Word–Image Interaction in Technical Translation

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Pinni B building, auditorium 1100, address: Kanslerinrinne 1

Anne Ketola

Doctoral defence of M.A. Anne Ketola

Word–Image Interaction in Technical Translation : Students Translating an Illustrated Text

The field of science of the dissertation is Translation Studies.

The opponent is senior lecturer Carol O’Sullivan (University of Bristol, United Kingdom). Docent Riitta Oittinen acts as the custos.

The language of the dissertation defence is English.

How illustrations guide the translator of an illustrated text

The dissertation analyzes word–image interaction in technical translation by examining both empirical and theoretical material. The empirical analyses of the study examine how a group of Master’s level translation students translated an illustrated technical text from English into Finnish. Its data consists of the students’ translations as well as the translation diaries the students wrote during the translation assignment. The theoretical analyses of the dissertation consist of comparing cognitive studies of illustrated text comprehension with cognitive studies of translation, as well as evaluating theories of word–image interaction by comparing them to the insights gained during the empirical analysis.

The study has two central aims. First, it aims to shed light on the role of images in technical translation. It examines how word–image interaction in technical translation could be modelled theoretically, analyzes how the interaction is described by translation students, and investigates if and how the interaction is reflected in their translation solutions. The second aim of the study is to show that examining the translation of illustrated texts can inform research into word–image interaction also on a more general level – that research into translation offers one possible means to exemplify multimodal meaning construction in an empirical manner, since a translation of a multimodal text can be considered to reflect how the translator interpreted the combination of the modes.

The theoretical and methodological approaches that are usually adopted in multimodally-oriented research are linguistically-inspired: they employ linguistic concepts to the analysis of all of the modes involved. The present study has adopted an alternative theoretical-analytical approach, referred to as a cognitively-grounded approach to multimodality. The linguistically-grounded approaches to multimodality describe how meaning is constructed from words and images based on theories of how verbal language functions. A cognitively-grounded approach describes how meaning is constructed from words and images based on what research into human cognition has suggested about the way in which we interpret the combination of words and images in illustrated technical texts. The starting point of the approach is that, based on this research, we may assume that the readers of such texts integrate words and images as they read, and that, for this reason, their interpretations reflect the  way in which they interpreted the combination of the modes.

The study concludes that when dealing with illustrated material, translation should not be thought of as entirely verbal activity. The empirical analyses of the study strongly suggest that images played a significant role in source text comprehension and that images defined the way in which elements of the verbal text were translated. The analyses conclude that readers (translators) can make an effort to map visual and verbal information onto each other even when words and images contest or contradict each other. As for research into multimodality in an interdisciplinary context, the contributions of the study stem from working towards establishing novel theoretical and analytical approaches to multimodality. The study argues that word–image interaction is an unpredictable process that cannot always be modelled based on ready-made categories, as is done in several previous studies.


The dissertation is published in the publication series of Acta Universitatis Tamperensis; 2364, Tampere University Press, Tampere 2018. The dissertation is also published in the e-series Acta Electronica Universitatis Tamperensis; 1870, Tampere University Press 2018.


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