Text analysis in translation

Systematic framework for external analysis. Audience, medium and place of communication. The relevance of the dimension of time and text function. General considerations on the concept of style. Intratextual factors in translation text analysis.

Рубрика Иностранные языки и языкознание
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Язык английский
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1. “Extratextual Factors in Translation Text Analysis”

Lecture 1. Systematic Framework for External Analysis


Most writers on translation theory agree that before embarking upon any translation the translator should analyze the text comprehensively, since this appears to be the only way of ensuring that the source text (ST) has been wholly and correctly understood. Various proposals have been put forward as to how such an analysis should be carried out and how particular translation problems might best be dealt with. These tend, however, to be based on models of text analysis which have been developed in other fields of study, such as that of literary studies, of text or discourse linguistics, or even in the field of theology.

But what is right for the literary scholar, the text linguist is not necessarily right for the translator: different purposes require different approaches. Translation-oriented text analysis should not only ensure full comprehension and correct interpretation of the text or explain its linguistic and textual structures and their relationship with the system and norms of the source language (SL). It should also provide a reliable foundation for each and every decision which the translator has to make in a particular translation process. For this purpose, it must be integrated into an overall concept of translation that will serve as a permanent frame of reference for the translator.

The factors of the communicative situation in which the source text is used are of decisive importance for text analysis because they determine its communicative function. I call these factors "extraj textual" or "external" factors (as opposed to the "intratextual" or "internal" factors relating to the text itself, including its non-verbal elements). Extratextual factors may, of course, be mentioned, i.e. "verbalized", in the text, and in this case we speak of "metacommunicative utterances". The interplay between extratextual and intratextual factors can be conveniently expressed in the following set of "WH-ques-tions". Depending on their relationship to either the communicative situation or the text itself, these questions can be assigned to the extratextual or intratextual factors of analysis.

Who transmits On what subject matter

to whom does s/he say

what for what

by which medium (what not)

where in what order

when using which non-verbal elements

why in which words

a text in what kind of sentences

with what function? in which tone

to what effect?

Extratextual factors are analysed by enquiring about the author or sender of the text (who?), the sender's intention (what for?), the audience the text is directed at (to whom?), the medium or channel the text is communicated by (by which medium?), the place (where?) and time (when?) of text production and text reception, and the motive (why?) for communication. The sum total of information obtained about these seven extratextual factors may provide an answer to the last question, which concerns the function the text can achieve (with what function?).

Intratextual factors are analysed by enquiring about the subject matter the text deals with (on what subject matter?), the information or content presented in the text (what?), the knowledge presuppositions made by the author (what not?), the composition or construction of the text (in what order?), the non-linguistic or paralinguistic elements accompanying the text (using which non-verbal elements?), the lexical characteristics (in which words?) and syntactic structures (in what kind of sentences?) found in the text, and the suprasegmental features of intonation and prosody (in which tone?).

The extratextual factors are analysed before reading the text, simply by observing the situation in which the text is used. In this way, the receivers build up a certain expectation as to the intratextual characteristics of the text, but it is only when, through reading, they compare this expectation with the actual features of the text that they experience the particular effect the text has on them. The last question (to what effect?) therefore refers to a global or holistic concept, which comprises the interdependence or interplay of extratextual and intratextual factors.

Since the situation normally precedes textual communication and determines the use of intratextual procedures, it seems natural to start with the analysis of the external factors although, in view of recursiveness and circularity, the order of the analytical steps is not a constituent of the model. In written communication, the situation is often documented in the "text environment" (i.e. title and/or bibliographical references, such as name of author, place and year of publication, number of copies, etc.). This is what is usually called a "top down" analysis. If no information on the external factors can be inferred from the text environment (for example, in the case of old texts whose original situation of production and/or reception is uncertain or unknown), the analysis of internal features, again in a recursive procedure, can yield information from which the translator is able to make fairly reliable conjectures about the situation the text was used in.14 The latter procedure is referred to as a "bottom-up" analysis.

The application of the model will show that normally both procedures have to be combined, demonstrating once more the recursive character of the model.

Extratextual factors

External versus internal situation

In classifying the situational factors as "extratextual factors" we have to make the following fundamental qualification. When referring to "situation" we mean the real situation in which the text is used as a means of communication, and not any imaginary setting of a story in a fictional text). The characteristics of a person who speaks in a fictional text do not belong to the dimension of sender, but have to be regarded as an intratextual factor which is analysed in connection with the internal dimension of "content". It is the author of the text who has to be regarded as "producer" of the fictitious utterance, whereas the fictitious speaker is a "secondary sender" (S').

