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Estudios y perspectivas en turismo

On-line version ISSN 1851-1732

Estud. perspect. tur. vol.18 no.4 Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires July/Aug. 2009


Lost in translation. The Changing Verbal Imagery of Norwegian "Lapland"

Graham M. S. Dann* y Lisbeth B. Johanson**

Finnmark University College, Alta, Noruega

* PhD, DLitt, first Professor of Tourism to be appointed at Finnmark University College, Alta, Norway. Founder member of the International Academy for the Study of Tourism and of the research committee on international tourism of the International Sociological Association, his research interests lie predominantly in the areas of tourism motivation and the semiotics of promotion. Email:
** Assistant Professor, trained pedagogue, with a Master degree in History; her tourism research interests are in the fields of education, women and history. She works at Finnmark University College, Norway, where she teaches psychology, sociology and history in the Department of Tourism. E-mail:

Abstract: The following article is an application of "the language of tourism" paradigm. It is a case study of the multilingual marketing of the Sámi region of Northern Norway known for promotional purposes as "Lapland". This "a posteriori" investigation is brochure-based combining both quantitative (content analytical) and qualitative (semiotic) approaches. Focusing theoretically on the multisensory nature of tourism, it examines the ways that hearing, taste, touch, sight and experience are conveyed in Norwegian, German, English, Italian, Spanish and French. While some of the meaning is lost in translation in the transition from source to target languages, the remainder may be seen as idiomatic motivational gain.

KEY WORDS: Northern Norway; Multisensory; Brochures; Translation; Content/semiotic analysis.


By now most tourism scholars should be familiar with the concept and paradigm of the "Language of Tourism" (Dann, 1996). Indeed many have become aware of its properties and research possibilities (Francesconi, 2006; Gotti, 2006). However, and in case the erroneous impression is given that this specialized discourse operates only in English, it is necessary to point out that the term had been employed in Spanish over thirty years ago (Febas, 1978), with a similar expression in French some sixteen years later (Boyer & Viallon, 1994). Since then, works have appeared in Italian (Calvi, 2005) and in Italian-English translation (Gotti, 2006) which relate to the same form of communication.

What is important to realize is that, above all, this type of rhetoric is promotional in nature. In other words, it seeks to appeal to its addressees in terms of matching their various motivational push factors with the attributional pull factors of the destination which it is trying to sell (Dann, 1977). That is to say, the language of tourism, through verbal and pictorial imagery attempts, through a discourse, of signs to convert the potential tourist into an actual tourist - out of the armchair and on to the plane.

Tourism imagery can assume many forms that vary according to the medium of communication. Some, like brochures and travel writing, are unobtrusive, and hence not open to respondent contamination. Others like word of mouth, internet blogging and guidebook chat-rooms, are interactive in nature. While the former are attractive to researchers who adopt an a priori content analytical quantitative approach to data collection and analysis, the latter tend to be more semiotic, qualitative and a posteriori in nature. A few, including the present study, try to combine both methodologies as complementary strategies.

Tourism imagery research typically focuses on one of three players that constitute the phenomenon: the tourism industry, tourists and "tourees" (the last mentioned being the objects of visitation and sightseeing, i.e., destination people (van den Berghe, 1994)). These participants are generally arranged in the foregoing manner, according to their declining frequency and credibility (Gartner, 1993). The current investigation is an example of the first genre. It thus follows that a limitation of this inquiry is that, like all imagery studies known to the present authors, it only provides one third of the story. The same conclusion can be reached by examining the 65 tourism imagery studies in a comprehensive survey conducted by Gallarza et al. (2002). Even so, and in spite of this deficiency, usefulness is claimed in its highlighting of one distinguishing, and often overlooked feature - that of translation.

It goes without saying that tourism is an international and global phenomenon. Typically, destinations market their attractions to diverse linguistic audiences. While the promotional pictures may remain the same for each different language group, (and notwithstanding the debatable possibility that pictures have semiotic autonomy), the text anchoring (Barthes, 1982: 38-41; Dann, 2004a) such polysemous iconography - such "floating chains of signifieds" - with a given meaning, is subject to change. Yet there are surprisingly few studies of how these written or spoken messages are translated idiomatically so that they have distinct significations for given cultures. Indeed, according to Federici (2007: 99), 'not enough consideration has been given to the translating process in tourist texts.'

What then takes place in this vital process of translation? According to Palusci & Francesconi (2006: 8), translation is the interpretation of a "source" text and its re-creation in a "target" text, i.e., a dual process of de-codification and re-codification, such that the connotation (secondary meaning) changes but the de-notational (core meaning) content remains the same (Nöth, 1990: 72, 102), i.e., in consonance with its semiotic foundation, the resulting meaning is a sign translated into another system of signs (Peirce, 1931-1958: vol. 4, § 127) in Nöth, 1990, p. 99). However, because there is textual distance between a source text and a target text (e.g., Norwegian and English), translation loss can and does occur. In the words of Palusci and Francesconi, 'our main problem is what can be lost in the translation of tourism texts and speech acts and what is fundamental?' (2006, p. 9). According to Gotti (2006), this neglected difficulty is aggravated, because the language of tourism has a number of distinct properties, (e.g., use of superlatives and bliss formulae). These characteristics may exist predominantly in one language version of the language of tourism (e.g., English) and hence may not be immediately transferable to other tongues (e.g., French). Thus, according to Federici (2007, p.100) translation of the language of tourism from a source to a target text 'is not just the substitution of one word for another but an awareness of the social, historical and cultural context of the target text's receivers.' What follows is a case study that examines verbal imagery in a peripheral and contested region in Northern Norway and how this imagery is in turn translated from a source language (Norwegian) into five other European languages (English, German, Italian, Spanish and French). The article is divided into five unequal sections:

• The context of North Norway imagery research,
• Theoretical framework,
• Methodological considerations,
• Findings: content analytical, semiotic,
• Summary and conclusion.


