The Pragmatics of Translation in Journalism: an Investigation into the Nature of Translation in the News Room

Date: 3 July 2017

Venue: Universiteit Antwerpen - Stadscampus - Aula B.004 - Prinsstraat 13 - 2000 Antwerpen (route: UAntwerpen, Stadscampus)

Time: 3:00 PM - 5:30 PM

PhD candidate: Maarten Charles J. Franck

Principal investigator: Prof. dr. Jef Verschueren, prof. dr. Leona Van Vaerenbergh

Short description: Phd defence Maarten Charles J. Franck - Faculty of Arts


This book explores the nature of translation in the newsroom from a linguistic pragmatic perspective. I have defined pragmatics as the study of communicative dynamics. Because of how it has been institutionalized, it is mainly a “general functional perspective on (any aspect of) language” (Verschueren 1999, p. 11). Looking at translation from said perspective, means that it can be regarded as a form of interpretive language use which is always dependent of context. It is an instance of recontextualization, in which a source text (ST) is manipulated to become a target text (TT). It can be interlingual or intralingual, depending on whether translation is done between two different general languages or within one general language. And while a translation is never completely faithful or liberal, it is always situated on the cline of unremitting variability between these two extremes. Translation is also one of many tasks associated with the profession of journalism. The main commodity of this profession is information. The information journalists provide can be true, but it is not always possible to say whether it is or is not, because most often, it is the neutral rendition of what other people have said.

With these basic notions in mind I set out to answer four main questions: (i) Which variables influence the way journalists translate?; (ii) What formal shifts in meaning occur when journalists translate?; (iii) What functional shifts in meaning occur when journalists translate?; (iv) Are metamessages strengthened throughout subsequent translations? To answer these questions I examined translations made by journalists working for Belgium’s main national press agency (Belga), news sites (,, and, and newspapers (De Morgen, De Standaard, Het Laatste Nieuws and Het Nieuwsblad). The only one of these media that did not exclusively translate into Dutch was press agency Belga, which also translates news into French. Belga also often fulfilled an intermediary role, translating international media reports (e.g. Agence France-Press, Deutsche Presse Agentur) into French and Dutch before they were picked up by Belgian media. It also provided original coverage which was often picked up by the different media.

To account for differences in topic I exemplified two distinct cases in this book: (i) translations of news reports on the 2011 elections in the DR Congo; (ii) translations of news reports on the run-up to the 2012 London Summer Olympics.

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