Norm of Interpretation and Norm of Interaction

Norm of Interaction and Norm of Interpretation

across Language Communities and their Effects on Translation


I wish to extend my sincere thanks and gratitude to Mr. Derek Brown from the Guardian Unlimited for his invaluable help and support in answering a questionnaire that was of great significance in the development of this paper.

1.         The aim of this paper is to investigate, with the translator in mind, the significance of two main elements in Sa’Adeddin’s ethnolinguistic heuristic checklist throughout relevant discussion on a number of examples taken from a variety of sorceress.  Restricted to EnglishóArabic translation, the investigation aims at shedding light on the importance of the norms of interaction and interpretation in the following areas:

1- efficient reading and teaching students how to read

2- transferring ideas from one language into another

3- and, evaluating a suggested translation of a given text.

To begin I would like to cite the following interesting sequence of verses from the Holy Quran, the interpretation of which will guide us till the last word of this paper:

اقرأ باسم ربك الذي خلق. خلق الانسان من علق. اقرأ وربك الاكرم. الذي علم بالقلم. علم الانسان ما لم يعلم”

In fact this utterance makes up the first verses revealed by God unto His prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him).  Once, I was contemplating on these verses, when at a sudden two stunning queries crossed my mind:

1- Why did God ask the illiterate Messenger (PBUH) to read?

2- Why did God mention “reading” before “writing”?  This is indicated by the position of the word اقرأ which came before the phrase الذي علم بالقلم which means “writing”.

In other words, why does God ask an illiterate person to read?  Why doesn’t God begin the verses with something like: “I have written something for you to read”?  In fact, later on, God told His Messenger (PBUH): انا سنلقي عليك قولا ثقيلا, meaning that the Messenger was asked to read something which was not given to him at the time of the first revelation.

As a restatement, perhaps it would be fair enough to say that once receives knowledge by reading something which has been already written.  You do not usually ask a person to read something which is not written at all.  But the above verses indicate without any doubt that knowledge does not necessarily lie in a text.  Rather, it could lie in the ‘reader’ himself.

Perhaps the idea is still vague, right?  Ok let us question the following idea which I think is taken as axiomatic for a lot of people:

If you want to receive knowledge, you read a text in a paper.  This means that knowledge exists in that same piece of paper you are reading. Right?


In this paper, I will try to show how half the knowledge you are seeking exists in you as a reader even before the text in question has been written.  I want also to argue that this is why God used the word “read” before telling anything about the material to be read.

2.         What is meant by the norms of interpretation and interaction?  To answer this question and to make it much more understood, I need first to survey some relevant theories of translation.

The study of translation theory is brief in comparison with other fields of linguistic studies such as syntax and morphology.  Early studies in the translation theory talked about two kinds of translation: literal vs. free.  Salah Al-Din Al-Safadi was in favor of free translation, which according to him was the only way to preserve ‘meaning’ in the target language.

But what is the meaning of  ‘meaning’? It was always easy to say that a good translation needs to preserve the meaning of the source text, but a review of related literature in such fields as semantic, pragmatics and translation studies would no doubt reveal that no satisfactory definition of the  word “meaning” has been given.

I hope you will be patient with me as you read the lines below, a survey of some relevant views on how meaning should be approached, before you arrive at the heart of this paper, i.e. the norm of interaction and that of interpretation.

3.         Peter Newark rejected the literal-free dichotomy saying that if a literal translation perseveres the pragmatic meaning of a given text, then literal translation is not only the best way but the only way.  What concerns me the most here, is the phrase ‘pragmatic meaning”.  According to this phrase, there are types of meaning.  It logically follows that a translator should make sure that his translation would preserve all ‘types’ of meaning intended by the source text.

But still we do not know how to identify these types of meaning nor how to approach meaning in a given text.

4.         Eugene Nida has achieved a remarkable stride in this field.  For the first time in translation studies, our attention in translating was shifted by Nida from the way to translate into the effect of what we translate.  The sterile debate of literal-versus-free has now come to an end.  Here, meaning lies in the ‘intended effect’ of a given text.  Consider the following pair:

a- Her face is as white as snow.

b. Her face is as white as cotton.

