World Knowledge in the Process of Translation

Christina Schäffner
Sächsische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Leipzig

The paper illustrates the role of world knowledge in comprehending and translating texts. A short news item, which displays world knowledge fairly implicitly in condensed lexical forms, was translated by students from English into German. It is shown that their translation strategies changed from a first draft which was rather close to the surface structure of the source text to a final version which took situational aspects, texttypological conventions and the different background knowledge of the respective addressees into account. Decisions on how much world knowledge has to be made explicit in the target text, however, must be based on the relevance principle. Consequences for teaching and for the notions of semantic knowledge and world knowledge are discussed.

Table of contents

Translation as a phenomenon embedded in a complex process of bilingually mediated communication results in the production of a target-language text (TL2) that is based on a source-language text (TL1) (called "text-induced [ p. 2 ]text-production" by Neubert 1985: 18). It has become widely accepted that the linguistic surface structure of the TL2 to be produced is not determined by the surface structure of the TL1 in a strict sense. Texts are always intended to function in a particular communicative situation—which includes the premise that they are intended for particular addressees, that they have to fulfil a specific function, and that they have to conform to the conventions developed with respect to specific texttypes.

Full-text access is restricted to subscribers. Log in to obtain additional credentials. For subscription information see Subscription & Price. Direct PDF access to this article can be purchased through our e-platform.


Beaugrande, Robert de and Wolfgang Dressier
1981Introduction to Text Linguistics. London: Longman. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Clark, Herbert H. and Catherine R. Marshall
1981 “Definite Reference and Mutual Knowledge”. Aravind K. Joshi, Bonnie L. Webber and Ivan A. Sag, eds. Elements of Discourse Understanding. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1981 10–63.Google Scholar
Fillmore, Charles J.
1976 “Frame Semantics and the Nature of Language”. Annals of the New York Academy of Science 280. 20–31.[ p. 12 ]DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Gommlich, Klaus
1987Translatorische Textverarbeitung. Versuch der Modellierung des englisch-deutschen und deutsch-englischen Übersetzungswissenschaftlichen Textvergleichs. Dissertation B. Leipzig: Karl-Marx-Universität. [Unpublished Thesis]Google Scholar
Hönig, Hans G. and Paul Kußmaul
1982Strategie der Übersetzung: Ein Lehr- und Arbeitsbuch. Tübingen: Narr.Google Scholar
Jäger, Gert
1986 “Die sprachlichen Bedeutungen—das zentrale Problem bei der Translation und ihrer wissenschaftlichen Beschreibung”. Gert Jäger and Albrecht Neubert, eds. Bedeutung und Translation [= Übersetzungswissenschaftliche Beiträge 9]. Leipzig: Verlag Enzyklopädie 1986 5–66.Google Scholar
Klings, Hans P.
1988 “Blick in die ‘Black Box’—Eine Fallstudie zum Übersetzungsprozeß bei Berufsübersetzern”. Reiner Arntz, ed. Textlinguistik und Fachsprache: Akten des Internationalen übersetzungswissenschaftlichen AILA-Symposions, Hildesheim, 13.-16. April 1987. Hildesheim etc.: Olms 1988 393–412.Google Scholar
Mann, William and Sandra Thompson
1986 “Relational Propositions in Discourse”. Discourse Processes 9:1. 57–90.   DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Neubert, Albrecht
1985Text and Translation [= Übersetzungswissenschaftliche Beiträge 8]. Leipzig: Verlag Enzyklopädie.Google Scholar
Schäffner, Christina
1989 “An Account of Knowledge Use in Text Comprehension as a Basis for Frame-based Interference”. Heide Schmidt, ed. Interferenz in der Translation [= Übersetzungswissenschaftliche Beiträge 12]. Leipzig: Verlag Enzyklopädie 1989 65–72.Google Scholar
Séguinot, Candace
1989 “The Translation Process: An Experimental Study”. Candace Séguinot, ed. The Translation Process. Toronto: H.G. Publications 1989 21–53.Google Scholar
Snell-Hornby, Mary
1988Translation Studies: An Integrated Approach. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.   DOI logoGoogle Scholar