Stylistics and translation

Jean Boase-Beier
Table of contents

Translation is closely connected with stylistics because stylistics aims to explain how a text means rather than just what it means, and knowing how texts mean is essential for translation. Stylistics explains the fine detail of a text such as why certain structures are ambiguous or how a metaphor works, and is used to describe both literary and non-literary texts. Originally a development of linguistics, stylistics began to take shape as a distinct discipline in the 1960s, influenced by the close-reading methods of literary theorists such as I.A. Richards and by the structuralist linguistic and literary methods of scholars such as Roman Jakobson. There are several different strands of stylistics, including those with a pragmatic, sociolinguistic, or literary focus, but common to all today is a concern to go beyond the words on the page to consider both the choices they represent and the effects they have on their reader. Since the 1980s, these concerns have been particularly emphasised in the type of stylistics known as “cognitive stylistics”. But in fact all stylistics, in that it is concerned with choice and effect, is to some degree cognitive. When used to explain literary texts, cognitive stylistics is often referred to as cognitive poetics, because it is concerned with the way literature is crafted in both poetry and prose (see Stockwell 2002: 1–6). In modern cognitive stylistics and poetics, the context of a text is always seen as cognitive context: it includes not only what happens in the world in which the text is situated, but also what speakers of a language, members of a culture, or readers of a poem or tourist brochure know and think and feel with respect to both text and world.

Full-text access is restricted to subscribers. Log in to obtain additional credentials. For subscription information see Subscription & Price.


Fludernik, M
1996Towards a ‘Natural’ Narratology. London: Routledge. DOI logo  BoPGoogle Scholar
Hatim, B. & Munday, J
2004Translation: An Advanced Resource Book. London: Routledge.  BoPGoogle Scholar
Lakoff, G. & Turner, M
1989More than Cool Reason. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. DOI logo  BoPGoogle Scholar
Leech, G. & Short, M
2007Style in Fiction. London: Longman.Google Scholar
Malmkjaer, K
2004“Translational Stylistics: Dulcken’s Translations of Hans Christian Andersen.” Language and Literature 13 (1): 13–24. DOI logo  TSBGoogle Scholar
Miall, D.S. & Kuiken, D
1998“The Form of Reading: Empirical Studies of Literariness.” Poetics 25: 327–341. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Parks, T
2007Translating Style. Manchester: St. Jerome Publishers.  TSBGoogle Scholar
Robinson, D
2002Western Translation Theory from Herodotus to Nietzsche. Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing.  TSBGoogle Scholar
Stockwell, P
2002Cognitive Poetics: An Introduction. London: Routledge.  BoPGoogle Scholar

Further reading

Boase-Beier, J
2004“Knowing and Not Knowing: Style, Intention and the Translation of a Holocaust Poem.” Language and Literature 13 (1): 25–35. DOI logo  TSBGoogle Scholar
2006Stylistic Approaches to Translation. Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing.Google Scholar
Simpson, P
2004Stylistics: A Resource Book for Students. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
Tabakowska, E
1993Cognitive Linguistics and Poetics of Translation. Tübingen: Narr.  TSBGoogle Scholar