Skip to content
BY-NC-ND 3.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access November 3, 2015

Meaningfulness, the unsaid and translatability: Instead of an introduction

  • Artemij Keidan
From the journal Open Linguistics


The present paper opens this topical issue on translation techniques by drawing a theoretical basis for the discussion of translational issues in a linguistic perspective. In order to forward an audienceoriented definition of translation, I will describe different forms of linguistic variability, highlighting how they present different difficulties to translators, with an emphasis on the semantic and communicative complexity that a source text can exhibit. The problem is then further discussed through a comparison between Quine's radically holistic position and the translatability principle supported by such semanticists as Katz. General translatability — at the expense of additional complexity — is eventually proposed as a possible synthesis of this debate. In describing the meaningfulness levels of source texts through Hjelmslevian semiotics, and his semiotic hierarchy in particular, the paper attempts to go beyond denotative semiotic, and reframe some translational issues in a connotative semiotic and metasemiotic perspective.


Adams, Robert Martin (1972) Proteus, His Lies, His Truth. Discussions on Literary Translation, New York, W. H. Norton. Search in Google Scholar

Alfieri, Luca (2006) “Genesi e storia della denominazione Nomen Substantivum”, Atti della Accademia nazionale dei Lincei. Rendiconti Classe di scienze morali storiche e filologiche 17, no. 1: 75–104. Search in Google Scholar

Beaugrande, Robert de (1987) “Translation as text processing”, LSP-ALSED Newsletter 10: 2–22. Search in Google Scholar

Catford, John C. (1965) A Linguistic Theory of Translation: An Essay in Applied Linguistics, Oxford, Oxford University Press. Search in Google Scholar

Chomsky, Noam (1965) Aspects of the Theory of Syntax, Cambridge MA, MIT Press. 10.21236/AD0616323Search in Google Scholar

— (1988) Language and Problems of Knowledge: The Managua Lectures, Cambridge MA, MIT Press. Search in Google Scholar

— (1991) Linguaggio e problemi della conoscenza, Bologna, Il Mulino. Search in Google Scholar

Coseriu, Eugen (1970) “System, Norm und Rede” in Sprachen, Strukturen und Funktionen, Tübingen, Gunter Narr: 193–212. Search in Google Scholar

De Mauro, Tullio (1971) “Il nome del dativo” in Senso e significato. Studi di semantica teorica e storica, Bari, Laterza: 239–332. Search in Google Scholar

Eco, Umberto (2003) Dire quasi la stessa cosa, Milano, Bompiani. Search in Google Scholar

Everett, Daniel L. (2005) “Cultural Constraints on Grammar and Cognition in Pirahã. Another Look at the Design Features of Human Language”, Current Anthropology 46, no. 4: 621–46. 10.1086/431525Search in Google Scholar

Fillmore, Charles (1976) “Frame semantics and the nature of language”, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences: Conference on the Origin and Development of Language and Speech 280: 20–32. 10.1111/j.1749-6632.1976.tb25467.xSearch in Google Scholar

Fintel, Kai von, and Lisa Matthewson (2008) “Universals in semantics”, The Linguistic Review 25: 139–201. 10.1515/TLIR.2008.004Search in Google Scholar

Fowler, Henry Watson, and Francis George Fowler (1906) The King’s English, Oxford, Clarendon Press. Search in Google Scholar

Frege, Gottlob (1918–19) “Der Gedanke. Eine logische Untersuchung”, Beiträge zur Philosophie des deutschen Idealismus 2: 58–77. Search in Google Scholar

Friedberg, Maurice (1997) Literary Translation in Russia. A Cultural History, University Park PA, The Pennsylvania State University Press. 10.1515/9780271072654Search in Google Scholar

Grice, H. Paul (1981) “Presupposition and conversational implicature” in Radical Pragmatics, Peter Cole (ed.), New York, Academic Press: 183–98. Search in Google Scholar

Gumperz, John J., and Robin Wilson (1971) “Convergence and Creolization: A Case from the Indo-Aryan/Dravidian Border in India” in Pidginization and Creolization of Languages, Dell Hymes (ed.), Cambridge, Cambridge University Press: 151–67. Search in Google Scholar

Gusmani, Roberto (1995) “L’influsso tedesco nella formazione della terminologia religiosa slava” in Itinerari linguistici. Scritti raccolti in occasione del 60. Compleanno, Alessandria, Edizioni dell’Orso: 227–40. Search in Google Scholar

Halliday, Michael A. K. (1999) “The notion of “context” in language education” in Text and Context in Functional Linguistics, Mohsen Ghadessy (ed.), Amsterdam & Philadelphia, Benjamins: 1–24. Search in Google Scholar

Hjelmslev, Louis (1969) Prolegomena to a Theory of Language, Madison, University of Wisconsin Press (2nd ed.). Search in Google Scholar

Jakobson, Roman (1959) “On linguistic aspects of translation” in On Translation, Reuben A. Brower (ed.), Cambridge MA, Harvard University Press: 232–9. Search in Google Scholar

— (1981) “The dominant”, in Selected Writings. Vol 3. Poetry of Grammar and Grammar of Poetry, The Hague, Mouton: 751–6. Search in Google Scholar

Katz, Jerrold J. (1976) “A hypothesis about the uniqueness of natural language”, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 280: 33–41. 10.1111/j.1749-6632.1976.tb25468.xSearch in Google Scholar