Unlike most tourism imagery research which focuses on nation states as destinations (Gallarz et al, 2001, p. 63), and with one or two notable exceptions (e.g., Borchgrevink & Knutson (1997), the emphasis in Norway tends to be more regional in nature (Dann, 2004b). Furthermore, a disproportionate number of these regional studies concentrates on areas above the Arctic Circle, including the Lofoten islands (Dann, 2003; Jacobsen & Dann, 2003; Mehmetoglu (2003); Mehmetoglu & Dann, 2003), and North Norway in general (Jacobsen et al, 1998). Additionally, there are inquiries that dwell on specific places within these regions (e.g., North Cape (Jacobsen, 1997; Prebensen, 2002), Henningsvær (Puijk, 1996), Svalbard (Viken, 2006b)). However, out of all these northern investigations it is the region of Finnmark (Mathisen, 2003; Olsen, 2003, 2006; Viken, 2006a; Viken & Müller, 2006) that has received the most academic attention. It is also true to say that the majority of the latter studies focus on the Sámi people from an anthropological or political science perspective. The present Finnmark study, by contrast, is more sociological and less Sámi-centric in nature. Nevertheless the current investigation agrees with these other inquiries that even though not all Sámi speak the Sámi language, and even fewer are nomadic herders, the ways that they are stereotypically portrayed by the tourism industry are based on a rhetoric of difference, inferior minority otherness, and a symbolism of Sámi-ness comprising such clichéd icons as reindeers and tents (Viken & Müller, 2006). Thus, even though the Sámi themselves have attempted to exchange external attitudes of ambivalence with self-confidence and pride in their identity, it is the industry's nostalgic showcasing of them that leads to parallel reactions of irritation and counter-identification (Viken, 2006a). If the Sámi are portrayed in the media as happy noble savages, it does not take the tourism industry long to describe them in a language that speaks of their culture as "aboriginal, ethnic, indigenous and traditional" (Olsen, 2006, p.41), while significantly omitting their depiction as contemporary Norwegians (Olsen, 2006, p.44). The exotic Sámi are thus made to appeal to tourists who have all but lost the authenticity, simplicity and innocence of life as it once was at home (Olsen, 2006, p.42). It is this binary, romantic discourse that opposes "us versus them" (Mathisen, 2003: 191), what Mathisen (2003: 190) calls "the hegemonic construction of the indigenous", that provides the all important nexus between promotion and motivation, a connection that is further explored below.

These Sámi studies that link pre-modernity tourism with ecological awareness (Olsen, 2006: 38) also tie the Sámi to traditional nature, i.e., a natural and clean environment (Mathisen, 2003: 193), what Müller and Petterson (2006: 59) refer to as "the last wilderness" of Europe. The current investigation also explores this association.

However, there are other differences between Norwegian imagery research and tourism imagery research conducted elsewhere, against which the present case-study should be contextualized. Briefly, there is greater evidence of theory in Norwegian imagery research. For example, Jacobsen (1997) examines North Cape as an instance of MacCannell's (1989) "site sacralization", while frameworks of gendering (Gritti, 1967) and anchorage (Barthes, 1982) are found respectively in Dann (2003) and Dann (2004a). Yet out of the 65 international studies that Gallarz et al (2001: 72) surveyed only one was said to provide theoretical understanding. There also seems to be a greater openness in Norwegian imagery research towards a posteriori qualitative approaches (Mehmetoglu, 2003) that employ such media as guidebooks (Dann, 2003; Jacobsen et al, 1998) and brochures (Olsen, 2003, 2006; Puijk, 1996), in addition to reactive projective measures to pictorial stimuli (Dann & Jacobsen, 2003).

The present study tends to fall into the foregoing mould, in that it is regionally focused, theoryoriented, a posteriori in approach and brochure-based. Where it differs from many other Norwegian imagery studies is in its simultaneous adoption of both quantitative (content analytical) and qualitative (semiotic) methods. Apart from Mehmetoglu (2003) and Mehmetoglu & Dann (2003), the majority seem to opt for just one of these alternatives.


The theoretical framework used in this inquiry is that of multi-sensory promotion. Over recent years there has been a small, though significant, growing emphasis among tourism scholars on an appeal to more than one human sense in the articulation of push and pull motives (Dann, 1977) in relation to destinations (Graburn, 1995; Selänniemi, 1996). Indeed, it is fair to say that there is now less unilateral reliance on the ocular-centric and sightseeing in tourism and a greater openness to pluralistic sensory experiences. Even Urry, himself, has changed from an earlier preoccupation with The Tourist Gaze (1990) to the complementary ramifications of hearing, touch, taste and smell (Urry, 2000).

The same pattern can be observed in the promotion of Northern Norway by local authorities. Here as long as a decade ago, a brochure featuring the Lofoten islands is the prime exemplar of this multisensory approaches (Destination Lofoten, 1999). Recently it has been analyzed in relation to an important emerging tourism motif - that of wellbeing (Dann & Berg Nordstrand, 2009). An appeal to several senses in a single promotion is also evident in the current exercise.


