The Concept of Function of Translation and its Application to Literary Texts

Roda P. Roberts


Many translation theorists have adopted a functional approach to translation in an attempt to guide and explain the difficult choices a translator must make. This paper argues that it is the function of the translation, and not the functions of language or the function of the source text, that is the translator's guiding force. Having defined the function of translation as the application or use which the translation is intended to have in the context of the target situation, various functions that a literary translation may serve are examined. Finally, using the criteria of functions of language, functions of (source) text and functions of translation, an attempt is made to show that the type and degree of coincidence between the formal manifestations of the functions of language in the source text, the function of the source text and the translation depend on the precise function of the latter.

Table of contents

The dilemma of the translation of literary texts, brought out by many translation theorists over the centuries, has been expressed in the following words by Pavel Toper:

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