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Pre-systemic Foundations for Translation Studies

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Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) has been concerned with translation studies since its beginning. However, such interest in translation can be traced to the early phase of SFL, i.e. “scale-&-category theory”, and even to Firthian linguistics that fed into the development of SFL as well as Malinowski’s empirical field work in the Trobriand Islands. As a collection of papers that represent early engagement with translation studies before the development of SFL, this book includes four parts, covering the studies by (i) Bronisław Malinwoski and J.R. Firth, (ii) M.A.K. Halliday, (iii) J.C. Catford and (iv) Jean Ure and Jeffrey Ellis. Part I includes works by Bronisław Malinowski and J.R. Firth, who have laid the foundations for Halliday’s SFL. Part II documents Halliday’s three papers: two papers focus on his machine translation project started in the mid-1950s led by Margaret Masterman, and one paper by Halliday, McIntosh and Strevens (1964) highlights the significance of rank scale in translation studies and discuss the relevance of translation in the context of language education. Part III collects two chapters by J.C. Catford, who examines the significance of translation equivalence and translation shift and locates translation studies within a general linguistic framework informed by Halliday’s scale-&-category theory. In Part IV, the works by Jean Ure and Jeffrey Ellis also apply scale-&-category theory, the precursor of SFL, to compare the source text and the target text in translation, locating translation as a domain within comparative descriptive linguistics.

Published: Oct 1, 2026