A Brief Introduction to Skopos Theory
“Skopos theory”, meaning “the end justifies the means” (Nord, 2001, p. 124), is an approach to translation which was first put forward by Hans J. Vermeer and developed in the late 1970s. The word “skopos” which was derived from Greek, meaning nothing but “aim” or “purpose”, is a technical term for the aim or purpose of a translation (Vermeer 227). The theory focuses above all on the purpose of the translation, which determines the translation methods and strategies that are to be employed in order to produce a functionally adequate result. Vermeer believes it as an “offer of information” that is partly or wholly turned into an “offer of information” for the target audience. Its aim is to liberate the translation from the confinement of the source text and orient a more functional and socio-cultural concept of translation which consider the translation process as a specific form of human action.
He worked hard to explain the translation activity from the point of view of the target language. This theory stresses the interactional, pragmatic aspects of translation, arguing that the shape of target text is a more important factor determining the purpose of a translation. In the frame of Skopos theory, the function of a translation is dependent on the knowledge, culture background, history values and norms of the target readers, who are influenced by the social environment they are in. These factors determine whether the function of the source text or passages in the source text can be preserved or have to be modified or even changed. 3.2 Three Rules of Skopos Theory
Skopos Theory points out that translation is a kind of human behavior with a distinct purpose. It stresses target-orientation of translation and focuses on the translation situation which determines which methods to be adopted. In order to have a deeper understanding of this theory, the following section gives a detailed introduction to the three rules of Skopos theory. Vermeer puts forward three possible kinds of purposes: the general purpose aimed at by the translator in the translation process, the communicative purpose aimed at by the target text in the target situation and the purpose aimed at by a particular translation methods or procedure. Generally speaking, Skopos refers to the purpose of the target text (Nord, 2011; 28).
“Skopos rule” as the top-ranking rule for any translation, means a translational action depends on its skopos, which is “the end justifies the means” by Reiss and Vermeer. Vermeer thinks that each text is produced for a given purpose and should serve the purpose. Vermeer explains the rule as follows: This rule means: translate/ interpret/ speak/ write in a way that enables your text/translation to function in the situation in which it is used and with the people who want to use it and precisely in the way they want it to function (Nord 29). In this rule, Vermeer argues against the viewpoint that translation is simply a matter of language, because for him translation is a cross-cultural transfer and the translator should be familiar with the both cultural and what’s more, he regards the translation mainly as a form of action, or express it the other way, “a cross-cultural event”, so in order to fulfill a translation task, the purpose of translation must be taken into consideration.
Because of differences in cultural background, thinking patterns and methods of expression, the intention of the source language author’s and the form of original discourse are not fully in accordance with the target readers’ living habits. The Skopos rule decides the translation strategies according to the expected purpose from the target readers’ point of view. As the most significant rule of Skopos theory, it required the translation action be determined by its “Skopos” or purpose. It means a translational text must be in accordance with some principle which is decided in specific situation and influenced by translation commission. Thus, this rule is used to settle the argument of free or faithful translation, dynamic or formal equivalence and domestication or foreignization. It means different translation methods such as a “literal” or a “faithful” translation can be used to a certain translation task according to its purpose. 3.2.2 Coherence Theory
The coherence rule points out that the target text “must be interpretable as coherent with the target text receiver’s situation”. That is to say, the target text must be translated in such a way that it makes sense in the communicative situation where it is received and can be fully understood by the target text receivers, considering their social situation, culture and knowledge. Coherence rule, in another word, the intra-textual coherence, means that the target text should be fluent in the target receiver’s circumstance. Translator picks out terminology that is easy to accept by the target readers and tries to be in line with the target reader’s expectation. Under the guide of coherence rule, the source text is only part of the translation belief which offers information for the translator, who in turn makes decisions on which part is meaningful and can be acceptable in a sense in the receiver’s situation. 3.2.3 Fidelity Rule
Since translation is to offer information, it is expected that there is an accurate relationship between information offered by target text and that by corresponding source text. Vermeer names this relationship “inter-textual coherence” or “fidelity” which means the target language text or the translated text should be faithful to the source language text. It requires the translation should be faithful to the source text. The extent of faithfulness depends on the purpose of the text and the understanding of the source text by the translator.
This is a further principle, also known as the “fidelity rule” by Reiss and Vermeer in 1984.The fidelity rule merely states that there must be coherence between the translated version and the source text. Fidelity rule is regarded as a subordinate rule to both coherence rule and Skopos rule. The above basic rules are to guide the translator in the whole translation process. Since the source text is an offer of information in the process of translating the translator adopts appropriate strategies to translate he source text according to the purpose of translation and the understanding of the source text.