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Translating Echoes

Challenges in the Translation of the Correspondence of a British Expatriate in Beresford’s Lisbon 1815-17

By António Lopes (University of the Algarve)

Abstract & Keywords

In 1812 the Farrer family established their wool trading business in Lisbon. Samuel Farrer and, a couple of years later, James Hutchinson remained in regular correspondence with Thomas Farrer, who owned a textile mill in the vicinity of Leeds, then centre of the wool trade in England. Their correspondence, spanning the period 1812-18, offers a vivid account of life in Lisbon and its hardships and troubles in the aftermath of the Peninsular War. Those letters mirror the turbulent politics of the time and articulate an attempt to narrate otherness and the way it kept challenging their gaze. The translation of the letters has posed some challenges, especially on a stylistic level. In order to confer a sense of historical authenticity on the target-language text and to attend to the stylistic features of the source-language text, the translator has been forced to revisit the Portuguese language of the period as it was spoken and written by the urban middle class in Lisbon. In this article I discuss some of the issues, both theoretical and practical, that have arisen in the course of the translation process.

Keywords: travel writing translation, commercial correspondence, private sphere, estrangement, displacement, double disjuncture, Peninsular Wars

©inTRAlinea & António Lopes (2013).
"Translating Echoes"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: Translating 18th and 19th Century European Travel Writing
Edited by: Susan Pickford & Alison E. Martin
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Permanent URL: http://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/1967

1. Introduction

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
Saint Augustine

During my research for the British Travellers in Portugal project – an ambitious initiative that has been carried out for almost three decades by the Anglo-Portuguese Studies group at the Centre for English, Translation and Anglo-Portuguese Studies (Lisbon and Oporto) –, I chanced upon a rather curious collection of letters housed at the National Archives in Kew.[1] Written by James Hutchinson Jr. (1796 - ?), a young Yorkshire merchant working in Lisbon, and addressed to his brother-in-law, Thomas Farrer, who headed the family’s wool business back in Farnley, Leeds, these letters span a period of approximately two and a half years (from 22 July, 1815 to 29 November, 1817), at a time when Portugal was struggling hard to stand on its feet after the scale of destruction caused by the Peninsular War.

Originally, the primary purpose of my undertaking was to contribute to an anthology of translated accounts of the city of Lisbon by British travellers. This meant that a considerable portion of the original text, most of it dwelling on private affairs or matters of commerce, would have to be excised in order to leave only those passages where explicit references were made to the Portuguese capital. However, it soon became evident that the scope of the content of these letters called for a differentiated approach and so the editor commissioned me to translate the complete set. The investment in an unabridged translation would give readers the opportunity not just to satisfy their curiosity about Lisbon, but above all to gain a sense of the complexity of the historical, social and economic issues with which the letters engaged, all the more so because translation is not about impoverishing the original, but about giving it a new lease of life: translation is not just a question of making a text accessible to another community of readers by acquiring a new linguistic and cultural dimension, but above all of allowing the letters to transcend their immediacy and the original purpose for which they were written, and inscribing them in new discursive practices.

So, instead of publishing excerpts of the letters in the anthology, both the editor and I decided to publish the complete set in two issues of the Revista de Estudos Anglo-Portugueses (CETAPS, Lisbon) (see Lopes 2010). This would allow us to preserve the integrity of the letters and, given the fact that the Revista is aimed at a scholarly readership (historians, philologists, cultural anthropologists, sociologists, and so on), to invest in a more detailed and in-depth approach, marked by philological accuracy and by a consciousness of the challenges posed by the hermeneutical inquiry. This would also give me the opportunity to set my own translation agenda, not just in terms of style and method, but also in terms of the future of this project. As a matter of fact, the files contain dozens of other letters and papers written by other members or friends of the family which, in view of their historical value, are also worth translating. I decided to amass all of them with the aim of publishing the whole collection in one single volume. That work is now underway.

Since translation is necessarily always a reflexive process (in more than one sense: on the one hand, the translator has to speculate about the meanings that the source text does not immediately disclose and about the readers’ responses to his/her choices; on the other, the target text always presents itself as a mirror image of the source text), the task of rendering this piece of nineteenth-century English prose into contemporary Portuguese prompted a series of theoretical and empirical questions which I set out to explore in the present article. The next section seeks to set the letters in their political, social and economic context. The meanings they contain are rooted in a specific historical setting, which has to be revisited so as to enable the text to function simultaneously as a piece of documentary evidence and as an instance of resistance: in the case of the former, substantiating that which historiography has already validated; in the case of the latter, defying or even rebutting historical theories. The third section (‘An Englishman in Lisbon’) touches on issues of estrangement, displacement and the quest for a sense of belonging, all of which are central to travel writing. The fourth section (‘Prying into a Gentleman’s Private Correspondence’) discusses the ethics and the challenges of translating the intimacy and confidentiality of private correspondence, and how the author’s objectivity gives the translator a foothold in the factual validation of his translation. The last full section (‘Translation as a Double Disjuncture’) focuses on issues of spatiality, temporality, representation and re-representation, as well as on some of the solutions to the problems posed by the historical dimension of the texts (modes of address; anachronisms; outdated terminology; formulaic language; and the need for historical research).

2. The Letters in Context: Portugal and her British Ally 1809-20

The Farrers were one among many of the local families whose lives revolved around the woollen and worsted manufacture and trade in Yorkshire. The success of their business went hand in hand with the economic growth and technological development of the period, a process which would leave an indelible mark on the landscape of the Midlands and the North of England. These developments led to major changes in the social structure, with a generalised phenomenon of rural-urban migration meeting the industry’s need for labour (Fletcher 1919: 77-84). The Yorkshire region soon became the chief export centre for manufactured woollen goods. In a world of cut-throat competition, those who succeeded in business were of an unrelenting entrepreneurial and ambitious spirit that often looked beyond the confines of Britain.

Industrial expansion forced traders to look further afield and open up new markets; Portugal swiftly became a key destination. Since Napoleon’s Continental Blockade, decreed in 1806, was firmly in place, the first industrial nation found itself in a worrying predicament. Portugal, where Britain’s commercial stakes ran high, was also left particularly exposed. It was only through Lisbon that it was possible to gain access to the Brazilian market, which had long become the mainstay of the intensive southern Atlantic economy, responsible for the capitalisation of the European market in the Early Modern period. Besides, the Portuguese could not afford to lose the support of the old ally, whose navy provided protection for the trade routes between the metropolis and its colonies. The French invasions of Portugal pushed it to the periphery of the very empire it had founded. If the demise of both commerce and industry had a terrible impact on the economy, the destruction the war wrought in the provinces proved no less damaging. Looting, extortion and massacres left a trail of blood, hatred and revulsion across the whole nation that was to remain unabated for generations. Wellington’s scorched earth policy – aiming to deprive the French troops of victuals and other supplies – aggravated the situation even further. Agriculture and husbandry practically ground to a halt and farmers were unable to produce the foodstuffs required to feed the urban centres. Famine set in and with it a period of demographic stagnation.

Freeing Portugal from the chains of Napoleonic imperialism was not without its costs. Unable to overcome such complete vulnerability, the nation was at the mercy of British interests. Certainly a significant part of the Portuguese economy had for a long time depended on Britain. Whether Portugal benefited from this trade relationship or not is a matter of controversy (Borges de Macedo 1963; Bethell 1984; Maxwell 2004; Pijning 1997; Pardo 1992). However, at least since the Methuen Treaty (1703) Britain had been undermining the Portuguese industry with a substantial influx of cheap manufactured goods undercutting all competition. In January 1808 the opening of the Brazilian ports to Britain represented a fatal blow. Two years later, the protective mechanism of customs duties was removed precisely when the Portuguese economy was most in need of it. The prospects for the manufacturing sector grew dimmer as British cotton and wool cloths flooded the Portuguese market.

The political power that William Carr Beresford, commander-in-chief of the Portuguese troops during the invasions, held during this crucial period in the country’s history played a decisive role in protracting this position of economic subordination. He ended up gaining considerable ascendancy over the representatives of the Prince Regent. In the post-war years he headed the military government, a position which rapidly eroded his earlier prestige as a war hero. People started protesting against the way public funds were being squandered to pay for the presence of British troops on national territory. Portuguese officers likewise harboured deep-seated resentment towards the British officers, who were now apparently being granted all sorts of privileges and promotions (see Glover 1976). Beresford’s radical intransigence in politics led to the repression of those who advocated a more liberal agenda, namely those who were suspected either of sympathising with the ideals of the French Jacobins, or of defending a constitutional monarchy. As a stern defender of Tory absolutism, his views were in line with the ones shared by two other Anglo-Irish potentates, namely Wellington and Castlereagh (Newitt 2004: 107). His absolutist values, along with his thirst for power, left him isolated in a world riven by deep-rooted hatreds. The revolutionary clamour heard in Oporto on 24 August 1820 was to put paid to Beresford’s ambitions. Paradoxically, partly thanks to the influence of the British officers, the British tradition of liberalism ended up taking root in a country lacking in ideological coordinates to define its political future.

When James Hutchinson first set foot in Lisbon, the country was going through a period of economic depression. His letters mirror the upheavals and the social unrest of the period and therefore help to shed light on historical processes, since they testify to the way in which individuals perceived reality and (re)acted accordingly. Popular reactions to the new king, news of the uprising in Pernambuco (Brazil), political persecutions, and hangings are well documented elsewhere,[2] but here we are given a view from the inside. Moreover, rather than just affirming the picture that the extensive historiographical literature on the subject has already established, the letters also disclose new facets. They prove that, despite the impressive growth of Britain’s exports in this period, British trade did not run smoothly in Portugal. Hutchinson could hardly be said to be the definitive model of the successful businessman. His efforts, nonetheless, were mostly undermined by factors that lay beyond his reach. General poverty, scarcity of money, shortages of food and other essentials, and rationing, for example, became recurrent, if not obsessive, subjects in his letters, betraying his sense of frustration and underachievement. Moreover, Hutchinson was forced to deal with fierce competition within the Portuguese market and the incompetence of the Customs officials, not to mention liabilities and bad debts, marketing obstacles and, curiously enough, an increasingly demanding clientele, all of which imposed psychological costs he found ever more difficult to cope with. And although he was not so forthcoming in discussing political issues, such as Beresford’s repression, his fears and silences about the persecutions are no less telling.

Each letter contains, as it were, the very essence of history and, through the picturesque and sometimes disconcerting episodes they feature, they help us recreate a reality long buried by time. Precisely because this is a genuine voice that has remained hidden amidst other archival material for almost two centuries, unscathed by later misappropriations or misinterpretations, we are able to salvage pristine fragments of the historical experience and to retrieve for our collective memory some of the particularities and singularities that are usually overlooked in the construction of the historical grand narratives of the nation. In a letter dated 18 October 1816, for instance, Hutchinson speaks of the funeral ceremonies of Queen Maria I and clearly enjoys recounting the peculiar causes of the accidental fire that burned down the church where those ceremonies were being held. In a later letter (22 October 1817), he provides a first-hand testimony of the horrendous hanging of the men who followed Gomes Freire de Andrade in his revolt against Lord Beresford’s roughshod rule. Elsewhere he laments the shortage of foodstuffs and the rise in prices which mercilessly strike the poor (letter dated 25 January 1817), but he cannot help relishing the story of a woman arrested for stealing bodies from the cemetery to produce black pudding to be sold to the local shops (9 August 1816). In another letter he speaks of an earthquake that threw the city ‘into the most dreadful alarm’ and the scenes of panic that ensued, while rejoicing at the fact that he remained ‘during the whole of the night in a sound slumber’ (3 February 1816).

3. An Englishman in Lisbon: Estrangement, Displacement and the Quest for Belonging

Notwithstanding the rapid decline of the Portuguese economy during and after the Peninsular War, British traders rapidly resumed their investments in the country. Samuel Farrer & Sons were amongst them. Samuel Farrer Jr. established the family’s business in Lisbon in 1812. The family’s entrepreneurial effort must have paid off somehow, for upon his death, in February 1815, they decided to keep on investing in their Portuguese venture. It would be up to young James Hutchinson Jr. to take up the business. His inexperience notwithstanding, James was not entirely at a loss. The need to account for every transaction and to keep his brother-in-law posted about how business was being conducted resulted in a correspondence of considerable length, which lasted until his departure from Lisbon at the end of 1817. The letters were permeated by the young man’s comments, remarks and anecdotes about life in the Portuguese capital. Being an outsider in customs, language and feelings, Hutchinson tried hard to accommodate himself to his new setting.

In his letters, however, the affectionate attachment he exhibits towards his sister and the other members of his family indicates that his stay in Lisbon was, emotionally speaking, hard to bear. He often complained about her silence and the fact that she now seemed to have forsaken him altogether. But then, it was not just the separation from his loved ones that threw him into a state of melancholy. His life in the Portuguese capital was infused with a sense of estrangement he was unable to overcome. He felt uprooted and disengaged.

It becomes all too apparent that his gaze is that of an outsider, of someone struggling to succeed in a strange, disturbing world, whose social and political environment contrasts in many respects with that of his native land. He soon realised it would not be easy to fit in. Despite the support that other British expatriates residing in Lisbon gave him, he complained to his family about living conditions there. Blatantly ironic, he confessed that he ‘suffer[ed] very much from the Muschetos [sic], Bugs & other filth with which this sweet City so much abounds’ (11 August 1815).

His difficulty in understanding the Portuguese is particularly visible when he is faced with the lack of patriotic fervour of the man in the street, a fervour one should expect from a nation that had been recently freed from the Napoleonic terror:

On Saturday last the King was proclaimed throughout the City and Sunday was appropriated for the acclamation.—The Troops were reviewed by Marshal Beresford, yet never did I witness their going through their manoevres [sic] in such an inanimate manner:—never was such a Viva given by the Portuguese to their Sovereign; scarcely did one Soul open his mouth, excepting the Marshal and his Staff Officers:—it was a complete ‘Buonapartean Viva’ a forced shout of applause dying away in a groan. (11 April 1817)

Since most of the time he was consumed by work, it becomes difficult for the contemporary reader to detect such feelings of estrangement in the midst of commercial jargon and ledger accounts. He sought to be meticulous in his book-keeping and reports and sensitive to changes in market conditions, especially as far as fashion, trends, tastes and purchasing power went. He struggled to prove himself worthy of the trust and respect not just of his brother-in-law, but also of other foreign merchants who had already established their names in the Portuguese market. He even got carried away by the idea of opening his own establishment in order to fend off competition and to tackle the problem of low bids, which often forced him to keep the bales in store for unusually long periods of time.

In order to perceive how displaced he felt, one has to read between the lines. When his enthusiasm waned or his health gave way, an undeclared anxiety and irritation would surface. His less than flattering comments on Portuguese customs officials and the tone of his replies to his brother-in-law whenever suspicion of laxness or mismanagement hung in the air prove the point. He became impatient when ships from Brazil, New York or Falmouth were unduly delayed. He was unnerved by the negligence of long-standing debtors, who often turned a deaf ear to his entreaties. Besides, in spite of the considerable sums of money that passed through his hands, James was far from leading an easy and comfortable life. In a sense, it was through his own body that he first measured the degree of his maladjustment. He was constantly ill, poorly dressed, and found his lodgings uncomfortable. The weather did not suit him and he feared death might creep up on him. For some time he had to resign himself to ‘a Bed Room fitted up for me in the Warehouse, without any other convenience or sitting room’ (11 April 1817). He would wear the same clothes for months on end, winter and summer alike. Disease would take hold of him and he would be confined to bed for several weeks. His neat copperplate handwriting would then degenerate to illegible scribbling. In the spring of 1817 he would confess that ‘I have suffered very materially in my health since I came here’. Convinced that he was no longer fit for the job, he would then ask Thomas to let Ambrose Pollett, a friend of the family, replace him in the firm. His physical condition would not let him endure another winter in Lisbon. In his last letter, dated 29 November, he once more complained about his health, saying that the cold weather caused him to ‘spit blood in considerable quantities from the lungs’ and that he was afraid he would never be able to return to his homeland again ‘since I fell [sic] persuaded I shall never get better of the severe illness I had in the Spring of the year 1816’. To him Lisbon, thus, ended up representing the proximity of death, that ultimate moment of displacement. His fears, however, were unfounded and he went back to England where he remained in convalescence, before returning to Portugal. But once more the climate did not agree with him. His health worsened, especially after hearing the news of his nephew’s death in December 1818, and he was compelled to leave Lisbon one last time.[3]

In the course of his stay, James was badly in need of a focal point to keep things in perspective and letter writing served such a purpose. More than anything else, it allowed him to keep his sense of belonging alive. These letters ended up being the only bridge not just to his origins, but above all to his own identity. He felt so helpless when his sister failed to reply to his letters that ‘it even grieves me to the heart when I reflect upon it’ (17 February 1816). This sentimentality towards his family is in marked contrast with his attitude as an observer. Although Hutchinson cannot entirely detach himself emotionally from what he witnesses, there is a kind of Verfremdungseffekt in his writing, a journalistic objectification of the topics he covers, whereby the distance between himself and the other is never to be entirely spanned.

4. Prying into a Gentleman’s Private Correspondence: Issues of Intimacy, Confidentiality and Objectivity in Translation

Translating something as intimate and confidential as private letters has the potential to border on voyeurism. It raises issues that concern the ethics of translation, since the translator, unlike the casual reader, is supposed to leave no stone unturned in his struggle to reach communicative effectiveness. His labour consists in unveiling all meanings, in ransacking the secrets of the author’s mind, and, if necessary, in exposing the frailties of his body. The innermost thoughts are not fenced off from the translator’s dissecting tools. In this sense, translation is to be viewed as an act of intrusion and, simultaneously, of extrusion (in other words a disclosure and a close examination of that which pertains to the private sphere). The former constitutes a form of violation, of disrupting that which belongs to the realm of the confessional and becoming, to borrow the words of St. Augustine, ‘privy to the secrets of conscience’; whereas the latter manifests itself in the form of violence, destroying the integrity of the textual body, vivisecting it and exhibiting it to the public gaze. Nevertheless, such violence is mitigated by the transmutational properties of time. Over time, these texts have acquired the status of archaeological evidence, which does not necessarily mean that in this respect the position of the translator is less delicate. After all, he was not the addressee of the letters and that fact alone poses some problems. An outsider may find it difficult to penetrate the referential fabric of the letters. Unlike travel accounts or autobiographies written for publication, these texts were not intended for a wide readership. They were personal in tone and content, and the writer knew what responses to expect from his only reader living across the English Channel. The writer did not project an ideal or fictional reader to whom he might grant full right of access to the world recreated in his prose. As a consequence, his world remains sealed off from a larger audience and the translator is forced to break into the textual space like a trespasser. Implicatures lie hidden within this corpus of letters but they can never be entirely unravelled: whatever inferences the translator may draw, he or she will always lack the necessary background knowledge to establish their validity. Such implicatures, one must not forget, are a symptom of the close relationship existing between the two correspondents. Implicit meanings result from a common experience, excluding other readers. Fortunately, the text in question is generally far more objective and factual than one would suppose, and this alone gives the translator significant leverage over the hidden aspects of the correspondence. It is in the terrain of factuality and narrativity that the translator moves free from major constraints, although it is certain that the faithfulness of the representation can never be taken for granted (see Polezzi 2004: 124).

Of course one cannot expect to find in such letters a precise and exhaustive portrait of Beresford’s Lisbon, systematically organised in such a way as to cover all possible angles. What we get instead is a myriad of disparate images that can hardly be coalesced into one single picture. The reason is obvious: the stories he tells do not follow any thematic pattern, other than the fact that all of them revolve around the city itself. Apart from the town of Sintra, a popular tourist resort in the nineteenth century, where he spent some time ‘for the benefit of my Health which, thank God I have recovered beyond my expectation’ (14 June 1816), he never set foot outside of the capital (or at least there is no archival evidence of him doing so) and therefore he apparently did not know what was going on in the rest of the country. His letters lack the ‘horror and pity’ William Warre experienced as he crossed the country chasing after the fleeing French army and encountering ‘many people and children absolutely starving and living upon nettles and herbs they gathered in the fields’ (Warre and Warre 1909: 222). Not even Sintra, that ‘glorious Eden’ with its ‘views more dazzling unto mortal ken than those whereof such things the Bard relates’, as Byron wrote in his celebrated Childe Harolds Pilgrimage (1812), succeeded in enrapturing our author, who preferred to remain faithful to whatever notable occurrences Lisbon had to offer the outsider’s gaze.

Hutchinson’s short narratives appear scattered throughout the letters in a rather random way, and it is their reading as anecdotal collages, rather than as a set of tightly-woven, interrelated stories, that allows the reader to gain a taste of the spontaneity of the narration and the ingenuousness of the narrator. Although the anecdotal episodes themselves are self-contained and refer only to fragments of both individual and collective experiences in early nineteenth-century Lisbon, they play an important part in the process of historiographical reconstruction of the past. The historiographical value of the letters lies in the fact that they contain accounts that were neither censored nor doctored: no one ever scrutinised or edited the stories, which were simply committed to paper without any concern for accuracy, trustworthiness or factuality. The ensemble of letters forms a sort of scrapbook containing clippings or mementos that were never meant to be published. Such moments, however, were bound together by a common genetic code: they all emerged out of the drive for novelty, a drive partly explained by the way the processes of cultural displacement affected the author.

However, when it comes to Hutchinson’s values and ideological assumptions, they are not readily easy to detect. He preferred to position himself as an observer rather than as a commentator, and avoided getting entangled in elaborate considerations. If the translator wants to gain a glimpse of his ideas and opinions, then he/she must proceed by engaging in a symptomatic reading of the letters, observing, for example, the way he framed and skewed the subject matter, or how he got himself more or less emotionally involved with the events he narrated, or simply how he refrained from passing judgement on what he saw. Far from highly opinionated, the letters nonetheless give us the chance of peering into his personality, albeit obliquely.

Sometimes, however, he felt compelled to take sides, such as when he dared to air his own opinion on Beresford:

...being the weaker power & finding himself defeated in all his projects, it is reported that he is about leaving [sic] the Country, which in my opinion is the wisest step he can take, else a worse fate may attend him. (11 April 1817)

Such explicitness was rare. Shortly after the rebellion in Pernambuco, Brazil, Hutchinson censured himself for letting slip his views on the political turmoil that had gripped the country and decided to not to return to the issue for fear of reprisals:

You are well aware that it is necessary to be very cautious how we treat upon political subjects in this Country, for which reason I avoid any thing of this nature, only sofar [sic] as I suppose it may be connected with the interests of Mercantile Affairs. (4 July 1817)

His fears over the consequences of political dissent were not wholly misplaced. The horrific hanging of the Conspirators he watched on 22 October 1817, shortly before his departure, left a lasting impression on him:

[C]uriosity led me to be one of the spectators of this awful scene & however disgraceful hanging may be in England I can assure you it is not less so here. The Executioner is obliged to ride astride the shoulders of every man he hangs.—It was about four O’Clock in the Afternoon when the Prisoners arrived at the foot of the Gallows & was about midnight when this melancholy scene closed.—After the Execution of all 7 out of the 11 were burnt on a Funeral Pile on the spot.

Here, his voyeurism matched his horror as he came to the full presence of death—that dark character that kept resurfacing in his writing.

5. Translation as a Double Disjuncture

As we have seen, what was once private acquires, over time, an archaeological value: the status of artefact is conferred on language as privacy metamorphoses into historical evidence. In translation, chronological distance is of the essence: one might even argue that every translation has embedded in its genes an indelible anachronism. In sharp contrast with our contemporary world, where synchronous forms of communication and instantaneous access to information seem to have taken hold of the way we communicate with each other, the art and craft of translation necessitates the slow transit of time. It is a painstaking process of problem-solving, reflection and maturation. It takes time and perseverance. And when it involves the representation of past historical phenomena, as in the present case, the temporal dimension acquires critical significance. On the one hand, the translator cannot help excogitating his own condition as a historical subject: he becomes conscious of the relativity of values, of the differentials separating lifestyles, habitus (in the Bourdieusian sense) and Weltanschauungen. On the other, the target text ends up constituting the representation of a representation and, as such, it is, as Althusser once stated of ideology, a representation of an ‘imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence’ (Althusser 1971: 162). And here, in the translation process, the time gap separating source and target texts functions not so much as a thread linking both acts of writing along a historical continuum but rather as a lens, generating several simultaneous optical effects, where light shifts in unsuspected ways and where appearance must be understood in its composite and elusive nature. The world of the (author’s) ‘present’ can never be reconstructed as such in the target text. The translator necessarily operates in the time gap between two ‘presents’ (his/her own and the author’s). That is why the translator’s labour must be that of a conscious re-representation of history. This, of course, entails much scrupulous work of detailed historical research, as well as the ability to articulate it within the translational process.

The crux of the matter lies in being able to dwell in the interstices between two languages, two cultures and two historical periods. This is the translator’s privilege and the source of many of his tribulations. To be able to lay claim to the ability to contemplate the insurmountable differences that separate not only languages but also cultures, one is required to perceive how far one’s own consciousness depends not only on λόγος and on the chains of meanings that help one make sense of the world, but also on the points of rupture of discourse, those points where signifiers and signifieds (regardless of the language) can no longer encompass those phenomena that keep resisting appropriation, including the culture of the other. In other words, one must learn to come to terms with the undecidability which undermines the certainties offered by our ingrained logocentrism.

As the translator shifts, in the course of the translation process, from one logosphere (in the Barthesian sense) to another, he realises that the movement itself does not (actually, cannot) entail the loss or gain, subtraction or addition of meanings. Meaning does not constitute some sort of universal currency (that is, manifestations of a universal language common to all human beings) that can be subjected to a process of direct exchange or transaction. Meanings cannot migrate freely from one language to another. I can only subtract meanings within the system they belong to. Languages weave their own networks of meanings and the exact value of each meaning, if it can ever be assessed, is to be determined only symptomatically by the effects generated by its presence or absence in one particular social and cultural context. To believe in the transferability of the meaning and its capacity to survive as a whole in two distinct linguistic and cultural environments (as in a process of ecesis) is not to realise something that Derrida pointed out: that even within the same language meanings not only differ (a problem of spacing), but are forever deferred (which is the condition of their temporality). One of the main problems of translation, therefore, is not just spatiality but also temporality, particularly the historical condition of the texts.

And this, I think, poses an obstacle far more difficult to overcome, since it has to do with the impossibility for the translator to render two externalities compatible in one single (target) text. Just as Hutchinson was compelled, as an expatriate, to come to terms with the social and cultural reality of his host country[4] (which is, for all purposes, a question of spatiality), so the translator, like a migrant travelling through time, is forced to come to grips with an ancient world governed by laws long forsaken and now irretrievable (the question of temporality). And since both writer and translator are forever barred from a fully unmediated contact with the unconsciously lived culture of the Other, both seeing it as something external to themselves, though not necessarily negative, their attempts to assimilate cultural elements and national idiosyncrasies can only take place on the terrain of the imaginary, which enables them to crop, select, filter and reshape elements and idiosyncrasies in order to discursively tame the otherness. It is when the translator is trying to tackle texts of this nature that he feels – to allude to one of Derrida’s most quoted metaphors, borrowed from Shakespeare – that ‘time is out of joint’, namely that he is supposed to take up the writer’s voice, but without being able to adjust either to the discursive and ideological framework within which the texts once gained their coherence, or to the past ‘structure of feeling’ (to use one of Raymond Williams’s concepts of cultural analysis) that informed the emotions, thoughts and actions of the original writer (Williams 1965: 64-6).

Translators of travel writing therefore have to operate on a double disjuncture. On the one hand, they have to deal with the cultural gap that exists between the author and the people he visits (Hutchinson and the Portuguese), a gap which over-determines the perceptions, constructs, responses and projections of otherness of the British expat, but which -- since it is barely made explicit in the text -- can only be detected by means of a symptomatic reading. On the other hand, translators have to negotiate the disjunction that will always separate them from the time and the concrete conditions under which the texts saw the light of day -- a disjunction that is further amplified by the impossibility of mapping the exact location of the intersection of cultures which gives the letters their characteristic intercultural tension (see Cronin 2000: 6). Therefore, the translator is left with no choice but to try to overcome these two disjunctions, both of which constitute distinct moments of resistance to interpretation.

The translator’s path is strewn with obstacles, for the minute he or she starts translating the text that distinction is no longer clear: the two moments overlap and the barriers between them become blurred, since his or her gaze is constructed in and through the gaze of the expatriate. How can we then circumvent the limitations to translation that such a double disjuncture imposes? Of course a careful, detailed investigation into the empirical elements offered by the letters and the issues broached therein must always be conducted, but this is not enough: it can only be through a critical awareness of these tensions and resistances that translators may decentre themselves and avoid the pitfalls of identification and idealisation. It is this decentring at the core of translation that ends up being in itself a form of travelling. After all, ‘translatio’ in Latin means ‘carrying across’, ‘transporting’, ‘transferring’, and, in contrast to what we may think, it is not the source text that is ‘carried across’ to a target culture. It is rather the translator and his reader who are invited to venture across a frontier -- the frontier that sets the limits to their identities, values and representations, and that is both spatial and temporal.

In fact, the main challenges to the translation of these letters were posed by the problem of temporality, that is, by the difficulties of bridging the time gap. The first issue to be tackled was the stylistics of the Portuguese target text. It was not just a matter of finding the best equivalents and transferring contents from the source text into the target language without major semantic losses. It was also a matter of finding a style and a register that could somehow match the original ones. In order to do that, I compared the letters to similar archival and bibliographical sources in Portuguese. Two manuals of commercial correspondence proved invaluable: Arte da correspondência commercial ou modelos de cartas para toda a qualidade de operações mercantis [The Art of Commercial Letter Writing or Letter Templates for all Sorts of Trade Operations] (Anon.; 1824) and Monlon’s Arte da correspondência commercial ou escolha de cartas sobre o commercio [The Art of Commercial Letter Writing or a Selection of Business Letters] (1857), the only key style manuals of the day in this area still available for consultation in the Portuguese National Library. The analysis of the examples of letters allowed me to determine the way in which the target text was to be drafted.

One of the most complicated aspects I had to deal with was choosing the mode of address: the original letters invariably start with ‘Dear Brother’, and then the addressee is always referred to with the second person personal pronoun ‘you’. In Portuguese, this is not so linear. In the early nineteenth century, modes of address would have varied according not only to social class, age or degree of familiarity, but also to written language conventions. ‘You’ could be translated either as ‘Tu’ (too informal; the verb is conjugated in the second person singular), ‘Você’ (slightly more formal; the verb is conjugated in the third person singular), ‘Vossa Mercê’ (idem), or ‘Vós’ (more formal; verb conjugated in the second person plural), among several other possibilities. Back then, a relationship with a brother-in-law, close as it might have been, did not necessarily imply the use of the informal ‘tu’, since informality and closeness are not synonyms. The way Hutchinson closed the letters (‘Your ever Affectionate Brother’) bears witness to such emotional proximity, but it is far from being indicative of a relaxed, informal manner. The solution to the difficulty in ascertaining whether we were dealing with informality or politeness was partly given by the 1824 manual. The plural ‘Vós’ is used when addressing both singular and plural persons, but in some cases all we have is the initial ‘V—’, which could stand either for ‘Vós’, ‘Você’ or ‘Vossa Mercê’. When the ‘V—’; form occurs, the verb is conjugated in the third person singular, midway between formality and affable politeness. This was the form I resorted to throughout.

Another difficulty had to do with wording. The manuals proved useful in guiding my lexical choices. I wanted to give the translation a distinctive period flavour to represent the historical dimension of the original letters. For example, ‘company’ could be translated either as ‘sociedade’ or ‘empresa’, but these words barely appear in the 1824 manual, especially when referring to one’s own company. Instead, the commonest word is ‘caza’ [House] sometimes ‘caza de commercio’ (dated spelling), which I decided to adopt. Many more old-fashioned or outdated Portuguese words that appear in the manual were likewise retrieved: ‘embolço’ [imbursement]; ‘estimar’ [to believe; to guess];  ‘fazer-se de vella’ [to set sail]; ‘governo’ [management]; ‘sortimento’ [assortment]; ‘sortir’ [to sort; to provide]; ‘praça’ [exchange or financial centre; market]; ‘rogar’ [to beseech]. The manual was equally useful in providing formulaic language that was pretty close to some passages in Hutchinson’s letters: ‘Sacámos hoje sobre vós pelo importe da factura (…) L... a 60 dias á ordem de…’ [Today we drew on you for the sum of £… at sixty days]; ‘Vosso reverente servidor’ [Your very Obedient Servant]; ‘Por esta confirmamos a nossa circular de (…) desde a qual ainda não tivemos a satisfação de receber alguma vossa…’ [Without any of your Favors since mine of the … I have now to inform you…].

Another challenge was related to the commercial jargon both in English and in Portuguese. Nowadays commercial terminology in both languages is much more complex, but most of the neologisms that currently exist in Portuguese are English words. Back then, that influence was more tenuous. In any case, the search for the right equivalent would have always been time-consuming. ‘Bill’ alone, for instance, could be equivalent to as many things as ‘letra’, ‘letra de câmbio’, ‘saque’, ‘promissória’, ‘papel comercial’, ‘título de comércio’, ‘factura’, or ‘facturação’. If we multiply this by the wide spectrum of nomenclatures related to those areas of economic activity Hutchinson was directly or indirectly involved in, we have an idea of the complexity of the task.

To start with, there were the inner workings of the wool trade business. I had to unwind the ball of yarn of the English wool and worsted industry, including all the details concerning the different stages of the manufacturing process: recognising the provenance and differences in quality of the raw wool available in both the Portuguese and Spanish markets, the various patterns of the warp and weft, the way the cloth should be cut or dressed, specific types of woollen cloths, their designs and colours, and so on. One particular stumbling block was the enigmatic ‘37 R., 6 F., 4 S., 1 T. & 11 A.’ (letter dated 9 August 1816). It took me a while before I learnt from a magazine published in London in 1804 (Tilloch 1807: 239-42) that the initials did not stand for any English or Portuguese words, but for Spanish ones. They referred to the way Spanish wool (which also included Portuguese wool) was classified: Primera or Refina (R.), Fina (F.), Segunda (S.), Tercera (T.) and Añinos (A.).

Moreover, since conducting business ventures overseas back then was not without its risks, I had to acquaint myself with the idiom used in cargo and shipping insurance, learn about risk-assessment, shipping deadlines, storage conditions, bills of lading, types of merchant ships crossing the Atlantic, and so on. But then there are also taxes and duties, customs procedures and the requirements of port authorities, the valuation of the bales in the Cocket,[5] goods lodged at the Custom House not yet dispatched -- all of this wrapped up in a language of its own, which has to be patiently disassembled, explored, digested, and then reassembled and fine-tuned in the translation process. In order to penetrate that language I had to resort to historical research once more. I visited the ‘Torre do Tombo’ (the Portuguese National Archives) and consulted the records from the customs houses that existed in Lisbon at that time: the ‘Alfândega Grande do Açúcar’, the ‘Alfândega das Sete Casas’, the ‘Alfândega da Casa dos Cinco’ and the ‘Casa da Índia’, the first of which provided invaluable information about the duties on wools and worsted, the classification of wools and of all sorts of cloths, their quantities and provenance, and so on. In the records of the ‘Casa da Índia’, the inventory of the cargo of the French ship Le Commerciant [sic], seized in the summer of 1809, reminds us of the risks faced by merchants like Hutchinson.

I adopted a domesticating approach to a certain extent, adding explanatory footnotes whenever words, phrases or referents might challenge the modern reader’s understanding of the target text. However, since the Revista de Estudos Anglo-Portugueses is aimed at a scholarly readership, it proved unnecessary to insist on the explanation of cultural or linguistic aspects that they are supposed to be already acquainted with. Differences in style between early nineteenth-century and early twenty-first-century Portuguese are noticeable, but they do not make the text less intelligible. In any case, stylistic conventions should not pose a problem for all the scholars who are used to working with documents of that period. So I kept the footnotes to a minimum. The future publication of a book containing the complete correspondence of the Farrer family, this time aiming at a more general readership, will entail a different explanatory methodology, but not a different stylistic treatment.

6. Conclusions

Writing narratives of displacement and travel is in itself a translational act, where the author is always seeking to translate into his mother tongue the manifestations of the culture of the other.[6] The translator of travel writing, in turn, operates on a double disjuncture – the gap between the author and the visited culture, on the one hand, and the gap between the translator and the author, on the other – threefold if you include the inevitable temporal disjuncture. In the process, the translator is forced to question his identity, values and the representations of his own nation and people, especially if the original text is non-fictional and therefore stakes a claim to the immediacy and truthfulness of the experience. The translator thus has to achieve a tour-de-force in bridging all three gaps and rendering the text accessible to the contemporary reader. However, the meanings in the target text will always have but a spectral relation with the ones in the source text: they are constructed at the same time as a re-apparition of a former presence (that does not present itself as full presence) and as the apparition of a new presence –a new text in its own right. This distance between the source and target texts becomes more difficult to span when historical time – fissured as it has been, in this particular case, over these past two centuries by sudden ruptures and discontinuities – keeps eroding the paths that could render the source text recognisable to the reader: hence the importance of the translator’s historical consciousness and the necessity of articulating historical research with the translation process, since any translation of historical material that disregards the intelligibility of historical processes lacks the authority to stake claims to accuracy and credibility.


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Bethell, Leslie (1984) Colonial Brazil, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

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Casas Pardo, José (ed.) (1992) Economic effects of the European expansion, 1492-1824, Stuttgart, Steiner Verlag.

Cronin, Michael (2000) Across the Lines: Travel, Language, Translation, Cork, Cork University Press.

Fletcher, J. S. (1919) The Story of the English Town of Leeds, New York, Macmillan.

Gentzler, Edwin (1993) Contemporary Translation Theories, Clarendon, Multilingual Matters.

Glover, Michael (1976) “Beresford and His Fighting Cocks”, History Today 26, no. 4: 262-8.

Lopes, António (2009) “Cartas inéditas de um jovem burguês 1815-1817” (1.ª parte) [“Unpublished letters of a young bourgeois 1815-1817” (1st part)], Revista de Estudos Anglo Portugueses, no. 18: 93-133.

--- (2010) “Cartas inéditas de um jovem burguês 1815-1817” (2.ª parte) [‘Unpublished letters of a young bourgeois 1815-1817’ (2nd part)], Revista de Estudos Anglo Portugueses no. 19: 175-204.

Maxwell, Kenneth (2004) Conflicts and Conspiracies: Brazil and Portugal, 1750-1808, London, Routledge.

Newitt, Malyn (2004) Lord Beresford and British Intervention in Portugal, 1807-1820, Lisbon, Imprensa de Ciências Sociais.

Pijning, Ernst (1997) “Passive resistance: Portuguese diplomacy of contraband trade during King John V’s reign (1706-1750)”, Arquipélago – História 2, no. 2, 171-191.

Polezzi, Loredana (2004) “Between Gender and Genre: The Travels of Estella Canziani” in Perspectives on Travel Writing, Glenn Hooper and Tim Youngs (eds), Aldershot, Ashgate: 121-37.

Tilloch, Alexander (1807) The Philosophical Magazine: Comprehending the Various Branches of Science, the Liberal and Fine Arts, Agriculture, Manufactures and Commerce. vol. 27. London, R. Taylor.

books.google.pt/books?id=fp9JAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false (accessed 15 April 2011)

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Williams, Raymond (1965 [1961]) The Long Revolution, Harmondsworth, Penguin.


[1] Ref. No. E 140/34/1. Records of the Exchequer: King's Remembrancer: Exhibits: Farrer (and another) v Hutchinson (and others). Scope and content: Letters to Thomas Farrer from his brother-in-law, James Hutchinson (Jnr.), in Lisbon. Covering dates: 1815-1817.

[2] Manuel J. G. de Abreu Vidal. Análise da sentença proferida no juízo da inconfidencia em 15 de Outubro de 1817 contra o Tenente General Gomes Freire de Andrade, o Coronel Manoel Monteiro de Carvalho e outros... pelo crime de alta traição. Lisboa, Morandiana, 1820; José Dionísio da Serra. Epicedio feito, e recitado em 1822 no anniversario da sempre lamentável morte do General Gomes Freire de Andrade. Paris, 1832; Joaquim Ferreira de Freitas. Memoria sobre a conspiraçaõ [sic] de 1817: vulgarmente chamada a conspiração de Gomes Freire. London, Richard and Arthur Taylor, 1822.

[3] He outlived Thomas (who died circa 1820) and was appointed executor of his brother-in-law’s estate.

[4] A process E. Gentzler (1993: 37) calls ‘domestication’.

[5] A customs office in Britain where detailed records of exports were kept.

[6] On the relation between travel and translation see Lesa Scholl (2009) “Translating Culture: Harriet Martineau’s Eastern Travels” in Travel Writing, Form, and Empire: The Poetics and Politics of Mobility, Julia Kuehn and Paul Smethurst (eds), London, Routledge; Susan Bassnett and André Lefevere (1998) Constructing Cultures: Essays on Literary Translation, Clevedon, Multilingual Matters; and Susan Bassnett (2002) Translation Studies, London, Methuen.


Call for Chapters: Redefining Translation and Interpretation in Cultural Evolution

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Media and translation. An interdisciplinary approach

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Translation tools at the dawn of the XXIst century: what are the prospects?

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L’estremo è un po’ più vicino

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Cfp: Translation and the “Third Reich” II

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Conference announcement: Translating Europe Workshop: Forum on Quality in Legal Translation

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CFP (journal): The Journal of Specialised Translation - nonthematic issue no. 28 (July 2017)

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Cfp: MultiMeDialecTranslation 7 – Dialect translation in multimedia

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Scientific and Technical Translation

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The Interpreter’s discourse and its influence on the interpersonal relationship

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Translating Scandinavia: Scandinavian Literature in Italian and German Translation - 1918-1945

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Submissions are open for Exchanges’ Spring ’16 issue

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Special issue of JOSTRANS - The Translation Profession: Centres and peripheries

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Under Surveillance. Ideology and censorship in the translation of popular fiction

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Towards a Genetics of Translation

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Translation as Communication, (Re-)narration and (Trans-)creation

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Cfp: Reflecting on the Studies/Etudes Paradigms

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CFP: Legal translation and interpreting panel at the EST Congress

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Directing the practice of translation: questions of directionality and power in translation practice

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Recensione della nuova traduzione in italiano di The Years di Virginia Woolf

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Cours de linguistique générale im Wandel der Zeit:

Ein textologischer Vergleich der deutschen Übersetzungen

By Goranka Rocco (Università degli Studi di Trieste, Italia)

Abstract & Keywords


This study compares the German translations of Saussure´s the Cours de linguistique générale: Herman Lommel’s first translation of the work, published in 1931, and the recent translation by Peter Wunderli (2013). The analysis is based on a textological approach, which allows us to examine the text from different perspectives taking into account the social and character of (scientific) texts and their evolution, as well as their structure, their terminological, lexical, morphosyntactic and other features.


In der vorliegenden Studie werden zwei  deutsche Übersetzungen von Saussures Cours de linguistique générale aus kontrastiv-textologischer Sicht einander gegenübergestellt: Die Erstübersetzung von Herman Lommel (1931) und die Neuübersetzung von Peter Wunderli (2013). Ausgangspunkt der Analyse ist der in den früheren Studien der Autorin entwickelte, mehrdimensionale textologische Ansatz, der den sozialen und evolutionellen Charakter eines (wissenschaftlichen) Textes, sowie seine strukturellen, terminologischen, lexikalischen, morphosyntaktischen und anderen Eigenschaften berücksichtigt.

Keywords: Cours de linguistique générale, Saussure, contrastive analysis, scientific translation, Übersetzungsvergleich, Wissenschaftstexte, textology, Textologie

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1. Einleitung

An die Zielsetzung der vorliegenden Arbeit kann ausgehend von der Frage herangegangen werden, was eine textologisch orientierte übersetzungswissenschaftliche Auseinandersetzung mit Ausgangs- und Zieltexten von einigen generellen Tendenzen der Übersetzungskritik, und andererseits auch von der (kommerziell oder persönlich motivierten) Laienkritik unterscheidet − und legitimiert.

Laienkritik der Übersetzung hat Einiges gemeinsam mit der Kritik, die etwa von Fußballamateuren an der Aufstellung einer Nationalmannschaft geübt wird: Erstens fühlt sich der interessierte Laie grundsätzlich berechtigt, die Expertenkompetenz in Frage zu stellen; zweitens ist die Einstellung gegenüber dem jeweiligen Objekt bzw. Produkt der Expertenarbeit überwiegend (manchmal sogar a priori) negativ; drittens besteht selten ein ausreichender Einblick in die jeweiligen Entstehungsbedingungen; und viertens, damit verbunden, wird grundsätzlich von einer in der Realität kaum gegebenen Möglichkeit einwandfreier Entscheidungen ausgegangen.

Im Falle der Übersetzung ist das Ausgeliefert-Sein der Laienkritik, das mit steigender (echter oder selbstperzipierter) Mehrsprachigkeit und einer um sich greifenden Kommerzialisierung von Wissen tendenziell zuzunehmen scheint[1], sicher ein Aspekt, der den von Kautz (2000: 16-18) behandelten Herausforderungen der übersetzerischen Berufspraxis hinzugefügt werden könnte. Selbst bei der traditionellen wissenschaftlichen Übersetzungskritik, auf die der obige Vergleich sicher nicht in dieser Form zutreffen kann, lässt sich zuweilen eine eindimensionale, wort- und fehlerzentrierte Vorgehensweise oder die Neigung zu einem bewertenden anstelle eines genuin deskriptiv-explikativen, kontextualisierenden Umgangs mit Translaten feststellen: Auch hier scheinen das Bewusstsein der Vielfalt der übersetzungsrelevanten sprachlichen sowie außersprachlichen Einflussfaktoren und damit verbunden auch das Bewusstsein der „Instabilität“[2] oder „Spannung zwischen Identität und Differenz“ (Biere 2009: 196), die manche übersetzerische Entscheidung begleitet, teilweise in den Hintergrund zu treten.

Dem erwähnten Postulat von der Möglichkeit einer Übersetzung, die jeglichem Einwand standhält, steht in der Praxis der evolutive, prinzipiell unabschließbare Charakter des Auslegungs- und Übersetzungsprozesses (vgl. Stolze 1992: 93) gegenüber. Rega beschreibt diesen Prozess wie folgt: 

Das tiefe Verständnis des Textes ist sehr wahrscheinlich nicht als ein punktueller Moment zu verstehen, sondern als eine kontinuierliche interpretationsbezogene Hin- und Herbewegung zwischen den verschiedenen Teilen eines Textes und auch zwischen den fraglichen Textstellen und anderen (…) Texten, eine Bewegung, die manchmal erst im Moment der endgültigen Revision der Übersetzung seitens des Übersetzers selbst ihren – hermeneutisch gesehen – vorläufigen Endpunkt findet (2009: 56).

Was Übersetzungskritik und Übersetzungsvergleich von den manchmal nicht ganz unberechtigten Vorwürfen der Beckmesserei oder der marketingstrategischen Manipulation[3] bewahren kann und fachlich sowie ethisch berechtigt erscheinen lässt, ist eine mehrdimensionale Herangehensweise an die untersuchten Texte. Das bedeutet, dass die Übersetzungskritik, wie Reinart in diesem Zusammenhang betont, eine dem Vertrauen in Translationsleistungen grundsätzlich abträgliche „Fixierung auf die Negativkritik“ oft durchbricht (2014: 404) und der Übersetzungsvergleich dementsprechend auch nicht darauf abzielen sollte, einem der jeweils analysierten Translate seine Daseinsberechtigung zu entziehen.

Vor diesem Hintergrund kann nun das Anliegen der vorliegenden Arbeit skizziert werden: Im Folgenden soll ein textologischer Vergleich der beiden deutschen Übersetzungen des Cours de linguistique générale – der Erstübersetzung von Lommel (1931) und der Neuübersetzung von Wunderli (2013) – versucht werden. „Textologisch“ bedeutet in diesem Zusammenhang, dass ausgehend von einem kontrastiv-textologischen Modell verschiedenen Aspekten des Textes und  insbesondere auch seinem sozialen und evolutiven Charakter Rechnung getragen wird. Als Grundlage bei der Bestimmung der Analysekriterien diente das an anderer Stelle vorgestellte (Rocco 2013) und weiterentwickelte (2014, 2015a, b) „Holistische Modell der kontrastiven Textologie“, wobei die in sechs Basisdimensionen gruppierten Untersuchungsschwerpunkte (Rocco 2013: 160-162) hier in Anbetracht der Zielsetzung leicht modifiziert wurden. Die Fragen, die bei einem textologisch orientierten Vergleich der Übersetzungen eines wissenschaftlichen Textes oder allgemeiner eines Fachtextes den Ausgangspunkt bilden können und stets in Relation zueinander zu untersuchen sind, lassen sich wie folgt umreißen: 

I Kommunikativ-pragmatische Bedingungen der Textentstehung und Textrezeption: Sie betreffen den Ausgangstext und die jeweiligen Translate und somit auch den/die Verfasser und Übersetzer, den allgemeinen historisch-politischen sowie den wissenschaftsgeschichtlichen Kontext, das anvisierte Zielpublikum und den Forschungs- und Entwicklungstand im betreffenden Gebiet, Voraussetzungen des intersystemischen Wissenstransfers[4];

II Thematisch-strukturelle Eigenschaften[5]: Diese Dimension bezieht sich auf etwaige makro-, meso- und mikrostrukturelle Veränderungen im Vergleich zum Ausgangstext sowie zu anderen Translaten, z.B. Kürzungen, Straffungen, Weglassungen, translatorische und editoriale Entscheidungen, die u.a. auch metatextuelle Aspekte (Übersetzerkommentare, Glossare) betreffen;

III Sprachstilistische Merkmale: Die sprachstilistische Ebene umfasst u.a. Veränderungen und Eingriffe auf der Ebene des (Fach-)Wortschatzes, der Phraseologie und der Syntax und den Umgang mit Entlehnungen; darüber hinaus sind eventuelle Stilunterschiede zu berücksichtigen (z.B. wenn Übersetzung auch Umgestaltung eines Textes zu didaktischen oder divulgativen Zwecken mit einschließt);

IV Semiotisch-visuelle Merkmale: Zu dieser (mit der Strukturdimension eng verknüpften) Dimension gehören u.a. eventuelle Layout-Veränderungen, Unterschiede in der Verwendung von Farben, Grafiken, Bildmaterial usw.;

V Textsortenentwicklung: Die Grundfrage lautet hier, wie sich Veränderungen hinsichtlich der Textsortenkonventionen, des Standardisierungs- und Verbreitungsgrades einzelner Textsorten und Textmuster auf die Ausgangstext-Rezeption und die Translat-Eigenschaften auswirken;

VI Werte und Wertewandel: Im Mittelpunkt des Interesses steht bei dieser Dimension die Frage, wie sich der eventuelle Einfluss von Werten, Normen, Ideologien, Tabus, Kulturstandards usw. in der sprachlichen und/oder inhaltlichen Textgestaltung manifestiert.

Selbstverständlich können je nach Textsorte, Texteigenschaften und Textentstehungskontext bestimmte Aspekte in den Vordergrund bzw. in den Hintergrund treten; bei traditionellen philologisch ausgerichteten Wissenschaftstexten kann beispielsweise die Dimension IV grundsätzlich von geringerer Relevanz sein als bei bestimmten Fachtextsorten. So fungiert das Holistische Modell der kontrastiven Textologie auch im Folgenden als das Grundgerüst einer Analyse, bei der bestimmten Textdimensionen und -eigenschaften mehr Aufmerksamkeit gewidmet werden muss als anderen.

Wie bereits aus mehreren Analyseparametern ersichtlich, wird es im Folgenden nicht darum gehen, herauszufinden, welche der beiden Cours-Übersetzungen[6] „besser“ bzw. „schlechter“ ist – eine Fragestellung, die in Anbetracht der grundlegenden Unterschiede auf mehreren Ebenen trivial wäre. Vielmehr besteht das Ziel der Arbeit darin, aus der Analyse zweier zeitlich sowie wissenschaftsgeschichtlich weit entfernten Übersetzungen Schlussfolgerungen zu ziehen darüber, welche zielsprachlichen Textproduktionsstrategien und welche lexikalischen, syntaktischen, terminologischen Entscheidungen bzw. Entscheidungskriterien der Übersetzungsvergleich überhaupt erkennen lässt, was einzelne Übersetzungsprobleme und Übersetzungslösungen nach einer bestimmten Zeit in einem neuen Licht erscheinen lässt und wie sich einzelne textexterne Faktoren auf die Eigenschaften einer Fachübersetzung und somit schließlich auf die Rezeption eines wissenschaftlichen Grundlagenwerks auswirken. Der letzte Aspekt ist besonders mit Blick auf die Kontroversen und Missverständnisse der strukturalistischen und poststrukturalistischen Saussure-Rezeption von Relevanz.

2. Bedingungen der Translatentstehung und Translatrezeption

Als 1931 die vom Indogermanisten Lommel angefertigte Übersetzung des Cours de linguistique générale erschien, wurde sie vom zeitgenössischen Publikum grundsätzlich positiv aufgenommen; als erfreulich wurde dabei v.a. die Tatsache empfunden, dass nunmehr auch dem deutschsprachigen Publikum eine deutsche Fassung dieses Werks zur Verfügung stand.[7]  An Übersetzungskritik hat es allerdings von Anfang an nicht gefehlt: Weisgerber (1931/32: 248f.) problematisierte die deutsche Widergabe von langage/langue/parole und von psychique;  Ammann (1934: 304) meldete gelegentliche „sprachliche Anstöße“ und missverständliche Textstellen in der Übersetzung. In seiner Besprechung der zweiten, 1967 veröffentlichten unveränderten Auflage beklagte Engler (1967: 198), dass auch offensichtliche Fehler der Erstauflage (1931) nicht verbessert wurden.

Die lexikalischen und v.a. terminologischen Entscheidungen wurden besonders auch in jüngeren Arbeiten problematisiert; so betonte  z.B. Gusmani (1995) den irreführenden Aspekt der Widergabe von signifié (im Rahmen der signifiant/signifié-Dichotomie) durch „das Bezeichnete“, da dieser Terminus eher auf die „bezeichnete Sache“ als auf die inhaltliche Seite des Zeichens verweist. Besonders scharf fiel das Urteil von Kaudé aus, die mehrere Aspekte der Lommelschen Übersetzung bemängelte (2006: 41-47), von einer „durchgehenden Inkonsequenz bei der Wahl seiner Terminologie“ (S. 41) sprach und die Notwendigkeit einer kompletten Neuübersetzung unterstrich (S. 46).

Ohne den laut mehreren Linguisten längst fälligen Bedarf an einer Neuübersetzung bestreiten zu wollen, muss man jedoch Lommels Übersetzung als Pionierleistung gebührend würdigen: Dies in erster Linie mit Blick auf das große Gefälle zwischen dem damaligen und dem aktuellen Forschungsstand der saussureschen bzw. postsaussureschen Linguistik, aber auch angesichts der Tatsache, dass Lommels Text chronologisch gesehen die allererste Übersetzung des Cours in eine indogermanische Sprache darstellt – und überhaupt erst die zweite Übersetzung des Cours nach der ersten, japanischen Übersetzung aus dem Jahr 1928[8]. Es ist also mit einiger Sicherheit anzunehmen, dass zum Entstehungszeitpunkt der deutschen Übersetzung die oft vielbringende Möglichkeit, eine dritte oder vierte Sprache als Vergleichsbasis heranzuziehen, nicht gegeben war.

Problematischer als die hervorgehobenen Mängel der Pionierübersetzung scheint uns angesichts dieser beiden Faktoren der Umstand zu sein, dass die nachfolgenden deutschen Ausgaben wieder denselben, weitgehend unveränderten Text von 1931 reproduzierten, welcher zum Zeitpunkt der Zweitauflage (1967) knapp 40 Jahre und bei der Drittauflage (2001)[9] 70 Jahre zurücklag; und dies obwohl der inzwischen grundlegend veränderte Forschungsstand bereits bei der Zweitauflage kein Geheimnis war. Im Nachwort zur zweiten Auflage schrieb Peter von Polenz diesbezüglich:

Nach dem Erscheinen aller 4 Bände der Englerschen kritischen Aufgabe wird zu prüfen sein, inwieweit die deutsche Übersetzung umgearbeitet werden muss. Wahrscheinlich wird es dann mit einer bloßen Überarbeitung nicht getan sein; man wird an eine neue Übersetzung denken müssen, zumal dann auch die allgemeine Weiterentwicklung der linguistischen Terminologie seit 1931 zu berücksichtigen wäre. 

Ein Warten auf eine solche neue Übersetzung würde gerade jetzt, in dieser Zeit einer methodologischen Neubesinnung, den deutschen Germanisten für viele Jahre den Zugang zu dieser wichtigen sprachtheoretischen Quelle erschweren. (Polenz 1967b: 291f.)

Wie plausibel auch Polenz´ pragmatische Rechtfertigung sein mag, ändert sie doch wenig an der Tatsache, dass die erwähnte „Überarbeitung“ die meisten problematischen Elemente nicht beseitigt hatte. Wie auch Kaudé (2006: 47) zurecht kritisiert, erschien außerdem 2001 statt der erhofften Neubearbeitung eine vollkommen textidentische Drittausgabe des Cours, obwohl die im Zitat erwähnte édition critique von Engler (1968a, 1974) schon längst erschienen war.

Der Rezeption des authentischen Saussureschen Gedankenguts war also noch lange Zeit nach der Veröffentlichung dieses epochalen Werks neben der Interpretationsarbeit von Bally und Sechehaye[10]noch eine weitere Mediationsstufe vorgeschaltet – in  Gestalt einer öfter für revisionsbedürftig erklärten, jedoch nicht revidierten Pionierübersetzung. Eine revidierte, aus sprachwissenschaftlicher Sicht kommentierte und den aktuellen Forschungsstand reflektierende deutsche Übersetzung ließ also bis 2013 auf sich warten, während eine annähernd vergleichbare Leistung für das Englische und das Italienische bedeutend früher erbracht werden konnte (für das Englische vgl. Baskin 1959 und besonders Harris 1983[11], für das Italienische De Mauro 1968 und weitere Nachdrucke). Zu erwähnen ist auch, dass in einer der ersten Rezensionen der Neuübersetzung (Jäger 2014) nicht die Frage des Verhältnisses Cours - Translat in den Vordergrund tritt, sondern vielmehr die oben angedeutete Problematik der Autorenschaft. 

Die unterschiedlichen Entstehungsbedingungen der beiden Translate (Modelldimension I) äußern sich u.a. im  terminologischen Aspekt (Dimension III), der in Abschnitt 4 ausführlicher behandelt werden soll: In diesem Zusammenhang muss neben dem jeweiligen Stand der Saussure-Forschung auch der fachliche Hintergrund der beiden Übersetzer berücksichtigt werden. Lommel hatte zwar sowohl die Erstauflage des Cours aus dem Jahr 1916 (Lommel 1921) als auch die geringfügig veränderte Zweitauflage von 1922 (Lommel 1924) rezensiert, was dem Indogermanisten eine der Übersetzung vorausgehende Auseinandersetzung mit dem Cours attestiert.[12] Die Tatsache, dass Lommels Übersetzung jedoch wie bereits erwähnt vor einem Großteil der einschlägigen sprachwissenschaftlichen Arbeiten und kritischen Ausgaben, also in der Anfangsphase des wissenschaftlichen Dialogs über die Saussereschen Begriffe[13] entstand, dürfte mehrere terminologische Fehlgriffe rechtfertigen oder zumindest erklären. Wunderlis übersetzerische Entscheidungen knüpfen hingegen an das sicher nicht selbstverständliche, doch heutzutage in diesem Umfang mögliche Fachwissen eines Saussure-Experten und Vollromanisten, das es dem Übersetzer erlaubt, über linguistische Fragen hinaus auf eine breit angelegte strukturalistische und poststrukturalistische Diskussion einzugehen[14].

Ein weiterer wichtiger, mit der Dimension I zusammenhängender Aspekt des Übersetzungsvergleichs ist die Relation zwischen dem Text und der allgemeinen historisch-politischen Stimmung bzw. die Frage, wie sich die jeweiligen Normen, Werte und Spracheinstellungen auf die Text- bzw. Translateigenschaften auswirken (Dimension VI). Wie in Abschnitt 5.1 illustriert werden soll, ist Lommels Übersetzungsstil stellvertretend für eine Sprachhaltung, die nicht getrennt von der sprachideologischen Stimmung in den letzten Jahren der Weimarer Republik betrachtet werden kann (vgl. Polenz 1967b, für die Zeit nach 1933 vgl. auch Sturge 2007).[15]

Darüber hinaus ergab die auf dem vorgestellten Modell basierende Analyse der beiden Translate, die stellenweise auch unter Rückgriff auf die kommentierte italienische Übersetzung von De Mauro (1968) erfolgte, eine Reihe an strukturellen (Dimension II), terminologischen (Dimension III) und anderen Divergenzen, die vielfach mit den skizzierten Bedingungen der Translatentstehung verbunden sind. Im Folgenden wird ein Versuch unternommen, die wichtigsten Ergebnisse möglichst leserfreundlich zu systematisieren.

3. Struktur und Editionsprinzipien

Wie bereits in ihrem Titel angedeutet, ist die Neuübersetzung mit Originaltext, Kommentaren, Einleitung und Bibliographie ausgestattet. Dass der in der Erstübersetzung nicht vorhandene Originaltext heutzutage zumindest für eine Teilgruppe der französischkundigen Leser eine sinnvolle Ergänzung der Übersetzung darstellen kann, zeugt von den veränderten Rezeptionsbedingungen. Der strukturelle Aspekt der parallel geführten Französisch- und Deutschseiten und der ebenfalls parallel nummerierten Segmente (nach Englers Édition critique) lässt annehmen, dass der anvisierte Leser implizit dazu aufgefordert wird, den Ausgangs- und den Zieltext kritisch zu vergleichen und sich mit Saussures Ausführungen und Thesen auch auf diese Weise auseinanderzusetzen. In Analogie dazu reflektieren die „Ergänzungen und Kommentare“ am Ende des Buchs (S. 445-464), in denen auf terminologische und inter­pretatorische Grundfragen eingegangen wird, einen im Vergleich zur Entstehungszeit der Erstübersetzung bedeutenden Erkenntniszuwachs. So wird beispielsweise (jeweils unter Bezugnahme auf die einschlägige Literatur) im Kommentar 14 auf die Notwendigkeit der Differenzierung zwischen matière und objet und in den Kommentaren 32 und 35 auf die Problematik der Übersetzung von langage/langue/parole hingewiesen (weiter dazu in Abschnitt 4). Mehrere Kommentare thematisieren die Probleme der Cours-Rezeption (37), signalisieren unzulässige Generalisierungen (vgl. z.B. Kommentar 60 zu den Ausführungen zur Phonologie des Englischen, Kommentar 67 zum vollständigen Glottisverschluss, dem Saussure verallgemeinernd phonologische Relevanz abspricht) oder Feststellungen, die aufgrund des heutigen Kenntnisstandes nicht mehr haltbar sind. So betont Wunderli, dass die Wahrnehmung der „Laute“ (im phonologischen Sinne) einer vollkommen unbekannten Sprache, anders als an betreffender Cours-Stelle[16] ausgeführt, ohne Kenntnis des Lautsystems nicht gewährleistet ist (Kommentar 31, S. 445). Wo der Cours dem Hörer eine passive Rolle im kommunikativen Kreislauf (circuit de la parole, S. 76) zuschreibt, weist Wunderli darauf hin, dass der Hör- und Verstehensprozess keineswegs durch reine Passivität des Rezipienten gekennzeichnet ist, sondern vielmehr dessen aktive Interpretationsleistung erfordert; den Unterschied zwischen Produktion und Rezeption beschreibt er entsprechend durch den Gegensatz generativ – interpretativ (Kommentar 28, S.  445)[17].

Ferner verweisen die Fußnoten im fortlaufenden Text auf die kontextuelle Bedeutung der polysemen Ausdrücke wie langue (19) oder phonétique (22[18]) und gewähren zugleich einen Einblick in die übersetzerischen Probleme und Entscheidungen. So illustriert z.B. eine Anmerkung zum Ausdruck tziganes, welchen auch Wunderli in Ermangelung eines konnotativ adäquateren Begriffs mit „Zigeuner“ übersetzt hat, wie sich der Wertewandel auf Übersetzungsentscheidungen auswirken kann:

Zigeuner (tziganes) ist politisch nicht mehr korrekt. Es müßte Sinti und Roma heißen, was aber Saussures integrierender Sichtweise nicht entspricht. (Wunderli 2013: 378, Anm. 140)

Hier zeigt sich also die Problematik der Übersetzung von Volks- oder Gruppenbezeichnungen, die historisch und politisch bedingt zu (z.T. tabubelegten) Dysphemismen geworden sind, deren denotative Bedeutung jedoch im gegebenen Kontext sachgerechter ist als die Bedeutung etwaiger euphemischer oder axiologisch neutraler Alternativausdrücke. Ein ähnliches Beispiel stellt die Anmerkung zum Begriff nation (Anm. 15, S. 91) im Abschnitt „Interne und externe Aspekte der Linguistik“ dar: Laut Wunderli wurde er von den Herausgebern des Cours unglücklich gewählt, da in den Quellen nur peuple, race usw. vorkommen (Engler 1968b: 60); bei der Übersetzung  verwendet er dennoch das deutsche Nation, und zwar unter dem Verweis auf die nationalsozialistische  Vorbelastung des Alternativausdrucks Volk.

Auch im Hinblick auf die restlichen editorialen, strukturellen und metatextuellen Aspekte lässt sich feststellen, dass die Neuübersetzung des Cours aus der veränderten Textentstehungssituation in mehrfacher Hinsicht (im Hinblick auf den Forschungsstand, den historischen Kontext, die bestehenden Übersetzungen usw.) Nutzen ziehen kann: Eine umfassende Einleitung (S. 11-53) gibt ausgiebig Aufschluss über das Leben und Werk Saussures, die Quellen und die Rezeption des Cours, die bisherigen Übersetzungen und die Editionsprinzipien; zudem ist die Neuübersetzung mit einer ausführlichen Bibliographie ausgestattet, die die Kommentare und Fußnoten vervollständigt und über den Forschungsstand bis einschließlich 2010 informiert.

Aus der Leserperspektive weist die Erstübersetzung[19] allerdings einen nicht unerheblichen editorial-strukturellen Vorzug auf: Sie ist mit einem detaillierten, mehrere Gliederungsebenen umfassenden Inhaltsverzeichnis ausgestattet, das ein schnelles Zurechtfinden erlaubt. Hingegen gliedert das Inhaltsverzeichnis der Neuübersetzung den Cours lediglich in die fünf Hauptteile (I Principes généraux, II Linguistique synchronique, III Linguistique diachronique, IV Linguistique géographique, V Questions de linguistique rétrospective. Conclusion) einschließlich der Vorworte zur ersten und zweiten Auflage und der Einleitung.