This qualification also applies to the so-called complex text types, where a text of a certain genre is embedded into a frame text belonging to another genre. Complex text types occur not only in fiction, but also in non-fiction. For example, in newspaper reports authors often cite remarks made by third persons in literal quotations in order to show that they do not share the speaker's opinion. In this case, the sender of the quoted utterance is not identical with the sender of the frame text.


After King Juan Carlos of Spain had received an honorary doctorate from New York University, the journalist who commented on the event in a Spanish newspaper quoted verbatim parts of the King's speech of thanks. For the translation of the quotation, the King has to be regarded as sender, whereas for the translation of the framing newspaper report, the journalist is the sender (and author). The formulation of the two texts has to conform to the different situations and positions of the two senders.

For both fictional and non-fictional complex texts it is advisable to analyse the constituent texts separately according to the principle of recursiveness. The necessary information on the situational factors of the embedded text is usually given within the frame text.

Systematic Framework for External Analysis

If we want to encompass the whole situation of a text by means of a model that will serve for the analysis of any text with any possible translation skopos, we must ask the following fundamental question:

What information on the various factors may be relevant to translation?

Neubert ([1968]1981: 60) regards "age, origin, social environment, education etc." as relevant information about the language user. Vermeer ([1974b] 1983: 23) in a matrix relates attitude, status, role, strategy, behaviour and activity of the participants of communication to the corresponding features of the type of situation in order to furnish evidence of the conformist or deviant behaviour of the participants. Schmidt (cf. 1976: 104) lists the following data: (a) socio-economic conditions (role, status, economic situation), (b) socio-cultural and cognitive-intellectual conditions (text and world knowledge, education, experience, models of reality), and (c) biographical-psychical conditions (individual competences and dispositions, present biographical situation, plans, intentions). Gulich & Raible (1977: 28) even regard "hoarseness, cheerfulness, unhappiness" and the picture that speaker and hearer have of each other as factors which may influence the communicative act.

This list is in no way complete, but it clearly shows that the situation or world of a text cannot be analysed by a mere compilation of informational details. We have to find the categories by which we conceive the world, which will apply equally to the world of a text, i.e. to its historical situation.

This applies to the situation of a text as well.

The basic categories of any historical situation are time and space. The category of time also comprises the historic conception a world has of itself. The first fundamental aspect of analysis will therefore be the temporal and spatial dimension of the situation.

The situation of a text is always a part of human culture. The second fundamental aspect of analysis therefore has to refer to the culture-specific features of the situation.

(c) In its world, the text has a function which establishes its textuality. The third fundamental aspect therefore comprises the relationship between situation and communicative function of the text

The communicative function of a text has to be considered within the framework of the transcultural, possibly universal, communicative functions of language in general.

We find four basic functions of communication: (a) the referential (also denotative or cognitive) function, focussed on the referent or context referred to by the text, (b) the expressive or emotive function, focussed on the sender, the sender's emotions or attitude towards the referent, (c) the operative (also appellative, conative, persuasive or vocative) function, focussed on the orientation of the text towards the receiver, and (d) the phatic function, serving primarily "to establish, to prolong, or to discontinue communication between sender and receiver, to check whether the channel works, to attract the attention of the interlocutor or to confirm his continued attention. The phatic function is also responsible for the development of the social relationship between sender and receiver.

Apart from space, time, and culture, it is the influence of these basic functions that constitutes the "world" of a text. They will therefore form the systematic framework for the range of possible questions which can be asked regarding the situational factors of our analytical model (see the standard or model questions in the "checklist" at the end of each chapter). In order to illustrate the interdependence of factors and dimensions, the last question will always refer to the expectations raised by the analysis of the factor in question.


Sender vs. text producer

Although in many cases these two roles are combined in one persona (e.g. in the case of literary works, textbooks, or newspaper commentaries, which are normally signed by an author's name), the distinction seems to be highly relevant to a translation-oriented text analysis.

Many texts do not bear any author's name at all. These are usually non-literary texts for practical use, such as advertisements, laws or statutes, or operating instructions. Nevertheless, there has to be a sender who, even if not named explicitly, can be identified implicitly. For example, the sender of an advertisement is usually the company selling the product, and the sender of statutes is normally the legislative body of a state. The fact that no text producer is named in these cases leads to the conclusion that either they are not relevant as a person or - as is the case with certain genres - they do not wish to be known.