The effect of sentence (a) is to let the reader understand how ‘white’ the woman’s face is.  This intended effect can only be rendered as in (b) if the target readership of the translated material has never seen snow.

The above example would for sure tell us now how the haphazardly formed dichotomy of ‘literal-vs-free being constrained by the intended effect.  In other words, the intended effect tells a translator the degree of latitude he can have in translating a piece of paper.

5.         From a pragmatic point of view, meaning lies in the illocutionary act that a stretch of words performs.  Consider the following example:

“I will tell your father.”

To translate the above, one should understand the illocutionary act that accompanies the utterance.  Is it a promise, a threat or a sudden decision?  So meaning here is the force that accompanies a stretch of words.

A pragmatic approach therefore to a given text usually stresses the intentionally behind using an utterance.  Yes, for pragmatics, meaning lies not in the aggregate meaning of given words in a stretch of discourse but rather in the intentionally behind using such an utterance.  Still vague?  Ok, let me explain this through the following example taken from Jan Renekema’s Discourse Studies:

A: Say, there’s a good movie playing tonight.

B: Actually, I have to study.

A: Too bad.

B: Yes, I’m sorry.

A: Well, I guess I don’t need to ask you if you want me to pick you up.

Now, why did not speaker B answer A with a statement that looks like: “Really!  That is nice!” or “Really!  Where is it being played?”

The answer to this question from a pragmatic point of view, is that B understood A’s intentions when he said the first statement.  B correctly understood that A was simply inviting him to watch a movie rather than giving his opinion about it.

A pragmatic approach to the above conversation would also determine its meaning on grounds of the maxim of cooperation (that a speaker is expected to cooperate with the spoken to make their conversation communicative).

But what happens when such a maxim is broken?  Pragmatics warns us that a break of any of the ‘felicity conditions’ would result in the so called ‘implicature’ which also has a meaning that must be carefully understood or otherwise one would totally miss the point.  Consider the following examples:

1- Ahmad:  Ali will be in trouble today.

Maher:  Why!  What happened?

Ahmad: It is a nice day today.

Maher: Come off it!  Tell me what happened.

2- Ahmad: Ali will pass the exam.

Maher: Cows can fly!

(1) In the first example, Ahmad is breaking the maxim of ‘relation’.  From a pragmatic point of view, Maher did not comment on the weather because he knew that an ‘implicature’ was taking place, so he responded accordingly.

(2) The maxim of quality (do not say what you believe to be false, or that for which you lack adequate evidence) is being violated here, because it is commonly acknowledged that ‘cows cannot fly’.  A good translator by understanding what happened ‘pragmatically’ in this conversation will certainly understand that Maher wanted to say: “It is impossible” rather than say his opinion about something that is not true in real life.   Perhaps a possible translation of the underlined utterance could be:

– بقطع إيدي من هون إذا علي بينجح

أو: – إذا طار البقر بينجح علي.

Perhaps the point raised here would remind us of Malinowski, an anthropologist who encountered a sort of difficulty in translating utterances of the languages of remote cultures into English.  His main interest was to translate into English some utterances of one language with ONE AIM: he was not interested in translation per se, but he was interested in conveying the culture of a given community through translation.  In most cases, the ‘cultural’ meaning resided in the form of the ST more than in the content, for which reason he chose a strategy in translation which he called “translation with commentary”.  According to him, meaning could be understood better if a given utterance is considered in terms of its: situation of context or context of situation.

Let me give you an example of my own to explain Malinowski’s point:

– يعطيك العافية، ممكن تقول لي كيف بقدر أروح عل بنك؟

A translation with commentary that (1) shows a cultural aspect of Arabs, and (2) gives the meaning that can be understood by the English is:

– May God give you health! Could you please tell me how I can get to the bank? **

** Arabs usually use the underlined expression as a polite introduction for their query when they ask a passing-by person about directions for a given place.

