Specialized Languages and Graphic Art

Translating Specialized Discourse Intralingually and Intersemiotically

by Michela Canepari (Author)
©2023 Monographs XXIV, 264 Pages


This book addresses specialized translation, focusing on the forms of translation with the potential to make specialized languages more comprehensible and accessible, namely intralingual and intersemiotic translation. The book offers strategies to assist both readers and translators in approaching specialized languages not only from a professional or academic perspective but also from a practical one, encouraging and promoting a new approach to facilitating their understanding of specialized languages. In so doing, it demonstrates how the exploitation of graphic texts (whether static or animated) represents an invaluable instrument on both a pedagogical and social level. Graphic communication is shown to assist in the drafting of various types of specialized documents to make them more accessible to the general public, thus proposing that graphic art might represent a more unbiased approach to specialized languages and, as a result, contribute to a more egalitarian distribution of knowledge.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • Acknowledgements
  • Preface
  • IntroductionThe Popularization of Specialized Languages and the Potentials of Translation
  • Chapter 1 Legal Language
  • Chapter 2 The Language of Science
  • Chapter 3 The Language of Medicine
  • Chapter 4 The Language of Business, Finance and Economics
  • Conclusions
  • Bibliography
  • Index


Table 1: Activity – The phases of a criminal trial

Table 2: The water cycle

Table 3: Activity – The planets of our solar system

Table 4: Activity – The different degrees of specialization/popularization


I would like to thank Maria Cristina Cignatta, for all the help she provided throughout the preparation of the manuscript.

I am also greatly indebted to Jules Canepari Labib for her helpful comments and the support she gave to the finalization of this book.

A special thanks goes to Paolo Tagliaferri, who provided the graphic work for this project, and whose patience was much appreciated.

I would also like to thank Prof. Federico Bergenti for all the help he provided in the realization of the serious games presented in this book.

This book was published thanks to the research funds made available to the author by the Department of Humanities, Social Sciences and Cultural Industries of the University of Parma, Italy.


The opening epigraph to this volume can certainly refer to any type of translation effort. Yet, as Specialized Languages and Graphic Art suggests, it appears particularly relevant to the translation of specialized discourse, on which this book focuses.

As is well known, the interest human beings have had for the practice of translation and its theorization has been constant throughout the centuries. This volume therefore aims at contributing to this tradition, focusing in particular on the forms of translation that might prove most useful in the creation of target texts which, while relying on the specialization of language, can be made more comprehensible and therefore more accessible to the majority of receivers, namely intralingual and intersemiotic translation. As the discussion below will make clear, then, the notion of ‘text’ purported in this book alludes to a specifically semiotic concept, according to which it identifies “not only […] messages in a natural language but also to any carrier of integral (‘textual’) meaning – […] a work of the fine arts, or a piece of music” (Uspenskij et al. 2003: 297), that is to say “that which is (should or could be) subject to interpretation” (Sonesson 1998: 83). Furthermore, as the following chapters make evident, the notion of accessibility adopted in this volume actually transcends the limits of the meaning generally assigned to the word in educational environments and is here understood in its broadest sense.

As a result, this work does not simply take into account the use that could be made of intralingual and intersemiotic translation in order to adapt particular products for an audience that exhibits Specific Learning Disorders, but rather focuses on the needs that any non-specialist receiver might have, in an attempt to find strategies that might lead to a more systematic distribution of knowledge within society.

Indeed, this book – which rests on various projects the author has been involved in, entailing active collaboration with hospitals, banks, police departments, etc. – attempts to offer strategies that might assist readers not only from a professional or an academic perspective, but also in their approach to the interests and the necessities they might pursue or encounter in their social lives, encouraging and promoting a new approach to the major specialized languages of English at a scholarly, social and didactic level.

For this purpose, it begins by analyzing the different strategies of intersemiotic and intralingual translation exploited in the popularization of the main specialized languages, focusing in particular on the language of science, medicine, economics and the law. Indubitably, an understanding of the technical and specialized aspects of these languages becomes essential for every person, not only because the process of popularization of various specialized discourses often places them at the centre of people’s daily lives (Canepari 2013), but also because the increasing specialization within our societies requires that every person should have some knowledge, albeit superficial, of these languages, in order to be functional members of the social order.

In reality, specialized languages have too often been perceived as quasi-esoteric codes, the mastery of which was a prerogative of a small number of people and from the understanding of which the majority of the population was excluded. As discussed below, this perception has been corroborated by the way in which what have been variously referred to as ‘languages for specific/special purposes’, ‘specialized languages’, ‘micro languages’ or ‘technolects’, have been (and on many occasions still are) used (Wallace 1981; Cortelazzo 1988, 1994; Gotti 2005),1 leading to the plain English movements introduced below, and the necessity to explore new possibilities and developments in their use.

