What happened to
Skopostheorie?
Anthony Pym
© Intercultural Studies Group
Universitat Rovira i Virgili
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Resolving the problem of
equivalence
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Equivalence means “same function”
(Funktionskonstanz).
But most TTs have a new function, for a new
client and for a new receiver (on the target
side)

Equivalence is thus a special case.
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A paradigm shift?
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Reiss, Katharina, & Hans J. Vermeer (1984).
Grundlegung einer allgemeinen
Translationstheorie. Tübingen: Niemeyer.
Holz-Mänttäri, Justa (1984) Translatorisches
Handeln. Theorie und Methode. Helsinki:
Academia Scientiarum Fennica.
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Main concepts
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The dominant factor in a translation is its
purpose [Skopos] (Reiss & Vermeer 1984).
The source text is dethroned.
The same text can be translated in different
ways for different purposes.
All strategies are legitimate if they achieve the
purpose.
The translator is an expert who decides on
the basis of the client’s instructions
(commission, Auftrag).
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A development
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Koller had a theory of equivalence.
Reiss related equivalence to text types.
Nord related functionalism to the analysis of
source texts.
Holz-Mäntärri studied translating as an
action.
Vermeer declared the dominance of the
purpose.
© Intercultural Studies Group
Reiss
.
From Nord Übersetzen als zielgerichtete Handlung, 2002.
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Translatorial action
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Daniel Gouadec
TRANSLATION
ACQUISITION
PRE-TRANSFER
TRANSFER
DISASSEMBLY
POST-TRANSFER
SPECIFICATIONS
ESTIMATE
QUALITY CONTROL
INDEX OF ANOMALIES
comprehension
DOCUMENTARY INDEX
QUESTIONS
PRODUCT ANALYSIS
TERMINOLOGICAL INDEX
TERMINOLOGY
REVIEW
CORRECTIONS
PHRASEOLOGICAL INDEX
PHRASEOLOGY
REVISION/REWRITING
linguistic
technical
functional
INDEX FOR OPTIONABLES
NON-STANDARD ITEMS
OPTIONS
NON-STANDARD ITEMS
CERTIFICATION
VALIDATIONS
REASSEMBLY
CHECKING
SCANNING
DOCUMENTATION
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AUTO CONTROLS
DELIVERY
CONSOLIDATION
FOLLOW-UP
Daniel Gouadec
© Intercultural Studies Group
Areas of agreement
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The translator’s decisions are ultimately
governed by the purpose of the translation.
The purpose of what translators do
(“translatorial action”) may be to produce
equivalence to various aspects of the source
text, or to engage in rewriting, or to give
advice, as required.
The one source text can be translated in
different ways to suit different purposes.
© Intercultural Studies Group
Areas of agreement
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A key factor in defining the purpose of the
translation are the instructions given by the
client or negotiated with the client.
In the last analysis, the purpose of the
translation is defined by the individual
translator, working in relation with all the other
social actors involved.
© Intercultural Studies Group
Strong points
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The paradigm recognizes that the translator
works in a professional situation, with
complex obligations to people rather than to
texts.
It liberates the translator from theories that
would try to formulate linguistic rules
governing every decision.
© Intercultural Studies Group
Strong points
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It forces us to see translation as a project,
involving many factors, rather than as work
on just one text.
It can address ethical issues in social terms
(explanation, loyalty).
© Intercultural Studies Group
Weak points
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The concept of purpose (or Skopos, or
Zweck) is an idealism.
The theory is unfalsifiable.
The theory does not address equivalence as
an underlying “default norm”.
© Intercultural Studies Group
Weak points
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Purpose analysis is mostly not cost-effective.
The expert translator is a self-serving notion.
The theory cannot resolve cases of conflicting
purposes.
© Intercultural Studies Group
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What happened to Skopostheorie?