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In Other Words

In Other Words is the defi nitive coursebook for students studying translation.
Assuming no knowledge of foreign languages, it offers both a practical and theo-
retical guide to translation studies, and provides an important foundation for training
professional translators.

Drawing on modern linguistic theory, this best-selling text provides a solid base
to inform and guide the many key decisions trainee translators have to make. Each
chapter offers an explanation of key concepts, identifi es potential sources of trans-
lation diffi culties related to those concepts, and illustrates various strategies for
resolving these diffi culties. Authentic examples of translated texts from a wide
variety of languages are examined, and practical exercises and further reading are
included at the end of each chapter.

The second edition has been fully revised to refl ect recent developments in the
fi eld and new features include:

● A new chapter that addresses issues of ethics and ideology, in response to
increased pressures on translators and interpreters to demonstrate accounta-
bility and awareness of the social impact of their decisions.

● Examples and exercises from new genres such as audiovisual translation,
scientifi c translation, oral interpreting, website translation, and news/media

● New project-driven exercises designed to support MA dissertation work.
● Updated references and further reading.
● A companion website featuring further examples and tasks.

Written by Mona Baker, a leading international fi gure in the fi eld, this key text is the
essential coursebook for any student of translation studies.

Mona Baker is Professor of Translation Studies at the University of Manchester,
UK. She is co-founder and editorial director of St. Jerome Publishing which
specializes in translation studies. She is also co-Vice President of the International
Association of Translation and Intercultural Studies (IATIS).

In Other Words
A coursebook on translation
Second edition

Mona Baker

First published 1992
by Routledge

This edition published 2011
by Routledge
2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN

Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada
by Routledge
270 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016

Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business

© 1992, 2011 Mona Baker

The right of Mona Baker to be identifi ed as author of this work has been asserted
by her in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and
Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized
in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or
hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information
storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Baker, Mona.
In other words : a coursebook on translation / Mona Baker. – [2nd ed.].
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
1. Translating and interpreting. I. Title.
P306.B25 2011

ISBN: 978-0-415-46753-7 (hbk)
ISBN: 978-0-415-46754-4 (pbk)
ISBN: 978-0-203-83292-9 (ebk)

This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2011.

To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s
collection of thousands of eBooks please go to

ISBN 0-203-83292-2 Master e-book ISBN

To Ken


List of fi gures xi

List of tables xii

Preface to the second edition xiii

Preface to the fi rst edition xv

Acknowledgements xvii

1 Introduction 1

1.1 About the organization of this book 4
1.2 Examples, back-translations and the languages of illustration 6
Suggestions for further reading 8
Note 8

2 Equivalence at word level 9

2.1 The word in different languages 9
2.1.1 What is a word? 9
2.1.2 Is there a one-to-one relationship between word and meaning? 10
2.1.3 Introducing morphemes 10

2.2 Lexical meaning 11
2.2.1 Propositional vs expressive meaning 11
2.2.2 Presupposed meaning 12
2.2.3 Evoked meaning 13

2.3 The problem of non-equivalence 15
2.3.1 Semantic fi elds and lexical sets – the segmentation of

experience 16
2.3.2 Non-equivalence at word level and some common strategies

for dealing with it 18
Exercises 44
Suggestions for further reading 47
Notes 49


3 Equivalence above word level 51

3.1 Collocation 52
3.1.1 Collocational range and collocational markedness 54
3.1.2 Collocation and register 56
3.1.3 Collocational meaning 57
3.1.4 Some collocation-related pitfalls and problems in translation 58

3.2 Idioms and fi xed expressions 67
3.2.1 Idioms, fi xed expressions and the direction of translation 68
3.2.2 The interpretation of idioms 69
3.2.3 The translation of idioms: diffi culties 71
3.2.4 The translation of idioms: strategies 75

