Nord’s Theory of Translation

This chapter focuses on the analysis of Nord’s model of translation, including its major functions and elements. It also provides the rationale for applying this model to the practical translation of the chosen article. Within this context, specific benefits and weakness will be identified with regard to other theoretical models of translation.

Nord’s model of translation has been in existence because of the urgent need to introduce a universal theoretical framework that would enable translators to understand the functional elements presented in the content and the structure of the source text (ST) (Nord 2005).

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Translators can use one specific language pair as a platform for the translation process (Nord 2005). Nord’s translation-oriented model, therefore, is specific enough to consider as many common translation difficulties as possible. With regard to the above, here are several reasons why I have chosen this approach (Nord’s theory of translation). Firstly, it is suitable for translation of all types of texts.

Secondly, the model encourages translators to take a wider view of what translation entails. Third, the model is multipurpose and, therefore, it can be applicable to both translator training and professional settings. In addition, the model does not depend on the translator’s competence, but on the language-independent aspects of culture, communication and translation(Nord 2005, p. 2)

Different theories have different perspectives on translation, for instance, Richard’s model of proper translation, which appeared in the late 1970s (Gentzler 2001). In particular, the model shows that translation process should be primarily based on the value of meaning. Richard’s theory relates to Nord’s model of translation whose principles do not depend on subjective factors either. However, the theory is more efficient in terms of greater reliance on cultural factors that enrich the meaning of the source text.

Nord’s model of translation originated from Karl Buhler’s Organon model created in 1954, which states that there are three basic functions of language: referential, expressive and appellative (Buhler et al 1990). Hence, according to this model, a language is an instrument for a speaker to render a message, or thought to a receiver (Buhler et al. 1990).

The expressive and appellative function of language, therefore, allows a receiver to understand the tone of the speech without understanding the content and meaning of the message. As per referential function, the speaker can describe a message using the means of his/her native language (Buhler et al. 1990, p. 39). Nord (2005) adopted these three functions and added a fourth one, known as the phatic function which emergence was due to improvement made to the theory. The phatic function, serves

to establish, to prolong, or to discontinue communication between sender and receiver, to check whether the channel works, to attract the attention of the interlocutor or to confirm his continued attention (Nord 2005, p. 47).

The function was added due its possibility to develop strong relationships between the speaker and the addressee (Nord 2005). According to Nord, translation does not occur out of context. Instead, it is a communicative action carried out by an expert for achieving a communicative purpose because it involves increased understanding of an article or text by people understanding different languages.

Generally, the theory argues that translation must be based on context, for better understanding. She believes in a functional approach to translation where the target text (TT) determines the kind of choice and strategy adopted in the translation process (Nord 2005, pp. 43-48).

Nord’s model also stems out of Vermeer and Katharina Reisstheory known as the ‘skopos theory’. The ‘skopos theory’ originated from the Greek word ‘skopos’ which means aim and purpose (Pym 1993, p. 184). “Skopos” theory was developed by Reiss and Vermeer in 1984 and it was focused on the purpose of translation (Reiss & Vermeer). Nord’s model was developed several years later, at the end of the 1980s (Nord 1997). The essence of the ‘skopos’ theory is applied by Nord to convey a description of the target situation.

Therefore, the translator sets the purpose of the target text based on the instructions given by the initiator of the translation. In contrast, Nord does not provide the translator with freedom to decide what aspects of the text should be fixed. Significant attention is also given to the role of the initiator’s decision concerning ST (Pym 1993, p. 185). Thus, Nord incorporates the concept of loyalty, which means that the translator should always remain committed to both, the ST sender and TT receivers (Pym 1993, p. 185).

As it has been previously discussed, Nord (2005) provides the four functions of a language: referential, expressive, appellative, and phatic. These functions are of varying importance in enhancing effective translation through Nord’s model.