If a text bears the name of both sender and text producer, the latter usually plays a secondary role because s/he is not expected to introduce any communicative intention of her or his own into the text.

The sender of a text is the person (or institution, etc.) who uses the text in order to convey a certain message to somebody else and/or to produce a certain effect, whereas the text producer writes the text according to the instructions of the sender, and complies with the rules and norms of text production valid in the respective language and culture. The formal design of the text, such as the layout, may be assigned to another expert, and in some cases, the text is presented to the public by yet another person (e.g. a news reader or an actor).


The imprint on the back of a tourist information brochure of the city of Munich reads as follows: "Edited by the Tourist Information Office of Munich (...). Text: Helmut Gerstner." The Tourist Information Office, which intends to inform the visitors and to promote the beauties of the town, is the sender of the text. Mr Gerstner is the text producer, and he is the person responsible for the stylistic features of the text, but not for the sender's intention. The imprints on the English, French, and Spanish versions of the brochure contain the same information, which in this case is obviously wrong. Although the Tourist Information Office is the sender of these texts, too, it is the respective translators who have to be regarded as text producers. Their names ought to be mentioned in addition to, or instead of, that of Helmut Gerstner.

As is shown by the example, it is usually the text environment (imprint, reference, bibliography, etc.) that yields information as to whether or not the sender and the text producer are different persons. If the author's name is the only one given, she can normally be assumed to be the text producer. However, this cannot be regarded as a hard and fast rule, as is illustrated by the following example.


In her book Estudio sobre el cuento espahol contempordneo (Madrid 1973), Erna Brandenberger has included the short story "Pecado de omision" by the Spanish author Ana Maria Matute to give an example of a certain type of plot which she calls a "fast moving story". For the German version of the book, Brandenberger (as sender and translator in one person) has translated the story into German with the intention of showing the typical features of a fast moving story. If the same story is published in a collection of modern Spanish short stories, however, it is the author herself who acts as sender, and in translation it would be her intention that determines translation strategies.

The situation of a translator can be compared with that of the text producer. Although they have to follow the instructions of the sender or initiator and have to comply with the norms and rules of the target language and culture, they are usually allowed a certain scope in which to give free rein to their own stylistic creativity and preferences, if they so wish. On the other hand, they may decide to stick to stylistic features of the source text as long as their imitation does not infringe the text norms and conventions of the target culture.

Another aspect of sender pragmatics is the question as to whether a text has one or more than one sender (monologue vs. dialogue, question/answer, discussion, exchange of roles between sender and receiver, etc.). If there is more than one sender, the corresponding data have to be analysed for each of them.

What to find out about the sender

Within the framework established by time, space, culture and the basic functions of communication, what we regard as being relevant to translation is all data which may throw light on the sender's intention, on the addressed audience with their cultural background, on the place and time of, and the motive for, text production, as well as any information on the predictable intratextual features (such as idiosyncrasies, regional and social dialect, temporal features, knowledge presuppositions, etc.).


a) If a text is written in Spanish, it may be vital for comprehension to know whether the author is from Spain or Latin America, since a large number of words are used with different meanings in European and American Spanish. Even if a Peruvian like Mario Vargas Llosa writes in a Spanish newspaper for Spanish readers, he can be expected to use americanisms. b) In a Spanish edition of Cuban short stories (Narrativa cubana de la revolution, Madrid 1971), certain cubanisms are explained to the Spanish readers in footnotes, e.g., duro: "moneda de un peso cubano" (which was then a five peseta coin in Spain), or neques: "sorpresas, golpes imprevistos". For the translator, these footnotes may be important not only in the comprehension phase, but also - if the TT skopos requires the preservation of the effect the book has on the European Spanish-speaking reader - in the transfer phase, c) The Portuguese eclogue Crisfal can be ascribed either to Cristovao Falcaos or to Bernadim Ribeiro. In the first case, the text has to be interpreted literally as a naturalistic poem, while in the second case, it must be regarded as an allegory. As Kayser points out, "the words may have a completely different impact if they come from an author who really was put into prison for his love, who really was separated from his lady, and whose lady really was forced to stay in the cloister of Lorvao" (Kayser 1962: 36, my translation).