6.         The notion of register:

A group of British linguists formulated the Register theory نظرية اللهجة الخاصة on the basis that “meaning is the raison de etre of linguistics” in an attempt to suggest a framework for finding how meaning can be understood.  (prominent linguists among others in this regard are: Halliday, Carroll, Gregory, Strevens, McIntosh)

According to them to study a language is a waste of time.  You should rather study “sub-languages” which according to them can be defined according to two parameters: user and use.

User-related sub-languages are called dialects and deal with those instances of discourse where idiosyncrasies arise because of corresponding idiosyncrasies that are inherent in the different users.  Example: Do the words that Shakespeare used have the same meaning that these same words refer to nowadays?  Actually not all of them, simply because language changed and many words underwent a change in meaning (take for example: “petty” used by Shakespeare to mean ‘slow’, while nowadays the word ‘petty’ is used to mean ‘silly’).  Thus this type of classification tends to deal mainly with spoken dialects or discourse written as if spoken.

Use-related sub-languages are based mainly on three factors: field (what is going on, the subject matter), mode (the medium through which a given text is produced) and tenor (the relationship between the text producer and text receive).  Here meaning of an utterance is determined on the basis of the sub-language it represents.  Example:

a- I hereby declare the meeting adjourned.

b- How about postponing the meeting?

While both utterances above have the same propositional meaning, they still differ in lexis and in grammar simply because they belong to different registers.

Another simple example is that while ‘shall’ in common core English is used with the first person singular/plural to indicate a future intention, the same word can be used in legal documents with all other pronouns to indicate obligation and commitment by virtue of the document being signed by the parties involved.

7.         Semiotics considers meaning in a different way.  It looks at things as meaningful both in form and content.  The color “red” can be interpreted as ‘danger’ only if we consider this color in certain circumstances as a ‘sign’.

So, from a semiotic point of view a letter, a word, a stretch of words even a text can be understood better in two important ways:

1- when it is regarded as a sign.

2- when it is understood in relation to other sings.

Have a look at the attached article entitled: “Eight Days of Madness” and consider the circled words labeled as ‘signs’. Read them carefully and try to understand their meanings.  The propositional meanings of these ‘utterances’ as such are:

Sign (1)- politician: a person involved in politics or represents a group of people or a state in political affairs, such as: holding talks, signing treaties, etc.

Sign (3)-  The present belongs to the military and to the paramilitary: that there is a state of war against Kosovars involving state military forces supported by mercenaries.

Sign (4)- Both Albanian and Serb: refugees consist of two groups of people: Serbs and Albanians.

Sign (5)- addiction to air strikes: Western military and political leaders have been always engaged in air strikes.

Sign (7)- intervention on the grounds: waging a war on the ground.

So far so good.

Now I would like to claim that additional meanings of each of the above utterances would be attached to them when we consider them as signs.  The following table is illustrative:

Sign (A) Related to Sign (B) Additional (intended) Meaning potential of sign (A) when connected to sign (B)

(Meaning given in Arabic for better illustration)

Politician – The present belongs to the military and to the paramilitary. *** – رجل السياسة الذي لم يعد يحل أو يربط.
Paramilitaries -bands of fascists *** القوات العسكرية المجرمة الموازية للقوات الحكومية.
Both Albanian and Serbs **Another article written by Derek Brown in which he mentions that Kosovars are also persecuting the Serbs on ethnic grounds. – المضطهدين من الصرب والبان كوسوفو على حد سواء.
Air strikes **- The writers reminds the readers about the heavy airs strikes target at Iraq in 1990. الضربات الجوية التي تعودوا عليها بعد حرب الخليج الثانية.
Bands of Fascists **- This reminds us of the Fascist regime in Italy during the World War II.  The writer does not intend to refer to them as related to the Italian ex-regime. العصابات المجرمة.
Press-ganging -a process in which a group of sailors in the 18th century were employed to force men to join the navy. التجنيد الاجباري
Intervention on the ground – “disastrously ignored”   =>  another dangerous option التدخل البري وهو الخيار الأكثر خطورة من بين الخيارات الأخرى.