Exercises 86
Suggestions for further reading 90
Notes 91

4 Grammatical equivalence 92

4.1 Grammatical vs lexical categories 93
4.2 The diversity of grammatical categories across languages 95

4.2.1 Number 96
4.2.2 Gender 99
4.2.3 Person 104
4.2.4 Tense and aspect 108
4.2.5 Voice 112

4.3 A brief note on word order 120
4.4 Introducing text 121

4.4.1 Text vs non-text 121
4.4.2 Features of text organization 123

Exercises 124
Suggestions for further reading 127
Notes 129

5 Textual equivalence: thematic and information structures 131

5.1 A Hallidayan overview of information fl ow 133
5.1.1 Thematic structure: theme and rheme 133
5.1.2 Information structure: given and new 156

5.2 The Prague School position on information fl ow: functional
sentence perspective 170
5.2.1 Linear arrangement and thematic status in FSP 173
5.2.2 Linear arrangement and marked structures in FSP 174


5.2.3 The tension between word order and communicative function:
a problem in translation? 175

5.2.4 Suggested strategies for minimizing linear dislocation 176
Exercises 181
Suggestions for further reading 186
Notes 187

6 Textual equivalence: cohesion 190

6.1 Reference 190
6.2 Substitution and ellipsis 196
6.3 Conjunction 200
6.4 Lexical cohesion 210
Exercises 223
Suggestions for further reading 227
Notes 228

7 Pragmatic equivalence 230

7.1 Coherence 230
7.1.1 Coherence vs cohesion 230
7.1.2 Is coherence a feature of text or situation? 231

7.2 Coherence and processes of interpretation: implicature 234
7.3 Coherence, implicature and translation strategies 239

7.3.1 The conventional meanings of words and structures and the
identity of references 240

7.3.2 The Co-operative Principle and its maxims 244
7.3.3 The context, linguistic or otherwise, of the utterance 249
7.3.4 Other items of background knowledge 255
7.3.5 The availability of all relevant items falling under the

previous headings 259
Exercises 263
Suggestions for further reading 270
Notes 271

8 Beyond equivalence: ethics and morality 274

8.1 Ethics and morality 275
8.2 Professionalism, codes of ethics and the law 283
8.3 The ethical implications of linguistic choices 286
8.4 Concluding remarks 290
Exercises 290
Suggestions for further reading 296
Notes 298


Glossary 300

References 305

Name index 323

Language index 327

Subject index 329


Figure 1, Chapter 2 Panel from Tronchet’s Jean-Claude Tergal
and its Italian translation, Domenico Tergazzi 32

Figure 2, Chapter 2 Lipton Yellow Label tea packet for Arab market 44
Figure 3, Chapter 2 Trados advertisement 45
Figure 4, Chapter 2 Screen shot from Sizism Awareness Campaign

video 46
Figure 5, Chapter 3 Title of article in New Scientist 74
Figure 6, Chapter 3 Original version of Manchester Museum of

Science and Industry leafl et 79
Figure 7, Chapter 3 French translation of Manchester Museum of

Science and Industry leafl et 80
Figure 8, Chapter 3 Italian translation of Manchester Museum of

Science and Industry leafl et 80
Figure 9, Chapter 3 Spanish translation of Manchester Museum of

Science and Industry leafl et 80
Figure 10, Chapter 3 German translation of Manchester Museum of

Science and Industry leafl et 80
Figure 11, Chapter 3 Japanese translation of Manchester Museum of

Science and Industry leafl et 81
Figure 12, Chapter 3 Original version of Wedgwood leafl et 84
Figure 13, Chapter 3 Japanese translation of Wedgwood leafl et 85
Figure 14, Chapter 6 Caption of article in Wonderlust Guide to

Jordan 2010 87
Figure 15, Chapter 6 ‘Not Beyond Compare’, National Geographic

Magazine, 1 March 2010, p. 26 215
Figure 16, Chapter 6 Homepage of Katha 226
Figure 17, Chapter 6 Sub-page of Katha web site 227


Table 1, Chapter 3 Unpredictability of collocational patterning 53
Table 2, Chapter 6 Recurrence and collocational cohesion

