Vigo International Journal of Applied Linguistics VIAL

Jamal al-Qinai (1): Pragmatic Interpretation in Translated Texts. VIAL. Number 5/2008: 9-36.


A pragmatic approach to translation studies the rules and principles governing the use of language over and above the rules of syntax or morphology, and what makes some uses of language more appropriate than others in communicative situations. It attempts to explain translation as a procedure and product. The Target Text (TT) will be subject to evaluation not as generated by the linguistic system but as conveyed and manipulated by participants in a communicative situation according to referential and pragmatic standards. The failure of a purely lexical or structural translation stems from ignoring the relation between words as signs and the effect they have on their users. Extra-linguistic or intuitive processes which translators strive to reproduce unscathed in translation should also be considered. We need to grasp the kind of actions an ST author performs combining linguistic and non-linguistic elements against a backdrop of beliefs and cultural values. Aside from the cohesive ties at the textual level, one needs to understand how the ST discourse hangs together logically in order to reproduce a coherent TT. This demands an analysis of the pragmatic elements of presuppositions, implicatures, and acts performed in the Source Text (ST). Establishing cohesive ties within a text may require seeking reference outside the immediate text. The illocutionary functions in one language are relatively autonomous cultural/linguistic categories, but are imaginable by members of other cultures and are translatable though not without translation loss. Globalization and the spread of literacy may have facilitated the comprehension of performative utterances when explained by approximate glosses or by paraphrase. Yet, it is often the multilayered and culture-specific nature of illocutionary functions that de-universalize their possible interpretati. This paper addresses the pragmatic interpretation of culturally-specific texts with examples adduced from a number of distinct settings to illustrate the influence of the pragmatic factors at stake.

Keywords: pragmatics, translation, cohesion, implicature, presupposition.

(1) Kuwait University

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