Relation Between Spanish Translation and Linguistics

Linguistics is the study of languages. Its aim is understanding the principles that govern the structure of a particular language. The relation between Spanish translation and linguistics can be explained on the basis of problem-solving. Linguistics can help to solve many of the problems that a Spanish translator might encounter during Spanish translation. The field of linguistics is divided into different sub-fields like phonetics, phonology, semiotics, morphology, syntax, semantics, sociolinguistics and psycholinguistics. Each of these fields contributes in its own way to problem-solving in Spanish translation. In this unit we will discuss three of the sub-fields of linguistics, namely, semantics, semiotics and sociolinguistics.


Semantics is the study of meaning. In particular, semantics explores the relationships between referents and referends, that is, words and the concepts they represent. Its importance for the translator lies in the fact that while referents or words are particular to a language, referends or symbols are not. Referends or symbols are often universal, and exist independently of the word-system in which they occur. In terms of semantics, translation can be defined as the process of rendering the referents of one language in another language.

Semiotics is the study of signs, and how they give rise to meaning. Its importance for the translator is twofold. In the first place, semiotics encourages the distinction between ‘deep structures´ and ‘surface features´. In the second place, it examines the practical process by which particular meanings get attached to particular words.


Sociolinguistics is the study of language in a social context. In other words, it examines the relations between language and society and how language is used in specific social situations. Sociolinguistics studies dialects and sociolects and shows how they are trustworthy indications of the age, sex, education, social class and geographic origin of a speaker.

From the above analysis it is clear that linguistics has made important contributions to the understanding and implementing of Spanish translation. We will study some ways in which interjections, expletives, euphemisms and regionalisms are handled in Spanish translation. Spanish-speaking people use interjections very frequently, especially in the form of names of gods and saints. The same is very rare in English. The Spanish translator should retain the force of the interjection, but should replace the names of gods and saints with something that is more typical to the English language.


Regionalisms too must be handled with care because they either exist in only one region or have different meanings in different regions. For example, the word ‘calentura´ can mean ‘fever´ or ‘sexual arousal, and the word ‘constipado´ can mean ‘having a cold´, or ‘congestion of the vowels´. In order to avoid embarrassment, the translator should examine the context, or even better, consult a native speaker.

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