What follows is a case study of a set of six 2007-2008 brochures, with a print run of 60,000, disseminated by Finnmark Tourist Board. Respectively, the source text is Norwegian and the target texts are French, Italian, Spanish, English and German (Finnmark Reiseliv 2007a, 2007b, 2007c, 2007d, 2007e, 2007f). According to a spokesperson from the Oslo based translation company Lingo Access AS commissioned by Finnmark Reiseliv, each of the five target texts has been translated by a native speaker who is also fluent in Norwegian. As the only inquiry of its kind, the texts are compared with the English version, the lingua franca of tourism. As a division of labor, the Norwegian and German texts are translated into English by the second named author and the French, Italian and Spanish versions are translated into English by the first named author, thereby reflecting their respective linguistic competences. Although dictionaries and thesauri have been used throughout, and subsequent discussion has achieved a working consensus, the exercise is nonetheless open to errors of interpretation, (and thus, cynically perhaps, says more about the translator than the translation). Such infelicities, however, are not random, and if they do occur are more systematic in nature. The alternative perfectionist stance, of traduttore - traditore (translator = traitor), would mean agnostically abandoning the whole investigation. Nevertheless, it should be noted that while the English and Norwegian versions have been translated only once, the remaining languages have been translated twice. Although, some ideas are inevitably lost in this unavoidable process, what is intended by "lost in translation" are meanings that have not been carried over from source to target texts or ones that have been offered by way of substitution. An allied point is that inquiries of this nature are likely to be as subjective as the social scientific base on which they are grounded.

It is also necessary to realize that this study focuses on text rather than pictures. One reason for this logo-centric emphasis is that there are other studies that adequately carry out this task, such as that of Olsen (2006) analyzing the quantitative motifs of 86 Sámi-related pictures in 5 brochures (nature, clothing, reindeers, arts, heritage, bonfires and food). Another justification lies in the mutable anchorage that the text provides according to variation in language. Thus, whereas all the texts refer to the same pictures, what they have to say about these pictures is different, and hence worthy of scrutiny.

Even so, and although it is beyond the scope of this study, it should be acknowledged that some of these texts may be open to the phenomenon of inter-textuality. Just as the verbal imagery of a present day brochure may have "borrowed" from earlier sources such as travel writing, so too may the language and iconography of brochures featuring the Sámi, derive from prior ethnographic discourse [as for example William Bullock's 1822 exhibition of the Sámi in London (Olsen, 2006: 39)].

Another consideration that needs mention is that the persuasive hyperbole of brochure verbal description may at times be considered out of place, especially where the desire to promote overrides political correctness. Thus, for instance, one of the expressions used on the covers of the target brochures is that of "Norwegian Lapland" (a phrase that is absent in the source text). Here it should be noted that the term "Lap" or "Lapp" has not been used for quite some time in official Norwegian. According to Professor of Sámi language, Ole Henrik Magga, the word "Lap" can no longer be found in Norwegian dictionaries; it is derogatory and offensive to the Sámi people, "it is inappropriate to put it mildly" (Magga 2008, translation of second author). By contrast, Jens Harald Jensen from the Finnmark Tourism Board maintains that "Norwegian Lapland" is a product name that puts the region on the map (2008a). He additionally notes that "Lapland" is a word that sells in international markets, and the use of the epithet "Norwegian" instead of Finnmark helps avoid possible confusion with Finnish Lapland (Jensen 2008b). At the same it conjures up images of exoticism.


The extensive use of content/semiotic analysis in tourism research, along with its various advantages and disadvantages, has been dealt with by Mehmetoglu & Dann (2003). Its application to brochure texts has also been treated. Unlike parallel studies which concentrate on themes, books, chapters/sections, columns and paragraphs, in the present investigation, because of its focus on translation, content analysis is applied to the smallest unit of analysis - the single word. However, since there is a high dross rate associated with such parts of speech as prepositions, conjunctions and pronouns, and given that the use of the definite and indefinite articles varies according to language base, only nouns, adjectives and verbs become the object of attention, thus placing the study in sync with that of Echtner & Prasad (2003) who similarly confine their analysis to these three types of expression. Where it differs from that work, or indeed from an examination of the publicity of Norwegian and British tour operators, [which, both being in English, avoids the problem of translation (Dann, 2004a: 9)], is that the emphasis here is not on the frequency and thematic classification of words used by the tourism industry (as a possible contrast to those employed by tourists or "tourees"), but rather on the agreement or otherwise of words in the target text with those in the source texts. That is to say, ratios of convergence are calculated for each analyzed section, thereby allowing quantitative judgments to be made concerning the reciprocal translation distance among the various target versions. Such a process is conducted at the denotative level. Subsequently, a semiotic analysis is carried out at the connotative level, the realm of meaning where arguably promotion and motivation coincide.

It has been mentioned already that the theoretical framework underpinning this study is a multisensory paradigm. Even so, while such promotion is clearly evident in earlier Norwegian publicity under the rubrics of "see", "hear", "smell", "feel" and "taste" (Destination Lofoten, 1999), it is only partially adhered to in the present brochures. Thus under the strap-line "Norwegian Lapland stimulates the senses", the English language version simply carries the headlines of "listen", "taste", "see", "feel" and "enjoy" (Finnmark Reiseliv, 2007e: 4-5). In so doing, not only is the sense of smell omitted, but some of the separate sections devoted to the remaining senses occasionally overlap. For that reason only those sentences relating specifically to each headline are analyzed.



Hearing is the only sense in the brochures that specifically refers to the Sámi. Table 1 provides the relevant auditory-related sentence from this section. The verbal data are arranged in columns under each of the six languages. Where the text is highlighted in bold, there is linguistic divergence. Where it remains in regular typeface, there is convergence. Ratios for the latter (which become percentages when multiplied by 100) appear after the same/difference totals. Finally there is a frequency count for the use of verbs, adjectives and nouns in the highlighted passage along with respective percentages in parenthesis and plus signs where these exceed the overall mean.

