Problems and Constraints in Translation: A Semiotic Perspective




translation, semiotics, problems, constraints, model


Constraints are an integral part of translation: in addition to purely linguistic, social and cultural aspects, professionals often have to deal with ideological, technical and ethical problems, which unlocks the potential of semiotics for translation studies. The article presents a working typology of potential constraints operating in translation. It highlights the distinction between translation problems and constraints, with the latter understood as any potential and objective factor which limits the performance of translators, forcing them to apply problem-solving tactics to produce a relevant target text. It is argued that even though the terms “constraint” and “problem” have negative connotations, the knowledge of potential impediments can often prove helpful, since it can facilitate translation by restricting possibilities or justify chosen techniques. The argumentation is supported by examples of constraints, their sources, and accepted practice.


Download data is not yet available.


Baker, M., Saldanha, G. (2009), Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies, 2nd Edition, Routledge, London−New York, DOI:

Chaume, F. (2012), Audiovisual Translation: Dubbing, St Jerome, Manchester.

Chesterman, A. (1997), Memes of Translation: The Spread of Ideas in Translation Theory, John Benjamins, Amsterdam−Philadelphia, DOI:

Delabastita, D. (1989), “Translation and Mass Communication: Film and TV Translation as Evidence of Cultural Dynamics”, Babel, 35(4), pp. 193-218, DOI:

Delisle, J., Lee-Jahnke, H., Cormier, M. C. (eds.) (2006), Terminologia tłumaczenia, (translated by T. Tomaszkiewicz), Wydawnictwo Naukowe UAM, Poznań.

Díaz-Cintas, J., Remael, A. (2007), Audiovisual Translation: Subtitling, St Jerome, Manchester–Kinderhook.

d’Ydewalle, G., van Rensbergen, J., Pollet, J. (1987), “Reading a Message when the Same Message is Available Auditorily in Another Language: The Case of Subtitling”, in: J. K. O’Regan, A. Lévy-Schoen (eds.), Eye Movements: From Psychology to Cognition, Elsevier Science, Amsterdam, pp. 313-321, DOI:

Eco, U. (2001), Experiences in Translation, (Translated by A. McEwen), University of Toronto Press, Toronto–Buffalo–London.

Fodor, I. (1969), “Linguistic and Psychological Problems of Film Synchronisation”, Acta Linguistica Scientiarum Hungaricae, 19, pp. 69-106 and 379-394.

Gambier, Y., van Doorslaer, L. (eds.) (2010), Handbook of Translation Studies, Vol. 2, John Benjamins, Amsterdam−Philadelphia, DOI:

Gonzáles Davies, M. (2004), Multiple Voices in the Translation Classroom: Activities, Tasks and Projects, John Benjamins, Amsterdam−Philadelphia, DOI:

Gonzáles Davies, M., Scott-Tennent, C. (2005), “A Problem-solving and Studentcentred Approach to the Translation of Cultural References”, Meta, 50-51, pp. 160-179, DOI:

Gottlieb, H. (1992), “Subtitling – A New University Discipline”, in: C. Dollerup, A. Loddegaard (eds.), Teaching Translation and Interpreting, John Benjamins, Amsterdam, pp. 161-170, DOI:

Gutt, E.-A. (2010), “Relevance: A Key to Quality Assessment in Translation”, in: B. Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk, M. Thelen (eds.), Meaning in Translation, Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main, pp. 267-282.

Holz-Mänttäri, J. (1984), Translatorisches Handeln – Theorie und Methode, Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, Helsinki.

Jakobson, R. (1960), “Closing Statements: Linguistics and Poetics”, in: T.A. Sebeok (ed.), Style in Language, MIT Press, Cambridge Mass., pp. 350-377.

Jääskeläinen, R. (1993), “Investigating Translation Strategies”, in: S. Trikkonen-Condit, J. Laffling (eds.), Recent Trends in Empirical Translation Research (Studies in Language), 28, University of Joensuu, Joensuu, pp. 99-120.

Jääskeläinen, R., Trikkonen-Condit, S. (1991), “Automatised Processes in Professional vs. Non-professional Translation: A Think-aloud Protocol Study”, in: S. Trikkonen-Condit (ed.) Empirical Research in Translation and Intercultural Studies. Selected Papers of the TRANSIF Seminar, Savonlinna, 1988, Gunter Narr, Tübingen, pp. 89-110.

Kiraly, D. C. (1995), Pathways to Translation. Pedagogy and Process, Kent State University Press, Kent−Ohio-London.

