Relevance Theory: A Cognitive-Pragmatic Approach to Translation and Interpreting

Fabrizio Gallai UNINT Rome

In the last three decades, translation and interpreting (T&I) scholars have been increasingly interested not only in the product of T&I, but also in the cognitive aspects of this process.

In this context, Relevance theory (RT) has been adopted to capture the complexity of T&I processes and help practitioners understand the laws of effective communication. On one hand, the interface between Sperber & Wilson’s (1986/1995) work and T&I studies has proved to be useful for modelling, quality evaluation, and professionalisation of T&I. On the other, oral and written T&I practices will continue to provide real-world data against which pragmatic theories are tested.

My talk aims to illustrate the explanatory potential of RT in providing a cognitively based, cause-effect account of T&I and “getting closer to primary participants’ intentions” (Turner, 2013). I will start by discussing how relevance-theoretic ideas have been tested and applied to the study of different T&I settings. Secondly, I will flesh out the implications of RT-inspired research in T&I, and explore where it might go in the future – with a view to sparking the debate.

Keywords: Relevance theory; cognitive pragmatics; interlingual communication; translation; interpreting.