Schaffner Christina Skopos Theory Essay
A Comparative Study of English Translations of the Sura Maryam by Christian and Muslim Translators with an Orientation of Skopos Theory
- Written by Salar Manafi Anari,Ph.D and Ashraf Mohammadi
While translating from one language into another, translators have to deal with many
challenges some of which are intertextual and the others are extratextual. We can
discover intertextual differences by comparing source text and translation textually,
but how can we discover extra textual differences between source text and
The Skopos of the translation was identified as one of the extra textual factors that can
affect the meaning of the original text .So, the factors that have effect on the Skopos
were analyzed. The researchers narrowed their analysis
about the mentioned problem to the English translations of the Qur’an by two
Christian translators and two Muslim translators. After that they, compared these
translations according to the CDA model of Farahzad. This comparison proved that
additions were more in Muslim translations than Christian ones while modulation
and omission were more in Christian translations in comparison to their Muslim
Key words: Translation, change the meaning , Skopos , CDA
Translation, according to a given purpose, conveys information in the original
language of the original culture to a target language in the target culture. So the
translation is not “transcoding” of textual features between languages but it is a
complicated action .A person through this action “gives information about a text under
new functional ,cultural and linguistic conditions…,while preserving formal aspects as
far as possible” (Snell-Hornby, 2006, p.53).
Translation is also viewed as a form of human action.
“Human action is intentional, but determinate, self-reflexively measured against social
rules ,resources, the heterogeneity of which allows for the possibility of change with
every self-reflexive action”( Wolf and Fukari, 2007,p.1).
“Translating is an action” that is done to attain a goal. This goal is not stable and any
“social actor” has effect on it(Kuhiwczak & Littou, 2007, p.35).Toury(1995,p.249)
suggests that translation act occurs in the translator’s mind. Many factors such as: The
knowledge of the translator, his/her feelings, “attitude towards the task, his/her self-
image as a translator”, the attributes of the translator’s character and “life experience
as a whole” have influence on the translation act(Williams &Chesterman, 2002).
Any action has a result. The result of translation action is a “translatum, a specific
kind of target text” ( Baker, 2001, p.236).
Skopos theory and the role of translator in Skopose theory
In Skopos theory , purpose plays very important role to determine methods and
strategies of translation .Also the reason for translating the ST and the function of TT
in target society are important for translator (Munday, 2001). So, in Skopos theory,
recognizing why an ST is to be translated and the function of the TT are very
important for the translator .
Three types of translation according to Skopos are:
1) “Interlinear version” which was useful for Bible translators and did not follow
the laws of TL system.
2)“The grammar translation” which was applied to teach vocabulary and grammar of
3)“Adapting” or “Modifying” translation in which source text is considered as “raw
material” for specific goals(Snell- Hornby, 2006, p.52).
Because of Skopos variation with text receivers, the Skopos of source text and
target text may be different .When their Skopos is not different Reiss and
Vermeer speak of “Funktionskonstanz (functional constancy)” and when Skopos
differs for them , “Funktionsanderung(change of function )” (ibid) occurs.
Purpose must be determined before the start of translation, different purposes are
defined for translation by translation scholars. Addressees are one of the factors
which have effect on the choosing of one form of translation instead of another one.
For example, when we translate for children we use different strategies and methods
Skopos is useful for both “process” and “product” of translation and it can
be used in three manners, and therefore has three concepts, it can be related to:
a) “the translation process” and its aims
b) “the translation result” and “ the function of the translatum”
c) “ the translation mode” and its goal(Venuti, 2000, p.224).
According to Skopos theory, translation is production of a suitable target text based on
a source text, and the relationship between the two texts is determined according to
the Skopos of the translation. But any specific purpose, based on this
theory, is just “one among many possible ones”( Venuti, 2000, p.228).This idea is
expressed in another place when Vermeer says “the Skopos may of course also have
sub- Skopoi” (p.224).
So, if it seems logical or essential , the Skopos idea “can be used
with respect to segments of a translatum”. This belief helps us to say that it is not
necessary to determine an “action and a text as an indivisible whole” (p.222).
