Translation as culture: The example of pictorial-verbal transposition in Sahagún's primeros memoriales and codex florentino

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Many items of culture which are conveyed from one culture to another may take verbal form, and then constitute what Jakobson called "translation proper." If such diffusions involve a co-occurrent change of semiotic systems, they are of such a different nature, that we better reserve another term for it: transposition. Whether or not accompanied by transpositions, such as pictures, translational events may play an important part in the encounter between cultures, not only in the negative sense of deformations as postulated by the Tartu school. Particularly, when such transpositions make up a massive occurrence, as was the assimilation of the Greek-Muslim heritage in Middle Age Europe, or the more extended process by means of which Europe took on of the experience of the so-called New World several centuries later, such processes may actually enrich the homeculture. In this paper, we will study the latter process, zeroing in on a single, if protracted, event, the creation of the work ascribed to Bernardino de Sahagún, which really involved the collaboration of many scholars, many of them bearers of Aztec culture, exclusively or in combination with Western culture. This case interests us in particular, also because it involved the transposition of pictures, not, in the sense, of Western pictures being substitued for single pre-Hispanic picture, but rather as a kind of semiotic means contributing in different ways to the process of constitution.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Communication Studies
  • Cultural Studies


  • cultural encounters, picture use, Spanish conquest, total semiotic act, translation
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-39
Number of pages35
Issue number232
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Jan 1
Publication categoryResearch