intracultural communication. As to this, it regards translation as an intercultural transfer that is grounded on a culture-sensitive translation competence.

Culture-Pragmatic Translation Competence: Culture-pragmatic translation competence is defined as the translator’s competence in the contrastive knowledge of his working cultures and languages as well as in the actions he has to undertake in order to bridge these cultures and languages from a pragmatic point of view in a functional manner. As to this, it comprises competence-between-cultures (cf. above).

Pragmatic-Functional Translation Theory: It investigates the translational action as an action with a certain aim, as well as in the pragmatic social contexts in which linguistic action takes place. As such, it poses a special focus on the receiver of the translational action. It regards translation as a special form of intercultural communication that has to be looked upon as the study of verbal and nonverbal action carried out by experts in order to functionally bridge two different cultural backgrounds. Along these lines, it manifests a close affinity to the culture-sensitive approach in translation.

Text Type Prototypology: A text type prototypology refers to the elaboration of the specific differences in textualization methods of a certain text type in cultures-in-contrast. In translation research, the making of such prototypologies are regarded as particularly helpful for the training of the translator because they foster his culture-pragmatic competence and, hence, his accuracy, correctness and speed in performing the translational action.

Competence-Between-Cultures: This term refers to the translator’s knowledge of self images, reflexive images and images that specific cultures-in-contact possess as well as of knowledge of the potential impact such images can have in intercultural situations. Only then is the translator capable of anticipating the behavior of the participants in an intercultural situation and of acting translationally in a functionally adequate manner.

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