To begin with, the referential function is considered among the most important ones because it ensures that the meaning or content of the text is not changed. The referential function of an utterance involves reference to the objects of the world. Analysis of utterances depends on the nature of respective objects of the world (Nord 1997, pp. 38-40).

The problem with this function, however, is that if the source and the target receivers do not share common knowledge about the objects and the phenomena referred to, then it is difficult to create rapport in the text (Nord 1997, p. 41). The expressive function refers to the emotions and attitude of the sender towards the referred object, thought, or idea. It also stresses the sender’s personal opinion.

The function aims to persuade the receiver to agree or disagree with a specific activity, with the intention of establishing contact with the receiver, which leads to the phatic function of communication (Nord 2005, p. 55). Appellative function is concerned with the direction of the text toward the addressee, as well as with the degree of expression that a speaker uses.

Finally, the phatic function relates to the speaker’s intent to establish contact with the receiver, as well as to keep the communicational channels open. This function reflects a sociological dimension in correlation with the linguistic ones. It also allows the translator to go beyond linguistic frames to understand the situation context within which the text is placed.

Choice of the best and most suitable strategy and model may also ensure that the meaning of the original text or its content is not changed, but maintained. Therefore, it assists translators to decide on the best translation strategy to use with reference to the respective language to be translated.

Despite different approaches and models introduced to foster the translation process, they all define translation as an action. Thus, Reiss and Vermeer’s theory argues that translation is based on the translator’s position in the translation process, as well as on the evaluation of objectives of a translation.

In contrast, Nord’s theory has a functional approach to the translation process. In particular, applying to the phatic function, the theorist manages to apply extratextual factors to explain and understand the purposes and meaning of ST. Therefore, both extratextual and linguistic aspects should be taken into deepest consideration while proceeding with the actual translation.

Extratextual Factors

According to Nord (2005), extratextual factors are communicative and situational factors that use ST. These factors constitute a text’s external structure, and they include the Sender, Sender’s intention, audience, medium/channel, place, time, motive and function (Nord 2005, p.81).

Essentially, the sender is the author, audience is the target group and the sender’s intention is the content of the text to be translated. All of these factors are interdependent upon each other and they affect the translation process. The translator might not know the intentions of the author while translating the text.

In the article by Roland, the author decides the target group to which the text will be directed, mainly tennis fans from the English speaking world. Knowing the audience enables one to find the sender’s intention and the most suited medium to communicate with the audience. The chosen medium of communication influences time and place where a text is produced, and time and place where a text is produced influences the choice of a communication medium to reach the audience.

The theme and purpose of this article by Roland (2011) are quite clear as it is intended to capture the attention of tennis fans. On the deeper level, the journalist could be expressing his personal love for and interest in the game or merely doing his job as a reporter. When analysing most texts, there are always issues related to ST (Armstrong 2005, pp. 43-49).

Because the translation process is considered both as an act of communication and as a linguistic phenomenon, ST analysis involves a number of parameters that should be analysed, including setting, genre, participants, norms, instruments and act sequence (Armstrong 2005, p. 43).

When translating, there are always problems related to the analysis of the ST, which must be solved in order to set up the purpose before beginning a translation. Nord (1997) has identified the following factors that affect extratextual analysis.

First of all, the theorist focuses on the function and text type, the characteristics of the receiver, relevance of the place and time of rendering the message. Such important situational aspects as social, cultural, and economic backgrounds of the language users are closely connected to the competences of both the translator and the recipient.

Moreover, Nord (2005) strongly focuses on the communication function of the text through universal functions of the language. In addition, a reader participates in creating meanings when reading a text based on his or her own assumption and imagination, and the author might not even have intended the meanings.

When a text contains many different meanings, it is difficult for a translator to fully understand the layers of the text intended by the author, which means that the translator can experience difficulties in deciding how the translation is perceived by the target reader (Nord 2005, pp. 67-73).