Table 1. HEAR (MOTIVATIONAL COMPONENT: NOSTALGIA) (Differences from Norwegian in bold)

Although the quantitative data are self-explanatory, it should be noted that, whereas the word totals for the target texts (last five columns) are similar, they are almost twice that of the source text (first column). This excess is entirely due to the perceived necessity of explaining the Sámi terms of joik and lavvu, presumed to be known by (non-Sámi) Norwegian domestic tourists. Interestingly, the French version calls the latter lavvo. While convergence ratios exceed 50% in the Italian and Spanish versions, they are only half that in the German translation. As for parts of speech, relative percentages in column seven parentheses show that, overall, nouns (60%) predominate over descriptors (32.5%) and action words (7.5%), just as they do in the studies conducted by Dann (2004a) and Echtner& Prasad (2003), thereby enabling those investigations to undertake the a posteriori classification of structural data into major categories. In the passage on hearing, the only verb employed is placed in the imperative mood, a frequent practice in guidebooks and brochures where the need for social control over tourists arises (Dann, 1996), what Gritti (1967) refers to as the absolu touristique. Comparative percentages for each language version show slight over-representation of verbs in Norwegian and Italian, of adjectives in English, Spanish and French, and of nouns in Norwegian, German and Italian.

Turning to the qualitative, semiotic side of the analysis, a number of observations can be made. First, four of the texts use the initial word "listen" while the remaining two employ "hear". The difference is subtle. According to the Collins English Dictionary and Thesaurus (2007) (a basic reference work to which henceforth only page numbers are provided), whereas the former implies the notion of taking heed, paying attention, doing as one is told and obeying (p.693), the latter indicates the perception of sound, being informed and receiving information (p. 546). In a language of tourism context, listening is associated with the tourist controlled by the past (Dann, 1996) and is therefore an interpellatory term appropriate to a family setting. Such an environment is said to be "traditional" in four cases, i.e., it is a time-honored handing down of the customs and beliefs of a community, people or family (p. 1265). The differences between "chant" (psalm-like, monotone) (pp. 188-189) and "song" (poetic, musical) (p. 1134), tend to distinguish between the sacred and secular, the former being more gemeinschaftlich in nature. There is also variation in the communicatory vehicles of Sámi culture. Most versions use the word "stories" - i.e., written or oral narrations of chains of events, implying sequence, and hence causality (p.1175). The German and French translations employ "legends" indicative of being handed down (p.678), while the English version is the only one to use the word "tales" - reports that can range from fictitious statements to rumor and malicious gossip (p.1218). What they all have in common is an element of tradition, of sharing in the roots experience of living history. At this point the heat, warmth and passion of a "crackling fire" (pp.265, 445) are introduced ("campfire" in German, "sparkling bonfire" in Spanish, and "fire of crackling wood" in French). Here all versions implicitly refer to the Sámi and tourists sitting around a fire on more or less equal terms, just as scouts (of implicitly evoked former schoolboy days) do when they have their sing-songs around the campfire, an activity that is primarily male in nature (Grinstein, 1955), and eminently suited to "the great outdoors" experiences associated with Northern Norway (Dann & Berg Nordstrand, 2009). Finally this celebration of community is said to take place in a lavvu, which is translated as a "traditional"/"typical"/"famous" "tent", the temporary abode of an exotic, nomadic people whose main occupation is hunting.

If there is one overriding theme that binds the foregoing elements together, it is that of nostalgia, a motif that is ubiquitous in contemporary tourism. The reason why this motif becomes a motive derived from such publicity is that it contrasts the pre-modern, noble savage, living amidst pristine nature (wilderness) and engaging in communitarian activities, with the tourist's abhorrence of the present and fear of the future associated with a postmodern, individualistic existence. What is interesting in the current tourism promotional context is that here the sense of hearing carries the metaphoric burden of and linkage with the life of yesteryear, whereas more often than not it is the sense of smell that is so reminiscent of the past and how superior and attractive it is when compared with today. However, since the brochures omit smell, there is a need to transfer the function of memory from the olfactory to the auditory.


The excerpt on taste is somewhat longer than that of hearing and the self-explanatory quantitative data can be found in the lower rows of Table 2. It can be seen that the total word count in German (74) is far higher than that of the other languages, which range from 50 to 54. The German convergence ratio is also correspondingly low while that of English is significantly greater than the remainder. Turning to parts of speech, when compared with table1, in table 2 there is an increase in the percentage allocation to verbs with declines in that of adjectives and nouns. The figures in brackets for each language show disproportionate emphases of verbs in English, German and French, of adjectives in Italian, Spanish and French, and of nouns in Norwegian, English and German.