*** these sings are mentioned inside the article in question.

**  these signs are not mentioned inside the article.

The relationship between two signs is called intertextuality.  This amazing phenomenon is not limited to two signs.  Rather it may extend to cover a series of semiotic relations that would involve a variety of signs inside the text and outside it.

The intertextual link could be between:

– a verbal sign and another verbal sign.

– a verbal sign and experiential memory (individual or communal)

Intertextuality sometimes is a bit passive, meaning it is not necessary to mention the other sign interacting with a sign in question.  Consider the following:

أ: مَن مِن هؤلاء يمكن أن يحل لي مسألة الفيزياء هذه؟

ب: عليك بعبد الله، لا يفتى ومالك بالمدينة.

The above underlined utterance intertextualises with the communal memory of the speakers (Here it is related to the knowledgeable Malik, a very famous jurisprudent who silenced all other jurisprudents in his time).  Since this link doe not give us additional meaning to understand the underlined utterance, it would suffice if you translate it as:

A: Which of these can do this problem in physics for me?

B: Ask Abdullah. He is the best for the job.

(Mentioning of Malik is not necessary here, but if you are playing the role of Malinowski, then your aim to convey an Arabic cultural aspect to the English cannot be achieved unless you resort to literal translation with satisfactory commentary).

In contrast, the above table shows how all the mentioned intertextual links were important in determining the meaning of the sing, something that made it necessary to mention the sources with which these sign intertextualise.

By the way.  Where did all the above intertextual interaction took place?  In the mind of the reader, right?  Does this mean that I was a bit right in my claim that I proposed from the outset?

8.         Sa’Adeddin’s Heuristic Checkist- The Ethnolinguistic Theory

Sa’Adeddin’s theory shifts our attention to the fact that the problem in translating arises because the translator plays several roles that can be described as follows:

Translator is:     a reader of a text written within the constraints of a given ethnic group (A)

Translator is: a writer of a text which must be written in accordance with the norms or constrains imposed by the ethnic group (B) of the target language.

The translator thus must open his eyes to all elements that are solely related to the ethnic group (A) and render them in a way that these will not conflict with the ethnic norms of the ethnic group (B).  The translator is therefore and ethnographer.  He is not only a communicator, who negotiates meaning across languages; he is not an equator (as indicated by the term ‘formal-vs-dynamic equivalence), but rather a comparator, who tires to match the ethnolinguistic characteristics of Source Text (A) with that of Target Text (B).

The following is the ethnolinguistic heuristic checklist:

Sa’Adeddin’s Heuristic Checkist- The Ethnolinguistic Theory

(The theory is a drastic modification of Dell Hymes’ checklist)

A. Message Content Formative Element:

1. Norm of Interpretation

2. Norm of Interaction

3. Text End:

3.1. Main Goal

3.2. Sub Goal

4. Genre

5. Key

6. Topic

6.1. Main

6.2. Sub topic(s)

7. Text Situation

7.1. Setting

7.2. Scene

8. Participants

8.1. Sender

8.2. Addresser

8.3. Receiver/Audience

8.4. Addressee

9. Channel

10. Variety of Expression

B. Text Acts Structure****

**** The text here is divided into sequences.  Each sequence has a theme and a function (a text act) [my own comment]

C. Message Form Constituents:

1. Print Substance (In some cases, Sound Substance)

1.1. System of orthography

1.2. Paragraphing

1.3. Punctuation

2. Text grammatical dependencies:

2.1 (Macro) grammatical dependencies – Cohesion:

2.1.1. Junctives

2.1.2. Grammatical/ Information structure cohesion

2.1.3. Ellipsis

2.1.4. Parallelism, etc.

2.2. (Micro) grammatical dependencies:

2.2.1. Sentences

2.2.2. Clauses

2.2.3. Phrases

Space limits regrettably do not allow me here to talk about all elements of the checklist mentioned above, although they proved instrumental in helping my students in reading/translation courses to understand any text given to them.

9.         Norm of Interpretation and Norm of Interaction

What is the norm of interaction?  Consider the following example from the Holy Quran and the analysis thereof.

