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An activity theory approach to the contextualization mechanism of language use : Taking translation, pseudo-translation and self-translation as examples

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Contextualization is a widely-discussed topic in the field of linguistics. Although it is generally agreed that contextualization is a dynamic process of interaction among the heterogeneous contextual factors, one still lacks a coherent explanation of how the interactions enable a language user to construct a meaningful text/utterance. From an Activity Theory perspective, language use can be termed as a rule-governed activity. The activity itself is the context of a subject’s decision-making, and contextualization is nothing but the actualization process of a language use activity. During the process, the subject strategizes her/his linguistic choice to build the textual outcome in light of the hierarchical text functions, namely, the conventionalized and situational functions of prospective text (at the higher strata), which respectively embody the social-cultural and situational factors constraining her/his actions, and the conventional function of textual tools (at the basic stratum), a foremost factor conditioning her/his operation. When there are contradictions among these functions, the subject needs to prioritize the one at a higher stratum. This can be exemplified by three typical cases of language use: translation, pseudo-translation and self-translation.

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Keywords: Activity Theory; activity; actualization; context; contextualization; language use; translation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 31, 2019

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