Table 2. TASTE (MOTIVATIONAL COMPONENT: NOVELTY) (Differences from Norwegian in bold)

Turning to individual words and expressions, it is interesting that this part of Norway highlights "King Crab" when it can also be found in North America and parts of Asia, where it is sometimes known as the "horseshoe crab" (Collins English Dictionary and Thesaurus, 2007, p. 656). Although the Latin based languages refer to the delicacy as "royal crab", its imperial, stately qualities coincide with its befitting a king or queen (p.1039), which motivationally relates to Gottlieb's (1982) inversionist perspective and the ego-enhancing idea of tourists being a king or queen for a day, in complete contrast to their day-to-day humble statuses. Here the word "taste", whose primary denotative meaning relates to the flavor of a substance being picked up by a sensation of the taste buds, can also be extended to a secondary connotation of the aesthetic, artistic or intellectual discernment (p.1223) of a person of taste, such as royalty for instance. The Spanish version underlines this association by adding the seemingly redundant word "savor", indicative of relishing or luxuriating in a quality experience (p.1058). The text continues with reference to the freshness of the fish, which the Italian version explains as having just been caught. Being fresh not only relates to novelty, but also carries meanings of healthy, youthful, natural and invigorating (p.474) all in keeping with the Norwegian outdoor experience. That the fish is caught, however, shows that nature has been overcome, or "cooked" in the Lévi-Strauss meaning of the term as applied to culture, which again is consonant with the earlier regal domination. The reference to the Barents Sea "concealing" many delights, delicacies and pleasures ties in with the idea of being kept in secret for first time discovery by discerning travelers (p.233), before the other mass tourists get there (MacCannell, 1989). Of course words like "delicacy" (graceful, refined, dainty) (p.303), "delight" (allurement, ecstasy) (p.304) and "pleasure" (enjoyment, gratification) (p.901) only add to the heady mixture and are almost orientalist in tone. So too are their adjectival equivalents of "spectacular" (lavishly performed) (p.1143), "magnificent" (superb, opulent) (p.714), "impressive" (grand, awesome, powerful) (p.595) and "gigantic" (enormous, suitable for giants) (p.499). With the divers "emerging" from the icy water, the text returns to the imagery of novelty, like an apparition coming into view from prior concealment (pp.381-382).

Overall, one thus has a far from subtle appeal to an up-market discerning nature tourist, one who has all the eco-credentials and whose motivation is crafted in terms of stranger-hood and novelty. The regal imagery with its own system of hedonistic rewards somehow inverts the day-to-day experiences of the typical city dweller and allows him, if as seems likely a male audience is intended, to exchange places with the diver and bring in the catch.


The sense of touch in all the brochures except the French is treated under the rubric "feel". The quantitative data show that all the target languages, but particularly Italian, employ more words than the source text in conveying the haptic dimension. Convergence ratios vary from a high of 0.717 (Spanish) to a low of 0.373 (French). When specific parts of speech are analyzed, there is a slightly greater proportional use of verbs by the Latin languages and of nouns by the northern languages together with Spanish. The patterning for adjectives, however, is less consistent, with overrepresentation in English, German, Italian and French (Table 3).

Table 3. FEEL (MOTIVATIONAL COMPONENT: FANTASY) (Differences from Norwegian in bold)

At the semiotic level, to feel or perceive by touching, can be a physical or emotional sensation. Additionally it can mean finding one's way or believing (p.434). To appreciate, by contrast, is more emotional than physical since it signifies to be aware of, take account of, or to relish (p.56). In four cases, feeling is linked with "atmosphere", a prevailing tone or aura (p.72); in two it is associated with "ambiance", i.e., air or character (p.37). This atmosphere or surroundings are said to be "fantastic" (strange, fanciful, illusory, mental images not found in reality (p.428) or "adventurous" (daring, involving risk, exciting, or unexpected (p.20). In the Italian version the atmosphere is described as incantevole (literally "unsingable"), translated as "inexpressible" - not communicable by words, music, or painting (p. 1311). The first sensation relates to the cold associated with snow and ice as mediated by "art" (created works of beauty, imaginative skill (pp.63-4). The sensation of cold is contrasted with that of "warmth" (feeling of heat or intensity of emotion (p.1349) associated with the welcome of the "host" (a person receiving visitors in his home) (p.570) or "hospitality" (welcoming strangers as guests (p.570)). In such a setting drinks are "served" (the guests are attended to, from Latin servus = slave (p.1085)) or "enjoy" (receive pleasure from, with the implicit notion of excess) (p.389). The text then becomes quite lyrical by referring to the "silence of the snow" and its "bring(ing) peace to your soul". This silence or absence of sound (p.1105), this "tranquility" or serenity (p.1267), this peace, i.e., harmony and absence of anxiety (p.864) is said to touch the soul or very spirit or psyche (p.1136) of the individual, altogether a different side of tourism to that depicted in the noisy sing-song around the campfire.

In fact it is this language of contrasts and use of the binary in the context of touch which stresses the fantasy component of tourism, a motivation that is often employed in promotional language. It is this dreamlike, oneiric quality which lies at the heart of imagery, particularly pre-trip imagery, and one that is exploited in the case of first time experiences that are frequently guided by the imagination. It is fantasy that permits periodic escape from the alienating humdrum of daily existence that makes life bearable.


Table 4 provides the points of convergence and divergence in relation to sight. Although this sense has been privileged over all other senses since it relates to one of tourism's principal activities- sightseeing - and has been welded to a motivational theory of authenticity (MacCannell, 1989), in the present case study sight only appears in fourth position (as contrasted with the primacy of ranking assigned to sight in Destination Lofoten (1999)). As noted previously, once more the target languages employ more words than the source text. Apart from the English version, the points of convergence for the remaining four translations are all well below 0.500. Indeed, the Italian text reaches only 0.296, while using 37.5% more words than the original Norwegian. Looking at separate parts of speech, it can be seen that many of these Italian words are verbs; in fact, this is the only occasion where the number of verbs used is equal to the quantum of nouns. Once more, the nouns seem to be the reserve of the northern languages (joined also by Spanish), while the adjectives are far more randomly distributed.