4. Lexikalische und terminologische Aspekte

Wie bereits bei der Erörterung der strukturellen Aspekte deutlich wurde, baut die Neuübersetzung im Unterschied zur Erstübersetzung auf einer tiefgehenden Auseinandersetzung mit den Saussureschen Grundbegriffen auf. Zu diesen gehören auch die Begriffe, deren Interpretation schon seit Jahrzehnten (und vor allem auch jenseits der Frage nach einer adäquaten Übersetzung) Anlass zu wissenschaftlicher Diskussion gibt. An erster Stelle ist hier die Trias langue – parole – langage (einschließlich der Dichotomie linguistique de la langue/de la parole) zu erwähnen, die den Kern der Saussureschen Auffassung von Sprache und Sprachwissenschaft bildet. Das z.T. divergierende Verständnis dieser Begriffe, die im Cours teilweise in der allgemeinsprachlichen Bedeutung (langue als Sprache im Allgemeinen), teilweise aber als Saussuresche Termini (langue als Sprachsystem) verwendet werden, zieht die Frage nach einer angemessenen Übersetzung zwingend nach sich. Dass die bisherigen Überlegungen zu keiner einheitlichen bzw. zufriedenstellenden Lösung geführt haben, illustrieren die vielfältigen Übersetzungsvarianten, die in der Tabelle 1 zusammengefasst wurden.[20]





Jaberg 1916

sprachliche Gesamttätigkeit

Linguistik der Sprache


Lommel 1931

menschliche Rede



Otto 1934




Trubetzkoy 1939




Porzig 1950




wirkliches Sprachen

Gipper 1963




Kaudé 2006




Wunderli 2013




Tabelle 1: Langue – parole – langage in deutscher Übersetzung (vgl. Kaudé 2006: 39, Wunderli 2013: 45)

Bei der deutschen Übersetzung stellen sich mehrere Probleme:  erstens die Frage, an welchen Textstellen auf  langue als Sprachsystem, d.h. auf den Saussureschen Terminus langue Bezug genommen wird, und wo hingegen langue in allgemeiner Bedeutung verwendet wird (vgl. Wunderlis Übersetzung von „langue“ im ersten und zweiten Satz im Bsp. 1)[21]; zweitens das Problem, dass langue und langage im Deutschen – etwa im Gegensatz zum Italienischen (lingua, linguaggio, vgl. De Mauro 1968, N65) – beide in „Sprache“ zusammenlaufen. Hinzu kommt noch die Polysemie des Ausdrucks langage, der sowohl für die sprachlichen Erscheinungen im Allgemeinen als auch für die Gesamtheit von langue und parole steht, und darüber hinaus oft die allgemeine Sprachfähigkeit bezeichnet (vgl. Wunderli 2013: 444, Kommentar 22).

Es lässt sich annehmen, dass der fortgeschrittene Stand der wissenschaftlichen Diskussion das Bewusstsein über die Schwierigkeit der Übersetzung von langue, parole und langage noch zusätzlich geschärft hat: Wo Lommel ohne große Bedenken langue mit „Sprache“ und parole mit „Sprechen“ übersetzt (vgl. Bsp. 1 und 2) , stellt Wunderli Überlegungen terminologischer, bedeutungsanalytischer, textexegetischer und  übersetzungswissenschaftlicher Art an (vgl. z.B. S. 43-46,  Anm. 6 auf S. 83, Anm. 19 auf S. 97, Kommentar 32 auf S. 445).

(1) (…) il faut attribuer à la langue, non à la parole, tous les types de syntagmes costruits sur des formules[22] régulières. En effet, comme il n´y a rien d´abstrait dans la langue, (…) C266[23]
(…) man muß auch alle Typen von Syntagmen, die nach regelmäßigen Mustern konstruiert sind, dem Sprachsystem und nicht der Rede zuweisen. Da es in der Sprache nichts Abstraktes gibt, (…) W267
(…) der Sprache und nicht dem Sprechen sind alle diejenigen Anreihungen zuzuerkennen, die nach feststehenden Regeln gebildet sind. Denn da es in der Sprache nichts Abstraktes gibt, (…) L149

(2) La phrase est le type par exellence du syntagme. Mais elle appartient à la parole, non à la langue (…) C264
Der Satz ist der Prototyp des Syntagmas. Aber er gehört der Rede an, nicht dem Sprachsystem (…) W265
Der Satz ist der Haupttypus der Anreihung, aber er gehört dem Sprechen an und nicht der Sprache (…) L148

Zum terminologischen Kernbestand, der Übersetzungsschwierigkeiten bereitet, gehört ferner die Trias signe - signifiant - signifié. Wunderlis Übersetzungslösung lautet „Zeichen“, „Signifikant“, „Signifikat“ (S. 248-253), wobei mehrere Textstellen von behutsamer Reflexion bezüglich der verschiedenen Verwendungsmöglickeiten von signe zeugen: So wird an folgender Textstelle auf den alltragssprachlichen Gebrauch von Signe/Zeichen im Sinne von signifiant/Signifikant verwiesen (W79, Anm. 4): Entre tous les individus ainsi reliés par le langage, il s´établira une sorte de moyenne: tous reproduiront – non exactement sans doute, mais approximativement – les mêmes signes unis aux mêmes concepts (W78). Andererseits vergegenwärtigt die folgende Anmerkung die Übersetzungsschwierigkeiten, die sich aus dem Konflikt zwischen zwei oder mehreren Übersetzungs- oder Stilgestaltungskriterien ergeben:

Der von Saussure angestrebte Dreiklang signe – signifié – signifiant läßt sich in der Übersetzung nicht aufrecht erhalten, es sei denn, man würde für Zeichen auf den kruden Latinismus Signum zurückgreifen (Wunderli 2013: 171, Anm. 78).

Im vorliegenden Fall wurde also die Absicht des Textes erkannt („Dreiklang“); sie kann jedoch in der Zielsprache nicht realisiert werden, weil sie dem stilistischen Wohlklang/den sprachstilistischen Prinzipien entgegenläuft. 

Lommels Übersetzung von signe - signifiant - signifié problematisiert in Anlehnung an den bereits erwähnten Beitrag von Gusmani (1995) auch Kaudé (2006: 44). Der Hauptvorwurf lautet, dass die Übersetzung von signifié unvereinbar mit der Saussureschen Auffassung der doppelten Natur des Zeichens ist:

Er [Lommel] entscheidet sich für das Bezeichnete, wodurch beim Leser sofort der Eindruck entsteht, dass das Bezeichnete unweigerlich mit dem angesprochenen außersprachlichen Objekt gleichzusetzen sei und die Sprache somit schlussendlich für Saussure (…) nichts anderes als eine Art Nomenklatur sei. (Kaudé 2006: 44)

Zu weiteren Saussureschen Termini, bei denen der Übersetzungsvergleich wesentliche Unterschiede ergeben hat, zählen u.a. matière vs. objet, terme, valeur.

Wie aus den Beispielen 3 und 4 ersichtlich, fallen bei Lommel matière im Abschnitt II der Einleitung und objet im Abschnitt III in „Gegenstand“ zusammen; Wunderli übersetzt hingegen unter Verweis auf die Notwendigkeit einer Differenzierung (Kommentar 14, S. 44) matière mit „Stoff“, während er „Gegenstand“ dem frz. objet vorbehält.

Auf die Notwendigkeit, zwischen matière und objet zu unterscheiden, hat bereits Borgström (1949) hingewiesen. De Mauro (1968: 379, N40) fasst den damaligen Diskussionsstand wie folgt zusammen: Er beschreibt matière als die Gesamtheit aller Aspekte, die auf der Ebene des Sprachgebrauchs als sprachlich bezeichnet werden können; dabei handelt es sich um eine heteroklite Masse (massa eteroclita, ibd.), die aus verschiedenen wissenschaftlichen Perspektiven untersucht werden kann. Objet bezeichnet laut De Mauro hingegen primär den wissenschaftlichen (linguistischen) Untersuchungsgegenstand. Entsprechend differenziert er in seiner Übersetzung zwischen materia della linguistica (S. 15) und oggetto della linguistica (S. 17).

(3) Introduction – II Matière et tâche de la linguistique; ses rapports avec les sciences connexes
La matière de la linguistique est constituée d’abord par toutes les manifestations du langage humain (…) C68

Einleitung – II Stoff und Aufgaben der Linguistik: Ihre Beziehungen zu den Nachbarwissenschaften
Der Stoff der Linguistik besteht zuerst einmal aus allen Erscheinungen der menschlichen Sprache (…) W69
Einleitung – II. Gegenstand und Aufgabe der Sprachwissenschaft; ihre Beziehungen zu den Naturwissenschaften[24]
Den Gegenstand der Sprachwissenschaft bilden zunächst alle Betätigungen des menschlichen Sprachvermögens (…) L7

(4) Introduction – III Objet de la linguistique C70
Einleitung – III Der Gegenstand der Linguistik W71
Einleitung – III. Gegenstand der Sprachwissenschaft L9

Mit matière/objet kommen wir zum Problem der terminologischen Inkonsequenz bei der Widergabe der Saussureschen Begriffe: Diese manifestiert sich einerseits in dem veranschaulichten Zusammenfall zweier oder mehrerer Begriffe (ein weiteres Beispiel hierfür ist das Syntagma „menschliche Rede“, das bei Lommel wie bereits erwähnt für langage steht; in einer der Überschriften der Einleitung wird aber Place de la langue dans les faits de la langue (W76) mit „Stellung der Sprache innerhalb der menschlichen Rede“ (L13) übersetzt). Andererseits fällt auf, dass die Übersetzung bestimmter Termini an unterschiedlichen Textstellen ohne einen nachvollziehbaren semantischen Grund variiert: Wie Kaudé (2006: 44) beobachtet, wird der Saussuresche Grundbegriff valeur von Lommel abwechselnd durch „Geltung“ und „Wert“ und sogar „Geltung und Wert“, termes durch „Glieder“, „Einzelglieder“ und „Termini“ wiedergegeben, während etwa organes vocaux stellenweise mit „Sprechorgane“, z.T. auch mit „Stimmorgane“ übersetzt wurden. 

Bei dieser frühen Auseinandersetzung mit dem Cours scheint also das Bewusstsein über den Terminologiecharakter einiger Ausdrücke noch nicht vorzuliegen, und stellenweise scheint der Bemühung um eine Einbürgerung der Fachtermini ein größeres Gewicht zuzukommen als der Sorge um terminologische Konsequenz.

Irreführend wirkt beispielsweise die z.T. purismusbedingte Inkonsequenz im fünften und letzten Teil des Cours mit dem Titel Questions de linguistique rétrospective: Hier ist der Leser der Lommelschen Übersetzung einer stellenweise verwirrenden Vielfalt der Übersetzungsvarianten für „prospektiv“ und „retrospektiv“ ausgeliefert („vorwärts gerichtet“, „absteigend“, „herabsteigend“, „prospektiv“ bzw. „abwärts gerichtet“, „hinaufschauend“, „zurückschauend“, „retrospektiv“):

(5) V – I Tandis que la prospection revient à une simple narration et se fonde tout entière sur la critique des documents, la rétrospection demande une méthode reconstructive, qui s’ appuie sur la comparaison. C408

Während die Prospektion auf eine einfache Nacherzählung hinausläuft und vollkommen auf der kritischen Untersuchung der Zeugnisse beruht, verlangt die Retrospektion eine rekonstruktive Methode, die auf dem Vergleich basiert. W409

Die Darstellung, die dem Fluβ der Zeit nach abwärts folgt, ist eine einfache Erzählung und beruht ganz auf Quellenkritik. Die Rückschau oder Retrospektive dagegen erfordert ein rekonstruierendes Verfahren, das sich auf Vergleichung stützt. L256

(6) La méthode rétrospective nous fait donc pénétrer dans le passé d’une langue au delà des plus anciens documents. Ainsi lhistorie prospective du latin ne commence guère qu’au  IIIe ou au IVe siècle avant l’ère chrétienne; mais la reconstitution de l‘indoeuropéen (…) C410

Die retrospektive Methode erlaubt es uns somit,  in die Vergangenheit einer Sprache vorzudringen, die jenseits der ältesten Dokumente liegt. So beginnt die prospektive Geschichte des Lateinischen kaum vor dem 3. oder 4. Jahrhundert v.Chr.; aber die Rekonstruktion des Indogermanischen (…) W411

Durch das Verfahren der Rückschau können wir also in die Vergangenheit einer Sprache noch über ihre ältesten Denkmäler hinaus vordringen. Für das Lateinische z.B. liegt der Zeitpunkt, von wo aus eine absteigende Betrachtung möglich ist, erst im 3. oder 4. Jahrhundert vor Chr. Die Rekonstruktion des Indogermanischen (…) L257

(7) Or en théorie on peut concevoir une géologie prospective, mais en fait le plus souvent, le coup d’œil ne peut être que rétrospectif (…) C410

Man kann nun theoretisch eine prospektive Geologie konzipieren, aber in der Wirklichkeit und meistens kann die Perspektive nur retrospektiver Natur sein (…) W411

Nun könnte man sich theoretisch eine mit dem Zeitverlauf vorwärts und abwärts gerichtete Geologie denken; in Wirklichkeit ist aber ihre Betrachtungsweise meistens retrospektiv (…) L257

(8) En opérant prospectivement, on se demandera par exemple (…); si l’on recherche, au contraire, rétrospectivement ce que représente en latin un ę ouvert français (…) C412

Arbeitet man prospektiv, wird man sich z.B. fragen (…); wenn man dagegen auf retrospektive Weise danach sucht (…) W413)

Bei absteigendem Verfahren hat man z.B. sich zu fragen (…) Wenn man dagegen zurückschauend untersucht (…) L258

In ähnlicher Weise oszilliert Lommels Terminologie im Abschnitt II-V Rapports syntagmatiques et rapports associatifs: Hier wechseln sich “Syntagma“ und die offensichtlich vom Übersetzer bevorzugte, doch nicht an allen Textstellen eindeutige und akzeptable Verdeutschung „Anreihung“ (vgl. auch Bsp. 1 und 2) ab, was u.a. zu verwirrender Divergenz in den Überschriften führt: Was im Abschnitt II – V  noch „Syntagmatische Beziehungen“ (L147) heißt, wird schon im zweiten Unterabschnitt §2 zu „Anreihungsbeziehungen“(L148): 

(9) II-V Rapports syntagmatiques  et rapports associatifs -  §1. – Définitions C262
II-V Syntagmatische Beziehungen und assoziative Beziehungen §1. - Definitionen W263
II-V Syntagmatische und assoziative Beziehungen §1. Definitionen L147

(10) §2. – Les rapports syntagmatiques C264
§2. – Die syntagmatischen Beziehungen W265
§2. Die Anreihungsbeziehungen L148 

(11) Ces combinaisons qui ont pour support l´étendue peuvent être appellées syntagmes. Le syntagme se compose donc toujours de deux ou plus unités consécutives (par exemple: re-lire; contre tous; la vie humaine; Dieu est bon; s’il fait beau temps, nous sortirons, etc.). Placé dans un syntagme, un terme (…) C262

Diese Kombinationen, deren Grundlage die (lineare) Ausdehnung ist, können Syntagmen genannt werden. Das Syntagma besteht somit immer aus zwei oder mehr aufeinanderfolgenden Einheiten (z.B.: re-lire; contre tous; la vie humaine; Dieu est bon; s’ il fait beau temps, nous sortirons; etc.). Im Syntagma gewinnt ein Term (…) W263

(…) und diese Kombinationen, deren Grundlage die Ausdehnung ist, können Anreihungen oder Syntagmen genannt werden. Die Anreihung besteht also immer aus zwei oder mehr aufeinanderfolgenden Einheiten (z.B. ab-reißen; für uns; ein langes Leben; Gott ist gut; wenn das Wetter schön ist, wollen wir ausgehen usw.). In eine Anreihung hineingestellt, erhält ein Glied (…) L147

Die beiden Übersetzungen unterschieden sich ferner hinsichtlich des Umgangs mit den Saussureschen Termini, die vom heutigen Standpunkt aus als missverständlich, überholt oder fehlerhaft einzustufen sind. Die Frage nach einer angemessenen Übersetzung der betreffenden Textstellen verweist auf eine nach wie vor umstrittene Grundfrage der Übersetzungstheorie zurück, nämlich ob und inwieweit der Übersetzer „korrekturberechtigter Fachexperte“ ist und in diesem Sinne als Koautor des Textes auftreten darf (Koller 2004: 195ff.). Wunderlis übersetzerisches Selbstverständnis scheint die Rolle des Saussure-Exegets und Linguisten mit einzuschließen: An mehreren Stellen nimmt er terminologische Korrekturen vor, die angesichts des aktuellen Forschungsstandes nicht nur gerechtfertigt, sondern auch notwendig und unerlässlich scheinen. [25] So übersetzt er provençal in Ainsi le français et le provençal remontent tous deux au latin vulgaire (…)(W380) mit „Okzitanisch“ und vermerkt an betreffender Stelle, dass sich Provençal/Provenzalisch zu Beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts noch auf den ganzen südfranzösischen Sprachkomplex bezog, wohingegen es heute nur noch den Dialekt der Provence bezeichnet (Anm. 142, S. 381; vgl. auch Anm. 148, S. 393). An anderen Stellen, an denen eine korrigierende Übersetzung potenziell irreführend ist, sorgen hingegen nur Anmerkungen für die Klärung der aus heutiger Sicht irreführenden Ausdrücke. So verweist Wunderli an entsprechender Stelle auf die Saussuresche Bedeutung von phonologie im Sinne der Lautphysiologie oder einfach der Lautlehre, und phonetisch im Sinne der historischen Lautlehre hin (W101, Anm. 22, W111, Anm. 33, W121, S.111, Anm. 38). Darüber hinaus findet man auch Anmerkungen bezüglich der kontextuellen Bedeutungen, die von der skizzierten Bedeutung der beiden Begriffe abweichen: Im Abschnitt Systèmes d’écriture übersetzt Wunderli beispielsweise système phonétique, écriture phonétique auch weiterhin formtreu mit „phonetisches System“, „phonetische Schrift“, allerdings unter dem Hinweis darauf, dass phonétique an der betreffenden Stelle nicht in der sonst bei Saussure üblichen Bedeutung „die historische Lautlehre betreffend“ verwendet wird (Anm. 22, W101).

5. Übersetzungsstil: lexikalische und syntaktische Aspekte

5.1 Verdeutschung vs. Internationalisierung

Bereits aus den in Abschnitt 4 angeführten Beispielen wurde deutlich, dass die in der Erstübersetzung stark ausgeprägte  Verdeutschungstendenz nicht nur eine Stilfrage darstellt, sondern auch mit Blick auf die Konsequenzen für die Rezeption der Saussereschen Terminologie betrachtet werden muss.

Bei der Frage nach dem Übersetzungsstil kann die explizit geäußerte Grundhaltung der beiden Übersetzer nicht unerwähnt bleiben. Lommels Grundeinstellung zur Sprache des Cours, aus der er anscheinend die Berechtigung zu einer ausgesprochen einbürgernden und oft paraphrasierenden Vorgehensweise schöpft, ist im ersten Satz des Vorwortes ausgedrückt:

Mehr als bei manchen andern  fremdsprachlichen wissenschaftlichen Werken macht bei diesem eine eigentümliche Ausdrucksweise, die zu terminologischen Besonderheiten neigt, es nötig, sich den manchmal nicht ganz einfachen Gedankeninhalt mühsam zu erarbeiten (Vorwort: v).

Ganz anders fällt das Urteil Wunderlis aus, der diese Beobachtung Lommels als „vollkommen uneinsichtig“ bezeichnet, „denn der Stil des Textes ist in französischer Weise kursorisch, locker und praktisch immer leicht verständlich“ (W42). Entsprechend versucht Wunderli die deutsche Übersetzung nicht nur terminologisch, sondern auch lexikalisch und stilistisch zum Mitträger und Mitvermittler des Cours zu machen - seiner Gedankenstrukturen, aber auch seines Darstellungs- und Formulierungsstils.

Die Unterschiede im Übersetzungsstil fallen bereits bei einer schnellen Durchsicht der Überschriften auf: Lommel verdeutscht tendenziell die Fachterminologie sowie den allgemeinen Wortschatz (vgl. auch Bsp. 30 weiter unten), Wunderli tendiert hingegen zur Beibehaltung von Latinismen und Gräzismen.

(12) I-I-2 Premier principe: l‘ arbitraire du signe C170
Erstes Prinzip: die Arbitrarität des Zeichens W171
Erster Grundsatz: Beliebigkeit des Zeichens L79

(13) I-III-1 Dualité interne de toutes les sciences opérant sur les valeurs C188
Innerer Dualismus aller wertbasierten Wissenschaften W189
Die innere Doppelheit aller der Wissenschaften, die es mit Werten zu tun haben L93

(14) II-II Les entités concrètes de la langue C228
Die konkreten Entitäten der Sprache W229
Die konkreten Tatsachen der Sprache L120

(15) II-III Identités, réalités, valeurs C236
Identitäten, Realitäten, Werte W237
Gleichheiten, Realitäten, Werte L128

(16) II-VI-1 Les solidarités syntagmatiques C270
Die syntagmatischen Solidaritäten W271
Syntagmatische Abhängigkeitsverhältnisse L152

(17) V-IV-4  Type linguistique et mentalité du groupe social C432
Sprachtyp und Mentalität der sozialen Gruppe W433
Der Sprachtypus als Ausdruck geistiger Eigenart L273

Die Übersetzung von entités mit „Tatsachen“ (Bsp. 14) bezeichnet Kaudé als irreführend, da entité eher auf einen Gegenstand und Tatsache auf einen Sachverhalt verweist (2006: 44). Auch abgesehen von den Verdeutschungen führen Lommels übersetzerische Eingriffe gelegentlich zu Sinnabweichungen im Hinblick auf den ausgangssprachlichen Text; so liefern die nachfolgenden Überschriften und Textausschnitte mehrere Beispiele für Bedeutungserweiterung („Kritik der Schrift“, „Sprechapparat“ und „grammatische Beziehung“ in Bsp. 20 und 21) und Bedeutungsverschiebung (z.B. „Bezirk“, „Autorität“ in Bsp. 18, 19[26], 22 und insbesondere die schwer nachvollziehbare lexikalische sowie syntaktische Titeländerung in Bsp. 24).

(18) E-V Éléments internes et éléments externes de la langue[27] C90
Interne und externe Aspekte der Linguistik W91
Innerer und äußerer Bezirk der Sprachwissenschaft L24

(19) E-VI-2 Prestige de l’écriture; causes de son ascendant sur la forme parlée C96
Prestige der Schrift; Gründe für ihren Einfluss auf die gesprochene Form W97
Autorität der Schrift. Ursachen ihres Einflusses auf die gesprochene Sprache L28

(20) E-VII-3 Critique du témoignage de l‘écriture W114
Kritik der Aussagekraft der Schrift W115
Kritik der Schrift L40

(21) Anhang – I -2 L´appareil vocal et son fonctionnement C124
Der Stimmapparat und sein Funktionieren W125
Der Sprechapparat und seine Tätigkeit L47

(22) III-III-6 Alternance et lien grammatical C323
Alternanz und grammatikalische Bindung W323
Alternation und grammatische Beziehung L191

 (23)    Anhang – II Le phonème dans la chaîne parlée C140
Das Phonem in der Redekette W141
Das Phonem in der gesprochenen Reihe L57

(24)  V-II La langue la plus ancienne et la langue primitive C412
Die älteste Sprache und die Ursprache W413
Alter der Bezeugung und Altertümlichkeit von Sprachen; Grundsprache L259

(25) C´est [la langue] à la fois un produit social de la faculté du langage et un ensemble de conventions nécessaires adoptées par le corps social pour permettre l’exercice de cette faculté chez les individus. C72

Es [das Sprachsystem] ist gleichzeitig ein soziales Produkt der Sprachfähigkeit und ein Komplex von notwendigen Konventionen, die die Gemeinschaft akzeptiert hat, um die Nutzung dieser Fähigkeit durch die Individuen zu ermöglichen. W73

Sie [die Sprache] ist zu gleicher Zeit ein soziales Produkt der Fähigkeit zur menschlichen Rede und ein Ineinandergreifen notwendiger Konventionen, welche die soziale Körperschaft getroffen hat, um die Ausübung dieser Fähigkeit durch die Individuen zu ermöglichen. L11

Abschließend sei noch kurz der Umgang der beiden Übersetzer mit den Saussureschen Beispielen angesprochen. Er lässt sich illustrieren an den im Bsp. 11 zitierten eingeklammerten Ausdrücken: Wunderli gibt französische Beispiele treu wieder und geht dabei offensichtlich von einer Basiskenntnis der französischen Sprache aus bzw. will  dem Leser, der diese Basis hat, den Weg zu originalen Beispielen nicht versperren. Bei Lommel werden die Beispiele zum Teil ins Deutsche übersetzt (Gott ist gut; wenn das Wetter schön ist, wollen wir ausgehen) und gelegentlich auch  – bei mehr oder weniger konsequenter Einhaltung morphosyntaktischer Strukturen – lexikalisch verändert bzw. neu besetzt (ab-reißen, ein langes Leben). Dabei lassen sich die Veränderungen nicht immer auf eine adaptierende Absicht zurückführen.

Die Diskrepanz zwischen  der skizzierten Vorgehensweise und Lommels diesbezüglichen Beobachtungen im Vorwort zur deutschen Übersetzung („Denn auch aus der Wahl der Beispiele verspürt man den Geist Saussures, gerade darin seine Lehrgabe,  seine Klarheit, seine Art der Vereinfachung“; Vorwort v) bestätigt,  dass übersetzungstheoretische Statements in Vor- und Nachworten und die tatsächliche Übersetzungspraxis nicht unbedingt miteinander übereinstimmen (vgl. Koller 2007: 1701).

5.2 Syntaktischer Vergleich

Auch im Hinblick auf die syntaktischen Eigenschaften lassen die beiden Übersetzungen divergierende Vorgehensweisen und Grundhaltungen erkennen, die sich nicht nur auf der Syntagmen- und Satzebene, sondern auch auf transphrastischer Ebene niederschlagen. Wunderlis Übersetzungsansatz scheint auch aus syntaktischer Sicht von der sprachstilistischen Verbindlichkeit des Cours auszugehen. Er wählt tendenziell (morpho-)syntaktische Strukturen, die denjenigen des Originals weitgehend entsprechen, wohingegen Lommel die syntaktische Struktur der Ausgangssätze vergleichsmäßig oft verändert. Die häufigsten Transformationen in der Erstübersetzung betreffen: die Nominalisierung von Prädikationen und Fragesätzen (Bsp. 26, 27), die Ausweitung von Attributen zu Relativsätzen (Bsp. 28), die Umbesetzung der Subjektrolle und die insgesamt häufige Umbesetzung sowie Umstellung  von Ergänzungen und Angaben (Bsp. 3, 6), die manchmal die im Ausgangstext jeweils fokussierten Elemente verändern, ferner auch die Verwandlung von Hauptsätzen in Nebensätze und umgekehrt (Bsp. 5). Darüber hinaus werden gelegentlich auch bei funktionaler Korrespondenz der jeweiligen Modi Indikative in Konjunktive verwandelt oder umgekehrt (Bsp. 7). Im Unterschied zur Neuübersetzung gehen Lommels syntaktische Eingriffe an mehreren Textstellen über die Satzebene hinaus; so zieht er mehrere ausgangssprachliche Sätze zu einem einzigen zusammen (Bsp. 2, 11) oder aber bildet aus einem komplexen Satz des Ausgangstextes mehrere Sätze (Bsp. 5). Bei den erwähnten Eingriffen handelt es sich zwar um generell übliche und legitime Übersetzungsstrategien; sie kommen jedoch in der Erstübersetzung ausgesprochen häufig vor und erschweren gelegentlich den Lesefluss (vgl. z.B. die Aneinanderreihung von Genitiven in Bsp. 29) − teilweise auch weil sie, wie bereits angedeutet, die Fokussierungsintentionen des Ausgangstextes modifizieren, oder weil verwendete Adverbien oder sekundäre Präpositionen (Bsp. 29) aus heutiger Sicht stilistisch markiert scheinen.

(26) III-II-5 L‘action des changements phonétiques est illimitée C308
Die Wirkung der Lautveränderungen ist unbegrenzt W309
Unbegrenzte Wirksamkeit des Lautwandels L181

(27) III-V-1 Comment une innovation analogique entre dans la langue C336
Wie eine analogische Innovation in das Sprachsystem eintritt W337
Aufnahme einer analogischen Neuerung in der Sprache L201

(28) Le plus souvent cette superposition de langues a été amenée par l’envahissement d’un peuple supérieur en force; (…) C378

In den meisten Fällen ist es zu diesen Überlagerungen von Sprachen durch die Invasion eines starken Volkes gekommen; (…). W379

Diese Überlagerung von Sprachen ist meistens durch das Eindringen von Völkern herbeigeführt, die an Macht überlegen waren; (…).  L233

(29) (…) grâce à la méthode retrospective C424
dank der retrospektiven Methode W425
vermöge des Verfahrens der Rückschau L267

Die syntaktische Treue der Neuübersetzung spiegelt sich auch in einer relativ hohen Frequenz der (v.a. für das Französische charakteristischen) Spaltsätze wieder, wodurch Wunderli ganz deutlich die Absicht verfolgt, die funktionale Satzperspektive der ausgangsprachlichen Sätze auch im zielsprachlichen Text beizubehalten. Die Neuübersetzung realisiert somit eine auch im Deutschen zwar vorhandene, jedoch im Vergleich zum Französischen weniger benutzte Systemmöglichkeit, so dass in diesem Sinne syntaktisch gesehen von norminnovativer translatorischer Wirkung gesprochen werden kann (Koller 2007: 1704f.).

 (30) Ce n’est pas seulement la méthode des deux perspectives qui diffère de façon éclatante; même au point de vue didactique, il n‘est pas avantageux de les employer simultanément dans un même exposé. C412

Es ist nicht nur die Methode der beiden Perspektiven, die sich grundlegend unterscheidet; auch in didaktischer Hinsicht ist es wenig ratsam, sie gleichzeitig in ein und derselben Darstellung zu verwenden. W413

Beide Blickrichtungen unterscheiden sich völlig, nicht nur als Methoden der Forschung; auch für Lehrzwecke ist es besser, sie nicht gleichzeitig in derselben Darstellung anzuwenden. L257f.

6. Fazit

Die gezielt untersuchten Belege im Rahmen dieses textologisch orientierten Übersetzungsvergleichs legen den Schluss nahe, dass die Unterschiede zwischen dem tendenziell adaptierenden Stil der Erstübersetzung und dem bewusst transferierenden Stil der Neuübersetzung nur vor dem Hintergrund der kommunikativ-pragmatischen Textentstehungsbedingungen adäquat interpretiert werden können. Doch die beobachteten Unterschiede erschöpfen sich bei weitem nicht in diesem Gegensatz. Durch den Vergleich zwischen den beiden nahezu ein Jahrhundert auseinanderliegenden Übersetzungen und durch die Untersuchung der kritischen Anmerkungen von Wunderli wird im vollen Umfang klar, wie groß der Kenntniszuwachs im Bereich der postsaussureschen Fachdiskussion ist, und damit verbunden auch, wie komplex einige Fragen der Saussureschen Terminologie dadurch geworden sind. Aus dieser Sicht schließt eine kommentierte deutsche Neuübersetzung, die sich auch wissenschaftshistorisch bedingt auf breites Fachwissen des Übersetzers, umfassende Fachliteratur[28] sowie auf vorausgehende Übersetzungen stützen kann, in mehrfacher Hinsicht ein längst fälliges Desiderat – nicht nur aus sprachwissenschaftlicher, sondern auch aus philologischer, soziologischer und ethnologischer Perspektive (vgl. Stetter 2004: 405). Übersetzungswissenschaftlich gesehen ist diese Einsicht zugleich auch Legitimation für übersetzerische, revidierende und übersetzungsvergleichende Tätigkeit im Bereich der linguistischen Literatur.

Die in Abschnitt 2 skizzierten kommunikativ-pragmatischen Bedingungen prägen auch den fachsprachlichen Aspekt der beiden Texte: Die Neuübersetzung zeichnet sich durch eine dem gegenwärtigen Forschungsstand angemessene Terminologie und einen ebenso aktuellen Wissenschaftsstil aus. Die Erstübersetzung weist an mehreren Stellen notwendigerweise Ausdrucksweisen auf, die aus heutiger Sicht weniger geläufig, irreführend oder allgemeiner schwer vereinbar mit den Merkmalen sind, die moderne wissenschaftliche Texte kennzeichnen. Der Umgang mit der Terminologie und den Beispielen lässt erkennen, dass die Sensibilität für den Text als ein zusammenhängendes Ganzes in der Erstübersetzung vergleichsweise schwächer ausgeprägt ist. Wenn wir die Terminologie als ein wesentliches und kohärenzstiftendes Fachlichkeitsmerkmal[29] definieren, so ist auch davon auszugehen, dass eine Übersetzung, welche den fachterminologischen Charakters bestimmter Ausdrücke stellenweise nicht zu erkennen scheint oder nicht als solche erkennbar macht, die zielsprachliche Textrezeption nicht nur auf lexikalisch-terminologischer Ebene, sondern auch im Hinblick auf die Herstellung intra- und ggf. intertextueller Bezüge erschweren kann.

Soziohistorisch gesehen zeigt der Unterschied im Hinblick auf die Verdeutschungstendenz einerseits und die Latinismen- und Internationalismenverwendung andererseits, wie die sprachpolitische Situation bzw. Stimmung zum Zeitpunkt der Translatentstehung die Sprach- und Übersetzungshaltung (und somit auch die zielsprachlichen Texteigenschaften) moduliert, so dass eine puristische Vorgehensweise je nach Zeitgeist als mehr oder weniger relevant, gewichtig oder angebracht empfunden werden kann. Das Paradoxon der Erstübersetzung ist, dass die oben erwähnten Merkmale stellenweise gerade dem Versuch zu entspringen scheinen, eine dem sprachpolitischen Klima entsprechende und sich innerhalb der damaligen normativen Schranken bewegende Übersetzung zu erstellen: An mehreren Stellen dürfte ausgerechnet die Bemühung, sich möglichst von der Originalvorlage zu entfernen und terminologisch-lexikalisch wie auch syntaktisch an dem festzuhalten, was Lommel als „gutes Deutsch“ zu empfinden scheint, zu missverständlichen Formulierungen führen − das Ziel einer Bejahung oder Verfestigung der damaligen Norm und/oder Sprachpolitik wird somit gerade durch die Mittel verfehlt.

Dieser Beitrag soll in Anbetracht der Irrungen und Wirrungen in der Saussure-Rezeption, die seinen Thesen u.a. den Abstraktheits- und Sterilitätsvorwurf eingebracht haben, mit einigen wissenschafts- und bildungstheoretischen Beobachtungen abgeschlossen werden. Die Versäumnisse und Missverständnisse der strukturalistischen wie auch poststrukturalistischen Rezeption wurden u.a. in Wunderlis „Glanz und Elend des Portstrukturalismus“ (1992) und – speziell für Italien, aber exemplarisch für den generellen Einfluss der kulturellen und wissenschaftlichen Stimmung und Grundorientierung auf die Rezeption – von Berardis Studien zur italienischen Rezeption (1989) diskutiert und dokumentiert. So betont Wunderli u.a., dass bereits Saussure eine linguistique de la parole und eine mögliche Interaktion zwischen linguistique de la langue und linguistique de la parole ins Auge gefasst hatte (1992: 264f.), dass er sich der diatopischen, aber auch diastratischen und diaphasischen Variation natürlicher Sprachen durchaus bewusst war (267f., auch Wunderli 1988b), ferner dass sich die Ausführungen, welche die Grenzen des primär als Wort begriffenen Zeichens aufbrechen, genauso wie die Erkenntnis, dass es in der Kommunikation keine absolute Sinndetermination gibt, nicht erst in der poststrukturalistischen Forschung, sondern durchaus schon bei Saussure finden (265f., 268f.). Hinzuzufügen ist noch, besonders mit Blick auf die Anliegen und Methoden der gegenwärtigen Sprachforschung, dass auch Saussures Ausführungen zum Verhältnis zwischen der gesprochenen und der geschriebenen Sprache oft ausgeblendet wurden, obwohl sie den Kern dessen bilden, was die moderne Linguistik erst Jahrzehnte später mit gebührender Aufmerksamkeit zu untersuchen begann.[30]

Jäger hat (u.a.) am Beispiel der Saussure-Rezeption aufgezeigt, wie sich die Theorieentwürfe, die mit Saussures Ideen nicht unbedingt übereinstimmen, in der Rezeptionsgeschichte des Cours als „Saussures Lehre(n)“ festgesetzt haben (2013:  280) und von dort aus im Einklang mit den jeweils aktuellen Kultur- und Wissenstrends fortgeschrieben wurden, d.h. wie die Wissenschaftsgeschichte „nachhaltig auf die Theorien und Theoretiker zurückwirkt“ (281) und oft dazu tendiert hat, „die Gegenstände der historischen Betrachtung ausgehend vom Verständnishorizont der jeweiligen Gegenwart in den Blick zu nehmen“ (ibd., Jäger 1975: 32ff., 2010).

Vor diesem Hintergrund bleibt noch abschließend –ohne den unbestreitbaren historischen Mediationswert der Erstübersetzung schmälern und die Möglichkeit einer zeitlos gültigen Übersetzung postulieren zu wollen − die Hypothese auszudrücken, dass die Neuübersetzung zu einer direkteren und unverfälschteren Rezeption des linguistischen Grundlagenwerks beitragen dürfte. Durch die Auseinandersetzung mit einer Übersetzung, die die Substanz der im Cours dargelegten Thesen treu wiedergibt und zugleich kritisch hinterfragt, kann nicht zuletzt das Bewusstsein dafür geschärft werden, dass Saussures (leider zu oft durch resümierende Darstellungen vermitteltes) Gedankengut weit über das hinausgeht, was gemeinhin mit seinem Namen verbunden wird.


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[1] In ihrem Buch Lost in Translation (Criticism)?: Auf dem Weg zu einer konstruktiven Übersetzungskritik beobachtet Reinart (2014: 15): „Mit zunehmenden Fremdsprachenkenntnissen fühlen sich in steigendem Maße auch die „Konsumenten“ von Translationsleistungen aufgefordert, Übersetzungs- und Dolmetschleistungen zu bewerten.“

[2] Im Zusammenhang mit dem Nichtverstehen als Instabilitätszustand, der zum Weiterforschen und Verstehen vorantreibt, vgl. besonders Vattimos (1968: 164) und Regas (2009: 62ff.) Auseinandersetzung mit Schleiermacher.

[3] Vgl. Reinart (2014: 15f.), Pöckl (2007: 147).

[4] Im Rahmen der Fachtextübersetzung kann der intersystemische Transfer in Anlehnung an Sandrini beschrieben werden als „Übertragung von Kultur und Wissenseinheiten zwischen Kulturen“, die wesentlich von funktionaler Ausdifferenzierung des jeweiligen Fachbereichs sowie vom Entwicklungsgrad abhängt, den die „intrasystemische Kommunikationsinfrastruktur“ mit entsprechenden textologischen, terminologischen und anderen Aspekten erreicht hat (Sandrini 2010: 40, vgl. auch Poltermann 1992: 7). Diesen Transfer verstehen wir hier auch in seiner diachronischen Dimension, die sich im Falle der zeitlich weit auseinanderliegenden Texte der interkulturellen bzw. intersprachlichen Dimension überlagern kann.

[5] Alle im Folgenden angegebenen Analysedimensionen betreffen sowohl den Ausgangstext als auch die jeweiligen Translate.

[6] Cours (abkürzend für Cours de linguistique générale) und Saussure stehen im Folgenden stellvertretend für Saussure in der Darstellung und Auslegung durch seine Schüler und Nachfolger Bally und Sechehaye. d.h. für den Vulgatatext,

[7] Für eine zusammenfassende Darstellung vgl. Kaudé (2006: 40f.), Wunderli (2013: 42-47).

[8] Es handelt sich um die Übersetzung von Hideo Kobayashi 1928; vgl. auch Anmerkung 9.

[9] Für eine chronologische Übersicht über die Übersetzungen in verschiedene Sprachen der Welt vgl. Wunderli (2013: 32f.); vgl. auch De Mauro (1968: 334f.), Koerner (1972: 62ff.), Engler 1976-97.

[10] Die Vulgatafassung wird besonders von Ludwig Jäger problematisiert – ein Punkt, in dem die Meinungen der beiden großen Saussure-Forscher nicht unerheblich auseinandergehen (vgl. z.B. Jäger 2014, Wunderli 2013: 7 und 2012).

[11] Zum Vergleich zwischen der englischen Erstübersetzung (Baskin 1959) und der generell als überlegen betrachteten Zweitübersetzung (Harris 1983) vgl. z.B. Culler (1986: 151).

[12] Man muss auch in Betracht ziehen, dass Lommels Rezension bereits gegen 15 Rezensionen vorausgehen, u.a. von Gautier 1916 und Jaberg 1916 (für eine vollständige Übersicht über die Rezeptionsgeschichte vgl. Wunderli 2013: 37ff.), was einen überdurchschnittlichen Rezeptionserfolg bestätigt.

[13] Vgl. z.B. De Mauro 1968, N65, N68, zur Unterscheidung von langue und parole und zur Abgrenzung von matière und objet De Mauro 1968, N40, Harris 1987: 11f., Wunderli 2013: 444. 

[14] Vgl. z.B. Wunderli (1992,  1972, 1981a,b, 1995).

[15] Ansonsten ist die Ideologieanfälligkeit einiger Arbeiten von Lommel eher umstritten. So kann man z.B. bezüglich seiner Position in der nationalsozialistisch geprägten Indologie bei Sheldon Pollock nachlesen: „In seinem Werk über Die alten Arier unternahm Lommel den Versuch, aus den ältesten Kulturdenkmälern den ’echten arischen Geist’ herauszuziehen, um ein Bewusstsein für ’unsere eigene historisch gewordene und blutmäßig ererbte Wesensart’ zu gewinnen. Ausgerechnet im Jahre 1939 schließlich publizierte er eine Untersuchung über Den arischen Kriegsgott.“ (2002:  355). Anders fällt das Urteil des 2003 verstorbenen Berliner Indogermanisten Bernfried Schlerath, zu dessen Lehrern Lommel gehört, aus: Aus Schleraths Porträt von Herman Lommel (2000) resultiert u.a., dass die erwähnte Schrift in keinerlei Zusammenhang mit der NS-Ideologie steht.

[16] „Quand nous entendons parler une langue que nous ignorons, nous percevons bien les sons, mais, par notre incompréhension, nous restons en dehors du fait social.“ (W78)

[17] De Mauro (1968, N61, S. 365) zitiert in diesem Zusammenhang einige Arbeiten aus den 1950er und 1960er Jahren: Tomatis (1963), Miller (1956: 111).

[18] Vgl. dazu weiter unten.

[19] Alle aus dem textologischen Vergleich hervorgehenden Beobachtungen beziehen sich auf die Zweitausgabe der Erstübersetzung (1967).

[20] Die Übersetzungsmöglichkeiten in den ersten sechs Zeilen wurden den Übersichten von Kaudé (2006: 39) und Wunderli (2013: 45) entnommen.

[21] Vgl. dazu auch Wunderli: „Ferdinand de Saussure: Langage, langue, parole » (under review), erscheint voraussichtlich 2015 online in www.signosemio.com (éd. Louis Hébert, Université du Québec à Rimouski).

[22] In der zweiten Auflage formes; die Übersetzung von Lommel basiert auf der ersten Auflage, obwohl er als Rezensent der beiden Auflagen zeichnet.

[23] Im Folgenden wird „L“ abkürzend für „Lommel“ und W abkürzend für „Wunderli“ verwendet (z.B. L 34: „Lommel Seite 34“). „C“ steht für Cours, wobei sich die Seitenzahlen auf den in Wunderli 2013 abgedruckten Originaltext beziehen. Im Sinne des eingangs beschriebenen Analysemodells hat die Reihenfolge der zitierten Übersetzungen keine qualitativen Implikationen.

[24] Bei Lommels Übersetzung von sciences connexes mit „Naturwissenschaften“ dürfte es sich um einen Fehler handeln, denn auch mit Blick auf die Textbedeutung − im betreffenden Abschnitt ist nämlich die Rede von ethnographie, préhistoire, anthropologie, sociologie, psychologie sociale, physiologie, philologie (C68) − ist sciences connexes wohl schwer auf den Oberbegriff „Naturwissenschaften“ zu reduzieren.

[25] Dieses Selbstverständnis rechtfertigen zahlreiche Studien über Saussure (vgl. Anmerkung 13 und auch Wunderli 1990), über die Fragen der Lautlehre (vgl. z.B. Wunderli 1978) und über verschiedene Sprachstufen des Okzitanischen (Wunderli 1968, 2009/2010).

[26] Vgl. auch „Betätigungen des menschlichen Sprachvermögens“ für manifestations du langage humain im oben angeführten Bsp. 3.

[27] Langue entspricht hier eher der Sprachbetrachtung bzw. Sprachwissenschaft, was bereits von Lommel erkannt wurde (vgl. auch De Mauro 1968: 428, N82, Wunderli 2013: 91, Anm. 12).

[28] Als zentral sind dabei Harris 1987, De Mauro 1968/1972 und die von Engler erarbeitete Édition critique des Cours 1968a [1916]/1974 zu bezeichnen.

[29] Zum Fachlichkeitsgrad der Fachtexte vgl. z.B. Arntz/Eydam (1993: 199).

[30] In diesem Zusammenhang sei die folgende Textstelle aus dem Abschnitt Prestige de l´écriture zitiert:„Langue et écriture sont deux systèmes de signes distincts; l’unique raison d’être du second est de représenter le premier; (…) Mais le mot écrit se mêle si intimement au mot parlé dont il est l‘image, qu‘ il finit par usurper le rôle principal; on en vient à donner autant et plus d‘importance à la représentation du signe vocal qu‘à ce signe lui-même. C‘est comme si l‘on croyait que, pour connaître quelqu‘un, il vaut mieux regarder sa photographie que son visage.” (C96).

Ana Pano Alamán, Fabio Regattin. Tradurre un classico della scienza.

By Fabio Regattin (Università di Bologna, Italy)


©inTRAlinea & Fabio Regattin (2015).
"Ana Pano Alamán, Fabio Regattin. Tradurre un classico della scienza."
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Exploring Research in Business Translation

By Daniel Gallego-Hernández (University of Alicante, Spain)

©inTRAlinea & Daniel Gallego-Hernández (2015).
"Exploring Research in Business Translation"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: New Insights into Specialised Translation
Edited by: Daniel Gallego-Hernández
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Permanent URL: http://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/2153

Que s’intensifie la réflexion sur la méthodologie des cours pratiques de traduction et que ce thème fasse l’objet d’un mini colloque qui réunirait les pédagogues désireux de mettre en commun leur expérience de l’enseignement ! [May reflections on translation teaching methodologies intensify and may this subject be the main topic of a mini conference bringing together educators wanting to share their experience in teaching!] (Delisle, 1988)

In “L’initiation à la traduction économique” in 1988, Jean Delise essentially indicated that he felt there was a lack of discussion on translator training methodologies and a lack of conferences which brought together translator trainers wanting to share their experience. Later, in an updated version of the same article, he still regretted that such conferences remained rare:

Rares sont les colloques où les professeurs chargés de cours pratiques de traduction ont la chance de partager leur expérience de l’enseignement et de mettre en commun leurs réussites et leurs échecs dans ce domaine [la traduction économique].
[There is hardly any conference where teachers responsible for practical translation courses have the opportunity to share their teaching experience, their successes, and their failures in this area (business translation).]

It seems indeed that research on business translation, compared with other types of translation, has not received the same attention. We can confirm this by consulting the bibliographic database BITRA (Bibliography of Interpretation and Translation). The graph below shows, as of July 2015, the number of records for each year since 2000 in the various technical fields where records exist (business, information technology, legal, medical and localization).

According to this graph, we can see indeed that researchers have been interested in other types of translation, such as legal or medical translation, more than in business translation. However, if we look at recent years, we can see that the differences between the various types of translation are not very significant, which may give the impression that research in business translation is being given the interest it deserves. This may be due to the fact that researchers have become aware that this type of translation does have an important place in the translation services market, at least according to some recent surveys. In this sense, for example, the survey conducted in Spain by the Association of Specialized Centres in Translation (ACT, 2005: 108), which aimed at collecting feedback from both translation companies and professional translators, revealed that, in terms of work generation, business translation assignments were in second place behind technical and legal translation. Something similar happens with the results of the survey conducted by the COMENEGO project (Multilingual Corpus of Economics and Business), which showed, among other things, that as far as frequency is concerned, translators working from Spanish into English and vice versa translate fewer business texts that legal texts, although more business texts than technical, scientific or literary texts (Tolosa Igualada, 2014: 30-31). The interest in business translation and interpreting can also be seen in other surveys, such as Medina & Alvarez (2014), who investigate exporting companies that need translation services.

But the recent interest in business translation can also be seen in master’s degree programs, specialized conferences or edited volumes. In this respect, for example, we find some master’s degrees in Europe whose curricula seem to emphasize business translation. These include the Master de traduction éditoriale, économique et technique (École Supérieure d’Interprètes et de Traducteurs - Sorbonne Paris III), the Master LLCE Traduction Anglaise Spécialisée (Traduction juridique et économique) (Université Paris X Nanterre), the Master Langues étrangères et échanges internationaux, spécialité Traduction juridique et économique (Université de Cergy-Pontoise), the Máster Universitario en Traducción Jurídico-Financiera (Universidad Pontificia de Comillas), or the Master de traducción institucional (jurídica y económica) (Universidad de Alicante). In addition to these programs, we can also find other specific training courses related to business translation, such as Formation économique et financière à l’usage des interprètes de conference, organized by the SFT (Société française des traducteurs) or Goods Trading Internationally: a Course for Translators, organized by the University of Geneva.

In addition to this kind of courses, we also find specific conferences that, in one way or another, are linked to business translation. This applies, for example, to the conference on Langue, Économie, Entreprise, which took place in Paris in November 2003; the conference on Aspetti interculturali nella comunicazione delle organizzazioni economico-commerciali, organized in Milan in November 2006; the VI Simposio Internacional de Terminología Literalidad y dinamicidad en el discurso económico, celebrated in Barcelona in July 2007; the International Conference on Economic, Business, Financial and Institutional Translation, which took place in Alicante in May 2014, or the Seminarios sobre traducción económica e institucional: docencia, investigación y profesión, which have been organized by the University of Alicante since 2012. Furthermore, various edited volumes have been published from these conferences: Behr et al. (2007), Calvi et al. (2008), Cabré et al. (2008), Gallego-Hernández (2015), Gallego-Hernández (2014), respectively.

In addition to events that have already taken place or volumes that have been published, however, we can also find upcoming events and forthcoming volumes. For example, the next issue (Volume 8 (2016)) of the Monti journal (Monographs in Translation and Interpreting) focuses on Economic, Financial and Business Translation: from Theory to Training and Professional Practice. Also, the Second International Conference on Economic, Business, Financial and Institutional Translation is planned to be held in the Universtié à Trois Rivières in Canada. All of this evidence makes us believe that Jean Delisle’s wish related to the development of research and training in business translation “n’est pas resté lettre morte” [has not gone unheeded].

Against this background, the aim of this special issue is to contribute to the development of research in business translation by bringing together a series of contributions whose central axis is business and institutional translation. In particular, this volume includes contributions that look at training business translators, articles on localizating corporate websites or products, contrastive studies on terminology and translation problems, and works related to the development of terminology resources for business translators. These articles deal with different areas of expertise, such as globalization and labour, stock exchanges, the food industry, investment funds or the world of business.

The first paper, by Alejandro Carmona Sandoval and Zakia Ait Saadi (University of Jean Moulin Lyon 3, France), is entitled “Elementos de contextualización para la justificación de la (no) traducción de un sitio web corporativo: el sector agroalimentario en España” [Contextual elements justifying (non) translation of a corporate website: The food industry in Spain]. The authors analyse the localization of websites belonging to Spanish exporting companies that work in the field of fruits and vegetables, and show that the relationship between exports and website translation is by no means direct and straightforward.

While on the subject of localization, the paper “La localización de la sección ‘productos’ en sitios web de empresas exportadoras agroalimentarias” [Localizing the ‘products’ section on agrifood exporter websites] by Ana Medina Reguera and Cristina Ramírez Delgado (Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Spain) also discusses the translation of corporate websites. But in this case the authors analyse various websites, identify and classify a series of errors in translation, and suggest the need for planning a strategy to improve communication between companies and translators.

Turning to terminography, the paper by Jeanne Dancette (Université de Montréal, Canada) entitled “A Context-Rich Dictionary with a Relational Structure: A Tool for Economic Translation” provides an overview of the principles used when designing the Analytical Dictionary of Globalization and Labour (DAMT), which is a trilingual dictionary (English, French and Spanish) that includes some 6000 terms and offers the user various kinds of information such as translations, definitions or clusters of related terms. The strength of this dictionary lies in semantic relations for information retrieval and lexicological precision.

Koen Kerremans (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium) is the author of the paper entitled “Managing Terminological and Translational Diversity in Parallel Corpora: A Case Study in Institutional Translation”, which also deals with terminography. He presents a translation resource that covers a set of English term variants and their French and Dutch equivalents retrieved from a trilingual parallel corpus of institutional texts, and discusses how translation units are semantically marked and how the resource can be used by translators.

The next series of papers are related to terminology problems in business translation. In his work entitled “Ideological connotations in financial terminology: an English-French-Italian study from ‘hedge funds’ through ‘fondi speculativi/fonds spéculatifs’ to ‘fondi alternativi/fonds alternatifs’”, Danio Maldussi (Università di Bologna, Italy) analyses, from a range of perspectives, the nature of the negative judgement that surrounds the adjectives speculativo and spéculatif in Italian and French when translating the term hedge funds. The author concludes by addressing the change in ideological connotations when moving from the denomination fondi speculativi/fonds spéculatifs to the reassuring category of alternative investment funds.

The article “La presse française et égyptienne francophone après la Révolution du 25 janvier 2011: étude sur le traduction du discours économique égyptien” [The French-language French and Egyptian media after the revolution of January 25, 2011: a study of the translation of economic discourse], by Dima El Husseini (Université Française d’Egypte, Egypt), analyses the phenomenon of interleaving the Egyptian dialect within classical Arabic in the economic discourse of the Egyptian press by focusing on the neologism. The author states that neologisms in the Egyptian economic context and the use of various strategies in translation such as euphemism, metaphor or ellipsis have broadened the cultural horizon of target readers, producing a functional effect at the aesthetic level and at the emotional level.

Also focused on terminology, the paper “La traduction économique dans une perspective contrastive français-italien: problèmes terminologiques et difficultés traductives” [Economic translation from a French-Italian contrastive perspective: terminology problems and translation difficulties], by Alessandra Rollo (Università del Salento, Italy), discusses the heterogeneity of economic language which can be observed in its various communicative acts or textual genres, and the need to provide relevant translation solutions appropriate to each situation. The author focuses on various translation problems such as equivocal terms, collocations or neologisms.

The final articles in this special issue fundamentally deal with business translation training. Noting that there are very few research papers dealing with classifying expert knowledge, Leticia Herrero and Verónica Román (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain) propose a classification of genres within the fields of economics, finance and business in their paper “English to Spanish translation of the economics and finance genres” in order to provide translator trainers and inexperienced translators with a catalogue that is representative of the main text types.

Cristina Gelpí (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain) reopens the discussion on the subject-matter knowledge needed by translators when confronted with business texts. In her paper “¿Cuánta economía debe saber el traductor? La adquisición de conocimiento temático para la traducción” [How much economics should a translator know? Acquiring translation subject matter knowledge], the author believes that this kind of knowledge is limited to the text and not to the field, and proposes two learning strategies to ensure acquisition of this knowledge, which she uses when training translators.

The next article, entitled “A contextual case study-based methodology of teaching business translation: an overview”, is written by Marcin Walczyński (University of Wrocław, Poland). After discussing some general aspects of business English and business translation, the author surveys the Polish methods used to train translators in this field and presents a case study-based methodology of business translation teaching based on the assumption that translators have a multifaceted translator’s competence which allows them to perform several tasks at a time.

“La competencia documental en el aprendizaje de la traducción económica francés-español-francés. Estudio de caso” [Documentary competence in learning French-Spanish-French economic translation. A case study], by Áurea Fernández (Universidad de Vigo, Spain), focuses on the stock market. The author analyses two concepts related to sale-purchase and rise-fall in French and Spanish in order to show the dynamism of financial language and to train translators when solving specific translation problems which cannot be solved solely by using dictionaries.

Last but not least, the paper written by Éric Poirier (Université à Trois Rivières, Canada) is entitled “The interpretation of business in specialized expressions and compound terms for translation purposes”. Noting that the field of economic, business and financial translation is characterized by conceptual ontologies that are conveyed with specialized expressions and compound terms, the author suggests a method to interpret various specialized lexical items. 

We believe that this special issue, which on the whole offers various viewpoints on business and institutional translation, is one more example of the current research situation in this field. We hope that the readers of this collection will find the papers provided here useful and will find some ideas or suggestions that inspire them in their projects or research. We would also like to express our thanks to the authors, the reviewers and the editorial board of Intralinea.


Agrupación de centros especializados en traducción (2005) Estudio de situación del mercado español de servicios profesionales de traducción (2004).

Behr, Irmtraud; Hentschel, Dieter; Kauffmann, Michel & Anja Kern (eds.) (2007) Langue, économie, entreprise: Le travail des mots, Paris, Presses Sorbonne Nouvelle.

Cabré, M. Teresa; Bach, Carme & Carles Tebé (eds.) (2008) Literalidad y dinamicidad en el discurso económico: VI Actividades de IULATERM de Verano (9-12 de julio de 2007), Barcelona, Universitat Pompeu Fabra; Documenta Universitaria.

Calvi, María Vittoria; Mapelli, Giovanna & Javier Santos López (eds.) (2008) Lingue, Culture, Economia. Comunicazione e Pratiche Discorsive, Milán, FrancoAngeli Editori; Università degli Studi di Milano.

Delisle, Jean (1988) “L’initiation à la traduction économique”, Meta, 33, no. 2: 204-215.

Gallego-Hernández, Daniel (ed.) (2014) Traducción Económica: Entre profesión, formación y recursos documentales, Soria, Excma. Diputación Provincial de Soria.

Gallego-Hernández, Daniel (ed.) (2015) Current Approaches to Business and Institutional Translation = Enfoques actuales en traducción económica e institucional, Frankfurt am Main, Peter Lang.

Medina Reguera, Ana & Carmen Álvarez García (2007) “La relación empresa-traducción en el sector agroalimentario andaluz”, Skopos, 4.

Tolosa Igualada, Miguel (2014) “Dime qué traduces y ‘les’ diré quién eres. Estudio basado en encuestas acerca de los documentos traducidos por traductores económicos (inglés-español y español-inglés)”, Vertere. Monográficos de la revista Hermeneus, 16: 23-41.

Elementos de contextualización para la justificación de la (no) traducción de un sitio web corporativo:

el sector agroalimentario en España

By Alejandro Carmona Sandoval & Zakia Ait Saadi (Univ. of Lyon 3, France & Univ. of Granada, Spain)

Abstract & Keywords


According to the macroeconomic data provided by the Central bank of Spain (Banco de España), the value of exported goods by domestic firms is steadily increasing, especially in the field of fruits and vegetables. Goods are sold to countries such as France, Germany or England, and most of the exporting companies are located in the south or in the Levante areas of Spain. In this work, we analyse the translation as a business marketing tool to understand if this increasing commercial trend positively influences the translation activity of multimedia contents. We identify the companies that are located in Alicante and Murcia and that are also registered in the Spanish federation of associations of producers and exporters of fruits, vegetables, flowers and live plants (FEPEX) database; we also analyse to what extent their websites have been translated into the most “demanding” languages (English, French and German). Our results show that the relationship between exports and websites translation is by no means direct and straightforward. We conclude our work by supporting training exercises that could strengthen the students” polyvalence in order to undertake translation services, business communication tasks, and/or business multilingual consulting activities.


Según los datos macroeconómicos ofrecidos por el Banco de España, el valor de las mercancías exportadas por las empresas españolas es cada vez mayor, principalmente en el sector hortofrutícola. Las mercancías son destinadas principalmente a países como Francia, Alemania e Inglaterra y gran parte de las empresas exportadoras se centran en las zonas sureña y levantina de España. El presente trabajo aborda la traducción como herramienta de marketing empresarial para saber si esta tendencia comercial creciente influye positivamente en la traducción de contenidos multimedia. Para ello, analizamos los sitios web de las empresas alicantinas y murcianas inscritas en la Federación Española de Asociaciones de Productores Exportadores de Frutas, Hortalizas, Flores y Plantas vivas (FEPEX) y en qué medida sus páginas web han sido traducidas hacia los idiomas más “compradores” (inglés, francés y alemán). Nuestros resultados muestran que la relación entre las exportaciones y la traducción de sitios web dista mucho de ser directa y sencilla, siendo, en este caso, los servicios de traducción una herramienta escasamnete utilizada en las exportaciones de productos hacia países europeos.

Keywords: corporate websites, marketing, economic and financial translation, export, exportación, sitios web corporativos, traducción económica

©inTRAlinea & Alejandro Carmona Sandoval & Zakia Ait Saadi (2015).
"Elementos de contextualización para la justificación de la (no) traducción de un sitio web corporativo:"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: New Insights into Specialised Translation
Edited by: Daniel Gallego-Hernández
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Permanent URL: http://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/2152

1. Introducción

Según la última encuesta realizada por el Instituto Nacional de Estadística (INE) en materia de uso de Tecnologías de la Información y las Comunicaciones (TIC) y del comercio electrónico en las empresas en España, más del 98 por ciento de las mismas con 10 o más empleados dispone de conexión a Internet, y el 75,8 por ciento dispone de un sitio web corporativo. Este último porcentaje se incrementa hasta el 95,7 por ciento para aquellas empresas con más de 250 empleados. La situación aquí descrita dista mucho de la de 2001, cuando solo el 38,52 por ciento de las empresas disponía de un sitio web. Asimismo, tan solo el 16,06 por ciento tenía un sitio web traducido hacia uno o varios idiomas, pero con diferencias: el porcentaje correspondiente a las empresas de más de 250 empleados aumentaba hasta el 42,65 por ciento, mientras que para las empresas de entre 10 y 249 empleados los resultados tan solo alcanzaban un 15,30 por ciento.

Estos datos ejemplifican la revolución de las NTIC que han originado el desarrollo generalizado de los intercambios comerciales. Estos cambios a su vez influyen en la organización de las empresas y en la creación de nuevas competencias profesionales propias del marketing (webmaster, webmarketer, gestor de contenidos, etc.) (Bouvier 2010) y de la traducción (De Pedro 2007). En el marco de esta virtualización de la información empresarial, deseamos incidir en la creación y traducción de los sitios web corporativos, ya que permiten a las empresas convertirse en un escaparate continuo para sus clientes, promover los productos o servicios propuestos, conseguir mayor credibilidad frente a sus clientes, y entrar en contacto de forma alternativa con los clientes (Reed y Balagué 2011: 41-43). Todo ello, reduciendo considerablemente los costes tradicionalmente soportados (papel y tiempo, principalmente).

Más concretamente, trataremos de incidir en qué medida las empresas exportadoras de alimentos hortofrutícolas han conseguido adaptarse a este cambio tecnológico y analizar cuál es el papel de los servicios de traducción como herramienta de promoción empresarial hacia el exterior. Para ello, analizaremos en qué medida las páginas web han sido traducidas hacia los idiomas más “compradores” (inglés, francés y alemán), intentando, en la medida de lo posible, contextualizar las razones que (des)animan a las empresas a solicitar dichos servicios de traducción. Los datos serán recabados a partir de una muestra de 147 empresas exportadoras de dos áreas relevantes para el sector horotfrutícola español (Murcia y Alicante) seleccionadas en la base de datos FEPEX. Esta perspectiva, en suma, intenta unir aspectos propios de la Traductología, de los estudios de marketing y de la internacionalización empresarial.

2. La traducción del web en un contexto de internacionalización empresarial

Tal y como hemos señalado en nuestro apartado introductorio, la posesión de un sitio web por parte de las empresas es una práctica extendida en el mundo empresarial español. Para ello, se suelen aducir varias motivaciones, como pueden ser presentar la empresa de forma continua (en la red), mostrar y describir sus productos/servicios, ponerse en contacto con los clientes efectivos/potenciales, o incluso vender a particulares/profesionales (Lannoo y Ankri 2009). Bouvier (2010: 69), desde una perspectiva más conservadora, señala que esta última motivación no debería ser recogida de forma imperativa, teniendo en cuenta que los sitios web suelen ser considerados ampliamente como simple publicidad por Internet (López y Ruiz de Maya 2008: 44). Sea como sea, no cabe duda de que la creación de un sitio web corporativo ha de formar parte de una visión general de la empresa de cara a su notoriedad pública.

Junto a este hecho, la globalización de la economía también ha propiciado que las empresas incrementen las relaciones con otros clientes, proveedores y colaborades asentados en el extranjero para así internacionalizar su actividad. Se establecen cinco pasos cronológicos que determinan el grado de internacionalización de una empresa (Otero 2008: 22). Es necesario primero que la empresa se haya asentado en el mercado nacional para poder optar a exportar sus productos, de manera ocasional o habitual. Sin embargo la aparición en la escena comercial de las llamadas “Nuevas Empresas Internacionales” pone en duda esta consideración (Belso 1993: 194). Este proceso de internacionalización rápida ocurre en empresas con una fuerte diferenciación tecnológica (con una gran capacidad de inversión y desarrollo o con grandes valores añadidos en sus productos o procesos productivos) frente a sus demás competidores, o en empresas con una fuerte diferenciación de marketing (reconocimiento internacional de la marca, prestigio exterior, etc.). En cualquier caso, de todos los factores que son tenidos en cuenta para exportar, deseamos incidir en los siguientes: por una parte, el deseo de acceder a nuevos mercados más extensos (Lecerf 2006: 109); por otra parte, la distancia geográfica, la naturaleza de los bienes en cuestión, y la competitividad de la empresa exportadora frente a las demás (Lernoux et al. 2013: 8-12). La unión de estos factores externos (Martín y Gaspar 2007: 122) hará que la sociedad decida o no comercializar sus productos al exterior.

En el marco de este proceso de exportación e internacionalización, las empresas pueden solicitar la traducción de sus sitios web corporativos, anteriormente señalados, para disponer de un número máximo de herramientas que permitan afianzar su mercado internacional. Los servicios de traducción, afirma Nieminen (en Aarikka-Stenroos 2010: 14), suelen ser principalmente contratados para solventar problemas de costes, de recursos y capacidades y, en lo que aquí nos ocupa, de internacionalización empresarial. Además, la creación y traducción de sitios web corporativos se enmarca dentro de las actividades de promoción empresarial, y como tal, constituye una actividad importante para el éxito exportador, de modo que aquellas empresas que consiguen aprovechar un mayor número de herramientas promocionales obtienen un mejor resultado exportador (Monreal 2009: 70-71). Numerosos autores del ámbito de la Traductología ha incidido, en este punto, sobre el concepto de “localización”, que coincide en parte con aquellos elementos propios del “marketing personalizado” o del marketing “one to one” (Eouzan 2012: 19), y que abogan por intentar adaptar las estrategias de comunicación, promoción y distribución del producto a cada consumidor. El proceso de localización deriva, en palabras de Pym (2001), de “the adaptation of an internationalized text to a particular locale”, siendo este último término definido como “the specific unión of language variety and cultural norms”. Se trata también de aquello que va “más allá” de la traducción lingüística, y puede consistir en adaptar elementos visuales o sonoros a otra cultura (Anastasiou y Schäler 2010). La relación entre dicho proceso de localización y la estrategia de marketing empresarial es, pues, importante (Pym 2010), y puede o no incluir elementos de adaptación lingüísticos propiamente dichos, según el grado de acercamiento que la empresa desee crear con los clientes (potenciales o reales). Este punto resulta importante ya que el respeto de las convenciones textuales y culturales de un sitio web influye en su grado de usabilidad y, en consecuencia, cualquier error de adaptación al respecto podría influir negativamente en la su eficacia comunicativa (Jiménez Crespo 2010: 15). Lo cual, a su vez, podría repercutir negativamente sobre la publicidad de los productos de una empresa en el extranjero.

Jiménez Crespo (2010) señala a su vez que este proceso de localización, derivado de una estrategia de acercamiento hacia el cliente (“customization”), depende en gran medida del Retorno sobre la Inversión esperado, de modo que todo proceso de localización, costoso para cada empresa, habrá de ser valorado a través de un proceso de evaluación de los riesgos y beneficios aportados. Y este proceso, a su vez, está íntimamente ligado a la importancia del mercado local que origina el servicio de traducción. Las ventajas de este servicio, afirma Corte (2002), son numerosas aunque muchas empresas siguen siendo reacias a él, debido en parte al proceso complicado y costoso, sobre todo para aquellos casos en los que el sitio web corporativo es actualizado mensual o semanalmente. En cualquier caso, creemos que la traducción de esa información responde a un deseo de ampliar un mercado y de estar en contacto con determinados clientes con el objeto de garantizar, cuando menos a medio plazo, una relación fiable entre los mismos y la empresa.

