Masarykova univerzita Filozofická fakulta Katedra anglistiky a amerikanistiky Magisterská diplomová práce

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Masarykova univerzita

Filozofická fakulta

Katedra anglistiky a amerikanistiky
Magisterská diplomová práce

2007 Eva Majoršinová

Masaryk University

Faculty of Arts

Department of English and American Studies

English Language and Literature

Eva Majoršinová
Translating Academic Texts in Geography

M.A. Major Thesis

PhDr. Jarmila Fictumová


I declare that I have worked on this thesis independently,

using only the sources listed in the bibliography.


Author’s signature

I would like to thank PhDr. Jarmila Fictumová for the kind help, valuable support, and advice she provided during the process of writing this thesis.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction 8

2. Theoretical Part 8

2.1 Specialized Translation 9

2.2 Academic Texts 10

2.3 Geography 11

2.4 Text by Harley 12

2.5 The Author 15

3. Practical Part 17

3.1 Translation with Notes 17

3.2 Commentary on Translation Process 31

3.3 Editing 35

3.3.1 Typology of Editor’s Changes 36

4. Conclusion 38

5. Works Cited 40

6. Appendix 1 42

7. Appendix 2 54

8. Appendix 3 70


The general area this thesis concentrates on is, as its title suggests, translation studies. The results of the research it comprises take the form of a translation with commentary, also called annotated translation, a type of introspective and retrospective research, where the translator translates a text and, at the same time, writes a commentary on the translation process (Williams 7). The text in this case is a part of an academic essay written by John Brian Harley, one of the world’s leading historians of cartography, on maps and the power they exert in society. The commentary includes a discussion of the translation assignment, an analysis of its aspects, and a description of the kinds of solutions for particular translation problems. It also contains guidelines that were helpful in making the translation decisions made in the process of translating the text and describes the various stages of the translation process. In the first theoretical part, specialized translation and translation of academic texts are discussed. This part also includes a discussion concerning the requirements for translators and their education. Geography as a discipline is characterized, and information on the selected text and its author is provided. The theoretical part is followed by a practical part, which consists of annotated translation of a part of the translated text, and a chapter on revising and editing. The process of translating the text is described, and a typology of the changes made during the process of editing is provided. The concluding chapter summarizes the results and draws conclusions.

2.Theoretical Part

In the theoretical part, translation of specialized texts with focus on translating academic geographical texts will be discussed. A general overview of specialized translation and academic texts is followed by a characteristic of geography as a scientific discipline, and a sample text, an academic essay by J. B. Harley, is introduced and classified. At the end of the theoretical part information about the author of the sample text, J. B. Harley, is provided.

2.1Specialized Translation

Specialized translation shares many features with other types of translations. However, it has some characteristic features the translator should be aware of. Among the common features are, for example, the purpose of facilitating communication between different linguistic communities, the use of tools such as dictionaries and translation memories, or the practice of adaptation of cultural differences (Montalt 19). In specialized translation, priorities are different than, for example, in literary translation, where the translator’s focus is on aspects such as register, rhythm, or character’s attitude (Montalt 20). The translator of specialized texts has different priorities, the main one being factual complexity and accuracy. Among the features that distinguish specialized translation of geographical texts from other types of translation is the fact that it involves the communication of knowledge generated and needed in its various subdisciplines. These include, among others, the study of landforms (geomorphology), the study of geographic distribution and characteristics of soils (pedogeography), the study of the distribution of different species of organisms around the planet (biogeography), the study of the properties, distribution, and circulation of water on and below the Earth’s surface and in the atmosphere (hydrology), the study of the physics, chemistry, and dynamics of the Earth’s atmosphere (meteorology), the art and science of expressing graphically the natural and social features of the Earth (cartography), the study of geographic information systems and remote sensing, the study of human settlement, development of cities, their spatial organization and structure (urban geography), the study of population (demography), political geography, which studies political processes in time and space, economic geography, and the study of spatial distribution of agriculture, various industries, and transportation systems. Geographical texts do not include only texts for specialists in geography. Essays, articles, reports, for instance, are different types of texts that deal with or publicize geographic discoveries and inform readers from various walks of life. Translators should therefore be able to move freely amongst genres. Given the breadth of the discipline, the translator may also have to deal with facts and information from biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, economy, political science, cultural studies, or sociology, among others. Comprehension of geographical notions is key in the translation process. Gaps in the translator’s geographical knowledge may lead to problems of comprehension. For this reason, the education of the translator is an important factor that significantly influences the quality of the target text produced in the translation process. The translator needs to be knowledgeable both in the field in question and in the languages involved. The translator of a specialized geographical text should be either a professional with a specialty in translating academic texts in geography and other natural sciences, or a geographer with a professional interest in languages and translation. If that is not the case, the lack of previous knowledge can be overcome by the use of different strategies for acquiring it, such as consulting the requester and experts in the field involved, but being already trained in the required field and being familiar with the terminology   and therefore able to solve terminological problems   helps to complete the work faster and with greater accuracy. Professional translators should therefore strive to find a professional niche and be proficient not only in linguistics, but in other fields as well. According to Montalt and Davies “more than half of the [translator’s] time is invested in detecting and solving terminological problems” (21). The increase in international communication in today’s global world has brought an increased need for training of specialized translators. To become proficient, the translator needs to acquire and develop special skills, knowledge, and attitudes (Montalt 15). The training of translators should include information on the various resources and tools available to them, as well as practical training in how to use them. Electronic glossaries of terms specific to translation of geographical texts   such as terms for landforms, processes in the different geospheres, or terms concerning social phenomena   and translation memories (TMs) are examples of tools commonly used by translators today. Apart from, for example, project management skills, communication and negotiation skills, or customer service skills, translators of specialized texts need to acquire good computer skills and should be trained in the use of translation software (CAT tools) as well.
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