Theme in Translation: A Systemic Functional Linguistic Perspective

Bo Wang


Since the 1990s, discourse analysis has been applied to translation studies, and studies with this approach have become quite prominent. As one resource of discourse analysis, the SFL (Systemic Functional Linguistics) model can be applied to analyze both the original text and the translated text. Following this approach, both texts are compared at the sociological, semiotic, generic, registerial, discoursal, and lexicogrammatical levels by adopting a top-down process. The applicability of Halliday’s linguistic framework has then been widely recognized within the field of translation studies. Meanwhile, different strata of Systemic Functional Grammar have shed light on a number of studies. In this paper, I have restricted the topic to one aspect only, i.e. the textual metafunction. I have first traced the development of SFL and its integration with translation studies. Some basic terms in SFL and Theme/Rheme analysis are also explained. Then, some of the existing studies involving thematic analysis and translation are reviewed. As advocated by several scholars, what we need is a more objective apparatus for descriptive translation studies. It would be beneficial to link SFL and descriptive translation studies together, as SFL serves as a tool that relates linguistic choices to the sociocultural context systematically. 

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International Journal of Comparative Literature and Translation Studies

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