(adapted from Mason 1994/2010:88) 222

Preface to the second edition

This second edition of In Other Words comes at a time of increased visibility for
translators and interpreters. We only need to look at the extent of reporting on trans-
lation and interpreting in the media to appreciate how visible the profession and the
activity have become. News of translation and interpreting now pervades our lives:
whether it is the lack of qualifi ed court interpreters in a remote part of Australia or
Canada, or the fate of translators and interpreters in zones of military confl ict; the
launching of a national initiative to encourage translation in one region or another, or
the decision by the Turkish government to reinterpret Islam through a new trans-
lation of the Prophet’s sayings; the impending decision by the European Commission
to limit the translation of patents to three languages, or the release of a feminist
translation of the Bible. Every aspect of our social and political life is now heavily
mediated by translators and interpreters, hence their increased visibility. Translation
and interpreting are also now fi rmly part of the professional and academic land-
scape, with practically every country in the world boasting at least one association
that represents the interests of the profession and numerous universities offering
full-blown undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in the fi eld. Technological
advances in the past two decades have further had a major impact on the profession,
resolving old challenges and raising new ones. I have tried to take stock of at least
some of these developments in the choice of additional examples and exercises in
this new edition. A new chapter on ethics attempts to respond to increased pres-
sures on translators and interpreters to demonstrate accountability and awareness
of the tremendous social and political impact of their decisions.

Since the publication of the fi rst edition of In Other Words, fortune has continued
to favour me with exceptionally gifted and supportive colleagues, students and
family whose input into this new edition must be acknowledged. I am grateful to my
niece, Hanan Rihan, for support in preparing the text for publication. Colleagues,
students and former students at the School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures,
University of Manchester, helped me check the analysis of various examples and
key in text that I could not type myself. Luis Pérez-González and James St. André
helped with Spanish, French and Chinese examples and Morven Beaton-Thome
with German examples. Jonathan Bunt provided extensive support with Japanese,
Zhao Wenjing with Chinese, and Sofi a Malamatidou with Greek.


I am particularly grateful to Moira Inghilleri, Julie Boéri and Sofi a Garcia for their
extremely helpful, critical comments on the new chapter on ethics, and to Monika
Bednarek and her students at the University of Sydney for critical feedback on
several chapters. From Routledge, Russell George, Sophie Jacques, Nadia
Seemungal, Anna Callander and Lizzie Clifford have been extremely supportive.
Their help is much appreciated.

John Sinclair’s departure in 2007 left a considerable vacuum in the lives of
those who were fortunate enough to know him and benefi t from his immense expe-
rience. This new edition of In Other Words remains as indebted to his teachings as
the fi rst one.

Mona Baker
June 2010

Preface to the fi rst edition

The idea of this book initially grew out of discussions with a number of colleagues, in
particular with Dr Kirsten Malmkjaer, formerly of the University of Birmingham and
currently at the Centre of English as an International Language, Cambridge. It has
been considerably refi ned during the course of last year through discussions with
postgraduate students at the University of Birmingham and students at the Brass-
house Centre and Birmingham Polytechnic.

I am exceptionally lucky to have been able to draw on the outstanding expertise
of a number of colleagues, both at the University of Birmingham and at COBUILD,
a lexical project run jointly by the University of Birmingham and Collins Publishers.
From COBUILD, Stephen Bullon, Alex Collier and Gwyneth Fox provided initial help
with Russian, German and Italian texts respectively. From the Shakespeare Institute,
Katsuhiko Nogami helped with Japanese and Shen Lin with Chinese texts. From the
School of Modern Languages, James Mullen (Russian), Bill Dodd (German), Paula
Chicken (French) and Elena Tognini-Bonelli (Italian) helped me work my way through
various texts and took the time to explain the structural and stylistic nuances of each
language. From the School of English, Tony Dudley-Evans and Sonia Zyngier
helped with Brazilian Portuguese and Wu Zu Min with Chinese. Tim Johns read and
commented on Chapter 5 (‘Thematic and information structures’) and kindly allowed
me to use much of his own data and report some of his fi ndings on the subject.

