Énonciation en anglais: Émile Benveniste et la (re)traduction d’une utterance ambigüe

Translated title of the contribution: 'Énonciation' (Enunciation) in English: Émile Benveniste and the (re)translation of an ambiguous utterance

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


The concept of énonciation (enunciation) is the principal legacy of the late work of Émile Benveniste (1902-1976), the pre-eminent French linguist of the mid-20th century, who defined it as 'putting the language to work through an individual act of use'. It is a difficult term to translate into English, because the word 'enunciation' is already established with the completely different meaning of careful pronunciation. Benveniste's took his inspiration for the concept from English-language work, in particular the use of the term 'utterance' by the linguist Leonard Bloomfield, the anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski, and the philosopher J. L. Austin. The word 'utterance' was in the process of a shift in meaning from the act of uttering (the equivalent of Benveniste's énonciation) to the product of that act, the words produced (what Benveniste called the 'énoncé', the equivalent of Ferdinand de Saussure's 'parole'), and a close look at the use of 'utterance' by Bloomfield, Malinowski and Austin shows them shifting between the older and newer meanings, exploiting the ambiguity. This leaves us in a quandary over how to translate énonciation into English. The least bad solution is to render it as 'enunciation', despite the risk of confusion with careful pronunciation, and to reserve 'utterance' for translating énoncé, despite its role as the source of the other term.
Translated title of the contribution'Énonciation' (Enunciation) in English: Émile Benveniste and the (re)translation of an ambiguous utterance
Original languageFrench
Title of host publicationTraduire la linguistique, traduire les linguistes
EditorsGiuseppe d'Ottavi, Valentina Chepiga
Place of PublicationLouvain-la-Neuve
PublisherEditions Academia
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 5 Nov 2018


  • linguistics
  • translation
  • enunciation
  • utterance
  • Emile Benveniste
  • Leonard Bloomfield
  • Bronislaw Malinowski
  • J. L. Austin


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