Thus a specific original text does not have “one correct or best translation only”
Function designers in translation
Function is a factor which guides “the language usefulness”. The function of a text is
its influence in reality(House, 1996, p.13).Reiss and Vermeer(1984) rely on this issue
that translator can determine the function of the translation too. This function is
determined in terms of translator’s attitude to the reader’s requirements(House, 1996,
Some translations are designed to fulfill a particular function, because of this
fact there are two or more translations for every word in dictionary and the translator
can choose the one that best suits his purpose. For example the translation of the
Hebrew Bible as a religious text is only one of the possible choices for the target text
to replace the original in this particular function, and even then ,there would still be a
difference between the functioning as a Jewish and a non-Jewish religious text. As a
result, not just any translation of the Bible would amount to biblical translation ;not
even a particular kind of translation (Toury, 1995,p.169).
Some researchers use meaning and function as synonym words. For instance, Nord
says “the meaning or function of a text is not something inherent in linguistic signs”;
it is not recognizable for every person who knows “code” (as cited in Schaffner&
Holmes, 1995, p.45).So, we can conclude that factors that change the function can
change the meaning too.
Nord(1991) believes “the function of the target text is not arrived at automatically
from an analysis of the source text but it is pragmatically defined by the purpose of the
intercultural communication”( as cited in Robinson, 2003, p.173).
The functions of translations are not “textual abstractions but extratextual actions” that
have effect on behavior of human beings “in a social context”. These functions are
not fixed and they can redefined “pragmatically” in any new situation. The Skopos of
the intercultural communication is the main reason for these redefinitions(ibid).So the
Skopos has important effect on the function of a text too.
Vermeer believes that a translation is performed to achieve a purpose. “Client” or
the translators determine this purpose (Kuhiwczak and Littau,2007, p.55).
Translator designs a function for translation as well as the author but translation is
conditioned with its source text and reader’s conditions in target language. These
constraints are related to equivalence relation(Venuti, 2000).Thus it is useful to review
some ideas about equivalence. There are three types of meaning that are important to
1) “the semantic aspect of meaning” ,that includes linguistic units relationship
with their referents in real world.
2) “the pragmatic aspect” that includes relationship between linguistic units and
their user in a defined condition.
3) “the textual aspect” that refers to different text elements such as theme-rheme
patterns and everything that affects on the cohesion of the text (as cited in
House,1996, p.31). The semantic dimension of meaning is concerned to “the
relationship of linguistic units or symbols to their referents in some possible world”.
This component of meaning is easy to understand, and identification of “equivalence
in translation” in this dimension is very easy(p.30).
But the pragmatics dimension of meaning is related to the relationship
between “linguistic units and the user(s) of these units in a given communicative
situation” or according to Edmondson it is related to “discourse” ( as cited in
Fairclaugh, 2010, p.457). It is also related to “the illocutionary force that an utterance
is said to have”. This force is identified in terms of the “grammatical features such as
word order, mood of the words” and so forth ,but the most important factor for
identification of this force in real conditions is “context”( House, 1996, p.31).
The Skopos of the Qur’an translations
The Skopos of holy texts translation differs on the basis of “motivations” for
translation (Long, 2005, p.13). There are more than one Skopos in translations of holy
texts, because each translator has specific motivation for his/her translation.
The Qur’an belongs to all people, because in different verses in the Qur’an this
point is repeated and emphasized that it is for all mankind and it confirms the prior
Scriptures (Saffarzadeh, 2002, p.1538).Thus different people from different
religions have translated the Qur’an to their own languages. But this kind of
translation is not easy and it needs knowledge in both languages and cultures of the
ST and TT(ibid).
Some examples at Micro-level analysis of four English translations of thirty-nine
verses of the Sura Maryam.
Farahzad (2007) believes the purpose of comparing the source text(“prototext”) and
the target text(“metatext”) is “to see whether or not” they have “similar/different
ideological implications”(p.42) .She thinks the texts must be analyzed in “two levels”:
micro level and macro level. At micro level, textual features such as “lexical and
grammatical choices” are analyzed. Tense, modality, positive/negative,
passivization /activization and so on are surveyed in this level.
