24.404, Review: Applied Linguistics; Translation: Baker (2011)

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LINGUIST List: Vol-24-404. Wed Jan 23 2013. ISSN: 1069 - 4875.

Subject: 24.404, Review: Applied Linguistics; Translation: Baker (2011)

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Date: Wed, 23 Jan 2013 10:36:13
From: Patrick Moore [pkmoore at indiana.edu]
Subject: In Other Words: A Coursebook on Translation

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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/22/22-1950.html

AUTHOR: Mona Baker
TITLE: In Other Words
SUBTITLE: A Coursebook on Translation, second edition
PUBLISHER: Routledge
YEAR: 2011

Patrick Moore, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Indiana


Mona Baker's second edition of “In Other Words: A coursebook on translation”
is an updated version of her 1992 text that offers an introduction to the
practice of translation (and interpreting by extension). This second edition
has several elements which did not appear at all in the original publication.
In addition to providing examples using English and other European languages,
now there are also many in Arabic, Chinese, and other languages that do not
use the Roman alphabet. There is a chapter on ethics that is completely new to
this edition. There is also a companion website where readers can go for extra
content. This book would serve well both for autodidacts and for instructors
looking for a text for an Introduction to Translation course. Besides the
examples from real translations that serve to illustrate Baker's lessons on
how to address translation problems, each chapter ends with exercises to help
learners develop the skills described in the chapter. A list of suggestions
for further reading follows the exercises.

The book is divided into eight chapters; the first chapter provides a brief
preview of how the author will use knowledge from linguistics to provide a
theoretical framework for student translators to use as they learn how to
identify and resolve difficulties when translating.

The second chapter, “Equivalence at Word Level,” addresses the problem of
translating words and phrases for which there are no equivalents in the target
language. Baker begins by defining what a word is in terms of a linguistic
unit, citing Bollinger and Sears (1968): “the smallest unit of language that
can be used by itself.” The author continues by introducing semantic concepts
such as the lack of a one-to-one relationship between word and meaning,
explaining how morphemes form words, and describing different types of meaning
(lexical, expressive, presupposed, and evoked meaning). Furthermore, she
describes how words may be grouped together in terms of meaning, and form
semantic fields, so that words that are related to the same abstract concept
(e.g. space, time, nature) naturally seem to be related. If the words in a
semantic field are examined further, other relationships emerge that have a
hierarchical structure, so that a general word (e.g. ‘machine’) is referred to
as a superordinate and a more specific word for a type of the superordinate is
called a hyponym (e.g. ‘computer’). Baker demonstrates how understanding this
will allow the translator to deal with non-equivalence at the word level in a
more precise and systematic manner, since non-equivalence arises from many
semantic complications. These include: concepts specific to one culture but
not the other, words not having a lexicalized form in the target language,
semantically complex words, differences in distinctions and degrees of
meaning, that the target language may lack a superordinate, that the target
language does not have a lexical item that is the hyponym used, differences in
physical and interpersonal perspectives, differences in expressive meaning,
differences in form in general, and the use of loan words in the source text.
Baker goes on to list several strategies for addressing these
non-equivalencies. For each type of strategy, she provides an example from an
actual translation which includes the source text, the target text, and a back
translation of the target text into English, if needed. For instance, on pp.
25-26, Baker gives an example that uses the English word “mumbles” in the
source text, for which the translator opts to use a more neutral or less
expressive word in the target text, in this case Italian, by instead using the
word “suggerisce” (“suggests”). One of the exercises given for this chapter
asks students to take a brief stretch of text from Steven Hawking's “A Brief
History of Time” (1988) and to translate it two times: the first time the
students are to create a “straightforward” translation, and the second time
they must translate it in a way that will overcome non-equivalencies so as to
capture the reader's attention, as Hawking does in the source text.

“Equivalence Above Word Level” is the title of Chapter 3. Here Baker discusses
collocation, markedness, and register, as well as the translation of idioms
and fixed expressions. By ‘collocation’, she means words occurring together,
such as how “software” and “computer” might be used in close proximity. The
collocation of words can be complicated by the different meanings that pairs
or groups might have when placed together (even if the individual words are
understood by themselves), by register, by the set of words that might
potentially collocate with the word in question, and by marked collocations.
Collocations can present problems for the translator, such as paying too much
attention to the source text collocation and thereby producing a target
collocation that sounds unnatural, misunderstanding the meaning of a
source-language collocation, and the desire to be faithful to the source text
that may be at odds with the goal of producing a natural-sounding translation.
Other related issues that could present difficulties for the translator are
culture-specific collocations, idioms, and fixed expressions. One of the
strategies presented for translating idioms when there is no equivalent
expression is to instead use a differently-worded idiom that has the same or
similar meaning, e.g., source text: “Feel the force of my fist...”; target
text (German): ‘Dir werde ich einheizen’ (“I will make things hot for you”)
(pp. 78-79).

