Systemic Functional Linguistics as a Tool of Text Analysis for Translation

Document Type : Original Article


PhD Student, Department of English Translation Studies, Allameh Tabataba’i University, Tehran, Iran


Translation, ipso facto, is an understanding and a transferal of meaning from one language into another. Therefore, it may be fitting to conclude that a suitable semantic theory should underpin any attempt to that end. This paper advocates implementing Systemic Functional Linguistics (henceforth SFL) which subscribes to a view of language as a "meaning-potential". In fact, Halliday and Matthiessen (2004) place a high premium on the notion of function (meaning) as the fundamental building block of language and state in no uncertain terms that texts and the individual clauses comprising texts are carriers of multidimensional meanings, namely Ideational, Interpersonal, and Textual and representations of three strands of meaning rather than vessels of propositional content. However, as Halliday (2001) puts it, equivalence in translation has largely been characterized ideationally to the exclusion of interpersonal and textual meanings. This research was an endeavor to examine how effectively the latter two are handled. In order to test this, 15 M.A. translation students were selected randomly and were given the text State-Sponsored Horror in Oklahoma to translate. In the data analysis, each clause of the English text and its translation were analyzed to both identify the ideational, interpersonal, and textual meanings and classify the errors in accordance with their nature. To achieve this, recourse was made to Halliday's SFL which offers a rich repertoire of metalinguistic tools for text analysis from an analytical angle. The results of the study were congruous with Halliday’s statement.


Butt, D., Fahey, R., Feez, S., Spinks, S., &Yallop, C. (2000). Using functional grammar: An explorer's guide (2rd ed.). Sydney: National Centre for English Language Teaching and Research.
Eggins, S. (2004). An introduction to systemic functional linguistics (2rd ed.). London/ New York: Continuum.
Halliday, M.A.K. (1992). Language theory and translation practice. In Rivistainterna-zionale di tecnicadellatraduzione (pp.15-25). Udine: CampanottoEditore.
Halliday, M.A.K. (2001). Towards a theory of good translation. In Steiner, E., &Yallop, C. (Eds.), Exploring translation and multilingual text production: Beyond content (pp. 13-18). Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Halliday, M.A.K., &Matthiessen, M.I.M. (2004).An introduction to functional grammar (3rd ed.). London: Arnold.
Manfredi, M. (2011). Systemic functional lin-guistics as a tool for translation teaching: Towards a meaningful practice. RivistaInternazionale di Tec-nicadellaTraduzione, n.2, 49-63.
Newmark, p. (1987).The use of systemic linguistics in translation analysis and criticism. In R. Steele, & T. Threadgold  (Eds.), Language topics: Essays in honor of Michael Halliday: Vol. 1. (pp. 293-303). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Webster, J. J. (2009). Introduction. In Halliday, M.A.K., & Webster, J. J. (Eds.), Continuum companion to systemic functional linguistics (pp. 1-12). London/New York: Continuum.
Yallop, C. (1987). The practice and theory of translation. In R. Steele,& T. Threadgold (Eds.), Language topics: Essays in honor of Michael Halliday: Vol. 1. (pp. 347-351). Amsterdam: John Benjamines Publishing Company.