َا زَكَرِيَّا إِنَّا نُبَشِّرُكَ بِغُلَامٍ اسْمُهُ يَحْيَى لَمْ نَجْعَل لَّهُ مِن قَبْلُ سَمِيًّا ﴿7﴾
ای زکریا !ماتورابه پسری که نامش یحیی است مژده می دهیم که قبلا هم نامی برای اوقرارنداده ایم
│Allah stated:│ “O, Zakariya! We do bestow you glad-tidings of a son ,his name will
be Yahya and We did not give that name1 to any Messenger before him.”.
*.-O Zechariah! We are announcing to you[the birth] of your son John, the first one
We are calling by this name
3. Arberry :
O Zachariah, We give thee good tidings of a boy ,whose name is John. No namesake
have We given him aforetime.’.
O Zachariah! Truly We give you the good tidings of a boy. His name will be John
and We have not assigned it as a namesake for anyone before.
All the translators emphasized on the name of the son of prophet but
Starkovsky ignored that, He also used “announcing” for
. "مژده می دهیم"
All the translators except Saffarzadeh used “John” instead of original noun
In (یحیی)which does not convey the implications of original noun
Islam (semantic features).
Starkovsky used modulation and changed negative voice to the positive
one by writing “the first one We are calling by this name” for
"قبلا هم نامی برای اوقرارنداده ایم"
وَيَقُولُ الْإِنسَانُ أَئِذَا مَا مِتُّ لَسَوْفَ أُخْرَجُ حَيًّا ﴿66﴾
وانسان می گوید:آیاوقتی مردم،راستی ازگور زنده بیرون آورده خواهم شد؟
And the disbelieving man says: “ Once I am dead and buried shall I then be brought
Man says: “Shall I really be raised after I die?”
Man says , ‘ What, when I am dead shall I then be brought forth alive?’
And the human being says : When I am dead, shall I be brought out living?
"زنده" is omitted in Starkovsky translation, therefore he destroyed the main "زنده"
concept of original. Saffarzadeh added “buried” and also “disbelieving” to
her translation and her last addition emphasized on an absent negative concept
in the original text. Bakhtiar and Arberry added “what” and “when” in
their translations which increased the exclamatory load in their
Two following tables show the frequency of three translation strategies in Muslim
and Christian translations of thirty –nine verses of Sura Maryam:
Table 1 Frequency of strategies used in translation of the Qur’an by Muslim
Table 2 Frequency of strategies used in translation of the Qur'an by Christian
The frequency of strategies shows that the translations are more explicit than the
original text. But the ratio of this feature between translations by Muslim and
Christian’s translators is different. Tables show that Muslim translations are longer
than Christian ones, the percentage of additions in Muslim translations are more than
Christian ones. But the percentages of omission and modulation in Christian
translations are more than of them in Muslim ones.
It was also identified that Skopos can be attributed to the process, result and mode of
the translation. Therefore each translation has more than one Skopos .
Translator is a significant factor for designing Skopos types. Function constancy is
dependent to the Skopos of the translation. So before determining the function
constancy, even in the translation of religious texts, the kind of Skopos must be
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Professor Christina Schäffner
Parallel texts in translationSchäffner, C.Sep 1998Unity in diversity: Recent trends in translation studies. Bowker, L., Cronin, M., Kenny, D. & Pearson, J. (eds.). Manchester: St Jerome Publishing, p. 83-908 p. (Current trends in translation studies)
Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding › Chapter
Skopos theorySchäffner, C.4 Dec 1997Routledge encyclopedia of translation studies. Baker, M. & Saldanha, G. (eds.). London (UK): Routledge, p. 235-2384 p.
Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding › Entry for encyclopedia/dictionary
Political texts as sensitive textsSchäffner, C.Dec 1997Translating sensitive texts: linguistic aspects. Simms, K. (ed.). Amsterdam (NL): Rodopi, p. 131-1388 p. (Approaches to translation studies; vol. 14)
Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceeding › Chapter