Table 4. SEE (MOTIVATIONAL COMPONENT: TOURIST AS CHILD) (Differences from Norwegian in bold)

As for linguistic nuances, it should be noted that the word "see", meaning perceive, can be related to senses other than sight, especially when it signifies understanding (p.1076). The alternative "contemplate" (used in the Spanish and French), refers more to meditation and reflection (p.246), processes that typically come after sensory experience. In all cases the object of sight is "landscape" (natural scenery, vista, panorama, as in a landscape painting (p.666)). Just as light changes this landscape for the artist so too, implicitly, is this section of land incessantly becoming transformed (pp.188, 244), even though the expression "constantly changing" is something of an oxymoron. Yet the previously mentioned notion of novelty is still there, aided by inclusion of the epithet "snowcovered", indicative of concealment (p.263). The "plain" or "plateau" refers to an elevated upland, prairie or mesa, above all an area of vastness (pp.897, 899) consonant with a limitless terrain of experiences ad infinitum and ad libitum. "Snowmobiles" are not normally associated with "guides" and yet tourism is. Here there is a notion of supervised, safely controlled movement (p.526), to which the Norwegian paradoxically adds the word "nature" (i.e., physical life not controlled by humans (p.785)), and the English erroneously translates as "naturalistic", before uniquely placing the descriptor "qualified". The German interestingly is the only text to note that these guides are "local". These guides variously, "take", "carry", "assist", "lead" the tourist, who is universally addressed in the second person singular, thereby permitting the use of the possessive "your" in English, a familiar ploy in promotional material and in tourism generally where references are made to your hotel, your plane, etc. when ownership clearly belongs to another. In five of the texts, the 19th century Swahili word safari (meaning journey (cf. Arabic safara, to travel) is employed, completely de-contextualized from its African hunting referent, but considered necessary by the brochure writer in order to introduce a notion of excitement, where adventures are "queuing up" (i.e., orderly waiting) (cf. misuse of cliché "literally" in English as a common intensifier to promote emphasis which in reality often results in absurdity (p. 693)), and follow each other, or alternatively where experiences are "unforgettable" "exceeded", or "rush together". Finally it can be observed that whereas the Norwegian, German, Italian and Spanish texts relate this exciting visual array to Finnmark, the English and French versions return to Norwegian Lapland of the brochure title. There is thus an inconsistency here between cover and internal content.

Taking these comments together, it is easy to place seeing within the regressive context of "the tourist as child" (Dann, 1996). The frequent use of the second person singular (tu), which in many languages, including French, Italian and Spanish, is employed when addressing relatives and children, is indicative of the control exercised by the industry in a promotional context. Such an interpretation is reinforced by references to guides taking care of their temporary charges, shepherding their flocks and showing them the way. The exciting experiences of excess appeal to the "I" personality state while simultaneously controlling the "me" of the self. The snow and the sledges are almost Christmas-like in their imagery; the only person who seems to be missing is Santa Claus.


In order to convey the message of experience/enjoyment the Latin languages employ fewer words than the northern languages. The convergence values of the former are also lower. However, when particular parts of speech are analyzed: Norwegian, English and German focus slightly more on adjectives and nouns, while the patterning for Italian, Spanish and French displays a greater randomness. At the semiotic level, although experience/enjoy does not constitute a sense, it is included here because it forms part of the brochures' multi-sensory framework. Indeed, the word "experience" suggests direct personal participation which involves one or more senses and can thus lead to being experienced, of having practical knowledge or intelligence (p.414), as in the case of the "experienced dog musher". To sense, then, implies perceiving by one or more senses, and senses are the faculties through which the mind receives information about the external world (pp.1081-2), an Aristotelian realist position. In this context, "sensation" is the power of perceiving through the senses through stimulation (p.1081) and "feeling" is the ability to experience physical sensation that leads to a state of mind or impression (p.434). "Enjoy", on the other hand, used only in the English version, refers to the pleasure effect of having a good time (from the French en-jouir and Latin gaudere) (p.389), also an Aristotelian position. The various languages combine these words in order to provide nuanced differences and interpretations. Where they concur is in the referent "being a part of nature" (the whole system of existence not controlled by humans, through which they achieve identity (p.785)). Four of the versions stress adventure, two repeat the idea of participation (involvement), and one (German) emphasizes that it is "active" [fully engaged (p.14)]. This combination of nature and adventure is achieved in the outdoor experience of "driving" [propelling vehicle or animal (p.359)] a "dog sledge" (Italian says "commanding", French says "guide", thereby underlining the notion of authority and domination (pp. 224, 526). All languages bar Italian indicate that the "dog sledge"/ "team of dogs" belongs to the tourist ("your own"), even though he receives the assistance of an experienced "dog musher" (from "mush" an order to the dogs in a sled team to start or go faster, which comes to mean to travel or drive by dogsled or simply a journey with a dogsled from the French marcher (p.777) (northern languages). Other languages (including French) replace musher with the more familiar terms of "expert" (Italian), "trained guide" (Spanish), "trained helper" (French). This contested scenario of who is in charge is said to begin from the moment the tourist enters the "dog enclosure" (appropriated area surrounded by a fence (p.385)), "compound" (enclosure for black miners (South Africa; prisoner of war camp, or kampong = village (Malay) (p.232)) or the more romantic cortile = courtyard (Italian). In this area the dogs are described as "enthusiastic" (fanatical, ardent (p.391) (Norwegian/English), "impatient" (irritated because of delay (p.591) (German, French), or "anxious" (worried/tense (p.51) (Italian, Spanish), as they "wait" (remain inactive in expectation of (p.1345) (northern languages and Spanish) or "await" (be prepared, anticipate, look forward to (p.80) (Italian, French) to "take you out on a trip" (convey you on a return journey (pp. 1217, 1277) (northern languages)), "outing" (short return pleasure excursion) (p. 835) (Italian, Spanish) or without referent (French) (Table 5).