Chinese and Japanese texts required additional help to analyse; this was compe-
tently provided by Ming Xie (Chinese) and Haruko Uryu (Japanese), both at the
University of Cambridge. Lanna Castellano of the Institute of Translation and Inter-
preting read a substantial part of the draft manuscript and her encouraging comments
were timely and well appreciated.

I owe a special debt to three people in particular: Helen Liebeck, Philip King and
Michael Hoey. Helen Liebeck and Philip King are polyglots; both kindly spent many
hours helping me with a variety of languages and both read and commented on
Chapters 2, 3 and 4. Philip King also provided the Greek examples and helped with
the analysis of several texts.

Michael Hoey is an outstanding text linguist. In spite of his many commitments,
he managed to fi nd the time to read through the last three chapters and to provide
detailed comments on each of them. His help has been invaluable. It is indeed a


privilege to work with so distinguished a scholar who is also extremely generous with
his time and expertise.

Last but not least, I must acknowledge a personal debt to John Sinclair. John
has taught me, often during informal chats, most of what I know about language,
and his own work has always been a source of inspiration. But I am grateful, above
all, for his friendship and continued support.

Mona Baker
May 1991


The author and publishers wish to thank the following for permission to reproduce
the quotations and illustrations appearing in this book:

Autoworld at the Patrick Collection, 180 Lifford Lane, Kings Norton, Birmingham.
Reproduced with permission.

Brintons press release, reproduced with permission.
Euralex (European Association for Lexicography), PO Box 1017, Copenhagen,

Denmark for extracts from conference circular. Reproduced with permission.
Stephen W. Hawking, Bantam Press, Space Time Publications and World House

Inc. for permission to reproduce extracts from A Brief History of Time (1988) by
Stephen W. Hawking. © (UK and Commonwealth) Space Time Publications; ©
(USA) Bantam Books, a division of Bantam Doubleday, Dell Publishing Group,
Inc.; © 1988 (Japan) World House Inc. All rights reserved.

Το χρονικό του Χρόνου (Από τη Μεγάλη Εκρηξη έως τις μαύρες τρύπες) (1988)
Translated from English by Konstantinos Harakas, Katoptro Publications. Repro-
duced with permission.

Extracts from Autumn of Fury: The Assassination of Sadat © 1983 Mohammed
Heikal. Reprinted by permission of André Deutsch Ltd.

John Le Carré and Hodder & Stoughton for extracts from The Russia House

Lipton Export Limited, Stanbridge Road, Leighton Buzzard, Beds.
Lonrho plc (now Lonmin plc) for extracts from A Hero from Zero.
The Minority Rights Group, 379 Brixton Road, London, for Lebanon, Minority Rights

Group Report by David McDowall, London 1983.
Morgan Matroc – This extract was taken in 1986 from Morgan Matroc which is now

Morgan Technical Ceramics.
Museum of Science and Industry promotional leafl et (Manchester), shot reproduced

in six languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Japanese. Repro-
duced with permission.

National Geographic Magazine, 1 March 2010, page 26.
Article in New Internationalist (January/February 2010, special issue on population

growth), authored by Vanessa Baird. Reprinted by kind permission of New Inter-
nationalist. Copyright New Internationalist


Picture of the title of an article from New Scientist, 5 February 2000, p. 41. Repro-
duced with permission.

The Project for the New American Century Statement of Principles, www.newamer- (last accessed 21 March 2010).

Trados advertisement, reproduced with permission from SDL Plc
Panel from Didier Vasseur Tronchet’s comic series Jean-Claude Tergal. French

original (Tronchet, Jean-Claude Tergal, Tome 3, 1993, p. 40). Italian translation
(Tronchet, Domenico Tergazzi, 1992, p. 36). Reproduced with permission.

Reprinted from The UNESCO Courier, April 1990, ¿Tiene la historia un destino?
Miguel León-Portilla.

Wedgwood promotional leafl et, shot in English and Japanese.
Shot of title and header of an article from the Wonderlust Guide to Jordan, 2010, p.

