Unknown agents in translated political discourse

Christina Schäffner
Aston University


This article investigates the role of translation and interpreting in political discourse. It illustrates discursive events in the domain of politics and the resulting discourse types, such as jointly produced texts, press conferences and speeches. It shows that methods of Critical Discourse Analysis can be used effectively to reveal translation and interpreting strategies as well as transformations that occur in recontextualisation processes across languages, cultures, and discourse domains, in particular recontextualisation in mass media. It argues that the complexity of translational activities in the field of politics has not yet seen sufficient attention within Translation Studies. The article concludes by outlining a research programme for investigating political discourse in translation.

Table of contents

Since 2011, the European Union has been experiencing an economic and financial crisis. At a series of meetings, EU politicians have discussed potential solutions and have proposed rescue packages. Their debates have led to the drafting and/ or signing of agreements, treaty amendments, fiscal compacts and other kinds of policy documents. Politicians regularly comment on their decisions, for example in debates in their own national parliaments, in speeches to their own citizens, or at press conferences to representatives of the national or international mass media. The mass media play a significant role in communicating politics to the general public, by reporting about political events, by interviewing politicians, by broadcasting press conferences on TV, etc. An illustrative example in the context of the EU’s financial crisis is a bilateral meeting of the French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, held on 16 August 2011 in [ p. 104 ]Paris. One of the outcomes of this meeting was a joint letter addressed to Herman van Rompuy, the President of the European Council, in which they outlined proposals for a system of economic governance. The two politicians also gave a joint press conference, at which they presented their proposal and answered journalists’ questions. TV and radio channels as well as news agencies reported this meeting on the same day, with subsequent articles published by the mass media during the days following.

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