Monash University

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Translation in Japanese museums: a study of multimodal linguistic landscapes

posted on 2017-02-21, 23:06 authored by Sell, Catherine Anne
The translation of texts specific to museums requires consideration of both content and form. Many texts are specialist in nature and further complicated by the physical limitations of aesthetic curatorial design, and the intertextual relationship of multiple text types and modes. This rich multimodality creates both issues and opportunities in translation, and museum translation issues are addressed through a combination of different strategies and dissemination methods, to various extents affecting the Linguistic Landscape of the museum, and the potentiality of participation for visitors. The aim of the present study is to develop a framework for the analysis and practice of museum translation by identifying the translation issues specific to museums; how they are addressed; and both the limitations and possibilities of translation scope. Qualitative corpus-based analysis of professional practices, drawing upon data collected onsite from Japanese museums, has been employed to develop an interdisciplinary framework to examine museum translation from a translation studies perspective through an examination of the Linguistic Landscape and adopting a Systemic Functional Linguistics methodology. The translation issues observed in the current study include resource constraints, content, and multimodal issues. Content issues relate to exhibition thematics, such as specialist and culture-bound content, as well as language pairing specific linguistic issues, and are dealt with by museums through a combination of foreignisation and domestication strategies. Additionally, multimodal issues include object-text interdependence and intertextuality on museum, gallery, and display levels; visitor negotiation or subversion of the curatorial route; as well as spatial and aesthetic concerns. Spatial and aesthetic restrictions – as well as resource constraints – are typically addressed by museums through provision of a partial translation scope, which can exacerbate multimodal issues, and requires attention to the museum text typology as a communicative system. The target language visitor experience and communicative function of the museum are largely influenced by the number and scope of languages provided, as well as the choice of dissemination methods and how they contribute to the Linguistic Landscape of the gallery. In particular, partial translation scope results in reduced functionality. In response to this, personal or augmented linguistic environments as achieved through the use of supplementary texts can increase the potentiality of participation, however supplementary texts used for translation dissemination of the primary communicative mode of the exhibition can result in issues of integration and accessibility. Combined, the variety that exists within the museum text typology of both public and personal texts offers numerous strategies for the creation of a bilingual or multilingual environment. Negotiation of resource constraints in light of multimodal factors allows provision of a linguistically inclusive landscape for visitors, ultimately assuring the conveyance of museum communicative intent and facilitating the visitor experience.


Principal supervisor

Rita Wilson

Additional supervisor 1

Jeremy Breaden

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Department, School or Centre

Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics


Doctor of Philosophy

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Faculty of Arts

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