Keidan, Artemij (2005) “Il gotico di Wulfila: tra diacronia e retorica”, AIΩN-Linguistica 23: 49–105. Search in Google Scholar

— (2008) “Deissi, arbitrarietà e disambiguazione. Due approcci a confronto”, in Deissi, riferimento, metafora. Questioni classiche di linguistica e filosofia del linguaggio, A. Keidan and L. Alfieri (eds), Firenze, FUP: 19–66. Search in Google Scholar

Kirk, Geoffrey Stephen, and Bryan Hainsworth (1993) Iliad: A Commentary. Vol. 3: books 9–12, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. Search in Google Scholar

Kokochkina, Elena (2000) “De Humboldt à Potebnja: évolution de la notion d’“innere Sprachform” dans la linguistique russe”, Cahiers Ferdinand de Saussure 53: 101–22. Search in Google Scholar

Koller, Werner (1979) Einführung in die Übersetzungswissenschaft, Heidelberg, Quelle and Meyer. Search in Google Scholar

— (1995) “The concept of equivalence and the object of Translation Studies”, Target 7, no. 2: 191–222. 10.1075/target.7.2.02kolSearch in Google Scholar

Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnson (1999) Philosophy In The Flesh: the Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought, New York, Basic Books. Search in Google Scholar

Lambert, José, and Clem Robyns (2004) “Translation” in Semiotics. A Handbook on the Sign-Theoretic Foundations of Nature and Culture. Vol. 4, Roland Posner, Klaus Robering and Thomas A. Sebeok (eds), Berlin and New York, Walter de Gruyter: 3594–614. Search in Google Scholar

Marti, Heinrich (1974) Übersetzer der Augustin-Zeit. Interpretation von Selbstzeugnissen, München, Fink. Search in Google Scholar

Metlen, Michael (1933) “What a Greek interlinear of the Gothic Bible can teach us”, Journal of English and German Philology 32: 530–48. Search in Google Scholar

Nida, Eugene A. (1964) Towards a science of translating: with special reference to principles and procedures involved in Bible translating, Leiden, E. J. Brill. 10.1163/9789004495746Search in Google Scholar

Osimo, Bruno (2011) Manuale del traduttore. Guida pratica con glossario, Milano, Hoepli (3rd ed.). Search in Google Scholar

Popper, Karl (1980) “Three Worlds” in The Tanner Lecture on Human Values. Vol. I, Sterling M. McMurrin (ed.), Salt Lake City, University of Utah Press: 143–67. Search in Google Scholar

Quine, Willard Van Orman (1960/2013) Word and Object. New Edition, P. Smith Churchland and D. Føllesdal (eds), Cambridge MA, The MIT Press (new ed.). Search in Google Scholar

Saussure, Ferdinand de (2011) Course in General Linguistics, trans. Wade Baskin, ed. P. Meisel and H. Saussy, New York, Columbia University Press. Search in Google Scholar

Seuren, Peter A. M. (1998) Western Linguistics. An Historical Introduction, Oxford, Blackwell. 10.1002/9781444307467Search in Google Scholar

Silk, Michael S. (2004) Homer: The Iliad, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. 10.1017/CBO9780511808197Search in Google Scholar

Sperber, Dan, and Deirdre Wilson (2012) Meaning and Relevance, New York, Cambridge University Press. Search in Google Scholar

Stebbins, J. Michael (1990) “The Eucharistic Presence of Christ: Mystery and Meaning”, Worship 64: 225–36. Search in Google Scholar

Torop, Peeter (1995) Total’nyj perevod, Tartu, Izdatel’stvo Tartuskogo Universiteta. Search in Google Scholar

Toury, Gideon (1995) “The Nature and Role of Norms in Translation” in Descriptive Translation Studies and Beyond, Amsterdam and Philadelphia, Benjamins: 53–69. 10.1075/btl.4Search in Google Scholar

— (1998) “A handful of paragraphs on ‘translation’ and ‘norms’” in Translation and Norms, Christina Schäffner (ed.), Clevedon, Multilingual Matters: 10–32. Search in Google Scholar

Trabant, Jürgen (1987) “Louis Hjelmslev: Glossematics as General Semiotics” in Classics of Semiotics, Martin Krampen et al. (eds), New York, Springer Science: 89–108. Search in Google Scholar

Vinay, Jean-Paul and Jean Darbelnet (1958) Stylistique comparée du français et de l’anglais, Paris, Didier; Montréal, Beauchemin. Search in Google Scholar

Waterworth, James (ed. and transl.) (1848) The canons and decrees of the sacred and oecumenical Council of Trent, London, Dolman. Search in Google Scholar

Whitney, William D. (1886) “The Upanishads and their Latest Translation”, The American Journal of Philology 7, no. 1: 1–26. 10.2307/287261Search in Google Scholar

Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1953) Philosophical Investigations. The German Text, With a Revised English Translation, trans. Gertrude E. M. Anscombe, Malden, Blackwell. Search in Google Scholar

Witzel, Michael (1996) “How to enter the Vedic mind? Strategies in translating a Brāhmaṇa text” in Translating, Translations, Translators From India to the West, Enrica Garzilli and Michael Witzel (eds), Cambridge MA, Harvard Oriental Series. Search in Google Scholar

Received: 2015-2-16
Accepted: 2015-7-31
Published Online: 2015-11-3

© 2015

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License.

Downloaded on 24.2.2024 from
Scroll to top button