Contextualization in translator- and interpreter-mediated events

Mona Baker

Centre for Translation and Intercultural Studies, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK

Journal of Pragmatics 38(3) 2006, pages 321-337. In special issue Translation and Context, edited by Mona Baker.


The notion of context has been extensively invoked but rarely critiqued and elaborated in the study of translation and interpreting. This paper first explores recent thinking on the notions of context and contextualization in pragmatics and linguistic anthropology and examines the extent to which these notions have explicitly or implicitly informed current thinking on translation and interpreting. It then argues that closer attention to processes of contextualization in both the production and reception of translated texts and interpreted utterances can tell us much more about the goals and ideological positioning of participants than any static listing of contextual variables, however detailed and comprehensive. The discussion is supported by various examples of the way in which translators and interpreters frame their interaction with others.

Keywords: Translation; Interpreting; Power; Contextualization