University of New South Wales, Australia | Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Discourse analysis has grown in applied linguistics since the 1970s and its application in translation studies became prominent in the 1990s (Munday 2012, 137). One of the topics in discourse analysis that has been given particular attention by translation scholars is the translation of choices within the textual metafunction, with particular focus on the role of Theme and its impact on thematic development in text. A number of studies have generated new insights into the translation of textual choices, for example concerning failures to recreate patterns of thematic progression. The growth of this area of research is a highly encouraging development since it had previously been largely neglected in translation studies (House 1997, 31). While these studies have focused on separate micro-issues in specific language pairs, the present article attempts to conduct a comprehensive review of existing studies on this topic in order to (i) highlight major topics addressed so far and (ii) make suggestions for further studies into this important area of translation from a systemic functional linguistic perspective.
The growth of discourse analysis in applied linguistics since the 1970s, and in the service of translation studies, has helped translation scholars to approach translation as a phenomenon that is organized multi-dimensionally (Munday 2012, Chapter 6). Interpreted in systemic functional terms (e.g., Halliday 1978), one of these dimensions is the spectrum of different modes of meaning—the different metafunctional modes of meaning: ideational (logical and experiential), interpersonal and textual. If we see translation as centrally involving the recreation of meaning through choices made by the translator in the interpretation of the source text [ p. 336 ]and through choices in the generation of the translated text (Matthiessen 2001), it follows that all modes of meaning are equally implicated: translation involves recreating ideational meanings of the logical kind, ideational meanings of the experiential kind, interpersonal meanings and textual meanings. Each metafunctional mode of meaning involves particular meaning-making resources—particular sets of systems in any language—and part of the difficulty translators face is that different languages may have evolved somewhat or even fairly different sets of systems for each metafunction. For example, translators translating between English and Chinese face the challenge of moving between two very different ideational models of time—tense (a model concerned with the location of a process in time; e.g., past vs. present vs. future in relation to the ‘now’ of speaking), in the case of English, and aspect (a model concerned with the unfolding of a process through time; e.g., bounded vs. unbounded), in the case of Chinese (Halliday and Matthiessen 1999, Chapter 7; Halliday and McDonald 2004).
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