Se han realizado numerosos trabajos para dar cuenta de la traducción como medio para fomentar la interconectividad virtual entre las personas y el mundo. Podemos resaltar los correspondientes a Jiménez Crespo (por ejemplo, 2008, 2010 y 2012) en el caso de los sitios web corporativos, Fernández Costales (2010) para los sitios web de instituciones académicas, Ivorra Pérez (2011) en cuanto a los elementos discursivos culturales de los sitios web de negocios, Solís Becerra (2013) en lo relativo a los sitios web turísticos, y Hoffman (2013) en cuanto a la presencia o no de neologismos, calcos y extranjerismos desde una óptica terminológica. Este trabajo, sin embargo, no pretende incidir en el mismo proceso de traducción de los sitios web ni en la calidad de las traducciones consecuentes. Nos encontramos en una fase de comprensión de la cultura empresarial sobre la traducción de los sitios web como servicio pagado por los empresarios y no como producto entregado por los profesionales de la traducción. Así, consideramos la traducción como una herramienta de marketing para analizar en qué medida es utilizada para conseguir que una empresa española pueda afianzarse en un mercado tan competitivo como es el del sector alimentario en Europa. Se trata por tanto de estudiar el contexto en el que se mueven los empresarios –al fin y al cabo, clientes potenciales de los traductores– para, en la medida de lo posible, entender aquellas motivaciones y relaciones complejas que les pueden alejar de o acercar a la demanda de un encargo de traducción.

Si tenemos en cuenta que las exportaciones del sector agroalimentario en España han experimentado un crecimiento importante en los últimos años y que, tal y como señalamos más arriba, el objetivo de un sitio web consiste en promover y dar a conocer los respectivos bienes y servicios puestos a la venta para un público determinado, podríamos entonces plantear como hipótesis que el número de sitios web traducidos será importante
–y, en la medida de lo posible, localizados– para que las empresas españolas puedan tener contacto con sus clientes (reales o potenciales) de forma natural. Confirmada o denegada esta hipótesis, obtendríamos información relevante sobre la forma con la que un sector específico del mercado de la traducción –a saber, los sitios web de las empresas privadas del sector agroalimentario– puede comportarse.

3. Las exportaciones españolas: cifras y tendencia

Los valores y las tendencias en el área del comercio internacional tienen un comportamiento estructural, en tanto que depende de las capacidades de un país para crear y distribuir bienes y servicios, pero también coyuntural, ya que para que las empresas españolas puedan vender al exterior es necesario que las empresas extranjeras demanden y puedan comprar esos bienes y servicios.

Un documento importante de análisis macroeconómico ofrecido por el Banco de España es el Boletín de Información Comercial Española (BICE), publicado mensualmente por el mismo organismo. Para este estudio, se ha hecho uso del trabajo monográfico correspondiente al año 2012 (BE 2013), dedicado al comercio exterior, y una nota de prensa de la misma institución (BE 2014).

Según dichos datos, la balanza comercial anual de España (la diferencia entre el valor de las exportaciones y el de las importaciones de bienes), de forma general, presenta valores negativos. Es decir, los ciudadanos y las empresas nacionales compran del exterior por un valor mayor que el correspondiente a sus ventas hacia el exterior. En el caso de las relaciones comerciales entre España y el resto del mundo, la evolución del saldo de la balanza comercial ha sido la siguiente (BE 2013 y 2014):





























Tabla 1: Balanza comercial España 2008-13 (en millones de euros). Fuente: BICE (2013 y 2014)

Tal y como podemos observar, a partir del año 2008 las importaciones españolas sufrieron un descenso importante debido a la crisis económica que está sufriendo el país, con una recuperación progresiva pero lenta. Las exportaciones, sin embargo, han ido incrementándose, ya que muchas empresas están invirtiendo en la venta hacia el exterior como solución para compensar el hecho de que la demanda interna se haya derrumbado.

Centrándonos en el sector de los alimentos (tabla 2), los datos nos parecen muy interesantes por el hecho de que dicho sector, frente a la tendencia general del comercio español, no ha presentado tantos cambios. En otras palabras, los valores de las importaciones han podido recuperarse de mejor manera durante este periodo de crisis. Por su parte, las exportaciones han seguido mostrando una progresión más positiva, o lo que es lo mismo, las empresas españolas venden más en el exterior que hace cinco años.





























Tabla 2: Exportaciones españolas alimentarias (en millones de euros). Fuente: BE (2013) y MAGRAMA (2014)

Al centrarnos en el sector hortofrutícola y, más concretamente en la zona costera española mayormente mediterránea, el mismo BICE nos permite extraer la información mostrada en la siguiente tabla y resaltar la importancia de las Comunidades Autónomas de Andalucía, Comunidad Valenciana, Cataluña y Murcia como zonas donde la mayor parte de esos alimentos son producidos.




CRECIMIENTO 2012/2011 (en %)





Comunidad Valenciana
















Tabla 3: Exportaciones regionales alimentarias. Fuente: BE (2013).

Se puede observar cómo las Comunidades Autónomas que bordean el sur y el este de España acaparan casi el 87 por ciento del valor de las exportaciones de frutas y hortalizas. Por otra parte, las exportaciones realizadas en 2012 siguen mostrando unos valores de crecimiento muy positivos con respecto al año 2011. En este sentido, la situación del sector hortofrutícola sigue abriéndose a gran velocidad hacia el exterior.

Consideramos oportuno, por tanto, establecer una relación entre esta situación de expansión internacional de las empresas del sector hortofrutícola (principalmente del sur y del este de España) y la actividad traductora, por muy alejada que parezca en un principio. Efectivamente, parece coherente pensar que los sitios web de aquellas empresas de dicho sector están, poco a poco, cambiando su contenido para adaptarlo a sus, cada vez más, numerosos clientes extranjeros. En este sentido, cabría la posibilidad de sostener que los sitios web de dichas empresas están traducidos hacia el idioma hablado en los países de destino de las empresas compradoras. Pero ¿cuáles son esos idiomas?

Según los datos de la FEPEX, Federación Española de Asociaciones de Productores Exportadores de Frutas, Hortalizas, Flores y Plantas vivas (www.fepex.com), en 2013 la cantidad (en toneladas) de productos del sector hortofrutícola vendidos por las empresas españolas en el exterior se repartió geográficamente de la siguiente manera:














Reino Unido




Países Bajos
























Rep. Checa



Tabla 4: Exportaciones hortofrutícolas por países. Fuente: FEPEX

A partir de esos datos, el primer país al que van destinados los productos hortofrutícolas es Alemania. La cantidad de los alimentos vendidos corresponde al 24,11 por ciento del total de las ventas de las empresas españolas hacia, a la sazón, los 27 países que componen la UE. Le siguen, por orden decreciente, Francia, el Reino Unido, los Países Bajos, Italia y Polonia. Si ordenamos esos datos desde la perspectiva lingüística en la que deseamos incidir en este trabajo, los idiomas más “compradores” serían los siguientes:

































Tabla 5: Exportaciones hortofrutícolas por idiomas. Fuente: FEPEX

Para conseguir los datos señalados, hemos agrupado los valores de Alemania y Austria para el alemán; los valores del Reino Unido, Dinamarca, los Países Bajos, Finlandia y Suecia para el inglés; los valores de Francia y Bélgica para el francés. Los demás idiomas están representados por tan solo un país en cada caso. Hemos considerado al respecto que los países nórdicos presentan una política lingüística que permite a sus ciudadanos entender y hablar inglés correctamente, aunque somos conscientes de que estas consideraciones pueden parecer un tanto subjetivas.

Una vez presentados y analizados los datos aferentes al comercio exterior de las empresas españolas, principalmente en el sector hortofrutícola, consideramos estar capacitados para sostener, por analogía, la siguiente hipótesis: Las páginas web de empresas españolas que estén exportando o deseen hacerlo al exterior tienen –o, cuando menos, deberían tener– sus páginas web traducidas o adaptadas al alemán, al inglés o al francés, debido a la gran probabilidad de que estas tengan como clientes empresas provenientes de países en los que se habla mayormente esos idiomas. En menor importancia, le siguen el italiano, el polaco, el portugués y el checo. Somos conscientes de que este hecho no debería de ser observado de forma precisa, es decir, con unos resultados idénticos a los señalados en las tablas anteriores; sin embargo, creemos lógico pensar que los valores conseguidos a partir de nuestro análisis sí deberían mostrar cuando menos una tendencia general que confirme nuestra hipótesis.

4. Estudio descriptivo

Para nuestro estudio, hemos considerado pertinente analizar hasta qué punto las empresas hortofrutícolas son capaces de mostrar la realidad cambiante del sector. Tal y como ha sido señalado anteriormente, si tenemos en cuenta, por una parte, que las empresas del sur y del este español (Cataluña, la Comunidad Valenciana, Murcia y Andalucía) acaparan casi el 87 por ciento del valor total de las exportaciones nacionales del sector y que, por otra parte, esas exportaciones están, en más de un 75 por ciento, destinadas a un país de habla inglesa, francesa o alemana, podríamos sostener que un número importante de empresas españolas exportadoras presentan sus sitios web en español y traducidos a los idiomas señalados con el objeto de aproximarse de la mejor manera a la cultura del cliente.

Para comprobar esta aseveración, hemos hecho uso de los datos ofrecidos por el sitio web de la Asociación FEPEX (Federación Española de Asociaciones de Productores Exportadores de Frutas, Hortalizas, Flores y Plantas vivas), cuya misión principal se centra en la promoción y defensa de los intereses de empresas españolas del sector hortofrutícola hacia el exterior. La Asociación dispone de una base de datos de empresas miembros que, por el hecho de serlo, creemos, presentan al menos una de estas características:

  1. Venden sus productos fuera de España
  2. Están en proceso de hacerlo
  3. Presentan un interés fuerte en internacionalizar su empresa

A partir de ello, hemos analizado un total de 59 empresas del sector de la provincia de Alicante y 88 empresas similares de Murcia. La base de datos utilizada señala oficialmente un total de 61 y 90 miembros inscritos en la FEPEX para Alicante y Murcia (en el sector de las frutas y hortalizas), respectivamente; pero hemos descartado aquellas pocas empresas presentes por duplicado.

4.1. Datos para la provincia de Alicante

El análisis de los datos para las empresas alicantinas puede resumirse a través de la siguiente gráfica, que muestra la forma con la que, en parte, las empresas inscritas en la FEPEX promocionan sus productos para el cliente (potencial o real) extranjero:

Figura 1: Sitios web empresas alicantinas. Elaboración propia

La primera característica que nos ha sorprendido es el hecho de que más del 50 por ciento de las empresas analizadas (un 54,24 por ciento), 32 en números absolutos, no dispone de un sitio web, algo que en un principio parece incongruente con la actividad empresarial y la internacionalización mostrada en el apartado anterior. En segundo lugar, de todas aquellas empresas que sí disponen de un sitio web (un total de 27), más de la mitad (15) no han sido traducidas. Por consiguiente, los sitios web traducidos representan tan solo un 20,33 por ciento del total de las empresas alicantinas inscritas en la FEPEX (12 sobre 59). De ellos, tres han sido traducidos solamente hacia el inglés, tres hacia el inglés y el francés, y tan solo un sitio ha sido traducido hacia el inglés, el francés y el alemán. Además, una sola empresa ha invertido en la traducción de su sitio web hacia cinco idiomas. Y, finalmente, querríamos resaltar el hecho de que una empresa ofrece la traducción de su contenido web en doce (12) idiomas, pero el resultado se debe visiblemente al uso de un programa de traducción automática (sin revisión humana) con la consecuente repercusión en la calidad de la misma. Los resultados cuantitativos son los siguientes:



Empresas analizadas

59 (100%)

Empresas sin sitio web

32 (54,23%)

Sitio web no traducido

15 (25,42%)

Sitio web traducido

12 (20,34%)

únicamente al inglés

3 (5,08%)

hacia dos idiomas

6 (10,16%)


1 (1,69%)


1 (1,69%)


1 (1,69%)


3 (5,08%)

hacia tres idiomas

1 (1,69%)


1 (1,69%)

hacia cinco idiomas

1 (1,69%)

     inglés/francés/alemán/ italiano/rumano

1 (1,69%)

hacia más de cinco idiomas

1 (1,69%)

Tabla 5: Resultados absolutos (Alicante). Elaboración propia

Frente a los datos presentados a partir del BICE, parece que los resultados muestran una realidad distinta a la que, en principio, se podría esperar. En ningún caso los sitios han sido traducidos hacia los idiomas de destino comercial “menos mayoritarios” (es decir, el italiano, el portugués y el polaco) a pesar de que sean idiomas de comunicación empresarial en el sector hortofrutícola. Por otra parte, la traducción de los sitios web hacia la terna “inglés-francés-alemán” que abarca lingüísticamente más del 75 por ciento del total de los destinos de los alimentos vendidos hacia el exterior (con respecto a las exportaciones totales a la UE-27) ha sido observada en tan solo tres ocasiones sobre un total de 59 casos. El inglés, por su parte, sigue manteniendo la condición de lengua franca y está presente en todos aquellos casos en los que la empresa ha traducido su sitio web.

4.2. Datos para la provincia de Murcia

Una vez analizados los sitios web de las empresas procedentes de Alicante, mostramos los datos correspondientes a la provincia de Murcia. De manera idéntica, mostramos la gráfica recapitulativa de los resultados observados:

Figura 2: Sitios web empresas murcianas. Elaboración propia

Para la región de Murcia, el número de empresas analizadas ascendió a 88. De ellas el 42,05 por ciento (es decir, 37) no dispone de sitio web, una proporción menor que la correspondiente a Alicante, aunque ciertamente elevada. Con respecto a los 51 sitios web creados, 22 fueron traducidos tan solo hacia el inglés. Sin embargo, la terna “inglés-francés- alemán” es más representativa, si tenemos en cuenta que de los siete sitios web traducidos hacia tres idiomas, seis presentaban esa combinación lingüística, y que esta es a su vez mantenida para la traducción hacia un número mayor de idiomas. Los resultados detallados se muestran en la siguiente tabla:




Empresas analizadas



Empresas sin sitio web



Sitio web no traducido



Sitio web traducido



únicamente al inglés



hacia dos idiomas









hacia tres idiomas









hacia cuatro idiomas



     inglés/francés/alemán/ ruso



hacia más de cinco idiomas



Tabla 6: Resultados absolutos (Murcia). Elaboración propia

4.3. Análisis de los datos: ¿Las empresas desconfían de los sitios web y de las traducciones?

Los datos mostrados en las secciones anteriores evidencian una importante brecha entre los buenos resultados de exportación de bienes hortofrutícolas y la escasa presencia de sitios web (traducidos o no) de estas empresas (recordemos que, según datos del INE, más del 75 por ciento de las empresas disponen de un sitio web corporativo, mientras que la cifra en este estudio apenas alcanza el 53 por ciento –78/147–). Más aún, para aquellos sitios web traducidos (45 en total), el idioma elegido es, en su mayoría, el inglés, que supone el 55,56 por ciento del total de las traducciones, frente al alemán o al francés. Estos datos nos animarían a matizar la señalada utilidad de los sitios web para la promoción empresarial (Bouvier 2012; López y Ruiz de Maya 2008), así como la importancia de la localización como elemento de comercialización empresarial (Jiménez Crespo 2010; Pym 2010). Creemos, sin embargo, importante resaltar algunos puntos para relativizar esta aseveración.

En primer lugar, un número importante de empresas, principalmente de la región de Murcia, presentaban el mismo número de teléfono de contacto, a pesar de ser distintas. Concretamente, hemos identificado 44 casos en los que el número de teléfono de una empresa coincide con el de otra. De todos ellos, nos ha llamado la atención el hecho de que un mismo número de teléfono aparece como medio de contacto para 18 empresas distintas. La razón, creemos, se debe a que dichas empresas pertenecen a un mismo grupo empresarial y, aun estando situados los terrenos agrícolas en lugares diferentes, las oficinas han sido agrupadas para ahorrar gastos administrativos. Por ello, determinadas empresas tienen “clientes asegurados” en la medida en que trabajan principalmente para el grupo que las ha absorbido. De todas ellas, tan solo dos empresas disponen de un sitio web, ambas de dominio español, traducidas al inglés: www.ghmurcianadevegetales.com y www.looije.es. Otro número de teléfono aparece en cinco empresas, pero ninguna de ellas dispone de algún sitio web. Por último, un número de teléfono aparece en tres empresas distintas, pero el sitio web al que van unidas está traducido tanto al español como al inglés, siendo su dominio alemán (http://gemuese-garten.de).

En segundo lugar, determinados correos electrónicos de contacto de las empresas analizadas tienen un dominio que pertenece a grandes grupos internacionales de alimentación (por ejemplo, en el caso de este trabajo, de nacionalidad alemana, danesa, holandesa o francesa). Para conseguir economías de escala verticales, creemos que dichos grupos han acabado bien por comprar terrenos agrícolas en España, bien por colaborar con determinadas Cooperativas o Sociedades Agrarias de Transformación para garantizar su abastecimiento de frutas y hortalizas anualmente. De esa forma, algunas empresas españolas no sienten la necesidad de traducir su respectivo sitio web, ni siquiera de crearlo. En caso de disponer de un sitio web, este puede provenir de empresas multinacionales, de los cuales señalamos los siguientes ejemplos: Gemüse Garten (Alemania), Bonduelle (Francia), Kettle Produce (Inglaterra), Soldive (Francia), G”s (Holding multinacional), Fossco (Noruega) o Intercrop (Dinamarca). De todos estos sitios web (extranjeros), tan solo aquellos de Kettle Produce y G”s están traducidos hacia el inglés; los demás no disponen de traducción propia, a excepción de Soldive y Gemüse Garten, que siendo francesa y alemana, respectivamente, ofrecen una traducción al inglés y al español.

A pesar de ello, una vez descontados ambos parámetros (duplicidad de números de teléfono y dominios extranjeros de Internet), los resultados permanecen, a grandes rasgos, similares. En efecto, contabilizamos 58 sitios web corporativos con dominio español por 105 empresas “independientes”, lo que supone un 55,24 por ciento de representatividad en la red. El dato sigue siendo más bajo que la media señalada por el INE. Con respecto a los sitios web traducidos, el número se eleva a 34, lo que tan solo representa el 58,62% del total, y exactamente la mitad de estos (17) son traducidos tan solo al inglés. El resto se distribuye de la siguiente manera: 6 empresas disponen de una traducción hacia el francés, inglés y alemán; 3 empresas con la combinación inglés-francés; 2 con la combinación inglés-alemán; 1 con la terna francés-inglés-italiano; 1 con la combinación inglés-ruso; y 1 con la combinación inglés-francés-alemán-ruso. Por último, tres empresas disponen de traducciones en 5 idiomas o más.

Con todo ello, aparte de la atomización en cuanto a la elección de los idiomas de traducción, podemos considerar que las traducciones pueden no ser percibidas por los empresarios como elementos importantes en el proceso de comercialización de sus productos. Otras formas más valoradas por las empresas españolas para ganar intensidad exportadora son el uso mayor de tecnologías avanzadas de fabricación, o el mayor control directivo de las operaciones de exportación (Monreal Pérez 2009). Con respecto a la promoción y publicidad, las empresas españolas pueden utilizar medidas más directas, como, por ejemplo, el uso de cooperativas para unir fuerzas, la asistencia a ferias con el asesoramiento de las Asociaciones sectoriales regionales y nacionales, o la contratación de servicios externos de instituciones semipúblicas (entre otros, EXTENDA en Andalucía o el ICEX a nivel nacional) para promover la exportación de dichas empresas. En otras palabras, y de acuerdo con los postulados de Corte (2002) y Crespo (2010), las inversiones necesarias para conseguir un sitio web suficientemente comunicativo (“localizado”) son percibidas como demasiado costosas por parte de los empresarios, con respecto a los ingresos que, según los mismos, les proporcionarían dichas traducciones. Esta es la razón por la que, creemos, numerosas empresas optan por traducir hacia el inglés, lengua franca comercial, sin tener en cuenta el origen mismo de sus principales clientes (De Pedro, 2007).

Por último, la traducción de un sitio web nos parece necesaria si es el proveedor quien desea, de manera ascendente, llegar hasta el cliente potencial. No obstante, también puede ocurrir lo contrario, es decir, determinadas empresas extranjeras pueden dar el primer paso para encontrar algún medio de ahorro de provisión de sus materias primas o existencias, en cuyo caso, las labores de traducción y de captación de clientes ya no son tan acuciantes para los empresarios españoles.

5. Conclusiones

El presente estudio nos ha permitido estudiar la traducción de sitios web corporativos de empresas hortofrutícolas, considerándola como herramienta de marketing para la comercialización de sus productos. Los datos socioeconómicos presentados (INE; BE) animan a pensar que los crecientes intercambios entre las empresas españolas y las extranjeras son caldo de cultivo para una mayor demanda de servicios de traducción profesionales. Sin denegar totalmente esta hipótesis, queremos otorgar a esa relación un carácter más complejo. En efecto, creemos importante situar la actividad traductora como parte de un entramado estratégico empresarial global, que hace que sean numerosos y heterogéneos los factores que inciden en la demanda de un servicio de traducción de estas características.

Los datos pueden parecer sorprendentes en un principio: los escasos (en términos relativos) sitios web corporativos existentes en el sector hortofrutícola son, según nuestro estudio, poco traducidos y, en caso de serlo, hacia el inglés principalmente. Y todo ello a pesar de que los países francófonos y germanos suponen casi el 50 por ciento de los destinos de las mercancías españolas vendidas al exterior. Creemos importante concienciar a la comunidad traductora sobre la importancia de esta perspectiva del mercado de la traducción –analizada desde la óptica del cliente–, ya que puede ofrecer información relevante dependiendo del ámbito económico concernido.

Consideramos además que estos datos nos permiten obtener una visión más clara, respetando la evidente complejidad, del entorno de la traducción. En efecto, el predominio del inglés como lengua de traducción nos induce a pensar que la localización (Pym 2010; Jiménez Crespo 2008) no es totalmente respetada en estos casos. Por otra parte, podríamos incluso matizar los preceptos de Reed y Balagué (2011) y sostener que la no existencia de sitios web corporativos, y menos aún su no traducción (Bouvier 2010) no supone forzosamente un fracaso en la internacionalización de la empresa, ya que los resultados económicos presentados por el BE demuestran lo contrario. En efecto, numerosos factores contextuales de colaboración empresarial aseguran a determinadas empresas las ventas hacia el exterior de sus productos (Monreal Pérez 2009). Es probable incluso que muchas de ellas ni siquiera busquen maximizar la cartera de clientes, y que hayan podido ser creadas para abastecer a tan solo una empresa multinacional (parece ser el caso, por ejemplo, de la empresa Gemüse Garten).

A partir de este estudio, creemos importante ahondar en la materia, ampliando la muestra hacia otras Comunidades Autónomas, para conseguir datos más representativos del territorio español. A su vez, consideramos oportuno determinar qué factores influyen en la toma de decisión de los empresarios para solicitar la traducción de sus sitios web corporativos (por ejemplo, cifra de negocios, tamaño, etc.). Creemos que estas consideraciones nos ayudarán a entender la actividad de traducción desde una perspectiva útil (la del empresario/cliente) para así poder anticipar sus expectativas y mejorar la calidad de los servicios ofrecidos por los traductores.


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La localización de la sección “productos” en sitios web de empresas exportadoras agroalimentarias

By Ana Medina Reguera & Cristina Ramírez Delgado (Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Spain)

Abstract & Keywords


One of the most important textual genres in economic and commercial texts translation is the company or corporate website. This study approaches multilingualism in corporate websites of the SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) in southern Spain (Andalusia). Based on a corpus composed of 160 websites and employing a rigorous analysis model, we get conclusions about the localization quality in the “Products” section, the most important section in this multimodal genre (the website). By identifying and classifying failures found in this analysis, results should be used to diagnose the current situation with regard to the localization of agroalimentary exporter SMEs websites. In addition, these results should allow us to plan a future strategy to improve communication between company and translator.


Uno de los géneros textuales más importantes de la traducción de textos económicos o comerciales es el sitio web empresarial o corporativo. En este trabajo se aborda el multilingüismo que presentan las pymes del sur de España (Andalucía) en sus sitios webs. Basándonos en un corpus de 160 sitios web y un riguroso modelo de análisis, se extraen conclusiones sobre la calidad de la localización de la sección más importante de este género multimodal, la sección “productos”. Mediante la identificación y clasificación de las deficiencias, los resultados deben servir como diagnóstico de la situación de la localización de las pymes exportadoras agroalimentarias así como posibilitar la planificación de una estrategia de futuro para mejorar la conexión entre la empresa y el traductor.

Keywords: commercial translation, corpus-based translation, corporate websites, anglicisms, business communication, traducción comercial, localización, traducción basada en corpus, sitio web corporativo

©inTRAlinea & Ana Medina Reguera & Cristina Ramírez Delgado (2015).
"La localización de la sección “productos” en sitios web de empresas exportadoras agroalimentarias"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: New Insights into Specialised Translation
Edited by: Daniel Gallego-Hernández
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Permanent URL: http://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/2151

1. Introducción

La globalización ha propiciado el aumento de oportunidades de negocio para las pymes, pues la apertura de los mercados unida al desarrollo de las nuevas tecnologías ha descubierto nuevos caminos a estas pequeñas y medianas empresas que paulatinamente han pasado de operar exclusivamente en la economía doméstica a convertirse en empresas exportadoras que buscan explotar las ventajas empresariales que les ofrecen nuevos contextos geográficos (Rialp, Martínez y Rialp 2005: 96). De esta forma, muchas de estas empresas han apostado por la internacionalización como salida a la coyuntura económica de sus países y como instrumento para defender su posición en el mercado ante la creciente competitividad empresarial (del Olmo Díaz 2009: 8).

Son numerosos los estudios que concluyen que en la era de la globalización, Internet y las nuevas tecnologías constituyen las herramientas que permiten a las pymes operar en el mercado global (Nombela Merchán 2010; Moori, Milesi & Yoguel 2001) por lo que se han convertido en medios de crecimiento y éxito para las mismas (Milesi, Moori et al. 2007, Cuesta 2010, Al-Qirim 2004, Etemad 2004, Abelló & del Rey 2004, Alcaide, Bernuel et al. 2013). La economía online ofrece oportunidades únicas para el libre comercio (Al-Qirim, 2004: 2) pero a su vez presenta una serie de retos y cambios a los que la empresa debe hacer frente (Etemad 2004).

Cámaras de comercio y otros organismos empresariales ligados al comercio en diferentes países también son conscientes de esta realidad por lo que han creado guías sobre pymes y marketing digital, pymes y comercio electrónico, apoyo a pymes que quieran internacionalizar, etc., además de emprender diferentes programas y crear iniciativas para ayudar a las empresas en su andadura internacional. En España, el ICEX (Instituto Español del Comercio Exterior) ayuda a las empresas en su actividad exportadora con información y programas de formación, además de apoyar la difusión y promoción de sus actividades y productos. El Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad español, a su vez, incentiva la internacionalización de las pymes con planes y programas como el ICEX-NEXT,[1] programa de apoyo a la internacionalización de la PYME española no exportadora o exportadora ocasional o el Programa de Garantías y Avales para la internacionalización de la pyme, impulsado a través del Instituto de Crédito Oficial (ICO) y creado en agosto de 2014.[2] A nivel regional y provincial también se han realizado planes de apoyo a la internacionalización e incluso guías sobre el comercio electrónico para pymes como la Guía Práctica de Comercio Electrónico para Pymes[3] (elaborada por el gobierno de la Comunidad de Madrid) o la e-Pyme, Guía práctica para mejorar tu negocio a través de Internet y Marketing digital para Pymes (Junta de Castilla y León, Cámaras de Castilla y León).[4] Especial mención merece aquí la Agencia Andaluza de Promoción Exterior (EXTENDA), empresa pública de la Junta de Andalucía creada para promover y apoyar la internacionalización de las pymes andaluzas, por constituir el portal de información que nos ha permitido acceder a los diferentes sitios web corporativos que componen el corpus utilizado para este estudio.

El funcionamiento y desarrollo de esta actividad económica a través de Internet por parte de las pymes se lleva a cabo a través de la herramienta del sitio web corporativo, pues parece ser la solución o aplicación tecnológica de uso más extendido en el caso de este tipo de empresas (Ordanini 2006: 39). El sitio web corporativo se define como una plataforma virtual en la que se publica la información acerca de una empresa (Liu, Chang & Yang 2011) con fines u objetivos comerciales. Gracias al poder de Internet y a la expansión de la globalización, los sitios web corporativos pueden tener un gran impacto a nivel internacional (Fernández Costales 2009: 52). De esta forma, se ha convertido en una estrategia necesaria para acceder y aprovechar las ventajas que ofrece el mercado en línea internacional (Keillor & Kannan 2011: 222) pues es un medio excelente para captación de clientes potenciales y el acceso a nuevos mercados (Diéguez & Lazo 2011: 300) y permite mostrar y ofrecer productos en el mercado internacional de una forma directa y económica.

La proliferación de los sitios web como plataformas de comunicación, de intercambio de información y de oferta de productos y servicios ha contribuido al desarrollo de los procesos de localización permitiendo la comunicación entre usuarios de diferentes culturas y contextos lingüísticos (Jiménez-Crespo 2013). Algunos estudios procedentes del ámbito anglófono afirman que, en el contexto de la empresa exportadora, el éxito de la web depende de la localización de su contenido (Keillor & Kannan 2011: 223; Singh 2011: 149). La localización es un proceso lingüístico y tecnológico que implica la traducción y la adaptación del contenido (en este caso de un sitio web) a uno o varios mercados meta (Pym 2011: 410).

Con el proceso de globalización y del desarrollo de Internet y las nuevas tecnologías, la localización se está consolidando como una nueva modalidad de traducción (Jiménez-Crespo 2009). En sus primeros años, al principio de la década de los 90, el crecimiento de la industria de la localización contribuyó a la profesionalización de esta especialidad, estando presente e influyendo en la formación de traductores (Folaron 2006 en O’Hagan & Mangiron 2013: 98). De esta forma, se reconoció que la localización formaba parte de la industria de la traducción y poco a poco, comenzó su incursión en los estudios de traducción, principalmente en las áreas más prácticas como la formación profesional de los traductores y las herramientas del traductor pero no tanto en la traducción como disciplina O’Hagan & Mangiron 2013: 98). Esto explica que, aún hoy, no esté muy claro cuál es el lugar de la localización dentro de los estudios de traducción. Esto, sumado a la falta de interés general que los estudios de traducción han mostrado por la tecnología, puede explicar la posición de aislamiento de la localización dentro de los estudios de traducción (O’Hagan & Mangiron 2013: 98) y el hecho de que no haya recibido la suficiente atención por parte de los investigadores de esta disciplina (Sandrini 2005: 1).

Sin embargo, la localización ha sido y está siendo objeto de un mayor número de estudios y muchos investigadores abogan por una mayor colaboración entre la industria de la localización y los estudios de traducción (Jiménez-Crespo 2011b). En el caso concreto de la localización de sitios web, Sandrini (2005) afirma que esta especialidad tiene mucho que aportar a las investigaciones en traducción y viceversa. La localización en general ha aportado nuevos géneros textuales (llamados géneros digitales) que son objeto de estudio para la traducción. El estudio del sitio web corporativo como género textual en traducción ha sido abordado en profundidad por Jiménez-Crespo (2008; 2009; 2013) aunque también Bolaños (2002), Renau Renau (2004), Sánchez Barbero (2010) o Ivorra Pérez (2009) se han centrado en la descripción y en aspectos traductológicos y estilísticos del género. Por su parte, Suau Jiménez (2010) o Gallego Hernández (2012: 158) también hacen alusión a la página o sitio web como modalidad textual dentro de la traducción económica señalando que el sitio web corporativo tiene una clara finalidad comercial.

Finalmente, para cumplir sus objetivos en el mercado internacional, el contenido tanto de los sitios web corporativos originales como de las versiones localizadas a otras culturas debe cumplir con una serie de convenciones funcionales y lingüísticas que aseguren la calidad del sitio web y contribuyan a la credibilidad por parte de los usuarios hacia la información contenida en el sitio web en cuestión. No todos los sitios web corporativos cumplen con estos principios e incluso hay empresas que disponen de sitio web simplemente para tener una presencia mínima en Internet y no persiguen otros objetivos, por lo que no suelen definir estrategias de ningún tipo (comunicativas, informativas) y crean sitios web que contienen muy poca información (García Borbolla, Larrán & López 2005: 175). Desde la perspectiva del diseño visual de los sitios, la industria de la localización acuñó el término usability (a menudo usabilidad en español). Pym (2010) argumenta que la usabilidad del sitio web, es decir, la facilidad y el nivel de comodidad con el que un usuario puede navegar por las interfaces de un sitio web, contribuye enormemente a la calidad del mismo por lo que es algo que debe tenerse en cuenta en el diseño de cada sitio.

Centrándonos en los aspectos lingüísticos y traductológicos de los sitios web localizados, la localización de sitios web conlleva una serie de desafíos culturales y lingüísticos, por lo que la revisión y la corrección de las versiones localizadas es necesaria para asegurar la calidad de los contenidos (Diéguez & Lazo 2011: 301). Por lo tanto, la calidad en un sitio web localizado podría medirse o determinarse por la ausencia relativa de errores (Bass 2006 en Jiménez-Crespo 2010: 17). La presencia de errores significará el incumplimiento de las normas o convenciones tecnológicas y lingüísticas y tendrá, indudablemente, un efecto negativo en la opinión o visión del usuario pues este relacionará esta falta de calidad a la imagen corporativa de la empresa y por ende, afectará a su actividad económica.

A pesar de la existencia de un gran número de estudios que defienden que la exportación es el futuro de las pymes y que el contexto de esa actividad estará posibilitado por Internet y las nuevas tecnologías, queda patente, por un lado, la falta de investigaciones que contribuyan a potenciar las innumerables ventajas que ofrece el sitio web corporativo como instrumento o medio para la difusión de la actividad económica de las pymes; y, por otro, la casi ausencia de estudios que manifiesten la importancia de establecer unos estándares de calidad no solo relativos al diseño de sitios web corporativos para pymes sino a la localización del contenido para crear versiones adaptadas a diferentes mercados nacionales o países que resulten atractivas, correctas y sean bien acogidas por los usuarios o compradores de los mismos. En este contexto se sitúan las investigaciones del proyecto de investigación COMINTRAD (Medina Reguera y Ramírez Delgado 2104; Medina Reguera y Álvarez García 2013).

2. El corpus de sitios web corporativos del sector agroalimentario en Andalucía

El uso de corpus en los estudios de traducción es de gran utilidad tanto en el proceso de traducción como en el proceso de evaluación y análisis de calidad (Bowker 2001). El conjunto de sitios web empresariales de empresas exportadoras de productos agroalimentarios en Andalucía fue descargado como un corpus paralelo (Laviosa 2002) o corpus de traducción (Johansson 1998), conformado por las webs originales con sus localizaciones hacia una o varias lenguas. Nos centramos en el sector agroalimentario por varios motivos: en primer lugar, se trata del sector más fuerte en volumen de ventas, seguido del sector aeronáutico; y en segundo lugar, porque la pyme agroalimentaria es el tipo de pyme más representativa del entramado empresarial andaluz: pequeña, familiar, en expansión y en proceso de mayor cualificación.

Para compilar el corpus era necesario disponer de una base de datos de pymes exportadoras o con intención de exportar en el momento actual, para poder diferenciarlas de establecimientos comerciales o negocios que, o bien por su reducido tamaño o por su condición de minoristas, no ven la necesidad de disponer de un sitio web y tampoco se plantean la venta fuera de su local. Por tanto, para no desvirtuar los resultados, se tomaron para el corpus aquellas empresas registradas en el directorio de EXTENDA (disponible en www.extenda.es), y se descargaron en el periodo del 15 al 24 de marzo de 2014. El directorio contiene 2177 empresas del sector agroalimentario organizadas por provincias. Una vez compilado el corpus comenzó el trabajo de visionado sistemático en forma de auditoría, mediante la ayuda de un cuestionario de comprobación o verificación compuesto por 56 preguntas organizadas en torno a ocho bloques temáticos:

  1. Datos de la sociedad: contiene los datos básicos sobre la empresa, nombre, provincia, tipo de sociedad (SL, SA, etc.)
  2. División entre páginas localizadas vs. no localizadas. Estudio de las páginas no localizadas (información de contacto adaptada, resumen o documento adjunto en pdf en otras lenguas, etc.)
  3. Bloque de estudio de lenguas (banners/enlaces/TA): Estudio sobre las lenguas a las que están traducidas los sitios y modo de señalizarlo. Estudio sobre los banners y banderas. Páginas que han sido traducidas con herramientas de traducción automática.
  4. Bloque de estudio de imágenes: estudio sobre la localización de imágenes y texto en imágenes de las webs.
  5. Bloque de contenido: estudio sobre la variación de contenido de las versiones localizadas respecto de las versiones originales.
  6. Enlaces externos y tienda virtual: localización de elementos externos y porcentajes de webs con sitios de venta online, estudio sobre la localización de la tienda virtual.
  7. Errores de codificación y derivados de diferentes sistemas lingüísticos.
  8. Marketing electrónico: estudio sobre posicionamiento SEO y SEM de los sitios web mediante la observación del código fuente (etiquetas lengua y palabras clave), presencia en redes sociales y en Youtube.

Mientras que en Medina Reguera y Ramírez Delgado (2014) nos centramos en la metodología global del cuestionario y los primeros resultados de los tres primeros bloques, este trabajo se centra en el bloque 5 de preguntas (estudio sobre la variación de contenido de las versiones localizadas respecto de las versiones originales). Aunque esto afectaría al conjunto total del texto de la web, se ha elegido en primer lugar el estudio pormenorizado de la sección que consideramos clave dentro del conjunto de la estructura típica del sitio, la sección “Productos”. En el trabajo anterior se ofrecen con detalle los datos globales del estudio: de un total de 2177 empresas agroalimentarias andaluzas, el 59 % dispone de sitio web, y de ese 59 %, a su vez, el 53 % dispone de versión localizada frente a un 47 % que solo tiene versión en lengua española.

Para el análisis de la sección “Productos”, hemos tomado ese 53 % de empresas (un total de 680) que dispone de un sitio web localizado a una o varias lenguas. A su vez, de estos 680 sitios web hemos seleccionado un total de 160 (20 sitios web por provincia) para crear un subcorpus, el cual constituye la muestra real del presente estudio. Los dos principales criterios para la selección de la gran mayoría de estos sitios web han sido: 1) la existencia en el sitio web de una sección de productos o cualquier espacio o elemento dedicado a los mismos (todos los sitios web); 2) que, a ser posible, el sitio web fuera multilingüe (la gran mayoría de los sitios web), es decir, que incluyera, al menos la versión original en español y un mínimo de dos versiones localizadas que no solo nos permitieran contrastar y analizar las diferencias entre la versión original y las localizadas sino comparar las versiones localizadas entre sí.

3. La sección “Productos”

La sección de productos se define como aquella en la que la empresa exportadora ofrece, describe y muestra sus productos mediante imágenes, fichas técnicas y descripciones. Puesto que las empresas basan su actividad económica en la venta de productos y servicios (Jiménez-Crespo 2008: 380), en un sitio web corporativo, la sección de productos y servicios constituirá el eje central de esta actividad comercial. La información de esta sección resulta por tanto de interés para el cliente (Jiménez Crespo 2008: 336), por lo que este contenido deberá caracterizarse por ser claro, completo y atractivo.

En trabajos precedentes, se ha puesto de manifiesto la importancia de esta sección dentro del sitio web corporativo. Jiménez Crespo afirma que la sección de productos constituye uno de los bloques comunicativos característicos del sitio web corporativo y además, considera que es una sección altamente recurrente, pues su inclusión en los sitios web corporativos españoles se da en un 85,46 % de los casos (2008: 336). Ello se debe a que el producto o servicio constituye un valor para el cliente o consumidor, puesto que satisface y cubre sus necesidades. Es en la sección de productos y servicios donde se concentra parte de la información esencial que se incluye en cualquier plan de marketing a nivel general: el producto o servicio que se va a ofrecer, el precio del mismo, los canales de distribución y los mensajes y promociones.

Potts (2007: 146), por su parte, describe esta sección como “the indispensable part of the website where the company expounds on what they actually do. […] The content and design of this section is vital”. Aquí, el autor apela a la importancia de que el contenido y el diseño de la sección de productos y servicios sea el adecuado para que los usuarios encuentren en ella toda la información, que deberá estar correctamente estructurada y, preferiblemente, acompañada de imágenes de los productos.

En la línea de los negocios y los beneficios que un sitio web corporativo supone para una empresa, Wiley (2002: 202) habla de páginas o secciones más importantes dentro del sitio web distinguiendo entre páginas que están directamente relacionadas con la obtención de ingresos o beneficios (money earner pages) y las que tienen una función esencialmente informativa y no afectan de forma directa a acciones que comportan algún beneficio económico (toma de decisiones por parte de los usuarios, realización de operaciones de compra, etc.). A estas últimas las denomina informational / non-sales pages. Dentro del primer grupo, el autor destaca las secciones: “Sobre la empresa” o “Sobre nosotros” (“About us”), que normalmente sirve como página web para la presentación de la empresa y de su actividad; “Servicios” o “Productos”, sección en la que se describe de forma más concreta la actividad comercial que lleva a cabo la empresa y qué es lo que ofrece al usuario; finalmente, la sección “Contacto”, que incluye información precisa para el contacto con la empresa (teléfono, fax, e-mail, dirección postal, etc.).

Vemos, por tanto, que la sección de productos no solo es una sección que aparece en la gran mayoría de sitios web, sino que su contenido y diseño son decisivos para el desarrollo de la actividad comercial de la empresa en y mediante Internet y para la obtención de beneficios por parte de la misma.

3.1. Función comunicativa y tipología textual de la sección “Productos”

Desde una perspectiva fundamentalmente discursiva, Suau Jiménez (2010: 128) afirma que los sitios web corporativos constituyen un subgénero dentro de los cibergéneros que tienen como propósito comunicativo crear una imagen corporativa o empresarial que se adecúe a los intereses concretos de la empresa y que favorezcan la captación de clientes en Internet. La autora caracteriza de forma muy completa el metadiscurso del sitio corporativo describiéndolo como aquel en el que abundan las descripciones de productos mediante la riqueza adjetival y diferentes expresiones y elementos que contribuyen a captar la atención del cliente.

A su vez, Jiménez-Crespo (2008: 121) tomando como referencia la tipología textual de Reiss (1971, 1976, 1977) incluye la sección de productos y servicios dentro de los textos de tipo informativo, es decir, textos en los que predomina el contenido frente a otros tipos de textos que serían los expresivos, en los que predomina la forma (en sitios web: blogs, sitios web literarios o de humor) y los operativos, en los que predomina la función apelativa (en sitios web: páginas de búsqueda, formularios de contacto). Por lo tanto, el contenido se convierte en el elemento central de la sección y volvemos a hacer mención, al igual que en el punto anterior, a la cita de Potts (2007) que hace hincapié en la importancia de que el contenido sea completo y claro y de que el diseño esté muy cuidado.

Dentro de su propio análisis contrastivo de la superestructura del sitio web corporativo, Jiménez-Crespo (2008: 380) analiza las funciones textuales presentes en cada uno de los bloques que componen un sitio web (cada sección o pestaña). En el caso de la sección de productos y servicios, el autor destaca, igual que anteriormente con la tipología textual de Reiss, el predominio de la función expositiva descriptiva, pero en este caso también hace alusión a la función exhortativa como otra función propia de esta sección. En aquellas secciones de productos y servicios en las que predomine la información descriptiva acerca de los productos y servicios que ofrece la empresa mediante una presentación que resulte atractiva al usuario, podemos considerar que la función principal de la sección es expositiva descriptiva con un foco contextual secundario de tipo exhortativo. Si, por el contrario, abunda la carga publicitaria y promocional con descripciones breves, la función exhortativa se convertiría en principal, acompañada de un foco contextual expositivo (Jiménez-Crespo, 2008: 381). A partir de este añadido de la función exhortativa a la informativa o expositiva descriptiva, llegamos a la conclusión de que no solo impera el contenido o información dentro de esta sección sino que también prevalece la dimensión formal de la lengua en la que se expresa dicho contenido.

3.2. La sección de productos y servicios en nuestro corpus: denominaciones

En ocasiones, a la hora de describir macroestructura del género, la sección se denomina “productos y servicios”, porque hay muchas empresas que ofrecen ambas cosas o bien porque dependiendo del sector económico del que se trate, las empresas venderán y ofrecerán bien productos, bien servicios o ambas cosas. Tanto el término “productos” como el término “servicios” hacen referencia a la oferta que se presenta y dirige al usuario al concepto u objeto en torno al cual se articula la actividad de la empresa.

La diferencia entre un producto y un servicio radica principalmente en el hecho de que el primero es un objeto, un bien tangible mientras que el segundo suele ser intangible. Aunque no todos los productos son tangibles ni todos los servicios intangibles, de forma general y en el contexto de nuestro estudio, podemos aplicar la propiedad de la tangibilidad para diferenciar ambos conceptos.

Si nos centramos en el sector económico objeto de nuestro estudio, el sector hortofrutícola y agroalimentario, en la gran mayoría de los casos se tratará de productos y no de servicios, y así se ve reflejado en nuestro corpus. Ello se refleja en la terminología utilizada para denominar la sección de productos y servicios, que la mayoría de las veces ha sido la palabra “Productos”. En los sitios web corporativos del sector hortofrutícola andaluz incluidos en nuestro estudio, las denominaciones que hemos encontrado para esta sección en concreto, son las siguientes:

 Figura 1. Denominaciones de la sección de productos en los sitios web analizados

Podemos ver cómo en la mayoría de los casos (un 52 % de nuestro subcorpus de 160 sitios web), se ha utilizado la palabra “Productos” para nombrar la sección y la expresión “Nuestros productos” o “Nuestros” acompañado del nombre del producto en cuestión (“Nuestros aceites”, “Nuestros jamones”, etc.) se ha utilizado en un 19 % de los sitios web analizados.

El nombre del producto también se utiliza para denominar esta sección aunque en ocasiones también da nombre a una pestaña o sección con información acerca de la elaboración o recogida del producto, contenido que no siempre se corresponde con la información del producto en sí mismo. Las secciones designadas con el nombre del producto y que eran realmente secciones dedicadas a la descripción del mismo se dan en un 14 % de los sitios web que componen el subcorpus.

Finalmente, otras palabras usadas para denominar esta sección y que hemos encontrado en un número menor de sitios web han sido “Catálogo”, “Categorías” y “Tienda online”. Para el recuento de los sitios que usan el término “Catálogo”, hemos seleccionado aquellos sitios web que no contenían una sección llamada “Productos” o denominada con cualquiera de las expresiones anteriores pero que sí incluyera una llamada “Catálogo”. Fuera de este 6 % de sitios web que presentan la denominación “Catálogo” para la sección que nos ocupa, hay otros sitios en los que esta palabra aparece muy frecuentemente dentro de la sección nombrada “Productos” o “Nuestros productos” como enlace a un documento independiente descargable que contiene información sobre los mismos. De esta forma, el usuario puede consultar la información directamente en la sección de productos o bien descargarse el catálogo para guardarlo en su equipo y tener la oportunidad de visualizar la información offline, en formato PDF normalmente.

Por otro lado, en el 3 % de sitios que usan la expresión “Tienda online” para denominar la sección de productos, se han incluido aquellos que no disponían de una sección llamada “Productos” pero sí de una llamada “Tienda online” que hacía las funciones de la sección de productos. En estos casos, esta sección de tienda online suele mostrar la información y descripciones de cada producto e incluir un botón de aplicación de compra además de la cesta o carrito de la compra, por lo que podemos considerar que en estos casos, la sección de tienda online resulta ser un híbrido entre la tienda propiamente dicha (aplicación de compra, precios, etc.) y las características habituales de la sección de productos (descripción del producto, fichas técnicas, etc.). En otros sitios web que normalmente incluyen una sección llamada “Productos” o “Nuestros productos”, la tienda online suele constituir una pestaña o sección independiente dedicada exclusivamente a la aplicación de compra y no a describir el producto o dar información técnica sobre el mismo.

Estudios precedentes acerca de la terminología utilizada para designar las secciones del sitio web corporativo, como el llevado a cabo por Jiménez-Crespo (2008) a partir del análisis de un corpus de sitios web originales y localizados, arrojan resultados similares en los que el uso del término “Productos” es mayoritario, seguido del uso del nombre del producto y del término “Catálogo”. Otros términos presentes en su corpus pero no en el utilizado para este estudio son las expresiones “Qué hacemos”, “Qué ofrecemos”, “Producción” o “Gama de productos”.

4. Resultados: revisión de la calidad de la sección en el subcorpus

El análisis del grupo de sitios web que constituye nuestro objeto de estudio ha consistido en la revisión de la calidad de estos sitios en términos de localización, lo cual nos ha permitido elaborar una lista de tipos de deficiencias a nivel macrotextual y microtextual encontradas para su análisis. A su vez, hemos creado una serie de criterios que nos permitan clasificar estas deficiencias y establecer una tipología de las mismas. Para la creación de estas categorías y subcategorías, hemos partido de los resultados obtenidos en el visionado de las secciones de productos de nuestro subcorpus y hemos tomado como referencia, la tipología de errores en localización web basada en corpus establecida por Jiménez-Crespo (2011a), la cual se basa en errores relacionados con la lengua meta, errores funcionales y errores de localización. La clasificación de nuestros resultados se centran en el primer y tercer tipo de errores. Los errores relacionados con la lengua meta corresponderían con los descritos en el subapartado 4.4. (errores lingüísticos) y los errores de localización con los incluidos en los subapartados 4.1. (volumen de localización realizada) y 4.3. (Cantidad de texto incluido en las versiones localizadas). Además de estas categorías ya establecidas, hemos incluido la relacionada con el inglés como lingua franca (subapartado 4.2.) por la cantidad de casos en los que el inglés se utiliza como lengua internacional en versiones supuestamente dirigidas a usuarios de países no angloparlantes.

Es pertinente destacar, sobre todo en relación a las deficiencias detalladas en los subapartados 4.1. y 4.3., que el concepto de pérdida en localización (localisation loss) de hipertextos ya ha sido abordado y estudiado por Jiménez-Crespo (2012) en un análisis de tipo superestructural, en el que se concluye que la naturaleza abierta de los hipertextos lleva inevitablemente a un proceso de localización en el que se produce un cierto grado de pérdida, una pérdida que el autor asocia a la noción de “localización parcial” descrita por Pym (2010) y entendida como un proceso en el que no se traduce todo el texto que el usuario puede visualizar en la página web, a menudo con el fin de ahorrar costes (en Jiménez-Crespo 2012). Partiendo, por tanto, de esta premisa y de los resultados obtenidos, nos disponemos a analizar este concepto de pérdida de localización –en nuestro caso, no a nivel superestrutural o macroestructural, sino macrotextual–, dentro de la sección de productos de cada sitio web.

A continuación, se describen las deficiencias encontradas ordenadas según la categorización propuesta.

4.1. Volumen de localización realizada

Con el criterio “volumen de localización” nos centramos en la cantidad de texto traducido o elementos localizables no textuales que se han adaptado en las versiones lingüísticas localizadas a nivel macrotextual. En estos casos nos preguntábamos qué cantidad de texto se había traducido en las versiones localizadas con respecto a la versión original, es decir, si se había traducido todo el texto o parte de él. En el mejor de los casos, la página localizada incluye todo el texto sobre los productos y adapta o añade información útil para el cliente de la cultura meta (o bien, si existen textos o partes del texto original sin traducir, se debe a una razón justificada). Los resultados observados son los siguientes:

4.1.1. Sin localización (remisión)

La sección no se ha traducido a la lengua o lenguas meta en las versiones localizadas, por lo que se incluye toda la información en español, es decir, en la versión al inglés o al francés del sitio web, la sección “productos” está sin localizar. Veamos algunos ejemplos:


Figura 2. Información sobre productos en la versión localizada al francés de un sitio web

Dentro de la versión lingüística en francés, se han traducido a esta lengua las opciones del menú de la interfaz del sitio web, pero si entramos en la sección “Produits”, toda la información acerca del producto se muestra en español.


Figura 3. Nombres y descripciones breves de productos en la versión localizada al ruso de un sitio web

Se han traducido, igualmente, las opciones de menú al ruso pero no los nombres de los diferentes productos que ofrece y vende la empresa.


Figura 4. Nombres de productos en la versión en inglés de un sitio web

En esta página web, se puede apreciar la traducción de las opciones del menú (en la parte superior) y no del nombre de los productos por tratarse de nombres comerciales o marcas. Sin embargo, cuando pinchamos en la sección de productos (“Our trademarks”) para consultar información más detallada acerca de cada producto, vemos lo siguiente:


Figura 5. Versión original en español del sitio web

Al pinchar en la opción “Our trademarks” de la versión localizada al inglés, nos redirige a la sección de productos de la versión en español. Ocurre igualmente en la versión en alemán del mismo sitio web. Por lo tanto, no solo no se ha traducido la información de cada producto a las lenguas extranjeras, sino que la sección de productos no existe en las versiones en inglés y en alemán del sitio web.

4.1.2. Localización parcial

La información se ha traducido parcialmente a la lengua meta. Normalmente, se traducen palabras aisladas como nombres o elementos breves pero no las descripciones, que suelen constituir párrafos de texto de mayor longitud. En algunos casos, el criterio que se ha seguido para traducir unos elementos y no otros parece ser la extensión del texto (el texto más extenso no se traduce) pero en otras, la traducción parece haberse realizado de forma completamente aleatoria.


Figura 6. Sección “Products” de la versión en inglés de un sitio web

Cuando pinchamos en la sección de productos, vemos que los nombres de las categorías y subcategorías de los mismos se han traducido. Sin embargo, cuando pinchamos en cualquiera de los productos para consultar más detalles:


Figura 7. Detalles sobre el producto de la versión en inglés del sitio web

Las descripciones y detalles acerca del producto no se han traducido. Al seleccionar en cualquier producto, se nos remite a la información en español. Por tanto, nos encontramos con un caso de traducción parcial en el que los nombres y categorías de los productos se han traducido, pero no la información acerca de cada uno de ellos.


Figura 8. Versión localizada al inglés de la sección de productos

En la sección de productos en inglés, denominada “Produce”, se ha traducido solo el nombre de la primera categoría de productos y algunos de los de las subcategorías. Cuando vamos, por ejemplo, a la subsección “Harina de repostería”, se nos muestran los detalles del producto y la aplicación de compra. Algunos elementos están traducidos y otros no. Por otra parte, si pinchamos en “Bulk flours”, la descripción que se muestra está íntegramente en español y los detalles de contacto no se han adaptado.


Figura 9. Sección “Products” de la versión en inglés del sitio web

En este caso, se han traducido claramente las partes más breves compuestas por palabras aisladas como las categorías de los productos, la palabra “Ingredients” y la información sobre el peso y el formato. Sin embargo, no se ha traducido el nombre del producto ni los ingredientes en sí. La traducción del nombre sería esencialmente creativa y conllevaría una adaptación cultural. Asimismo, en los ingredientes se incluye alguna expresión que también sería necesario adaptar y reformular en la lengua meta.


Figura 10. Versión en inglés de la página web de un producto

Volvemos a encontrarnos con que hay frases breves o elementos aislados que sí se traducen, en este caso, los elementos textuales de la aplicación de compra y un par de cadenas de texto como Description y Be the first to review this product. Esta última formará parte con mucha seguridad de la aplicación de compra. La tendencia a traducir estas palabras sueltas o elementos breves se repite en un gran número de sitios web analizados:


Figura 11. Sección de productos de la versión en inglés


Figura 12. Versión en francés de la página web de un producto


Figura 13. Versión en inglés de la información de un producto

4.2. Inglés como lingua franca

Las versiones correspondientes a lenguas que no son la inglesa, incluyen información acerca de los productos, en inglés o en español. Se observa, en muchos sitios web, el papel del inglés como lengua general para los intercambios comerciales con todos los países, pues se utiliza también dentro de las versiones correspondientes al francés, al alemán, al chino y a otras lenguas. Del análisis de los sitios web que presentan esta deficiencia, llegamos a la conclusión de que la calidad de la versión en inglés de los sitios web multilingües varía mucho de la calidad del resto de versiones lingüísticas, siendo la de estas últimas mucho menor. Parece darse prioridad a la sección en inglés frente al resto, que están más descuidadas. Algunos ejemplos de sitios web que presentan esta deficiencia son los siguientes:


Figura 14. Catálogo de productos para las versiones en español, inglés, alemán y chino de un sitio web

En un sitio web multilingüe con versiones en español (original), inglés, alemán y chino se presenta un catálogo bilingüe español-inglés como única información acerca de los productos. De esta forma, las versiones alemana y china no disponen de información localizada acerca de los productos que ofrece la empresa.


Figura 15. Fichas técnicas de un producto en francés, ruso, alemán y japonés

Si observamos estas fichas técnicas localizadas a cuatro lenguas distintas, vemos que el tipo de información incluida se presenta en cada una de las lenguas mientras que los valores o el contenido de estos ítems se muestra en inglés en todos los casos.


Figura 16. Versión en inglés de la descripción del producto


Figura 17. Versión en alemán de la descripción del producto

En estas dos capturas se muestran las versiones homólogas en inglés y alemán. En el caso del inglés, se ha traducido todo el texto mientras que en alemán hay fragmentos del principio que se han dejado en español, en la parte central y al final del texto. Los fragmentos en alemán y español aparecen intercalados, lo que hace que el texto en alemán pierda en cohesión y coherencia. Tanto en este último caso (versión en alemán) como el mostrado en la figura 15, podríamos considerar no solo la presencia o preferencia del inglés como lingua franca y lengua extranjera principal, sino que se trata también de errores de localización, pues los segmentos que no se traducen y se dejan en la lengua origen (como es el caso de la captura en alemán de la figura 17) y los segmentos escritos en una lengua distinta a la lengua origen y a la lengua meta (captura de la figura 16) se incluyen dentro de la categoría de errores de localización (Jiménez-Crespo 2011a: 327).


Figura 18. Versión en árabe de la sección de productos

Esta versión en árabe del sitio web presenta las opciones de menú y otros muchos elementos traducidos pero cuando consultamos la descripción y detalles de cualquier producto, la información está en lengua inglesa.

4.3. Cantidad de texto incluido en las versiones localizadas

Este segundo criterio de clasificación agrupa aquellas deficiencias relacionadas con la cantidad o volumen de texto que se incluye en las versiones localizadas con respecto del que se presenta en la versión original. Las deficiencias o problemas de calidad encontrados en este caso están relacionados con omisiones o supresiones de texto y de otros elementos en las versiones localizadas. A diferencia de lo indicado en el punto 4.1., aquí el texto se muestra traducido, pero el conjunto del texto incluido en la sección de productos no es igual en extensión o en contenido que el del original.

4.3.1. Reducción del contenido en las versiones localizadas


Figura 19. Versión en español (original) de las características y demás información de un producto concreto


Figura 20. Versión en inglés de las características y demás información de un producto concreto


Figura 21. Versión en francés de las características y demás información de un producto concreto

En estas tres últimas capturas, se muestra el contenido de la versión original en forma de ficha técnica (características) de un producto. La ficha está completa en español pero en inglés y francés muestra solo una serie de ítems que no contienen ningún tipo de información.


Figura 22. Nombre, descripción, imagen y precio de un producto en la versión original del sitio web


Figura 23. Nombre del producto, breve descripción (sin traducir), imagen y precio de un producto en la versión en inglés del sitio web

En la versión localizada de esta página web se han omitido los párrafos correspondientes a la descripción del producto. La traducción del nombre como aloreñas olives no es la más adecuada por no ser clara y al no traducirse “Aloreña partida y aliñada Extra DOP” el usuario extranjero no dispone de ningún tipo de información (aparte de la imagen) que le ayude a conocer el producto.

4.3.2. Supresión del contenido en las versiones localizadas (sección vacía)


Figura 24. Nombre, descripción, imagen y precio de un producto en la versión original del sitio web


Figura 25. Versión en inglés de la página correspondiente al producto “Anís dulce”

Estamos ante una versión localizada de la sección de productos en la que se ha suprimido toda la información relativa al mismo: el nombre, descripción, precio, imagen, etc. Esta supresión de contenido se da en todos los productos de la versión en inglés del sitio web por lo que se puede considerar que dicha sección no existe en la versión localizada.


Figura 26. Sección de productos de la versión original. Descripción de un tipo de mayonesa


Figura 27. Sección de productos de la versión localizada al inglés. Página dedicada a un tipo de mayonesa

Este es un caso claro de supresión de contenido. En español, cuando pinchamos en cada categoría de producto, se muestran todos los tipos de dicha categoría en forma de fichas desplegables. Cada una de ellas incluye una breve descripción acerca de un producto determinado. En la versión localizada al inglés, disponemos de las categorías pero cuando pinchamos en cada una de ellas, no aparecen imágenes ni fichas. En su lugar, se muestra un recuadro de color negro.


Figura 28. Descripción de un producto en la versión original del sitio web


Figura 29. Contenido de la sección de productos de la versión en inglés

El sitio web original dispone de una sección de productos y diferentes subsecciones dedicadas a cada animal del que proviene la materia prima de dichos productos. Sin embargo, cuando pinchamos en cualquiera de las subsecciones o en la propia sección “Products”, no aparece nada. Se ha suprimido toda la información que se incluye en la versión original en español.


Figura 30. Sección de productos de la versión en portugués

Existen varios sitios web en este corpus cuyas secciones de productos incluyen información en latín. Se trata de una plantilla con texto por defecto que suele mostrarse en páginas web que están en construcción o que no incluyen ningún contenido, haciendo que este texto por defecto en latín aparezca en lugar del contenido real. Podemos considerar, por tanto, que la sección de productos en la versión en portugués de Brasil está vacía, no incluye contenido.

4.4. Errores lingüísticos

Dentro de esta categoría, nos centramos en los errores lingüísticos de textos traducidos que pueden presentarse igualmente en un texto no multimodal. Jiménez-Crespo (2011a), categoriza este tipo de errores como “errores relacionados con la lengua meta”, es decir, con la calidad lingüística de los textos traducidos. Las cuatro subcategorías que este autor establece en su tipología (ibíd. 321) son: errores a nivel léxico, morfosintáctico, estilístico y tipográfico, los cuales se reflejan en mayor o menor grado en los resultados que mostramos aquí. Los errores lingüísticos encontrados a lo largo del análisis son de muy diversa índole. A continuación, se muestran los más importantes.

4.4.1. Errores ortográficos


Figura 31. Captura parcial de la interfaz de la sección de productos

Hay un error ortográfico en cocumbers que debería haberse escrito como cucumbers.


Figura 32. Captura parcial de la interfaz de la sección de productos

La palabra almond no se ha escrito correctamente en ninguno de los casos, por lo que más que un despiste puntual, parece tratarse de un error ortográfico.


Figura 33. Captura parcial de la interfaz de la sección de productos

Este sitio web de una empresa exportadora de jamones, contiene bastantes errores de tipo lingüístico. La traducción es muy literal (incluso en el orden de palabras) y resulta incomprensible en algunos puntos para un hablante nativo de inglés. Hay varios errores ortográficos como oh en lugar de of, aproximate en lugar de approximate o cry en lugar de dry, palabra esta última que no tiene sentido en la frase en la que está incluida.


Figura 34. Captura parcial de la interfaz de la sección de productos

En esta captura, la palabra francesa courgette no se ha escrito correctamente. Se utiliza en el inglés británico para designar el pepino.

4.4.2. Errores léxicos

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Figura 35. Capturas parciales de la interfaz en español e inglés de la descripción de un producto

En este caso, se ha utilizado la palabra scrambled para designar un revuelto de diferentes aceitunas y productos en vinagre. Se trata de una mezcla o combinación de los mismos. La palabra scrambled y su acepción “mezclar” se aplica solo a los huevos revueltos y MacMillan Dictionary define el verbo scrambled como “to mix together the white and yellow parts of an egg and cook it”. El resto de acepciones no están relacionadas con el concepto de mezclar o combinar. Las opción mix sería más precisa en este contexto.

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Figura 36. Capturas parciales de la interfaz en español e inglés de la descripción de un producto

En estas capturas, el error léxico es bastante grave puesto que puede resultar ofensivo desde el punto de vista cultural y religioso. La verdura “judía” que normalmente se denomina “judía verde” se ha traducido como Jewish, palabra que se define como “related to Jews, their culture or their religión”. En su lugar, deberían haber usado la palabra bean. Además de usarse de forma aislada, como nombre principal del producto, vemos el término incluido en frases como “The offer of Andalusian Jewish state in the order of 90,000 tonnes”. Teniendo en cuenta que el adjetivo Jewish se aplica únicamente a personas, esta frase estaría totalmente fuera de lugar.

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Figura 37. Capturas parciales de la interfaz en español e inglés de la descripción de un producto

En estas capturas, hay errores léxicos y terminológicos muy evidentes. En primer lugar, la traducción al inglés de “Jamón Gran Reserva” por “Great Reserves Ham” que no tiene ningún sentido en inglés; en segundo lugar, la traducción de “corte V” como “court V” siendo el significado de court (juzgado, tribunal) completamente distinto que el de cut (corte); finalmente, la expresión calcada del español “packed to the emptiness” para “envasado al vacío” constituye un sinsentido en inglés.

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Figura 38. Capturas parciales de la interfaz en español e inglés de la descripción de un producto

Nos encontramos con un caso claro de traducción automática. La traducción de “Marca” (en inglés brand o trademark) como it marks constituye un grave error de traducción. Por otra parte, la expresión volver se traduce como back o menos frecuentemente como return en páginas web.

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Figura 39. Capturas parciales de la interfaz en español e inglés de la descripción de un producto

Se ha utilizado la palabra budget para el presupuesto que un cliente pide a un proveedor o vendedor, que en inglés se denomina quote o estimate. La palabra budget se traduce como “presupuesto” en español pero con un sentido distinto. MacMillan Dictionary define budget como “the amount of money a person or organization has to spend on something”. Este no es el sentido del original, que se refiere más bien a la palabra estimate: “to say what you think an amount or value will be, either by guessing or by using available information to calculate it”.

4.4.3. Otros errores de traducción

Otros ejemplos que presentan errores de diferente tipo son:

MedinaRamirez_fig[40a].jpg MedinaRamirez_fig[40b].jpg

Figura 40. Capturas parciales de la interfaz en español e inglés de la descripción de un producto

Parece ser otro caso de traducción automática, aunque el uso de la doble coma es más bien un error humano. El error más grave es la traducción de “depósito”, que ya en español constituye un error ortográfico por la acentuación, como “I deposit”. Es muy probable que la falta de la tilde haya influido en la traducción incorrecta de la palabra.


Figura 41. Captura parcial de la sección de productos en inglés

Esta captura presenta varios errores que vimos en apartados anteriores y otros como “Piece informs and court V” que constituye claramente un sinsentido; por otra parte, la combinación “more of” no se utiliza en inglés. En su lugar, escribiríamos “more than”; por último, el orden de palabras en “weight aproxímate” no es correcto. La versión correcta sería “approximate weight”.

MedinaRamirez_fig[42a].jpg MedinaRamirez_fig[42b].jpg

Figura 42. Nombres e imágenes de los productos en español (primera captura) y su traducción al inglés (segunda captura)

En esta captura, la traducción de los nombres de algunos productos no tiene sentido. O bien, la traducción del nombre no es correcta o se ha abreviado de tal forma que resulta en un sinsentido.