One of the biggest challenges for a literary translator is the cultural element inherent in every publication and text production. It can only be evaluated how difficult it is to detect every cultural element or reference. Because languages bear different cultural contexts, the translator is challenged to find equivalent resources to convey a specific notion from the ST.

The translator will know much about his/her own culture, the TT culture, while knowing preferably as much about the author’s culture, the ST culture. This will enable the translator to make translation choices that will convey and adapt the ST cultural information into information that will make sense in the TT culture.

The knowledge of the ST culture will enable the translator to recreate the possible reactions of the ST receivers, and translator’s knowledge of the TT culture allows the translator to expect the possible reactions of the TT receivers (Nigel 2005, p.12-13). To support to the idea, Nord (2005) argues,

the translator is not the sender of the ST message but a text-producer in the target culture who adopts somebody else’s intention in order to produce a communicative instrument for the target culture, or a target-culture document of source-culture communication (p. 13).

In this respect, the TT is the result of communicative interaction between two cultures. The above-described extratextual factors affect significantly the text-production into a TL, which, in fact, is the main linguistic instrument in the translation process. Therefore, intratextual factors should also be considered to define how they restrict translation.

Intratextual Factors

The intratextual factors are mainly concerned with internal factors of the translated text itself. They include subject matter, content, and composition of the text, presuppositions, lexis, sentence structure and even non-verbal elements (Armstrong 2005, p.42). The intratextual factors, just like the extratextual factors, are interdependent to a certain extent. This is because in a text, the subject matter influences the content and the content, in turn, influences the presuppositions made by the author.

Nord’s model may not be appropriate to my particular translation considering stylistic differences among languages. Much of the time required to undertake this cumbersome activity is usually not available. Translators spend a lot of time trying to understand the content that they are going to translate. This process also implies many problems and peculiarities that are usually caused by two factors.

First, the translation from French to English is challenged by existing differences in grammar, gender representation, and verb and adjective agreements. Second, the syntactical rules of the French language are less rigid compared than those in English, for example, the sentence structure of French is rigid and can be complete without a verb while English sentences require a verb to be complete and or meaningful (Vinay and Darbelnet 1995, pp. 83-84).

In conclusion, Nord’s model of analysis emphasizes the necessity of analysing situational context and considers the translation process as an act of communication. All these interpretations are justified by the function that the translation bears, including referential, appellative, expressive, and phatic.

With regard to the above-presented factors and peculiarities, French-English translation implies consideration of various extratextual and intratextual factors that have a potent impact on the outcome. The implementation of Nord’s model of translation, however, can make the process more systematic because these factors are taken into the deepest consideration.

Reference List

Armstrong, N 2005, Translation, linguistics, culture: A French-English handbook. Multilingual Matters, Buffalo.

Buhler, K, Goodwin, DF, &Eschbach, A 1990. Theory of Language: The Representational Function of Language. John Benjamins Publishing Company, Amsterdam.

Gentzler, E 2001, Contemporary Translation Theories. Multilingual Matters, Buffalo.

Nord, C 1997, Translating As A Purposeful Activity: Functionalist Approaches Explained. Manchester: St. Jerome.

Nord, C 2005, Text analysis in translation: theory, methodology and didactic application of a model for translation-oriented text analysis. Rodopi, Amsterdam.

Pym, A 1993, ‘Text Analysis in Translation,’ Traduction, Terminologie, Redaction, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 184-190.

Reiss, K, & Vermeer, HV 1984, GrundlegungeinerallgemeinenTranslationstheorie, Niemeyer, Germany.

Roland, R. 2011. Deux titans en finale maisc’est Rafael Nadal qui l’emporte a Roland Garros. La Tribune du Sport [online] Viewed 30 November 2011, http://latribunedusport.fr/2011/06/06/deux-titans-en-finale-mais-rafael-nadal-l-emporte-a-roland-garros/#more-3475

Vinay, JP &Darbelnet, J, eds. 1995, Comparative stylistics of French and English: A methodology for translation. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: J. Benjamins.