Table 5. EXPERIENCE/ENJOY (MOTIVATIONAL COMPONENT: IDENTITY) (Differences from Norwegian in bold)

Regardless of these different shades of meaning, it is clear that this passage dealing with experience and sensory delight is motivationally targeted at the tourist as a form of negotiated identity, in terms of who has the authority to define situations as personally real and meaningful. To this end various, gendered textual oppositions and contrasts are set up between man and nature, the tourist and the dog musher, the tourist and the team of dogs, with the tourist emerging victorious from this adventurous experience.


In this study it is taken for granted that the theoretical framework for the promotion of Finnmark resides in the Norwegian source text and that this framework is carried over into the target texts. However, of greater interest to this investigation are the differences that occur within this multi-sensory paradigm, both quantitatively and qualitatively since these differences are ultimately what constitute variation in promotional discourse.

By way of summary, the quantitative data are brought together in tables 6 and 7. In the first of these two tables, it is evident that all target languages use more words to get their messages across than the Norwegian source text. With a target text rounded mean of 230 words, the percentage increases over Norway's 194 are French 10.8, Spanish 12.9, English 17.5, Italian 21.1 and German 29.9. However when the respective convergence ratios are compared, the relative rankings are French (5th), Italian (4th), German (3rd), Spanish (2nd) and English (1st), demonstrating that the two measures are only interrelated at the bottom end of the scale. Even so, table 6 also shows the extent to which the disaggregated single sense data follow the overall patterns of convergence. Here English has greater than average convergence scores for all of the senses, ranging from a high of 0.863 (taste) to a low of 0.482 (hearing) while French is below average on each of the sense convergence scores (especially sight 0.306). In between, and in descending order, are Spanish (above average on 4 senses), German (above average on 3 senses) and Italian (above average on 2 senses). Thus the interpretation seems to be that in order to avoid "loss in translation" a compensatory mechanism is put in place whereby words are added so as to effect the explanatory transition from source to target text. However, the convergence ratios show that only about half the time are these words the same. In order to flush out the differences it is necessary to provide national profiles at the semiotic level of word meaning.

Table 6. TOTALS FOR ALL SENSES (Bold convergence ratio indicates above mean)


Before this final exercise is conducted it is worth noting that table 7 indicates that whereas the Latin based languages are slightly overrepresented in their use of verbs, and the northern languages (plus Spanish) have higher than mean usages of nouns, there is no such patterning for the employment of adjectives. If there is any conclusion to this distribution it is that motivationally, Italian, Spanish and French feel the need to stress action words while Norwegian, English, German and Spanish prefer to emphasize what is on offer in terms of tourism infrastructure. Here areas of underrepresentation are interpreted as instances of loss in translation.

Norwegian Profile

In the source text there is no perceived necessity to explain technical terms such as joik and lavvu. It is thus not clear how the target texts interpret these expressions or from where they derive their interpretations (as gains in translation?) The same can be said of the reference to the "Sámi" of Finnmark on the cover of the Norwegian brochure, an expression which is not replicated in any other version. The use of superlatives about the "gigantic king crab" is justified in reference to its weight and size, while a claim for distinctly Northern Norwegian hospitality is made in reference to the snow hotels of Alta and Kirkenes. Although dog sledging is practiced in other northerly climes, the unfamiliar expression "dog musher" is only retained in the English and German versions, and then without any explanation or elaboration.

English Profile

From the cover of this brochure the initials GB indicate that the UK is predominantly being targeted, and the spelling of the text confirms that this is the case. If there is an overriding theme to the multi-sensory motivational appeals of nostalgia, novelty, fantasy, the tourist as child and identity, it is that of freedom versus control. Thus, not only is the last motif uniquely captioned "enjoy" in the English version, but it occurs under "feel" as "enjoy a drink" and under "the tourist as child" as "adventures...for you to enjoy". This notion of letting one's hair down is reflected expressions of excess, such as the king crab "measuring a full" metre and the use of the compound redundant in the expression "chanting song" and the repetition of "traditional" in the passage on nostalgia (a practice only replicated in the French). It is also enhanced by the use of the second person singular, as in "you will feel", "your snowmobile", "your trip" and "as soon as you arrive at", for instance, in addition to such expressions as "warmth of the hospitality" and "in the company of". Yet this hedonism of away is tempered by the implied restrictions of home. Thus enjoying a drink at the snow hotel is limited by a reference to a single glass (where all other language versions speak of "glasses" and "drinks" in the plural), a reminder perhaps of the UK government's attempt to control binge drinking by introducing the limiting measures of units per day. Other authoritarian terms can be found, for example, in "cooked fish" and "queuing up". It is this contrast between the restrictions of living in the "nanny state" that characterizes contemporary Britain and the perceived freedom of a pristine wilderness experience among pre-modern people that underlines the recurring theme of escape that colors the English text in all five of the sensory motifs and illustrates the motivational blend of push and pull in a promotional context.