How to obtain information about the sender

How can the translation-relevant information about the sender (or the text producer) be obtained? The first clues are provided by the text environment (imprints, blurbs, preface or epilogue, footnotes, etc.). The author's name may already carry further information which either belongs to the receiver's or translator's general background knowledge or can, if necessary, be obtained. The name of a writer usually evokes some knowledge of their literary classification, artistic intentions, favourite subject matters, usual addressees, status, etc.; similarly, the name of a politician evokes his or her political standpoint, function or position, public image, etc. Since this is culture-specific knowledge, which belongs to the "hinterland" of the text, it cannot be presumed that it is shared by the target receiver. Therefore, the translator has to consider whether the TT receiver might lack information. Whenever such a lack interferes with text comprehension, it should be compensated for by some additional piece of information given in the target text or in the TT environment.


If ex-Prime Minister Edward Heath writes an editorial in a British newspaper, British readers will immediately know what political party the author belongs to. If the text is translated and published in the German weekly paper DIE ZEIT, many German readers may not be able to "classify" the author as easily. If, however, the classification is relevant for the comprehension and/ or interpretation of the article, the information has to be supplied in a few introductory lines or even in the text itself, if possible.

Further information about the sender may be provided by other factors of the communicative situation (either individually or as a combination of several factors). There may be clear and unambiguous information, which I call "data", or there may be hints which may allow the necessary information to be inferred. If the analyst knows, for instance, by which medium, at what time, and for which function a text has been published (local newspaper of the day X, death announcement), s/he is able to tell who the sender may be (relatives, employer, or friends of the dead person). The place of publication points to the origin of the sender or possible origin, if the language is spoken in various countries (Great Britain - United States - Australia - India; Portugal - Brazil; Spain - Latin America -Bolivia), and the medium can throw light on the possible status of the sender (specialized journal - expert; newspaper -journalist), etc.

Sometimes it may even be possible to ask the sender in person, or a person related to him or her.

Another source of information is the text itself. If the text environment does not provide the necessary details, the analyst has to look for internal hints about the characteristics of the sender. The use of a certain regional or class dialect may reveal the (geographical or social) origin of the text producer (although not necessarily that of the sender, if they are not the same person), and the use of obsolete forms may tell the analyst that the text producer probably lived in another age. These questions, however, can only be answered after completing the intratextual analysis.


The following questions may help to find out the relevant information

about the sender:

Who is the sender of the text?

Is the sender identical with the text producer? If not, who is the text producer and what is his/her position with regard to the sender? Is s/he subject to the sender's instructions? Is s/he an expert in text production or an expert on the subject?

What information about the sender (e.g. age, geographical and social origin, education, status, relationship to the subject matter, etc.) can be obtained from the text environment? Is there any other information that is presupposed to be part of the receiver's general background knowledge? Can the sender or any person related to him or her be asked for more details?

What clues as to the characteristics of the sender can be inferred from other situational factors (medium, place, time, motive, function)?

What conclusions can be drawn from the data and clues obtained about the sender with regard to

other extratextual dimensions (intention, receiver, medium, place, time, occasion, function) and

the intratextual features?

The difference between intention, function, and effect

In order to ascertain the dimension of intention we have to ask what function the sender intends the text to fulfill, and what effect on the receiver s/he wants to achieve by transmitting the text. It may seem difficult to distinguish the concept of intention from that of function and effect. Biihler (1984), for example, equates "author's intention" with "purpose and effect". The three concepts are three different viewpoints of one and the same aspect of communication. The intention is defined from the viewpoint of the sender, who wants to achieve a certain purpose with the text. But the best of intentions does not guarantee that the result conforms to the intended purpose. It is the receiver who "completes" the communicative action by receiving (i.e. using) the text in a certain function, which is the result of the configuration or constellation of all the situational factors (including the intention of the sender and the receiver's own expectations based on his/her knowledge of the situation). The question "What is S aiming at with the text?" can therefore not be assigned to the factor of text function, but belongs to the dimension of intention.

Text function is defined "externally", before the receiver has actually read the text, whereas the effect the text has on the receiver can only be judged after reception. It is, so to speak, the result of the reception and encompasses both external and internal factors.

It is true that certain genres are conventionally associated with certain intentions, but these need not necessarily be realized in the communicative situation. Some ancient genres, for example, such as magic spells or epic poems, are received today in a function which differs considerably from that intended by the original sender.

Ideally, the three factors of intention, function and effect are congruent, which means that the function intended by the sender (= intention) is also assigned to the text by the receiver, who experiences exactly the effect conventionally associated with this function. Methodologically, the three factors have to be distinguished because their separate analysis allows for a different treatment (preservation, change, adaptation) in the translation process. If the intention has to be preserved in translation, we must often be prepared for a change in function and/or effect.

