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), and because the notion of “poetics” can be seen to encompass not just the reading of texts but also the writing of texts. 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.

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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. Crossref logo  TSBGoogle Scholar
2006Stylistic Approaches to Translation. Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing.Google Scholar
2014‘Translation and the representation of thought: The case of Herta Müller’, Language and Literature 23: 213-226.. Crossref logoGoogle Scholar
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2004Stylistics: A Resource Book for Students. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
Tabakowska, E
1993Cognitive Linguistics and Poetics of Translation. Tübingen: Narr.  TSBGoogle Scholar