A cultural studies approach to semantic instability: The case of news translation

Kyle Conway


This article explores news translation and the semantic instability of politi-cally charged words and their translations. Such pairs are linked in a pa-radoxical relationship of dependence (one is a translation of the other) and independence (they have evolved and continue to evolve within different conceptual horizons). This paper describes a methodology for addressing this phenomenon by considering such pairs as examples of ‘essentially contested concepts’ (Gallie 1956). This methodology derives from a circuit model of culture, and it provides translation studies scholars with tools to describe the dynamic, historically conditioned relationships linking politi-cally charged words, their translations, and their contested, frequently contradictory meanings.


Canada; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; circuit model of culture; constitutional debates; “distinct society”; essen- tially contested concepts; Meech Lake accord; news translation; semantic instability; Québec

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