22. Reproduced with permission.
World Wide Fund for Nature, CH-1196 Gland, Switzerland. © WWF (

Some rights reserved.
Screen shot from Youtube video.

Reproduced with permission.

Do we really know how we translate or what we translate? … Are we to accept ‘naked ideas’
as the means of crossing from one language to another? … Translators know they cross over
but do not know by what sort of bridge. They often re-cross by a different bridge to check up
again. Sometimes they fall over the parapet into limbo.

(Firth 1957:197)

Translation is a point of contact between peoples, and since it is rare that two peoples have the
same access to power, the translator is in a privileged position as mediator, to make explicit the
differences between cultures, expose injustices or contribute to diversity in the world.

(Gill and Guzmán 2010:126)



Writing my own novels has always required a huge effort of organisation and imagination; but,
sentence by sentence, translation is intellectually more taxing.

(Parks 2010)

Professionals in every walk of life form associations and institutes of various kinds to
provide practising members with a forum to discuss and set standards for the
profession as a whole, to set examinations, assess competence and lay codes of
conduct. The standards set by a given profession may well be extremely high, but
this does not necessarily guarantee recognition by those outside the profession.
Notwithstanding the length and breadth of one’s experience, recognition, in our
increasingly qualifi cation-conscious society, comes mostly with proof of some kind
of formal education. Every respectable profession (or every profession which wants
to be recognized as such) therefore attempts to provide its members with systematic
training in the fi eld.

There are two main types of training that a profession can provide for its
members: vocational training and academic training. Vocational courses provide
training in practical skills but do not include a strong theoretical component. A good
example would be a course in plumbing or typing. At the end of a typing course, a
student is able to type accurately and at speed and has a piece of paper to prove it.
But that is the end of the story; what the student acquires is a purely practical skill
which is recognized by society as ‘skilled work’ but is not generally elevated to the
level of a profession. Like vocational courses, most academic courses set out to
teach students how to do a particular job such as curing certain types of illness,
building bridges or writing computer programs. But they do more than that: an
academic course always includes a strong theoretical component. The value of this
theoretical component is that it encourages students to refl ect on what they do, how
they do it and why they do it in one way rather than another. This last exercise,
exploring the advantages and disadvantages of various ways of doing things, is itself
impossible to perform unless one has a thorough and intimate knowledge of the
objects and tools of one’s work. A doctor cannot decide whether it is better to follow
one course of treatment rather than another without understanding such things as
how the human body works, what side effects a given medicine may have, what is
available to counteract these effects and so on.


Theoretical training does not necessarily guarantee success in all instances.
Things still go wrong occasionally because, in medicine for example, the reaction of
the human body and the infl uence of other factors such as stress will never be totally
predictable. But the value of a theoretical understanding of, say, the human appa-
ratus and such things as the nature and make-up of various drugs is that (a) it mini-
mizes the risks involved on any given occasion and prepares the student for dealing
with the unpredictable, (b) it gives the practising doctor a certain degree of confi –
dence which comes from knowing that his or her decisions are calculated on the
basis of concrete knowledge rather than ‘hunches’ or ‘intuition’ and (c) it provides
the basis on which further developments in the fi eld may be achieved because it
represents a formalized pool of knowledge which is shared and can be explored and
extended by the professional community as a whole, not just locally but across the
world. Needless to say, this type of theoretical knowledge is itself of no value unless
it is fi rmly grounded in practical experience.