Figura 43. Captura de la descripción de un producto en inglés

Aquí nos encontramos con errores de diversa índole dentro del mismo texto: “proceeda”, al igual que “salled”, constituirían errores ortográficos (de “procedes”) y un error léxico puesto que entre las acepciones del verbo “proceed” no se incluye la de tener su origen en un determinado lugar o descender de cierta persona sino la de actuar o continuar con una actividad. En este caso “comes from” habría sido válido; otros errores están relacionados con codificación (&nbps) y la puntuación.

5. Conclusiones

Los resultados obtenidos a partir del análisis de todas las secciones de productos localizadas son de muy diversa índole. Un sitio web puede presentar un tipo de deficiencia o varias de ellas. Después de observar los textos hemos clasificado las deficiencias y las hemos agrupado en una serie de categorías a las que hemos puesto diferentes etiquetas. La diferencia de esta clasificación con respecto a cualquier otra tipología de errores en traducción es que nuestras deficiencias están centradas en un tipo de texto concreto (la sección “productos” dentro del género sitio web corporativo) y además no parte de los errores lingüísticos sino que se centra en los problemas propios de la localización web. El resumen de estos criterios y deficiencias descritos en el punto anterior se muestra en el siguiente esquema:


Figura 44. Criterios de clasificación y tipos de errores incluidos en cada categoría

Tras la descripción y categorización de estas deficiencias encontradas, hemos llevado a cabo un recuento para comprobar cuál es el nivel de recurrencia de cada resultado (deficiencia) en los sitios web de nuestro corpus. El recuento muestra los siguientes porcentajes:

Figura 45. Grado de recurrencia de cada tipo de deficiencia en el corpus analizado

La deficiencia más recurrente en las secciones de productos localizadas de nuestro corpus es la relacionada con la omisión o supresión de contenido. La mayoría de las secciones localizadas que hemos analizado presentaban un menor volumen de información o ningún contenido con respecto del incluido en la sección original.

Por otra parte, el primer criterio (volumen de localización realizada), formado por “Sin localizar”, “Localización parcial” e “Inglés como lingua franca” está presente en un 39 % de los resultados, predominando la localización parcial entre las deficiencias de este grupo al igual que arrojan otros estudios como el de Jiménez-Crespo (2011a: 332) y otros anteriores (Esselink 2000; Corte 2000; Bass 2006, en Jiménez-Crespo 2011: 333) en las que la existencia de segmentos sin traducir era el error de localización o deficiencia más frecuente. Estos errores de localización no deben atribuirse exclusivamente a la labor del traductor, pues las decisiones sobre qué contenido se va a localizar y cuál no así como los asuntos relacionados con la superestructura textual de un sitio web localizado, suelen ser competencia del cliente y dependen de sus preferencias o decisiones. Sí debería ser objeto de reflexión por parte de la Traductología (y de las asociaciones profesionales) el hecho de que los traductores, que hoy día poseen competencias informáticas suficientes, deben ir participando más intensivamente en los procesos tecnológicos de la localización y en una mejor comunicación “de tú a tú” con el desarrollador web del sitio del cliente del encargo de traducción.

Finalmente, una quinta parte de los sitios web del corpus contenían errores lingüísticos, es decir, errores de traducción de diferente tipo. El trabajo ha analizado los errores léxicos y ortográficos de las versiones localizadas al inglés porque son determinantes en la imagen del sitio web, mientras que no nos hemos detenido aquí a clasificar otros errores de traducción comunes a cualquier género no hipertextual o multimodal.

En cuanto a las conclusiones globales sobre la calidad de las páginas originales y sus versiones localizadas, nuestro análisis muestra que el ritmo de la internacionalización de las empresas no se corresponde con el del conocimiento sobre lo que el sector de la industria lingüística puede aportarles. En otras palabras, son numerosas las pequeñas y medianas empresas que exportan sus productos e internacionalizan sus negocios pero no son conscientes de la importancia de una correcta gestión de la comunicación en este entorno empresarial internacional, habida cuenta de cómo se presentan en Internet. Las deficiencias lingüísticas, por su parte, nos descubren un panorama que sigue sin cambiar: en un alto porcentaje, los sitios no han sido traducidos por servicios de traducción profesionales y por tanto el resultado carece de la calidad necesaria para servir adecuadamente a la buena imagen y a la promoción de los productos presentados.

Por otra parte, encontramos un amplio uso del inglés como lengua corporativa para diferentes versiones lingüísticas frente a los beneficios que comportaría el uso de una mayor variedad lingüística en exportación. Estudios como los de Dianne Cyr (2004) hacen hincapié en el gran número de usuarios de Internet que no comprenden ni hablan la lengua inglesa y demuestran que cuando los sitios web son sensibles a las características culturales de cada locale, es decir, cuando se traduce el contenido textual y se adaptan los elementos localizables a las características de cada cultura, los usuarios aumentan el número de visitas al sitio web y su experiencia de usuario mejora con creces. Ello influye en la calidad del sitio web y en la credibilidad que transmite al usuario, aspectos determinantes para la selección de dicha empresa como proveedor del cliente o para la realización de compras mediante las tiendas online.

Por último, parece no haber conciencia acerca de la importancia de la sección de productos y servicios dentro del sitio web corporativo. Es la sección que refleja y da a conocer la actividad comercial de la empresa por lo que cualquier beneficio que esta obtenga tendrá su origen en la compra de productos por parte de los usuarios pero con frecuencia nos encontramos con secciones de productos repletas de errores lingüísticos, sin ningún tipo de contenido, sin un diseño concreto o con omisiones. Todas estas deficiencias que presentábamos como resultado del estudio no harían más que aumentar la desconfianza por parte del usuario que visita el sitio web, algo que repercutiría muy negativamente no solo en la captación de clientes y obtención de beneficios, sino también en la imagen corporativa de la empresa.


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A Context-Rich Dictionary with a Relational Structure:

A Tool for Economic Translation

By Jeanne Dancette (Université de Montréal, Canada)

Abstract & Keywords

This paper focuses on knowledge acquisition in the field of global economics and labour. It presents the domain and outlines some features of the language of globalization. More generally, it shows how psycho-cognitive approaches have informed the design of specialized multilingual dictionaries for translators that foster comprehension and learning about new concepts. The present paper outlines the principles used when designing the Analytical Dictionary of Globalization and Labour / Dictionnaire analytique de la mondialisation et du travail / Diccionario analítico de la globalización y del trabajo (DAMT) and illustrates how both the relational structure of the dictionary (thesaurus) and its encyclopaedic nature help meet the needs of translators in search for linguistic equivalents and contextual information. Emphasis is placed on the value of semantic relations for information retrieval and lexicological precision.

Keywords: terminology, organization of knowledge, globalization and labour, thesaurus

©inTRAlinea & Jeanne Dancette (2015).
"A Context-Rich Dictionary with a Relational Structure:"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: New Insights into Specialised Translation
Edited by: Daniel Gallego-Hernández
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Permanent URL: http://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/2150

1. Introduction

Economic globalization and labour issues give rise to a huge production of texts in all the languages of the world. The theme is of burning actuality: unemployment, low wages, poor working conditions, slow progress in labour regulation – even regression in some countries, gender and racial discrimination, growth inequalities. Today, these are major concerns across the world. These issues are being monitored by international organizations, primarily by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). They are also studied by university research groups, such as the Interuniversity Research Centre on Globalization and Work / Centre de recherché interuniversitaire sur la mondialisation et le travail (CRIMT).

The CRIMT is composed of economists, labour lawyers, industrial relations experts and sociologists. As a member of the CRIMT, we were given access to research in the fields studied by the CRIMT and started to write dictionary articles on globalization and labour. We built a corpus of English, Spanish and French texts and selected some 6000 terms (combining the three languages). The Analytical Dictionary of Globalization and Labour / Dictionnaire analytique de la mondialisation et du travail / Diccionario analítico de la globalización y del trabajo (DAMT) is a dictionary for translators, students in industrial relations, labour law and economics, and civil society at large.

In this paper we intend to discuss the dictionary as a tool for translators. It is designed as a multilingual knowledge base. That means that it combines the features of an encyclopædia, with structured articles, and those of a thesaurus with knowledge units (concepts) being related by the means of explicit semantic relations. This idea was already in our mind when we designed the online version of the Dictionnaire analytique de la distribution / Analytical dictionary of retailing (Dancette and Réthoré 2000, Dancette 2005). It was one of the first specialized dictionaries to implement a large number of semantic relations. Since, technology has allowed us to build a thesaurus, the DAMT (Dancette 2013a), with relatively little technical and financial support.

2. The domain of Global economy and Labour

2.1. Multifaceted Domain

Our corpus incorporated many source documents including the OECD Guidelines for multinational enterprise, ILO reports and declarations, and the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) and all surveys providing knowledge in the area of social and work-related policies. Special reference should be made to the ILO Thesaurus (2011) and the European industrial relations dictionary (Eurofound 2013). Figure 1 below illustrates the various dimensions of globalization of labour. Globalization concerns modes of production (esp. the multinational enterprise); it raises trade union issues and takes place in a legal, economic and social context.

Figure 1. The domain of Globalization and Labour

From the many journal articles, textbooks and reports we gathered, hundreds of terms were extracted and grouped in eight subdomains: Economy, Fair Globalization, Labour Regulation, Production Organization, Trade Union, Transnational Corporation, Workers and Work Sectors.

2.2. Transversality of concepts

Globalization and labour concepts pertain to different fields of knowledge, as can be seen in Figure 2 below.


Figure 2. Transversality of Concepts

2.3. Interpenetration of discourses

Discourses originate from a wide range of sources, as illustrated in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Interpenetration of discourses

The corpus built and the terms selected reflect cross-fertilization between fields and discourses.

2.4. The language of globalization: Linguistic and sociolinguistic features

Some of the points presented here were developed in Dancette (2008 and 2013b). Here are some of the more salient points:

Many terms are domain-specific. The fields of finance, accountancy, public accounts and management, for example, have developed their own conceptual apparatus and therefore their own terminology: foreign direct investment, gross national product, outsourcing. However, a noticeable feature of the language of globalization is the large amount of words of the general language that take on specialized meanings when used in the context of economics, sociology and labour: growth, development, migration, dumping, flexibility, decent work.

Many expressions look more like terminologized discursive formulas, or even proper nouns, than terms: corporate social responsibility, New international economic order.

A large number of multilexemic terms (noun + noun, adj + noun) are observed: multinational enterprise, global value chain.

In these domains of social sciences the terminologization process is very simple, when compared with the scientific or medical vocabulary. The meanings of terms can usually be inferred from daily life.

Many terms are predicates (prominence of gerund forms in English, suffixes –tion, -ción in French and Spanish respectively): outsourcing / insourcing, offshoring / backshoring, benchmarking, auditing.

This morphosyntactic form may contribute to translation instability. To express a process, equivalences in Spanish and French may be terms, fixed phrases or free expressions, such as illustrated by the examples below.





contratación externa

subcontratación externa




réalisation à l’externe



tercerización interna

contratación interna


sourçage à l’interne

réalisation à l’interne

Table 1

The pivotal role of English in the language of globalization is also observed. Direct loan words and internationalisms shape a global language.

The vectors of diffusion are primarily international and regional organizations, such as the United Nations, the International Labour Organization, the World Bank, the European Union and Mercosur. From there, global language spreads to all public spheres through national and local governments, media and civil society organizations.

The domain of globalization is also characterized by high terminological creativity. Due to rapid evolutions in the domain, many concepts are emerging. They may be:

  • Neologisms referring to new forms of production organization: transnational enterprise, hollow firm, value chain, original brand name manufacturer (OBM) / original design manufacturer (ODM), export processing zone;
  • Terms referring to new regulatory tools and business practices: auditing, labelling, benchmarking, offshoring, sourcing;
  • Abstract and ill-defined terms or discursive formulas. They are often ideologically loaded and used as buzzwords: global governance, flexicurity, decent work.

If it is possible to speak of a language of globalization, it is not because of the opacity of terms in the domain but rather because of their varying meanings and connotations. Novice translators should be aware of the difficulties involved.

2.5. Pitfalls for novice translators

Translators must learn to contextualize and be familiar with usages that vary over time. Here are some typical pitfalls in the field of economic translation and their solutions.

  • Illusory transparency → Learning concepts
    growth and development are not synonyms.
  • Evolution of usages → Knowing the authority (source of the text)
    multinational corporation (MNC) and transnational corporation (TNC) are not used interchangeably; they have different connotations. For example, if the International Monetary Fund (IMF) uses the more neutral term multinational, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) will preferably use transnational, an adjective conveying the idea of corporations being above national authority.
  • Evolution of mentalities → Knowing context of appearance of terms and expressions
    The following expressions have been successively used in different historical contexts to refer to the poorest countries of the world: third world countries, underdeveloped countries, developing countries, least developed countries, South, Global South.[1] It would be an error to use them in the wrong context. The concept of governance best illustrates the contextuality of meanings. Though the term first appeared in French in the 14th century, the English term governance appears in the 1980s in corporate discourse, reflecting shareholders’ need to have control over the board of administrators in a corporation. In the 1990s, the World Bank started to use the term in response to the need to control corruption in country partners receiving international public aid. Since the 2000s, civic society organizations generally use it as the right of stakeholders to be consulted in decision-making processes. Thus the term takes up different meanings in different contexts:

            governance = <accountability>
            governance = <fight against corruption>
            governance = <consultation>

Such examples once more illustrate the prominent place of culture and context in the field of economic and social sciences. A dictionary for translators therefore should include, to a feasible extent, cultural and contextual information about concepts in order to meet their needs for both documentation and multilingual queries (terms, collocations and phrases). Knowledge organization provides the general framework for the design of a dictionary such as the DAMT.

3. Theoretical and technological advancements in terminology and knowledge organization

Before presenting the DAMT, we wish to situate it within a theoretical framework. Couched in our experience as a translator and translation professor, the dictionary reflects a personal and intellectual trajectory, from the analysis of translation strategies and comprehension processes (Dancette 1995) to a multilingual terminological knowledge base. This evolution is rooted in theoretical and practical advancements. Here are some theories and models illustrating advancements made.

3.1. Theory of knowledge → Knowledge-based translatology and terminology

Psychologists and cognitive scientists (Hofstander& Sander 2013) point to the role of analogy and categorization as central activities in thinking and reasoning. Analogy, based on correspondences between known entities, is “the fuel and fire of thinking”. Metaphoric language and cognitive flexibility come from shifts of categories, also called mental leaps.

Educational psychologists exploit the same idea in the theory of learning. Eggen&Kauchak (1998) use the metaphor of scaffolding to explain how learners build coherent sets of knowledge piece by piece, on the basis of previous pieces of knowledge.

In the field of translation, the ability to select from paradigmatic sets of related terms is to be encouraged and fostered for both creativity and understanding. In translation studies since the 1980s and 1990s, research has focused on the empirical analysis of translation processes (Krings 1986, Lörscher 1991, Kussmaul 1995, Dancette 1997). Among a wide range of cognitive abilities, empirical observation (think-aloud protocols) focused on the way translators processed understanding units in texts to be translated (Dancette 2010). Expertise, observes Shreve (2002: 161), is a “matter of what kinds of things one knows and how those things are cognitively arranged, represented, and stored in or retrieved from a knowledge accumulation process […]”.

3.2. Mental frames and knowledge representation models → Information retrieval, ontologies and thesauri

The first models in artificial intelligence were built on the premise that mental frames represent our knowledge of the world. A semantic frame can be thought of as a conceptual structure describing an event, relation, or object and the participants in it (Schank& Abelson 1977).[2] The semantic networks developed by cognitive scientists (Johnson-Laird 1983, 2006) led to the Semantic Web and WorldNet[3] in the 1990s.

Meanwhile, linguists developed the theory of meaning called frame semantics (Fillmore 1977, Rastier 1991). The model of conceptual frames is based on the semantic roles played by the predicate and its arguments (Fillmore’s FrameNet lexical database).[4]

In translatology the semantico-cognitive school led to the use of conceptual maps to foster understanding and learning in specialized domains (Lundquist 1998, Olohan 2000, Dancette 2003 and 2009, Dancette & Halimi 2005). The premise is similar: The recovery of information in a knowledge field is made easier when concepts have been structured and when their relationships have been established. Visualizing the logical and ontological relations between concepts (such as causal, instrumental, property, agent, or the generic/specific relations) facilitates understanding and, as a consequence, makes lexical choices easier and more adequate.

Figure 4 below illustrates the concept department store with its semantic relations. It provides basic information on the concept in a visual manner: A department store is a sales outlet (generic). As opposed to a discount store (contrast), it sells upmarket products (object). It is usually located downtown (location) and uses self-selection selling (property). It can be part of a corporate chain (multiple), etc.

Figure 4. Conceptual map of department store

Knowledge representation also led to the development of ontological models. It opened up new avenues in terminology, such as multilingual terminological knowledge bases (Meyer 1991, Dancette 2011). Two currents are to be mentioned: the ontoterminological projects around the TOTh group (Terminologie & ontologie, Théories et applications, Roche 2007) and the termontological projects at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Kerremans & Temmerman 2008). The goal is to establish formal mechanisms by which terms from any language can be connected to a semantic description of the concept it represents and to sets of related concepts.

Many institutions adopted the thesaurus format either for research purposes, sometimes with short definitions, as for example the ILO Thesaurus (2011), or just for indexing purposes, as for example the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) or The American Psychological Association (Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms).

3.3. Semantic and lexicological models → Formal definition of terms and tables of related terms

We must also mention, in conjunction with Fillmore’s semantic nets, the formalism used by the Meaning-Text Theory (Mel’cuk et al. 1995). Here, we only present the aspects that have greatly impacted lexicography and terminography.

Semantic graphs represent the linguistic knowledge of a text. They include the actancial structure of lexical units (the predicates and their arguments) and lexical functions (LFs), defined as the set of paradigmatic and syntagmatic links between lexical units. A product of the Meaning-TextTheory is the Dictionnaire explicative et combinatoire du français contemporain (Explanatory and Combinatorial Dictionary, Mel’cuk et al. 1984-99, 4 volumes).

Though not designed for terminology, Mel’cuk’s model found an application in specialized dictionaries. Definitions are written according to a linguistic formalism, and sets of related terms or collocates are identified by their lexical functions. To name just a few, let’s mention Binon et al. Dictionnaire d’apprentissage du français des affaires (2000), the DiCoInfo (L’Homme 2005), Le dictionnaire fondamental de l’environnement DiCoEnviro (Éclectik OLST 2009), and Faber et al. EcoLexicon (2011) using prototypical semantic roles (agent, process, state, result, local). An analysis of the use of lexical functions in terminology is given in Dancette (2007) and Dancette & L’Homme (2004).

The electronic version of the Dictionnaire an alytique de la distribution /Analytical Dictionary of Retailing (2005) implements a model of 25 semantic relations derived from Mel’cuk’s model of lexical functions. It may be worthwhile to explain the advantages of explicitly naming the type of relations between terms, because this tagging proved of utmost importance in later work. The examples below illustrate the model:

  • Hierarchical relations: Specific/Generic, Part/Totality, Multiple/Singular
            Spec(shopping center) = specialty center, factory-outlet center, megamall
            Part(checkout counter) = cash register
            Sing(clientele) = customer
            Tot(subsidiary) = enterprise
  • Associative relations described as typical: agent, cause, localization, medium, property[5]
            Ag(auction) = auctioneer
            Ag(bid) = bidder
            Ag(franchising) = franchisor
            Caus(back order) = inventory shortage
            Loc(electroniccouponing) = web site
            Loc(auction) = auctionroom
            Loc(inventory) = stockroom
            Med(direct mail advertising) = flyer
            Prop(assortment) = depth/shallowness, breadth/narrowness, length/shortness
            Prop(department store) = (very wide) assortment
            Prop(cashcow product) = (high) profitability
  • Other parts of speech, such as verbs and adjectives (derivatives and collocates)
            Verb(bid) = tobid
            Verb(auction) = to hold an auction
            Verb(shop) = to set up shop
            Verb(auction) = to knock down, to strike off
            Adj(store, shopping centre, etc.) = well patronized
            Adj(product, brand) = high-end, upmarket

3.4. Socioterminology → Descriptive terminography

Terminology is a social practice. As seen previously, concepts and terms are context-sensitive; they have a history and take on various forms. That explains why terminology should adopt a comparative and descriptive approach taking culture into consideration (Cabré 1999, Gaudin 2003) and accounting for the symbolic and social dimensions of terms (Depecker 2000).

In both the Analytical Dictionary of Retailing and the Analytical Dictionary of Globalization and Labour, articles include detailed information about the realities referred to by the concepts; they are structured in different subheadings to facilitate information retrieval.

3.5. Easy-to-use databases, Internet-based technologies and free servers

Advances in technology have made building electronic dictionaries such as the DAMTmuch easier than it was only ten years ago, both financially and in terms of manpower. In the case of the DAMT, massive financial investment and sophisticated technical support were not required, especially given our expertise in the field and access to user friendly thesaurus software.[6]

4. The DAMT – Analytical Dictionary of Globalization and Labour

4.1. Methodological choices: Decisions for designing a database

Based on the above theories, our methodological choices can thus be summarized:

  • Terminology geared toward translators’ needs (human translation), i.e. providing multilingual equivalents and basic information about the concepts;
  • Structured terminology; the information is organized to respond to different types of queries (definition, description of concepts, historic facts, examples, semantic relations);
  • Maximal navigability; a term is linked to an article and its related terms. A language directs to another language;
  • Authorship and referencing; textbooks, academic journals, international declarations and conventions, laws and guidelines are quoted, and hyperlinks open to the texts.

As for its format, the DAMT combines the features of an encyclopædia and those of a thesaurus. Table 2 below compares the advantages of both:











Natural language

Declarative form


Cluster of terms

Semantic relations



Limited (hyperlinks on words only)

Search by terms, types of SRs, domains, languages

Outputs of indexes and lists of terms

Table 2. Comparing enyclopædia and thesaurus

Similarly to the Analytical Dictionary of Retailing, the DAMT was designed from the start so as to include encyclopædic information and tables of related terms. Technology advancements allowed for the construction of a knowledge base. A semi-dynamic interface was achieved thanks to query buttons that help users individualize their search process and functionalities for generating lists of terms, of relations and indexes in a subdomain.

Designing the thesaurus was greatly facilitated by the use of the software Multites, which we adapted to our needs in order to accommodate long texts and a wide range of relations. Multites allowed us to pair and align terms used as interlinguistic equivalents, verify the consistency of terms and systematize semantic relations.

The DAMT is the result of collaboration between a small team of terminologists from the Department of Linguistics and Translation and colleagues of the research group on globalization and labour, the CRIMT (University of Montréal), who provided specialized texts, answered specific questions and checked the accuracy of information gatheredat various times. The dictionary has been hosted on the CRIMT site since 2008 as it is used by students in industrial relations and labour economics as a starting point for their own research. It has also been tested (Löckinger 2014) and used in translation classes (in Montréal and other translation schools in Canada and abroad) as preliminary documentation and reference for translation.

One of the most original features of the DAMT is its relational structure (thesaurus). It contains 6300 terms (equivalences in English, French and Spanish, including synonyms and variants), 1600 hierarchical relations, 17,000 associative relations, 50 syntagmatic relations (verbs, adjectives), 2000 clickable source texts (in the 3 languages). The most difficult part of the work, albeit the most valuable, was the attribution of semantic roles to terms in relation to others, because sometimes the logical ties between concepts are fuzzy and variable in context. In this regard, some semantic relations – such as “typical place”, “instrument”, “actor” or “factor”– are to be used as schematizations of the complex links between concepts, as noted in Dancette 2011. However, we insisted on naming semantic relations because of their value to help structure conceptual representation.

4.2. Principles implemented

The following principles were implemented.

  • Principle of relevance of terms to be included in the dictionary

Domain specificity, as opposed to general vocabulary, was the criteria. Thus we defined:

MNE, multinational enterprise

but not enterprise

atypical work

but not work, nor atypical

corporate transnationality

but not nationality

FDI, foreign direct investment

but not investment

We included many multilexemic terms (noun +adj); but as a category, very few adjectives are included because they often have meaning in the general language. We defined those that have specialized meaning: transnational, integrated, protectionist, regulatory. Similarly, the verb category did not prove very productive: to offshore, to outsource, to audit, to denationalize, to label.

  • Principle of consensual definition of terms

It happens that a same term applies to different realities, as seen with the term governance. The definition must then reflect a variety of realities. Articles therefore aim to offer a synthesis of various points of view, from the emergence of new practices or new concerns to the coining of terms (proof of new conceptualization).

  • Principle of contextualization

When deemed necessary, the dictionary articles include information on historical or political aspects about the concept, including ideological and pragmatic dimensions. For example, the article multinational enterprise includes points of criticism made by anti-globalization and left-wing groups.

  • Principle of limited redundancy

Information does not always need to be repeated. Excessive redundancy can be prevented. If a core concept has been defined in the dictionary, there is no point defining related terms that share common information, as illustrated by the example below.

The terms semi-skilled worker and highly-skilled worker have been thoroughly covered in the dictionary; as such it is superfluous to provide detailed information about the related conceptssemi-skilled labour, semi-skilled work, unskilled work, and skill.

This is the beauty of semantic relations. Though not integrally repeated, the basic information is not lost but transferred through the explicit meaning of semantic relations.

Semi-skilled labour = “multiple” of semi-skilled worker

semi-skilled work = “action” of semi-skilled worker

unskilled worker = “contrast” of semi-skilled worker

skill = “property” of skilledworker

 Thus, not all articles are full-length articles.

  • Principle of linguistic equivalence

If there is no readily coined term available as an equivalence in a language, then periphrasis or loan-words were used. For example, the term workfare[7] is a contraction of welfare and work. There is a play on words that cannot be translated in French or Spanish. As such and since the concept is better known in Anglo-Saxon countries, the loan word is frequently used in French and Spanish texts. In the DAMT however a periphrastic form has been provided as a translation: allocation conditionnelle in French, asistencia social condicional in Spanish, in order to make the concept understandable.

  • Principle of meaning-oriented navigability within multilingual conceptual frames

Below is a possible schema for navigating between terms. It shows how one entry can lead to another, from one language to another. The clusters of terms linked by semantic relations construct conceptual frames. (In the example below, the semantic relations are indicated between parentheses.)

social regulation → social labelling (“instrument”) → code of conduct (“legislation”) → index of social performance (“quantifier”) → corporate socialresponsibiity (“result”) → responsabilidad social empresarial (“equivalence”) → globalizaciónjusta (“result”) → regulación social

  • Principle of referencing for the sake of further reading or authorship

The DAMT refers to all ILO Conventions. For example, the articles core labour standards and age of entry into employment refer to C182 Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention. It can be read by just clicking on the link provided.

4.3. Architecture of the DAMT

The Dictionary can be opened in English, French or Spanish. The homepage features various search options as shown in Figure 5: INDEX (terms can be listed in total or restrained by selecting one of the eight domains), SEARCH (by typing in the word looked for) and SEMANTIC RELATIONS (this option lists all the relations between terms; 20 types of SRs).

Figure 5. Homepage (http://zedamt.herokuapp.com/)

The sample entry corporate social responsibility illustrates the dictionary microstructure. A typical article has synonyms, interlinguistic equivalents, a definition followed by a text describing the concept, a context, and a table of semantic relations. Full-length articles[8] are very structured, and allow users to access quoted source texts.

5. Conclusion

This paper has illustrated how psycho-cognitive approaches on learning and translation informed the design of specialized multilingual dictionaries for translators. The idea of conceptual representation, which has been used in translation to foster comprehension or learn about unfamiliar concepts, led to a new current in terminology: knowledge-rich databases exploiting a wide range of semantic relations.

The multilingual dictionaries mentioned in this paper, the Analytical Dictionary of Retailing and the Analytical Dictionary of Globalization and Labour, occupy a special place in terminology not only because of the extended description of concepts therewithin, but also because of their relational structure that provides search tools to exploit the model of semantic relations. They were built on the premise that a relational format helps users build their own conceptual representation according to their needs. Semantic relations in this regard can be seen as tags for scaffolding knowledge.

Additionally, these dictionaries provide information about usages and ideological connotations. In this regard, the DAMT, which links to a wide range of online documents and official texts, can be considered a useful corpus for nalysing the discourse of economic and social globalization. It clearly demonstrates that concepts are cultural products, be they at the local or global level.


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I wish to express my thanks to Daniel Gallego who invited me to the International Conference on Economic, Business, Financial and Institutional Translation / Congreso Internacional de Traducción Económica, Comercial, Financiera e Institucional in Alicante, 29-31 May 2014. This conference gave me the opportunity to reflect on my personal itinerary. My thanks also go to my research assistants Rosa Castrillón and Crystal Crow, and to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) for funding this research.


[1] Contrary to geographical definitions, the “Global North” includes Australia, New Zealand; and the “Global South” includes the Middle East (with the exception of Israel) and all of Africa.

[2] The authors start from the premise that knowledge of a specific situation is stored in the human mind as a script. A script is a structure that describes sequences of events in a particular context. Understanding a familiar situation implies the activation of a stored script of this situation. When encountered with a new situation, people resort to plans. A plan contains the general information that connects events. Plan understanding is a process including the goals of the actors in a situation.

[3] WorldNet is a lexical database for the English language. Words are organized into sets of synonyms and hyponyms. The database provides short definitions, and names the various semantic relations between these sets of words. It is a combination of a dictionary and thesaurus.

[4]FrameNet defines some 1000 conceptual frames. In a frame, a predicate calls for arguments that fill semantic roles.

[5] The formalism of associative relations can offer valuable information in a very succinct form. When combined with the article defining a concept, it serves as an aid to learn about concepts.

[6] More ambitious projects in knowledge engineering and computational terminology involve large teams of terminologists and computer scientists. Automatic ontology building, for example, would require much larger means than those we had for our own projects.

[7] Workfare is “an alternative model to the welfare system in which social benefits are granted provided that the recipient fulfills certain obligations, such as performing community service or actively seeking employment.” (DAMT 2013)

[8] Full-length articles cover head terms, which are written in capital letters. Other terms, such as social responsibility standard, are not delved into, but they are all tied to fully developed articles.

Managing Terminological and Translational Diversity in Parallel Corpora:

A Case Study in Institutional Translation

By Koen Kerremans (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium)

Abstract & Keywords

In this study, term variation pertains to the different ways in which specialised knowledge in the environmental domain is expressed in English institutional texts by means of terminological designations. Intralingual variation pertains to term variation within one language, interlingual variation to the possible ways in which a given English term is translated into Dutch and French target texts.

In many descriptive terminology studies, it has been pointed out that terminological variants frequently occur in different types of specialised text genres and that their presence can be motivated on different grounds (Daille 2005; Freixa 2006; Condamines 2010; Tercedor Sánchez 2011). At least two important views result from these observations: a) a view that term variants appearing in source texts should not simply be ignored by translators for the sake of terminological consistency and precision and b) a view that the different terms to express specialised knowledge as well as their possible translations should be represented in special language resources for translators, taking into account different contextual factors that may affect the choice for a specific term or translation.

Based on these views, we will present a new type of translation resource that was compiled on the basis of a corpus of source and target texts. The resource covers a set of English term variants and their French and Dutch equivalents retrieved from a trilingual parallel corpus of institutional texts. Each term occurrence encountered in a source text is combined with its equivalent in the corresponding target text to form a term-based translation unit (TU). Each TU in the resource is marked by a set of semantic and text-related properties. In this article, we will discuss why and how the resource was created, present results and reflect on how it can be used by translators.

Keywords: environmental terminology, institutional translation, term variation, translation resources, translation unit

©inTRAlinea & Koen Kerremans (2015).
"Managing Terminological and Translational Diversity in Parallel Corpora:"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: New Insights into Specialised Translation
Edited by: Daniel Gallego-Hernández
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Permanent URL: http://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/2149

1. Introduction

In the field of terminology, the conviction reigned that terms should be used unambiguously to refer to clearly delineated concepts (Wüster 1979/1991; Felber 1984; Picht and Draskau 1985) in order to arrive at unambiguous communication. This view dominated terminology theory for several decades, resulting in the prescriptive view on terminology (Cabré 2003).

In prescriptive terminology, the concept – which is the starting-point of terminological analysis – is identified by means of an authorised term. Within this framework, alternative ways of referring to a concept (for instance by means of lexical variants) should be restricted because it is believed that these alternative expressions may hamper the exchange of information in specialised communicative settings (Gerzymisch-Arbogast 2008).

Descriptive terminology approaches have jointly contributed to a more pragmatic view of the relationship between terms and concepts (Gaudin 1993; Cabré 1995; Sager 1998; Condamines 1995; Temmerman 2000; Diki-Kidiri 2001; Collet 2004; Faber 2009). These studies have demonstrated that term variation – i.e. the different ways in which specialised knowledge can be expressed by means of terms – is a natural phenomenon in special languages, which can be motivated on different grounds (Bowker and Hawkins 2006; Freixa 2006).

Translating terminology poses important challenges for translators. On the one hand, translators need to acknowledge the role that terminology fulfils in communicating specialised knowledge in a precise way. On the other hand, they need to be aware of the fact that terminology use is conditioned by several contextual factors. For translators, it is therefore important to know what linguistic options (i.e. terminological variants) are available in languages for expressing specialised knowledge and to understand how these options can be used (i.e. how they function) in specific communicative settings (Hatim and Mason 1990; House 2001).

Translators often consult bi- or multilingual translation resources (e.g. bilingual glossaries, parallel word lists, specialised translation dictionaries, terminological databases, etc.) to find solutions to certain translation problems. However, such structured resources never fully represent the wealth of options available in language (Gerzymisch-Arbogast 2008). Furthermore, by separating terms from their natural environments (i.e. the texts), a lot of valuable information on which translations decisions are based is lost. This is why translators also often resort to unstructured resources: i.e. original texts (written in the source and target languages) or previously translated texts to acquire more insight into the specific uses of terms in various situational contexts.

The present study involves a reflection on how terms and equivalents recorded in multilingual terminological databases (multilingual termbases or MTBs) can be extended with intra- and interlingual variants retrieved from source and target texts. For this purpose, a new type of structured translation resource will be proposed, resulting from a method for identifying intralingual variants and their translations in parallel texts (Kerremans 2011; 2014). The parallel corpus used for this study is comprised of English source texts (related to environmental topics) and their translations into Dutch and French.

In the translation resource, each occurrence of an English term (variant) in the parallel corpus is combined with its French or Dutch equivalent to form a (term-based) translation unit (TU). Each TU is further categorised according to semantic and contextual criteria, which will be discussed in more detail in Section 3.

Throughout this article, several questions will be raised pertaining to the underlying motivation for creating this resource (see Section 2), the content of the translation resource (see Section 3), the methodology for building up the database (see Section 4) and the way the content of the resource could be presented to translators (see Section 5). A conclusion as well as a brief reflection on future work will be presented in Section 6.

2. Why a new type of translation resource is proposed

Our proposal to develop the aforementioned translation resource results from our observations in two descriptive comparative studies of terminological variation applied to European institutional translation (Kerremans 2014). The subject field chosen as a case study is the environmental domain. Within this domain, four main subject areas were selected for our purposes: biodiversity, climate change, environmental pollution and invasive alien species.

The purpose of the first study was to examine how intra- and interlingual variation appears in a corpus of parallel texts. To this end, a multilingual corpus was created based on European institutional source texts (in English) and their translations into French and Dutch.

A general observation in this study was that terminological variation appearing in the source texts of our corpus also tends to be reflected in the translations. In other words: decisions with respect to translations of concepts into the target languages (Dutch and French) were very much influenced by lexical/terminological choices in the English source texts. For a more thorough discussion, we refer to Kerremans (2011; 2014).

In the second study we compared the language data retrieved from the parallel corpus (in the first study) with data retrieved from the EU multilingual terminology base IATE[1]. The purpose of the study was to examine how intra- and interlingual variation is accounted for in the European terminology base and whether the terminological options in the source language as well as the translation options would also be represented in the termbase. Given these objectives, a descriptive study was conducted on the basis of a collection of about 1140 IATE terminological records. This collection contained terms and variants referring to concepts (see Section 3) that were also encountered in the parallel corpus of the first comparative study, allowing for a comparison between the two language resources.

An important outcome of this study was the observation that the different terminological options in which specialised knowledge was expressed in the source texts were not entirely covered by the IATE terminology base. Apart from that, we also observed that the parallel texts featured much more translation options as opposed to the possible equivalents of a given source term that we found in the IATE data collection. For a more detailed discussion of these observations, we refer to Kerremans (2014).

Based on the aforementioned observations, we propose a new type of language resource for translators in which intra- and interlingual variants derived from parallel texts can be used to supplement the information appearing in multilingual terminology bases (see Section 5). As was stated earlier (see Section 1), the translation resource is comprised of term-based translation units (TUs) that are semantically and contextually structured.  

3. How language information is structured in the translation resource

We define a term-based translation unit (TU) as a bilingual text segment, extracted from a source text (ST) and its target text (TT), in which

  • the source language (SL) segment is a terminological expression and
  • the target language (TL) segment is the translation of the selected SL segment.

Consider the following text sample:

  • ST: “Invasive Alien Species” are alien species whose introduction and/or spread threaten biological diversity.
  • TT: L’expression “espèce exotique envahissante” s’entend d’une espèce exotique dont l’introduction et/ou la propagation menace la diversité biologique .

In this example, taken from the English and French versions of a (European) Commission staff working document[2], the term invasive alien species in the ST and its translation espèce exotique envahissante are combined to form the term-based translation unit: invasive alien species – espèce exotique envahissante.

Term-based translation units are the primary building blocks of the resource presented in this article. Before entry into the translation resource, each TU is contextually and semantically structured. This means that certain properties are added to the TU to be able to support specific search queries of the language data in a later stage (see Section 5).

The TU is said to be contextually structured when different properties of the bitext have been assigned to it. Examples of such properties are text type (e.g. EC Staff Working Document), text source (e.g. European Commission), language pair (e.g. English-French) and text topic (e.g. invasive alien species). Some properties are used to specify the exact location of the source term and its equivalent in the bitext. Other contextual (or text-related) categories are used to describe the situational context (or register) in which the TU was found.

The TU is said to be semantically structured when the English term in the TU is classified according to the concept to which it refers in the source text. Semantic categorisation is a prerequisite in order to retrieve – at a later stage (see Section 5) – all term variants lexicalising the same concept. This process requires that term variants referring to the same concept are labelled with a unique identification code. This manually created code or label is called a cluster label. An example of such a label for the translation unit above is invasive_alien_species. Terms extracted from the source texts that carry this label appear in the same cluster of terminological variants (Kerremans 2011).    

Before we move on to the question of how the translation resource is created, an important remark has to be made with respect to the way concepts are perceived in the present study because this has important theoretical implications for the treatment of clusters of term variants (cf. supra).

Different views have been expressed in terminology studies on the nature of concepts as well as on their specific relation to terms. In prescriptive approaches, the focus is on establishing clearly delineated concepts which are considered necessary for efficient communication of specialised knowledge (Wüster 1979/1993; Felber 1984; Picht and Draskau 1985). As a result, term variants referring to the same concept are believed to have the same meaning.

In descriptive terminology studies, this prescriptive view on concepts has been criticised for being unrealistic. As an alternative to the prescriptive view, several proposals have been formulated emphasising embodied, situated and dynamic aspects of cognition (Zawada and Swanepoel 1994; Cabré 1995; Condamines and Rebeyrolle 1997; Kageura 1997; Temmerman 2000; Diki-Kidiri 2001; Faber 2009).

As a result, concepts are believed to be fuzzy categories which are given shape and constantly change in contexts of social interactions. On the level of discourse, which features multiple perspectives and opinions, the concept is an amalgam of diverse conceptualisations. These different conceptualisations contain overlapping properties and can therefore be attributed to a prototypically structured unit of understanding (Temmerman 2000). We believe that in a context of translation, it makes sense to talk about prototypically structured units of understanding rather than concepts. This is because transferring meaning from one language into the other is determined by the translator’s understanding and interpretation of the message in the source language.

Starting from the unit of understanding (instead of a clearly defined concept) has important implications for the way terminological variants are perceived in cognitive studies of terminology (see e.g. Temmerman 2000; Faber 2009). In our own study of term variation, we do not claim that the English terms appearing in the same cluster of variants share exactly the same meaning. Obviously, their meaning is conditioned by the situational contexts in which they appear. What these terms have in common is the fact that they are used to refer to the same (prototypically structured) unit of understanding in a specific situational context. How we collected these terms will be explained in the next section.

4. How the translation resource was developed

The translation resource resulting from our study of term variation in institutional texts, was developed on the basis of predefined set of units of understanding (concepts) in the environmental domain. This list of units of understanding was created on the basis of the Environmental Terminology and Discovery Service or ETDS glossary, a large multilingual terminology base maintained by the European Environment Agency (EEA). This resource contains almost 10,000 English terms and their translations into several other languages.[3]

By first automatically determining the number of occurrences of each English ETDS term in the English source texts of our corpus, we were able to filter out terms appearing several times in our corpus. Based on this list of terms, we randomly created a set of 240 units of understanding that formed the basis for the descriptive studies of term variation (see Section 2).

For each unit of understanding, a unique label (i.e. the so-called ‘cluster label’) was created in order to manually identify and mark term variants in the English source texts. Terms appearing in the source texts that are annotated according to the same label appear in the same cluster of terminological variants (see previous section).

Our method for identifying term variants in the source texts, was presented in Kerremans (2011). The method is based on analyses of lexical chains. According to Rogers (2007: 17), a lexical chain consists of “cohesive ties sharing the same referent, lexically rather than grammatically expressed”. In other words: terms appearing in the same lexical chain were marked with the same cluster label.

This is illustrated by means of the following text sample taken from the Commission’s staff working document that we also mentioned in an earlier section of this article (see Section 3). In this example, the term variants appearing in the same lexical chain (referring to the unit of understanding invasive_alien_species) are marked in bold:

Invasive Alien Species” are alien species whose introduction and/or spread threaten biological diversity [...]. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment revealed that IAS impact on all ecosystems [...]. The problem of biological invasions is growing rapidly as a result of increased trade activities. Invasive species (IS) [...] negatively affect biodiversity [...]. IS can cause congestion in waterways, damage to forestry, crops and buildings and damage in urban areas. The costs of preventing, controlling and/or eradicating IS and the environmental and economic damage are significant. The costs of control, although lower than the costs of continued damage by the invader, are often high.

The result of this analysis is a lexical chain composed of seven lexicalisations. Five of these occurrences are unique terminological units:

invasive_alien_species =>

  1. Invasive Alien Species
  2. IAS
  3. Invasive species
  4. IS
  5. IS
  6. IS
  7. invader

Once the entire source text was analysed, we manually retrieved for each selected term in the source text its corresponding lexicalisation in the target text. For more details on this procedure, we refer to Kerremans (2011).

To be able to carry out this kind of analysis in an efficient way for about 240 cluster labels, we developed several automated procedures in Perl.[4] The module for supporting the analysis of the source texts, for instance, relies on three external resources to support the process of identifying SL terms and adding these to the proper clusters: a dataset of clusters that continuously grows as more variants are retrieved from texts, a list of filtering rules and a dictionary of lemmatised forms. For more details on these automated routines, we refer to Kerremans (2014).

5. How the translation resource can be exploited

The translation resource resulting from our comparative studies (see Section 1) contains about 18,600 semantically and contextually structured translation units for the language pairs English-French and English-Dutch. In this section, we tentatively describe how the resource might be used by translators (see Section 5.2). But before we provide such a description, it is important to first clarify in what respect our translation resource differs from multilingual terminology bases (in particular: IATE), on the one hand, and translation memories, on the other hand (see Section 5.1).

5.1. How our resource differs from termbases and translation memories

The purpose of this first subsection is to explain the potential advantage that our resource offers to translators, when compared to the information that can be retrieved from termbases and translation memories.

In conventional multilingual terminology bases, intralingual terminological variants and their translations appear on concept-oriented records. This particular way of structuring terminological data has its roots in prescriptive terminology in which terms are merely viewed as labels assigned to clearly delineated concepts (see Section 3). The number of variants that are displayed on these records is usually restricted and never fully covers the wealth of terminological options that can be found in authentic texts. This is because multilingual termbases tend to be limited to a representation of “the ‘langue’ or ‘norm’ level of language and not the individual actual text level” (Gerzymisch-Arbogast 2008: 20). Moreover, these resources very seldom provide information concerning the specific origin or the specific use of each recorded term. Our descriptive analysis of IATE terminological records (see Section 2) revealed, for instance, that in many cases this pragmatic information about terms is left unspecified.

The consequence is that when translators consult the IATE terminological database (and actually find corresponding matches for specific search terms) they do not necessarily get to see a solution in the target language that is directly applicable to the specific text that they are translating. This is for instance because the equivalent found in the database was taken from a document that belongs to another ‘register’ (e.g. a legal document vs. a Commission’s fact sheet) or source (e.g. a term entered into IATE by a translator/terminologist from the Commission vs. a term entered by someone from another EU institution) as the text being translated.

In this case, translators need to see examples of actual term use in order to check the appropriateness of the given term in the translation context. To this end, they can rely on multilingual corpora comprised of original texts in the source and target languages as well as on parallel corpora or translation memories.

A translation memory is basically a corpus of bitexts, usually aligned on the level of the sentence. The corpus is converted to a standardised exchange format (TMX)[5]  so that it can become searchable by means of a Translation Memory System (TMS). In translation memories, translators can find actual occurrences of terminology and translation choices because these are comprised of authentic texts.

The advantage of translation memories is that translators can actually search for translation options in texts that are similar to the ones they are translating. An important disadvantage is the fact that the search facilities provided by a TMS still do not go beyond finding simple text string matches. This means that only concordances (i.e. linguistic contexts featuring the search term) are shown in which the search string literally or partially appears.

A weakness of this type of searches is that no variants can be taken into consideration when looking for potentially interesting contexts. Suppose the search term alien invasive species appearing in a source text does not occur so often in the translation memory, in comparison to other terminological variants such as invasive exotics or pest organisms, the search results would turn out poor for this term in comparison to the many solutions that could have been found in the TM if the search was based on clusters of term variants.

Taking into account the strengths and weaknesses of termbases and translation memories, we propose a translation resource that stands in between these two language resources, as it combines features of both. Termbases allow us to indicate whether several terms refer to the same unit of understanding (and should therefore be treated as term variants). This important feature is also present in our translation resource in which term variants are marked by the same cluster label. The advantage of using translation memories is that these resources show translators how terms were actually translated in authentic texts. But the lack of a semantic specification of the translation segments do not yet allow these repositories to be exploited in more advanced ways (Moorkens 2012; Reinke 2013). Adding a semantic specification to the term-based translation units will enable users to filter out those contexts that are semantically related.

5.2. How the language data can be visualised

As an alternative to traditional ways for representing language data in dictionaries (e.g. on the basis of alphabetically sorted lists, tables or matrices), we propose to present the language data in graphs, allowing for a flexible and dynamic visualisation of data that may be connected to one another in several ways (see further).

The motivation for this particular visualisation is based on the Hallidayan premise that each choice (variant) in the language network acquires its meaning against the background of other choices which could have been made (Eggins 2004). The choices are perceived as functional: i.e. they can be motivated against the backdrop of a complex set of linguistic, situational and cognitive factors (Kerremans 2014). Changing the contextual conditions causes direct changes in the network of terminological options that are shown to the user.

An additional interesting aspect of the graph representation is that it supports the theoretical model of prototypically structured units of understanding (see Section 3). The translation resource holds information about the frequency of occurrence of each term variant, translation equivalent and translation unit retrieved from the parallel corpus. That information can be used in a visualisation module to make a distinction between typical and uncommon patterns for a given context configuration.

What we propose is that term variants, translation equivalents and/or translation units that frequently occur in a particular register would move to the centre of the graph, while uncommon patterns would move to the periphery. In this way, translators will immediately be able to distinguish between core variants (i.e. variants that are frequently encountered within the selected collection of texts) and peripheral variants (i.e. variants that were only sporadically encountered). They will also be able to immediately infer the typical ways of translating a given term (in a given register).

An example illustrating this idea is shown in Figure 1. The example shows a network of linguistic (terminological) options for the unit of understanding greenhouse_gas_emission_reduction. Apart from the English term variants, the network also shows one particular Dutch equivalent found in the corpus data: i.e. emissiereductie.

Figure 1. A network of terminological ‘options’ for the unit of understanding greenhouse_gas_emission_reduction

The network of English term variants visualises the coreferential ties between the language data in the English source texts. The structure of the network is influenced by the configuration of specific semantic and text-related parameters (see Section 3).  Selecting or deselecting certain parameters can potentially cause term variants to move from the centre to the periphery or vice versa, allowing for dynamic, ‘customised’ visualisations of semantically and contextually structured term variants and their equivalents.

Additional information such as definitions, notes or co-texts (i.e. linguistic contexts) may immediately be linked to language data in the network. This is illustrated by means of the example in Figure 2. In this example, the Dutch term emissiereductie (see also Figure 1) is linked to a Note field in the IATE termbase, a definition in an another external source and, finally, a bilingual concordance marking the position of the translation and its English source term in a specific bitext in the parallel corpus.

Figure 2. Definitions, notes and co-texts are connected to the selected translation equivalent

The aforementioned examples illustrate how the translation resource of semantically and contextually structured translation units can be used as an extension to existing termbases. Moreover, by enriching language data extracted from parallel corpora with semantic and text-related criteria, the translation resource can be used to establish connections between terms in terminology bases and their actual occurrences in texts.

6. Conclusion and next steps

In this article we presented a new type of translation resource comprised of English term variants and their Dutch and French equivalents, manually harvested from a collection of source and target texts. The motivation for doing so was stated in the beginning of this study (see Section 1) and can be summarised as follows: given the fact that term variants frequently appear in special languages and can be motivated on different grounds (Bowker and Hawkins 2006; Freixa 2006), it is important for translators to know the different variants (i.e. linguistic options) available in source and target languages for expressing units of understanding and to know how these can be used (i.e. how they function) in specific communicative settings (Hatim and Mason 1990; House 2001). This involves a careful study of concrete instances of language use. The translation resource of semantically and contextually structured translation units can be perceived as the outcome of such a study. It can be used to connect (and enrich) language data in multilingual terminological databases to actual occurrences in parallel texts (or translation memories).

Not a language-independent concept but a context-bound unit of understanding forms the point of departure in the methodology (see Section 3). In order to visualise the data appearing in the translation resource, a graph representation is proposed in which intra- and interlingual variants derived from texts are directly linked to one another in a contextually conditioned network.

The resource can be perceived as an additional tool to be integrated in a computer-assisted translation (CAT) environment or workflow together with bi- or multilingual termbases and translation memories. Implementations of the prototype resource will need to be tested by translators in order to estimate the relevance of the resource as well as the usefulness of graph representations of intra- and interlingual variants in combination with existing multilingual terminology bases and translation corpora.

Apart from extending the visualisation module, we will also examine how certain natural language processing technologies for identifying intralingual variants and translations can be used to better support the creation of future translation resources comprised of semantically and contextually structured translation units.


The author wishes to thank the reviewers for their valuable comments on an earlier draft of this article.


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[2] The English reference to this publication is: Commission of the European Communities, 2008. SEC(2008) 2886 - Commission staff working document - Annex to the Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - Towards an EU strategy on invasive species - Impact assessment - Executive summary {COM(2008) 789 final} {SEC(2008) 2887}.

Ideological connotations in financial terminology:

an English-French-Italian study from ‘hedge funds’ through ‘fondi speculativi/fonds spéculatifs’ to ‘fondi alternativi/fonds alternatifs’

By Danio Maldussi (University of Bologna, Italy)

Abstract & Keywords

During the worldwide economic crisis of recent years, hedge funds have been accused by the investment community of exacerbating tensions on the financial markets. According to some, however, hedge funds are merely a scapegoat for the financial universe. The aim of this presentation is four-fold. First, to address the nature of this negative judgement from a range of perspectives – conceptual, ideological, operational and linguistic – on the basis of an analysis carried out on a comparable multilingual specialised corpus, made up of ten sub-corpora; second, to survey the universe of the operational activities and strategies of hedge funds and the analogies and differentiating aspects between hedge funds and fondi speculativi and fonds spéculatifs; third, to map the different connotations of the concept of speculazione/speculation and discuss the choice of the denomination fondi speculativi adopted by the Italian legislator, in the absence of an ad hoc law on hedge funds at a Community level; and fourth, to measure the change in ideological connotations when moving from the denomination fondi speculativi and fonds spéculatifs to fondi alternativi and fonds alternatifs and assess the degree of linguistic awareness of the Italian and European legislators compared to that of experts from the financial sector, academics and politicians.

Keywords: hedge funds, speculation, fonds spéculatifs, fonds alternatifs, fondi speculativi, fondi alternativi, speculazione

©inTRAlinea & Danio Maldussi (2015).
"Ideological connotations in financial terminology:"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: New Insights into Specialised Translation
Edited by: Daniel Gallego-Hernández
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Permanent URL: http://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/2148

1. The universe of the hedge funds, of the ‘fondi speculativi’and of the ‘fonds spéculatifs’: between analogies and conceptual distinctions

In our paper I concetti di fair value e costo storico nel diritto contabile francese e italiano: riorganizzazione concettuale, implicazioni semantiche e problematiche traduttivo-terminologiche we carried out an in-depth analysis of the semantic and notional interferences linked to the choice of translational equivalents in a multilingual context which are unsubstantiated and thus evoke misleading associations and alter meaning at a referential level (Maldussi: 2009).[1] The case of the fondi speculativi under Italian law compared to American hedge funds may be rightly considered a case of terminological incongruency or, more precisely, a manifold case of partial equivalence.

As will be discussed in the present section drawing on various sources, the denomination fondi speculativi, chosen by the Italian legislator (Decreto del Ministero del Tesoro n° 228 of May 24 1999) to establish hedge funds under Italian law shows some substantial differences at a conceptual level with the American counterpart. We will start by defining the conceptual dimension of these investment vehicles. To this end we follow the analysis by Nigro and Romano in their online contribution La regolamentazione degli hedge funds negli USA: dal quasi-collasso di Long-Term Capital Management al Dodd-Frank Act. According to these authors, identifying unequivocally and precisely the nature of a hedge fund is not a simple matter and remains indeed a real challenge” (2013: 9). As the document Hedge Funds in Denmark and Internationally, cited in Nigro and Romano, confirms:

There is no clear, generally accepted definition of a hedge fund. The term covers a large number of different investment funds with very different risk profiles and investment strategies. Often they are private companies where a manager invests capital contributed by wealthy private individuals and in some cases institutional investors (Theusen, 2005: 99).

The Report of the French Assemblée Nationale, Rapport fait au nom de la commission d’enquête sur les mécanismes de spéculation affectant le fonctionnement des économies, reiterates the same concept adding that the Commission realized that hedge funds could not be defined and, in the absence of a clear definition, decided that the Directive would address all funds that were not UCITS:

À l’origine, il s’agissait de réguler les hedge funds, jusqu’à ce que la Commission s’aperçoive que ceux-ci ne pouvaient être définis. On ne peut en effet qu’en indiquer les caractéristiques – jeu contracyclique, utilisation de méthodes telles que le short selling pour obtenir la meilleure rentabilité en prenant le moins de risques possible. Au demeurant, la traduction littérale de hedge funds est « fonds de couverture ». Faute de définition des hedge funds, donc, la Commission a décidé que la directive viserait tout ce qui n’était pas OPCVM – organisme de placement collectif en valeurs mobilières, ou, en anglais, UCITS, undertaking for collective investment in transferable securities –, et par voie de conséquence les fonds immobiliers et le capital investissement, ou private equity (2010: 468).

In the face of the impossibility of an unequivocal definition, we will limit ourselves in collecting some of the most important available definitions, all of them sharing the same vagueness, and focus on some of the features characterizing these investment vehicles. The European Central Bank’s Financial Stability Review 2004, for example, focuses on the flexibility of these vehicles:

A hedge fund can be defined as a fund whose managers receive performance-related fees and can freely use, and do use, various active investment strategies to achieve positive absolute returns, involving any combination of financial leverage, long and short positions in securities, derivatives or any other assets in a wide range of markets (123).

Thanks to the already cited Theusen report, we are also able to discover the definition provided in the Report of The President’s Working Group on Financial Markets entitled Hedge Funds, Leverage, and the Lessons of Long-Term Capital Management. The definition emphasizes the fact that these vehicles are not statutorily defined and that the compound term hedge funds tends to be a superordinate one, covering a wholes series of products sharing the same characteristics:

The term hedge fund is commonly used to describe a variety of different types of investment vehicles that share some similar characteristics. Although it is not statutorily defined, the term encompasses any pooled investment vehicle that is privately organized, administered by professional investment managers, and not widely available to the public. The primary investors in hedge funds are wealthy individuals and institutional investors. In addition, hedge fund managers frequently have a stake in the funds they manage. Entities classified as hedge funds are commonly organized as limited partnerships or limited liability companies, and in many cases are domiciled outside the United States (1999: 1).

The Theusen report offers us a key to dissipate the vagueness surrounding the concept of the hedge fund: ‘One way of describing what hedge funds are is to see them in relation to more narrowly defined and regulated investment schemes, e.g. investment associations’ (2005: 100). This indicates that a hedge fund defines itself in the negative. As Nigro and Romano point out, excluding some exceptions such as the definition in the Theusen report, the President’s Working Group Report or a regulation adopted in South Africa, hardly any system of law defines a hedge fund in a positive sense: ‘quasi nessun ordinamento giuridico fornisce una definizione di jus positum che si spinga sino a stabilire cosa sia, in positivo, un hedge fund. Altro è, infatti, l’usuale approccio seguito dai regulators, preferendosi piuttosto dire cosa un hedge fund non è, e cioè un fondo comune d’investimento, alla cui regolamentazione viene così ad essere sottratto’ (2013: 9-10).

As far as operational strategies are concerned, hedge funds are recognised as liquidity providers, in the search of positive absolute returns, position-taking in a wide range of markets, free to select various investment techniques, including short-selling, financial leverage and derivatives and finally characterised by a weak correlation to market trends. However, it should be recalled that the current working principles of hedge funds only remotely correspond to the first hedge fund invented by Alfred Winslow Jones in the Forties. He created what he considered to be a conservative investment scheme, using debt (i.e. leverage) to buy more shares and short selling (that is, selling securities he did not own in order to buy them subsequently, expecting a price decline) to prevent market risk.

The current array of financial strategies with which hedge funds are currently endowed is certainly wider and more sophisticated. Anyway, always according to the above-mentioned European Central Bank report, it is rather the proliferation of these investment vehicles which represents a problem in the trade-off between financial efficiency and financial system stability (2004: 12). Most important, hedge funds move in an unregulated universe and all attempts to regulate them have to some extent failed (Nigro and Romano 2013: 55-56). As the Theusen report points out, the regulation of typical hedge funds differs from typical investment associations. The first are ‘typically legally domiciled in offshore financial centres with limited regulation and supervision. No or few reporting and transparency requirements’ while the second are ‘legally domiciled in ordinary national jurisdictions. Regulated and under supervision. Reporting and transparency requirements’ (2005: 102).

As far as Italian fondi speculativi are concerned, they started to operate in 2001, thanks to the Decreto del Ministero del Tesoro n° 228 of May 24 1999. Italian fondi speculativi have as distinguishing features the fact that they have a minimum initial investment of not less than 500,000 Euro, without the possibility of splitting these shares, and of soliciting clients to invest in these shares. The fondi speculativi are managed by the SGR (Società di gestione del risparmio). Also, their risky nature must be clearly stated:

Art. 16
(Fondi speculativi)

1. Le SGR possono istituire fondi speculativi il cui patrimonio è investito in beni, anche diversi da quelli individuati nell’articolo 4, comma 2, in deroga alle norme prudenziali di contenimento e frazionamento dal rischio stabilite dalla Banca d’Italia, ai sensi dell’articolo 6, comma 1, lett. c) del Testo Unico.

2. Il numero dei soggetti che partecipano a ciascun fondo speculativo non può superare le duecento unità.

3. L’importo minimo della quota iniziale non può essere inferiore a 500.000 euro. Le quote dei fondi speculativi non possono essere frazionate in nessun caso.

4. Le quote dei fondi speculativi non possono essere oggetto di sollecitazione all’ investimento.

5. Il regolamento del fondo deve menzionare la rischiosità dell’investimento e la circostanza che esso avviene in deroga ai divieti e alle norme prudenziali di contenimento e frazionamento del rischio stabilite dalla Banca d’Italia.

6. Nel regolamento del fondo sono indicati i beni oggetto dell’investimento e le modalità di partecipazione con riferimento all’adesione dei partecipanti ed al rimborso delle quote.

7. La Banca d’Italia indica i casi in cui i fondi disciplinati dal presente articolo, in considerazione dei potenziali effetti sulla stabilità della società, possono essere istituiti o gestiti solo da SGR che abbiano come oggetto esclusivo l’istituzione o la gestione di tali fondi.

The analogies between hedge funds and fondi speculativi are many, but not so evident as to make the two concepts overlap. Since their creation, many changes have intervened in the organizational and operational activity of the Italian fondi speculativi such as, for instance, the creation in 2008 of side pockets and, more important, the abrogation of the maximum number of participants (once 200, as stated in previous citation of article 16 of the Decreto del Ministero del Tesoro). And many think that the assimilation between these two types of funds is only partly true. Annunziata, in the preface to the volume Gli hedge fund parlano italiano, states that although the two categories do not perfectly overlap, the fondi speculativi are often associated to hedge funds. This assimilation is only partly true as the category of the fondi speculativi lends itself to welcoming wider types of funds than those traditionally belonging to hedge funds:

Con l’avvento del Testo Unico delle disposizioni in materia di intermediazione finanziaria (D. Lgs. N. 58/1998), si è assistito ad una vera e propria trasformazione negli assetti della disciplina della gestione collettiva del risparmio. Il sistema italiano, tradizionalmente impermeabile allo sviluppo di forme “alternative” di gestione collettiva, ha visto l’introduzione di nuove tipologie di fondi comuni di investimento, tra cui rientrano i fondi cosiddetti “speculativi”. Sebbene le due categorie non coincidano perfettamente, i fondi speculativi vengono generalmente associati con gli hedge fund, di cui rappresenterebbero, per l’appunto, l’omologo: l’assimilazione è valida soltanto in parte in quanto i fondi speculativi si prestano, in realtà, ad “accogliere” tipologie più ampie e diversificate di quelle che tradizionalmente, in letteratura, vengono ricondotte nell’ambito della famiglia degli hedge funds (Manuli et al., 2003: VI).

Most importantly, Annunziata stresses the main characteristics that differentiate hedge funds from fondi speculativi, that is, the absence or presence or degree of regulation, hedge funds being essentially unregulated and the fondi speculativi regulated under the aegis of the Central Bank of Italy. The fondi speculativi are not an alien entity, totally out of control from the point of view of overall fairness and correctness:

La specialità del caso italiano, rispetto a quanto si rinviene in altri ordinamenti o sistemi, è rappresentata dal fatto che i fondi speculativi vengono sottoposti alla generale disciplina di vigilanza, prevista per le altre tipologie di gestione collettiva. Viene, cioè, ad essere superato uno dei tratti distintivi dell’universo degli hedge fund, quale tipicamente declamato, e cioè il fatto di essere per l’appunto, un universo tendenzialmente unregulated. Nel caso italiano, di contro, si assiste – a quanto consta per la prima volta nel pur variegato panorama internazionale – all’introduzione di una tipologia di fondo “alternativo” che si incardina perfettamente nel sistema generale dei soggetti e dei prodotti finanziari sottoposti a vigilanza pubblica, sulla base della disciplina di settore. Il fondo speculativo, per tale via, tende a “normalizzarsi”: cessa dunque di essere un’entità aliena, che sfugge alla disciplina generale dei controlli – sia prudenziali, sia di correttezza – per collocarsi a fianco e vicino alle altre “forme” di gestione collettiva del risparmio. In questo, tuttavia, il fondo speculativo mantiene un tratto distintivo, e cioè il fatto di non essere sottoposto ad alcuna limitazione o divieto in punto di politiche e attività di investimento. […] Il “mix” tra controlli e libertà di azione è dosato sapientemente, facendo così del caso italiano un unicum nel suo genere (Ibid.: VI-VII).

It would appear that the terms hedge funds and fondi speculativi conceal two different legal situations that the denomination alone is unable to clarify. From a linguistic point of view, and drawing inspiration from discourse analysis which contributes strongly to the analysis of ideological connotations of formulations and expressions in different cultures,[2] we can classify both expressions, fondi speculativi and fonds spéculatifs, as cases of hyperbole.[3]

The function of hyperbole is to focus attention on a particular aspect of a social phenomenon, thus bolstering the opinion that the choice of the adjective speculativo could be linked to the wish to emphasise the risk embedded in these vehicles (for a discussion on the meaning of speculativo see Section 3). At the same time, the expressions fondi speculativi and fonds spéculatifs may rightly be considered vague concepts as maintained by Dancette (2013: 460). The question is: how can we define the concept of speculazione and spéculation? This is why we have felt the necessity to deepen the analysis of this concept in specialized and general communication. Also, as we will see later on, the treatment in French and Italian written discourse adds to this ambiguity.

As far as the French denomination is concerned, fonds spéculatifs, according to the list of recommended terms, expressions and definitions of FranceTerme, is the official French translation published in the Journal officiel de la République française (pursuant to the Decree No 96-602 of 3 July 1996 concerning the improvement of French language) on 14 August 1998. This definition underlines the risk associated with these funds and the very high use of leverage:

Fonds d’investissement à haut risque portant principalement sur des produits à effet de levier particulièrement élevé, c’est-à-dire permettant, pour des mises limitées, d’opérer sur des montants beaucoup plus importants, mais avec des risques considérables.

However, it should also be noted that, always according to FranceTerme, the official French translation of hedger, namely opérateur en couverture, published in the Journal officiel de la République française on 22 September 2000, is closer to the semantics of hedge, that is ‘for hedging purposes’:

Opérateur intervenant sur le marché dans le but de couvrir, ou de compenser, totalement ou partiellement, un risque de variation d’un élément financier, ce risque provenant d’une fluctuation des cours des titres, des devises, des taux d’intérêt, ou des prix des matières premières.

IATE (InterActive Terminology for Europe), the EU multilingual termbase, also registers ‘fonds de gestion alternative’ as an alternative translation of hedge fund. As far as the Italian language is concerned, other proposals include ‘fondo di copertura’, ‘fondo comune speculativo’ and ‘fondo comune di investimento speculativo’. As we will see in this study, and in accordance with the general views of scholars, representatives of financial institutions and the financial community in general, language is crucial, as confirmed by the existence in the French financial press of different translations for hedge funds:

Laissant de côté le trop littéral “fonds de couverture”, leurs promoteurs préconisent plutôt le “fonds alternatif”, voire le “fonds d’arbitrage”, ou encore “gestion absolue”, Trois expressions fidèles, selon eux, à leurs approches et à leurs stratégies innovantes, comme la sélection et la vente à découvert de titres, les arbitrages de courbe de taux, d’obligations convertibles, de fusions-acquisitions, ou encore plus exotiques, les opérations à base d’obligations catastrophes ou de dérivés climatiques (Raulot: 2004).

As far as the operational side is concerned, French alternative managers have the use of Organismes de placement collectif en valeurs mobilières (OPCVM) à procédure allégée. However these investment vehicles are reserved for qualified investors and have a minimum subscription requirement of EUR 500.000. According to the paper Challenges arising from alternative investment management (Amenc et al, 2003: 117) published in the Banque de France Financial Stability Review:

In France, management strategies seeking to deliver absolute returns, uncorrelated with a benchmark index have developed only marginally. They are not widely distributed and account for limited amounts under management. Amid difficult market conditions, demand for these products has grown, mirroring the international development of hedge funds. Today, these management strategies are commonly referred to as alternative, although this term has no standard international definition and its substance varies significantly. In France, alternative investments primarily consist of alternative funds of funds, i.e. French funds invested in offshore funds or French funds with a specialist bias, such as futures or options). It is therefore necessary to establish a precise legal framework which can be applied to an activity that France has tolerated for almost a decade.

This means that alternative management activity in France has had to have recourse to off-shore funds in order to be able to use less regulated strategies and lighter structures, developing at the same time an expertise in selecting hedge funds constituted under foreign law.

