Implicit Information in Literary Translation: A Relevance-Theoretic Perspective

Ernst-August Gutt

As an instance of human communication, literary translation operates by certain laws and principles assumed to be built into our human make-up. These 'natural laws' of communication give rise to implicit information and are responsible for its special characteristics, such as graded strength of communication and its correlates, including poetic effects. They furthermore determine the interdependence of text, context and successful communication, and limit communicability in incompatible contexts. One important contextual factor consists in what kind of interpretive resemblance the audience expects between translation and original. The ultimate test for a translation is whether or not it achieves with the target audience what the translator intended it to achieve, rather than whether it conforms to some translation-theoretical notion of equivalence.

Table of contents

One of the striking characteristics of literary texts is their density. The art of the author often shows itself in the ability to communicate a richness of ideas, feelings and impressions that are not necessarily expressed in words, but communicated implicitly.

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.


Adams, Robert M.
1973Proteus, His Lies, His Truth: Discussions of Literary Translation. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
Grice, H. Paul
1975 “Logic and Conversation”. Reprinted in A.P. Martinich, ed. The Philosophy of Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press 1985: 159–170.Google Scholar
Gutt, Ernst-August
1991Translation and Relevance: Cognition and Context. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
Morris, Leon
1971The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.Google Scholar
[ p. 256 ]
Newmark, Peter
1988Approaches to Translation. Hemel Hempstead: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
Nida, Eugene A.
1964Toward a Science of Translating: with Special Reference to Principles and Procedures Involved in Bible Translating. Leiden: E.J. Brill.Google Scholar
Sperber, Dan and Deirdre Wilson
1986Relevance: Communication and Cognition. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
Yuasa, Nobuyuki
1987 “ ‘The Sound of Water’: Different Versions of a hokku by Bashô”. William Radice and Barbara Reynolds, eds. The Translator’s Art: Essays in Honour of Betty Radice. Harmondsworth: Penguin 1987 231–240.Google Scholar