Throughout its long history, translation has never really enjoyed the kind of
recognition and respect that other professions such as medicine and engineering
have enjoyed. Translators have constantly complained that translation is underesti-
mated as a profession. In summing up the fi rst conference held by the Institute of
Translation and Interpreting in Britain, Professor Bellos (reported by Nick Rosenthal)
stated that ‘The main impetus and concern of this fi rst ITI Conference was the
unjustly low status in professional terms of the translator. An appropriate theme,
since it was one of the main reasons for the formation of the ITI’ (Bellos 1987:163).
Today, more than two decades later, the novelist and translator Tim Parks still has to
remind us that at least ‘for a few minutes every year we really must acknowledge
that translators are important’ (Parks 2010). There is no doubt that the low status
accorded to translation as a profession is ‘unjust’, but one has to admit that this is
not just the fault of the general public. The translation community itself has tradi-
tionally been guilty of underestimating not so much the value as the complexity of
the translation process and hence the need for formal professional training in the
fi eld, though this situation is thankfully changing quite rapidly. Since the fi rst edition
of this book was published, in 1992, numerous training programmes have been set
up for translators and interpreters across the world. Translation has become a highly
attractive career for young people with a love for languages and for engaging with
other cultures, as well as a growing area of research. Those entering the profession
now have to demonstrate that they can refl ect on what they do, that they have
invested in acquiring not only the vocational but also the intellectual skills required to
undertake such a complex and highly consequential task, one that has a major
impact on the lives of the many people who rely on them as mediators.

In the past, talented translators who had no systematic formal training in trans-
lation but who nevertheless achieved a high level of competence through long and
varied experience tended to think that the translation community as a whole could
achieve their own high standards in the same way:


Our profession is based on knowledge and experience. It has the longest
apprenticeship of any profession. Not until thirty do you start to be useful as
a translator, not until fi fty do you start to be in your prime.

The fi rst stage of the career pyramid – the apprenticeship stage – is the
time we devote to investing in ourselves by acquiring knowledge and expe-
rience of life. Let me propose a life path: grandparents of different nation-
alities, a good school education in which you learn to read, write, spell,
construe and love your own language. Then roam the world, make friends,
see life. Go back to education, but to take a technical or commercial
degree, not a language degree. Spend the rest of your twenties and your
early thirties in the countries whose languages you speak, working in
industry or commerce but not directly in languages. Never marry into your
own nationality. Have your children. Then back to a postgraduate trans-
lation course. A staff job as a translator, and then go freelance. By which
time you are forty and ready to begin.

(Lanna Castellano 1988:133)

Lanna’s recommended career path no doubt worked for many people in the past.
Her own case proves that it did: she is a widely respected fi rst-class translator. The
question is whether it was ever feasible for most aspiring translators to pursue this
career path and whether this approach is or was right for the profession as a whole,
bearing in mind that it stresses, at least for the fi rst thirty or forty years of one’s
career, life experience rather than formal academic training. One obvious problem
with this career path is that it takes so long to acquire the skills you need as a trans-
lator that your career is almost over before it begins.

Lanna Castellano has never been opposed to formal academic training; on the
contrary, she has always encouraged it and recognized its value to the profession.
But I have met professional translators in the past, and still come across some very
occasionally today, who actually argue strongly against formal academic training
because, they suggest, translation is an art which requires aptitude, practice and
general knowledge – nothing more. The ability to translate is a gift, they say: you
either have it or you do not, and theory (almost a dirty word in some translation
circles) is therefore irrelevant to the work of a translator. To take the analogy with
medicine a step further: if we accept this line of thinking we will never be seen as
anything but witch doctors and faith healers. And while it may well suit some indi-
viduals to think that they can heal people because they have magic powers or a
special relationship with God, rather than because they have a thorough and
conscious understanding of drugs and of the human body, the fact remains that
witch doctory and faith healing are not recognized professions and that medicine is.

Most translators and interpreters prefer to think of their work as a profession
and would like to see others treat them as professionals rather than as skilled or
semiskilled workers. But to achieve this, they need to develop an ability to stand
back and refl ect on what they do and how they do it. Like doctors and engineers,


they have to prove to themselves as well as others that they are in control of what
they do; that they do not just translate or interpret well because they have a ‘fl air’ for
it, but rather because, like other professionals, they have made a conscious effort to
understand various aspects of their work.

Unlike medicine and engineering, translation studies is a relatively young disci-
pline in academic terms, though it is increasingly featuring as a subject of study in its
own right in many parts of the world. Like any young discipline, it needs to draw on
the fi ndings and theories of …

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