The intention of (he sender is of particular importance to the translator because it determines the structuring of the text with regard to content (subject matter, choice of informative details) and form (e.g. composition, stylistic-rhetorical characteristics, quotations, use of non-verbal elements etc.). At the same time, the specific organization of a text marks the text type and is a pre-signal which tells the receivers in which function they are expected to use the text.


A set of operating instructions is meant to inform the user about a certain piece of equipment, e.g. a hairdryer, and to explain its correct use. Therefore, the text producer chooses the conventional forms of text organization (composition, sentence structures, lexical cliches, etc.). Taking the text out of the box with the hairdryer, the receiver recognizes the particular forms of text organization and immediately knows that the sender wants to inform about the hairdryer and the way it has to be used. Therefore receivers will normally utilize the text in this particular function. In this case, the text type is linked with a particular intention on the part of the sender, which leads to the corresponding text function on the part of the receiver. The effect will be that of "conventionality".

The sender's intention is also important in connection with the principle of loyalty. Even if the text function is changed in translation, the translator must not act contrary to the sender's intention (if it can be elicited).

The information on the dimension of intention can throw some light on other external factors (e.g., what effect on the receiver might be intended, which medium may be most appropriate or conventionally used to realize the intention in question, or whether there is a link between intention and genre), and, to a large extent, on the intratextual features (e.g. composition, use of rhetorical devices or non-verbal elements, tone, etc.).

What to find out about the sender's intention

What different types of intention can be associated with a text? There may be forms of "communication", where the sender is his or her own addressee: somebody may write something down either to ease the burden of their memory or to sort out their ideas and thoughts, or they may just scribble something on a piece of paper while making a phone call ("zero-intention"). These forms would not appear to be relevant to translation. In normal communication with two or more participants, the possible intentions correspond with the four basic functions of communication described above in connection with the systematic framework. We may ask, for example, whether the sender wants to inform the receiver about a certain issue (referential intention) or intends to express her/his feelings or attitude towards things (expressive intention), whether s/he plans to persuade the receiver to adopt a particular opinion or perform a certain activity (appellative intention), or whether s/he just wants to establish or maintain contact with the receiver (phatic intention).

Of course, a sender may well have more than just the one intention. Several intentions can be combined in a kind of hierarchy of relevance. For pragmatic reasons, this hierarchy may have to be changed in translation.

How to obtain information about the sender's intention

Normally, the receiver is not informed explicitly about the sender's intention, but receives the text as the result of the sender's communicative purposes. One means of obtaining explicit or implicit information about the intention(s) of the sender or text producer, therefore, is the analysis of intratextual features.

However, if we stay with the extratextual factors (sender, receiver, medium, place, time, motive, and function), these can throw some light on the intention the sender may have had in transmitting the text. Paralinguistic phenomena, such as manifestations of the sender's excitement or indignation, may have to be taken into account as well.

In determining the sender's intention we have to consider the role the sender adopts towards the receiver in or through the text, a role which is quite separate from the "real", status-based relationship between the two. A sender who is superior to the receiver because of greater knowledge about the subject in question may nevertheless try to play down this knowledge in order to gain the receiver's confidence. If the analyst knows the sender's role (in relation to status), s/he may be able to draw some conclusions as to the sender's intention.

The sender's intention is of particular importance when analysing literary texts or texts marked as a personal opinion (e.g. political commentaries, editorials) because there is no conventional link between genre and intention. In these cases, the translator may have to take account of the author's life and background, events that have influenced his or her writings or any literary classification (such as "romantic" or "politically/socially committed literature"). There is no doubt that for a translation-relevant text analysis translators must exploit all sources at their disposal. The translator should strive to achieve the information level which is presupposed in the receiver addressed by the author. For a literary text this will not be the level of a literary scholar, but certainly that of a "critical receiver".


a) Bertolt Brecht is a representative of German politically committed literature. If the receivers know that his story "Measures against Violence" was first published in 1930, they may take this as a clue that the author intended to warn his readers about Nazi tendencies, b) If a text is published in a newspaper on the pages specially devoted to political commentaries (which in quality papers is often separate from news and reports), this medium of publication can be taken as a clear hint that the sender's intention was that of "commenting" on recent political events or tendencies, c) In a text marked as a "recipe" the reader can be quite sure that the sender's intention was to give directions for the preparation of a particular dish and to give a list of the necessary ingredients. However, if the same recipe is embedded into a larger unit, e.g. a novel, the sender's intention may have been quite different.

