World Knowledge in the Process of Translation

Christina Schäffner
Sächsische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Leipzig

Abstract

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.

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