In our opinion, both definitions, the official denomination provided by the Italian legislator and that provided in the Journal officiel de la République française, are misleading and imbued of ideology. Both terms risk giving rise to dangerous shifts in meaning, a semantic ambiguity linked to the discordance between linguistic term and conceptual meaning. As we have already seen, the Italian legislation has created its own legal entity, conceptually similar and yet not totally overlapping, with American hedge funds. As we will argue in Section 2, the choice of the adjective spéculatifs, as well as the choice of speculativi, bears a heavy responsibility in emphasizing one of the components of the semantic spectrum of these products and thus giving a negative connotation also to such neutral words as fonds and fondi, albeit for different reasons.

2. The incongruency between general and specialist use of the term ‘spéculation’, ‘speculazione’

The Italian writer Camilleri, author of the series dedicated to the police commissioner Montalbano, during a guest appearance on the Italian television programme Che tempo che fa, on March 30 2014, was asked to list three words that were too often pronounced or were unpronounceable to the extent that they were never to be pronounced. Camilleri cited ‘spending review’, as this Anglicism is useful to hide the reality of things, and ‘speculation’. When he was asked if he meant the speculation of thinking, Camilleri replied that he meant financial and real estate speculation. Then he was asked to list some unavoidable words. Camilleri mentioned ‘honesty’, ‘fantasy’, ‘levity’ and again ‘speculation’. But added that it should be understood in the original meaning of the word, that is ‘cogitation’, ‘thought’. A ‘speculative mind’, Camilleri added, is ‘a mind capable of judging facts’. The anecdote is revealing as speculation associated with fraudsters, sharks and ill-gotten gains, especially to the detriment of other people, is the starting point of our research.

As the following graph shows, taken from the Corpus français,[4] a database composed of 37 millions sentences, thus approximately 700 millions words, created by the University of Leipzig, spéculation is followed by predicate adjectives like effrénée, forte’, by attributive adjectives such as boursière, immobilière, financière and preceded by the verb freiner. The graph in Figure 1 shows the semantic relations between the keyword spéculation and the words that co-occur very frequently in the same sentences.

Figure 1: the semantic relations for the word ‘spéculation’ taken from the Corpus français of the University of Leipzig

For the purposes of this study we have constructed a corpus made up of ten sub-corpora, the first eight electronic, the last two constructed manually. The first two electronic sub-corpora (French and Italian, referred to here as “speculation sub-corpora”) focused on the operations of hedge funds and were constructed with the same keywords translated into the respective languages but without including the terms speculazione and spéculation as seeds. It has to be remembered that the use of seeds for the construction of online corpora necessarily involves the selection of terms considered distinctive of the topic that the corpus is meant to represent, i.e. to use ‘internal criteria’ following Sinclair’s terminology.[5] Excluding the terms that we are specifically studying, if anything, avoids the pitfall of constructing a corpus biased in favour of these terms, risking circularity (e.g. over-representation of lexical patterns surrounding the seed terms);[6] the four subsequent sub-corpora were constructed with articles from Italian and French financial newspapers (namely Il Sole 24 Ore, Milano Finanza, Les Echos, La Tribune) (referred to here as “financial press sub-corpora”); two sub-corpora (French, Italian, referred to here as “hedge funds sub-corpora”) were constructed using the same seeds translated in the respective language (hedge, hedge funds, hedging, fondi, società, thus avoiding terms such as speculazione, fondi speculativi, spéculation, fonds spéculatifs) and created ad hoc to evaluate the linguistic behaviour of the French and Italian terms fondi speculativi and fonds spéculatifs in written discourse;[7] the last two ad hoc sub-corpora (Italian and French) focused on the terms fondi alternativi and fonds alternatifs (referred to here as “alternative funds sub-corpora”) were constructed manually with articles from the Italian Il Sole 24 Ore and Milano Finanza and the French La Tribune and Les Echos in the period from 2011 (the year in which the Directive on Alternative Investment Fund Managers came into force) to 2015.[8] The search was actually carried out on fondi alternativi and fonds alternatifs as more frequent than the denominations fondi di investimento alternativi and fonds d’investissement alternatifs contained in the Directive 2011/61 on Alternative Investment Fund Managers.

The exploration of our specialised French sub-corpora focused on the operations of hedge funds (see Figure 2) confirms the same essentially negative connotation surrounding this term: the verbs that are more frequently associated with the 218 occurrences of spéculation are: ‘limiter’ (30 occurrences, often associated with, among others, ‘activités spéculatives, the ‘bulles spéculatives’” etc.), ‘contrer’ (14), ‘interdire’ (74 occurrences, often associated with, among others, ‘ventes à découvert’ ). However, it is important to point out that out of the 97 occurrences of the verb ‘limiter’, 60 of them are associated with ‘le risque’ or ‘les risques’ which represent, as we have seen in Section 1, one of the characteristics of hedge funds.

Figure 2: concordance lines for the term ‘spéculation’

The specialised Italian sub-corpus focused on the operations of hedge funds, for its part, clearly shows the difference between speculazione in the negative sense and speculazione in its technical sense associated with the notions of arbitraging[9] or hedging, as in examples 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 13, 38 and 40 in Figure 3, which are operational strategies typically adopted by hedge funds.

Figure 3: concordance lines for the term ‘speculazione’

If on the one hand, then, the social sanction prevails, as Figure 1 shows, on the other hand, in the financial field there is a general acceptance of a useful, or better still, beneficial, and not negatively connotated on the axiological scale, sense of spéculation and speculazione. Far from justifying largely proscribed social behaviour, it is crucial to grasp the behavioural codes of the financial universe and to understand its governing laws, avoiding the application of ethical codes and in particular, as Luigi Einaudi, President of the Italian Republic from 1948 to 1955, wrote, the disparaging sense inherent in common usage of the term: ‘senso spregiativo accolto nel discorrere volgare’ (1956: 107). The terms speculazione and spéculation are closely and frequently associated with hedge funds and with their operational activities and strategies.

On the occasion of the harsh economic crises that have led recently to slumps – the Tequila crisis and the devaluation of the Mexican currency in 1995, the collapse of Long Term Capital Management in 2009, the sub-primes crisis from 2007 to 2009 to name just a few – hedge funds have been accused by the investment community of exacerbating tensions on the financial markets. However, according to some, hedge funds have been the scapegoat of the financial universe, and precise responsibilities have never been totally acknowledged, while grey areas still persist. The Italian social sciences encyclopaedia Treccani offers a pertinent and in-depth illustration of the semantic constellation of the entry speculazione where ambiguity, semantic charge, and the presence of a positive and negative connotation clearly appear.[10]

On the political side, the already cited report of the French Assemblée Nationale illustrates the shared consensus of the people heard by the Commission which proves that spéculation is unavoidable, but yet useful. The report also arouses perplexities concerning the lack of transparency, the danger that spéculation may lead to mimetic behaviour and bring about unrestrained dynamics (2010: 23-31). As far as short-selling is concerned, for example, the text emphasizes the illicit usage of an instrument which is otherwise indispensable (112). Here are some of the most significant comments on the concept of spéculation (23-24) by scholars, representatives of financial institutions and the financial community, taken from the cited report of the French Assemblée Nationale (2010). As can be seen from the following quotations, spéculation (1) provides a balance in financial markets, (2) is an integral part of financial markets, (3) means anticipating price movements, (4) is necessary to future markets which “work” only thanks to the spéculateurs, and (5) provides liquidity to the market:

1.   ‘En temps normal, la spéculation joue un rôle équilibrant: des acteurs financiers mieux informés que d’autres, découvrant que les prix de certains produits ne correspondent pas à leur valeur réelle, jouent sur le retour des prix à cette valeur’ (Michel Aglietta, Consultant for the Centre d’études prospectives et d’informations internationales (CEPII));

2.   ‘Sans spéculateurs, il n’y aurait pas de marché. Pour qu’une transaction se fasse, il faut un acheteur et un vendeur, chacun considérant qu’elle est dans son intérêt.[…] La spéculation est consubstantielle au marché’ (Jean-Pierre Jouyet, Chairman of the French financial markets regulator);

3.   ‘[…] spéculer, c’est essayer d’anticiper l’avenir: un épargnant qui achète des actions ne le fait pas dans l’idée qu’elles vont baisser. Tout le monde est donc peu ou prou spéculateur, financièrement ou intellectuellement’ (Bertrand Jacquillat, Professor at the Institut d’études politiques in Paris ; Chairman and co-founder of Associés en Finance);

4.   ‘[…] il est très difficile de tracer une frontière entre les opérations de ‘trading’ nécessaires et celles qui sont purement spéculatives. Les marchés à terme de biens ne fonctionnent que grâce aux spéculateurs: les opérateurs professionnels s’orientent tous dans le même sens au même moment. […] pour qu’il y ait marché, il faut pouvoir trouver des contreparties, en l’occurrence des ‘traders’ ou des “hedge funds”‘ (Patrick Artus, Chief Economist of Natixis);[11]

5.   ‘La prise de positions ouvertes est nécessaire à la liquidité des marchés’ (Christian Noyer, Governor of Banque de France).

On the basis of the results of our ad hoc financial press sub-corpora that were constructed for this study (from Il Sole 24 Ore, Milano Finanza, Les Echos, La Tribune),[12] spéculation bears a largely negative connotation but judgement is softer when referring to its effects on financial markets: it helps, inter alia, to stabilize and support prices, carrying out an adjustment action on financial markets, and provides liquidity to the market. We may consider some examples from our French financial press sub-corpora. Spéculation is elsewhere defined as ‘équilibrante’, ‘stabilisante’, and also ‘bonne’, that is, an operation which bets on the reduction of default risk. The so-called courant monétariste praises spéculation as ‘équilibrante’, a notion which is resumed in the following statement ‘la spéculation lisse les courbes de prix et leurs fluctuations’.

These examples give support to the previous analysis by Treccani encyplopedia and by the report of the French Assemblée Nationale. What, actually, is a speculator? According to the glossary of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, a speculator is a ‘trader who does not hedge, but who trades with the objective of achieving profits through the successful anticipation of price movements’. The Barrons’ Dictionary of Banking Terms enriches and expands the meaning of speculative with regard to securities, i.e.:

1)Securities rated as sub-investment paper by an investment advisory service, and thus an unsuitable investment for a bank investment portfolio or trust department. Speculative securities are rated by Standard & Poor’s as grade BB or lower, and by Moody’s Investors Service as Ba or lower.

2)Investment security subject to loss of interest or principal, or both. Banking regulators have discouraged investing in certain types of derivative mortgage backed securities, unless these are used as a hedging device of limit interest rate risk […]. (Fitch 1993: 573)

The previous definition of speculator is crucial for our research as it contains the term ‘hedge’. A hedger, according to CFTC glossary, is:

A trader who enters into positions in a futures market opposite to positions held in the cash market to minimize the risk of financial loss from an adverse price change; or who purchases or sells futures as a temporary substitute for a cash transaction that will occur later.

As we have seen, the exploration of ad hoc financial press sub-corpora enriches the semantic charge surrounding the term spéculation and speculazione, giving also major support to already known aspects. At this point, it is important to reinforce the thin and often elusive line between the negative connotation in public opinion (which, in our opinion, ends up influencing the adjectives speculativi and spéculatifs and consequently the nouns fondi and fonds) and the operational activities which distinguish hedge funds from other forms of investment funds.

A revealing example is offered by an interest rate swap with hedging purposes, i.e. with the purpose of minimizing the risk of rate fluctuations, found in the Italian Il Sole 24 Ore financial press sub-corpus. According to former article 1418 of the Italian civil code, this contract may be considered ‘void’ in the absence of a real cause, thus turning it into a speculative contract. Research into the adjective speculativo also confirms that the speculative component is defined as short-term or very short-term oriented, while all those activities which are not speculative are investment oriented. What is speculativo is mostly the misuse of these financial products, in order, for example, to cash in upfront liquidity. The exploration of our French and Italian financial press sub-corpora confirms that the meaning of speculativo and spéculatif defines itself in the negative, that is, an activity which is not for hedging purposes.[13] In this sense, the definition coincides with the above-mentioned one provided by the American Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Derivatives products, for example, according to our French sub-corpus, become spéculatifs and pathological once they go beyond a nascent and physiological condition. In conclusion, a derivative contract is signed for speculative purposes when it is not for hedging purposes, that is, not for protecting from risk, rather to assume that same risk.

3. Putting the terms ‘hedge funds’, ‘fonds spéculatifs’ and ‘fondi speculativi’ to the test of corpora

The Italian adjective speculativi in connection with fondi is considered improper by the financial literature for several reasons that we are going to list briefly. According to Nigro and Romano, hedge funds, from an operational viewpoint, on the whole manage to avoid from restrictions and regulations and maybe this is the reason why the Italian legislator has chosen the adjective speculativo to stress their high degree of risk:

Probabilmente è questo l’elemento capace di spiegare il perché un fenomeno finanziario la cui denominazione sembrerebbe evocare l’impiego di strategie atte a dar copertura agli investimenti (“hedging”), abbia invece nel tempo acquisito la fama di gestione finanziaria di tipo “speculativo” e, quindi, altamente rischiosa. Il che è soprattutto vero con riferimento all’Europa continentale, ove il fenomeno viene appunto così identificato dal legislatore italiano (fondi speculativi) e da quello Tedesco (Sondervermögen mit zusätzlichen Risiken), i quali, in un certo senso, nel momento in cui “codificano” questa forma di investimento, la connotano nel senso di un suo superiore grado di rischiosità […] (2013: 13).

The same authors express some doubts as to the use of the adjective speculativo, unless its meaning is clearly stated: ‘A parere di chi scrive, discutibile appare, invece, l’operazione di qualificare le gestioni di tipo hedge tramite l’impiego dell’aggettivo speculativo, salvo che di quell’aggettivo si chiariscano significato e portata’ (Ibid: 14). Nichele and Stefanini agree that the term fondi speculativi adopted by the Italian legislator may reveal itself misleading because the term itself very probably does not allow an understanding of their true nature:

[...] la traduzione fatta propria dal legislatore italiano del termine anglosassone “hedge fund” non pone nella corretta dimensione questa nuova tipologia di fondi, ma getta su di essi un’immagine negativa che ne enfatizza la ricerca del rendimento facendo passare in secondo piano la sofisticata gestione del rischio che invece li caratterizza (2002: 155).

However, and in this Nichele and Stefanini are at odds with Nigro and Romano, they add that the choice of the adjective speculativo is due to the fact that the Italian legislator did not force them to respect any investment ban:

[the choice of the adjective speculativo] è indicativa del fatto che [the Italian legislator] non li ha vincolati al rispetto di alcun divieto in materia di investimenti, normalmente invece previsti per altre tipologie di fondi. L’aggettivo “speculativi” va quindi inquadrato in tali termini e non necessariamente associato alla loro rischiosità, che, per molti essi, risulta assai inferiore a quella di tanti fondi comuni di investimento di tipo tradizionale” (2002: 5).

In order to analyse these terms in written discourse in association with hedge funds, we will explore two hedge funds sub-corpora (French, Italian) built using the same seeds translated in the respective languages (hedge, hedge funds, hedging, fondi, società), thus avoiding terms such as speculazione, fondi speculativi, spéculation, fonds spéculatifs.[14] For our part, the terms fondi speculativi and fonds spéculatifs increase the ethical dimension of these investment vehicles but only in terms of evaluation, as the negatively connotated semantic prosody of speculazione and spéculation has shown, thus authorising distorted inferences. Moreover, the textual dimension, as we can see in Figures 4 and 5, constitutes a supplementary layer of complexity. The Italian linguistic context proves to be highly variegated, and in any case more so than the French one.

Figure 4: concordance lines for ‘specula*’

We will start by making a few clarifications. The terms fondi and fonds do not allow inferences to be drawn from them. On the contrary, it is the association with the predicates speculativi and spéculatifs that leads to inferences being drawn. The predicate gives information which is not contained in the subject. In the case of compound terms such as fondi speculativi, the meaning is motivated by the respective meanings of the two components. The conceptual component speculativo is incorporated in the meaning of the compound term, which is not arbitrary, unless otherwise stated. In both cases, fondi speculativi and fonds spéculatifs emphasize one of the components of the semantic spectrum of these particular vehicles, with the concept of speculazione/spéculation spreading its negative connotations to these adjectives. It is also important to recall, as we have seen in Section 2, that the use of the term fondi speculativi is improper because what is speculativo is the strategy of these funds, a strategy that can be carried out for hedging purposes or for speculative purposes, or the misuse of these vehicles, as our sub-corpora have shown. Having said this, the use in written discourse of these terms shows another problematic aspect, which risks hampering the comprehension of the conceptual difference between an American hedge fund and the fondi speculativi under Italian law. We have summarized below some of the most meaningful examples of association between fondi speculativi and hedge (52 occurrences out of 215 occurrences of fondi speculativi) that appear in Figure 4. They are as follow:

(example 2) […] fondi speculativi (in inglese hedge funds)
(example 3) […] fondi speculativi (o hedge funds)
(example 14) Gli hedge funds (in italiano fondi speculativi)
(example 20) Gli hedge funds sono fondi speculativi […]
(example 24) Un fondo speculativo (in inglese hedge fund) detto anche fondo hedge…
(example 26) […] fondi hedge (o fondi speculativi)

Let us focus on examples 2, 3, 14, 24, 26: all of them stipulate the full equivalence, from a conceptual point of view, between the two terms, or better yet they present themselves as equivalents. The same evaluations which apply to hedge funds are applied to fondi speculativi, thus creating a sort of illusion of equivalence. Moreover, the adjective speculativi and spéculatifs negatively influence the nouns fondi and fonds. Adopting the term fondi speculativi for hedge funds, there is the risk that the reference is to American hedge funds and not to fondi speculativi under Italian law, bearing in mind the conceptual differences that we have pointed out in Section 1. On the other hand, example 20, ‘Gli hedge funds sono fondi speculativi’, simply characterises itself as encyclopaedic information, absolutely sharable, a realization or a concise characterization of these investment vehicles. As far as the term fonds speculatifs in French written discourse is concerned, the examples in Figure 5 show a mainly negative connotation surrounding this term.

Figure 5: concordance lines for ‘spécula*’

According to Figure 5, the fonds spéculatifs invest only in the short term (examples 129, 141, 144), are located in tax havens (example 134), are related to the collapse of the Lehman Brothers (examples 131, 150), are ‘endettés jusqu’au cou’ (example 142), profit from market anomalies (examples 133, 148) and are accused of illegal behaviour (example 147). As far as the linguistic context is concerned, the French one is less variegated than the Italian one, as the preference for the recommended term fonds spéculatifs shows.

4. Assessing the impact of the new concept of ‘alternative investment funds’

In this section we aim to analyse and assess the impact of the Directive 2011/61/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on Alternative Investment Fund Managers and amending Directives 2003/41/EC and 2009/65/EC and Regulations (EC) No 1060/2009 and (EU) No 1095/2010 from a semantic and linguistic perspective. In order to do so, it is important to recall here the recitals 1 to 3 which recapitulate the prerequisites (‘recent financial difficulties’), the aim (‘establishing common requirements […] in order to provide a coherent approach to the related risks and their impact on investors and markets in the Union’) and the target audience (‘Managers of alternative investment funds’) of this Directive.[15]

The Directive on Alternative Funds Managers clearly states that its objectives are manifold, including the creation of a harmonized regulatory framework thus ensuring disclosure and investor protection. From a linguistic point of view, the expression alternative (investment) funds, like the expression fondi speculativi, is a vague one (what does alternative mean?), but less imprecise. Unlike fondi speculativi, and in the absence of an unequivocal definition of hedge funds, the Directive comes up with a definition in the negative: alternative investment funds are ‘all types of funds that are not covered by Directive 2009/65/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 July 2009 on the coordination of laws, regulations and administrative provisions relating to the undertakings for collective investment in transferable securities (UCITS)’.

From a linguistic point of view, the expression alternative investment funds acts here as a hypernym as it encompasses a variety of funds: real estate and infrastructure funds, private equity funds, hedge funds. Also, it should be noted that there are no occurrences of the term hedge funds in the text of the AIFM Directive but only in the recitals to the same Directive. This is not surprising. On the contrary, this absence demonstrates once again, in our view, the wish to reassure investors. Moreover, at this stage of our analysis, the fact that the French and Italian translation of hedge funds contained in the recitals is respectively fondi speculativi and fonds spéculatifs proves to be irrelevant and would only demonstrate the passive linguistic attitude of the European legislator. The expression fondi speculativi has been classified as hyperbole as it focuses on the risky aspects embedded in these funds. On the contrary, we think that the new category of alternative investment funds more closely reflects a euphemistic and reassuring expression. The prosody surrounding these new financial vehicles has also changed: unlike fondi speculativi or fonds spéculatifs, fondi alternativi or fonds alternatifs are no longer accused of illegal behaviour.

The two Italian and French “alternative funds sub-corpora” were constructed manually with articles from the Italian Il Sole 24 Ore and Milano Finanza and the French La Tribune and Les Echos in the period from 2011 (the year in which the Directive on Alternative Investment Fund Managers came into force) to 2015. These sub-corpora highlight specific positive aspects (see Figures 6 and 7).[16]

The Italian sub-corpus (Figure 6) shows that these new financial vehicles will bring about a new homogeneity in the hedge funds industry (example 11), they gain in popularity, prompted by the search for higher yields by investors (example 16), they bring in larger and larger amounts (examples 19, 21, 23, 24, 25, 27), they are affected by specific constraints, which means that they are less risky than previous hedge funds (examples 13, 14, 15, 20, 26, 29, 30, 31, 31, 33, 34, 35), they represent an era after investment in real estate (example 18).

Figure 6: concordance lines for the term ‘fondi alternativi’

The French sub-corpus (Figure 7), on its part, shows that this sector is a monitored and regulated one (examples 30, 32, 34, 35, 41), that the new Directive provides a better framework for these funds (examples 16, 20, 21, 23) and more protection for the investors (example 27). Also they are more transparent (example 30): looking at the collocates with fonds alternatifs, the top fifty, in order of frequency, refer to ‘gestionnaires’, ‘Directive’, ‘gérants’, ‘AIFM’, ‘Ucits’ and ‘transparence’.

Figure 7: concordance lines for the term ‘fonds alternatifs’

So, what are the reasons for this regaining of popularity? We think that the reasons are specifically attributable to the new regulatory policy which has been implemented by the AIFM Directive, which has also prompted a change in the terminological denomination of these investment vehicles. The expressions fondi alternativi and fonds alternatifs, reassuring and vague terms which define themselves in the negative, specifically reflects this turnaround. Both the French and Italian financial press sub-corpora show this reassuring trend in varying degrees. The new Directive seems to have ushered in a new era for the alternative investment industry but some difficulties remain.

5. Discussion of results and conclusions

The main innovation of our study is its specific focus on the ideological connotations surrounding the choice of the adjectives speculativi and spéculatifs and of the new denominations fondi alternativi and fonds alternatifs in the Italian and French financial press on the basis of an analysis carried out on comparable specialised sub-corpora. The findings of this study show that there is still a certain degree of confusion surrounding the conceptual differences and the inappropriateness of the choice of the adjective speculativi and spéculatifs, a choice which risks conveying only part of the complex concept represented by hedge funds and also spreading a negative connotation to such neutral nouns as fondi and fonds. Moreover, it shows that a change in regulatory policy has prompted a change in denomination: from hedge funds through fondi speculativi/fonds spéculatifs to fondi alternativi/fonds alternatifs. Semantic prosody has changed too: if the aura of meaning surrounding fondi speculativi is substantially negative, as the words that typically co-occur has shown, the aura of meaning surrounding fondi alternativi is a reassuring one.

Treatment in written discourse does not help, in particular from an intralinguistic and an interlinguistic perspective between English and Italian terms. Hence there is a risk that the frequent juxtaposition between fondi speculativi and hedge funds smoothes the conceptual differences between the two terms, thus creating the presumption of equivalence and allowing erroneous inferences.

However, we would like to mention that the findings of this study should be interpreted with caution. Future studies could also refine the methodology used in this study to provide a better insight into the association between linguistic terms and semantic values, e.g. building bigger sub-corpora to support results.

As a conclusion, we are pleased to quote again Luigi Einaudi (both quotations are translated in footnote) when referring to the ‘attività’ on Commodities Exchanges, activities referred to as mainly speculative in the negative sense, that is, using a strongly connotated adjective in Italian common usage:

Se si usasse da tutti la parola ‘speculazione’ nel senso di ‘operazione fatta da chi, guardando al di là della punta del suo naso, si preoccupa di quel che può accadere nell’avvenire’, non vi sarebbe nessun inconveniente nell’usarla. Siccome però l’uso comune è legato a concetti quali ‘filibustiere’ – ‘brigante in guanti gialli’ – ‘frequentatore di locali malfamati’ e simili, parrebbe opportuno astenersene nei documenti legislativi (1956: 107).[17]

And again:

fa d’uopo riportare la parola speculazione al suo significato genuino; che è quello di chi guarda all’avvenire, di chi tenta, a suo rischio, di scrutare (speculare) l’orizzonte lontano ed indovinare i tempi che verranno. Purtroppo, gli ‘speculatori’ veri sono rarissimi (1973: 347).[18]

Mindful of Luigi Einaudi’s remarks, and in the face of the multitude of definitions and equivalents that reflects the lack of conceptual clarity, as we have seen in Section 1, the translational proposal ‘Performance funds’ (that is funds which generate absolute performance, de-correlated from market trends and whose management fees are instead correlated to the performance of the fund) made by financial guru Soros should not be ignored:

Hedge funds engage in a variety of investment activities. They cater to sophisticated investors and are not subject to regulations that apply to mutual funds geared toward the general public. Fund managers are compensated on the basis of performance rather than as a fixed percentage of assets. ‘Performance funds’ would be a more accurate description (Vaughan 2003).

Soros’ proposed translation and the considerations on the inappropriateness of the adjective speculativo seen in this presentation when referring to hedge funds give us an insight into the degree of awareness of market players towards linguistic, conceptual and translational aspects.

However, if on the one hand the different terms proposed show how hard it is to find a common definition, on the other, as the following warning referred to France seems to suggest, the suspicion that hedge funds still generate, and the lack of a unanimously accepted translation and of a respectable status can hamper the success of these investment instruments. And this, even though the expression fonds spéculatifs reflects only one of the features of hedge funds, i.e. the use of high levels of leverage:

Le commerce des hedge funds dans l’Hexagone est bridé par la méfiance qu’ils inspirent encore aux investisseurs et aux autorités de tutelle tricolores. Peut-être leur manque-t-il, pour accéder en France à un statut parfaitement respectable, une traduction unanimement acceptée du vocable anglophone. Aucune version n’étant à ce jour parvenue à s’imposer. Cinq ans après la faillite de LTCM, il reste difficile de convaincre ses clients de souscrire à des “fonds spéculatifs”, même si l’expression reflète un des aspects du hedge fund, à savoir le recours à l’endettement en vue d’accroître l’effet de levier et de doper ses performances (Raulot: 2004).

This highlights once again the primary responsibility of language and translation in transmitting concepts adequately and the danger of inducing erroneous inferences through semantic discrepancy.


Amenc, Noël, François Haas, and Mathieu Vaissié (2003) “Challenges arising from alternative investment management”, Banque de France, Financial Stability Review 3: 100–121, URL: http://www.banquefrance.fr/fileadmin/user_upload/banque_de_france/publications/Revue_de_la_stabilite_financiere/etud5_1103.pdf (accessed 3 March 2014).

Assemblée Nationale (2010) Rapport fait au nom de la commission d’enquête sur les mécanismes de spéculation affectant le fonctionnement des économies, URL: http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/13/rap-enq/r3034.asp (accessed 6 October 2014).

BootCat, URL: http://bootcat.sslmit.unibo.it/ (accessed 14 September 2015).

Dancette, Jeanne (2013) “Le vocabulaire économique et social: entre termes, formules discursives et noms propres”, Meta 58, no. 2: 449–466.

Dipartimento del Tesoro (1998) Decreto 24 maggio 1999, n. 228, URL: http://www.dt.tesoro.it/export/sites/sitodt/modules/documenti_it/regolamentazione_bancaria_finanziaria/compendio_tuif/11_-_2007.pdf (accessed 4 June 2014).

Einaudi, Luigi (1956) Lo scrittoio del presidente, Torino, Einaudi.

Einaudi, Luigi (1973) Il buongoverno. Saggi di economia politica (1897-1954), Roma-Bari, Laterza.

European Central Bank (2004). Financial Stability Review 2004 December, URL: http://www.ecb.europa.eu/pub/pdf/other/financialstabilityreview200412en.pdf??bec16d622a57688b206a61f0732f60a0 (accessed 7 July 2014).

Fitch, Thomas P. (1993) Dictionary of Banking Terms (Barron’s Business Guides), Barron’s Educational Series, New York.

FranceTerme, URL: http://www.culture.fr/franceterme (accessed 18 May 2015).

Gavioli, Laura, and Federico Zanettin (2000) “I corpora bilingui nell’apprendimento della traduzione. Riflessioni su un’esperienza pedagogica” in I corpora nella didattica della traduzione. Corpus Use and Learning to Traslate, Bernardini, Silvia and Federico Zanettin (eds.) Bologna, CLUEB: 61–80.

IATE, URL: http://iate.europa.eu/SearchByQueryLoad.do?method=load (accessed 18 May 2015).

InsideTrade LLC, URL: http://insidetradellc.com/blog/futures-education-hedging-vs-speculating/ (accessed 6 October 2014).

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Krieg-Planque, Alice (2012) Analyser les discours institutionnels, Paris, Armand Colin.

Maldussi, Danio (2009) “I concetti di fair value e costo storico nel diritto contabile francese e italiano: riorganizzazione concettuale, implicazioni semantiche e problematiche traduttivo-terminologiche”, Mediazioni  7, URL: http://mediazioni.sitlec.unibo.it (accessed 3 May 2015).

Manuli, Alessandra, Elisabetta Manuli and Nunzia Melaccio (2003) Gli hedge fund parlano italiano, Milano, Jackson Libri.

Nichele, Davide, and Filippo Stefanini (2002) Hedge Funds. Investire per generare rendimenti assoluti, Milano, Il Sole 24 Ore.

Nigro, Casimiro Antonio, and Giovanni Romano (2013) La regolamentazione degli hedge funds negli USA: dal quasi-collasso di Long-Term Capital Management al Dodd-Frank act, URL: http://www.ilcaso.it/articoli/358.pdf (accessed 1 March 2014).

Raulot, Nicolas (2004) Hedge fund ou Bolloré en français, La Tribune [12 October].

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Thuesen, Jesper Ulriksen (2005) Hedge Funds in Denmark and Internationally, URL: http://www.nationalbanken.dk/en/publications/Pages/2005/04/Hedge-Funds-in-Denmark-and-Internationally.aspx (accessed 8 May 2014).

Treccani.it. Enciclopedia delle Scienze Sociali, URL: http://www.treccani.it/catalogo/catalogo_prodotti/i_grandi_temi/scienze_sociali.html (accessed 15 September 2014).

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U.S. Department of the Treasury (2014) Report of The President’s Working Group on Financial Markets, Hedge Funds, Leverage, and the Lessons of Long-Term Capital Management, URL: http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/fin-mkts/documents/hedgfund.pdf (accessed 5 April 2014).

Vaughan, David A. (2003) Selected definitions of “hedge fund”. Comments submitted for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Roundtable on Hedge Funds, May 14-15, URL: www.sec.gov/spotlight/hedgefunds/hedge-vaughn.html (accessed 29 July 2014).

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[1] The example that we have analysed is the Italian and French translation of the term fair value (namely with valore equo and juste valeur) which is one of the major new elements following the adoption of International Accounting Standards by companies listed on Stock Exchanges.

[2] According to Krieg-Planque, there are historical reasons for this. In her view, at least in the French tradition, discourse analysis is inextricably linked to a Marxist perspective and to a reflection on ideology: ‘[…] l’analyse du discours dans son versant français (l’”Ecole française d’analyse du discours”) s’est constituée au milieu des années 1960, dans la convergence d’un travail scientifique sur les textes et d’une volonté militante de critique des discours dans une perspective marxiste. Dans la configuration intellectuelle de l’époque, marquée par le structuralisme, irriguée par la pensée de Louis Althusser et par celle de Michel Foucault, l’analyse du discours est alors indissociable d’une réflexion sur l’idéologie’ (2012: 49).

[3] According to the classification of discursive formulas maintained by Dancette, the list is made up of euphemism, hyperbole, slogans and passwords (2013: 455). For an in-depth analysis of the functioning of discursive formulas, see also Krieg-Planque 2009 and Krieg-Planque 2012.

[4] The Corpus français was created by the research group of the University of Leipzig (Germany) and developed with the participation of Daniel Elmiger and Alain Kamber (University of Neuchâtel / Switzerland). Interfaces and research tools have been developed as part of the project Leipzig Corpora Collection of Computer Science of the University of Leipzig.

[5] ‘Selection criteria that are derived from an examination of the communicative function of a text are called external criteria, and those that reflect details of the language of the text are called internal criteria. Corpora should be designed and constructed exclusively on external criteria’ (Sinclair 1992).

[6] Excluding a term from a set of seeds does not mean, however, that it will be absent in the corpus.

[7] The first eight comparable sub-corpora used for this research were constructed with the software BootCat (http://bootcat.sslmit.unibo.it/), developed by Eros Zanchetta (University of Bologna), Marco Baroni
(University of Trento), Silvia Bernardini (University of Bologna) and
Nikola Ljubešić (University Zagreb). The construction of electronic sub-corpora is clearly suitable to providing the answers to the issues relating to linguistic behaviour in written discourse that we are seeking; however it should be kept in mind that these sub-corpora are not to be considered representative of the whole spectrum of the French and Italian press but just of the articles that BootCat included in the sub-corpora. Wikipedia articles and dictionary items were excluded from the selection of articles. The size of French sub-corpus dedicated to spéculation is 754.952 words. The keywords (called ‘seeds’ in BootCat language) used to build the French sub-corpus are the following: vente à découvert, protection, levier, levier financier, leverage, dérivés, fonds de couverture, fonds alternatifs, short, hedge, fonds spéculatifs, couverture, hedging, position longue, position courte, rendement absolu et hedge funds. The same translated seeds have been used to build our specialised Italian sub-corpus (1.115.206 words). As the literature on corpus linguistics states, comparable specialised sub-corpora have a narrow size but offer, on the other hand, the advantage of being focused on a specific domain or sub-domain. For an in-depth analysis of this issue, see Gavioli and Zanettin 2000.

[8] The Alternative Funds sub-corpora were constructed manually because the software BootCat does not allow the selection of online texts with a specific time frame.

[9] According to the glossary of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, arbitrage is ‘A strategy involving the simultaneous purchase and sale of identical or equivalent commodity futures contracts or other instruments across two or more markets in order to benefit from a discrepancy in their price relationship. In a theoretical efficient market, there is a lack of opportunity for profitable arbitrage’.


[10] For a detailed analysis of the concept of speculazione, see the entry Speculazione by Massimo De Felice in Treccani’s Enciclopedia delle Scienze Sociali, retrievable from: http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/speculazione_%28Enciclopedia_delle_scienze_sociali%29/. The difference between speculazione and gambling, the profile of a speculator in collective and social imagination and in the financial field are also analysed.

[11] It is important to note that in the footnote referring to the quotation of Patrick Artus (example 4), hedge funds are defined ‘fonds d’investissement’ dits ‘alternatifs’ and not ‘spéculatifs’ and elsewhere in the text ‘fonds de couverture’ (85), the denomination fonds spéculatifs never being used in the text in association with hedge funds. As we will see later on, this remark is particularly significant as the absence of juxtaposition between fonds spéculatifs and hedge funds prevents the concept of spéculation from giving a negative connotation also to fonds.

[12] The seeds that were used are the following: fondi speculativi, fondi alternativi, leva, speculativa, derivati, speculazione, leverage, opzioni, leveraged, short, fondi di copertura, hedge, speculativo, speculative, hedging, copertura, coperture, vendita allo scoperto, hedge funds. The same seeds, translated in French, were used to build the French financial press sub-corpora. The size of Il Sole 24 Ore sub-corpus is 107.283 words; Milano Finanza 79.146 words; La Tribune 29.648 words; Les Echos 80.130 words.

[13] The difference between speculation and hedging is illustrated in the following statement taken from InsideTrade LLC: ‘Without proper risk management, your yields will always disappear in the long-run. In summary, hedging and speculating are the main strategies of futures traders. Speculation aims for high yields by predicting price movement, while hedging focuses on reducing risk to stabilize returns. Though either strategy can generate profit, it’s always best to use both when trading futures. Whether you choose to speculate or hedge, the reality is, futures trading is only as risky as the strategy’. Retrieved from http://insidetradellc.com/blog/futures-education-hedging-vs-speculating/


[14] The two sub-corpora were compared to three general corpora, so as to verify that selected texts were adequately specialised. The list of keywords, ranked by frequency, generated from the comparison with an Italian general corpus include: investimento, strategie, speculativo, mercato, titoli, hedging, gestione, rendimento, portafoglio, short. The search was in fact carried out on specula* and spécula* in order to find the plurals and feminine forms of these adjectives.

[15] ‘(1) | Managers of alternative investment funds (AIFMs) are responsible for the management of a significant amount of invested assets in the Union, account for significant amounts of trading in markets for financial instruments, and can exercise an important influence on markets and companies in which they invest.

(2) | The impact of AIFMs on the markets in which they operate is largely beneficial, but recent financial difficulties have underlined how the activities of AIFMs may also serve to spread or amplify risks through the financial system. Uncoordinated national responses make the efficient management of those risks difficult. This Directive therefore aims at establishing common requirements governing the authorisation and supervision of AIFMs in order to provide a coherent approach to the related risks and their impact on investors and markets in the Union.

 (3) | Recent difficulties in financial markets have underlined that many AIFM strategies are vulnerable to some or several important risks in relation to investors, other market participants and markets. In order to provide comprehensive and common arrangements for supervision, it is necessary to establish a framework capable of addressing those risks taking into account the diverse range of investment strategies and techniques employed by AIFMs. Consequently, this Directive should apply to AIFMs managing all types of funds that are not covered by Directive 2009/65/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 July 2009 on the coordination of laws, regulations and administrative provisions relating to the undertakings for collective investment in transferable securities (UCITS) (4), irrespective of the legal or contractual manner in which the AIFMs are entrusted with this responsibility. AIFMs should not be entitled to manage UCITS within the meaning of Directive 2009/65/EC on the basis of an authorisation under this Directive’ (Directive 2011/61/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on Alternative Investment Fund Managers and amending Directives 2003/41/EC and 2009/65/EC and Regulations (EC) No 1060/2009 and (EU) No 1095/2010)’.

[16] The size of Milano Finanza sub-corpus is 37.564 words; Il Sole 24 Ore 31.948; La Tribune 17.113 words; Les Echos 14.613.

[17] “If everyone employed the word ‘speculation’ in the sense of ‘an operation undertaken by someone who, looking beyond the end of his nose, is concerned about what might happen in the future’, there would be no problem with using it. But as common use is tied to the idea of a ‘filibuster’, ‘brigand in kid gloves’, ‘frequenter of undesirable places’, it would seem to be reasonable to abstain from using it in legislative documents”.

[18] “It is necessary to take the word ‘speculation’ back to its original meaning; that is, someone who looks to the future, someone who tries, at his own risk, to make out (speculate about) the far horizon and to guess what the future holds in store for us. Unfortunately, real “speculators” are very rare.”


La presse française et égyptienne francophone après la Révolution du 25 janvier 2011:

étude sur le traduction du discours économique égyptien

By Dima El Husseini (French University in Egypt, Egypt)

Abstract & Keywords


After the Egyptian revolution of the 25th of January 2011, widely covered in the world media, the revolutionary discourse has experienced a major turning point in the society; both classical Arabic and Egyptian dialect were combined to express people’s aspirations. In this context, the economic press language has been influenced by political events. The aim of this paper is to analyze the phenomenon of interleaving the Egyptian dialect within the classical Arabic in the economic discourse of the Egyptian press. It observes the transition of verbal dialect to written text. The neologism, the loanwords and the semantic drift will be analyzed in relation to the socio-political and cultural conditions in Egypt. The linguistic methods used in the translation of economic discourse to the French language in both the French press and the French-speaking Egyptian press will be analyzed. This includes the metaphor, the euphemism and the ellipsis. From this perspective, the conditions surrounding the perception of the translated discourse as well as notional and cultural difficulties will be examined. The definition of the target reader and, thereafter, the country or region, is an important consideration in the translation process. A question is raised: does the Egyptian press target French-speaking Egyptian and non-Egyptian readers the way that the French press target French readers? In addition, our goal is to observe, identify and analyze the neologism in the economic texts targeting the general Arabic public press after the revolution. The paper discusses how economic discourses were involved in the creation of a new Arabic terminology after the revolution. The cultural aspect will be analyzed, as well, regarding its relationship with the conditions surrounding the text perception and meaning restoration. The corpus analyzed in this study consists of economic articles published in the electronic Egyptian press (government and opposition / Arabic and French) and in the French press from June 30, 2012 to June 30, 2013.


Au lendemain de la Révolution égyptienne du 25 janvier 2011, largement médiatisée dans le monde entier, le discours révolutionnaire témoigne d’un tournant majeur dans la société égyptienne, mariant arabe littéral et dialecte égyptien dans la confirmation de l’aspiration populaire. Dans ce contexte, la production textuelle de la presse dans le domaine économique subit l’influence des événements politiques. Cette étude se propose d’analyser, le phénomène de l’imbrication du dialecte égyptien et de l’arabe littéral dans le discours économique de la presse égyptienne. Il s’agit d’observer le passage de l’oral à l’écrit. Le néologisme, les emprunts internes et externes et les glissements sémantiques seront analysés en rapport avec la situation politico-sociale et culturelle de l’Egypte. Il s’agira d’analyser les procédés linguistiques utilisés dans la traduction du discours économique vers le français dans la presse française et dans la presse égyptienne francophone : métaphore, euphémisme et ellipse. Dans cette optique, une réflexion sera menée sur les conditions de réception du discours traduit ainsi que sur les difficultés d’ordre notionnel et culturel. La presse égyptienne francophone interpelle-t-elle les lecteurs égyptiens francophones et le lecteur francophone comme le lecteur français de la presse française? Notre objectif est aussi d’observer, de recenser et d’analyser le néologisme au lendemain de la Révolution dans les textes économiques de la presse grand public en langue arabe. Il sera question de la manière dont les discours économiques produits au lendemain de la Révolution participent à la construction d’une nouvelle terminologie arabe. L’aspect culturel sera analysé dans son rapport avec les conditions de réception et la restitution du sens. Notre corpus est constitué d’articles à contenu économique publiés dans la presse égyptienne électronique (gouvernementale, indépendante et de l’opposition/arabe et francophone) et dans la presse française du 30 juin 2012 au 30 juin 2013.

Keywords: economic and financial translation, economic discourse, Egyptian revolution, neologisms, traduction économique, discours économique, révolution égyptienne, néologismes

©inTRAlinea & Dima El Husseini (2015).
"La presse française et égyptienne francophone après la Révolution du 25 janvier 2011:"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: New Insights into Specialised Translation
Edited by: Daniel Gallego-Hernández
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Permanent URL: http://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/2147

1. Introduction

Le propos de cette étude est de montrer, d’une part, comment la terminologie économique et financière traitée dans la presse égyptienne arabe a été traduite dans la presse égyptienne francophone et française et, d’autre part, l’effet des procédés linguistiques utilisés dans la traduction sur le lectorat cible. Notre analyse portera sur la traduction de termes ayant suscité une polémique en Egypte dans les domaines économique et financier, vu la problématique qu’ils posent dans l’étude des conditions de réception du point de vue traductologique. Nous tenterons de montrer en quoi la diversité des procédés linguistiques du discours économique traduit est liée à la situation de communication. Notre réflexion traductologique portera sur les convergences et les divergences de la traduction d’un même terme ainsi que sur ses conséquences sur le lecteur cible.

Notre étude commence par la présentation du corpus avant d’approcher le discours économique égyptien. Ensuite, nous analyserons les procédés linguistiques utilisés dans la traduction de termes tirés du corpus. Enfin, nous présenterons la synthèse des résultats obtenus.

2. Corpus

Notre corpus est composé de textes à contenu économique (200 articles) tirés des versions électroniques de la presse égyptienne arabe et francophone (63 275 mots) et de la presse française (14 144 mots). Il s’agit de la presse grand public visant un lectorat non spécialiste. Ces textes traitent de la situation économique de l’Egypte du 30 juin 2012 au 30 juin 2013. Cet espace temporel, sous le pouvoir des Frères musulmans, a connu des changements dans le domaine économique qui ont influencé aussi bien la langue arabe que la langue française.

Quelques éléments de précision s’imposent pour souligner que notre choix du corpus (77 419 mots) s’est porté sur les différentes tendances de la presse écrite égyptienne et française. Certains articles ont porté sur la presse officieuse en Egypte (qui exprime les thèses du gouvernement) comme Al Ahram. D’autres ont été extraits des quotidiens égyptiens indépendants comme Al Shorouq, de l’opposition comme Al Wafd et du Parti des Frères musulmans au pouvoir (parti de la Liberté et de la justice (PLJ), Al Horeya Wal Adala (suspendu en décembre 2013). En ce qui concerne la presse écrite française, certains articles ont été tirés des quotidiens Le Monde (indépendant), Le Figaro (droite) et Libération (gauche). La presse égyptienne francophone est représentée par l’hebdomadaire Al Ahram Hebdo (officieux). En réalité, il existe deux journaux égyptiens francophones officieux: un quotidien et un hebdomadaire. Le choix est tombé sur Al Ahram Hebdo car il est plus lu en Egypte que le quotidien. Ces articles tirés de sources diverses fournissent des éléments de comparaison utiles à notre étude. D’une part, ils permettent d’observer et d’expliquer le traitement des termes relevant du domaine économique dans la presse égyptienne et leur traduction dans la presse française et égyptienne francophone. D’autre part, ils favorisent une meilleure compréhension de la spécificité du contexte économique de l’Egypte pendant cette période.

Nous avons dépouillé le corpus et cherché les équivalents français en nous appuyant sur l’occurrence des termes dans les domaines économique et financier en les situant dans leur contexte discursif.

3. Discours économique égyptien entre le 30 juin 2012 et le 30 juin 2013

3.1. Néologisme en économie

La révolution égyptienne du 25 janvier 2011 a mené à la chute de Moubarak. Morsi (membre du PLJ) est élu président en juin 2012. Le 30 juin 2013, une grande mobilisation contre le pouvoir mène à la chute des Frères musulmans. Dans ce contexte, la terminologie économique de la presse égyptienne arabe dans la période du 30 juin 2012 au 30 juin 2103, influencée par les changements politiques, reflète l’ensemble des concepts qui appartiennent à la pensée économique des Frères musulmans. Ces termes dénomment des notions propres au projet “Renaissance” de Morsi et du volet économique du programme électoral du PLJ pour les législatives de 2011, basées sur les principes de l’économie islamique. Cette dernière y est exprimée à travers une phrase-clé “il s’agit de remplacer graduellement les institutions entâchées de riba (prêt à intérêt) par les institutions islamiques”.

Dans le cadre du projet Renaissance, nous nous focalisons sur l’aspect économique. S’agit-il de la renaissance qu’a connue l’Egypte sous le règne de Mohamed Ali (1805-1849), appelée “époque de la Renaissance”, caractérisée par le développement économique à travers la réforme agraire ? Dans le cadre de ce projet, le vocable “renaissance” n’a pas la même charge culturelle et émotive. Ce que les Frères entendent par renaissance c’est le retour à la source : la Charia (loi islamique). Ainsi, renaissance économique rime-t-elle avec l’application d’un système économique islamique. Connaissant une extension sémantique, “renaissance économique” devient synonyme d’ “islamisation économique”.

Dans ce contexte, de nouveaux termes voient le jour dont la notion de l’économie islamique ouverte (إسلام اقتصادي مستنير) qui prône l’application d’un système économique islamique modéré basé sur l’ouverture au monde moderne. Restée dans les confins de la presse égyptienne, cette notion n’a pas été reprise par la presse française. D’autres termes nouveaux naissent puisant dans la langue médiévale comme la proposition d’un nombre d’experts de l’économie islamique concernant la mise en place d’un “fonds d’aide” (صندوق ميسرة), le vocable arabe “aide” (ميسرة) étant désuet est exprimé de nos jours par (إعانة). Dans le cadre du projet de loi sur les sukuks islamiques, figurent les termes “صندوق مخاطر الاستثمار” (Fonds des risques d’investissement) et “هيئة الشريعة” (Autorité de la Charia). En effet, avant le 30 juin 2012, certains auteurs avaient exprimé leur crainte vis-à-vis de l’émergence de termes substituant aux termes dont l’usage est attesté dans l’environnement économique égyptien comme “revenu sur l’investissement” (العائد على الاستثمار) par opposition à “prix d’intérêt” (سعر الفائدة) et sukuks (صكوك) par opposition à “bons de trésor” (أذون خزانة).

C’est dans ce contexte que le néologisme “frérisation de l’État” (أخونة الدولة) “frérisation de l’économie”(أخونة الاقتصاد) et “frérisation des finances”(أخونة المالية) est utilisé après le 30 juin 2012 par la presse égyptienne indépendante et de l’opposition. Cette dernière distingue “frérisation”, d’ “islamisation” et d’ “autonomisation”, mettant en avant la connotation négative du terme : remplacer le personnel étatique par les membres de la confrérie. La presse francophone égyptienne a eu recours à l’euphémisme pour exprimer ce phénomène “Changement des ministres : cosmétique financière” (15-21 mai 2013, n° 943).

Comment ce néologisme a-t-il été appréhendé dans le contexte français ? Il ressort de l’observation que “frérisation” avant le 30 juin 2013 était assimilée à “islamisation” tandis qu’à l’approche de la chute des Frères, son sens évolue et se distingue d’ “islamisation”. “Frérisation” a été exprimée par la métaphore dans l’article du Figaro (06 janvier 2013) intitulé “Face à la crise, l’Egypte forme un nouveau gouvernement” traitant de la nomination du Ministre des Finances : “le quotidien libéral Al Tahrir dénonce une “frérisation” des institutions, en accusant le président de placer ses pions.” Cette métaphore, (reprise plus tard par le Monde du 7 février 2013) explicite le terme qui ne prête pas à confusion : les Frères sont nommés aux postes clés pour contrôler L’Etat.

Il y a, dans la pensée actuelle, une lutte contre la “frérisation” (ce qui ne signifie pas lutter contre l’Islam) car l’Egypte allait arriver à un Etat théocratique. Une question se pose : Ce terme va-t-il se maintenir ou va-t-il disparaître avec la lutte actuelle contre la “frérisation”?

3.2. Vulgarisation du discours économique égyptien

Traitant d’un basculement vers un système économique islamique, la presse tend vers une vulgarisation économique pour rendre accessible aux non spécialistes la notion d’économie islamique qui n’est pas assez connue en Egypte comme dans les pays du Golfe. Cette vulgarisation s’apparentant le plus souvent à un discours didactique, est assurée principalement par le journal officieux, Al Ahram (édition arabe et francophone) qui a publié une série d’articles sur l’économie islamique visant à encourager les lecteurs à “se convertir” au nouveau système économique.

Ce “discours de vulgarisation à caractère économique” (Resche 2009: 12), assuré conjointement par les spécialistes de l’économie islamique et les journalistes, a été largement accompagné de l’imbrication du dialecte égyptien et de l’arabe littéral, phénomène caractérisant la rédaction journalistique au lendemain de la Révolution de 2011. La presse s’exprime en variant les registres, allant du registre familier (parfois argotique) au registre courant. Dans le contexte économique, des expressions du dialiecte liées au savoir et aux pratiques économiques envahissent les journaux locaux. Citons, à titre d’exemple, l’expression relative à la pratique de la riba : “calculer les intérêts en cachette” (احتساب فوائد تحت الطرابيزة) (Al Ahram, 11 septembre 2012) (littéralement : calculer les intérêts en dessous de la table). “Calculer les intérêts” est écrit en arabe littéral tandis qu’ “en dessous de la table” est écrit en dialect égyptien. Pour mettre le savoir économique au niveau du lecteur, les journalistes et les spécialistes donnent des explications et avancent des arguments à l’appui d’exemples tirés de la vie quotidienne relatant des expériences réelles vécues par les Egyptiens : le cas d’un fonctionnaire qui hésite entre une banque islamique et une banque conventionnelle (Al Ahram, 3 juin 2012). Dans ce contexte, l’accent est mis une fois de plus sur l’éthique en matière d’économie basée sur les principes de l’Islam : la loyauté et la sincérité priment sur les affaires économiques.

4. Analyse

Notre analyse portera sur la traduction de deux termes liés à la polémique suscitée dans la presse égyptienne à travers deux événements largement médiatisés aussi bien par la presse égyptienne que par la presse mondiale : le prêt accordé par le Fonds monéraire international (FMI) à l’ Egypte et le projet de loi sur les sukuks islamiques. Il s’agit des termes “prêt entaché de riba(قرض ربوي) et “sukuks islamiques”(الصكوك الإسلامية) .

4.1. Prêt entaché de riba/prêt s’apparentant à de l’usure (قرض ربوي)

Le cooccurent adjectival “ربوي” (entaché de riba) dérivé de riba, est utilisé par la presse égyptienne après le 30 juin 2012 dans le cadre du débat s’ouvrant sur les banques islamiques. La riba est définie comme étant “littéralement, toute augmentation ou tout avantage obtenu par le prêteur et constituant une condition du prêt. Techniquement, tout taux de rendement sans risque ou “garanti” sur un prêt ou un investissement, relève de la Riba” (Banque Crédit Agricole). Observons l’usage du terme “insitutions pratiquant la riba”(مؤسسات ربوية) par opposition à “insitutions islamiques”(مؤسسات إسلامية) dans le programme électoral des Frères. Il y a une connotation négative exprimée par le cooccurent adjectival en arabe qui constitue un jugement de valeur désignant explicitement les banques comme étant illicites car elles donnent des prêts à intérêt. La presse égyptienne utilise dans ce sens, “banque conventionnelle”, “banque normale” ou “les autres banques”, par opposition à “banques islamiques”. L’usage de ce cooccurrent adjectival devient propore aux Frères et aux partis islamistes. Leur but est de détourner les citoyens des banques qui n’appliquent pas la Charia. En effet, dans les pays du Golfe où les banques islamiques sont plus nombreuses qu’en Egypte,[1] “banque conventionnelle” ((بنك تقليدي est d’usage par opposition à “banque islamique” (بنك إسلامي).

Observons plus particulièrement la traduction de ce coocurent adjectival “ربوي” dans le contexte du prêt accordé par le FMI à l’Egypte. La déclaration de Morsi a fait la une de la presse égytpienne : “قرض صندوق النقد الدولي ليس ربويا” (le prêt du FMI n’est pas entaché de riba). À la lecture de cette déclaration, le lecteur est doublement choqué. D’abord, à cause du changement de la position de l’ex président vis à vis du prêt du FMI (l’ayant refusé avant l’accès au pouvoir, vu qu’il est entaché de riba). Ensuite, le concept même de riba se trouve ambigü dans cette situation de communication : comment vouloir remplacer les institutions dites entachées de riba par les institutions islamiques et contracter un prêt du FMI ?

Quelle est la réaction du lecteur français à la lecture de la traduction? Observons la traduction à travers les exemples tirés de notre corpus. Dans le Figaro, l’article intitulé “Egypte/FMI : aide compatible avec l’Islam” publié le 7 octobre 2012, traite du prêt accordé par le FMI à l’Egypte :

“Une demande de prêt d’environ cinq milliards de dollars auprès du Fonds monétaire International (FMI) serait compatible avec les principes de la finance islamique” […] “Cela ne constitute pas de l’usure”, a déclaré le président Morsi, issu des Frères musulmans, en référence aux prêts à intérêts, bannis par la finance islamique. Les risques et les profits sont partagés entre la banque et le client.”

Dans un premier temps, la traduction de riba par l’équivalent français “usure” nous interpelle et nous mène à avancer quelques précisions. À l’examen des définitions des deux termes, usure et riba,[2] nous nous rendons à l’évidence que les lecteurs français et arabe n’ont pas le même référentiel. Dans “vocabulaire juridique de Cornu”, usure signifie : “usage, jouissance d’un capital, intérêt d’un capital. Stipulation d’intérêts excessifs dans un prêt conventionnel ou dans les crédits accordés à l’occasion de vente à tempérament “le caractère excessif, appliqué au taux effectif global étant déterminé selon les critères établis par la loi” (Cornu 2007: 932). En français, l’usure est un concept juridique régi par la loi[3] alors qu’il est religieux en arabe et régi par la Charia.[4] Il constitue un péché. Pour un lecteur français, le dépassement du taux d’intérêt fixé constitue de l’usure, donc c’est un acte illégal qui a des conséquences pénales. Tandis que pour un lecteur arabe, il ne s’agit pas de fixer le seuil de l’intérêt car ce dernier est prohibé. Donc, pratiquer la riba est un acte illicite. En effet, la riba “correspond à deux notions bien distinctes dans la terminologie de la Finance Occidentale : l’usure et le taux d’intérêt” (Jouini 2008: 25).

L’équivalence “usure” accompagnée de l’explicitation : “en référence aux prêts à intérêts, bannis par la finance islamique” tient compte du contexte français actualisé à travers le lien établi entre le prêt à intérêt et la finance islamique qui fait débat en France depuis 2008. Le lecteur français comprend la teneur du discours à travers la métonymie “finance islamique”qui sous-entend Islam (cité dans le titre). Il repère la finance islamique dans son univers de référence.

Examinons un extrait du journal Al ahram Hebdo intitulé “Le ton est à la satisfaction” (10-16 octobre 2012, n°943) : “Mais le président, issu des Frères musulmans, n’a pas oublié de donner à ses efforts des couleurs islamistes, en soulignant que le crédit négocié actuellement avec le FMI est conforme à la charia.”Un taux d’intérêt de 1,1 % n’est pas considéré comme de l’usure”, a insisté Morsi.” Ici, l’équivalent “usure” est utilisé sans introduire une explication au lecteur qui est supposé avoir suivi l’événement et saurait, par la suite, appréhender le sens à travers la situation de communication. Observons dans le même journal le recours à l’emprunt dans la traduction du terme riba (interview avec un ex-premier ministre égyptien (31 octobre- 6 novembre 2012, n° 946) : “la riba : usure financière.” La traduction de cette spécificité religieuse avec sa charge culturelle et émotive nécessite une explication au niveau syntaxique. Le procédé utilisé dans la traduction du terme riba (emprunt mis en italique, suivi de deux points et de l’équivalent français) est conforme aux normes de réception du lecteur du journal francophone d’autant plus que l’hebdomadaire s’adresse à un double destinataire : particulièrement francophone et généralement égyptien francophone. D’une part, le lecteur égyptien reconnaîtra l’emprunt riba et le comprendra car il fait partie de son système de référence (associé à la Charia). D’autre part, le lecteur francophone comprendra l’équivalent “usure financière” si l’emprunt lui paraît étrange.

4.2. Sukuks islamiques et sukuks (الصكوك الإسلامية والصكوك)

Le terme sukuks islamiques (obligations islamiques) est paru pour la première fois en Egypte dans le contexte du projet de loi présenté par le Ministère des Finances sous le pouvoir frériste. Composé d’un substantif et d’un adjectif, le terme a fait l’objet d’une ellipse du 2ème élément (islamique) après le refus à deux reprises de l’institution d’Al Azhar,[5] vu qu’il n’était pas conforme à la Charia. L’ellipse n’a pas pour but d’alléger le syntagme mais vise à contourner la difficulté face au refus d’Al Azhar. L’analyse de la traduction du terme, dans la perspective de l’étude des conditions de réception, nous mène à émettre quelques remarques liées à la particularité de l’événement, à l’appui des exemples suivants tirés du corpus.

Dans Al Ahram Hebdo, la première information sur le projet de loi des sukuks est parue dans le n° 957 (16-22 janvier 2013) sous le titre de “Finance islamique : cafouillage gouvernemental autour des soukouk” : “le texte autorise le gouvernement et le secteur privé à souscrire des emprunts via des financements islamiques, c’est-à-dire charia-compatible. C’est ce qu’on appelle les soukouk.” La majorité du lectorat égyptien, n’étant pas familiarisée avec la notion de la finance islamique, ne comprend pas la réalité désignée par le terme sukuks. S’adressant à un lecteur francophone, le journal utilise l’emprunt d’usage en français mais avec une orhographe différente : “soukouk” dans Al Ahram Hebdo[6] mais “sukuks” (mis en italique) dans la presse française. Autre problématique, le terme sukuk est cité dans le contexte de la finance islamique alors qu’en Egypte il n’y a pas de loi qui régit la finance islamique (la presse égyptienne arabe et francophone avaient commencé à vulgariser cette notion), ce qui risque de compromettre la compréhension du lecteur. Pour rendre la notion accessible au lecteur, le terme “soukouk” est expliqué dans son rapport avec la Charia à travers la métonymie “financements islamiques”.

Dans d’autres articles de l’hebdomadaire francophone, des équivalents mis entre parenthèses suivent l’emprunt. Nous trouvons tantôt “bons islamiques” dans le n° 957 (16-22 janvier 2013) tantôt “obligations financières islamiques” dans le n° 958 (23 – 29 janvier 2013), ce qui risque de créer une confusion chez le lecteur s’interrogeant sur la différence entre les obligations et les bons.

L’analyse de l’usage du terme sukuks dans cette situation de communication montre que l’ellipse (islamiques) change le sens. Le lecteur d’Al Ahram Hebdo (comme le lecteur de la presse française) risque de ne pas comprendre la fonction qu’exerce l’ellipse dans ce projet de loi et comprend moins la différence entre sukuks islamiques et sukuks tout court.

Comment la presse française a-t-elle traduit le terme sukuks avant et après l’ellipse ? Dans la presse française, l’emprunt sukuks, mis en italique, est généralemnet suivi de l’équivalent “obligations islamiques”, mis entre parenthèses. Il ressort de l’observation de la traduction du terme dans le Monde le recours à la métonymie après le 30 juin 2013 dans l’article intitulé “échec cinglant pour les Frères musulmans” (05 juillet 2013) : “La seule législation à teneur religieuse qu’il est parvenu à faire passer est une loi sur les emprunts islamiques.” Quelques remarques s’imposent quant à l’analyse du procédé utilisé dans la traduction. La métonymie “loi sur les emprunts islamiques”, précédée de l’explication “la seule législation à teneur religieuse qu’il est parvenu à faire passer”, ne correspond pas à la réalité désignée par cette loi ayant été refusée par Al Azhar. Le contexte fait référence à une loi promulguée revêtant un caractère religieux (islamique) alors qu’après le mois d’avril 2013 (date de l’adoption de la loi sur les sukuks et non les sukuks islamiques), il y a eu l’omission de l’adjectif islamique. L’ellipse n’exerce pas sur le lecteur français l’effet ressenti par le lecteur égyptien.

Observons le Figaro du 05 mars 2013. L’article intitulé “La finance islamique part à la conquête de l’Afrique” publie l’information concernant le projet de loi sur les sukuks : “L’Egypte a adopté le 28 février un projet de loi autorisant les sukuks”. Observons que le terme n’est pas mis en italique et qu’il comporte déjà l’ellipse (islamiques) alors qu’à cette date, la loi portait le nom de sukuks islamiques. Quelques remarques s’imposent au regard de cette ellipse. Pour un lecteur de la presse française, sukuks fait référence à la finance islamique et sous-entend islamiques. Mais la traduction de ce terme à partir du mois d’avril 2013 ne comportant pas une explicitation concernant l’ellipse reste ambigüe. Le terme est susceptible d’être intérprété de deux manières. La première concerne le lecteur francophone pour qui l’utilisation du terme sukuks implique islamiques, la deuxième concerne le lecteur égyptien connaissant le contexte extralinguistique du projet. Il comprendra qu’il s’agit d’un projet de loi refusé par Al Azhar car il n’est pas conforme à l’Islam. Dans cette situation de communication, sukuks n’a pas la même charge émotive que sukuks islamiques. Le terme a acquis dans le discours économique de la presse égyptienne une signification différente par rapport à sa signification dans le contexte de la finance islamique car il est lié aux Frères musulmans. Les métaphores parues dans la presse égyptienne indépendante et de l’opposition en langue arabe telles que “sukuks islamisés” et “sukuks fréristes” mettent en évidence la connotation négative de ces instruments. Les sukuks, instruments islamiques, ont été introduits par opposition à “obligations” et à “bons de trésors”, considérés par les Frères comme étant des “instruments de riba”. Dans le processus de traduction, cette distinction semble importante pour expliquer l’ellipse et transmettre la charge émotive du terme qui, sous son apprente dimension religieuse, n’est pas “islamique”. Le lecteur français, ne sachant pas le fonctionnement du pays à cet intervalle temporel, n’a pas une vision claire de la particularité de cette situation de communication. Dans ce contexte, l’ellipse requiert une explicitation pour tenir compte du lecteur cible (cf. Nida 1964).

5. Conclusion

L’observation et l’analyse de la traduction des termes du corpus nous ont permis de dégager deux constats. D’une part, l’importance de la prise en compte du contexte d’accueil dans le processus traductif, d’autre part, le rôle que sous-tendent les procédés linguistiques dans l’effet exercé sur le lecteur cible. Situé dans la perspective de la théorie du sens, le processus traductif recrée le sens qui se dégage de toutes les composantes affectives et notionnelles de la situation de communication. Dans cette optique, tout en respectant les contraintes de la langue cible, le choix des moyens utilisés dans la traduction vise à véhiculer un contenu cognitif exprimé dans une situation donnée. C’est ainsi que la définition du lecteur cible conditionne les procédés linguistiques mis à l’œuvre dans la traduction. Le lecteur francophone et le lecteur arabe comprendront le message qui leur est transmis à travers les procédés choisis, chacun selon son univers de référence. Ces procédés visent à produire chez le lecteur cible l’effet ressenti par le lecteur du texte source.

En fondant notre réflexion sur l’analyse de la situation de communication et sur l’observation du discours de la presse égyptienne, nous nous rendons à l’évidence que le changement politique qui a induit au changement économique a favorisé la création néologique aussi bien en langue arabe qu’en langue française. Le néologisme “frérisation” paru en français s’est ouvert à une lecture prêtant à confusion. C’est ainsi que les procédés utilisés pour exprimer ce néologisme ont suivi l’évolution du contexte politique égyptien en allant d’une assimilation assez floue à la restitution de son sens puisé dans l’univers égyptien. Notre réflexion a suivi, à travers l’analyse du corpus arabe et français, l’évolution de la langue économique arabe et son impact sur la langue de la presse tant égyptienne que française. Cette analyse a montré comment une langue s’enrichit avec le contact d’une autre langue, elle-même nourrie d’une nouvelle réalité politico-économique qui se repercute dans le discours de la presse.

L’analyse de notre corpus nous a permis de remarquer que le recours à certains procédés linguistiques comme la métaphore, l’euphémisme et l’ellipse a assuré la compréhension du terme économique et du contexte présenté. C’est aux termes parus au lendemain de la Révolution égyptienne du 25 janvier 2011 et ayant suscité une polémique que nous nous sommes intéressée dans notre étude. Le néologisme, les emprunts internes et externes et les glissements sémantiques ont permis de montrer le traitement de la terminologie économique et financière dans la presse égyptienne. Les conséquences des convergences et des divergences de la traduction d’un même terme dans la presse égyptienne francophone et française ont permis d’analyser les conditions de réception du point de vue traductologique. L’effet ressenti par le lecteur cible est tributaire de son univers de référence et des procédés utilisés dans la traduction.

Au terme de cette étude, nous pouvons dire que la création néologique dans le contexte économique égyptien ainsi que le recours aux procédés linguistiques (euphémisme, métaphore et ellipse) dans l’opération traduisante ont permis d’élargir l’horizon culturel du lecteur cible en produisant un effet fonctionnel tant au niveau esthétique qu’au niveau émotif. L’analyse du corpus nous a permis de voir la richesse des procédés utilisés dans la communication du message traduit à connotation culturelle.