“وأقيموا الصلاة وآتوا الزكاة”

The norm of interaction in its narrow sense refers to the relationship among text participants (sender/receiver).  This relation in the above sample is as follows:

Addresser:       Superior (God)

Addressee:      Muslims (inferior)

This means that the Key is “authoritative”  (not an advice for instance).

As for the norm of interpretation, it is simply the knowledge that the addresser and addressee understand when they communicate with each other.  *In the above example, the norm of interpretation is: one of the five pillars of Islam that a Muslim must be committed to.

But why knowing these two norms enable one understand or translate a given text?  I hope the following examples and discussion thereof are illustrative:

1- “يا أخت هارون ما كان أبوك امرأ سوء وما كانت أمك بغيا”

(The problem here is that Mariam did not have a brother called Aaron)

Norm of interaction: insider to insider

This means that both the addresser and the addressee belong to the same ethnic group. In other words, an Arab is deemed here as an outsider and my not fully understand the communicative transaction being held by the two participants here: Mariam, the Mother of Messenger Issa, and Israelis, the Jews.

Norm of interpretation:

Both Meriam and the Jews live in the same community.  They have a knowledge which an outsider like YOU (an Arab reader, I mean) does not have.  This knolwedge is known by Chrisitnas and by the Jews themselves.  They know that according to Judaism, the Torah was revealed unto Mosa, while the Temple was the responsibility of Aron and his descendants.  Thus every ‘sister’ (nurse) worshipping God, as Mariam did, at the Temple of Aron, used to be called ‘Sister of Aron”.

Thus the above verse could be translated correctly as:

“O Sister of the Temple Aron!  Your father was not a bad man (but you are a bad woman) nor your mother was a prostitute (but you are a prostitute)”


Why did I add the commentary between brackets?  In fact, Arabic is replete with such style of writing where an element of a sentence is missing because it is considered to be understood by the reader.  You can refer to another verse if you want to understand me better:

“…فقال الكافرون هذا شيئ عجيب.  أئذا متنا وكنا ترابا؟ ذلك رجع بعيد”

The deleted element here could have been for example: “أئنا لمبعوثون؟”.

Does this again mean that some knowledge does exist in the reader to complement the bulk of knowledge the text presents?

“فلما رأى الشمس بازغة قال هذا ربي هذا أكبر”

Norm of interaction: insider to insider (a soliloquy)

Norm of interpretation: The confused Ibrahim is in his quest for the True God to be worshipped by mankind.  Unsure of what to worship, He is questioning the gods, including celestial beings, that his tribe worship.  [Ibrahim has not been assigned as Messenger yet.]

Possible translation:

“When he saw the sun rising, he said: ‘This is (perhaps) my God because it is bigger.”

In my opinion, therefore it is faulty to say: “This is my God”, a statement which reflects an assured Ibrahim.

“يا بني اسرائيل اذكروا نعمتي التي انعمت عليكم وأني فضلتكم على العالمين

Norm of interaction: superior to inferior (God to the Jews)

insider to insider

Here actually, the addressee is not the Jew who claims to be favored by God, but that Jew who according to Muslims knew that they have always been violating the orders of God.

Norm of interpretation: knowledge about the Jews and that according to the Quran, God is not pleased with them.

George Sale translated the underlined element in the above verse as:

“and that I have favoured you upon all nations”

This translation is wrong.  The use of the present tense is unjustifiable.  George Sale here has assumed an outsider position, i.e. he does not put himself in the shoes of the insider Jew who knew that God does not more favor the Jews.

Possible translation:   “and that I once preferred you to all nations (when you were committed to My orders)”

To convince the most skeptical about the above translation (if we say that he does not know the grammatical use of inna and anna in Arabic) consider the above as a sign and try to understand it with the first surah of the Quran, Al-Fatiha where God says about the Jews that they are the: ones whom God is displeased with.

وسيق الذين اتقوا ربهم الى الجنة زمرا”

وسيق الذين كفروا الى جهنم زمرا”

Norm of interpretation: People destined to go to hell are taken by force to it, while people who had the blessing to go to Paradise wanted someone to guide them to the right way to it.

