Skopos and beyond: A critical study of functionalism

Celia Martín de León
PETRA Research Group, Universidad de Las Palmas, Spain

This paper deals with the main results of a systematic investigation (Martín 2005), supported by concordance analysis, of the metaphorical expressions found in Reiß-Vermeer (1984) and Holz-Mänttäri (1984), two works that in the 1980s established the theoretical foundations of German functionalism. Based on the cognitive theory of metaphor (Lakoff and Johnson 1980, 1999; Lakoff 1987; Johnson 1987; Lakoff 1993), the analysis led to the identification of two conceptual metaphors that played a crucial role in the articulation of German functionalism: the TRANSFER metaphor and the TARGET metaphor. The paper focuses on the main implications of the use of these metaphors and on the contradictions they create. A broadening of the functionalist theoretical framework is then proposed with the goal of overcoming these contradictions.

Table of contents

The 1980s have often been described as a decade of paradigm shift in Translation Studies, e.g. Prunč (2003: 160–162). According to Prunč, the main driving forces behind this shift were German functionalism, Descriptive Translation Studies, and deconstruction. These three approaches may have contributed to the same general paradigm shift, since they share some characteristics. For example, functionalism shares a focus on culture and target-orientedness (Toury 1995: 25) with descriptive studies, and the dethroning of the source text with post-structuralism.

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