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The Linguistic Analysis in a Translation

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*) This is an excerpt from a research report about The level of translation in informative texts in relation to the use of the translation techniques done by the writers of this article (unpublished document).

Translation, as an activity, has been a task which has been performed for centuries. This is an activity whose main concern is to facilitate the communication process. The professional of translation reaches this goal by translating the information received in a foreign language into the language of the person who required his services, and vice versa. When this complex process is carried out in a factual communicative situation, then, it is possible to say that translation has reached its ultimate goal: to ease communication in advantage of the understanding of people from different linguistic systems.

Translation, as a tool of communication, plays an important role since the translated text should transmit the same intentions as the original. In order to achieve this goal, it is important that translators develop their linguistic competence, that is, translators should be aware that the differences between language construction and language use may affect the message of the text. Roca-Pons (1982: 404-405) points out that “a good translation consists of expressing, according to the requirements and use of a second language, what has been uttered or written in a source language.”

If a text is considered “as a complex and multidimensional structure which is more than just the sum of its parts…, the text analysis, which is an essential requirement previous to text translation, should be <<top-down>>, from the macro to the microlevel, from the text to the linguistic sign” (Snell-Hornby, 19998:96). In other words, there is a need to obtain a global impression from the form, the context and the communicative situation from the whole to the parts, to later make a thorough recognition of the text architecture and the interaction of its elements: morpho-syntax, lexis and pragmatics.

The syntax analysis is important since the way sentences in Spanish are ordered does not always match the same order in English. As an example we can consider position of the adjectives or the order in the construction of questions. As Cabré (2001) mentions, “referring to the grammatical structure, morphology, syntax and the elements of textual cohesion interact together.” Translators, as linguistic and communication mediators, should be conscious about the structure of the text in the source language in order to be able to decode the message and, at the same time, encode the message into the target language. However, in the performance of this activity, more than only one element plays a role. That is why translators must be skilful to realize how these small changes in the surface structure of the text can modify the message meaning.

From the morphological perspective, translators should observe how some lexical elements change their structure according to the position they take in the phrase uttered. For example, if a phrase such as ‘a six-legged table’ is found, it can be observed that the Spanish version would be ‘una mesa de seis patas (a table with six legs).’ So, it can be noticed that the adjectival phrase ‘a six-legged’ in English becomes a noun phrase in Spanish. Thanks to their linguistic competence, translators do not usually face difficulties when translating this sort of structures, since they are competent enough to express a reality in the target language, linguistically speaking.

Taking into account the lexicological aspect, a translator should be knowledgeable of the formation of words in the languages he works from and into, and the semantic relations held among these words, above all in specialized contexts. Sometimes, translators, as linguistic mediators, may face the situation of solving lexical problems, that is, translators are not able to find an appropriate linguistic resource in the target language which properly transmits the message. Therefore, translators as linguistic and communicative facilitators in both languages, may use neologisms which allow them to solve linguistic problems (for example, linguistic problems: the lack of equivalences, the abundance of equivalences [and] the existence of phraseology related to the thematic field), semantic problems – [this is to say, those problems related to] the lack of knowledge of the semantic scope of some linguistic resources in the source language, [as well as] the pragmatic problems – [this is] the lack of knowledge of the pragmatic value of the linguistic resources available in the source language.

(Cabré, 1999)

Therefore, as Roca-Pons (1982: 405) states, “translators should firstly posses a series of answers or ‘equivalences’ in the target language, in case this language is their native language, and assuming they have an established minimal repertoire ‘about the topic.’

Nonetheless, the analysis should not only be at the linguistic level, but it should also explore the pragmatical value of the text. This is to happen because “what matters are not the words or sentences to construct that text, but the translator’s interpretation of that text and the foundations for that interpretation. It becomes obvious that a text hardly ever bears all the keys needed to be interpreted, but we add clues to its interpretation based on our knowledge” (Inchaurralde y Vázquez, 1998: 183).

To sum up, the translation task becomes a complex process where either linguistic or non-linguistic elements provide the text with that nuance that makes it unique. For this reason, translators should demonstrate that they have developed both linguistic and communicative competence in the languages involved in their translating exercise in order to solve possible problems they may face during their professional practice.


Cabré, Ma. Teresa El traductor y la terminología en Coloquio Internacional Interpretar Traducir Textos de la(s) Cultura(s) Hispanica(s), Università degli Studi de Bologna – Scuola Superiore di Lingue Moderne per Interpreti e Trauctori, 21 – 23 de octubre de 1999.

Cabré, Ma. Teresa La traducción científico-técnica y la terminología en la sociedad de la información en VI Jornada de Traducción, Universitat Jaume I de Castelló, 24 – 26 de octubre de 2001.

Inchaurralde, Carlos y Vázquez, Ignacio (1998) Una introducción cognitiva al lenguaje y la lingüística Barcelona: Mira Editores

Roca-Pons, J (1982) El lenguaje Barcelona: Teide Editores

Snell-Hornby, Mary (1998) Estudios de traducción Salamanca: Ediciones Almar (tr. Ana Sofía Ramírez)

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