The above verbs should be translated as: were escorted and were driven respectively.

Now consider the following two utterances which will be discussed here together:

1- “وإذ قال ربك للملائكة إني جاعل في الأرض خليفة، قالوا أتجعل فيها من يفسد فيها ونحن نسبح بحمدك ونقدس لك، قال إني أعلم ما لا تعلمون”

2- “وقيل يا أرض ابلعي مائك ويا سماء أقلعي وغيض الماء وقضي الأمر واستوت على الجودي وقيل بعدا للقوم الظالمين”

A contrastive examination of the above two utterances could reveal the following two facts:

1- The use of the passive voice means that the Flood is something very simple and trivial and is nothing in comparison with the creation of Adam, the father of mankind.

2- Earth does not answer God in the second verse by saying for instance “Why should I do that?”   Neither does the present verse mentions the positive response of Earth such as: “Be your will my Lord”.  The intention here is to assert a fixed rule in the Quran and in the divine ideology which states that when God says to something “Be” then it can do nothing but obey Him willingly or unwillingly.

I also think that “وقيل بعدا للقوم الظالمين” intertextualises with “لمن الملك اليوم” when God after the annihilation of every soul in this life asks a question for which no answer comes except from God Himself, as everything else will have been destroyed by that time.  Perhaps here we can also say that the above verse implies a kind of silence, where even the believers are stunned and silent for what happened.

Anyway, there was a problem in translating the first utterance.  Some translators, George Sale for example, thought that the angels in that utterance are rebellious and are not accepting the orders of God.  Actually not.

The above mentioned utterance can be analysed as follows:

Norm of interpretation: The creation of Adam.  Angels never disobey God (this is again ascertained with reference to another verse that could be treated as a ‘sign’ which says:

(3) “لا يعصون الله ما أمرهم ويفعلون ما يؤمرون”

Norm of interaction: insider to insider (the community of the angels)

Here, in fact, what makes the verse different is the Key which is here not authoritative as in other verses but ‘informative’.  The key of the reply of the angels is “surprise”.  Here, the translation should make sure that it does not present the angels as rebellious.  It should maintain the semiotic relation that exists in Arabic between the above verses (1) and (3).  Thus, a possible translation could be as follows:

“When your Lord said to the angels: ‘I shall make a substitute on Earth’.  They said (with surprise) ‘Why should there be on it those who …………”

Notice how the “absent-agent” structure is used to achieve politeness as direct speech in English is more likely to be understood as a censure or that the addresser and the addressee are both equal in status.

Again to support my view, one should read Arabic grammar books on the uses of hamza.  One of these uses is for surprise.  Another evidence can be found in the following verse:

“وقلنا اسجدوا لآدم”4-

Here God does not say “We have ordered the angels to worship Adam” which means that God is not displeased with them because of what they said.

The above verse (4) as well can be analysed in an astonishing way:

The indirect addressee here is mankind in general.  So the norm of interaction for the different readers is as follows:

From God to Non-Muslims (mainly Christians and Jews): insider to insider

From God to Muslims: insider to outsider

In fact, it is only in the culture of the non-Muslims that greeting can be performed by “worshipping” (sujood).  Check any English-English dictionary and you will find it defining that word as: “to show honor to”.  It is permissible in some non-Muslim communities to bow one’s head to show honor to somebody, while the word “sujood” in Arabic refers to an act that must be only made to honor God.  Here it is possible therefore to translate the verse as: “Worship Adam”, while the problem remains with the Arabic reader (the outsider) to understand it in the right way.

Let us move to samples of other examples from “Eight Days of Madness”:

The writer in this news-commentary is assuming a variety of roles with regards to the norm of interaction.  Basically we have to take into consideration, that he is writing in the Guardian Unlimited, an online newspaper whose readers are mainly native speakers of English from Britian, America and Australia (I got this piece of information directly from the writer himself).  It means that mostly in this article the norm of interaction is: insider to insider (the community being the Western community).