Banque de France, Législation française relative au seuil de l’usure, URL: www.banque-france.fr/fileadmin/user_upload/banque_de_france/Economie_et_Statistiques/legislation_usure_13_11_12.pdf (lien consulté le 17 mai 2014).

Behr, Irmtraud, and Hentschel, Dieter (2007) Langue, économie, entreprise, le travail des mots, Paris, Presses Sorbonne Nouvelle.

Cornu, Gérard (2007) Vocabulaire juridique, Paris, Presses universitaires de France (8ème édition).

Crédit agricole, Glossaire finance islamique, URL: www.ca-cib.fr/nos-offres/la-finance-islamique-au-coeur-du-developpement-de-credit-agricole-cib.htm (lien consulté le 17 mai 2014).

Delese, Catherine, (2012) Inscrire l’altérité : emprunts et néologismes en traduction, Palimpsestes. Paris, Presses Sorbonne Nouvelle.

Delisle, Jean (1980) L’analyse du discours comme méthode de traduction, Ottawa, Editions de l’Université d’Ottawa.

El Qasem, Fayza (2012) “La finance islamique : marqueur d’identité versus marqueur idéologique ?” in Les Discours de la bourse et de la finance, Laurent Gautier (eds), Berlin, Frank & Timme: 15–25.

Guidère, Mathieu (2013) Introduction à la traductologie, Bruxelles, De Boeck (2ème édition).

Jouini, Elyès, and Pastré, Olivier (2008) Enjeux et opportunités du développement de la finance islamique pour la Place de Paris, URL: www.etudes-fiscales-internationales.com/media/00/01/1704560976.pdf (lien consulté le 17/05/2014).

Krieg-Planque, Alice (2013) Analyser les discours institutionnels, Paris, Armand Colin.

Lavault-Olléon, Élisabeth, and Sauron, Véronique (2009) “Journaliste et traducteur : deux métiers, deux Réalités”, ILCEA 11, URL: http://ilcea.revues.org/210 (lien consulté le 16 mai 2014).

Nations Unies (2013) Commision économique pour l’Afrique, La Situation Economique en Egypte dans le Contexte d’instabilité Politique et d’une Transition Risquée, août, URL: www.uneca.org/sites/default/files/uploaded-documents/SRO/NA/note-on-egyptfr.pdf (lien consulté le 6 mars 2014).

Nida, Eugène (1964) Toward a Science of Translation, Leiden, Brill.

Resche, Catherine (2009) “The Economist : discours de spécialité économique ou discours sur l’économie ?”, ILCEA 11, URL: http://ilcea.revues.org/64 (lien consulté le 15 mai 2014).

Seleskovitch, Danica, and Lederer, Marianne (2001) Interpréter pour traduire, Klincksieck, Didier Ērudition.


[1] L’Egypte compte 3 banques islamiques.

[2] Cf définition de riba ci-haut.

[3] “La législation française relative aux seuils de l’usure repose actuellement sur les articles L. 313-3 à L.313-6 du Code de la consommation et l’article 313-5.1 du Code monétaire et financier” (Banque de France).

[4] “Ô Croyants ! Ne pratiquez pas l’usure en multipliant démesurément votre capital” (Sourate 3, verset 130).

[5] Institution religieuse égyptienne de renommée dans le monde arabe.

[6] Orthographe irrégulière. Voir n° 957 (16 - 22 janvier 2013) “dossier des sukuk”.


La traduction économique dans une perspective contrastive français-italien : problèmes terminologiques

By Alessandra Rollo (University of Salento, Italy)

Abstract & Keywords


Economic translation is one of the most important and popular types of specialized translations, because of its effects on national and international communication. As with every specialized language, economic language is characterized by frequent morphosyntactic and lexical aspects as well as codified textual features. Indeed, it’s not a homogeneous language, owing to the diversity of the reference domain covering a vast range of textual genres. Economic discours, like any other communication act, is marked by social and cultural practices which generate and at the same time constrain it; it’s based not only on linguistic components, but also on pragmatic and cultural information as well as on a communicative aim, connected to the ‘vertical dimension’ of specialized languages, which determines different degrees of formalization and technicity. This affects the choice of translation strategies, as we shall see in this paper that aims at exploring some lexical and terminological particularities of this specialist field, in a contrastive French/Italian perspective. Our focus will be main translation problems such as the cases of polysemy or ‘lexical pluri-referentiality’, equivocal terms, collocations and locutions, the creation of neologisms in the form of loanwords or calques; so many cases needing, on the one hand, a solid linguistic and extralinguistic knowledge by the translator, on the other hand, contextualization as a necessary preliminary to translation, taking into account the receivers of the text and the context in which it is used, in order to get the most relevant solutions, appropriate to the given situation. The TT will be a functional text, which, while respecting the features of the ST, meets the target linguistic and cultural context.


Dans le panorama des traductions spécialisées, la traduction économique occupe une place de tout premier plan, vu son impact sur la communication nationale et internationale. À l’instar de toute langue spécialisée, la langue de l’économie se singularise par des aspects morphosyntaxiques et lexicaux récurrents et par des traits textuels codifiés. Force est pourtant de constater qu’il ne s’agit pas d’une langue homogène, en raison de la diversité du domaine de référence couvrant une vaste gamme de genres textuels. Le discours économique, comme tout autre acte communicatif, est fortement marqué par les pratiques sociales et culturelles qui l’engendrent et en même temps le contraignent ; il est axé non seulement sur des composantes linguistiques, mais aussi sur des données pragmatiques et culturelles, ainsi que sur une visée communicationnelle, relevant de la ‘dimension verticale’ des langues spécialisées, ce qui détermine différents degrés de formalisation et de technicité. Cela n’est pas sans conséquences sur le choix des stratégies traductives, comme on le verra dans la présente contribution qui se donne pour objectif de mettre en évidence quelques particularités lexicales et terminologiques de cette spécialité, dans une perspective contrastive français-italien. On visera notamment les enjeux traductifs majeurs tels que les cas de polysémie ou ‘pluriréférentialité lexicale’, les termes équivoques, les collocations et locutions, les créations néonymiques sous forme d’emprunt ou de calque ; autant de cas qui exigent, d’un côté, de solides connaissances linguistiques et extralinguistiques de la part du traducteur, et de l’autre, un travail de contextualisation préalable à la traduction avec une prise en compte de la situation d’emploi et des destinataires du texte, afin d’aboutir aux solutions les plus pertinentes. Le TC sera un texte fonctionnel qui, tout en respectant les caractéristiques du TS, répondra au contexte linguistico-culturel d’arrivée.

Keywords: polysemy, equivocal terms, collocation, loanwords, calques, polysémie, termes équivoques, emprunts

©inTRAlinea & Alessandra Rollo (2015).
"La traduction économique dans une perspective contrastive français-italien : problèmes terminologiques"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: New Insights into Specialised Translation
Edited by: Daniel Gallego-Hernández
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Permanent URL: http://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/2146

1. Introduction

S’inscrivant dans une perspective contrastive français-italien, cet article souhaite passer en revue quelques difficultés que pose la traduction économique du point de vue terminologique.

Après un bref aperçu des traits caractéristiques de la langue économique, l’attention sera focalisée sur les problématiques liées à son lexique, dont le caractère univoque et transparent n’est pas systématique ; en effet, la fonction référentielle et désignatrice, prioritaire dans les textes économiques, n’exclut pas pour autant la présence de polysémie et de flou terminologique, que seules une connaissance poussée des notions et des dénominations propres à ce domaine et une contextualisation préalable peuvent contribuer à éclairer. De plus, il faut manier les nombreuses cooccurrences et collocations qui ne trouvent pas toujours de pleine correspondance dans le transfert interlinguistique. À ces aspects s’ajoute le foisonnement d’emprunts anglo-américains qui a déclenché des démarches divergentes en France et en Italie : côté français, des actions d’aménagement linguistique visant à endiguer l’envahissement de l’anglais, côté italien, une assimilation presque intégrale de la terminologie anglaise.

L’activité traduisante implique donc un savoir linguistique et extralinguistique de la part du traducteur, avec une prise en compte du niveau pragmatique des textes et des pratiques socio-culturelles liées aux langues de travail.

2. La langue spécialisée économique

Les spécificités de la langue spécialisée, en l’occurrence économique, sont à rechercher dans les ressources de la langue commune, avec une forte spécialisation sur le plan terminologique et une organisation textuelle rigoureuse.[1]

Au niveau syntaxique, on ne saurait identifier des traits distinctifs, mais plutôt une fréquence plus ou moins élevée de certaines formes (style impersonnel, voix passive, présent de vérité, etc.). Les textes sont caractérisés par des liens cohésifs explicites qui assurent l’agencement des énoncés et en expliquent les liens logiques, contribuant ainsi à la planification syntaxique du discours.

Du point de vue lexical, la langue économique se configure comme une langue vivante appelée à désigner des réalités nouvelles, dans un marché mondial dynamique, en constante évolution. Cela a entraîné, surtout ces dernières années, un enrichissement et un renouvellement rapide du vocabulaire, passant par la création de nombreux néologismes souvent issus de l’anglais (stagflation, slumpflation, fidélisation). Au fil du temps, la terminologie a également évolué au nom du ‘politiquement correct’, qui impose le recours à des procédés d’euphémisation en vue d’une information neutre et objective ; c’est ainsi que des termes ou des expressions ayant une connotation péjorative ou dépréciative ont fait place à des formules moins directes et plus atténuées : licenciements > restructurations/ajustement des effectifs, rationalitation, chômeur > chercheur/demandeur d’emploi, se faire virer > bénéficier d’un reclassement, augmentation des prix > réajustement des prix, échec > contre-performance (Rollo 2009: 34).

Pour ce qui est du plan textuel, la langue de l’économie constitue un macro-domaine articulé autour de plusieurs micro-domaines (langue financière, de la Bourse, des échanges commerciaux, des rapports annuels des entreprises, …). Elle couvre donc différents genres textuels : contrats, bilans, rapports financiers, rapports annuels des sociétés, études économiques, dépêches boursières, articles de revues spécialisées, articles de journaux ; autant de genres ‘routiniers’, qui obéissent à des contraintes plus ou moins fortes (Maingueneau 2010: 41-42).

Les formes textuelles sont en fait étroitement liées à la situation de communication (fonction du texte et niveau de compétence des destinataires), c’est ce qu’on appelle la dimension verticale ou pragmatique des langues spécialisées (Cortelazzo 1994). On peut distinguer des textes plus contraignants, comme les écrits économiques spécialisés, destinés à des professionnels, marqués par un haut degré d’abstraction et de formalisme, et des textes moins contraignants, tels que les articles journalistiques, les textes à visée expositive ou vulgarisatrice, aptes à divulguer chez un public de non-initiés une série d’informations, avec plus d’éléments didactiques et moins de termes techniques (Spillner 2007: 125 sqq. ; Scarpa 2010: 15 sqq.).

3. Enjeux de la traduction économique

L’approche du domaine économique du point de vue traductif n’est pas simple du tout. Le traducteur est appelé à transposer des connaissances sectorielles d’une façon claire, précise et efficace.

D’après Scarpa (2001: 70), l’approche sourcière, privilégiée dans la traduction littéraire, cède la place, dans la traduction spécialisée, à une approche cibliste ou localisante, où le texte, en tant que moyen pour transmettre des informations, est adapté aux exigences du public cible. Il faut tenir compte de plusieurs paramètres : niveau de spécialisation, finalité du texte, destinataires, pratiques socio-culturelles. Finalement, le TC sera un texte fonctionnel, susceptible de répondre au mieux au contexte linguistico-culturel d’arrivée, tout en respectant les caractéristiques du TS (Guidère 2008).

Le repérage de correspondances terminologiques et conceptuelles dans les deux langues est un enjeu de taille. Parmi les principales difficultés auxquelles sont confrontés les traducteurs des textes économiques, nous porterons notre attention sur les aspects suivants : cas de polysémie et d’anisomorphisme, faux-amis et termes équivoques, collocations et locutions, emprunts et calques.

4. Polysémie et anisomorphisme

En principe, les termes des langues spécialisées, contrairement aux mots de la langue générale, désignent des concepts précis, spécifiques, avec une correspondance biunivoque 1:1 entre signifiant et signifié. Ils sont censés posséder une valeur purement dénotative et ne devraient donc pas poser de gros problèmes d’interprétation, ni exiger d’inférences pragmatiques au niveau de la cohérence textuelle.

Toutefois, en dépit des propriétés de monoréférentialité et de précision que l’on reconnaît aux textes spécialisés, il y a des cas de polysémie ou bien ‘pluriréférentialité lexicale’ (Bayle 2005 : 12), où seul le contexte permet de désambiguïser et d’identifier la valeur sémique exacte de chaque terme. Il suffit de penser au terme même d’économie, dont le traduisant direct en italien est ‘economia’, mais qui, employé au pluriel, prend en français le signifié de ‘risparmio’ (d’ailleurs, l’expression italienne ‘fare economia’ signifie justement épargner). Il serait donc convenable, comme le suggère Bayle, de parler de ‘tendance à la monosémie’ (ivi: 11) plutôt que de monosémie tout court.

Gotti (1991: 17 sqq.), de son côté, souligne que, lorsque l’on parle de ‘monoréférentialité’, on ne doit pas entendre l’existence d’un seul référent pour chaque terme, tous les mots ayant habituellement plusieurs référents, mais le fait que, dans un contexte donné, il y a un seul signifié attribuable à un terme donné. D’après Calvi (2003: 10), l’univocité sémantique est un trait typique du discours technico-scientifique pur, qui s’adresse à des experts, tandis que les textes de vulgarisation, qui visent à rejoindre le grand public, peu familiarisé avec le domaine spécialisé, sont caractérisés par un large emploi de termes moins techniques et, par conséquent, plus flous, à côté d’expressions imagées (métaphores, métonymies,…), ce qui peut parfois entraîner une transparence illusoire et un plus bas degré de traduisibilité.

Ainsi, même les textes de spécialité violent le principe de monoréférentialité, tantôt de façon non intentionnelle, tantôt comme choix conscient de l’auteur pour éviter une rigidité excessive du langage. En économie notamment, la complexité et l’interconnexion de ses parties ne permettent pas une analyse atomiste ; comme le souligne Keynes, les changements conceptuels fréquents exigent un système expressif plus flexible reposant sur une redéfinition constante des référents des termes employés. Il s’ensuit que l’économie ne peut pas être classée parmi les sciences exactes mais plutôt dans les sciences morales (l’emploi qu’un individu fait d’un certain terme détermine le signifié qu’il lui attribue) (Gotti 2003: 46 sqq.).

Ci-dessous, à titre d’exemple, quelques lemmes qui ont une valence polysémique en français ou en italien, pour lesquels il est indispensable de cerner précisément le contexte d’emploi afin de trouver le traduisant adéquat :

  • Fr. (s.m.) Bilan = It. 1. (m.) Bilancio (Attivo e Passivo) ; 2. (m.) Stato Patrimoniale
  • Fr. (s.m.) Poste = It. 1. (m.) posto di lavoro ; 2. (f.) voce, posta di bilancio ; 3. (f.) postazione (in un laboratorio informatico)
  • It. (s.m.) Bilancio = Fr. 1. (m.) Bilan (bilancio consuntivo) ; 2. (m.) Budget (bilancio preventivo)
  • It. (s.f.) Quota = Fr. 1. (f.) part/quote-part (somma) ; 2. (f.) part sociale/(m.) apport ou action d’apport (quota sociale, quota di partecipazione a società), (f.) cotisation (contributo periodico), (m.pl.) droits/frais d’inscription (quota d’iscrizione), (m.) pourcentage (percentuale)


L’ensemble des postes du bilan, à l’exception des capitaux propres revenant au Groupe, est ensuite converti en euros sur la base du cours en vigueur en fin d’exercice ; […]

Les postes du bilan sont convertis au taux de clôture ;

les postes du compte de résultat sont convertis au taux moyen de l’année […] (Cahier financier Carrefour, Rapport annuel 2006)


L’insieme delle voci di bilancio, ad eccezione del patrimonio netto del Gruppo, viene in un secondo tempo convertito in euro sulla base dei tassi di cambio in vigore a fine esercizio ; […]

Le voci dello stato patrimoniale vengono convertite sulla base del tasso di chiusura;

le voci del conto economico vengono convertite sulla base del tasso medio annuale […]

De même, l’italien tariffa, auquel correspondent en français différents traduisants selon le contexte, est un vocable insidieux : dans la plupart des cas – vie économique, transport aérien, droit – tarif (au sein des relations de l’UE et de la politique tarifaire, on emploie le sigle TARIC : Tarif douanier intégré des Communautés européennes > Tariffa doganale integrata delle Comunità europee) ; en politique des communications, informatique et traitement des données tarif (catalogue des valeurs monétaires fixées pour une période donnée pour chacun des services qu’offre l’exploitant d’un réseau de télécommunication), redevance ou taxe (somme due pour une communication dans un réseau de télécommunication) ; dans les échanges économiques et commerciaux barème, tarif ou liste des prix (de l’expression anglaise price list, en italien listino prezzi).

Il faut également rappeler que la langue économique emprunte beaucoup de mots à la langue générale, utilisés avec une acception restreinte (spécialisation sémantique) ou un sens nouveau (néosémie) ;[2] il arrive parfois que certains termes migrent d’un domaine disciplinaire à un autre. Le mot bénéfice, dont la signification commune est ‘beneficio, vantaggio’ (avantage), correspond, dans le domaine économique, à ‘profitto, utile di fine esercizio’. Le mot affectation[3] a le sens de ‘assegnazione, attribuzione, destinazione, allocazione, stanziamento (di fondi, risorse, competenze)’ dans la plupart des contextes, spécialement économique, mais il signifie ‘nomina’ (nomination) en droit administratif ; on pourra aussi employer le terme plus technique allocation[4] (de ressources, de capitaux) ou la locution dotation budgétaire (voir le Rapport spécial n° 13/2013 de la Cour des comptes européenne, dont la version italienne adopte attribuzione delle risorse finanziarie). Ou bien, le mot fortune, c’est-à-dire ‘fortuna’ (chance), peut être utilisé dans la langue générale pour indiquer un ensemble de biens ou une somme d’argent importante, donc comme synonyme de ‘richesse’, mais, dans une acception plus restreinte, surtout en matière fiscale, il équivaut à l’italien ‘patrimonio’ : impôts sur le revenu et sur la fortune > imposte sul reddito e sul patrimonio (Convenzione tra Italia e Francia per evitare le doppie imposizioni sul reddito e sul patrimonio, signée à Venise en 1989, entrée en vigueur en 1992).

Outre ces exemples de polysémie, on peut relever des cas d’anisomorphisme sémantique[5] : aux termes italiens credito et debito correspondent en français respectivement les couples crédit/créance et débit/dette, très fréquents en milieu boursier, financier et bancaire. Dans le premier couple, le terme crédit indique l’acte par lequel une personne, généralement un banquier, met à la disposition d’une autre personne un bien ou une somme d’argent qui devra être restitué(e) (crédit bancaire, acheteur/à l’exportation, à la consommation > credito bancario, all’esportazione, al consumo), mais on dira avoir fiscal pour ‘credito d’imposta’ ; en comptabilité, en partie double, c’est la partie du compte (colonne de droite) où sont inscrites les sommes à recevoir. Le terme créance désigne le droit que possède une personne d’exiger l’exécution d’une obligation ou d’une prestation, notamment le paiement d’une somme d’argent, par métonymie le titre même (créance douteuse, créance non performante > credito in sofferenza, incaglio, créance irrécouvrable > credito inesigibile, créances à un an au plus > crediti fino ad un anno al massimo). Les deux termes impliquent donc un ‘focus’ différent : le premier indique la somme réellement accordée par le créditeur, le deuxième indique la somme que le créditeur doit recevoir d’un débiteur.

Parallèlement, le terme débit, antonyme de crédit, indique la partie du compte (colonne de gauche) où sont enregistrées les opérations comportant la constatation d’une dette née à la charge d’un tiers (Débit/Crédit > Dare/Avere), et encore : facture/note de débit > fattura/nota di addebito. Le terme dette, contrepartie de créance, désigne l’oligation qu’un débiteur est tenu d’exécuter envers son créancier, donc la somme qu’il doit lui verser (contracter/régler une dette > contrarre/saldare un debito, dette publique/dette souveraine > debito pubblico/debito sovrano, dettes à plus d’un an > debiti a più di un anno).[6]

À la lumière de ce qui précède, il n’est pas inutile d’insister sur le fait que le signifié d’un énoncé, qui va bien au-delà de ses composantes linguistiques, dépend tant de son contenu sémantique que du contexte grâce auquel il est interprété, c’est-à-dire des informations contextuelles auxquelles il est lié par le biais des inférences (Gutt 2005: 118).

En fait, l’idée que la polysémie puisse compromettre la réussite de la communication est liée à la confusion fréquente entre polysémie et ambiguïté : un texte spécialisé se doit d’être clair et transparent, sans pour autant annuler totalement la présence de cas polysémiques auxquels un traducteur averti pourra faire face en tenant compte de la situation d’emploi. De même, faute d’un équivalent direct d’un terme de la LS dans la LC (cas d’anisomorphisme), l’analyse du domaine conceptuel et de l’environnement contextuel sera fondamentale pour la sélection du traduisant le plus adéquat (Prandi 2009).

5. Faux amis et termes équivoques

Dans le domaine économique, on peut aussi être exposé au risque de faux amis et de termes équivoques, souvent source de confusion. Il faut choisir les traduisants avec le plus grand soin, car un terme impropre pourrait déterminer une altération du sens de l’information et une mauvaise interprétation du message.

Voilà quelques exemples de faux amis lors du transfert français-italien : effectif(s) (subst. plur., plus rare au sing.) > organico, personale, pianta organica, staff (non pas ‘effettivo’ comme adjectif : réel ; actif, dit d’associé, membre), personnes morales > persone giuridiche ou, selon une vieille terminologie, ente morale (non pas ‘persone dotate di morale’ : personnes avec une morale, en un sens éthique), patente > licenza di esercizio (non pas ‘patente’ : permis de conduire). Viceversa, de l’italien au français, il ne faut pas tomber dans l’erreur d’une traduction littérale dans les cas suivants : assumere > recruter, embaucher (et non pas ‘assumer’ : farsi carico di un obbligo, assumere(si) una responsabilità), immobilizzazioni materiali/immateriali > immobilisations corporelles/incorporelles (non pas ‘immobilisations matérielles/immatérielles’), mais propriété immatérielle/intellectuelle pour ‘proprietà intellettuale’, istituti di credito > établissements de crédit (non pas ‘instituts de crédits’), etc.

Il y a deux termes qui sont souvent employés de façon interchangeable, et par là même inappropriée, au point qu’ils peuvent s’avérer équivoques : courtier et trader, l’appellation courtier étant utilisée pour désigner un trader. Un courtier (intermédiaire financier, agent de change, intermédiaire de bourse), en anglais broker, est un intermédiaire qui agit au nom d’une société (courtier de banque, courtier d’assurances) dans une opération généralement financière ; c’est un auxiliaire du commerce, chargé de rapprocher les intérêts des acheteurs et des vendeurs, mais il n’achète ni ne vend. Le terme anglais trader désigne, par contre, un négociateur de produits financiers, un commerçant qui achète ou vend en son nom ou au nom de son employeur ; l’équivalent français recommandé est opérateur de marché (de salle de marché) ou opérateur financier.

Le traducteur italien devra au préalable identifier correctement le référent du terme employé en français, après quoi il procédera au choix du bon traduisant : à savoir, pour courtier le terme anglais broker (éventuellement ‘agente di cambio/di borsa’) alors que trader reste tel quel.

6. Collocations et locutions

Les technicismes relevant de la phraséologie sont un autre aspect auquel il faut prêter attention ; la maîtrise des collocations et des cooccurences habituelles d’un terme constitue un atout précieux dans la traduction, afin d’éviter les mal-dits et les choix lexicaux erronés.

Prenons, par exemple, les cooccurrents les plus fréquents du terme action (ou titre ou valeur immobilière) (Cohen 2011) :

  • s’adjuger n, (re)gagner n, (re)prendre n, céder n, perdre n, consolider, évoluer, fluctuer, osciller, se stabiliser, stagner, baisser, fléchir, faiblir, tomber > aggiudicarsi, (ri)guadagnare, (ri)prendere, cedere, perdere, consolidare, evolvere, fluttuare, oscillare, stabilizzarsi, ristagnare, calare/essere in ribasso, flettere/diminuire, indebolirsi, cadere ;
  • avancer (de n), augmenter (de n), monter (de n), progresser (de n), bondir (de n), s’envoler (de n), remonter (de n), chuter (de n), glisser (de n), plonger (de n) > avanzare, aumentare, salire, progredire, balzare, decollare/impennarsi, risalire, crollare, scivolare, sprofondare.

D’autres cas de combinaisons lexicales :

  • admettre/inscrire/introduire à la cote > ammettere/iscrivere al listino, quotare ;
  • cours (taux/taux de change) pivot/plancher/plafond/comptant/à terme > tasso centrale/corso (tasso/tasso di cambio) più basso/più alto/a pronti/a termine.

Parfois, le traducteur a affaire à des termes plus génériques qui régissent une collocation très précise dans le TC : par exemple, l’adjectif italien depresso sera traduit par déprimé(e) si l’on parle de l’économie et de l’industrie, sous-développé(e) si l’on se réfère à un pays ou à une région, déshérité(e), défavorisé(e) si l’on désigne une couche sociale, un milieu (ou une région). Ce sera, une fois de plus, la mise en contexte et la prise en compte des contours d’un terme qui orienteront le traducteur vers la solution la plus pertinente.

À côté des collocations, il y a les locutions ou polyrhématiques telles que : appel d’offres > gara d’appalto, indemnité de vie chère > indennità di contingenza/di carovita, taux d’imposition > aliquota d’imposta/aliquota fiscale, assiette fiscale > base imponibile, recettes fiscales > gettito fiscale, dérive fiscale > drenaggio fiscale/fiscal drag, avis de mise en demeure > (en finance) ingiunzione.[7] Dans la plupart des cas, on est en présence d’une équivalence, l’expression figée de la LS étant remplacée par une autre, équivalente, de la LC ; dans d’autres cas (avis de mise en demeure > ingiunzione), on a recours au procédé d’économie (en le cas d’espèce, au procédé de concentration, qui n’est pas lié à des choix de la part du traducteur mais aux règles spécifiques de la LC).

Il peut également arriver que des expressions ou des termes plus concis en français nécessitent un étoffement en italien : appliquer une décote > (finance) applicare una riduzione decrescente dell’imposta, (comptabilité) applicare una riduzione di valore, boursicoteur > piccolo investitore (cas de diluition), barème > listino (traduction directe), tabella dei contributi/cartella esattoriale (explicitation), tabella delle aliquote contributive (périphrase), abattement > abbattimento, detrazione ou sgravio fiscale (explicitation).[8]

Il va de soi que le choix parmi un éventail de traduisants, tous corrects, sera dicté par la teneur du texte et par les compétences que les destinataires sont censés posséder. Si, dans une communication entre pairs (spécialistes-spécialistes), c’est le langage technique qui assure la transparence professionnelle, quand on s’adresse à des profanes, l’excessive technicité est synonyme d’opacité, d’où la nécessité d’éclairer le sens du message.

7. Emprunts et calques

L’un des traits marquants des textes économiques est l’emploi massif de termes anglo-américains, l’anglais s’étant affirmé depuis longtemps comme lingua franca ou langue véhiculaire de la communication internationale, en tant que reflet et mesure de la puissance du système socio-économique des États-Unis sur le marché mondial.

L’italien et le français adoptent à cet égard des attitudes distinctes, qui relèvent de facteurs d’ordre pragmatico-culturel : alors que l’italien considère l’anglais comme une langue de prestige social et économique aussi bien dans l’usage courant que dans les contextes spécialisés (d’où l’emploi d’emprunts de nécessité et d’emprunts de luxe), le français montre une forte résistance à l’intégration de mots étrangers et encourage la formation de néologismes forgés ad hoc comme alternative au ‘tout-anglais’.[9] Les deux langues privilégient donc l’une, l’assimilation, et l’autre, la non-assimilation des anglicismes.

Ci-après, quelques exemples de termes anglais désormais acquis dans le langage économique international, auxquels correspondent des formes indigènes en français : rating > notation, governance > gouvernance, empowerment > renforcement d’équipe, bail-in > recapitalisation interne/renflouement interne, benchmarking > référenciation, étalonnage, parangonnage, méthode de référence (benchmark bond > obligation de référence/obligation-phare).

Plutôt que d’avoir recours à l’emprunt, le français préfère évidemment la création néonymique dans ses multiples formes, y compris le calque, qui est devenu ‘une source importante de pénétration en français de significations anglaises’ (Lederer 1994 : 114). C’est le cas des calques sémantiques : l’adjectif global, dont le signifié originel est ‘entier, total’, a enrichi son spectre sémantique sous l’influence de l’anglais global en prenant aussi la signification de ‘mondial, universel’. Il y a d’autres exemples de glissement sémantique et de spécialisation des mots : opportunité, de l’anglais opportunity, pour indiquer une combinaison de circonstances favorables et avantageuses dans la vie ou dans la carrière, donc une occasion, une aubaine surtout au travail ; profitable, de l’anglais rentable, pour se référer à la rente d’un investissement (en français, le sens premier de ‘profitable’ ne relève pas du domaine financier mais plutôt du domaine moral ou matériel) ; facilités, de l’anglais facilities, pour indiquer les aménagements et les équipements facilitant l’exécution d’une action, surtout dans un lieu de travail (mais aussi : credit facilities > facilités de paiement, credit facility(ies) > facilité de crédit/ligne de crédit/ouverture de crédit, financing facility > facilité de financement/mécanisme de financement/ligne de crédit, committed facility > facilité engagée).

Les calques structuraux (ou calques-traduction) sont encore plus fréquents : default (of payment) > défaut de paiement, retail price > prix de (vente en) détail, outsourcing > externalisation, insourcing > internalisation, offshoring > délocalisation (à l’étranger), marketing > mercartique, Eurobond > euro-obligation, Blue Bond > obligation bleue.

À l’encontre du français, l’italien est défini comme une langue démocratique ou emprunteuse, ouverte aux apports provenant d’autres langues, notamment l’anglais, langue prêteuse par excellence. Il s’agit surtout d’emprunts purs ou intégraux (default), associés à des emprunts hybrides (default selettivo) et des emprunts adaptés ou intégrés sous forme de calques (eurolandia, dérivé de euroland) (voir Gusmani 1986, Bombi 2005).

La lecture de textes comparables confirme la tendance de la langue française à opter pour l’acclimatation des emprunts et l’emploi d’équivalents, alors que l’italien intègre sans problème les termes anglais dans son vocabulaire :


Shutdown : contre-la-montre final pour éviter le défaut de paiement

[…] les États-Unis se retrouveront en défaut de paiement. (La Tribune.fr, 16/10/2013, 7:25)


Riunione sul default degli Usa

La Fed ha tenuto una riunione […] per discutere l’ipotesi di uno scenario di default degli Stati Uniti. (Il Sole 24 ORE, 20/11/2013)


Ce problème pourrait être atténué par la communication obligatoire des positions sur CDS des investisseurs qui détiennent une fraction importante des obligations de référence. (Banque de France, Revue de la stabilité financière n. 14/2010, p. 68)

[…] Nouveau benchmark pour les gérants

Nyse Euronext regroupe une grande diversité d’indices avec plus de 400 références qui sont classées en trois catégories […] (zonebourse, 30/08/2013, 16:20)


Rendimenti dei titoli benchmark. (Banca d’Italia – Rapporto stabilità finanziaria n. 5/2013, p. 13)

Snam: in emissione bond benchmark a 10 anni

Snam ha avviato in mattinata l’emissione di un prestito obbligazionario senior non garantito con durata decennale e di ammontare benchmark. (Corriere della Sera.it, 14/01/2014, 11:12)


Les produits dérivés de gré à gré : nouvelles règles, nouveaux acteurs, nouveaux risques (Banque de France, Revue de la stabilité financière n. 17/2013, p. 68)

Si les marchés opèrent de gré à gré […] (p. 95)

La déclaration ne concerne que les dérivés de gré à gré […] (p. 110)


[…] sono infine strumenti over-the-counter la cui valutazione si fonda su complessi modelli interni degli intermediari. (Banca d’Italia – Rapporto stabilità finanziaria n. 6/2013, p. 34)

Gli scambi non assistiti da garanzie (unsecured) rimangono ridotti sia sul mercato elettronico e-MID sia sul segmento over-the-counter (OTC) […] (p. 45)


Accord européen sur le renflouement des banques en difficulté

Les Européens se sont mis d’accord […] sur une directive prévoyant des règles de renflouement interne des banques, ou bail-in, afin d’éviter de faire participer le contribuable au sauvetage des établissements financiers.

[…] Si une banque est proche de la faillite, le renflouement interne ou bail-in s’appliquera, par opposition au bail-out privilégié pendant la crise et qui faisait appel à l’argent public, creusant ainsi les déficits. (Le Monde.fr, 12/12/2013, 02:10)


Infatti, la vera novità dell’approccio europeo riguarda il principio del bail-in. […] l’onere delle crisi bancarie a partire dal 1° gennaio 2016 non ricadrà più sui contribuenti, ma su azionisti, obbligazionisti e depositanti sopra i 100mila euro.

[…] Secondo l’approccio del bail-in, oltre a introdurre un sano principio di equità che eviti di far pagare al povero contribuente gli errori o le malefatte dei banchieri, il meccanismo dovrebbe limitare l’azzardo morale di chi investe nel capitale delle banche o gli fa credito […]. (affariitaliani.it, 23/12/2013, 13:42)

Force est pourtant de constater que, même dans la langue de l’Hexagone, en dépit de la bataille des puristes et des Recommandations officielles, on a enregistré une implantation progressive d’anglicismes, en premier lieu sous l’impulsion des médias. On peut rencontrer des emprunts purs, tels que spread (écart [de prix, de rendement]), stock (réserve, provision), start-up (jeune pousse, entreprise en démarrage), spin-off (essaimage, scission, recentrage), swap (contrat d’échange, échange financier), stock options (option sur actions/option d’achat d’actions/option sur titres),[10] lobby (groupe de pression, groupe d’influence, groupe d’intérêt), business plan (plan d’affaires, plan de développement), ou des emprunts hybrides, comme société holding (société financière, compagnie, groupe conjoint). Au cours des dernières années, les termes benchmark/benchmarking, entre autres, ont enregistré un envol par rapport au correspondant français, comme le démontrent les graphiques produits par Google Ngram Viewer qui permettent d’observer l’évolution de la fréquence de ces termes dans les textes composant le corpus Google français (.doc).

Ce phénomène, souvent stigmatisé comme franglais, est essentiellement dû à des raisons d’efficacité et de pragmatisme communicationnel, étant donné que l’anglais permet de mieux répondre aux exigences de la communication internationale en assurant plus d’immédiateté d’expression ainsi qu’une reconnaissabilité globale du terme. En plus, il ne serait pas à exclure que cet élan vers l’emploi de termes anglais relève de ‘la recherche d’un effet stylistique emphatique, d’une connotation positive/négative que l’on reconnaît à l’anglo-américain chargé d’une forte valeur symbolique’ (Dancette 2009: 39).

Ainsi arrive-t-il de plus en plus fréquemment de rencontrer une terminologie que l’on pourrait qualifier de fluctuante, appuyée sur l’emploi conjoint du terme anglais – parfois prépondérant – et de son équivalent français :


Les spreads italien et espagnol reviennent sous 200 points

Les écarts de rendement (spreads) entre les obligations italiennes et espagnoles et les Bunds allemands sont tombés vendredi […]

Le rendement à 10 ans italien a touché un point bas à 3,935%, ramenant le spread par rapport aux titres allemands […]

Le rendement espagnol était quant à lui en recul de six points à 3,93% et le spread par rapport aux Bunds était inférieur à 200 points pour la première fois depuis mai 2011. (Les Echos – Bourse, 03/01/2014, 10:41)

ou, tout simplement, on utilise le terme anglais :


Financement des start-up : les industriels incités à monter en première ligne

Le gouvernement mettra en place cette année un amortissement fiscal destiné à encourager l’investissement des grandes entreprises dans les start-up.

[…] face à la multiplication de start-up plus inventives et agiles les unes que les autres. (La Tribune.fr, 21/01/2014, 13:35)

Sur le plan traductif, le passage d’une langue à l’autre se ressent des variables socio-culturelles des pays impliqués. Le traducteur italien, qui se retrouve face à des termes français calqués sur les termes anglais plus connus, opte généralement pour les emprunts anglais : par exemple, nouvelle économie sera traduit par new economy au lieu de ‘nuova economia’, Fonds d’investissement de proximité par Fondo d’investimento retail au lieu de ‘Fondo d’investimento di prossimità’, gestion des risques par risk management au lieu de ‘gestione dei rischi’, externalisation par outsourcing, préféré à la traduction littérale ‘esternalizzazione’, marché haussier/marché baissier par Bull market/Bear market ou mercato sotto il segno del Toro/dell’Orso (calque de la métaphore anglaise) au lieu de ‘mercato rialzista/mercato ribassista’. Dans ces cas, on utilise le caractère italique pour le terme anglais ou le simple caractère romain.

Au besoin, le traduisant italien pourra être adopté en alternative au terme anglais, en tant que synonyme :


Gli spread tornano ai livelli pre-crisi

[…] Gli investitori vedono allontanarsi i rischi di una dissoluzione dell’Eurozona, e gli spread tornano ai livelli pre-crisi: il differenziale BTp-Bund è sceso a quota 198. […] Il calo dello spread ha spinto in alto i titoli bancari. (Il Sole 24 ORE, 08/01/2014)

ou avec une fonction explicitante, en raison du contexte communicatif. Tel est le cas, surtout, des textes de vulgarisation finalisés à véhiculer un message clair et intelligible auprès des non-spécialistes ou des gens peu rompus à une telle terminologie (par ex., les documents plurilingues de l’UE et de la CE) :


Firewall a difesa della stabilità finanziaria

[…] I paesi dell’UE hanno rapidamente reagito instaurando un firewall, ossia un muro di protezione costituito da una serie di misure per ristabilire la fiducia e facilitare il finanziamento del debito dei paesi che incontravano temporaneamente difficoltà ad ottenere prestiti sui mercati finanziari. (europa.eu, 4/2013, p. 9)

ou bien encore, lorsque l’on emploie des anglicismes récents ou tout à fait nouveaux même pour un public d’adeptes :


In compenso, il nostro Paese […] è stato uno dei primissimi ad adottare con il «Decreto Crescita 2.0» una legge sul crowdfunding (letteralmente «finanziamento dalla folla»): attraverso portali online, si raccolgono capitali di rischio per aiutare la nascita di imprese fortemente innovative. (Corriere della Sera.it, 28/01/2014)

De son côté, le traducteur français qui a affaire à un document italien farci d’emprunts à l’anglais préfère les équivalents français attestés. L’expression strumenti over-the-counter, assez récurrente dans le lexique italien de la bourse et du marché financier, est un cas emblématique ; la traduction néologique en français peut être suivie de la dénomination en anglais (avec, éventuellement, le sigle correspondant entre parenthèses), en vertu de l’usage répandu de la forme anglaise au niveau international :


marchés de produits dérivés traités de gré à gré (overthecounter – OTC – derivatives) (Banque de France, Revue de la stabilité financière n. 17/2013, p. 5)

produits dérivés échangés de gré à gré (overthecounter– OTC) (p. 21)

marché des dérivés de gré à gré (overthecounter – OTC) (p. 22)

un marché de gré à gré (overthecounter – OTC) (p. 140)

Parfois, on omet le terme anglais (firewall, dans le cas qui suit), s’il n’est pas essentiel :


Des mesures pour protéger la stabilité financière

[…] les pays de l’UE ont réagi rapidement en mettant en place des mesures de protection visant à […] (europa.eu, 4/2013, p. 9)

En revanche, s’il s’agit d’anglicismes entrés de façon systématique dans l’emploi professionnel et donc plus facilement reconnaissables (tels les noms de produits financiers très connus), le traducteur français gardera l’emprunt : swap/Credit default swaps (CDS).

8. En conclusion

Au cours de notre analyse, qui est forcément limitée pour des raisons d’espace, nous avons voulu ouvrir un volet sur quelques particularités terminologiques et sur les enjeux de la traduction économique fr.-it.-fr. qui peut cacher plusieurs embûches (polysémie, faux-amis, collocations, néologismes,…) ; les exemples illustrés ci-dessus en témoignent.

Tout en se voulant clairs et transparents, dépourvus de toute sorte d’ambiguïté conformément aux propriétés inhérentes aux domaines spécialisés, les textes économiques posent de nombreuses difficultés traductives, notamment aux niveaux lexico-sémantique et pragmatique, qui exigent une évaluation attentive aussi bien du co(n)texte d’emploi que des destinataires de la communication, en plus d’une connaissance solide et toujours mise à jour du secteur dont il est question.

Fort des outils terminologiques et des ressources en ligne dont il dispose, le traducteur sera à même de cerner les problèmes qui se posent et de trouver les solutions les plus appropriées et les plus efficaces, en s’appuyant sur les compétences extralinguistiques acquises lors de son expérience et sur sa subjectivité (ce qui ne veut pas dire qu’il soit arbitraire). Il pourra ainsi mener à bien sa tâche et produire un TC qui soit équivalent et pour le fond et pour la forme au TS, en entendant par équivalence une ‘relation d’égalité de valeur quant à leur fonction’ (Reiss 2009: 169).

Nous souhaitons qu’à l’avenir la réflexion traductologique puisse mieux se conjuguer avec l’activité pratique de traduction dans le domaine économique, les deux sphères ne pouvant que bénéficier d’une plus grande synergie et d’une plus grande collaboration réciproque, en vue d’une amélioration et d’une optimisation des performances des traducteurs.

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Scarpa, Federica (2001) La traduzione specializzata. Lingue speciali e mediazione linguistica, Milano, Hoepli.

---- (2002) “Terminologia e lingue speciali” in Manuale di terminologia. Aspetti teorici, metodologici e applicativi, Marella Magris, Maria Teresa Musacchio, Lorenza Rega & Federica Scarpa (a cura di), Milano, Hoepli: 27–47.

---- (2010) La Traduction spécialisée. Une approche professionnelle à l’enseignement de la traduction, traduit et adapté par M. A. Fiola, Ottawa, Presses de l’Université d’Ottawa.

Spillner, Bernard (2007) “Discours économique : variétés intralinguistiques et différences contrastives” in Langue, économie, entreprise. Le travail des mots, Irmtraud Berh, Dieter Hentschel, Michel Kauffmann et Anja Kern (éds), Paris, Presses Sorbonne Nouvelle: 117–45.

Zanola, Maria Teresa (2002) Politica linguistica e creazione neologica nel francese contemporaneo in L’inglese e le altre lingue europee. Studi sull’interferenza linguistica, Félix San Vicente (ed.), Bologna, Clueb: 201–11, URL: http://www.cliro.unibo.it/portale/personale/staff/sanvicente/pubblicazioni/atti_inglese.pdf (consulté le 16/01/2014).



http://ec.europa.eu/ (http://www.eca.europa.eu/fr/Pages/home_the_court.aspx)

http://europa.eu/ (http://europa.eu/pol/emu/index_fr.htm)












Dictionnaires en ligne













[1] Pour un approfondissement, voir Lerat 1995, Scarpa 2001, 2010.

[2] Voir la distinction des catégories terminologiques opérée par Sager, in Scarpa 2002 : 28 sqq.

[3] Son homonyme est traduit par ‘affettazione’ (manque de naturel).

[4] Le terme allocation signifie aussi ‘assegno, sussidio, indennità’ : allocations familiales > assegni familiari, allocation (de) chômage > sussidio di disoccupazione, allocation (de) logement > sussidio versato dallo Stato per l’alloggio.

[5] Divergence entre les unités lexicales de deux langues différentes : tout en ayant un contexte d’emploi semblable, elles possèdent des signifiés qui ne sont pas parfaitement superposables les uns aux autres.

[6] Il nous semble opportun de mentionner, à ce sujet, l’article de Danio Maldussi (2013) qui, abordant la complexité du réseau de relations entre ces couples de termes, suggère de parler de ‘relation de converse’ plutôt que d’antonymie.

[7] En droit, ‘messa in mora, diffida’.

[8] Pour les procédés traductifs d’économie et d’étoffement, voir Delisle, Lee-Jahnke et Cormier (dir.) 1999.

[9] L’enrichissement néologique du français contemporain est le résultat d’une fructueuse collaboration entre organismes officiels, institutions et usages linguistiques du peuple français et francophone (Zanola 2001 : 201) ; parmi les principaux organismes, rappelons l’Académie française, la Délégation générale de la langue française, les Commissions de terminologie et l’association A.P.F.A. (Actions pour promouvoir le Français des Affaires).

[10] En français, on distingue ‘option d’achat d’actions’ et ‘option de souscription d’actions’, les deux expressions n’ayant qu’une traduction en anglais : stock option (c’est la raison pour laquelle les experts ont tendance à utiliser en français l’expression anglaise).

English to Spanish translation of the economics and finance genres

By Leticia Herrero Rodes & Verónica Román Mínguez (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain)

Abstract & Keywords

In today’s globalized world, where geographical and temporal distances are closing significantly, businesses’ needs go beyond national borders. Companies’ opening up and exposure to global markets bring further translation needs within the economic and financial fields, thus making this area of specialization one of the highest in demand within the translation market with many work opportunities for translators. In this paper, the authors propose a classification of expertise within the fields of economics, finance and business in order to provide students of translation and inexperienced translators with a catalogue that is representative of the main text types. This paper acts as a starting point, providing the translator with the terminology, phraseology and subject knowledge in this specialized area of translation.

Keywords: English-Spanish translation, specialised translation, economic and financial translation, commercial translation, translator training, textual genres

©inTRAlinea & Leticia Herrero Rodes & Verónica Román Mínguez (2015).
"English to Spanish translation of the economics and finance genres"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: New Insights into Specialised Translation
Edited by: Daniel Gallego-Hernández
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Permanent URL: http://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/2145

1. Background and rationale of our research

Nowadays it is easy to justify the importance of translation in the business and economic sectors due to the fact that borders are no longer geographic limits and new technologies are enabling foreign trade to grow exponentially. Indeed, the recent internationalization of firms around the globe has made translators’ work an invaluable and unique job.

However, the importance of translation in the fields of business and economics has not always been recognized in the academic arena. We believe that, until recently, translation courses did not reflect the broad range of sub-areas covering business and economic operations. Mateo’s study (2014) of the different translation courses available in Spain found that, with few exceptions, learning and teaching in the business translation field remains in the background, at times an afterthought and even camouflaged within other specialized translation courses. In Mateo’s words, there is an obvious discrepancy between the reality of the translation profession and the academic organisation of translation qualifications at Spanish universities. Only in recent years, has there been an increase in the recognition that these fields deserve in terms of research and teaching.

This interest in research and teaching in the area of business and economic translation has experienced both quantitative and qualitative exponential growth. There has been an increase in the number of publications and conferences related to economic translation. A few recent examples from this decade include papers by Alcaraz Varó, Hughes & Mateo Martínez (2006), Suau Jiménez (2010), Pizarro Sánchez (2010), Gallego Hernández (2012) and (2014); and in May 2014, Alicante University (Spain) hosted the first International Congress on Economic, Commercial, Finance and Institutional Translation in Spain, which was well received by national and international researchers and professionals in the field.

The number of educational programmes in this specialty has also increased at graduate and postgraduate levels, as well as efforts to define more accurately the concept and content of economic translation, which has led many Spanish universities to review economic translation course syllabuses. Eventually, and hopefully, agreement will be reached on a common understanding of this subject; when this happens, it will be possible to refine its content more effectively, because until recently, and generally speaking, the content of courses only partially reflected the heterogeneity of texts within the professional sector. In this way, new curricula would be more effective in terms of selecting educational materials.

As shown by the different articles in the monograph published in 2014 by Gallego Hernández in the journal Hermeneus and titled Traducción económica: entre profesión, formación y recursos documentales, (Economic translation: profession, training and resources) and in the doctoral thesis published by Alcalde Peñalver at the end of 2014, titled Caracterización y contextualización de la traducción financiera: estudio empírico-descriptivo de la situación académica y profesional en España (Characterising and contextualising financial translation: a descriptive, empirical study of Spain’s academic and professional situation), economic translation is currently being openly debated in Spain. With this paper, we, the authors, aim to contribute to this debate, raising useful questions regarding training in this specialty, the link between education and professional markets, the definition of a concept of economic translation and the design of economic translation courses. We present the outcomes of our research on the learning and teaching process in economic and business translation within the framework of the BSc degree in Translation and Interpretation (Grado de Traducción e Interpretación) at the Universidad Autónoma in Madrid, where we both lecture. It is worth noting that for the past few years, the authors have worked together delivering the core subject of Economic Translation from English to Spanish in Year 3, an ideal vantage point that has allowed us to assess issues surrounding course design, the students’ prior knowledge of the topic, their attitude towards the subject, the process of knowledge acquisition vis-à-vis conceptual and terminological aspects, etc., and all using the same sample (same students and level). It has also proved to be a privileged position for reflecting on the shortcomings and needs of the students, on the programmes’ highlights and failings, and on the most appropriate methodological approaches for a subject of this nature. This is the foundation of our research.

In addition, our extensive experience as translators in the fields of economics and business has brought important insights to this work. The authors of this paper have a combined professional career spanning over 30 years and by studying the translation assignments we have received together with our solid training in law and economics, we have categorized texts using a purely descriptive and eminently practical approach. We therefore believe that the classification we are putting forward here is based equally on the study of specific knowledge in the fields of economics, finance, accounting and commercial law and on translation practice in these specialized fields.

Therefore, our first-hand experience in the dynamics and peculiarities of this translation sector has given us a unique perspective for understanding the complexity of this field and the challenges faced by students. Combining our work as lecturers and as translators has allowed us to keep abreast of the professional demands placed on our students, and we can therefore adapt their education to the expectations of the professional market.

With this desire to link education and the professional arena in mind, we will look into the various subject areas that fall under the category of economic translation and we recognise that a taxonomy of text types within this specialty would be a useful tool for helping students acquire terminology, concept and text-related skills.

Little research has been undertaken in Spain in the field of economic and business translation and there are even fewer suggestions as to how to classify the genres within this field. Although it is impossible to completely cover the wealth of genres in economic and business translation, the classifications put forward to date do not, in our opinion, sufficiently represent the diversity of subject areas found in this specialized professional field.

In 2003, Orozco published the first pedagogical classification of economic texts. Her classification divides this type of text into private and public documents and makes a distinction between informative and descriptive roles so as to categorize four types of economic text: private informative texts (invoices, sell sheets and brochures), public informative texts (tax forms and adverts from public institutions), public descriptive texts (general and specialized press releases and reports by public bodies) and private descriptive texts (company trading accounts and feasibility studies).

For Pizarro Sánchez (2010), it is the relationship between the corporate field and its players and the functions that these people carry out that dictates which genre of text is required. Pizarro Sánchez provides a comprehensive classification of professional genres, from both an internal and external (foreign trade) perspective, which is limited exclusively to the corporate world and covers seven functions undertaken by its players. Specialist areas such as macroeconomics and markets are not included in this author’s taxonomy. Similarly, Pizarro Sánchez classifies text types in terms of their semantic, discursive and grammatical characteristics.

Suau Jiménez (2010) categorizes economic and business text genres into printed and internet or online, plus a third genre which is a combination of the last two. In the printed category, Jiménez includes business letters, reports or memorandums, leaflets about a company or product and articles from specialist magazines. The internet or online category contains emails, websites and blogs and the third category includes job adverts.

Our first joint work involved a paper for the IV Congress on International Translation and Interpretation at Malaga University in December 2012, which proposed a first classification of genres[1] within economic translation, and where we appealed for the need to establish stronger and broader links between the classroom and the professional sector.

Following this first attempt to comprehensively cover the broad variety of texts reflected in real economic and business translation assignments, we had the chance to apply for a project on innovative teaching organized by the department for learning development at our university. Using the title Resources and materials applied to the learning and teaching process in English to Spanish economic and financial translation, we designed and set up a virtual platform to be used as a learning consultation tool for 3rd year translation and interpretation students and for new graduates and junior professionals in this specialty area.

Our initial plan was to add our first classification of text types and other information likely to be of interest to users to the aforementioned platform. Inevitably, the number of subject areas included in the initial classification was expanded from three to five to cover macroeconomics, finance, business, banking and accountancy, and the number of texts within each of these areas was also increased. The platform includes:

  • Interesting links and other relevant resources for learning and teaching economic translation (blogs, websites of relevant organizations, links to regulatory frameworks in this field, etc).
  • Worksheets containing the text types included in the taxonomy, which spell out their classification in Spanish and English, a brief definition of the text type, information about potential clients of this type of text, details of structure and content, and links to examples of texts in English and Spanish (including references to the source text).
  • English to Spanish glossaries containing the most common terms used in each text type and the most frequently used, and to some extent, only translation.

In today’s world, where teaching and learning processes are becoming more and more sophisticated thanks to the use of new technologies, we believe that a platform such as this is an extremely valuable tool for those interested in this specialized area of translation.

We are currently working on a series of monographs on the English to Spanish translation of the text types contained in the different sections of the classification. Until these monographs are published, this paper includes a concise taxonomy of expertise in the areas of economy, finance, banking, accountancy and business, which aims to represent the key texts found in this professional specialty.

The rationale behind this article, then, is to help adapt the design of translation courses at Spanish universities, particularly public universities, to the demands of the professional market. As Mateo (2014) states, public universities offer a “universal” education that is often somewhat removed from the genuine needs of society and the majority tend to offer translation courses that are much more heterogeneous, arts-based and less “professionally-oriented”. In contrast, and as mentioned by Mateo (2014), private universities tend to teach more vocational business translation courses than public universities do.

2. Proposal for the categorization of economic and business texts

As discussed previously, in our opinion the congress held in Alicante in May 2014 is an illustrative example of the increasing interest in economic translation shown over the past few years - with positive results. Moreover, there seems to be a stronger drive to find more efficient approaches to the learning process for students in this field, to find new methodological tools that will enable students to acquire the diverse skills that are required more quickly.

In the interest of clarity, we wish to reiterate that the design of our classification of texts is based on the methodological objective described above, centred on the assumption that a taxonomy of economic and business text types is a truly valuable tool for the teaching and learning process in this specialty.

Our insistence on the methodological justification stems from the recognition that the particularities of this specialty field may turn any attempt at classification into a constrained exercise. Indeed, with the exception of texts on macroeconomics, financial markets and purely accounting texts, a large number of business texts could be described as hybrid, given the diversity of terms and concepts that cannot be assigned exclusively to one textual category or subject area. In addition, the natural curiosity of humans to expand and improve their knowledge turns any taxonomy into a model with shortcomings that will eventually become invalid, such as for example the world of finance, where investment products are continuously updated. On the other hand, the large number of text types generated by this professional field makes it totally impractical for us to cover them all and forces us to classify only the most representative texts from the professional sphere.

Therefore, despite being an open and by no means exhaustive classification of texts, we believe that such a taxonomy can help students gain a general overview of the textual reality within the professional world, as well as providing a more systematic approach to the economic translation learning process by ensuring that they gradually acquire a range of skills. Students can then progress step-by-step using a bottom-up approach (to use a financial analysis term) that will allow them to learn terms and understand concepts surrounding each text type. Subsequently, once students have worked through the range of texts and fields and have understood and added this new learning to their existing knowledge, they will be able to tackle texts using a top-down approach, recognising the different subject areas that appear in the texts.

It is important to note here that our classification is not based on linguistic or discursive criteria; rather it is based on a division of encyclopaedic knowledge by subject sub-area within this area of expertise. This paper moves away from other studies that offer a theoretical approach to genre, register and meta-speech in applied linguistics.

In the next section, we outline our proposal for the classification of economics and business texts. Given the brevity of this paper and the large number of text types covered in this piece of work, it is not possible to include a definition of the texts.

2.1. Economic texts

Economics is commonly defined as the social science that studies how societies use and manage their resources to produce goods and services, and to distribute them to satisfy society’s needs and wants.

The study of economics can be broken down into two aspects: microeconomics and macroeconomics. The first of these studies the behaviour of those players that take part in the running of an economy, such as the government, consumers, companies, workers and investors, and it focuses on issues such as profits and cost-cutting in a company, decisions about the production of goods and services, or individual consumer preferences.

As indicated in a previous paper (Herrero Rodes and Román Mínguez 2013), in contrast to macroeconomics, there are a limited number of public sources devoted exclusively to analyzing and assessing microeconomic indicators. This is probably due to the fact that most of the variables associated with the economy’s performance are usually regarded as macroeconomic. There are, however, publications that issue the outcomes of surveys undertaken among economic agents or citizens on, for example, consumer behaviour. It is this very reason, the difficulty in isolating purely microeconomic variables or issues that makes defining microeconomic texts a rather complicated task. This is the reason why we have chosen not to classify linguistic examples from the microeconomics field, as it does not mirror the real world and is therefore of little practical interest to student translators and translators who are new to the area of economics.

Macroeconomics analyses the running of a country’s or region’s economy as a whole, and it focuses on variables such as production, employment, consumption, interest rates, prices, etc.

It is important to clarify here that the publication of most macroeconomic texts does not respond to any mandatory criteria, and therefore the names that are usually given to them change depending on who has published the text.

A classification of macroeconomic texts could include the following text types:

  • Annual report
  • Financial accounts
  • Balance of payments and international investment position report
  • Texts on public debt
  • Economic bulletins, statistical bulletins and analysis of macroeconomic indicators
  • Press releases
  • Dailies and weeklies.

Out of all the macroeconomic texts mentioned above, the most frequently published are the last few: bulletins, press releases, dailies and weeklies. The first few texts on the list are issued every six months or annually by central banks or national governments and usually comply with transparency and reporting requirements that oblige them to account for their action and management practices. Annual reports, for example, come out once a year whilst press releases or analyses of macroeconomic indicators are much more frequent.

2.2. Financial texts

Finance is the branch of the economy that studies how individuals, companies, organizations and states make and effectively manage money. Depending on who is involved in managing financial resources, we can talk about personal, corporate or public finance, which helps us to define the distinct environments where each of the players operate.

Financial markets are one of the environments where financial activity takes place: a virtual space where you can trade different kinds of securities and assets, such as shares, bonds, currencies, commodities or derivatives, including futures, options, swaps and warrants.

In addition, transactions related to obtaining and managing financing take place in contexts other than financial markets, such as companies and banks. The documents generated in these three environments —markets, companies and banks— raise the issue of how to categorize them, as there are valid arguments for including them in the finance category and also in the banking category, and other texts could fit in both the finance and corporate categories.

Having said that, below is a suggested categorization of financial documents:

  • Texts on financial operations:
    • Documents relating to corporate activities within the same company or between several companies: MBO (Management Buy-out), MBI (Management Buy-in), LBO (Leveraged Buy-out), take-over bids, public share offering, rights offering, capital increases, etc.
    • Documents relating to different financing options. This section includes several ways of financing new or already existing projects, including private equity, project finance, crowdfunding, corporate bonds, preference shares, etc. It is worth noting here the risk assessment reports undertaken for companies applying for loans, credit or any other financing tool.
  • Texts on financial instruments: Documents dealing with products that an investor can put his or her money into, such as investment funds or derivatives. Text types here can include prospectuses, fact sheets, contracts and updates. The first of these includes a wide variety of options: equity mutual funds, fixed income funds, guaranteed funds, ETF (exchanged-traded funds), absolute return funds, hedge funds, private equity funds, etc. In terms of derivatives, there are futures, put and call options, warrants, swaps, credit default swaps (CDS), credit default options (CDO), etc.
  • Texts on public debt: This area covers documents generated by public debt transactions. One of the most commonly traded assets by the public sector for raising funds are government bonds (with varying maturities). As with financing options in the public sector, we have also taken into account the reports issued by credit rating agencies to assess the risk of default by different countries.
  • Market analysis reports: This section includes reports that analyse specific companies or sectors to provide an investment position, such as investment recommendation reports, strategy reports and flashnotes.

2.3. Corporate texts

In the corporate world, there are a large number of texts that straddle various areas of specialisation and therefore many of the texts generated in this field can also be assigned to other text categories. Although it is practically impossible to draw up a taxonomy of business texts, due to the high volume of texts translated in the corporate world, below is a non-exhaustive classification that we believe is useful when teaching and learning the translation of this type of text.

  • Texts with information on the company’s operations and management:
    • Articles of incorporation
    • Regulations governing the running of different corporate bodies: annual general meetings of shareholders (AGMs), board of directors, audit and compliance committee, appointments and retributions committee, etc.
    • Calls to meeting and agendas for the AGMs and board of directors’ meetings
    • Resolutions of the AGMs and the board of directors (resolutions on increase or reduction of capital, winding up of companies, etc.)
    • Stock or share certificates
    • Internal codes of conduct
    • Letters from the chairman or managing director to shareholders or employees
    • Directors’ report
    • Annual corporate governance report
    • Corporate responsibility reports
    • Reports by the appointment and retributions committee
    • Management reports
    • Relevant events reported to the Spanish Securities and Exchange Commission (CNMV)
  • Documents containing financial information relating to the company:
    • Annual reports
    • Documentation containing the company’s stock information
      • Documents published on the company’s website —in listed companies, this stock information is included under the shareholder and investor relations section— about the shareholding structure, number of shares that make up the company’s share capital, markets where the company’s shares are listed, listed share values, investor’s agenda, significant shareholders and treasury shares, communication channels between the company and its shareholders, etc.
      • Documentation regarding stock option plans
      • Recommendations on investor positioning
      • Take-over bids, public share offerings, rights offerings, etc.
    • Credit ratings
    • Financial highlights
  • Contracts/Agreements. We have grouped contracts and agreements under one category given that they share characteristics such as structure, syntax, terminology and phraseology. Contracts that are generated in the corporate world constitute one of the most frequent assignments in the professional practice of translation. In this type of text, specialized, legal language coexists, and is inextricably entwined, with financial and commercial language. It is impossible to include here all the types of contract that require translation in the business field, so the list below should be taken as an illustrative example, given that only the most common contracts in the professional field have been included.
    • Company agreements; in the corporate world, these contracts are for commercial companies.
    • Purchase and sale agreement for shares
    • Share subscription agreements
    • Shareholders’ agreements
    • Confidentiality agreements
    • Merger and acquisition agreements
    • Temporary business association agreements
    • Joint venture agreements
    • Sale and purchase agreements for business premises
    • Stock option agreements
    • Ordinary employment contracts and senior management contracts
    • Insurance contracts
    • Supply, agency and distribution contracts
    • Financial and business partnership agreements: lease and factoring agreements
    • Franchise agreements
    • Foreign trade agreements: agreements for the international sale and purchase of goods, international land transport agreements, maritime transport agreements (charter-parties and contracts for the use of a ship, etc.)
  • Texts about the company’s operations:
    • Estimates, purchase orders, invoices, delivery notes and credit notes
    • Trade bills (bills of exchange, checks and promissory notes)
    • Texts relating to the area of international maritime transport: charter-parties, bills of lading
    • Documents in the area of foreign trade: payment orders, letters of credits, certificates of origin, airway bills, export credit insurance contracts, etc.
  • Texts about business development:
    • Business plans
    • Feasibility plans
    • Documents related to project finance
    • MTP (mid-term plans).
  • Texts that stem from consultancy and advisory services: audit reports (not accounting), legal advice reports about financial and tax-related issues.

2.4. Banking texts

Banking, seen as a financial institution system, can be divided into retail banking —banks that manage individuals’ and companies’ savings and offer loans and credits— and investment banking —entities that undertake large scale business operations—. Retail banking is without a doubt, the better known of the two by the general public. However, at the heart of investment banking, a large number of texts are generated that require translation. In this field, banking language coexists naturally alongside retail, financial, stock-market, legal and business language.

  • Retail banking texts. Within this category we can classify texts as follows:
    • Bank contracts:
      • Financing and refinancing agreements
      • Loan and mortgage agreements
      • Credit facility agreements, credit transfer agreements
      • Current account, credit card, bank transfer and payment services agreements
      • Bank deposit agreements
      • Guarantee and pledge agreements
      • Custodian agreements
      • Financial lease, operating lease and factoring agreements
      • Investment portfolio management agreements: investment funds and pension plans
    • Other bank documents:
      • Bills of exchange, checks and promissory notes
      • Credit facilities
      • Syndicated loans
      • Letters of credit
      • Bank receipts
      • Payment or wire transfers
      • Bank guarantees
    • Project finance documents
  • Investment banking texts. This section includes texts generated in the framework of the following business operations, where banks act as intermediaries:
    • Take-over bids
    • Public share offerings
    • Rights offerings
    • IPO (initial public offering)
    • MBO (management buy-outs)
    • M&A (mergers and acquisitions)
    • Bond issues to obtain funding for companies
    • Placement of shares

Many texts that are created in the field of investment banking tend to be closely linked to the stock market, such as texts stemming from take-over bids, public share offerings, rights offerings and initial public offerings, meaning that stock-market terms are very frequent. Other operations that are reflected in investment banking texts take place within the realm of either just one company or between several companies, and therefore, texts that encompass these types of operations could also be included in the business category, as we have done with merger and acquisition agreements that are signed within the framework of M&A transactions.

Furthermore, banking texts can also be divided up into domestic and international banking documents. Domestic banking texts include documents generated by Spanish banks and saving banks, and international banking texts include documents from international banks, both on an international level, such as texts produced by the World Bank as a UN specialized agency or the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), or on an EU level, such as documents generated by the European Central Bank (ECB) or the European Investment Bank (EIB).

2.5. Accounting texts

Accounting can be defined as a standardized cluster of procedures across firms, which allow their daily financial activity to be clearly structured. Correct accounting facilitates internal decision-making in terms of managing and administering the company and is called internal accounting and financial accounting, which shows shareholders, the press and analysts or regulatory bodies the final data resulting from the accounting process carried out at the end of a financial year, is called external accounting. Accounting texts often need to be professionally translated, as companies are required by law to publish the majority of these texts. It is therefore an area full of professional opportunities for a translator. Although accounting texts are undoubtedly prepared from within a company, we can extract certain characteristics that are unique to this type of text and that enable us to categorize them, such as the limited leeway a thorough translator has, who is expected to make use of the terminology regulated by a number of international and national accounting standards.

The key accounting texts, most of which are contained in the document titled Annual Report, include:

  • External audit reports
  • Annual accounts or financial statements. These include:
    • Balance sheet or statement of financial position
    • Profit and loss account or income statement
    • Cash flow statement
    • Statement of changes in equity
    • Notes to financial statements and statement of source and application of funds
  • Management reports
  • Directors’ reports
  • Audit committee reports

3. Conclusion

As noted in the first section of our article, there are very few research papers on economic translation that deal with classifying the expert knowledge that is specific to this area of specialization. In order to fill this gap, we have classified the documents in economic and business translation and have defined the various areas that we believe fall within this specialty field, such as the economy, finance, corporate and accountancy. These texts are presented as the most common and representative texts in the professional world of economic and business translation based on our professional experience in this field. It is important to remember that, given the broad subject area under study, the taxonomy proposed in this paper is non-exhaustive and has a mainly methodological objective. In this specialized field of study we have noted that a large number of texts in the business world could qualify as hybrid, since they contain terms and concepts that are difficult to assign to a single category of texts or just to one subject area.

As we discussed in the first pages of this article, we believe that this classification is particularly useful as a teaching and learning tool for students of economic translation for several reasons. On the one hand, it allows students to achieve an overview of a wide variety of texts which are likely to be translated in the professional world of economic and business translation, while doing so in an orderly and systematic way. On the other hand, the classification helps students to ascribe the various texts to their corresponding area of knowledge, thus making them aware of the frequent impossibility of establishing univocal relationships between the texts and the different fields in a context of expertise in which, as we said above, there are numerous hybrid texts presenting terminology and concepts pertaining to more than one area of knowledge. Finally, the classification provides students with access to the basic thematic knowledge of the specialty in question and it familiarizes them with the terminology and phraseology correlated with each knowledge area. Similarly, the systematization of the most common texts found in professional practice is useful for novice translators in this field.