With a view to searching for new instruments that might render specialized discourse more accessible, the study of graphic art and the processes of intralingual and intersemiotic translation it often entails appear as a privileged arena at more than one level. Indeed, as this book demonstrates, the exploitation of graphic texts (whether static or animated) represents an invaluable instrument, not only from a pedagogical perspective (since comics and other graphic products can be beneficially exploited in a learning environment), but also from a more social perspective, in that graphic communication can assist in the drafting of various types of specialized documents that might prove more comprehensible and accessible to the general public.

Specialized Languages and Graphic Art therefore aims at offering additional tools in an attempt to make these languages more approachable, envisaging strategies that might render average (i.e., non-specialist) readers more aware of their mechanisms, finally enabling them to gain more control of those aspects of their lives which are governed by specialized discourse. Naturally, for reasons of space, the examples offered here are limited, if compared to all the possibilities this research interest might open up. Indeed, each section of each chapter could constitute a book in itself. Yet, the analyses developed will enable readers to delve, albeit moderately, into the mechanisms of specialized discourse, if only with a view to interpreting and decoding the documents they are called upon to deal with in everyday life; offer some exemplifications of how graphic art might be fruitfully exploited in learning environments, and point to new paths in the creation of specialized texts which could lead to the creation of a more ‘literate’ – and, consequently, more democratic – society, also within the realm of specialized discourses. As mentioned below, in fact, the control exercised by various institutions, through the specialization of society, is well acknowledged and has often been the focus of the foremost scholars of the twentieth century. Among these, the work by Michel Foucault naturally remains exemplary. In his seminal works, the scholar identified specialized discourse as an essential contributor to the Western episteme and its violence, which was to be later discussed by Spivak (1988), through which – specialized language being “both the instrument and an effect of power” (Foucault 1981: 101) – various categories of Others were construed throughout history. By being able to master these languages, then, various receivers, including those construed as Others, can gain more control over their lives, finally becoming the subjects of discourse, also when specialized, rather than mere objects.

The volume therefore hinges on the acknowledgment of the relevant role that scholarly studies within the field of linguistics and translation can play, not only in the lives of those who decide to make a career for themselves in these areas, but in every person’s life, having very practical bearings on the reality they inhabit. Consequently, Specialized Languages and Graphic Art is conceived as a call for a change on the part of the Institutions themselves, which would clearly need to sanction the kind of approach advocated here in relation to the informative and other types of materials they release, and which they require people to comprehend.

As this book makes clear, although within the realm of specialized languages the need for a higher degree of accessibility has been long since perceived at every level of society, this necessity is extremely relevant in this day and age, which, by being characterized by important migratory flows, often requires non-native speakers to decode documents and other written/spoken texts, whether approving and signing them, or rejecting and rebutting them. Yet, as the following chapters demonstrate, the difficulties created by specialized discourse extend far beyond non-native speakers, since the majority of native (non-specialist) users of language also struggle in comprehending specialized documents and consequently cannot be autonomous in their choices.

In the following chapters, then, Specialized Languages and Graphic Art addresses some of the occasions in which intralingual and intersemiotic translation have been, and could be, employed to the benefit of a variety of readers. By positing itself as a first step towards the creation of ‘binding’ documents through intersemiotic translation, the volume aims at facilitating a change in the way specialized documents are experienced by every citizen. Furthermore, thanks to its combination of research and didactic approach, it presents possible teaching paths which will hopefully contribute to the creation of efficient syllabi, centred on the receivers’ needs, where specialized languages are rendered accessible also to students who, either as specialists or as non-specialists, are approaching these subjects as part of their curriculum.


XXIV, 264
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2023 (October)
Specialized discourse intralingual and intersemiotic translation graphic and comic art
Oxford, Berlin, Bruxelles, Chennai, Lausanne, New York, 2023. XXIV, 264 pp., 12 fig. col., 3 fig. b/w, 4 tables.

Biographical notes

Michela Canepari (Author)

Michela Canepari is Associate Professor of English Linguistics and Translation at the University of Parma, Italy. She holds a PhD in English Literature from the University of Sussex, UK. Her major research interests cover interlingual, intralingual and intersemiotic translation, postcolonial and cultural translation, various branches of linguistics (e.g. discourse analysis, critical linguistics, sociolinguistics, and English for specific purposes). She has published several monographs and articles on different aspects of translation, as well as on the popularization of specialized languages and the development of new methodologies in teaching English as a second language.


Title: Specialized Languages and Graphic Art