Now, if we want to translate the article into Arabic, then the norm of interaction will be:

Insider (Western) à Outsider (Arabic)

Here we need to be alert when being involved in such instances where the writer is insider and the Arabic reader is outsider.  Examples:

1- both Albanian and Serbs

Here it should be made clear to the outsider that both Albanians and Serbs are suffering.  Notice that the Arabic outsider has usually thought that only the Muslims were being subject to genocide.

2- our military and political leaders

Here the pronoun ‘our’ should be dealt with carefully as it refers to an outsider party from an Arabic point of view.

3- press ganging

insider to insider again.  Here it is only known to the Western people that there was a time when men were forced to join the navy and fight against their will in an act that was known to be as “press ganging”.

Now let us move to the norm of interpretation.  To make sure that this analysis is as much accurate as possible, I got the related information from the writer.

1- The article is published online with links to other articles that can be referred to on the same topic.  Brown says: “there is a mass of detailed (and in some cases simplified) additional information available on the website, most of it directly linked to my article”

2- Yugoslac ……….media”

Milosovic is trying to stop the war against his country in one way or another.  Knowledge of the reasons of the war is important.

3- The day’s other main development…..

The Western community cares a lot about their soldiers who go to war.  According to the writer, “Also – I write as a non-American – I think that the USA news audience has an ingrained and passionate interest in anything that happens to ‘our boys’ ”

4- There are reports………the rebels.

Here, an Arab would perhaps feel confused because joining the fight against the kuffar is a duty upon every Muslim.  Perhaps to understand it better we should note again that the writer here is: insider (representing here not the Western Community but the Kosovars) and is addressing the Western community which knows what he means (again, insider), leaving the Arab reader as an outsider.

I asked an Kosovar (insider) about these lines and his answer was surprising.  He could actually understand what the writer was saying.  He told me that some KLA fighters used to go to the provincial borders and force male refugees to join the rebels.  Paradoxically, those same KLA soldiers did not want to join the fight themselves because they were afraid of the war.  This paradox was subject to criticism equally by Kosovars and by the West.

Well, that would be the end of my efforts in this paper to show something which I have been thinking about for a long time.  I wanted just to mention that another paper is being made now concerning “Eight Days of Madness” which covers an in-depth analysis of the article and proposes a theory for understanding and translating “a news commentary”.  The attempt through this paper and other ones is to open one’s eyes to the fact that reading and translating are not just simply a transfer of meaning from one language to another.  I have also tried to show above some promising areas in linguistics (register theory, pragmatics, intertextuality, ethnolinguistic theory) that would help the reader to know what meaning he must look for while reading, that he must be aware of every signal that could trigger out a series of intertexts in his mind and most importantly that he must know what he is reading.

And one last point,,,,,,

Where does knowledge lie?  Is it in the paper, in your mind or in both?

Their concluding prayer is: Praise be to God the Lord of the worlds…..



Eight days of madness

Thursday April 1, 1999

By Derek Brown

Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has held talks with the leading ethnic Albanian politician of Kosovo, Ibrahim Rugova, according to the state controlled media. The two men agreed to work together for peace in the embattled province.

The announcement is a deeply unconvincing attempt to divert public and Nato attention from the disgusting campaign of ethnic cleansing still being carried out in Kosovo.

It is irrelevant, because Rugova is irrelevant. He is a deeply honourable man who for years has led a non-violent campaign against Belgrade’s relentless oppression of the Albanian majority in the province. It is highly likely that he has been pressured, to put it politely, into a show of co-operation with Milosevic. But even if he is speaking freely his time, alas, is over. The present belongs to the military – and to the paramilitaries.

The day’s other main development could be a lot more serious. Three US servicemen, cut and bruised and fearful, have been paraded before Serbian television viewers.

Steven Gonzales, Andrew Ramirez, and James Stone were captured on Wednesday. They were members of a reconnaissance unit operating on the Macedonia-Kosovo border, though it is not yet clear which side of it they were on.

