Semantic Models and Translating

Paul Kussmaul
Mainz/Germersheim

Abstract

This paper examines the relevance of three semantic models for translation. Structural semantics, more specifically semantic feature analysis, has given rise to the maxim that we should translate "bundles of semantic features". Prototype semantics suggests that word-meanings have cores and fuzzy edges which are influenced by culture. For translation this means that we do not necessarily translate bundles of features but have to decide whether to focus on the core or the fuzzy edges of the meaning of a particular word. Scenesand-frames semantics suggests that word meaning is influenced by context and the situation we are in. Word-meaning is thus not static but dynamic, and it is this dynamism which should govern our decisions as translators.

Table of contents

Translators will perhaps agree that problems with the meanings of words and phrases are the most common ones and are the source of the most serious errors. There are all sorts of ways to deal with these problems, ranging from intuition to scientific analysis. I am in favour of the latter and shall try to discuss the contribution linguistic models can make toward the solution of [ p. 2 ]semantic translation problems. Let me begin with an example.

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