With this classification, we are also defining what we believe should be included in the subject of economic translation, a specialist area within the framework of translation and interpretation teaching at Spanish universities, where there is a lack of consensus among teachers on what should be covered. Moreover, where we are also hoping to highlight the existing gap between some teaching programmes and the reality of professional practice.

We hope to contribute to the recent interest generated with regards economic translation research which should undoubtedly result in more efficient teaching approaches vis-à-vis the contents of study programmes.


Alcalde Peñalver, Elena (2014) Caracterización y contextualización de la traducción financiera: estudio empírico-descriptivo de la situación académica y profesional en España, Tesis doctoral, Universidad de Granada.

Alcaraz Varó, Enrique, Hughes, Brian y Mateo Martínez, José (2008) Diccionario de términos económicos, financieros y comerciales: 6ª edición actualizada. Inglés-Español / Spanish-English, Editorial Ariel Economía.

Banco de España: http://www.bde.es/bde/es/secciones/informes/

Boletín Oficial del Estado (BOE): Código de Comercio, URL: https://www.boe.es/buscar/act.php?id=BOE-A-1885-6627

---- Ley 47/2007, por la que se modifica la Ley 24/1988 del Mercado de Valores, URL: http://www.boe.es/buscar/doc.php?id=BOE-A-2007-21913

---- Ley de Sociedades de Capital de 2010, URL: http://www.boe.es/buscar/act.php?id=BOE-A-2010-10544

Business Dictionary: http://www.businessdictionary.com/

Comisión Nacional del Mercado de Valores (CNMV): http://www.cnmv.es/portal/home.aspx

---- http://www.cnmv.es/portal/Publicaciones/Fichas.aspx

Díez de Castro, Luis and Mascareñas, Juan (1991) Ingeniería financiera. La gestión de los mercados financieros internacionales, Madrid, McGraw-Hill.

Dornbusch, Rudiger and Fischer, Stanley (1994) Macroeconomía, Madrid, McGraw-Hill.

European Central Bank (ECB): http://www.ecb.europa.eu/pub/html/index.en.html

El Blog Salmón: http://www.elblogsalmon.com/

Eur-Lex. Diario Oficial de la Unión Europea: Directiva del Parlamento Europeo y del Consejo relativa a los mercados de instrumentos financieros, URL: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/ES/ALL/?uri=CELEX:32004L0039

Expansión: http://www.expansion.com/diccionario-economico.html

Federal Reserve: http://www.federalreserve.gov/pubs/research.htm

Gallego Hernández, Daniel (ed.). (2014) Traducción económica: entre profesión, formación y recursos documentales, VERTERE, Monográficos de la Revista Hermeneus.

Gallego Hernández, Daniel (2012) Traducción económica y corpus: del concepto a la concordancia. Aplicación al francés y al español, Alicante, Servicio de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Alicante.

Gámez, Consuelo and Mochón, Francisco (1995) Macroeconomía, Madrid, McGraw-Hill.

Herrero Rodes, Leticia, and Román Mínguez, Verónica (2013) “Aulas y profesión en traducción económica, financiera y comercial: ¿un matrimonio mal avenido?”, in Translating culture – traduire culture – traducir la cultura: de barreras culturales en la traducción jurídica, económica y judicial, Emilio Ortega Arjonilla (dir), Tanagua Barceló Martínez, Iván Delgado Pugés, y Verónica Román Mínguez (eds), Granada, Editorial Comares. Colección Interlingua 3: 103–120.

Instituto de Contabilidad y Auditoría de Cuentas (ICAC): http://www.icac.meh.es/Normativa/Contabilidad/Internacional/NormInterInfoFina.aspx

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Lacalle, Daniel (2013) Nosotros, los mercados, Barcelona, Deusto.

Mateo Martínez, José (2014) “Aspectos organizativos y formativos en la enseñanza universitaria de la traducción de negocios en España”, en Traducción económica: entre profesión, formación y recursos documentales, Gallego-Hernández, D. (ed.), VERTERE. Monográficos de la Revista Hermēneus.

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Orozco, Mariana (2003) “Propuesta de clasificación de los textos del ámbito económico”, El Trujamán, Revista Diaria de Traducción. Centro Virtual Cervantes.

Pizarro Sánchez, Isabel (2010) Análisis y traducción del texto económico (inglés-español), Editorial Netbiblo.

Román Mínguez, Verónica (2010) “La información para accionistas e inversores de las sociedades del Ibex 35: una valiosa fuente documental para la enseñanza-aprendizaje de la traducción económico-financiera” in La traducción en contextos especializados. Propuestas didácticas, Esperanza Alarcón Navío (ed), Granada, Atrio. La Traducción en el Atrio: 149–171.

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[1] In the paper Herrero Rodes and Román Mínguez (2013), when our taxonomy was presented, we explained the need to resort to such terms as register and gender: register refers to the way in which interlocutors use language to adapt it to the communicative situation, and gender applies to each of the various manifestations in which registers materialize. For our academic/research purposes we use register and text type as synonyms.

¿Cuánta economía debe saber el traductor?

La adquisición de conocimiento temático para la traducción

By Cristina Gelpí (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Catalunya)

Abstract & Keywords


The acquisition of expert knowledge remains a topic of debate in the teaching of economic content for translation. It is obvious that thematic knowledge is needed to accurately translate economic texts, and that the absence of such knowledge is the main reason for conceptual translation errors in non-specialist translators. But the conceptual approach to thematic knowledge does not always appear to be efficient for a non-economist translator. This contribution moves away from conceptual positions and argues that the thematic competence that a translator must acquire is limited to the economic text and not to the economic field. It proposes the use of two learning strategies to ensure that the non-specialist translator can acquire the necessary economic knowledge to translate economic texts. On the one hand, we suggest the identification of thematic translation units that appear in the text, supplemented with neighboring concepts and lexical family items. With these elements the translator avoids confusion between very close concepts and obtains a lexical map of the text. On the other hand, we propose the use of Q-explanation as a strategy for identifying the essential and accidental features of complex thematic units included in a text. This strategy allows the translator to acquire the thematic knowledge required for translation. The use of these two strategies is proving to be successful in teaching content in economics for non-specialist translators.


La adquisición de conocimiento experto continúa siendo un objeto de debate en la docencia en traducción especializada. Es una obviedad afirmar que el conocimiento temático es necesario para traducir de forma eficaz textos económicos, y que la ausencia de este tipo de conocimiento es la causa principal de los errores conceptuales de traducción en traductores no especialistas. Pero la aproximación conceptual a la competencia temática no siempre es eficiente para que un traductor no economista adquiera competencia temática para la traducción. Esta contribución se aleja de posiciones conceptuales de la adquisición de la competencia traductora y defiende que la competencia sobre economía que debe adquirir el traductor no especialista se reduce al tema del texto que traduce. Para ello, propone la utilización de dos estrategias de aprendizaje complementarias. Por un lado, la identificación de las unidades temáticas traductológicas que aparecen en el texto, que se complementan con las unidades que forman las comunidades de vecindario y las familias operacionales que permiten evitar la confusión de conceptos vecinos a la vez que dan un mapa léxico del tema del texto. Por otro lado, propone la Q-explicación como estrategia que permite identificar los rasgos esenciales y accidentales de las unidades temáticas complejas que se encuentran en el texto económico y delimitan la cantidad de conocimiento temático que debe adquirir el traductor para evitar el error en traducción. La utilización de estas dos estrategias está dando buenos resultados en la adquisición de la competencia temática en traductores económicos en formación.

Keywords: thematic translation unit, non-specialist translator, specialized translation, thematic competence, unidad traductológica, competencia temática, traductor no especialista, Traducción especializada

©inTRAlinea & Cristina Gelpí (2015).
"¿Cuánta economía debe saber el traductor?"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: New Insights into Specialised Translation
Edited by: Daniel Gallego-Hernández
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Permanent URL: http://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/2144

1. La competencia temática para la traducción

La naturaleza de la traducción económica exige obviamente que el traductor posea cierto conocimiento temático. Sin este conocimiento, la denominada competencia temática, la garantía de la fidelidad conceptual de la traducción queda perjudicada y se incrementa exponencialmente el error conceptual en la traducción.

La competencia temática ha recibido la atención por parte de la bibliografía desde puntos de vista distintos. En términos de la ubicación de esta competencia, se pueden distinguir dos tipos de aproximaciones: las que tratan la competencia temática dentro de los distintos módulos que conforman la competencia traductora (entre otros la norma europea UNE-EN 15038; Presas 2000; PACTE 2001), y las que tratan la competencia temática como competencia autónoma en su modelo de descripción (entre otros Monzó 2002; Kelly 2002 o Valderrey 2005). Para los efectos del análisis de la adquisición de la competencia temática son especialmente útiles los modelos que la singularizan porque permiten enfatizar en la idea que la competencia temática del traductor es distinta de la competencia temática del experto (Monzó 2002; Valderrey 2005).[1]

Las aproximaciones que singularizan la competencia traductora tienden a optar por propuestas didácticas macrocomparadas. Ofrecen así al traductor en formación un saber sistémico operativo de orden comparado generalizable. Estas aproximaciones conceptuales están a la base de la mayoría de posiciones que comparten la idea que el traductor debe tener conocimientos “básicos” del campo conceptual en el que traduce, conocimientos equivalentes a la competencia que tiene el especialista en una materia desde el punto de vista de la comprensión (Gallardo 1999). Una de las consecuencias de este tipo de aproximación es la selección de contenidos en la formación, dirigidos especialmente al trabajo macroestructural. En términos de programación de materias de traducción económica, podemos observar con frecuencia el desarrollo de contenidos del tipo introducción a la ciencia económica, términos y relaciones macroeconómicas fundamentales, problemas económicos y la política económica, términos y relaciones microeconómicas fundamentales, la empresa como organización. El objetivo de una formación que promueva este tipo de contenidos es asegurar que el traductor adquiere las competencias necesarias para identificar y comprender contenidos económicos con la finalidad de aplicarlos a la traducción. Por ello, la formación reduce a mínimos generales el conocimiento económico: mercado, economía real y monetaria, contabilización de la producción, relaciones internacionales, ciclos económicos, entre otros, suelen ser los contenidos conceptuales que se incorporan a las asignaturas de grado en España.

Estas aproximaciones conceptuales a la adquisición de la competencia temática son sin duda útiles porque con ellas el traductor puede adquirir un primer nivel de conocimiento económico de tipo macroestructural, necesario para identificar algunos elementos esenciales del campo conceptual. Pero si bien el análisis macrocomparado de la materia reduce la complejidad de temas de estudio, tiene a nuestro modo de ver un inconveniente fundamental: exige al traductor que adquiera un conocimiento global sobre la materia, cuando su necesidad conceptual no es global sino parcial.

Haciendo nuestra la afirmación de Monzó (2008), “la responsabilidad del traductor al enfrentarse a un texto debe llevarlo a una comprensión excelente de lo que traduce para poder transmitirlo a una nueva audiencia”, entendemos que para llegar a la comprensión excelente de lo que traduce el traductor no necesita un conocimiento global de la materia, sino un conocimiento del contexto más inmediato del tema del texto que traduce. El conocimiento global de la materia es propio del especialista y, desde nuestra posición, el traductor no economista no es un especialista entre otros motivos porque no tiene la competencia temática que tiene el especialista.[2] En lógica correspondencia, si la competencia temática del traductor no es la misma que la del especialista es necesario que la formación del traductor se estructure en función de sus necesidades, y no en función de las necesidades de un especialista.

Valorada globalmente, la aproximación macrocomparada a la economía tiene su interés indudable, pero orienta la competencia temática a la adquisición de conocimiento experto de igual modo que adquiere el conocimiento experto un especialista en la materia. Y el traductor especializado no especialista no es un experto ni debe intentar parecerlo. Siguiendo a Mayoral (2005), si un traductor quiere tener el mismo conocimiento temático de la economía que un economista, la solución no es incorporar a su formación una reducción (necesaria) de la materia económica; si un traductor quiere tener un conocimiento global de la economía, como lo tiene un economista, seguramente será más práctico y mejor que estudie economía.

Además, exigir al traductor que domine la economía como lo hace el economista (aunque sea desde posiciones de mínimos que le exigen una supuesta competencia de comprensión), implica necesariamente que la traducción económica no pueda ser realizada por traductores sino que deba ir a cargo de especialistas. Esta afirmación nos lleva al debate ya conocido sobre quién debe realizar la traducción especializada (si el especialista o el traductor). No nos ocupamos en este momento de esta cuestión y adoptamos la posición de Alcaraz (2004), quien afirmaba que, mientras la haga bien, da igual quien la lleve a cabo; pero reafirmamos que el traductor debe tener un conocimiento suficiente de la economía que se incluye en los textos que traduce y constatamos que el traductor no especialmente formado en economía no suele tener suficientemente desarrollada esta competencia.

En resumen, para realizar una traducción económica, el traductor debe adquirir conocimiento de la materia económica, sin duda, pero desde nuestro punto de vista no debe poseer el conocimiento económico de la ciencia económica en versión reducida, sino el conocimiento profundo del contenido del texto que traduce.

Y desde este punto de vista, parece necesario desarrollar estrategias docentes que contribuyan a mejorar la comprensión del texto y por medio de las cuales el traductor desarrolle su competencia temática.

2. La unidad temática traductológica como estrategia para la comprensión del tema del texto

Situado en el límite del texto económico como objeto de trabajo, el traductor no especialista en economía debe enfrentarse a la comprensión del texto que debe traducir. Para ello, debe delimitar el tema del texto,[3] y con la delimitación temática el traductor obtiene una representación del texto (Elena 2011). Para delimitar el tema del texto puede usar, entre otras, las unidades temáticas traductológicas, que pueden complementarse con las comunidades de vecindario y las familias operacionales (Cornu 2000).

Consideremos el siguiente ejemplo: un traductor no economista debe traducir el texto siguiente, texto producido por un despacho de asesores financieros que quiere publicar sus textos explicativos en catalán:

Acciones preferentes.
Son valores mobiliarios emitidos por las entidades financieras para obtener liquidez y, junto con la deuda subordinada, se consideran un híbrido de capital social pues ni son exactamente deuda exigible ni generan derecho a voto y aunque a diferencia de las acciones ordinarias ofrecen a sus titulares una remuneración predeterminada, ésta no está garantizada sino condicionada a la obtención de beneficios por parte de la entidad emisora, (situación que no siempre se explica correctamente al futuro inversionista). Sobre todo no tienen vencimiento predeterminado aunque el emisor puede acordar la amortización o la recompra pasado un plazo de por lo menos cinco años desde la adquisición ello hace que el inversor no pueda planificar cuando recuperará su inversión inicial.
Fuente: http://navascusi.com/wp-content/uploads/pdf/participaciones_preferentes.pdf

Para comprender el texto, el traductor debe identificar por lo menos los siguientes tipos de unidades:

  • Los términos, estrictos y clásicos, aislados: entre otros, acciones preferentes, valores mobiliarios, liquidez, emisor, inversor, amortización, recompra.
  • Las formas verbales con las que se combinan ciertos términos: entre otros, emitidos por las entidades financieras, obtener liquidez, generan derecho a voto, ofrecen una remuneración, puede acordar la amortización
  • Las unidades más complejas que un término (simple o complejo) cuyo significado tiene obviamente relación con los términos que incluye pero que solamente se puede descodificar (adquirir significado concreto) en el límite del texto que se traduce, y que aquí denominamos unidades temáticas traductológicas: entre otros, ni son exactamente deuda exigible ni generan derecho a voto, puede acordar la amortización o la recompra, (está) condicionada a la obtención de beneficios por parte de la entidad emisora.: ni son exactamente deuda exigible ni generan derecho a voto, puede acordar la amortización o la recompra, (está) condicionada a la obtención de beneficios por parte de la entidad emisora.

Identificar bien estos tres tipos de unidades es esencial, y parece que no es suficiente que el traductor adquiera solamente la terminología estricta, porque lo que le generará problemas de traducción no es prioritariamente la terminología convencional, sino especialmente las formas que aparentemente son asequibles porque coinciden con palabras de la lengua que el traductor conoce (emitidos, generan, ofrecen, puede acordar). La aparente ausencia de opacidad conceptual de una unidad de traducción es una de las causas principales de error en la traducción de este tipo de textos. La opacidad total, en cambio, genera un obstáculo para el traductor no especialista, con lo que en cierto modo no constituyen unidades a priori causantes de errores (el traductor que no sabe lo que significa acción preferente o valor mobiliario suele tener estrategias para delimitar bien los conceptos). Siguiendo el ejemplo de Mayoral (2005), una buena delimitación y unas buenas fuentes de documentación suelen ser suficientes para que el traductor adquiera el conocimiento sobre este tipo de unidades.[4]

Las unidades traductológicas más complejas, tanto desde el punto de vista de la identificación como de la delimitación conceptual, son las unidades temáticas traductológicas. En cierto modo, las unidades traductológicas a las que nos referimos pueden ser asociadas a las unidades de conocimiento especializado (UCE) delimitadas por Domènech (2006), es decir, a aquellas unidades portadoras de conocimiento especializado que pueden adoptar formas distintas (una palabra, un sintagma, una frase, una forma truncada o una forma del lenguaje artificial). Y desde el punto de vista cognitivo, estas unidades se pueden relacionar con la noción de nudo de conocimiento propuesta por Cabré (2002), en el sentido que el nudo de conocimiento presenta tres propiedades: riqueza informativa, densidad cognitiva y complejidad conceptual.

De forma resumida, estas unidades se pueden caracterizar por los rasgos formales siguientes:

  • No se incluyen en repertorios léxicos (ni generales ni especializados);
  • Suelen ser más largas que una palabra o un sintagma simple;
  • Muestran un grado concreto de opacidad (pueden ser opacas completamente, parcialmente o aparentemente claras);
  • Están formadas por conceptos y son fragmentables en unidades más pequeñas;
  • Suelen estar formadas por estructuras verbales (o deverbales) en el límite de una frase;
  • Adoptan un sentido concreto en el texto, pero adoptan un sentido que va más allá de la suma de sentidos de las unidades conceptuales que las forman;
  • Su sentido preciso se puede delimitar a partir de preguntas Q realizadas contra el núcleo verbal;
  • Podrían coincidir fácilmente con los segmentos de una memoria de traducción generados por un sistema de traducción asistida por ordenador.

El traductor, en efecto, construye un modelo mental de la situación descrita en el texto, que podemos asociar al tema del texto, y lo puede construir en parte a partir de la identificación de las unidades temáticas traductológicas. Sobre este mapa mental inicial, puede utilizar dos estrategias más, que le servirán tanto para evitar confundir conceptos próximos conceptualmente, como para identificar conceptos próximos del campo conceptual de la economía que se reflejan en el texto. Nos referimos a las comunidades de vecindario y las familias operacionales (Cornu 2000).

En las comunidades de vecindario los términos (o expresiones densas conceptualmente) se agrupan en familias y constituyen campos de referencias. Los sentidos de los términos vecinos son próximos y, justamente, son potencialmente una fuente de error de comprensión para el traductor. Comparar los vecinos con la finalidad de distinguirlos tanto como sea posible evita la confusión y el solapamiento de sentidos. En nuestro ejemplo amortización y recompra son vecinos de comunidad.

En cuanto a las familias operacionales, se plantean en Cornu (2000) como vocabulario de operaciones. Una familia operacional está constituida por las distintas manifestaciones léxicas alrededor de un mismo concepto. Se diferencian de los vecinos de comunidad porque aquéllos son propensos a ser confundidos y justamente la misión del traductor es evitar confundirlos. En el caso de las familias operacionales, el efecto que se persigue es el contrario: son unidades con vocación de ser asociadas a un mismo enunciado. El objetivo no es diferenciarlas para elegir la más adecuada, sino tenerlas en cuenta para tener la visión global del tema. En nuestro ejemplo emitidos, generan, ofrecen forman parte de la familia operacional de las acciones preferentes.

Siguiendo a Cornu (2000: 209), los conjuntos léxicos permiten ver el vocabulario (económico en nuestro caso), reflejo de la estructura del sistema económico, no como un inventario, sino como una red. Y esta es la noción clave: el conocimiento de una red. Esta expresión en forma de red es lo que permite que un traductor haga el mapa de un tema, identifique los elementos esenciales que necesita conocer para traducir un texto concreto.

En síntesis, identificar las unidades temáticas traductológicas, considerar las comunidades de vecindario y las familias operacionales que intervienen en un texto se perfila como un primer instrumento útil para que el traductor no especialista delimite el tema del texto económico que debe traducir.

3. La Q-explicación como estrategia de comprensión del texto

El tipo de unidades que genera dificultades de comprensión para un traductor es variado y la adquisición del conocimiento temático de estas unidades temáticas de traducción se realiza con estrategias diversas (desde el resumen de contenidos, a la paráfrasis o a la documentación de textos pertinentes, entre otros).

Como es sabido, una de las formas convencionales por medio de la que se adquiere el conocimiento temático es la definición. La definición, entendida como fórmula que codifica el sentido de una unidad, recoge los rasgos esenciales y accidentales de un concepto. Entre los distintos tipos de definición (Larivière 1996), todo apunta que la que puede entender un traductor no especialista es la que es menos densa conceptualmente que el concepto que define; es decir, el traductor comprende bien las definiciones que no contienen conceptos desconocidos, las definiciones denominadas habitualmente como semasiológicas, que son las que se deberían encontrar en los diccionarios de orientación general y sincrónica. En cambio, el traductor no especialista tiene dificultades para comprender definiciones orientadas conceptualmente (onomasiológicas), básicamente porque suelen ser más densas conceptualmente que el concepto que definen. En estos casos, el traductor necesita hacer búsquedas complementarias para comprender bien el significado de las unidades que forman parte de la definición que consulta.

Otra forma con la que el traductor adquiere conocimiento es por medio del texto explicativo: un manual que explique un concepto, un artículo de enciclopedia amplio, una resolución terminológica que tenga la función de describir de forma generosa los límites de un concepto son textos claramente útiles para el traductor. Los textos explicativos tienen la función de delimitar nociones y lo hacen para unas unidades situadas en un contexto delimitado. Es decir, delimitan nociones en contexto, y atribuyen el sentido de las unidades de acuerdo con el contexto en el que se encuentran, y no lo hacen de forma abstracta o descontextualizada. A la vez, los textos explicativos no adoptan la forma típica de la definición lexicográfica o terminográfica (la definición aristotélica por excelencia), sino que se construyen sobre la base de la adición de características, que se organizan en forma de capas de especificidad distintas.

En el caso que nos ocupa, la explicación se muestra como un recurso útil y válido especialmente para descodificar el sentido de unidades temáticas traductológicas del texto económico. La forma que puede adoptar una explicación es diversa, pero en todos los casos es posible describir el contenido de una unidad traductológica a partir de la respuesta a preguntas estratégicas. En concreto, la explicación de una unidad traductológica se puede articular alrededor de la respuesta a preguntas denominadas Q (las más habituales: quién, qué, cómo, cuándo, dónde, por qué). El uso de la Q-explicación (es decir, explicación formulada a partir de preguntas Q) se muestra especialmente útil para favorecer el desarrollo de la competencia temática entre traductores no especialistas.

Las preguntas, que deben formularse contra la forma verbal a la que complementa la unidad temática traductológica, pueden ser distintas. Es posible explicar el significado de la unidad traductológica con menos preguntas y según la función sintáctica que tenga la unidad dentro del texto es posible repetir preguntas y añadir otras (con quién, con qué). En todo caso, la explicación de una unidad traductológica realizada por medio de preguntas Q garantiza que se obtengan los rasgos esenciales de la unidad, que se eviten las confusiones con los vecinos semánticos, y a la vez es suficiente para asegurar una buena comprensión de los nudos conceptuales de un texto.

A modo de ejemplo, sobre la unidad temática traductológica mencionada más arriba puede acordar la amortización o la recompra, podríamos realizar la Q-explicación a partir de las respuestas a las siguientes preguntas:

- ¿Quién puede acordar?
- ¿Qué acuerda?
- ¿Qué se puede acordar amortizar o recomprar?
- ¿Qué diferencia la amortización de la recompra
- ¿Cuándo se puede realizar la amortización o la recompra?
- ¿Cómo se acuerda la amortización o la recompra?
- ¿Qué tipos de amortización existen?
- ¿Qué consecuencias tiene la amortización o la recompra para el inversor?

La respuesta a estas preguntas asegura una comprensión global y suficiente de la unidad temática traductológica y evita la confusión entre vecinos de comunidad. Por ello el traductor mejora su competencia temática traductora (aplicando esta estrategia debe formular preguntas y obtener respuestas sobre elementos que no conoce) y, de forma especial, orienta la búsqueda de información complementaria (porque centra la búsqueda de información complementaria no en una unidad concreta sino en una unidad más amplia).

Las primeras experiencias de implementación de esta estrategia en cursos de traducción económica de nivel de grado muestran una mejora clara en la competencia traductora de traductores en formación. La adquisición de este conocimiento temático redunda en una disminución explícita de errores conceptuales de traducción y en una eficiencia superior en la búsqueda de información temática por parte del traductor. En espera de resultados cuantitativos, observamos que la Q-explicación es una técnica útil para mejorar la competencia temática del traductor en formación.

4. Conclusiones

Los modelos de análisis de la competencia traductora que se han propuesto son útiles pero quizás no suficientes para explicar la cantidad y el tipo de conocimiento económico que debe adquirir el traductor, y menos todavía el traductor especializado no especialista. Ante el argumento común y compartido que el tipo de conocimiento temático que necesita el traductor es distinto del conocimiento que posee el experto, disponemos de propuestas que distinguen el conocimiento que posee el experto frente al conocimiento temático que debe adquirir el traductor. Estas propuestas, aunque utilísimas, optan por la adquisición de la competencia temática global y no parcial, centrada en la materia y no en el tema del texto que se traduce.

El conocimiento temático que debe adquirir el traductor se concentra en el texto que traduce, y no se extiende a la materia global con la que trabaja. Esta diferencia es significativa, porque implica un cambio de perspectiva respecto a modelos que sugieren que la competencia temática que necesita el traductor es equivalente a la comprensión temática que tiene el experto en una materia. Y en este sentido es importante destacar que el conocimiento temático significativo que el traductor necesita para traducir es el que evita que confunda conceptos vecinos, y no directamente el que le permite identificar conceptos de un campo de conocimiento.

Siguiendo esta línea argumental, la competencia traductora del traductor en formación mejora claramente con la utilización de dos instrumentos que se desprenden del texto mismo: por un lado, con la identificación de unidades traductológicas y, por otro lado, con la explicación formulada con preguntas Q.

En cuanto a la identificación de unidades, son fundamentales las unidades temáticas traductológicas, que se complementan con sus vecinos de comunidad y las familias operacionales. Identificar las unidades es esencial para evitar confundir conceptos próximos. En cuanto a la Q-explicación, se perfila como una técnica claramente útil para adquirir conocimiento temático, pues con las preguntas y las respuestas que el traductor obtiene consigue fácilmente identificar los rasgos esenciales y accidentales del tema del texto que traduce, a la vez que orienta la búsqueda de información en fuentes externas.

El trabajo realizado hasta el momento con estudiantes de grado en traducción e interpretación económica muestra que estas dos estrategias contribuyen claramente a mejorar la competencia temática del traductor en formación.


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[1] En esta línea, las propuestas que defienden por ejemplo que el traductor debe adquirir saberes declaritivo, procedimental y capacidad de colaboración interprofesional (Valderrey, 2005) parecen especialmente interesantes para el docente en traducción.

[2] Sin querer ahundar en este momento en esta cuestión, parece que podemos relacionar este tipo de conocimiento con el tipo de traductor (seguramente el economista formado estará en un nivel 7-8 del Marco Europeo de Cualificaciones para el aprendizaje permanente, mientras que el traductor estará en un nivel 2-3), pues la diferencia entre los dos profesionales puede relacionarse con el grado de independencia que tienen del texto: el especialista tiene un conocimiento externo, al margen del texto; el traductor, no; lo tiene limitado al texto, del que depende. Y en la misma línea se podrían situar las descripciones de los estadios de adquisición del conocimiento experto (Dreyfus y Dreyfus 1986).

[3] Desde el punto de vista del tema del texto, compartimos lo supuestos sobre los niveles de comprensión que propone Elena (2011), cuando distingue entre la comprensión literal, la comprensión organizativa y la comprensión inferencial. En la comprensión inferencial especialmente, se construye el modelo mental de la situación descrita en el texto, basándose no solamente en lo que el texto aporta, sinó también en los conocimientos previos (y posteriores, añadimos) relacionados con el tema que el lector tiene almacenados y que aplica al texto elaborando una representación mental del mismo.

[4] No nos ocupamos en esta ocasión sobre la pertinencia de las herramientas y los recursos que utiliza el traductor para adquirir conocimiento temático, pero no queremos dejar pasar esta ocasión para reafirmar que todavía no disponemos de diccionarios y otros repertorios léxicos concebidos para resolver las necesidades de los traductores (Gelpí, 2008). Destacan, de todos modos, iniciativas interesantes en la lexicografía especializada para promover herramientas adecuadas a las necesidades del traductor (por ejemplo, Gallego-Hernández 2014), pero los recursos existentes siguen teniendo una orientación onomasiológica, que implica una dificultad de acceso para el traductor.

A contextual case study-based methodology of teaching business translation: an overview

By Marcin Walczyński (University of Wrocław, Poland)

Abstract & Keywords

The aim of this article is to discuss business translation training, paying particular attention to a case study-based methodology of teaching business translation in real or semi-real circumstances with the use of authentic (or semi-authentic) documents, related to the business and cultural reality of a given pair of source and target language countries. The paper starts with some preliminary remarks on business English and business translation. Following is an overview of Polish methods of teaching business translation at the tertiary level. Then, the article presents the main assumptions of the case study-based methodology of teaching business translation, focusing on a variety of business translation trainees’ skills and competences developed within a course taught in the spirit of this methodology. Finally, some remarks are made on the selection of materials for such a course, case study participants playing different roles in case studies as well as the course of each case study and the evaluation form used in this methodology. It seems that along with the growing internationalisation of the economy and business at large, the Anglicisation of their linguistic dimensions and the more and more important role assigned to the English language, the methodology of teaching business translation presented herein seems to respond well to the needs for the education and training of professional Polish-English business translators.

Keywords: business translation, business English, translator training, translation service market

©inTRAlinea & Marcin Walczyński (2015).
"A contextual case study-based methodology of teaching business translation: an overview"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: New Insights into Specialised Translation
Edited by: Daniel Gallego-Hernández
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Permanent URL: http://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/2143

1. Introduction

The continuous globalisation and internationalisation of a growing number of human activity spheres are the cause of significant changes in business. One such internationalised aspect is the linguistic sphere of business. In other words, international business activity has become dominated by English which nowadays functions as a genuine lingua franca. However, the common use of this language in business has not reduced the need for professional business translations. This is observable in such countries as Poland whose accession to the European Union in 2004 and the growing number of roles it is assigned in the international arena have increased the involvement of foreign investors and thereby rapidly expanded the need for professional business translators who have not only an excellent command of both Polish and English but also expertise in business-related matters.

This paper examines the training of business translators in the Polish context by offering what is referred to here as ‘a case study-based methodology of teaching business translation’. However, before presenting the main assumptions underlying this methodology, the characteristics of business English and business translation are discussed. This will serve as a point of departure for the subsequent parts of this article. Following this is an overview of business translation teaching in Poland, of which several models are currently in use. The case study-based methodology of teaching business translation is discussed with reference to the concept of ‘translator competence’ which is developed within a business translation course taught by means of this methodology. Another crucial framework for discussing the methodology is that of the source and target languages and cultures for, as the author believes, teaching business translation should not be pursued in a theoretical vacuum or in an irrelevant context (that is, with reference to the countries of the languages which are neither source nor target). Finally, some remarks are made on the selection of teaching materials, the course of the case study and the projected benefits that teaching business translation in this way may bring.

Generally speaking, the paper is an attempt to show that the success of business translation teaching lies in the appropriate selection of both teaching methods and study materials which – in this particular case – involve case studies with authentic (or semi-authentic) business documents and modes of student work which may recur in the real-life business environment.

2. Business English and business translation

Business English is often classified as a specialised variety of English used in highly specialised contexts related to business activity. This language variety has become an object of linguistic study which is developing quite rapidly to embrace more and more aspects of business English such as specialised lexicon, grammar, discourse, stylistics, sociolinguistics, pragmatics or translation studies focusing on business discourse. The scholarly investigations into this specialised variety of English fall into the studies known under the umbrella term ‘Languages for Special Purposes’ (LSP). Basturkmen and Elder (2004: 672) define this concept in the following way:

LSP is generally used to refer to the teaching and research of language in relation to the communicative needs of speakers of a second language in facing a particular workplace, academic, or professional context. In such contexts language is used for a limited range of communicative events.

Business English is thus definitely a case in point as it fully adheres to the characteristics specified in the above description. What is more, due to such a widespread use of English in so many different fields, the term ‘English for Special Purposes’ (ESP) has come to be used on a regular basis both in the practice of language teaching as well as in the theoretical studies within applied linguistics.

Another term which is nowadays commonly used in the study of business English is ‘Business English as a Lingua Franca’ (BELF). In their often quoted definition, Louhiala-Salminen et al. (2005: 403-404) hold that:

BELF refers to English used as a ‘neutral’ and shared communication code. BELF is neutral in the sense that none of the speakers can claim it as her/his mother tongue; it is shared in the sense that it is used for conducting business within the global business discourse community, whose members are BELF users and communicators in their own right - not ‘non-native speakers’ or ‘learners’.

It can be thus stated that one of the major properties of business English is the fact that it is a real lingua franca of business communication and that for the vast majority of speakers it is not a first language and therefore all of such business English users are linguistically equal.

In today’s world, business English seems to be the predominant linguistic choice as far as any international and intercultural transactions are concerned. There are at least several reasons for that. First of all, English, not only in its business variety, is a real lingua franca of the world with approximately 335 million first language/native speakers and additional 505 million second/foreign language users (Ethnologue. Languages of the World 2014). It is the main language of Great Britain, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and (to a lesser extent) of Canada and South Africa, which together form an economically and politically powerful linguistic block. Its history of development is deeply rooted in business and commercial contacts in different parts of the world, for example, in Africa, Asia or Oceania, which is well manifested by numerous varieties of English and English-based pidgins and creoles. English is also a working language of many international institutions which may have several languages, like the European Union, but still English seems to be used most often. Moreover, this may lead to the development of such linguistic phenomena as ‘Eurojargon’, which exhibits the influences of other languages, has a reduced inventory of grammatical and lexical structures and, generally speaking, serves the needs of a ‘supranational culture’ (Snell-Hornby 2006: 142). What is more, due to its relatively easy lexical and grammatical structure, many people around the world learn this language and use it in their professional life involving commercial encounters with other foreigners. English is then a shared language, thanks to which professional communication can take place, leading thereby to successful business transactions. Nevertheless, such widespread use of English and the more and more common decent command of this language among businesspeople have not reduced the need for professional translation services in the field of business. The industry of business translation into and from English is therefore thriving with more and more business translators joining the profession every year. This can be illustrated by the data included in several press articles published on the Polish Internet websites about the increasing value of the translation industry and its forecast growth in the next years. Aleksandra Kozicka-Puch (2012), the author of one of such articles, claims that:

(…) approximately 90 per cent of translation orders come from the enterprises which enter the domestic market as well as from the Polish companies seeking their partners abroad. The greatest number of orders is placed by the financial sector companies and pharmaceutical concerns. Quite many orders come from insurance companies, from the new technology industry and widely understood consulting services. Law offices are also serious ordering parties of such services. (translated from Polish by the author himself)

In 2014 it was estimated that the global value of the translation industry had exceeded 35 billion US dollars whereas the Polish section of this industry was estimated to be worth approximately 265,000 US dollars. What is more, there were approximately 60,000 translation companies in Poland in 2014 and the predominant types of documents were business-related and specialised texts – legal or medical documents (Business Newseria 2014).

‘Business translation’ is a term which covers a whole range of different domain-specific types of translation. Under this heading, one may find translations of employment documents, financial statements, stock exchange reports, contracts and agreements as well as translation of legal documents such as court letters, court orders or company formation and registration documents. For the purpose of this article, business translation may be defined as a specialised type of translation which focuses on various manifestations of business discourse. As such, business translation is thus context-bound, which means that the major contextual setting in which the translated texts are to function is the business environment of the source and target language countries. As noted above, business translation can be further subdivided into specific theme-related categories such as financial translation, customer service translation, work setting translation, contract and agreement translation or publicity translation. Sometimes, legal texts can also be subsumed into business translation as is the case, for example, with contracts and agreements which are often regarded as legal documents functioning in a business environment.

In translation studies, business translation may be analysed from different angles and the functional approaches seem to address this type of translational activity well. Among the theories which can be applied to the studies of business translation are, for instance, Skopos theory, which highlights the purpose for which translation is made (for example, the purpose of business correspondence) (Reiss and Vermeer 1984), text type theory, which emphasises the role of text genre and the selection of relevant translation methods (for instance, informative or operative business texts) (Reiss 1977/89), the integrated approach, which tries to locate all translation types on a single continuum with special language translation (for example, business translation) being a point on this continuum (Snell-Hornby 1995), or translatorial action theory, which stresses the translation goal and outcome achieved within the process of translation (Holz-Mänttäri 1984).

Generally speaking, business English and business translation are nowadays quite important elements of language services. This is due to the fact that more and more business people realise the importance of this language in business communication, which can be seen in the continually growing number of professional business English language schools and business translation agencies. This, in turn, creates the need for modern approaches to both business English teaching and business translation that are more practice-oriented than theory-oriented. One way to address this need is the case study-based methodology of business English translation courses presented below.

3. Teaching business translation in Poland: an overview of methods

Business translation is taught in Poland in different schools, in different language pairs and in different ways. What has recently been observed as a recurrent trend is the re-development of the curricula of traditional language studies (those focusing on educating future language teachers or language, culture and literature specialists) and the introduction of translation modules or even separate translation specialisations. This is aimed at increasing the attractiveness of language studies as the Polish market of higher education is becoming more and more demanding and competitive due to the shrinking number of potential students. Such actions by tertiary education institutions are thus intended to encourage more young people to take up studies in more market-oriented fields, among which translation and/or interpreting studies are thought to be included.

The teaching of business translation in Poland is rather institutionalised. This means that there are some higher education institutions which offer courses in business translation. The most renowned tertiary education units are ‘classical’ universities with extensively developed faculties of modern languages and/or applied linguistics. Generally speaking, business translation courses are taught as modules of both B.A. and M.A. higher studies in languages and literatures (in Poland called ‘philologies’) or applied linguistics. Several Polish universities offer such studies (for example, Warsaw University, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, University of Silesia, University of Wrocław). Apart from those ‘classical’ universities, business translation is taught in other tertiary schools such as universities of applied sciences, higher business schools or technical universities. Quite a number of academic centres offer postgraduate studies in translation, of which business translation is a major component.

As far as the methods of teaching business translation are concerned, they usually involve translating business documents in class, with the help of a teacher, and discussing selected translation problems which arise in the course of work on the translation. Students typically work in one of several modes. They may work on the translation on their own, later discussing selected translation issues in class. They can work in pairs or in groups focusing on a selected fragment of the source text. Some teachers prefer to work with the entire group, asking students questions and eliciting target language fragments. It seems that the courses which comprehensively develop a multi-aspectual business translation competence are rather scarce. A short survey (done by the author himself for the purpose of this paper) of different syllabi available on the websites of higher education institutions in Poland has shown that actually only a few course descriptions provided information on other aspects of teaching business translation than the concentration on a variety of business texts. This may have several causes. First of all, the syllabi posted on university websites are sometimes of very meagre quality, thus not allowing potential students to become familiar with the real contents and materials of the course. Secondly, a business translation course may be part of a translation module whose general aim is to educate future translators who will be able to work in various contextual settings and hence be able to deal with texts of different nature. Thirdly, business translation courses are not always taught by teachers who have hands-on experience in translating business texts. Owing to the increasing specialisation of professional life, many academic teachers employed at language departments of universities limit themselves to teaching and carrying out scholarly activity in a highly restricted area (that is, English language grammar or Mediaeval English literature), having no time to involve in translation activity, let alone designing practical courses which go beyond their academic field. In informal communication, many of them declare their unwillingness to take up any translation, preferring language teaching instead. Some of them directly state that they have no skills in translation and therefore, when obliged to teach translation courses, they do it improperly, accentuating improper aspects of translator education. Radical improvements in this state of affairs are badly needed and only professional, knowledgeable and competent instructors, knowing the reality of the translation service industry, should teach such courses. Only then can such courses respond to the needs of professional translation training.

To sum up, business translation teaching at the tertiary level is developing in Poland as more and more universities and other tertiary education institutions have recently re-designed their curricula of language studies in order to attract more prospective students who wish to be employed in respected and potentially well-paid occupations such as the profession of a translator. Moreover, there is a shared belief among foreign language students, expressed in informal interviews, that translation skills are more useful in future professional life as they can be successfully used during employment in various industries (business, tourism, production, to name but a few) as opposed to language teaching skills whose area of application is – in this regard – rather limited.

4. Case study-based methodology of business translation teaching

The case study-based methodology of business translation teaching is based on the assumption that business translators have a multifaceted translator’s competence which allows professional translators to perform several tasks at a time (that is, multitasking), to meet the deadline, to maintain the highest quality of both the translation process and translation end product as well as to continually develop and update skills, competences and knowledge. Being a prolific domain of translation studies, translator’s competence, also referred to as ‘translation competence’, ‘translation skills’, ‘translation ability’, ‘translation expertise’, ‘translational competence’, (Albir 2010: 56) has attracted the interest of many scholars (cf. Alves & Gonçalves 2007, Bell 1991, Kelly 2005, PACTE 2003, Pym 2003, Shreve 2006).

There is a general agreement that translator’s competence consists of at least several important components, also known as subcompetences, which relate to a variety of skills, knowledge, attitudes, values and beliefs that each translator should possess. PACTE group, an academic group of translation scholars dealing predominantly with translation competence, is of the opinion that translation competence is inextricably related to expert declarative and procedural knowledge (PACTE 2003: 48). Their model is composed of several subcompetences: bilingual subcompetence (knowledge of languages), extra-linguistic subcompetence (thematic, cultural knowledge), transfer subcompetence (knowledge of translation processes, methods, techniques, strategies, procedures and the ability of applying them to the proper translation of a given text), instrumental/professional competence (information mining skills, documentation work skills, CAT tools, knowledge of the translation profession itself), strategic subcompetence (related to the translation process and its execution), psycho-physiological subcompetence (cognitive aspects, creativity, reasoning etc.). Another model worth referring to at this point is the one developed by Dorothy Kelly. Although criticised by some scholars, the approach taken by Kelly (2010: 89-90) who argues that translator’s competence should be composed of: communicative and textual competence, cultural and intercultural competence, subject area competence, professional and instrumental competence, psycho-physiological or attitudinal competence, interpersonal competence, strategic competence also seems to be relevant to the business translation teaching methodology under discussion. Equally interesting and relevant is the initiative of the European Master’s in Translation (EMT) expert group which has devised a model of translation training developing students’ translation competences. Their reference framework includes a set of competences important in providing high-quality translation services: translation service provision competence, language competence, intercultural competence, information mining competence, thematic competence, technological competence (Gambier 2009: 3-7).

The above models of translator’s/translation competence were a basis for suggesting the ‘five components of translators’ education’ (Walczyński and Kurcz 2013: 186). They hold that:

(…) the proper education of translators should be multi-faceted and comprehensive and therefore it should encompass what we call ‘five components of translators’ education’: language skills, translation skills, computer and CAT tool skills, target language culture awareness and area expertise.

It is both the above models of translator’s/translation competence and the five-component education model that the case study-based methodology is based on. First of all, let us explain what is meant by a ‘case study’ in this particular context. The understanding of the notion of a ‘case study’ is derived from both social sciences and business sciences. By and large, a case study is:

[d]ocumented study of a specific real-life situation or imagined scenario, used as a training tool in business schools and firms. Students or trainees are required to analyze the prescribed cases and present their interpretations or solutions, supported by the line of reasoning employed and assumptions made. (Business Dictionary 2014)

The case-study methodology of teaching business translation is thus a simulation of a real-life translation process, within which a multitude of aspects relevant to the profession of a translator are trained. This results from the models of translator’s/translation competence outlined above. Such a case study in business translation should therefore be understood as simulated translation service circumstances in which students are exposed to a variety of tasks, requirements, obligations, limitations and constraints which occur on a regular basis in the reality of the translator’s profession. In other words, a case study is the entirety of circumstances which requires translation students to take a number of psychological, cognitive and practical translation actions whose ultimate goal is the timely delivery of a finished high-quality translation product in the form of a target language text. A case study may involve an analysis of a source language text, preparation of a glossary or a term base (for example, using special software like Trados Multiterm), word-search query, consultation with experts, translation proper, proofreading, correction, exporting into the target file format, delivering to the customer, settling the accounts, issuing the invoice or even dealing with customer’s complaints about errors. As can be seen, the case study represents the translation process cycle.

4.1. Case study actors

One important issue of the methodology is case study actors. The case study actors are of several types. First of all, there are main course participants – business translation trainees who are expected to have a well-developed proficiency in English and Polish, defined by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages as C1 for English and C2 for Polish. Only such a high level of the command of those languages can guarantee that they will benefit from the course and become fully involved in the tasks. The course participants will take a variety of roles (therefore they are called actors) within the case studies. In one case study, they may be business translators, in another they can be language verifiers and proof-readers and yet in others they may be attentive translation customers who will diligently scrutinise the translated document for any potential deficiencies. Obviously, a case study may be quite complex and involve all of these roles. Another important figure is the course instructor who may also take several roles. First of all, the main assignment of the teacher is to devise the case study, selecting the source-language documents, envisaging all potential tasks, duties, responsibilities, time limits, issues of ethics, limitations and deciding upon the key skills, competences, knowledge and values that are to be practised within such a case study. The second role of the instructor is to be the coordinator of the translation process. In other words, the instructor may serve as a project manager who will assign tasks to particular trainees or groups. Another important role that the instructor plays is the role of the evaluator of the translation end product. Of course, this evaluation must be based on specific criteria (in this particular case – market-related evaluation parameters are applied). At this point, one important remark must be made. The course instructor should be a person with hands-on experience in business translation, preferably an academic teacher who – apart from the scholarly activity – is deeply embedded in the translation industry and who translates business documentation in his/her extra-university translation practice. Such a person can guarantee the correct determination of teaching goals, proper choice of practice materials as well as appropriate selection of teaching methods which will be relevant to professional translation practice. Fortunately, in informal communication it became evident that there are more and more such academic teachers who are also regular translators.

4.2. Case study course

Before the case study can be assigned to business translation students, the objective of the case study needs to be agreed upon. This aspect is very important as different case studies may serve to achieve different goals related to shaping business translation students’ skills, abilities and competences. For instance, if the stress is to be put on the application of modern computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools, the majority of case study phases should centre around developing the abilities and expertise in the technological facets of business translation. If business terminology collection and management techniques are the focus, then the case study may be devised in such a way that all stages teach students how to deal with business vocabulary in both source and target languages. If the translation process itself is the emphasis, all case study stages need to concentrate on partial performance of the process.

On the whole, irrespective of the specific goals of particular case studies, one overriding objective must be kept in mind – everything that business translation trainees will have to perform must be directly linked to real-life professional market practice. Irrespective of whether the translation process or translation product is the focus, they all need to be related to authentic professional translation practice. In other words, ‘empty’ tasks (that is, exercises performed for the sake of exercises) must be completely eliminated as they do not serve this purpose.

Another important aspect which must be carefully considered prior to the case study proper is the selection of materials. The author’s professional translation experience and translation teaching practice have shown that only the use of contextually relevant, source and target language-related materials functioning in a business environment either in Poland or in the English-speaking countries (or, as the case might sometimes be, in all of them) makes sense. This means that in this methodology of teaching business translation, there is no place for textual/documentary irrelevance, that is, source language texts which are artificially prepared for practice purposes but are actually not present in the real-life business document flow. The translation materials around which the case studies can be built include: employment documentation (job applications, curricula vitae, cover letters, employment forms or employment contracts), company documents (registration documents, company contracts, organisation charts, business plans, mission statements, strategies, business letters or company publicity materials). If possible, the best solution is to work on authentic documents (with confidential data removed), which allows the instructor to include anecdotal information that may make the simulation realistic. Practicing translators, translation offices as well as external interested parties (for example, companies and other business-related institutions) may serve here as a great source of information on the most frequent types of business documents received for translation.

As far as the case study course is concerned, it can have a myriad of forms. The students can be asked to translate a business document by means of a CAT tool (for example, memoQ®, Trados Studio®, Wordfast®), create a preliminary glossary or a term base, create a translation memory through alignment with a previously translated document or verify lexical and grammatical correctness and equivalence. If working in teams, they may also be asked to compare their translations and discuss the problems of translation quality and measurability.

Each case study may be assigned several teaching hours because the translation process is indeed lengthy. All the activities performed by professional business translators while dealing with a business text can take several teaching hours (or even days) and such case studies can teach translation trainees that patience and diligence are needed in the translation process.

Table 1 illustrates the complexity of a case study model and the aspects it focuses on and it is related to.

PRE-TRANSLATION PHASES Case study preparation phases (main actor: instructor)
  • Establishing the goal
  • Selecting authentic practice business materials
  • Deciding about the mode of students’ work
  • Deciding about particular tasks and procedures
Pre-translation phases (main actors: trainees)
  • Analysing the source text
  • Establishing the purpose of the target text
  • Compiling glossaries
  • Retrieving expertise and compiling glossaries/term bases
  • Consulting experts
  • Searching reliable knowledge sources
  • Setting the software
TRANSLATION PROPER PHASES Translation proper phases (main actors: trainees)
  • Translation proper
  • Performing translation procedures
  • Initiating bilingual cognitive resources and processes
  • Keying in the translation
  • Peer/group discussion about the translation product
  • Assessing language quality
  • Assessing equivalence
  • Assessing content-based aspects
  • Proofreading/correction
  • Verification
  • Exporting the target file format
POST-TRANSLATION PHASES Post-translation phases (main actors: trainees and instructor)
  • Assessing market suitability
  • Instructor’s assessment
  • Rectifying any errors
  • Discussing the benefits of the case study

Table 1 Case study model complexity

4.3. Evaluation

The final aspect of the methodology is evaluation. An attempt should be made to objectify the evaluation as much as possible. One of the methods of doing so is the use of a specially designed ‘student translation evaluation form’[1] , which allows evaluation of the following aspects: 1. (Functional-pragmatic) equivalence, 2. Grammar (2.1. Form, use, appropriateness, 2.2. Discourse-specific grammatical structure), 3. Vocabulary (3.1. Spelling, form, collocation, 3.2. Specialised vocabulary-terminology), 4. Punctuation, 5. Mechanics, 6. Style and register, 7. Layout/format, 8. Customer-related evaluation. All criteria are evaluated according to a 3-point scale. Particular aspects of students’ translation can be assigned either 3 points (with no errors in a given aspect), 2 points (with slight errors, easily rectifiable) or 0 point (too many major errors making the target language text unacceptable in the market). Although there are several translation evaluation metrics (e.g. ATA metric (ATA 2015) or MQM framework (Mariana, Melby, Cox 2015)), it is Daniel Gouadec’s (2010: 273) grades that the points in the evaluation form used in the presented methodology refer to. Accordingly, 3 refers to ‘fit-for-broadcast’ (‘accurate, efficient and ergonomic’), 2 refers to ‘fit-for-delivery’ (with minor improvements needed) whereas 0 refers to ‘rough-cut’. However, lack of point 1 in the above-presented grading scale needs explaining. The market-related evaluation form allows three options in each category: acceptable (3 points), acceptable with minor revisions (2 points) and unacceptable (0 point). Course participants would earn 1 point for the translation which would be acceptable after major revisions. In the translation market the translations which need to be thoroughly revised, with some of their parts sometimes requiring translation anew, are not acceptable and therefore no 1 point can be given for them in the methodology in question.

The sum of the points collected for particular aspects leads to the final grade which is expressed in the so-called market suitability descriptors. 30-28 points (100 per cent-93 per cent) allow classification of the translation as being of high quality with positive market suitability; 27-25 (92 per cent-84 per cent) allow categorisation of the target language product as being of good quality, with only slight revision necessary. This sum also renders the translation positive in terms of market suitability. All other scores help to classify the translation product as either for translation training purposes only (24-23 points, 83 per cent-76 per cent) or with negative market suitability. For teaching purposes, the Polish university grading scale[2] has been adopted where the grade 5.0 is the best note, 3.0 is the worst passing (satisfactory) grade whereas 2.0 stands for the failing grade.

Table 2 presents the student translation evaluation form.

STUDENT TRANSLATION EVALUATION FORM used in the case-study-based translation teaching methodology Points
(functional-pragmatic equivalence)
  1. Full equivalence
  2. Partial equivalence
  3. No equivalence
(form, use, appropriateness)
  1. No grammar errors
  2. Minor grammar errors
  3. Major grammar errors
  1. Correct selection and use of grammatical structures
  2. Limited range of discourse-specific grammatical structures
  3. No discourse-specific grammatical structures
(spelling, use, collocation)
  1. No lexical errors
  2. Minor lexical errors
  3. Major lexical errors
(spelling, use, collocation, appropriateness)
  1. Correct selection and use of specialised vocabulary
  2. Limited range of specialised vocabulary (non-specialised vocabulary prevails)
  3. No specialised vocabulary
(correctness, language variety use consistency)
  1. No punctuation errors
  2. Minor punctuation errors
  3. Major punctuation errors
(spacing, indentation, hyphenation, capitalisation etc.)
  1. No mechanics errors
  2. Minor mechanics errors
  3. Major mechanics errors
  1. Correct discourse-specific style and register
  2. Minor problems with discourse-specific style and register
  3. No adherence to discourse-specific style and register
  1. Correct layout and format of the translation
  2. Minor editing/layout/format problems
  3. Major editing/layout/format problems
(whether the translation can be handed over to the customer)
  1. Acceptable without revisions
  2. Acceptable after minor revision
  3. Unacceptable
  Positive market suitability High quality translation. No revision necessary. 100%-93% 30-28 5.0
Good quality translation. Only slight revision necessary. 92%-84% 27-25 4.5
Translation training purposes Acceptable quality translation. Greater revision necessary. 83%-76% 24-23 4.0
Negative market suitability Meagre quality translation. More detailed revision necessary. 75%-70% 22-21 3.5
Negative market suitability Meagre quality translation. Major revision necessary. 69-60% 20-18 3.0
Unacceptable. Re-translation necessary. 59%-0% 17-0 2.0


Table 2 Student translation evaluation form – proposal

5. Concluding remarks

The above overview of the case study-based methodology of teaching business translation has aimed to show its potential and main assumptions. The author is of the opinion that teaching business translation in this way has several benefits. First of all, this methodology is strongly correlated with the needs of the real life market. Secondly, business translation students are exposed to authentic documents, which they may then deal with in their professional life. Moreover, the methodology based on case studies develops translation competence in many different ways.

Another advantage is that students are given an insight into different stages, procedures and elements of the translation process. Thus, well-devised case studies may help trainees understand a range of tasks, actions, requirements, limitations or cognitive and psychological states which constitute the inherent elements of the translation process. What is more, students have the possibility of playing different roles in the simulated business translation industry. This gives them a chance to work with authentic texts relevant to the business environments of the source and target language countries in the form of task-based case studies. Ultimately, it may help them become fully familiarised with the characteristics of business translation sector. It is therefore believed that teaching business translation in such a way may contribute to the development of full translation competence so badly needed in the language service industry.

A survey is currently being carried out intended to measure the usefulness of this methodology and a preliminary analysis of the data indicates that the application of this methodology brings positive results in the form of decent and adequate skills, competences and knowledge of translation service providers (that is, students and former students – at present regular translators). Moreover, the outcomes of the survey demonstrate that the student translation evaluation form used in the evaluation part of the methodology is a tool stimulating both the instructor’s as well as trainees’ reflection on the translation process, the translation as an end product and various roles of the translator.

Overall, it seems that well-developed case studies may be successfully used as context-bound circumstances around which the process of teaching business translation can be organised.


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[1] The full discussion of the student-translation evaluation form will be published elsewhere in 2015. The form was presented for the first time at the conference ‘Methodological Challenges for Contemporary Translator Educators’ (Cracow, 10-11 October 2013) organised by the UNESCO Chair for Translation and Intercultural Communication of Jagiellonian University and the Chair for Translator Education of Pedagogical University in Cracow.

[2] In Poland’s non-tertiary education, the grading scale is more developed and includes more grades, with 6,0 being the best (excellent) note and 1,0 being the failing grade.

La competencia documental en el aprendizaje de la traducción económica francés-español-francés

Estudio de caso

By Áurea Fernández Rodríguez (Universidade de Vigo, Spain)

Abstract & Keywords


This work is limited to the study of two specific cases related to two opposing concepts (antonyms) that are frequently used in the analysis of stock markets both in the Spanish and French press. The concepts are sale-purchase or rise-fall with their designations used in Spanish and French, and are part of a larger project that includes the preparation of a stock exchange glossary which we intend to keep constantly updated. Dynamism is a characteristic of economic and financial language and we intend to perform the following actions through it: teach how to resolve specific translation problems, demonstrate that dictionaries do not always offer the most appropriate word and therefore apparently simpler problems need to be resolved through other resources, offer guidelines for future professionals to help them develop their own translation tools in accordance with their needs and those of the target audience of the translation.


En este trabajo trataremos de limitarnos al estudio de dos casos concretos relacionados con dos conceptos opuestos (antónimos) muy utilizados en los análisis de los mercados de valores tanto en la prensa española como en la francesa. Se trata de venta-compra o bajada-subida con sus diferentes denominaciones en español y francés sacadas de un proyecto más amplio que incluye la elaboración de un glosario sobre la Bolsa que procuramos mantener en constante actualización. Pues el dinamismo es una característica del lenguaje económico y financiero. Con ello pretendemos enseñar a resolver problemas puntuales de traducción, demostrar que en traducción económica y financiera los diccionarios no ofrecen la denominación más correcta y que problemas, aparentemente sencillos, han de solucionarse con otros recursos. Así mismo ofrecemos pautas para que los futuros o futuras profesionales sepan crear sus propias herramientas de ayuda a la traducción, en función de sus propias necesidades o de las de los destinatarios a los que va dirigida la información.

Keywords: translation problems, translation tools, stock markets, traducción, problemas, herramientas, mercado de valores

©inTRAlinea & Áurea Fernández Rodríguez (2015).
"La competencia documental en el aprendizaje de la traducción económica francés-español-francés"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: New Insights into Specialised Translation
Edited by: Daniel Gallego-Hernández
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Permanent URL: http://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/2142

1. Introducción

Entre las principales competencias que han de adquirir los traductores y traductoras de textos especializados en general y de textos económicos y financieros, en particular, ocupa un lugar de preferencia la competencia documental. Consideramos que la competencia documental es aquella que permite lograr los conocimientos necesarios sobre el ámbito temático, la terminología y la fraseología específicas, las convenciones textuales del género (Hurtado Albir 2001: 62), y por consiguiente, las habilidades necesarias para resolver problemas conceptuales o terminológicos que se le presenten al mediador. Ahora bien, conseguir una amplia competencia documental en lo que se suele conocer como ámbito económico no es tarea fácil ni para el traductor profesional ni para los formadores y formadoras encargados de preparar a los futuros traductores e intérpretes.

En relación con la enseñanza de la traducción económica existen numerosos trabajos de investigación en los que los profesores manifiestan su preocupación por buscar estrategias docentes para satisfacer las necesidades de los futuros traductores y traductoras. Buena parte de esos análisis cuyo “objetivo es que el alumno/futuro traductor poco a poco adquiera y desarrolle la competencia necesaria para llegar a ser un buen profesional de la traducción en el ámbito económico de divulgación” (Lobato et al. 2010: 77) surgen de sus propias experiencias didácticas. Otros han considerado necesario crear un protocolo de evaluación de recursos terminográficos con el propósito de optimizar la fase de documentación en traducción especializada (Fernández et alii 2009). Para mejorar la adopción de decisiones de traducción de su alumnado y ante la carencia de recursos apropiados, todavía hoy se considera imprescindible “seguir evaluando los recursos terminológicos de los que dispone el traductor” (Gallego-Hernández 2014a: 146) u ofrecer propuestas docentes para que los estudiantes puedan identificar y comprender la terminología económica (Gallego-Hernández 2014b, Gallego-Hernández 2014c). Obviamente, la correcta comprensión e interpretación de la información que vehiculan los textos económicos aunque sean de divulgación precisa conocer algunos conceptos básicos. De ahí que los docentes e investigadores se centren en el proceso de adquisición de una buena competencia documental en el aula de traducción económica (Delgado 2011) sin la cual difícilmente se podrían resolver muchos problemas terminológicos.

En este trabajo tratamos de ofrecer algunas instrucciones para resolver problemas puntuales de traducción económica francés-español-francés a los alumnos que cursan esta asignatura en el Grado de Traducción e Interpetación de la Universidad de Vigo. Nos serviremos de diferentes ejemplos prácticos dentro del área del mercado de renta variable para comparar los resultados que ofrecen los recursos lexicográficos con otras fuentes. Nuestro objetivo consiste en demostrar que en traducción económica y financiera los diccionarios pueden ser herramientas de fácil consulta que brindan soluciones rápidas pero no son siempre las más fiables para resolver problemas terminológicos en un ámbito tan dinámico y extremadamente complejo como resulta ser el mundo de la economía. Para trasladar conceptos aparentemente sencillos como “salida a Bolsa”/”salida de la Bolsa” y “subida”/”bajada”, muy utilizados por los redactores de los análisis en informes mensuales o anuales de los organismos supervisores o simplemente en análisis bursátiles publicados en la prensa española o francesa, hay que acudir a otros recursos como los corpus ad hoc de textos originales, glosarios y/o léxicos elaborados a partir de los mismos. Así mismo tratamos de guiar al alumnado de traducción e interpretación en su toma de decisiones y ofrecer pautas para que aprendan a crear sus propias herramientas de ayuda a la traducción.

La elección de estos conceptos viene motivada por los desafíos con los que tiene que enfrentarse el/la docente a la hora de impartir la asignatura de traducción económica y el alumnado para superar las numerosas dificultades en los encargos de traducción económica y financiera en la combinación español-francés-español, tanto en traducción directa como en inversa y entre nativos de las dos lenguas. Dado que abordamos la cuestión desde una perspectiva fundamentalmente orientada hacia la formación de traductores conjugamos tres puntos de vista: el del lingüista, el del traductor y el del traductólogo con la intención de priorizar la didáctica y el control de calidad en traducción, las herramientas de trabajo del traductor o de la traductora, y los aspectos éticos y deontológicos de la traducción (Scarpa 2010: 91).

2. Metodología

Una vez elaborados dos corpus bilingües, uno con fragmentos de textos alineados con los originales y sus correspondientes traducciones francés-español y español-francés, y otro corpus bilingüe comparable (L’Homme 2004: 133), nuestro trabajo de campo implica tres tipos de actividades que resumimos a continuación. En una primera fase se analizan los errores de traducción, comparando los fragmentos de los textos de origen (TO) con varias traducciones (TM) que han realizado distintos traductores en fase de aprendizaje con el objetivo de detectar el tipo de problema (si está relacionado con la lengua de origen o si, por el contrario, se trata de errores que afectan a la lengua de llegada). A continuación se recurre a un corpus comparable de textos recuperados de la prensa digital que el propio alumnado ha creado previamente, siguiendo las indicaciones pertinentes y después de unas lecturas sobre recuperación y descarga de corpus.

Sobre la definición, utilidad y metodología para la compilación ad hoc de corpus, encontramos amplias indicaciones en la obra de Daniel Gallego-Hernández titulada Traducción económica y corpus: del concepto a la concordancia. Aplicación al francés y al español (2012) donde se recuerda lo siguiente:

Respecto de la utilidad de la lingüística de corpus aplicada a la práctica de la traducción, los investigadores tienden a subrayar su carácter complementario respecto de otros recursos, como diccionarios o glosarios en la medida en que los corpus pueden ofrecer información no solo de tipo temático-conceptual, sino de tipo término-fraseológico, en muchas ocasiones no incorporada en los productos lexicográficos (Gallego-Hernández 2012: 139)

Efectivamente, nuestros aprendices traductores deben resolver, en este caso, problemas que las fuentes lexicográficas no les han permitido solucionar de manera satisfactoria. Sin embargo, podrán corregir sus errores en las dos combinaciones lingüísticas con las que trabajan, a saber francés-español y español-francés, gracias a un recurso que ellos mismos han creado, es decir, un corpus de textos originales en francés y un corpus de textos originales en español. Además de observar algunas características propias de la traducción económica, esta tarea les familiariza con los criterios de compilación de textos paralelos para su explotación. A pesar de que los traductólogos no conciben los textos paralelos por igual, consideramos que su utilidad para nuestro propósito —formación de aprendices traductores que desconocen el ámbito temático y que deben resolver problemas terminológicos propios de un área temática concreta— resulta más efectiva cuando los textos que conforman este corpus comparten algunas características similares básicas como: adecuarse al proyecto, compartir un nivel de lengua afín, abordar el mismo tema, asegurar los criterios de actualidad y autenticidad, contar con una muestra de textos suficientemente representativa, ser publicados en una fecha muy próxima y durante un periodo que permita contrastar la variación terminológica. Si además nuestro proyecto contempla el estudio de las variantes diatópicas, también debemos considerar textos generados en diferentes culturas de una misma lengua (Fernández 2013: 38-39). Con estos textos los traductores pueden comprobar el uso real de los términos especializados y su correspondencia semántica con unos equivalentes determinados en los discursos profesionales de la lengua meta. Además nos ofrecen información sintagmática (colocaciones, comparaciones, expresiones metafóricas, locuciones, etc.) o información paradigmática (sinónimos, antónimos) que no hallamos en todas las herramientas terminográficas.

En la tercera fase, se comparan los resultados de las traducciones iniciales con la terminología utilizada en los textos del corpus comparable para así identificar las estrategias de traducción que nos permitan realizar las modificaciones pertinentes y mejorar los resultados obtenidos inicialmente. Además de necesitar principios funcionales esenciales, del tipo ¿a quién va destinada la traducción?, ¿cuál es el objetivo del texto de origen?, ¿cuál es el objetivo del texto meta?, ¿cuál es el tema?, el alumnado ha de saber dónde encontrar los indicios pertinentes que los guíen en su toma de decisiones, tanto a nivel macrolingüístico como microlingüístico (Scarpa 2010: 93).