Sometimes senders themselves give a metacommunicative explanation as to their intentions, as is shown in the following example.


In the preface of his story Los cachorros (Barcelona 1980), the Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa writes: "I wanted Los cachorros to sound like a story that is sung rather than told, and therefore the criterion for the choice of each syllable was not only a narrative but also a musical one. I somehow had the impression that the authenticity of the story depended on whether the reader really felt that he was listening to the story and not reading it. I wanted him to perceive the story with his ears." (My translation)

Such a statement by the author is no guarantee that the source text (actually, or even in the author's opinion) conforms to this intention.


The following questions may help to find out the relevant information about the sender's intention:

Are there any extratextual or intratextual statements by the sender as to his or her intention(s) concerning the text?

What intention(s) are by convention associated with the genre to which the analysed text can be assigned?

What clues as to the sender's intention can be inferred from other situational factors (sender - especially his or her communicative role -, receiver, medium, place, time, and motive)?

What conclusions can be drawn from the data and clues obtained about the sender's intention with regard to

other extratextual dimensions (receiver, medium, and function) and

the intratextual features?

Lecture 2. Audience, Medium and Place of Communication

Source-text audience vs. target-text audience

During the process of text analysis the translator elicits those textual elements or features which can be considered to be determined by the particular audience-orientation of the source text. Since each target text is always addressed to receivers-in-situation different from those to whom the source text is or was addressed, the adaptation of precisely these elements is of particular importance.


If the source text is a report on a recent event published in an American newspaper, it is addressed to a large, non-specific audience in the United States. In order to capture the attention of the readers the author chooses a sensationalistic title plus an additional, informative subtitle and uses small text segments and quotations as sub-headings for the paragraphs. The text is accompanied by two photos. All these features are intended as "reading-incentives" for the receiver. If this text is translated for a journalist who has herself initiated the translation because she is interested in the information provided by the text, the reading-incentives are superfluous, and the paragraph headings may even have a confusing effect.

Every TT receiver will be different from the ST receiver in at least one respect: they are members of another cultural and linguistic community. Therefore, a translation can never be addressed to "the same" receiver as the original.

Addressee vs. chance receiver

First of all, we have to distinguish between the addressee of a certain text (i.e. the person or persons addressed by the sender) and any chance receivers who happen to read or hear the text, even though they are not addressed directly, such as people listening to a panel discussion or watching a televised parliamentary debate. In some cases, the "chance receiver" is actually a secondary addressee; for example, when a politician pretends to be answering a question asked by an interviewer but is, in reality, addressing his/her words to potential voters.

This aspect is relevant not only in cases where the chance receiver's comprehension of the message differs from that of the real addressee (which may have consequences for the participants), but particularly where translation or interpreting is concerned. The transfer decisions of the translator will have to depend on which of the two audiences is supposed to be addressed by the target text.

The case may even arise where the translator has a "chance receiver". If the SL participant in an interpreting session has a passive command of the target language or if a translation is published page-to-page with the original in a parallel text edition, the afore-mentioned SL participant or the reader with some SL knowledge, who compares the translation with the original, might be regarded as being a kind of "secondary receiver" as well. They are interested not only in the message of the text but also in the way this message is transmitted to the TL reader. In view of such secondary receivers it may be advisable for the translator to comment on certain translation strategies in a preface or post-script.

What to find out about the audience

After all the available information about the intended TT receiver has been extracted according to the normal circular course of the translation process, then the translator can check this against the characteristics of the ST receiver: age, sex, education, social background, geographic origin, social status, role with respect to the sender, etc.


A report on drugs published in a magazine for young people is written with teenage readers in mind. In order to appeal to the receivers and warn them of the risks of drug addiction, the author uses words and phrases from juvenile slang and drug jargon. A translation of the text which is also addressed to young people may use the corresponding TL slang, whereas if the" same translation text (using slang words and jargon) were to appear in a section of a news magazine, whose readership is a mainly adult one, it would either not be understood or would not be taken seriously.

The communicative background of the addressees, i.e. all their general background knowledge and their knowledge of special areas and subject matters, is of particular importance for translation-oriented text analysis. According to the assessment of the audience's communicative background22, a text producer not only selects the particular elements of the code that will be used in the text but also cuts or omits altogether any details which can be "presupposed" to be known to the receiver, whilst stressing others (or even presenting them with extra information) in order not to expect too much (nor too little) of the addressed readership.

