Translating Modality : Disentangling the semantics of the modal auxiliaries in an investment fund prospectus and its translation from English to Swedish

University essay from Linnéuniversitetet/Institutionen för språk (SPR)

Abstract: This paper analyses the use of modal auxiliaries in an investment fund prospectus and how they are translated into Swedish. The semantics of modal auxiliaries is a rather fuzzy area. One modal verb such as may or will can have several different meanings, depending on the textual and situational context. Correctly interpreting the modal verbs is an important prerequisite for an accurate translation. A theoretical background founded on linguistic studies and grammatical presentations by Palmer (2001), Huddleston and Pullum (2002), Coates (1983), Teleman et al. (1999) and Wärnsby (2006) and others, provides a framework for analysing the meanings of the modal verbs in the source text and determining the most equivalent expressions in the Swedish modal system. Different types of modality, such as epistemic, deontic and dynamic, are discussed, along with the different textual and situational factors associated with each type. The analysis includes the most frequent modal auxiliaries found in the source text, namely (in the order of frequency from high to low) may, will, should, can, shall and must. Each modal verb is analysed in terms of its meanings and possible Swedish translations are discussed. One interesting aspect highlighted in the study is the close relationship between modality and futurity, which is particularly true for will. Due to the nature of the source text as a legal contract between the investment fund and the investors, the use of modal verbs specific to legal register is also considered in the analysis. The analysis shows that an awareness of the various factors associated with different types of modality and the linguistic features typical for the particular text type can help the translator correctly interpret and translate the modal verbs as accurately and consistently as possible.

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