3. El compromiso del traductor con la terminología específica

Cuando el traductor o traductora, sea aprendiz o profesional, tropieza con un concepto que desconoce puede adoptar diferentes grados de implicación o de compromiso con la terminología. María Teresa Cabré (2004: 19), una de las voces más autorizadas en cuestiones de terminología en nuestro país, señala cuatro niveles que hemos aplicado en nuestro trabajo de campo para analizar la relación entre el comportamiento del traductor o de la traductora con los resultados obtenidos. En el primer nivel consulta diccionarios sobre el tema, recurre a bancos de datos o busca en servicios de consulta terminológica. Si encuentra una forma que le convenza habrá resuelto su problema. Sin embargo, se puede dar el caso de que las soluciones que les ofrecen las herramientas lexicográficas consultadas no son las apropiadas y no permiten resolver el problema puntual que presenta el texto. Por ejemplo, para traducir “letras del Tesoro”, “bono” y “obligación” conviene conocer la especificidad que los diferencia. Una fuente que nos permite buscar por especialidad (finanzas) como Le grand dictionnaire terminologique (GDT) incluye información gramatical y definiciones para algunas entradas en francés relacionadas con estos términos, pero no soluciona el problema que plantea el texto que hay que traducir. En la definición de “obligation” se puede leer : “titre de créance négociable émis par une société ou une collectivité publique dans le cadre d’un emprunt et remis au prêteur, appelé obligataire, en représentation de sa créance”. Si acudimos a la entrada de “bon” podemos incluso caer en un error ya que encontramos varios sinónimos: “billet à ordre n. m.; obligation n. f.; billet n. m.; effet n. m.; bon n. m.”. También añade equivalencias en el inglés del Reino Unido (bond), de Estados Unidos (note), y en castellano “letra” y “bono”, cuya autoría está atribuida al Fondo Monetario Internacional (2011). El servicio de consultas terminológicas Termcat en la entrada de “bon” (en catalán) propone dentro del área de la economía, empresa y mercados financieros la solución en castellano, tres en inglés y una en francés: “obligation”, pero la definición se revela a todas luces insuficiente para los aprendices porque en ningún caso les aclara la diferencia entre las dos denominaciones. La base de datos multilingüe de la Unión Europea (IATE) muestra, en cambio, una diferencia entre “bonos” y “obligaciones” en español: “En el ámbito de la deuda pública IATE: 774127, los bonos del Estado se emiten a plazos de entre 2 y 5 años y las obligaciones a plazos superiores a los 5 años (Ministerio de Economía y Hacienda de España, Tesoro Público: Glosario http://www.tesoro.es/sp/deud...)”. Sin embargo, el problema persiste porque el texto original de partida en español no menciona ni los “bonos a 5 años” ni las “obligaciones” sino que utiliza “bonos a 10 años”.

Comprobamos que estas fuentes introducen algunos indicadores esenciales de fiabilidad como la especialidad, la definición o la información gramatical, pero no nos resuelven el problema de traducción planteado ya que el término que hay que traducir al francés es “bonos a 10 años”. Como en las herramientas lexicográficas consultadas no se hace referencia al uso de bonos y obligaciones en las dos culturas, los estudiantes han optado por una traducción literal, “bons à 10 ans”.

Ahora bien, para que se cercioren de que se trata de la denominación utilizada habitualmente por los especialistas, se les solicita una nueva verificación mediante una búsqueda en los textos originales en francés que forman parte del corpus comparable creado. Al cotejar su solución con las formas usadas por los especialistas, nuestros aprendices constatan que la expresión no aparece documentada en ninguno de ellos. Sospechan que su solución no es la correcta y deberán seguir buscando en otros recursos.

En el segundo nivel, cuando el mediador no consigue encontrar una forma oficial en las fuentes consultadas, puede proponer una unidad neológica para cubrir el vacío en la lengua de llegada. Esto sucede con frecuencia cuando se introduce un concepto desconocido. La crisis que estamos viviendo desde las hipotecas basura o subprime hasta la de “la deuda soberana” o “deuda de país” nos ha traído diferentes conceptos que desconocíamos los ciudadanos europeos ya que la mayoría proceden de la cultura económica y financiera estadounidense, la economía de referencia al situarse a la vanguardia de las innovaciones.

Para poder dominar la terminología usada en el área en cuestión el traductor o la traductora decide adquirir competencias cognitivas sobre el tema, recopila los términos en textos sobre dicho tema para elaborar una base de datos o un glosario que le va a servir para resolver un problema de traducción “de forma coherente con la forma de resolver otros problemas parecidos que ha encontrado anteriormente” (Cabré 2004: 108). Así mismo observa el comportamiento de los términos para guiar las propuestas neológicas que realice y cubrir vacíos denominativos en la lengua de llegada o diferencias en las denominaciones. En este tercer nivel verifica el uso real de los términos y constata que allí donde el español usa “bonos a 10 años”, el francés opta por “obligations”; y donde el español emplea “Letras del Tesoro”, el francés utiliza “Bons du Trésor”. De la misma manera, las expresiones “crisis de las hipotecas basura” o “crisis de las hipotecas de alto riesgo” cuentan en la prensa francesa con unas dieciocho variantes entre las que se encuentran “crise des crédits hypothécaires à risque” o “crise des prêts hypothécaires à risque”, pero nunca “*crise des hypothèques à risque”. Por el contrario, esta última sí se puede leer en la prensa francófona quebequense o belga. Estos casos de variantes diatópicas también exigen formación para poder elegir la denominación adecuada a la cultura a la que va dirigido el texto traducido.

En el cuarto nivel situamos al traductor o traductora que utiliza la información terminológica del banco de datos procedente de la recopilación de los textos especializados originales en nuestro caso y no traducidos como propone Cabré (2004) porque evitan caer en posibles interferencias. Para resolver vacíos de denominación el traductor o traductora también puede acudir a propuestas denominativas que ha hecho él mismo o ella misma. Si además de almacenarlas consigue editarlas en forma de glosario para que sirvan a otros traductores que trabajen en la misma temática se puede convertir en “terminólogo sistemático”, pero “conviene que conozca la metodología de la búsqueda sistemática monolingüe y plurilingüe” (Cabré 2004: 108).

Nuestro cometido consiste en que al final del programa de formación los aprendices sean capaces de reconocer, representar y resolver de forma eficaz el problema detectado en la etapa de traducción o en la de la revisión. Ahora bien, para recopilar, observar y dominar los conceptos, reconocerlos y saber manejar los mismos elementos léxicos que utilizan los expertos consideramos que resulta imprescindible no solo comprometerse con la terminología sino alcanzar un buen conocimiento sobre el área temática que se trata, en nuestro caso el mundo bursátil. Los aprendices traductores comprueban de primera mano que documentación y terminología son dos aspectos indisociables y fundamentales en la práctica de la traducción de textos económicos, y que la creación y explotación de corpus ad hoc les permiten desarrollar esas competenias esenciales. Por ello deben disponer de algunas nociones teóricas sobre el papel que desempeña la Bolsa en el sistema económico actual y que resumimos a continuación.

4. La Bolsa como área temática de estudio en traducción económica

Tradicionalmente la Bolsa ha sido considerada como uno de los barómetros más sensibles de la economía. “Si la Bolsa va bien, España va bien”, defendía ya Álvarez Mendizábal (1790-1853) en 1836, en su afán de estimular la Bolsa con la venta de los bienes de la iglesia, lo que se conoce como “Desamortización de Mendizábal”. Sin embargo, esta forma de hacer dinero para costear las guerras carlistas y sanear la deuda pública no era del agrado de todos. En su artículo político, “El gobierno y la bolsa”, publicado el 7 de marzo de 1836, Espronceda (1808-1842) se muestra muy crítico con el espíritu financiero de las reformas, en las que el Gobierno confunde los intereses nacionales con los de la Bolsa.

En cualquier caso, la Bolsa es un término conocido por todos nuestros estudiantes pero pocos saben cómo funciona, cuáles son los actores que intervienen en su funcionamiento, qué se negocia, cuál es su relación con los demás mercados financieros o cuál es su impacto en la economía de un país o en el sistema económico actual de capitalismo globalizado, en un mundo dominado, como dice Elena Poniatowska, Premio Cervantes 2013, por el poder financiero.

La Bolsa es un mercado oficial y organizado en el que intervienen diferentes actores: a) las empresas emisoras cuyas acciones se compran y se venden (de ahí que se hable de compraventa y de transacción); b) los inversores individuales cuyos ahorros se utilizan, directa o indirectamente, para comprar y vender los productos financieros que pueden convertir en dinero en el momento que lo deseen; c) los intermediarios financieros, los que ofrecen sus servicios para que los inversores compren o vendan; y d) los organismos supervisores con la intervención más o menos directa del Gobierno. En definitiva, la Bolsa es una fuente de financiación muy importante para las empresas, un excelente medio para su mejor funcionamiento y crecimiento, y es el “único mercado financiero donde públicamente, y de forma regulada y transparente, los que ahorran están en contacto directo con los que necesitan ese ahorro para financiar proyectos” (Álvarez 2005: 45). La Bolsa facilita por lo tanto la movilidad de la riqueza y cumple una función esencial en el crecimiento de la economía al canalizar el ahorro hacia la inversión productiva.

El precio de los diferentes activos financieros (obligaciones, bonos y acciones) que hayan emitido tanto las empresas privadas como el Estado, Comunidades Autónomas u Organismos Públicos varía según la oferta y la demanda. A mayor demanda, mayor valor del producto e inversamente, cuando el volumen de la oferta excede la demanda, el precio suele bajar. En este sentido se puede considerar que el valor del producto resulta más objetivo puesto que se corresponde con el valor que “el mercado” está dispuesto a dar por él.

¿De qué depende la posición de los inversores? Además de factores psicológicos y de los propios resultados de las empresas cotizadas, las Bolsas tienen otras referencias que influyen en su comportamiento: el precio del petróleo, los tipos de interés, los tipos de cambio monetario así como índices globales o macroeconómicos diferentes y variados que se utilizan para medir la evolución económica a medio y largo plazo: la balanza comercial, la confianza de los consumidores, la inflación, el IPC, el PIB, etc. Para que todos los actores que intervienen en el mercado tengan las mismas oportunidades deberán contar con una información clara y rápida sobre todos estos factores que pueden influir en su funcionamiento. Dado que la transparencia informativa es un compromiso constante de la Bolsa, el traductor desempeña un papel fundamental en la transmisión de ese conocimiento o información que se ha de intercambiar con la mayor transparencia posible.

5. Estudio de caso dentro del ámbito de la Bolsa

5.1. “Introductions en Bourse”

Veamos en traducción directa el caso de “introductions en Bourse” en el fragmento siguiente extraído del diario francés Les echos:

Le troisième est plus technique : après avoir bloqué les introductions en Bourse pendant plus d’un an, le régulateur chinois vient de rouvrir les vannes massivement - déjà 31 sociétés se sont vu autoriser une cotation. Les investisseurs s’inquiètent donc de savoir si l’offre de capital sur les Bourses de Shanghai et Shenzhen, déjà structurellement déprimées, va être à la hauteur de cette subite envolée de la demande. Si tel n’est pas le cas, c’est l’ensemble des cotations qui pourrait en pâtir. (Grésillon, Gabriel et Yann Rousseau: 07/01/2014).

En los artículos periodísticos de la prensa española prevalece la expresión “salida a Bolsa” con diferentes denominaciones alternativas como “salida al parqué”, “salida a cotizar”, “iniciar su andadura en Bolsa” u otras variaciones detectadas no solo “en el núcleo terminológico (salir al mercado o salir al parqué) sino también variantes morfosintácticas “salir a la bolsa, dar el salto a la bolsa)” reseñadas por el profesor Gallego-Hernández (2014c: 49) y que le lleva a concluír “que el esfuerzo cognitivo que el lector de prensa salmón debe hacer para comprender […] es especialmente importante, debido a la vaguedad terminológica que caracteriza a la economía en general. En consecuencia, quizá quepa afrontar su eneseñanza aprendizaje haciendo énfasis en los aspectos terminológicos” (Gallego-Hernández 2014c: 50). En cualquier caso, estas formas se oponen a otras del tipo “salida de la Bolsa” o “dejar de cotizar en Bolsa” y los traductores deben conocerlas. Sin embargo, las dos versiones españolas que nos ofrecen los mediadores en los fragmentos siguientes delatan desconocimiento del concepto especializado y de las diferentes denominaciones localizadas en los textos originales:

Opción 1
El tercer factor es más técnico: después de haber bloqueado las introducciones en la Bolsa durante más de un año, el regulador chino acaba de reabrir las válvulas de forma masiva. Se sabe de 31 empresas que ya han autorizado una cotización. Por lo tanto, los inversores se preocupan por saber si la oferta de capital en las Bolsas de Shanghái y Shenzhen, que están estructuralmente deprimidas, estará a la altura de este aumento repentino de la demanda.

Opción 2
El tercero es más técnico, después de haber bloqueado la introducción en Bolsa durante más de un año, el regulador chino acaba de reabrir las compuertas de forma masiva, ya son 31 sociedades las que han podido cotizar. Por lo tanto, los inversores se preocupan por saber si la oferta de capital en las Bolsas de Shanghái y Shenzhen, ya deprimidas estructuralmente, va a estar a la altura de este súbito aumento de la demanda.

5.2. Hausse-baisse

Los dos conceptos (hausse-baisse; subida-bajada) relacionados con las negociaciones de compra y venta de instrumentos de inversión en los mercados de valores cuentan con un nutrido listado de denominaciones alternativas en los análisis bursátiles de la prensa en las dos culturas, española (ES) y francesa (FR) que nos ocupan. En el titular de la sección de inversión en Expansión leemos: “El rebrote de la crisis subprime ahoga al parqué de Wall Street” (Checa F.R.:15/09/2008). A su vez, Gabriel Grésillon y Yann Rousseau titulan otro artículo en Les echos: “Cette nuit en Asie: la Bourse chinoise a le blues” y el artículo continua:

L’indice composite de la Bourse de Shanghai a chuté de 3,3% depuis le début de l’année, une contre-performance qui ne s’était pas vue depuis 2002.
Mauvais début d’année à la Bourse de Shanghai qui, depuis le début de l’année, enregistre sa pire contre-performance depuis 2002 (07/01/2014)

La abundante sinonimia terminológica que caracteriza los análisis bursátiles y en los que los términos requieren la máxima precisión conceptual resulta un escollo dificil de resolver para aquellos aprendices traductores que carecen de conocimientos suficientes sobre el ámbito temático. Sus repetidos errores convierten el resultado en un texto meta que no resulta idiomático como manifiestan las opciones castellanas que se corresponden al fragmento del artículo siguiente:

C’est le premier gros avertissement de l’année, la Bourse de Paris a chuté de 2,79 % à 4.161 points. L’indice CAC40 n’avait pas été aussi malmené par les investisseurs depuis le 3 décembre dernier, date à laquelle il avait perdu 2,65 %. Mais les autres places européennes n’échappent pas au mouvement de repli. Le Dax a perdu 2,48 %, Londres 1,62 %, Zurich 2,42 % et Milan 2,30 %. La Bourse de Madrid ferme la marche avec un repli de 3,64% (Fay, P. 24/01/2014)

Opción 1
La primera gran noticia del año es la caída de la Bolsa de París, que pasa de un 2,79% cerrando con 4 161 puntos. El índice CAC40, el selectivo de la bolsa de París, no había sufrido niveles tan alarmantes por parte de los inversores desde el pasado 3 de diciembre, fecha en la que había perdido un 2,65%. Sin embargo, las otras bolsas europeas tampoco se quedan al margen del movimiento de repliegue. El Dax perdió un 2,48%; Londres un 1,61%; Zúrich un 2,42%; Milán un 2,30% y la Bolsa de Madrid cerró con un repliegue del 3,64%.

Opción 2
Es la primera gran advertencia del año, la Bolsa de París ha descendido un 2,79 % hasta los 4.161 puntos. El CAC 40 no había sufrido tantas críticas por parte de los inversores desde el pasado 3 de diciembre, fecha en la cual perdió un 2,65 %. Pero los demás países europeos no se libran de la recesión. El Dax ha perdido un 2,48 %, Londres un 1,62 %, Zúrich un 2,42 % y Milán un 2,30 %. La Bolsa de Madrid cierra el grupo con una recesión de un 3,64 %.

Los textos originales tanto en español como en francés brindan todo tipo de expresiones y vocablos especializados que manejan habitualmente los comunicadores y que permiten crear una rica lista de sinónimos tanto de signo positivo como negativo. Bastan algunos ejemplos sacados del corpus para hallar las formas más utilizadas en la prensa de las dos culturas y que permiten solucionar los problemas de traducción anteriormente señalados. Unos designan el signo positivo de la bolsa con sus diferentes matices: “Realia se ha anotado hoy la segunda mayor subida de la bolsa al dispararse un 11,6 %”; “El Ibex rebota”; “Wall Street cerró hoy con ligeras ganancias” (ES); “La publication du chiffre d’affaires trimestriel a été profitable à l’action Carrefour qui a ouvert la séance en hausse de 4,5 % à 16,76 euros. Ce rebond permet au titre très éprouvé ces derniers temps de réduire à 5 % son repli depuis le début de l’année”; “Le Cac 40 grappille 0,1% à 4.370,84 points” (FR). Otros definen la tendencia negativa: “El desplome de las divisas emergentes y en especial del peso argentino ha provocado el derrumbe del Ibex”; “El Ibex 35 sufre una ligera corrección del 0,20% y cierra en 14.228 puntos”(ES)/”Après la correction des derniers jours, cette saison des résultats pourrait permettre un redressement des indices boursiers”; “Vers 12h, Paris dévissait de 2,14%, Francfort de 1,74%, Londres de 1,68%. Milan plongeait de plus de 5% et Madrid de 5,4%. Athènes de son côté dégringolait de 6%.”(FR). Merecen ser conocidas igualmente las diferentes denominaciones y posibles equivalencias para designar la tendencia plana: “Pese al ánimo alcista inicial, los índices borran las subidas y se quedan planos al alcanzar la media sesión de la jornada en una jornada sin datos macro de importancia” (ES)/ “La tendance reste inchangée en Bourse […] ouverture stable” (FR). Se pueden extraer así otras unidades terminológicas totalmente fiables para elaborar fichas con parámetros esenciales que solucionan muchos problemas conceptuales y terminológicos puntuales que el traductor novel sería incapaz de solventar con las herramientas terminográficas tradicionales.

6. Conclusiones

Si hacemos balance de los errores que cometen nuestros aprendices traductores al iniciar las clases de traducción económica, constatamos que hay una serie de carencias que se suelen repetir. Por ello hemos decidido realizar un estudio de campo para diagnosticar los problemas y dificultades que presentaban los textos así como las deficiencias del alumnado con el objetivo de diseñar un método de enseñanza-aprendizaje más eficaz. Efectivamente, el traductor de textos económicos ha de contar con

unos conocimientos especializados relativos tanto a los esquemas conceptuales propios del campo de los textos originales como a la terminología utilizada en ellos, cuyos problemas no solo se traducen a la simple búsqueda de propuestas de traducción y a su confirmación, sino que estos se presentan desde la perspectiva de la variación terminológica (polisemia, sinonimia, múltiples denominaciones, etc.) o la lidia de anglicismos, falsos amigos, siglas, abreviaturas, el trasvase de términos utilizados en especialidades paralelas a la económica. Como la estadística, las matemáticas, la informática, etc. (Gallego-Hernández 2012: 115)

Para ello hemos creado un primer corpus bilingüe formado con fragmentos de traducciones realizadas por los alumnos y alumnas de traducción económica francés-español y español-francés alineados con los respectivos fragmentos de textos originales. Una vez señalados los errores y deficiencias, el alumnado ha tenido que realizar un segundo corpus para intentar solventar las dificultades señaladas. Para la elaboración de ese segundo corpus los alumnos disponían de unas pautas concretas sobre su explotación que se les ha proporcionado en clases teóricas combinadas con lecturas de referencia. Así mismo el área temática sobre la que trabajaron era idéntica en los dos corpus, a saber, la Bolsa (§4).

Con este ejercicio, el alumnado ha mejorado considerablemente no solo su conocimiento del tema que trataban los textos sino que ha conseguido familiarizarse con la terminología de los mismos. Además ha adquirido una metodología de trabajo para explotar cualquier área dentro de la traducción económica. En el estudio de caso (§5) vimos que los corpus de textos paralelos ofrecen información que no se suele hallar ni en los diccionarios ni en las bases de datos. De ahí que para desarrollar la competencia documental y lograr resultados de calidad en traducción económica propongamos actividades con corpus bilingües comparables sobre un determinado tema. Además, con la ayuda de estos textos originales podemos observar y describir el proceso de traducción con fines instrumentales e incluso ofrecer explicaciones concretas sobre el uso real de la terminología especializada en la cultura meta, razonar decisiones de traducción más adecuadas y crear herramientas adaptadas a las necesidades del traductor.

En definitiva, este trabajo de campo nos ha permitido comprobar que cuando los aprendices desconocen el sentido específico de una unidad terminológica los errores son constantes, bien porque carecen de competencias documentales bien porque permanecen como sujetos pasivos y se limitan a las herramientas lexicográficas como primera fuente de consulta. Cuando van más allá y utilizan un corpus comparable representativo de textos originales que ellos mismos han creado con el objetivo de explotarlo para adquirir competencia temática, solucionar un problema terminológico concreto y eventualmente crear un glosario o un léxico, los resultados mejoran considerablemente. El traductor de textos especializados, en general y de textos económicos en particular, a diferencia del traductor literario, dispone de textos paralelos en la lengua de llegada que le sirven para adquirir mayor grado de implicación con el área temática y la terminología.


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Cabré, María Teresa (2004) “La terminología en la traducción especializada”, in Gonzalo García, Consuelo; Valentín García Yebra (eds.), Manual de documentación y terminología la traducción especializada, Madrid, Arco/Libros: 89–122.

Delgado, Iván; Barceló, Tanagua (2011). “El proceso de documentación en el aula de traducción económica (francés-español). Recopilación de recursos electrónicos sobre el mundo de la empresa”, Cédille 7: 116–136

Fernández, Áurea, (2013) “La terminología en/para la traducción de textos especializados.” in Xoan Montero Domínguez (ed.), Traducción para la comunicación internacional, Granada, Comares: 21–40.

----; Galanes, Iolanda; Del Pozo, María Isabel (2009) “Propuesta de protocolo de evaluación de recursos terminográficos y documentales para la traducción especializada. Jerarquía de fuentes telemáticas”, París, Unión Latina y Red Mundial para la Diversidad Lingüística Maaya: 162–168, URL: http://unilat.org/Library/Handlers/File.ashx?id=5154ac8d-935d-4611-9c93-de7fb898ff09 (Consulta 25 de abril de 2015)

Gallego-Hernández, Daniel (2012) Traducción económica y corpus: del concepto a la concordancia. Aplicación al francés y al español, Alicante, Publicaciones de la Universidad de Alicante.

---- (2014a) “Terminología y traducción económica francés-español: evaluación de recursos terminológicos en el ámbito contable”, MONTI: Monografías de traducción e interpretación 6: 141–166, URL: http://repositori.uji.es/xmlui/bitstream/handle/10234/112550/MonTI_06_06.pdf?sequence=1 (Consulta 24 de abril de 2015)

---- (2014b) “Elaboración de glosarios económicos con fines docentes: aproximación metodológica basada en corpus y explotación terminológica en el aula de traducción”, inTRAlinea Special Issue: Translation & Lexicography, URL: http://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/elaboracion_de_glosarios_economicos_con_fines_docentes (Consulta 24 de abril de 2015)

---- (2014c). “Terminología económico-financiera: propuesta de actividades para la enseñanza de lenguas con fines específicos”, Les Cahiers du Geres 6: 47–61, URL: http://www.geres-sup.com/cahiers/cahiers-du-geres-n-6/ (Consulta 24 de abril de 2015)

Hurtado, Amparo (2001) Traducción y Traductología. Introducción a la Traductología, Madrid, Cátedra.

L’Homme, Marie Claude (2004) La Terminologie: principes et techniques, Montréal, Presses de l’Université de Montréal.

Lobato Julia; Durán, Natalia; Morón, Carmen (2010) “La traducción (francés-español) de textos económicos de divulgación desde una perspectiva didáctica”, AdVersuS, VII: 73–106, URL: http://adversus.org/indice/nro-18/articulos/04VII-18.pdf (Consulta 26 de abril de 2015)

Scarpa, Federica (2010) La traduction spécialisée. Une approche professionnelle à l’enseignement de la traduction, Ottawa, Presses de l’Université d’Ottawa.

Artículos periodísticos citados

Checa, F. R. (2008) “El sector financiero y el petróleo ahogan a Wall Street” URL: http://www.expansion.com/2008/07/11/inversion/mercados/1145163.html (Consulta: 7 de enero de 2014)

Checa, F. R. (2008) “El rebrote de la crisis subprime ahoga al parqué de Wall Street” URL: http://www.expansion.com/2008/09/15/inversion/1164969.html (Consulta: 7 de enero de 2014)

Rousseau, Hervé (2011) “Wall Street dans le rouge”, URL: http://www.lefigaro.fr/marches/2011/05/03/04003-20110503ARTFIG00424-wall-street-devrait-ouvrir-proche-de-l-equilibre.php (Consulta: 7 de enero de 2014)

Grésillon, Gabriel y Rousseau, Yann. (2014) “Cette nuit en Asie : la Bourse chinoise a le blues”, URL : http://www.lesechos.fr/07/01/2014/lesechos.fr/0203225339838_cette-nuit-en-asie---la-bourse-chinoise-a-le-blues.htm (Consulta: 7 de enero de 2014)

Fay, Pierrick (2014). “Bourse : l’inquiétude sur les pays émergents se diffuse en Europe”, URL: http://www.lesechos.fr/24/01/2014/lesechos.fr/0203268081148_bourse---l-inquietude-sur-les-pays-emergents-se-diffuse-en-europe.htm (Consulta: 24 de enero de 2014)

The interpretation of business in specialized expressions and compound terms for translation purpose

By Eric Poirier (Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Canada)

Abstract & Keywords

This paper first describes the complications that need to be overcome in order to describe the different senses of lexical items for translation purposes and presents an interpretation table of conventional senses of the lexical item business in specialized expressions and compound terms for English-French translation. Contrary to the recognised divide between words in general vocabulary and terms in specialized language, conventional senses of lexical items do contribute to the creation and interpretation of specialized expressions and compound terms they form. The fact that a limited number of conventional senses of lexical items are used in the creation and understanding of most expressions and compound terms makes it possible to describe recurrent translation procedures and competencies and to teach them. The second part of this paper provides a textual characterization of contextual features, semantic selection restrictions, grammatical properties and syntactical patterns of the senses of business that have been collected in a small corpus randomly selected from the Wikipedia Corpus of Mark Davies (2015) available on-line. This analysis makes it possible to establish correlations of textual features with specific senses in the corpus and to propose conditional interpretation rules and a method of interpreting business lexical items as constituents of expressions and compound terms found in the corpus.

Keywords: specialised translation, corpus-based translation studies, intertextuality, textual features, lexical patterns, business

©inTRAlinea & Eric Poirier (2015).
"The interpretation of business in specialized expressions and compound terms for translation purpose"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: New Insights into Specialised Translation
Edited by: Daniel Gallego-Hernández
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Permanent URL: http://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/2141

1. Introduction

The focus of this study is the interpretation of specialized uses of the English term business in economic, business and financial texts. The purpose of this paper is to identify interpretation rules of the meanings (or more technically, the senses) of the lexical item business that is a constituent of expressions and compound terms in specialized texts for the purpose of translation from English to French. As regards translation (in any language), the identification of interpretation rules represents half the work for translators that also have to produce an acceptable correspondent or equivalent once the meaning is identified.. As opposed to the interpretation rules which are analytical and have a unique unequivocal solution, translation decisions initiated with an interpretation of source text are creative and imply the production of multiple solutions in target language, as have shown Pym (2003). Because of that, translation decisions and target language productions can be studied separately from a given interpretation of a source text. The study of creative translation decisions are not the focus of this paper, although it is important to recognize that translation decisions are initiated from a given interpretation. The systematic description of the interpretation rules followed by translators offer the advantage of describing the analytical skills translators must demonstrate and acquire first in the translation of expressions and compound terms formed with the lexical item business.

Subject-matter vocabulary, conceptual ontologies, processes and activities to be acquired by specialized translators are for the most part represented linguistically by terms, as opposed to words which define the basic lexical items used in general texts, as suggested by Chueca Moncayo (2005: 42). Technically, as defined in any handbook of terminology, terms are characterized as “a word (simple term), multiword expression (complex term, symbol or formula) that designates a particular concept within a subject field” (Pavel and Nolet 2001: 117). In fact, the class of terms overlaps considerably with the class of words. Some simple or unitary terms belong exclusively to a specialized field of knowledge, others share the same form with words but differ from them in their specialized uses and meanings, and some terms are even comprised of a combination of words (or of words and unitary terms) in the case of complex or compound terms. Only a very small number of terms (symbols and formulas) are not words or comprised of words. Except for those terms, the definition of words (and of their meaning properties as pointed out below) plays a crucial role in the definition of terms and of special language knowledge, ontologies, processes and activities. In order to describe which lexical, terminological and phraseological items are processed in the translation of specialized documents, and necessarily how they are processed, translators, and especially translator trainers need to have a clear understanding of what those elements are precisely.

2. Words, terms, and lexical items

It is well known that the word word is an ambiguous and vague term for such a central concept in translation where words are the building blocks of meaning and translation.[1] Following Mel’čuk (1993: 98-100), the word word has two major senses: a word1 is a word-form and a word2 is a lexeme (the eminent linguist suggested to use subscripts to differentiate the two senses that have the same word-form – see below). The first sense of the word word (word1) is a concrete entity, a textual unit most often separated by blank spaces. The second sense of the word word (word2) is an abstract entity, a lexicographic unit to which a core (and specific) meaning is associated. This distinction is in reality similar to the distinction made by Chueca Moncayo (2005) citing Jackson (1988: 8) regarding the following third and fourth meanings of the word word:

We have identified orthographic words, words distinguished from each other by their spelling. Secondly, we have identified phonological words, distinguished from each other by their pronunciation. Thirdly, we have identified word-forms, which are grammatical variants. And fourthly, we have identified words as ‘items of meaning’, the headwords of dictionary entries, which are called lexemes.

In the context of Mel’čuk’s (1993) systematic description of morphology, the first and the second kinds of words (orthographic words and phonological words) would probably be considered as linguistic properties of lexemes and not of word-forms which a) have one specific orthography that normally distinguishes separate word-forms and b) have no specific phonological component since they are textual units and are instances or occurrences of lexemes from which their phonological component could be retrieved when needed. These definitions have significant consequences for translation. First and foremost, word-forms and lexemes form an inseparable pair in which word-forms are concrete textual occurrences of lexemes. This relationship is clearly of the well known token-type kind, as suggested by Lyons (1977: 13). For translation and lexicographic purposes, this particular token and type relationship between word-forms and lexemes has a second important consequence which is that a lexeme is, in fact, an abstract entity of lexemes (plural intended) that each have their group of word-forms. This means that lexemes or lexical items are not equivalent to headwords in dictionaries but to the various subdivisions (syntactical or semantic) of the dictionary entries made in practice to distinguish different senses grouped under one particular “type” or “sub-type” of lexeme. This approach to lexemes and to word-forms relationship with specific lexeme results in the existence of different lexemes considered as homonyms, i.e. having the same form but differing in meaning, even if those different lexemes are described in a dictionary entry under one single headword (as different senses of a single polysemous lexeme). Whether they are treated in a dictionary under one or several headwords, homonymous lexemes are just different lexemes for translation purposes and are not occurrences of the same type of lexeme since, as Lyons (1977: 20) explained, the type-token distinction does not apply to lexemes per se.[2]

For the purpose of this article, the term “lexical item” will be used as a particular kind of lexeme which is a group of word-forms sharing the same meaning, combinatorial and syntactical properties and that could be associated with either a dictionary headword or, when the lexicographers and the usage distinguish more than one sense for a lexeme, a distinct lexeme such as illustrated by subdivisions of a (monolingual) dictionary entry. As stated above, lexical items will be either word-forms expressing general language meaning units of a text or terms expressing specialized language meaning units of a text.

Since terms are generally defined as monosemic entities, there is no real practical reason to distinguish the concept of “term-form” as a term occurrence and the concept of term-type as a “terminological” lexeme, even if there is a difference between a term-form and a term-type. One example would be the relationship between the acronym (term-form) and its definition (term-type) such as the plural form of a term-type that is described in its singular form or ASAP standing for “as soon as possible”. As regards the relation of constituent word-forms to the compound term they are a constituent of, this relationship is predictable and transparent or unpredictable and opaque. In the first case, the relationship is better described in the grammar or syntactical patterns of one or the other constituent (head noun or noun modifier). In the latter case, the compound term needs the same treatment as the one reserved for phraseological units or idioms. However, the predictability or transparency and unpredictability and opacity of compounds are computed differently by native and second-language speakers. In the context of translation, source language (such as English in this paper) is most of the time the second language of translators. That means that English idiom criteria of definition for translators from English will be somehow target-language dependent and probably less restrictive than for native speakers of English.[3] The same could also be said about translators and subject matter specialists (which are normally less proficient in their second language than translators). In the interpretation (and translation) of expressions and compounds in specialized texts, the appreciation of their transparency or opacity is a very important source language expertise of translators and shall be taken into account in the definition of interpretation and translation rules based on lexical items constituent of terms.[4]

3. Meaning of compound terms

As shown in the previous section, terms are most comprised of words. For practical reasons and according to one of the generally agreed lexicographical practices (see below), unitary words are considered to belong to general vocabulary whereas compound phrases and terms are considered to belong to specialized vocabulary. Although not systematic, this principle allows us to draw a useful line between lexical items that are part of the general language and those that are part of specialized terminologies. For example, most specialized monolingual dictionaries do not have an entry for the term business as a specialized unitary lexical item and just describe compound entries formed with the lexical item business (almost exclusively used as an attributive noun modifier). This is the case with The New Penguin Dictionary of Business (2002) and the Oxford Dictionary of Business (2003). Both have no entry for business as an unitary term and between 14 to 28 entries for compound terms starting with the word-form business (such as business analysis, business angel, business cycle, business entity concept, etc.). However practical, this lexicographic cleavage of words and compound terms is not consistent with the essential contribution of general senses of words in the using and interpretation of specialized terms.

The typical uses in specialized texts of what Gezymisch-Arbogast (1989) called passepartout words provide circumstantial evidence for the contribution of unitary lexical items in the uses of compound terms. According to the author, passepartout words are vague unitary words commonly used as substitutes for compound terms. When used in specialized texts, passepartout words create interpretation ambiguities due to the impossibility to associate the unitary word occurrence as an occurrence of either one of its several compound term of which it is a constituent. She cites the example of assets that may stand as assets1 for “tangible fixed assets” or assets2 for “movable fixed assets”. The switch from compound to elliptical term[5] she explains is caused by a textual shift from the system level of language to the pragmatic level of parole (specific textual uses relevant for a short excerpt or a paragraph). These textual switches illustrate the contribution of unitary terms in the use and interpretation of compound terms. Although passepartout words brings about a vagueness in specialized texts (and increases the difficulty of interpretation for non-specialists), their high frequency suggests that specialists make those switches to focus their communicative efforts on the most economical terms without sacrificing too much readability for efficiency. The economy principle in language, rooted in the general principle of least effort, is well documented in linguistic (see Vicentini 2003) and language use. It could be even more significant in specialized texts written for specialists.

An important consequence of the contribution of lexical items in terms is that the main senses of words are an integral part of specialized vocabulary and terminologies. In other terms, some general senses of lexical items are crucial to the interpretation and translation of specialized compound terms. In fact, this inherent incorporation of lexical items in terms probably explains why most translators who have a good active knowledge of semi-specialized lexical items or even general vocabulary are often ahead of content-matter specialists in the translation of specialized texts.[6] They have better lexical and syntactical resources than most specialists who, by their strong bias towards specialization, are often less proficient in general culture and vocabulary[7]. For this reason, the study of specialized uses of business shall take into account some of the general senses of the word business described in monolingual general dictionaries that applies to the interpretation of compound terms in the field. In fact, this step is necessary for the description of the efforts and processes involved in the translation of compound terms formed with the term business. The interpretation rules are based on syntactic and textual “reading” of specialized sense distribution within compound terms and on the knowledge of syntactical patterns of construction of terms that can be recognized and interpreted similarly.

4. The inherent vagueness of bilingual dictionaries in translation

Since lexical items clearly contribute to the meaning and interpretation of compound terms, specialized translators or translation learners may be inclined to consult a general bilingual dictionary for interpreting predictable and transparent lexical items in compound terms. However, bilingual dictionaries in this regards are often misleading and disappointing. Bilingual dictionary entries have inherent vagueness in the discrimination of senses that create major problems in specialized translation. That is because bilingual dictionaries do not usually identify specialized or even precise (whether specialized or not) senses of the source language lexical items. For practical reasons like if target language solutions are identical for two or more source language senses, source language senses are aggregated under one target language equivalent. At best, if by chance two source senses each match with one different target language equivalent the dictionary subdivisions may help to disambiguate the source senses, but when this is not the case, no distinctive identification of source language specific or specialized sense is provided to the users. For example, in the business entry of Collins-Robert Unabridged French Dictionary (2006), the first main meaning of business # 1 a: “[uncountable] “commerce” -> affairesfpl” contains several unspecified senses under the same translation affaires, such as “to do business with [somebody] : faire des affaires avec [quelqu’un] ” (which is defined in Wordnet 3.1 (see below) as “the activity of providing goods and services involving financial and commercial and industrial aspects”), “his business is cattle rearing : il a une affaire d’élevage de bestiaux” (which is defined in Wordnet 3.1 (see below) as “the principal activity in your life that you do to earn money”), “the music business : le secteur musical” (which is defined in Wordnet 3.1 (see below) as “business sector”). Those three specific senses (specialized or semi-specialized in economics, business, and finance) are described in the same sense: [uncountable] commerce. The presentation of the entry imply that all senses are generally translated by affaires in French, and the examples provided above are either using affaire or another translation (such as secteur musical for music business). The interpretation given to the subentries is that its meanings are translated as a general rule with commerce and that the rest of the entry is dedicated to similar examples of that rule as well as counter-examples. This loose aggregation of specific source language senses also forces the users to take into account (ie read and analyze) all of the not necessarily relevant examples provided in the subentries instead of checking only for the specific sense in the source text. Another problem is that affaire is a word-form that has several lexical items and senses just as is the case for business. Since the dictionary entries do not discriminate the specific senses in source language and target language, the user is confused with the specific sense that is to be translated and that refers to the target language equivalent provided. For translators and students in specialized translation training courses, the specific senses of lexical items are inadequately specified in the bilingual dictionary which generates a high risk of inadequate choice of equivalent, one that does not convey the specific sense intended in the source text. Furthermore, this treatment is an important source of interferences in the correct uses of target language specialized terms and lexical items. In this case, the problem is not related to the disambiguation of meanings in source language text but has more to do with the incorrect attribution of specialized meanings to target language lexical items from source language senses (particularly in the case of false cognates and calques).

One could argue that bilingual dictionaries are not particularly intended for helping translators (which most usually translate in their strongest language in which they have native-like proficiency), but for second-language encoding communication situations where the user is presumed to have no active knowledge of target language terms and expressions (as opposed to their first language). Another argument that could be provided against the description of specific meaning of lexical items in bilingual dictionaries is the fact that bilingual dictionaries are obviously not designed for specialized translation. This line of reasoning seems flawed taking into account the role that simple lexical items play in the interpretation of compound terms. Whatever the issue at stake, the fact remains that there is an acute need for specialized translators and learners of translation to have access to better tools for interpreting simple lexical items used in compound terms.

On a contrastive and theoretical level, each word in both languages has several senses that are not necessarily compatible since any lexical unit has its structure or pattern of lexical senses. This is particularly true for false cognates that have been described in the famous work of Van Roey, Granger and Swallow (1988) where specific meanings of numerous pairs of cognates (circuler/circular, cité/city, clair/clear, etc.) are grouped into three sections: an equivalent section where meanings are equivalent for the two cognates, and two contrastive and differential sections where either the meaning of the French word cannot be translated by its cognate word in English or the meaning of the English word cannot be translated by its cognate word in French. By using a lexical item of the target language to represent the meaning of a lexical item in the source language, bilingual dictionaries systematically implies that all the senses of the lexical item in the target language belong to the senses of the lexical item in the source language, and, inversely, that all senses of the target lexical item belong to the senses of the source lexical item. In most cases, bidirectional inference is rarely true (as shown especially for false cognates) since lexicalized senses in words of two languages are rarely similar in nature and quantity.

The intricately confusing mixture of word-forms and senses between two equivalent lexical items from two different languages could explain the trend in English-French translation in economics, business and finance to align the structure of senses and meanings of lexical items in compound terms with their correspondent English senses, or even to borrow English compound terms, as Camilla Ferard (2009) study have shown in the case of “source language transference” for price earnings ratio, value at risk, correspondent banking and sub-prime.

5. General meanings of business in specialized terms

A first step in the description of interpretation rules of business in compound terms is the identification of specific senses contributing to compound terms. A good start is a monolingual dictionary that offers precise identification of general and specific senses of lexical items in a specially structured entry. In a general dictionary such as the Canadian Oxford Dictionary (2001) (COD), the entry business contains eleven main senses occasionally subdivided in “lettered senses”, as explained in the page xv of the Guide to the Use of This Dictionary, as well as eleven idioms listed after the main senses. The next figure presents the dictionary entry exactly as it appears.

Figure 1. Entry for business in COD

As explained above, only some senses of the lexical item business contribute to specialized compound terms. In the main senses of the lexical item, meanings “2 a thing that is one’s concern (none of your business) […] 3 b a reason for coming (what is your business?) 4 serious work or activity (get down to business), 5 derogatory an affair, a matter (sick of the whole business) and 10 N Amer. euphemism (esp. of pets) an occurrence of defecation or urination” can be considered as unspecialized uses of the lexical item business. Meaning 11 “Theatre action on stage, as opposed to dialogue” can be considered a specialized term that does not belong by definition to economic, business and finance translation. For the purpose of this paper, those senses were considered general senses and not considered as building blocks, expression or terms to learn to practice specialized translation. Although not definitive, these exclusions are made in practice for the purpose of analyzing the interpretation, and eventually, the translation of business uses in economic, business and financial documents. The exclusions mean that even if these meanings may appear in economic, business and financial texts, they are not typical of the topics, vocabulary, terminology and conceptual ontologies, processes and activities of the field.

What is interesting is the fact that most idioms defined after the main senses could all be considered part of the specialized expressions and terms in use in the field of economics, business, and financial translation. This indicates that there are two types of specialized complex terms: those that are idiomatic, lexicalized and non-compositional, and those that are non-idiomatic, “grammaticalized” and interpretable compositionally. The latter type seems also to be very productive and is forming the bulk of terms in terminological databanks. Specialized dictionaries as we have seen, tend to not make this distinction between idiomatic and non-idiomatic complex terms and rely on complex versus unitary uses of terms as a general criteria for inclusion in their entry list.

The following figure shows the seven specialized senses or word forms of business that can be retrieved from the COD dictionary entry in figure 1. The numbers in parenthesis refer to the sense number used in the dictionary entry. In the discussion that follows, sense numbers refer to those indicated in the figure below.

  1. (1) one’s regular occupation, profession or trade
  2. (3a) a task or duty
  3. (6) a thing or series of things needing to be dealt with (the business of the day)
  4. (7) volume of trade (did a lot of business)
  5. (8a) a company or a corporation
  6. (8b) commercial enterprises collectively (the government needs the support of business)
  7. (9) patronage; custom (take my business elsewhere)

Figure 2. Specialized meanings of business in COD

The remaining senses in the previous figure 2 show a high similarity with the results obtained in Wordnet 3.1 which offer the definition and classification of concepts associated with the word-form business. This resource is not a traditional monolingual dictionary but “a large lexical database of English” where “Nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs are grouped into sets of cognitive synonyms (synsets), each expressing a distinct concept”. The concepts of the term business are almost similar to the lexicographic description of the same lexical item in the general monolingual dictionary. In the figure 3 below, like for the general meanings in the dictionary entry, word senses not typical of economics, business or finance have been excluded and presented as strikeout text. Each of the remaining specialized senses is numbered. In the discussion that follows, sense numbers refer to those indicated in the figure 3 below.

  • 1 S: (n) business, concern, business concern, business organization, business organisation (a commercial or industrial enterprise and the people who constitute it) “he bought his brother’s business”; “a small mom-and-pop business”; “a racially integrated business concern”
  • 2 S: (n) commercial enterprise, business enterprise, business (the activity of providing goods and services involving financial and commercial and industrial aspects) “computers are now widely used in business”
  • 3 S: (n) occupation, business, job, line of work, line (the principal activity in your life that you do to earn money) “he’s not in my line of business”
  • S: (n) business (a rightful concern or responsibility) “it’s none of your business”; “mind your own business”
  • S: (n) business (an immediate objective) “gossip was the main business of the evening”
  • 4 S: (n) business (the volume of commercial activity) “business is good today”; “show me where the business was today”
  • 5 S: (n) business, business sector (business concerns collectively) “Government and business could not agree”
  • 6 S: (n) clientele, patronage, business (customers collectively) “they have an upper class clientele”
  • S: (n) business, stage business, byplay (incidental activity performed by an actor for dramatic effect) “his business with the cane was hilarious”

Figure 3. Lexical senses of business (Wordnet 3.1)

General senses excluded, five of the specialized senses of business in Wordnet are very similar with five senses of the COD as described in figure 2: sense 1 of Wordnet with sense 5 of the COD, sense 3 of the COD with sense 1 of Wordnet, sense 4 with sense 4, sense 5 with sense 6 and sense 6 with sense 7. Sense 2 in Wordnet is not present in COD (other than in the compound “in business 1” in the idiom section of the dictionary entry; and senses 2 and 3 of the COD are not present in Wordnet. This simple comparison of senses organization illustrates the editorial subjectivity (and freedom) of dictionaries and lexical databases in the selection, grouping and definition of senses and raises the important issue of incompleteness of lexicographic treatment of senses for translation purpose. Unlike the vagueness of bilingual dictionaries in the treatment of senses, general monolingual dictionaries offer a limited and selective description of senses.

Translators who do not master their source language as well as their native target language are directly impacted by the editorial practices and decisions of the monolingual resource they consult and are never totally sure if a specific textual use of a lexical item they need to translate is conventional but out of the scope of the dictionary’s lexical item coverage. In case of discrepancies between different resources, like shown with the COD and Wordnet, translators are left with the decision to compensate for the lexicographic gray areas of sense descriptions. This happens to be a very common challenge facing translation learners who are not prepared and trained to compensate for these comparative deficiencies of otherwise renowned monolingual dictionaries and resources. For example, the understanding of business in the sentence The corporation went out of business in 2001 may be difficult if not impossible with the sole description of the COD considering the absence of a meaning referring directly to commercial activities and the absence of the expression “out of business” that could have been associated with “in business 1” in the idiom section of the dictionary entry. On the other hand, a sentence such as “He is not there [in a city] on business, since he appears to have private means”, might give the same difficulty to the translators using the conceptual description of Wordnet where this meaning is totally absent.

Those limitations of monolingual resources emphasize the need for a better and more systematic description of the lexical item senses contributing to compound terms. No monolingual dictionary or language database (like in Wordnet 3.1) is designed to fulfill the translators’ need for a description of most if not all of the specialized senses of lexical items involved in the creation and interpretation of specialized compound terms. This is a very important conclusion for the description of techniques and meaning-based processes of interpretation and translation of specialized compound terms that are based on the textual correlations of specialized lexical item senses.

6. The interpretation table for specialized business senses

The incompleteness of monolingual databases and dictionaries makes it necessary to build a complete representation of the lexical item senses. As for the selection of senses belonging to the field of economics, business and financial texts, specialized sense representation and organization shall be flexible and tailored to translator’s needs which are partly determined by conventional translations of senses in their target language, as is shown below. For the design of the interpretation table, one good strategy consists of putting together the similar definitions found in the resources and decide on the addition of other specific senses or meanings described in another resource. Another strategy is to proceed like lexicographers and examine textual translations of different senses to get a broad view of the most common senses and equivalents for them. Both strategies may be used in parallel, and that is what has been done for this paper.

The interpretation table in the next figure provides a description of conceptual and referential senses that are conventionally associated with specialized occurrences of the lexical item as used in compound terms from the economic, business and finance vocabulary. Except for neologisms and perhaps regional variations (which may be easily integrated), the existence of counter-examples and departures from senses and meanings in the interpretation table is to be understood as what Patrick Hanks (2013) describe as “exploitations of the norm”. The first column in figure 4 presents three main referential meanings of the lexical item business in compound terms. The second column in the figure describes the specific senses that are contributing to the meaning of compound terms formed with the lexical item business. The three main meanings result from the identification of referential concepts in source language that are recurrent in all occurrences of the lexical item. In the case of business, those referential concepts are an occupation or duties, a commercial activity, and a profit-making entity or group of such entities or people seeking profits. The existence of the three main meanings facilitates the search or the analysis of lexical item occurrences by reducing the alternatives in the interpretation process to three instead of eight for the specific senses. For the first and third main meanings, it could have been justified to separate the referential concepts duties and people seeking profits as two other main meanings. The sense organization has been determined while the corpus was analyzed so too many changes in the interpretation table would have impacted the codification of the data. It was decided not to implement the changes required for the addition of two main meanings to the three already distinguished. Also, it was estimated that the impact on the following analysis would be marginal. As a matter of fact, the number of occurrences of senses 1b and 3c found in the corpus (see below) is limited to 2 and 9 respectively. Still, the referential uniqueness of the duties and people seeking profit components of main meanings 1 and 3 nevertheless appear to justify a distinct treatment in the interpretation table. What should be noted is that the identification of the main meanings is based on referential meanings recurrent in source language. The specific sense definitions are followed by typical phrase examples and expressions.

Referential meaning of business


Senses of business used in compound terms

1. Occupation, profession, trade; administrative tasks or duties


a) a professional occupation – sb’s business, line of business






b) administrative duties (especially of a public organization such as parliament, government, committee or council) – order of business, other business, domestic business, parliamentary business




2. Activity of providing goods and services


a) series of activities for a commercial or economic purpose – primary business, core business






b) volume of commercial or economic activity (as measured by revenues, transactions or orders) – a lot of business, good business, new business






c) people or entities which generate activities; clientele, patronage; the volume of activities gained from them – a shop’s business, to retain existing business




3. A profit-making entity or group of entities or people working in a profit-seeking environment


a) specific business concern – local businesses, build, start, run a business, small businesses, medium-sized businesses






b) the group of all profit-making entities and their role in society – business members of an association; the world of business, studies in business; district of business






c) group of entities sharing similar activities or operations (a subgroup of business 3b) – showbusiness, real estate business, music business

Figure 4. Interpretation table for specialized business senses

The identification of specific senses and their connection to a main meaning are more dependent on recurrent translations in target language than main meanings. Their definition and structural role in the table is partly based on target language equivalents recurrently found for those occurrences. For that reason, the sense definitions and organization might be specific to English-French cross-linguistic conceptual semantics. For example, the connection of sense 3c to main meaning 3 is due to its recurrent translation by secteur which refers more closely in French to an industry or to a set of “economic agents” than to a group of similar activities. This is different for example as the treatment of the same sense in the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, where this sense is instead connected to the main meaning 2 referring to the activity of “buying or selling goods or services”. This situation clearly shows how translation can induce a different perspective on source language interpretation of lexical items. It does not necessarily mean that senses perceived differently in two languages are entirely different. On the contrary, they have a lot in common. The most obvious impact of translation of the senses are their organization and not on their definition.

The interpretation table design is based on the referential and semantic properties of the lexical item business in compound terms. In order to analyze the contribution of other criteria in the interpretation process, other crucial information are processed by the translators such as the grammatical number (plural is relevant in the case of business, as will be shown below) as well as the syntactical status and, in some other cases, semantic classes of lexical items in certain syntactic roles and collocational elements in syntactic constructions. Even specific contextual information may contribute to the interpretation process. This information needs to be processed and correlated with the sense of business in compound terms and are discussed in details in the next section.

7. Distribution of senses in the corpus

For the purpose of this paper, a corpus of occurrences of business was collected in the Wikipedia Corpus from Mark Davies (which is available on-line). The Wikipedia Corpus was selected from other available English Corpora to get a better coverage of specialized texts. To validate the interpretation table, and to study textual correlations with the lexical item senses of business contributing to the meaning of compound terms, a small corpus of 301 occurrences randomly selected have been codified semantically as defined in the interpretation table with each sense roughly translated in French.

The sample taken from the Wikipedia corpus was comprised of the first page of 101 occurrences of businesses in plural and two different pages (1 and 5) of 100 occurrences (number 1-101[8] and 400-500 respectively) of the word-form business in singular. Each occurrence has been classified in one of the senses provided in the interpretation table. For some occurrences, it was not possible to decide on one specific sense and so the correct classification of the occurrence required the consultation of the referred Web page in order to obtain more contextual information. The following figure shows the classification of token senses among the three samples of the corpus.


(101 tokens)

Business page 1
(100 tokens)

Business page 5
(100 tokens)

Total senses
(301 tokens)









































General language (GL)





Uninterpretable (?)










Figure 5. Distribution of senses in the 301 occurrences of the Wikipedia Corpus

From all the occurrences in the corpus, just one referential meaning and sense could not have been interpreted and identified and is shown in the last row of the table. The occurrence appears on the Wikipedia page of Sergey Mironov and describes a type of medal given to him.[9] Before that last row, five general language meanings and senses have been found in the corpus and marked GL. In those case, the interpretation of business in compound terms relate to senses such as a difficult job, a preoccupation or an important issue. Figure 5 shows no example of sense 2b and 2c and only two occurrences of sense 1b. Both occurrences of 1b seem to be related to uncountable nouns status such as in “to attend to other business” and “the last piece of business”. More robust interpretation rules based on textual correlations of senses 2b, 2c and 1b could certainly be obtained with a larger corpus and with more occurrences of these senses. In the last section of the paper which suggest a decision-making process, these senses will not be taken into account for the lack of data on their textual features.

The figure 5 allows to draw two important conclusions for the interpretation of business in expressions and compound terms in the corpus of 301 tokens that have been collected for this paper. First, the grammatical plural form of business (businesses) is consistently correlated (99 occurrences out of 101) with sense 3a that makes the interpretation of the token businesses very straight forward. The only exceptions of this are the two occurrences of 2a that refer to a business entity that has several businesses and confirm the strong bias towards sense 3a. In one of the context, the word-form businesses is clearly used as a synonym of division which is a sub-entity of a business organization. The two examples show a specific ambiguity of business when the lexical item refers to activities conducted by an entity (a division or a corporation) that is the property of a parent company or body or a holding corporation. In that case, the translators have the choice to interpret business as an activity or as an entity. One of the contextual information that have to be taken into account is the fact that this sub-entity has a specific proper name or not. In that case, an adequate equivalent would be a target language term that refers to an entity and on the contrary, if there is no obvious presence of a specific entity with its own corporate name, then the translators may use a term that refers to activities.

Second, the most statistically common senses for business in specialized expressions and compound terms seem to be limited to senses 2a, 3a, and 3b of business in singular. Senses 1a and 3c are used marginally in the corpus used (this conclusion would need to be verified in a larger corpus). That means that in order to interpret any occurrence of business lexical items in the occurrences of the corpus, most of the efforts shall be directed firstly towards senses 3a, 3b and 2a, and secondly towards 1a and 3c of business in singular. But for translation practitioners and learners, this statistical approach is unsatisfactory and counter-intuitive because it does not account for textual features that are co-occurring with tokens and that are used by translators and learners to understand specific senses of business lexical item in specialized compound terms. The next and last section of this paper will explore a more symbolic approach to the interpretation of business senses 1a, 2a, 3a, 3b and 3c in complex terms. Textual features such as contextual features and grammatical patterns will be analyzed in order to correlate them with specific senses of business in singular.

8. Contextual features relevant to the interpretation of business

The corpus studied has shown a marginal but significant feature in the interpretation of a specific business sense. For the sense 3b, a few occurrences are associated with the name of the academic topic of business in expressions like business administration, business expertise, business skills, business (three unitary occurrences), business and management, language of business. The occurrences in the corpus were not significant to require a specific sense, but a larger corpus may provide significant evidence of it. In some cases, the interpretation of this specific sense of business is correlated to collocations such as administration, expertise, skills. In other cases, business lexical item appears as a unitary expression and no obvious criteria seems to characterize this sense. Still, it’s possible to interpret this sense of business with the awareness of contextual information that are present with the sense and which all describe academic disciplines or fields of study such as management, administration, accounting, marketing and even medicine, law, engineering, humanities, science, and so on. The interpretation of business in this expression seems to be related to contextual information related to academic disciplines. The interpretation of the other senses of business does not rely on such contextual information, as will be shown in the following section.

9. Grammatical patterns of business senses in compound terms

After the manual classification of sense occurrences according to the interpretation table, the 301 occurrences of the corpus were analyzed as regards syntactical patterns. Each occurrence was characterized either as a minimal phrase (unitary use), as a head noun with modifiers or as a modifier in a compound term or as part of an idiomatic compound or expression. A further and more detailed classification of patterns was realized. For example, when business is used as a lexical item in a minimal phrase, the different constructions that were identified were occurrence of business alone (Unitary), or with article indefinite (Ua) or definite (Uthe) or quantifier (Quant). Sense 1a was correlated with two prepositional phrases such as on business and for business that are related to instances of traveling or getting into places for one’s occupation or work. Also, a specific grammatical property of sense 3c is the presence of the indefinite article the at the beginning of the compound terms formed with business as a head noun. As regards the uses of the article the, the difference between 3a and 3c relies on the systematic absence of a noun modifier for the senses 3a, as opposed to 3c where the article is consistently preceded by noun modifiers that characterize the activity sector denoted with the compound term. Other more specific grammatical status were codified, but no specific correlation were identified with business senses. For instance, the presence of a possessive modifier of the term was not correlated with a specific sense of business. This textual feature was present in 1a, 2a and 3a but not in 3b and 3c occurrences. That means that this feature can be used in combination with other features for the interpretation of business sense 3b or 3c when business is used as a unitary expression or as the head noun of a complex term.

The subcorpus of business in plural excluded, the significant senses of business lexical item in expressions and compound terms (senses 1a, 2a, 3a, 3b and 3c) have the syntactical patterns described in the figure 7. Combined with semantical properties, these syntactical patterns allow to make some interesting distinctions in the patterns of use of business senses.

Syntactic Status

Sense 1a

Sense 2a

Sense 3a

Sense 3b

Sense 3c









Head Noun














Other (idiom)














Figure 6. Syntactical patterns of senses 1a, 2a, 3a, 3b and 3c

To these 192 occurrences of business, eight other occurrences were processed. Two of them were classified as sense 1c (not analyzed for insufficient data to make textual correlations), five were considered as belonging to general language and one was considered uninterpretable as already shown in figure 5. The category of idioms here refers to constructions such as do business or business-to-business in which business cannot be classified as a unitary, head noun or modifier.

The most interesting numbers concern the sense 3b where it is mostly used as a modifier. The unitary senses of 3b can be separated into two groups: three occurrences of the expression in business and five occurrences of business as a discipline as discussed in the previous section. Among three other unitary uses, two of them are also uses of business as a discipline. These numbers are evidence of a distinct sense of business to refer to an academic discipline. Other than the discipline, the typical interpretation of this sense is mostly used as a modifier referring to the world of business, a concept that is dominant in the Western European and North American capitalist economies and democracies. As shown in figure 6, sense 2a is very often used as a modifier.

An interesting semantic selection restriction distinguishes sense 3b and 2a. Head nouns for the senses 3b mostly refer to people in general and not to a specific business entity, as opposed to head nouns for the senses 2a which refer specifically to people involved in the operating of a specific business entity. This is what can distinguish for instance the compound terms such as business leaders, business community for the sense 3b and the compound terms such as business owners, business executives, business partners for the sense 2a. The distinction between singular and plural form does not seem to be relevant for the distinction between the two senses since business in plural is never used as a modifier. As regards non-human nouns, one can find the same difference in semantic restrictions between the two senses: 3b is used with more abstract and general concepts such as business ethics, business world, business news while 2a is commonly used with nouns referring to properties or attributes of one’s specific business entity such as in business deal, business machine, business process or business strategy or business decision.

For sense 3a as a modifier, most of the examples in the corpus, 10 out of 13, can be correlated to determinative modifiers uses where the lexical item business can be interpreted as a syntactical complement of the head noun. For example, in this sense, business market can be interpreted as the market for/of the business, or the market targeting businesses. This interpretation rule highlights the role of business sense 3a in unitary expression or as a head noun in compound terms. Unlike senses 2a and 3b as a unitary expression, sense 3a often appears with the definite or indefinite article.

10. Discussion and textual correlations with sense interpreting

The corpus analysis of 301 occurrences of business has shown that out of 8 specialized senses of business defined in the interpretation table, only three of them are very common (2a, 3a and 3b), two of them were absent from the corpus (2b and 2c) and three others (1a, 1b and 3c) were marginally found in the interpretation of business in expressions and compound terms. Regarding the interpretation process for translation purpose, many contextual, semantic and syntactical features of the occurrences have been analyzed and checked in the previous sections for their correlation with specific senses. This section aims at proposing conditional features identifying specific senses and suggests rules of interpretation for the occurrences of business lexical items in expressions and compound terms. It is our view that contextual, semantic and syntactical features all contribute at some point to the interpretation of the lexical item business in specialized expressions and compound terms. In this last section of the paper, we present the sense correlations that have been found with some of the textual features analyzed. It should be said that those correlations express translation process decisions made by professional translators and specialized translation learners. The correlations do not rule out all the ambiguities that may be present in specific occurrences of business lexical item in specialized expressions and compound terms. The correlations are not intended either to exhaust all of the occurrences of business that can be found in expressions and compound terms such as the one found in the corpus studied, especially the senses 2b, 2c and 1b that have been excluded for practical reasons. Their purpose is to cover most of the textual features that are recognizable in the expressions and compound terms to be interpreted in English and eventually translated into French.

A general outline of the correlations is presented in the following figure 7. Conditional decisions number 1 to 7 are mutually exclusive. Their order of application is important since correlations are ordered by certainty. The non-application of a lower number correlation should lead the interpretation to the next level of correlation. The first condition represent the strongest correlation of textual feature to specific sense of business lexical item while the last condition represent the weakest correlation of textual feature to specific senses and the most ambiguous conditions of analysis of textual features in their correlations with specialized business senses. The examples provided are taken from the occurrences found in the corpus created for the purpose of this paper.

  1. When business lexical item appears in a specific complex lexical item (such as do business, mean business, business-to-business), it is part of a conventional expression or compound that need to be listed and translated as idiom (with its global meaning).
  2. If business lexical item is used in plural, the sense is 3a and is generally associated with a proper name. For some rare occurrences, when the entity has no proper name the sense could also be 2a.
  3. If business lexical item is a head noun, the sense may be 2a, 3a or 3c. To distinguish the three potential senses, the following conditions need to be checked.
    1. If the modifier refers to activities known as standard industry activities (insurance for example), the sense of business lexical item is 3c “group of entities sharing similar activities or operations”.
    2. If a possessive is part of the complex term that business lexical item is a constituent of, business sense is either 2a or 3a.
    3. If the head noun has a proper noun otherwise specified in context, if the modifier is a proper name, is an adjective or a generic noun not part of standard industry activities (such as an export business, a family business), the sense of business lexical item is 3a “specific business concern”.
    4. Otherwise, if the modifier refers to such activities that are illegal, parallel or of non-economical nature, the sense is 2a “series of activities for a commercial or economic, or other, purpose”.
  4. If business lexical item is a modifier, the sense may be 1a, 2a, 3a or 3b. The following conditions need to be checked.
    1. If the modifier is a determinative modifier and not an attributive modifier, the sense of business lexical item is 3a.
    2. If the head noun refers to objects or circumstances happening in one’s duties or functions (such as traveling or for working purposes), the sense is 1a (a professional occupation).
    3. If the head noun refers to people, functions or concrete projects associated with a specific business entity or concern, the sense is 2a.
    4. If the head noun refers to people, functions or abstract objects or projects not associated with a specific business entity but to an undefined group that implicitly include most if not all business entities of a community, the sense is 3b.
    5. If the head noun refers to academic topics, studies or competencies, the sense is 3b (special use of this sense as an academic discipline or field of study) [this sense also appears in unitary occurrences, see below]
  5. If business lexical item is a unitary expression preceded by the determiner the, business sense is 3c.
  6. If business lexical item is a unitary expression not preceded by a determiner but preceded by the prepositions on or for, business sense is 1a. When preceded by the preposition in, business sense is 3b.
  7. If business lexical item is a unitary expression not preceded by a determiner or a preposition, the sense may be 1a, 2a, 3a, 3b, 3c. This situation describes the most ambiguous occurrences of business lexical item in complex terms.
    1. In the case of 1a, no specific pattern correlate with this sense. More corpus data need to be analyzed in order to make interpretation rules in correlation with textual features.
    2. In the case of 2a, 3a, and 3b, semantic features of referential meaning of the sense seem to be correlated to each of the unitary use of the senses. If preceded by a possessive, business sense is either 2a or 3a (3b and 3c are excluded). In the case of 3b, two interpretations are possible, one based on referential feature for the sense 3b as a group of profit-seeking people, and another one based on contextual features for the sense 3b that was identified as a discipline or academic field of study.
    3. For 3c, the two unitary expressions found in the corpus suggest a contextual reduction or concentration closely related to the passepartout words identified by Gerzymisch-Arbogast (1989). The presence of a correct contextual expansion is a textual feature of this sense used as a unitary expression.

Figure 7. Decision-making in the interpretation of business

The textual correlations to be used in the decision-making process of interpretation seem complex to be implemented in concrete translation applications, although it might be very helpful for learners in specialized translation training courses. However, they do describe all of the textual information to process in the interpretation of occurrences to be translated. What is interesting is that the textual correlations with specific senses are for the most part binary: idiom or non-idiom, plural or singular, as a head noun or as a modifier, as a determinative or attributive modifier, with or without a determiner, etc. This view of decision-making with binary textual information in interpretation is probably central to the decision-making process in translation. Further studies on the translation techniques and decisions that follow the interpretation of lexical items in expressions and compound terms could shed lights on the decision-making processed effectively realized when translating.

11. Conclusion

The first step in the translation process is the active understanding or analysis of source language vocabulary and specialized terms. This paper describes the interpretation process in the translation of the lexical item business that is a constituent of specialized compound terms. As a matter of fact, only eight senses of business at most contribute to the creation of thousands of compounds and compound terms with the lexical item business. The analysis of a small corpus of 301 occurrences of business has even shown that only three of them seem to be common and productive (2a, 3a, and 3b) and that three others (1a, 1b, and 3c) appear to be only marginally represented. Considering the huge amount of compounds and compound terms that can potentially be created (with basic syntactical combination rules), it makes sense to focus the learning of specialized translation on the textual features of the senses of lexical items in compound terms like business in economics, business and finance texts. The advantage of the conditional interpretation rules of conventional senses is that it makes it possible to describe decision-making in translation as an active processing activity involving textual features (contextual and grammatical) relevant in the rendering of lexical item sense. The interpretation rules of simple lexical items for translation purposes also provide crucial knowledge of the interpretation (and translation) techniques that are actively applied to specialized texts, other than the acquisition of the specialized passive knowledge of content matter specialists which translators might assimilate only after practising their trade for a long time or by following a dual career training in translation as well as in their field of specialization.

The small corpus analysis of 301 occurrences has shown correlations of textual features with specific specialized senses of business lexical item in expressions and compound terms. Contextual, syntactical and semantic features of specialized senses contribute to the interpretation of business lexical items and can be correlated with specific senses. The conditional correlations discussed in this paper can therefore be part of the learning activities designed in specialized translation training classes and will guide learners in the adequate English-French translation of business in compound terms in the field of economics, business and finance.

The study of textual uses of compound terms and their translation is strongly dependent on access to rich corpus data. For the interpretation of lexical items in compound English terms, the monolingual corpora created by Mark Davies have been crucial to the analysis of typical textual features of senses of a lexical item in compound terms. For the translation process, it would be of interest to focus on large parallel translation corpora to better describe translation rules and conditions of translation that apply to terms and expressions in specialized texts. To that end, the project of the corpus COMENEGO (Corpus Multilingüe de Economía y Negocios or Multilingual Corpus of Business and Economics) specialized in economics, business and finance directed by Daniel Gallego Hernández (2013a, 2013b) will provide useful evidence.

The approach suggested in this paper for the interpretation of business applies in theory to most of the other lexical items in English commonly used in specialized compound terms. The creation and validation of interpretation tables and textual correlations for this large amount of lexical items represent a huge amount of work. Since it is virtually impossible to accomplish this task for the foreseeable future, there is no reason not to start with most significant keywords in each specialized fields of translation. Of course, the interpretation rules described in this paper fill half the gap in the description of the translation process and competencies. However, it also opens up new horizons in the description of a strongly needed and most welcome representation of translation competencies and offers instructive learning material for the training curriculum in specialized translation.


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