How much knowledge can be presupposed in a reader depends not only on their education or familiarity with the subject but also on factors relating to the subject matter itself, e.g. its topicality. In this respect, the situation often varies widely for ST and TT receivers, as there is usually (at least in written communication) a considerable time lags between ST and TT reception.


For a Spanish receiver, the heading "Nuestra integration en Europa" above a commentary published in the Spanish paper El Pais in February 1984 is not a thematic title which informs about the content of the text, but refers to the then current discussion on special agricultural problems connected with the negotiations on the Spanish entry into the European Community. For German ' ''' or French newspaper readers the issue was not of topical interest at that time; under the heading "Spain's entry into the EC" (or "Our integration into Europe", for that matter) they would have expected an article on the issue of Spanish (or German/French!?) integration into the European Community.

Like the author, who has a specific intention in transmitting the text, the receiver, too, has a specific intention when reading the text. The receivers' intention must not be confused either with their expectations towards the text, which is part of their communicative background, or with their reaction or response to the text, which takes place after text reception and is thus part of the text effect.

The information obtained about the addressee may throw some light on the sender's intention, on the time and place of communication (in relation to the receiver's age and geographic origin), on text function (in relation to the receiver's intention), and on the intratextual features (e.g. the presuppositions).

As was pointed out in connection with the sender, a fictitious receiver is part of the "internal" communicative situation and not of the external communicative situation. But even externally a text can be directed at different possible receivers.


Whilst imprisoned for being a member of the Resistance movement against the Nazi regime, the German writer G. Weisenborn (1902-1962) wrote some letters to his wife, Joy Weisenborn, which were published after the war. In the original situation, these letters had one precisely defined and addressed receiver. Published later in a book together with some answering letters from his wife and some songs and poems, they address a group of receivers that is much larger and not so clearly defined, i.e. anyone interested in the documents and personal testimonies of Resistance in the Third Reich. If a young man gives this book, which contains many tender love-letters, to his girlfriend many years later, the conditions of reception will be different again, not to mention those of a translation of the book into English, Dutch, or Spanish.

Therefore, the translator must analyse not only the characteristics of the ST addressees (or receivers) and their relationship to the source text, but also those of the TT receiver, whose expectations, knowledge and communicative role will influence the stylistic organization of the target text.

The stronger the orientation of the ST towards a particular SL addressee or audience, the higher the probability that the ST has to be translated in a documentary way, which means that the target text can only give information about the source text in its situation but not fulfil an analogous function.

How to obtain information about the addressed audience

As in case of the sender, information about the addressees can first of all be inferred from the text environment (e.g. dedications, notes), including the title (e.g. Bad Child s Pop-Up Book of Beasts). It can also be elicited from the information obtained about the sender and his/her intention or from the situational factors, such as medium, place, time, and motive. Standardized genres often raise equally standardized expectations in the receivers.


A housewife normally expects a recipe to contain instructions for the preparation of a certain dish, and, indeed, that is why she reads it. Her attention is directed at the content of the text (e.g. what ingredients will she need, what has she got to do?). Recipes usually have a rather conventionalized form, not only with regard to their composition (first a list of ingredients, then the instructions in chronological order) but also with regard to syntactical structures (e.g. imperatives, parataxis) and lexical features (e.g. terminology and formulaic expressions, such as "bring to the boil", "stirring constantly", etc.). The reader will only become aware of the text form if it is not as expected: if, for example, the recipe is written as a poem or if the list of ingredients is missing.

The expectation of the receiver can sometimes lead to a certain tolerance. For example, when reading a menu, whose text function can clearly be inferred from the situation, but which is translated badly into their own language, tourists in a foreign country may not feel annoyed, as they normally would, but rather amused by the orthographic mistakes or unidiomatic collocations as long as they get some information about what to eat or drink.

Normally, of course, the text producer will try as far as possible to meet the expectations of the addressed audience. There are cases, however, where an author disregards or even deliberately ignores the addressees' expectations in order to make them sit up and take notice or to make them aware of certain patterns of thinking, etc.


The following questions may help to find out the relevant information

about the addressed audience and their expectations:

What information about the addressed audience can be inferred from the text environment?

What can be learned about the addressees from the available information about the sender and his/her intention?

What clues to the ST addressee's expectations, background knowledge etc. can be inferred from other situational factors (medium, place, time, motive, and function)?

Is there any information about the reactions of the ST receiver(s) which may influence translation strategies?

What conclusions can be drawn from the data and clues obtained about the addressee regarding

other extratextual dimensions (intention, place, time, and function), and

the intratextual features?


