This thesis evaluates two linguistic approaches to literary translation. The study examines two Norwegian translations of poetic texts by Leonard Cohen – one song and one poem. The analyses and evaluations are from the point of view of Systemic Functional Grammar and Relevance Theory. The research includes evaluations of the applicability of the two approaches to translation criticism, as well as a comparison of the two translations based on the translator’s choices and intentions.
Results showed that when translating the song, the translator had made sacrifices in semantic representations in order to prioritise prosodic elements (rhyming and rhythm). The translated song had also gone through a cultural filter and undergone changes in situation. The target text was a version rather than a translation of the source text. When translating the poem, however, the translator had aimed for resemblance both on a semantic and pragmatic level. The systemic functional approach made it possible to apply labels to the constituents in the individual clauses in the texts. This helped to identify the translator’s choices and whether the translated texts were functionally equivalent to the source texts. The relevance-theoretic approach made it possible to consider and describe the poetic effects and interpretative resemblance of the translations.
While there were limitations to both theories, they did to some extent complement each other. Systemic Functional Linguistics provided a useful framework for categorising the translator’s semantic choices, while Relevance Theory provided a vocabulary for describing the cognitive effects and poetic value of the translator’s choices.