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Sociolinguistics and translation

For some scientists the bond between Sociolinguistics and translation is indeed «a very natural one, since Sociolinguistics deals primarily with language as it is used by society in communicating» and that the «different ways in which societies employ language in interpersonal relations are crucial for anyone concerned with translating» (Nida).

Let us now look more closely at the points where the paths of these two disciplines cross.

Translation and dialectology.

Studies into regional and social dialectology have allowed both scholars and translators to better identify which varieties were being used and their communicative meaning in the source text. This, in turn, has helped translators make informed decisions about how to better recreate linguistic varieties in the target text, while scholars have been helped to better interpret the translational options.

Register analysis and translation.

Register analysis has not only facilitated and understanding of context in fiction (enabling a more accurate characterization of the situation in which characters’ speech occurs) but has also encouraged consideration of context at micro level (i.e. the situation surrounding the translation itself as communicative act). This raises questions of discourse variation in accordance with factors such as genre (the discursive characteristics of an instructional manual are very different from those of a science textbook, with each genre having its own established discourse community, even though this may differ from culture to culture), tenor and target audience (e.g. differences between translators for children or adults) or mode (discursive differences between speech and writing). This last aspect is particularly relevant in subtitling and theatre translation.

Language change and translation.

Another area of Sociolinguistics that has influenced Translation Studies is the area of language change. This is a growing area of research not only because translation can be a prompting agent for language change, but also because the natural changes in a language can promote translation activity. In this context, it is important to consider the phenomenon of retranslation, the production of new translations of works that have previously been translated into a particular language. This is an important fact to consider within Translation Studies as the need to update or modernize a given translation’s discourse has often been given as a reason for the existence of more than one translation of the same text.



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