Chapter 4, “Grammatical Equivalence,” explains number, gender, person, tense,
aspect, and voice. There is also a brief discussion of word order and an
introduction to the concept of text and its organization. The author cites
Brown and Yule (1983) to define text as “the verbal record of a communicative
event.” This concept is a springboard to introducing the concept of genre and
also that of thematic and information structures, which are further explored
in the following chapter. In describing each of these, Baker does go into some
detail but not so much as to introduce anything that a student familiar with
linguistics would not have already learned; however, she does give examples
from different languages of these grammatical elements.

Chapter 5 deals with “Textual equivalence and thematic and information
structures.” Baker covers the concepts of theme and rheme, including details
about different schools of thought regarding how these concepts actually work
and what they mean. Theme and rheme are elaborated upon to discuss the
difference between grammaticality versus acceptability, text organization and
development, and marked versus unmarked sequences. Baker discusses at some
length how in English, the theme usually is found in clause-initial position,
and how it also may appear in other places, and what consequences that may
have for markedness. She also discusses how different languages may not
necessarily have exactly analogous thematic and information structures. Given
and new information are introduced as concepts, and Baker discusses their use
in discourse, and how givenness is determined. Baker also discusses marked and
unmarked information structures, marked rhemes, the Prague school's take on
information structure (Functional Sentence Perspective) and its importance for
word order. This chapter is very dense in its theoretical content, although it
does provide examples from different languages to illustrate the concepts
presented. One non-equivalency that is related to thematic and information
structures is how the syntax and information structures involved in different
languages may tend to produce structures in the target language that are
skewed or show linear dislocation when compared with the source text. A
strategy that she provides to mitigate this is to use a change in voice; e.g.:
source text (Portuguese): “Estudaram-se a morfologia e a histologia do
aparelho reprodutor masculine do camarão de água doce...” (lit. “Were studied
the morphology and the histology of system reproductive male of prawn of fresh
water...”); target text (English): “This paper deals with the anatomy and
histology of the male reproductive system of the freshwater prawn...” (p.

The topic of Chapter 6 is textual equivalence and cohesion. Baker defines
cohesion as “the network of lexical, grammatical and other relations which
provide links between various parts of a text” (p. 190). In order to have
cohesion, a text must have references that the reader can follow clearly and
consistently without confusion. In explaining cohesion, Baker revisits
semantic concepts introduced in Chapter 2, and introduces anaphora,
substitution, conjunction, and lexical cohesion. One strategy proposed for
providing referential cohesion when, for example, the norms and usage of
explicit subjects and pronouns do not match up between source and target
language, is to add in the expected references in the target language text,
such as one might do when translating from Japanese to English. One of the
exercises provides encyclopedia entries on Elizabeth I and Vincent Van Gogh in
English and asks students to translate them into their other language, paying
special attention to the interplay between the patterns of reference to the
people mentioned and the overall textual cohesion.

“Pragmatic Equivalence” is the title of Chapter 7. Here, Baker explores ways
in which translators can be sure to produce translations that faithfully
reflect the use in context and typical interpretation in context of the source
text. There are several theoretical concepts and corresponding examples
explored in this chapter, but Baker stresses at the beginning that two
concepts are most important for providing pragmatic equivalence: coherence and
implicature. Coherence is defined as the subjective perception that a text has
internal consistency and that its references and ideas expressed are clear and
flow logically. Baker references Grice (1975) to explain that implicature is
the way that people can “understand more than is actually said” (p. 235). She
also explains Grice's Cooperative Principle and its maxims, and discusses
conventional meaning, context, background knowledge, and the availability of
relevant information. One area that Baker highlights as requiring special
attention from the translator is that of forms of address. She provides
examples of this that demonstrate that translators may need to use different
titles than those in the source text, or may need to provide additional
explanation to properly convey a form of address that is a subtle insult.

Chapter 8 is new to the second edition and is titled “Beyond Equivalence:
ethics and morality.” This chapter is intended to help the learner to go
beyond the codes of ethics usually handed down to translators and interpreters
by different organizations, so that they can have a philosophical framework to
evaluate their circumstances and react accordingly, independent of official
codes of ethics. As Baker points out, this sort of focus is also useful for
thinking critically about the codes of ethics themselves, to be able to
understand why they have been worded as they are, and to be able to criticize
and improve them when needed. Baker provides theoretical background here by
defining ethics and briefly exploring different ethical approaches. These are
then applied to specific examples from translation and interpreting work.
Additionally, ethics is discussed in terms of professionalism, codes of
ethics, the law, and implications of linguistic choices made while performing
translation or interpreting. Among the examples provided is that of deciding
how to respond when a medical provider instructs the interpreter not to
interpret something uttered in the presence of his Limited English-Proficient

Beyond the text itself, there is a companion website, which has many resources
which further complement the text's content. Among these are: online versions
of the end-of-chapter exercises, audio and video lectures from the author, a
collection of web links to professional organizations and other sites of
interest, a flashcard tool for studying technical terminology from the book,
and a selected list of related books by Baker.


