Text-Functions in Translation: Titles and Headings as a Case in Point

Christiane Nord
Heidelberg/Vienna

Abstract

As a text-type in their own right, titles and headings are intended to achieve six functions: distinctive, metatextual, phatic, referential, expressive, and appellative. Taking as a point of departure the hypothesis that translated texts have to "function" in the target situation for which they are produced by serving the purpose(s) they are intended for (which may or may not be the "same" as those of the source text), it is argued that the translator has to reconcile the conditions of functionality prevailing in the target culture with the communicative intentions of the source-title sender (= functionality + loyalty). The discussion of several examples from an extensive corpus of German, French, English, and Spanish titles and their translations shows how this methodological approach can be put into practice, establishing a model for the functional translation of other texts and text-types.

Table of contents

In the following article, I would like to elaborate on the implications which the functional approach has for the theory and (professional) practice of translation, [ p. 262 ]taking titles and headings as a case in point. The study is based on the analysis of more than 12,000 German, English, French and Spanish titles and headings of fictional, nonfictional and children's books, short stories, poems, and articles published in scholarly journals. Titles and headings were assumed to be textual units forming a text-type (cf. Nord 1989a). The aim of the analysis was to find out (a) the communicative functions of titles and headings, (b) the culture-specific and genre-specific ways in which these functions are verbalized, and (c) the culture-specific structural conventions determining the textual design of titles in general and of the six title-genres ip particular.

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