Textual Genre in French Translation I

Textual genre refers to the category or the type to which a text belongs. Hymes defines genre as a type of communicative event’. The definition suggests that texts are created with certain purposes in mind, namely, that of communicating and conveying specific emotions or facts or ideas or all of the above to the reader. The term genre includes the traditional literary categories such as prose, poetry and drama, as well as institutional categories such as journal articles, instruction manuals, tourist brochures, etc. A text is therefore meant to move and influence the reader in a certain way. In terms of its intended effect, it is possible to distinguish between five types of genres. These are very broad categorizations, and they include several sub-categories and sub-types. Besides, it is also normal for a text to show features of more than one genre.

The genres into which texts can be divided are empirical, philosophical, religious, persuasive and literary. These divisions have not been made in terms of subject matter because the same subject matter can be the theme of any genre; but rather in terms of firstly, the author’s attitude to the subject matter, and, secondly, whether the text is written or oral. The author’s attitude to the subject matter can be analyzed from three points of view. They are: firstly, how does the author choose to portray the subject matter? Secondly, what effect does the author intend the text to have on the reader/listener? Thirdly, does the author accept the fact that his intention may or may not be achieved?

A text, in any given culture, can be said to belong to any of the above categories. It possesses characteristics and communicative purposes that are similar to the ones possessed by other texts belonging to the same category. The reader of the source text will identify the genre of that text based on those particular characteristics. When dealing with textual genre in French translation, a translator must possess some previous knowledge about the possible genre types in the source culture and their respective features.

The French translator must also get acquainted with the main genre types of the target culture and their respective features. He or she would thus be in a position to find an equivalent genre in the target language for the source text. However, the translator must remember that even if the genres are the same, all the features of the source text genre may not be replicated in the target language genre. Points of divergence are bound to exist, and when rendering textual genre into French translation, the French translator must strive to preserve the target language generic features. Otherwise, he or she takes the risk of sounding or appearing foreign and even exotic, to the target reader or audience. Acquiring proficiency in identifying the features that distinguish a particular genre as well as what is expected of that genre in the target language, is something that an efficient French translator must aim for when working with textual genre in French translation.

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