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The uses of relevance theory for the study of explicitation and implicitation: the case of the Indonesian translations of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men

posted on 22.03.2017 by Murtisari, Murtisari
This study investigates the use of the techniques of ‘explicitation’ and ‘implicitation’ in literary translation. The data is derived from the translations into Indonesian of two novels by American author John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath (1939) and Of Mice and Men (1937), as, respectively, Amarah by Sapardi Djoko Damono (2000) and Tikus dan Manusia by Pramoedya Ananta Toer (2003). A total of 513 items of explicitation and implicitation (‘de-explicitation’) were obtained from the first eight chapters of Sapardi’s translation and a further 451 items from the first chapter of Pramoedya’s translation. The items of explicitation and de-explicitation were further categorized with reference to possible reasons for their use: increase in clarity, greater naturalness, conciseness, stylistic effect, the modification of tone, and syntactical cohesion. To refine the study of explicitation and implicitation, a typology of ‘scalar’ and ‘categorical’ explicitation and de-explicitation within translations has been developed, drawing from the distinction in Relevance Theory between ‘explicature’ and ‘implicature’. An explicature is an inferential development of the logical form or semantic representation of an utterance; whereas an implicature is meaning derived purely by inference. Further, ‘scalar’ shifts are shifts of explicitation or de-explicitation within explicatures. ‘Categorical’ shifts, on the other hand, are more broadly based shifts between explicature and implicature: either involving a shift of explicitation or de-explicitation from an implicature to an explicature, or, conversely, from an explicature to an implicature. The results show that most of the shifts in the two translations are scalar shifts within explicatures, and are therefore closely related to meanings which are already present within the ST. There are also significant differences between the two translators: Sapardi makes greater use of explicitation for the sake of naturalness and clarity, while Pramoedya shows a greater tendency towards de-explicitation for the sake of conciseness and style. It is hoped that this study may shed more light on the elusive nature of the concepts of explicitation and implicitation by providing an alternative approach in examining the translation phenomena.


Principal supervisor

Brian Nelson

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Languages, Cultures and Linguistics


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type


Campus location



Faculty of Arts