There is a difference between the academic opportunities for studying
translation and interpreting (T&I) in the United States and in much of the
rest of the world. Many U.S. universities and colleges do not have degree
programs, majors, minors, or certificates available for T&I, whereas Baker
asserts in the first video interview on this text's companion website that
nowadays “just about every institution around the world has several different
MAs in translation and interpreting.” It is relatively trivial to search
online to compare where there are programs in the U.S. and elsewhere, and it
does seem more common to find programs for translation and interpreting
outside of the U.S., particularly in Western Europe. For instance, there is
only one conference interpreter program available in the U.S. compared with 22
in Western Europe (http://aiic.net/directories/schools/georegions/). One might
assume that broadening the search to include other types of T&I programs would
yield significantly higher numbers, but a recently updated list of T&I
programs in the U.S. shows only six degree programs, and seven certificate
programs (http://www.languagerealm.com/links.php). This issue is an area that
could be expanded upon in a third edition of this text, especially if the
author wishes to address readers in the U.S., and not just those in Europe.
Currently, for many U.S. students, translation and interpreting are
semi-secret professions that many do not know how to join. Unless they happen
to be able to connect with one of the few institutions that does have a
program for translation or interpreting, they may have to invest a significant
amount of time and energy researching professional entry points and career
paths for themselves.

The book does not mention Computer Aided Translation (CAT) or Translation
Memory (TM), which are software packages that are very commonly used for
technical translation work, and whose usage promises to become more routine as
time goes on. Thus, one might assume that at least a minimal treatment of CAT
and TM would be an essential part of any translation textbook, and would fit
in with some background explanation of the profession in general and a
directory of academic programs.

I found the sections that deal with information structures and thematic
structures to be more than a bit tedious, and even as someone who is
relatively well-versed in pragmatics and semantics, these sections were
confusing at times. To her credit, Baker does give many examples in Chapter 5
from translations and their corresponding back translations in English, so
that by the end of the chapter, the reader cannot help but see why these are
important and have at least a vague idea of what these structures are, even if
that may have been impossible without the examples. For a future edition I
would strongly suggest that the theoretical component of Chapter 5 be more
clearly explained and much more concise.

Although tense and aspect are given their due in Chapter 4, very little is
said anywhere in the book regarding mood. This seems a bit odd, if nothing
else, especially given the number of translation examples in the book that
have Spanish and English as the language pair. English-speaking students of
Spanish can attest to the difficulty in learning and mastering the use of mood
in Spanish, and it is well known how the subjunctive mood in Spanish expresses
subtleties that are either not expressed in English or are encoded in
fundamentally different ways (Butt & Benjamin 2011:242). One might suppose
that because of this, mood ought to be given at least a little more treatment
in the text, since it is no doubt a frequent issue when translating between
English and Spanish, as well as with other languages.

Occasionally Baker does mention interpreting as being distinct from written
translation, which is appropriate. However, given the similarity in mental
processes underlying both translation and interpreting (Dueñas González et al.
1991:295), and given the importance and need for interpreters worldwide, I
would suggest that the next edition of this text make an attempt to address
interpreting more frequently, as it would not take anything away from the
translation focus, and it would be useful for those students and instructors
who wish to learn or teach an introduction to both translation and

The greatest strength of this book is the many examples from existing
translations combined with their back translations into English, which allow
the reader to see examples of strategies for addressing the problems inherent
in translation, and certain pitfalls to avoid. Additionally, the exercises
found at the end of each chapter are very valuable activities that will help
students put these strategies into practice.

In spite of these criticisms, this is an excellent introductory text on the
theory and practice of translation. It assumes no previous knowledge of
linguistics, but it is detailed enough so that all readers will find it
useful. Baker does a good job showing that understanding linguistics is useful
for the practice of translation. I would recommend this book to anyone
interested in doing an independent study on how to get started in the practice
of translation, or for an instructor teaching an introduction to translation
(or interpreting) course.


Brown, Gillian and George Yule. 1983. Discourse Analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.

Butt, John and Carmen Benjamen. 2011. A New Reference Grammar of Modern
Spanish, fifth edition. Abingdon, UK: Hodder Education.

Dueñas González, Roseann; Victoria F. Vázquez; and Holly Mikkelson. 1991.
Fundamentals of Court Interpretation: Theory, Policy and Practice. Durham,
North Carolina: Carolina Academic Press.

Grice, H. Paul. 1975. Logic and Conversation. Syntax and Semantics, Vol. 3:
Speech Acts, ed. by L. Cole and J. L. Morgan, 41-58. New York: Academic Press.

Hawking, Stephen W. 1988. A Brief History of Time from the Big Bang to Black
Holes. London: Bantam Press.


Patrick Moore, MA, is an Associate Instructor and PhD student in Hispanic
Linguistics at Indiana University – Bloomington. His research interests
include interpreting studies, community interpreting, translation studies,
pragmatics, and applied linguistics.

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