Textual Properties in German Translations

Translators working in the field of German translations must be sensitive to a number of different elements within a source text, and be aware of how to represent them in the target language. On a level that is slightly higher than the phonic / graphic and prosodic levels, translators must be aware of elements that could affect the grammar and syntax within a piece. This refers to the different ways in which words are put together to construct sentences, including the words themselves, their connotations, and arranging words to construct a sentence. Translators must also be aware of issues that could affect their target text on the level of sentences themselves. Each of these elements must be carefully considered when producing German translations in order to prevent the loss of meaning within the target text.

Choosing Carefully

Careful consideration must begin on the level of words, or the lexical level, if loss within German translations is to be prevented. One of the aspects of selecting words that a translator must consider the dictionary definition of a word in the source language, as well as its corresponding word in the target language. Sometimes, there is a one-to-one correspondence, but often, words in one language have broader or more specific meanings than those of the other. Choosing a broader word in the target language to substitute for a more specific word in the source text can obfuscate the author's true meaning. Likewise, choosing a more specific word in the target language to substitute for a broader term in the source text can lead to a distortion of meaning. A word's connotation, or implicit and subtextual meanings, must also be considered if an appropriate choice is to be made. Failure to do so can lead to German translations that are vague, or do not preserve the meaning intended by the source text.

Issues in Syntax

Issues in syntax are also important considerations in this respect. For example, although German and English are descended from the same language, Proto-Germanic, there are significant differences between their accepted sentence structures that can profoundly affect the meaning within German translations. German, for instance, assigns genders to its nouns, while English does not, a trait that can lead to cumbersome explanations of gender when translating nouns of profession. There are also certain prepositions in German that have multiple meanings depending on context, and it is up to the translator to select the correct one for the target text.


Finally, texts should be considered on a sentential level as well, in order to ensue that the final German translations are aligned with their sources in terms of purpose and execution. This involves examining the grammatical and prosodic features of each sentence, as well as indicators of how the sentences are meant to be read. The translator must make it clear to the audience the way the source author intended his or her text to be read. In literary translation, this could mean the use of stresses and indications of inflections, such as italics. By incorporating these elements, translators can produce German translations that effectively convey the source text's meaning and purpose to the target language audience.


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