The three men are leading the news bulletins today. In one sense that is right and proper. Their plight is appalling. They are being held by a violently hostile and volatile regime. They are part of the human dimension of the Kosovo tragedy.

In another sense, it is sick that Nato policy today is being shaped by this, very horrible, very small, turn of events. After all, 700,000 Kosovars, both Albanian and Serb, have fled their homes. Three thousand people an hour are still trudging across the provincial borders. The bombs and missiles are still crashing down.

Yet the fate of Gonzales, Ramirez, and Stone could, conceivably, provide a chink of light in the black horror of Kosovo. Although they were part of the United Nations ‘peacekeeping’ force in Macedonia and not (so far as we know) under Nato command, surely Nato now has an obligation to secure their release.

One option might be to offer a respite or suspension of operations in exchange for their return. That is unlikely, given our political and military leaders’ continued addiction to air strikes.

Another, more dangerous, option would be a rescue mission, of the gung-ho kind so dear to US hearts. If it achieved nothing else, it would drive home the message that has been so disastrously ignored so far: that order can only be restored to Kosovo by intervention on the ground.

That intervention should be directed not only at the Yugoslav forces and the various bands of fascists they are sheltering. It should also aim to neutralise the Albanian gangsters of the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army, which has now told male refugees they must join the struggle against Serbia, or else.

There are reports that KLA thugs are forcing male refugees to leave their families and join the rebels. Such press-ganging is just as dreadful as the forced evictions of the Serbian ethnic cleansers. And no amount of cruise missiles will stop either kind of atrociousness.


1- Bhatia, V. (1993). Analysing Genre, Longman, London.

2- Hatim, B. and Mason, I. (1997). Discourse and the Translator. Longman. London.

3- Hymes, D. (1974). Foundations in Sociolinguistic: An Ethnographic Approach. The University of Pennsylvania Press.

4- Renekema, Jan. (1993). Discourse Studies. John Benjamins Publishing Company. Amsterdam

5- Sa’Adeddin M. (1989). “Writing Across Language Communities: The Structure of Arabic Text”, Applied Linguistics, London.

6- Sa’Adeddin M. (1990). “Towards a Viable Applied Linguistic Theory of Translaion: An Ethnolingusitic Point of View”, Translation in Performance. Ed. Fawcet, P., Heathcote, O. University of Bradford. London.

7- Sale, G. (1950). The Koran (A Translation of the Arabic Origin). Frederick Warne and Co. London.

8- Summers D. et al. (1992). Longman Dictionary of English Language and Culture. Longman. London.

Compact Discs:

1- “Aaron”. Encarta Encyclopedia (2000). Microsoft Corporation.

2- Encarta World English Dictionary.

Online References:

1- Brown, D. “Eight Days of Madness”. Guardian Unlimited. Retrieved from:,2837,308044,00.html on April 1, 1999.

2- Jiang. N. “Introducing the Ethnography of communication”.  Retrieved: on May 5, 2003.

المصادر العربية:

1- القرآن الكريم

2- قطب، سيد. (1996).في ظلال القرآن. دار الشروق. بيروت.

1- فهزموهم بإذن الله (a) وقتل داود جالوت (b).

Consider another version and see the difference in meaning:

– وقتل داود جالوت وانتهت المعركة بفوز المسلمين

(2) This verse represents two aspects of a scene that has been already set in a previous verse.  The function of each aspect therefore is to mention (a) the last event that took place in the story, and (b) the conclusion of the whole story.

(1) This is different from (2).  Here surprisingly the last event in the story is mentioned after its end.  The foregrounding of motif (a) serves a significant motivation.  The story has come to an end with motif (a), then it would not be illogical to say that what comes after the story is a comment on it.  In other words, the Quranic verse should be understood in this way:

“The battle ended with the victory of the Muslims over the non-Muslims.  This battle has a lot of lessons.  The most important lesson of these is that a young man like the modestly armed Dawood could by his faith in God defeat an armed-to-the-teeth infidel.”

* Each participant communicates on the assumption that the other participant is familiar with the norm of interpretation on which their discourse is based.

Author: aburisha

Translator, interpreter and international consultant