Kittel, H., Frank, A. P., Greiner, N., Hermans, T., Koller, W., Lambert, J., Paul, F. (eds.) (2008), Übersetzung – Translation – Traduction, Vol. 1, De Gruyter Mouton, Berlin–Boston, DOI:

Krings, H. P. (1986), “Translation Problems and Translation Strategies of Advanced German Learners of French”, in: J. House, S. Blum-Kulka (eds.), Interlingual and Intercultural Communication: Discourse and Cognition in Translation and Second Language Acquisition Studies, Gunter Narr, Tübingen, pp. 263-275.

Levý, J. (1967), “Translation as a Decision Process”, in: To Honour Roman Jakobson: Essays on the Occasion of his 70th Birthday, Vol. 2, Mouton, The Hague, pp. 1171-1182, DOI:

Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk, B. (2017), “Partial Perception and Approximate Understanding”, Research in Language, 15(2), pp. 129-152, DOI:

Lotman, J. (1981), Kunst als Sprache. Untersuchungen zum Zeichencharakter von Literatur und Kunst, (Translated by M. Dewey et al.), Philipp Reclam jun., Leipzig.

Low, P. (2002), “Surtitles for Opera: A Specialised Translating Task”, Babel, 48(2), pp. 97-110, DOI:

Lörscher, W. (1991), Translation Performance, Translation Process, and Translation Strategies. A Psycholinguistic Investigation, Gunter Narr, Tübingen.

Mackenzie, R. (1998), “Creative Problem-solving and Translator Training”, in: A. Beylard-Ozeroff, J. Králová, B. Moser-Mercer (eds.), Translators’ Strategies and Creativity. Selected Papers from the 9th International Conference on Translation and Interpreting, Prague, September 1995, John Benjamins, Amsterdam−Philadelphia, pp. 201-205, DOI:

Mateo, M. (2007), “Reception, Text and Context in the Study of Opera Surtitles”, in: Y. Gambier, M. Schlesinger and R. Stolze (eds.), Doubts and Directions in Translation Studies, John Benjamins, Amsterdam−Philadelphia, pp. 169-182, DOI:

Mayoral, R., Kelly, D., Gallardo, N. (1988), “Concept of Constrained Translation. Non-linguistic Perspective on Translation”, Meta, 33(3), pp. 356-367, DOI:

Nord, Ch. (1988), Textanalyse und Übersetzen, Julius Groos, Heidelberg.

Pedersen, J. (2011), Subtitling Norms for Television: An Exploration Focusing on Extralinguistic Cultural References, John Benjamins, Amsterdam−Philadelphia, DOI:

Piotrowska, M. (2007), Proces decyzyjny tłumacza, podstawy metodologii nauczania przekładu pisemnego, Wydawnictwo Naukowe Akademii Pedagogicznej, Kraków.

Pym, A. (2014), Exploring Translation Theories, 2nd Edition, Routledge, New York.

Rędzioch-Korkuz, A. (2016), Opera Surtitling as a Special Case of Audiovisual Translation. Towards a Semiotic and Translation Based Framework for Opera Surtitling, Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main, DOI:

Shuttleworth, M., Cowie, M. (1997), Dictionary of Translation Studies, St Jerome Publishing, Manchester.

Titford, C. (1982), “Sub-titling: Constrained Translation”, Lebende Sprachen, 27(3), pp. 113-116.

Toury, G. (1995), Descriptive Translation Studies and Beyond, John Benjamins, Amsterdam−Philadelphia, DOI:

Toury, G. (2010), “Translation Problem”, in: Y. Gambier, L. van Doorslaer (eds.), Handbook of Translation Studies, Vol. 2, John Benjamins, Amsterdam−Philadelphia, pp. 169-174.

Toury, G. (2012), Descriptive Translation Studies – and Beyond. Revised Edition, John Benjamins, Amsterdam−Philadelphia, DOI:

Waliński, J. T. (2016), “How to Sneeze off Papers from the Desk in Polish Translation: Re-conceptualization and Approximation at Work”, in: Ł. Bogucki, B. Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk, M. Thelen (eds.), Translation and Meaning. New Series, Vol. 2, Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main, pp. 85-105.

Whitman-Linsen, C. (1992), Through the Dubbing Glass. The Synchronization of American Motion Pictures into German, French and Spanish, Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main.




How to Cite

Rędzioch-Korkuz, A. . (2020). Problems and Constraints in Translation: A Semiotic Perspective. Między Oryginałem a Przekładem, 26(1 (47), 91–110.