Speech vs. writing

The concept of medium or channel has to be interpreted rather broadly. We refer to "medium" as the means or vehicle which conveys the text to the reader (in communication theory, "channel" stands for sound waves or print on paper). The translator is, however, interested less in the technical distinctions and more in the aspects of perceptibility, storage of information and the presuppositions of communicative interaction.

First of all we have to ask whether the text is being transmitted in a face-to-face communication or in writing. The means of transmission affects not only the conditions of reception, but more particularly also those of production. It determines how the information should be presented in respect of level of explicitness, arrangement of arguments, choice of sentence types, features of cohesion, use of non-verbal elements such as facial expressions and gestures, etc. The effect of the chosen medium on the intratextual factors can be illustrated by looking at the deictic aspect: situational references, which in face-to-face communication do not have to be verbalized explicitly because the participants are a part of the situation, must be expressed much more clearly in written communication.


In face-to-face communication, deictic expressions, such as here, by my side, or today, or expressions referring to the participants of communication, such as all of us, or as the speaker before me correctly remarked, are unambiguous. However, in a written text they can only be decoded correctly in connection with the information on time, place, sender, receivers, etc. given in the text itself or in the text environment, such as title page, imprint, introduction lead, etc.

The categories of speech and writing cannot, however, always be separated completely, as there are spoken texts which are reproduced in a written form (e.g. a statement made by a witness) and written texts which are spoken (e.g. lectures). Crystal & Davy (1969) therefore introduce the concept of complex medium, comprising "language which is spoken to be written, as in dictation, or language written to be spoken, as in news-broadcasting", and even subclassifications such as "language written to be read aloud as if written".

This shows that for our purposes it would not be wise to aim at a mere "labeling" of texts as regards medium. What we have to do is elicit specific features of the medium such as coincidence or discontinuity of text production and reception, indirect or direct form of communication, spontaneity of text production, opportunities for feedback operations, one-way communication, etc.

What to find out about the medium

In spoken communication, the dimension of medium includes the technical devices for information transfer (such as telephones or microphones), and these, of course, affect the production, reception and comprehension of the text. In written communication, on the other hand, it is the means of publication that is referred to as the "medium", i.e. newspaper, magazine, book, multi-volume encyclopedia, leaflet, brochure, etc., as well as subclassifications such as business news, literary supplement, etc.

The dimension of medium is relevant because it provides some clues as to the size and identity of the addressed audience. The readership of a national daily newspaper is not only much larger, but usually represents a different level of education and information with different expectations and different standards of stylistic quality from that of a medical, not to mention a neurosurgical, journal. The cheap paperback edition of a novel would be expected to reach a wider public than an expensive, multi-volume collection of Cantonese love poems. A personal letter is directed at one individual receiver whereas a standard business letter can be addressed to any number of companies on a mailing list, and a poster on an advertising board is targeted at anyone passing by, etc., etc.

In addition, the specification of the medium may give some clue as to the sender's intention (e.g. in the case of a poster or a picture postcard) and to the motive for the communication (e.g. in the case of a death announcement in a newspaper). Since the range and conventions of medium use may vary from culture to culture and from one generation to another, the specification of medium may even give some idea of the time and place of text production.

Although the choice of a particular medium obviously provides pre-signals for the receiver's expectations regarding the intended text function, function and medium must not be automatically associated or even equated. The receivers' expectations are certainly based on their experience with the medium in question, but, again, a particular sender may intend to surprise or disappoint the receiver by using a medium for a purpose quite different from that usually associated with it. For the translator it is important, too, to take into account the fact that the "same" media may have quite different functions in another culture.

As a general rule, however, the medium determines the receiver's expectations as to text function. A leaflet distributed at the entrance of a famous church is expected to contain basic information on the objects of interest in the form of a guided tour. The text in a guidebook usually has the functions of information plus advertising, and an article in an encyclopedia is expected to provide detailed information not only on the positive but also on the negative aspects of a place.


This plan draws your attention to some of the main features of the building. More details may be obtained from guide books on sale in the shop. The Nave, begun in 1291 and finished in the 1350's in the Decorated Gothic style, is one of the widest Gothic naves in Europe. It is used for services throughout the year. The pulpit on the left commemorates Archbishops Temple and Lang, and the brass lectern has been used since 1686. The Great West Window is being repaired and cannot at present be seen. (First paragraphs of the information leaflet Welcome to York Minster. There is a plan with numbers on the opposite page.)

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