German Profile

One can only speculate as to why the German version employs the greatest number of words in its translation, especially when some of expressions have no basis in the source text and are not replicated in any of the other languages. In the section devoted to taste, for instance, the German uniquely talks about the Barents Sea as being "a culinary treasure chest which hides a large amount" of delicacies, and one of the most "fascinating" and "greatest treasures" is the gigantic king crab. The notion of hoarded riches associated with "treasure" (a word repeated for emphasis) is almost piratical in nature and is said to constitute an experience to which the targeted individual can feel "close". There are also unique references to "sincere" warmth, "beverages", the soul "being absorbed in the snow calm" "widely different" winter landscape, "plateaux", here the experiences "are exceeded", experience how "you become" , "local tourist guides carry you forward", etc. However, what distinguishes the German text most from the remaining target texts is the privileging of sight. Thus it refers to "in the light of a campfire", the divers bringing "to daylight from the deep waters of the Barents Sea", the "bluish light" of the snow hotel and "see with your own eyes". Yet, only the last of these four expressions occurs in the section on sight, and then employs a rather awkward expression of redundancy. The fact that the remainder spills over to the other senses, would seem to indicate a predilection for the ocular-centric among German readers, or more accurately, an imputed paramountcy of sight by the tourist industry on this target, market audience. Such a turning back of the theoretical clock from a multi-sensory to a single sense appeal fits in well with an emphasis on the way things were, i.e., nostalgia.

Italian Profile

Among the unique expressions found in the Italian translation are "typical" Sámi tent, "only just" caught, "gap" between claws, in a "cornice" of blue, "silent" snow, as you "traverse the snowy plain" "throughout", "indescribable" nature, "inexpressible", where the adventures "follow each other", "commanding a team of dogs assisted by an expert" "adventure begins in the courtyard", "true and unique" works of art, "seated in a motor-sledge", etc. What is most noticeable, however, is the disproportionate use of verbs, e.g., drinks "will be served", "you will be able to allow", "you will be able to see", "you will be assisted", "you will have the sensation", which table 7 shows is some 5% above the mean. Moreover these action words refer to the future in preference to the imperative of the present (used on only three occasions in the text but in each of the captions), and they give agency and empowerment to the Italian reader. It is the latter who is in control, and has the potential to define and identify with situations. The comforting use of the second person plural indicates that this publicity is not so much addressing the individual, as in the English "me too" version for example, but rather a group of like-minded persons who can share equally in the travel experience.

Spanish Profile

Although the Spanish version is high on convergence (especially as regards hearing and touch) and is similar to the Italian in its greater than average use of verbs and such expressions as "giant royal crab", "you will be served", "your soul", it is more akin to the northern languages in its employment of nouns. There are also similarities with French in the use of such words as "compound", "ambiance", "delights", "contemplate" etc. Nevertheless, the Spanish is not simply a hybrid translation borrowing off others, since there are many unique words to be found in it with distinct cultural meanings. The "bonfire", for example, as an outdoor event in Spain, especially on such pyrotechnically dominated fiestas as John the Baptist on June 24th, would have particular resonance in a Sámi context. Interestingly the bon fire (or good fire from the French) is also derived from bone fire, where bones constitute the fuel (p.129). Similarly the Spanish uniquely talks about the tent being "made of skin", another implicit reference to reindeers. The Spanish version is also the only one to talk about tasting "the savor", the "freshest" fish, the sea "containing" many delights, the crab being one metre "in length", "tranquility" "in your soul", "in constant change to the extent that you advance"..."across the snowy" plains and "experiences rush together". Yet despite all these idiosyncratic references, there does not appear to be a strong underlying motivational appeal in the same way as identified for other languages. However, it is worth noting the occasional religious references which are consonant with the sacredness associated with tourism.

French Profile

Tables 6 and 7 reveal that the French translation employs the least amount of words and has the lowest convergence ratio. It is also uses proportionately more verbs and adjectives when compared to the overall mean percentages. There are plenty of unique expressions, such as "chant", "wood", "icy water", "tip to tip", "calmness", "renewing in crossing the snowy plateau", "where you will live unforgettable experiences", "integral", "helper", "excursion", "from the moment", etc. However, there is an additional underlying theme of sophisticated luxury, an appeal to the previously mentioned ego-enhancing motive (Dann, 1977) of tourism which, though present in other accounts, does not occur to the same extent as it does in the French version. For instance, in the latter, there is use of the word "dwelling", an archaic, formal literary place of residence. Twice readers are invited to "appreciate" (be grateful or aware of) (p.56), the "ambiance". The Barents Sea is said to offer up "delights", of which the "most impressive" is the "royal" crab. Then there is "the grandiose nature of Norwegian Lapland", and the realization that only the French serve up "cocktails" in the Igloo Hotel, when the others have mere "beverages" (German), unspecified "drinks" (Norwegian, Spanish, Italian) or, in the case of the British, a solitary "drink".

Thus, all the target nationalities, in varying degrees, seem to have a sub-text which taps into the motivation specific to the niche market culture. It is this underlying motif that is conveyed in the messages communicated to (potential) tourists by the industry. What is missing, however, is an examination of whether such a language of promotion is actually hitting the target. That is to say, it remains to be seen what words these various language groups employ when they describe Finnmark in motivational terms. For that part of the jigsaw it is necessary to conduct further inquiries among these visitors. Above all such investigations should be a posteriori in nature addressing them in openended formats, whether via interviews, focus groups or responses to pictorial stimuli, so that the language of the respondent is evoked rather than a checklist to a questionnaire designed in an a priori fashion by the industry in its own terms and language. To that missing ingredient should be added the imagery of the destination people, gauged in a similar a posteriori fashion. Only in such a manner will a total picture be obtained, one that brings together all players as they seek to communicate to each other in a joint act of motivational promotion.


The authors wish to thank all those who participated at a staff/postgraduate seminar held in Finnmark University College, Alta, Norway, April 24 2008, in which an outline of this paper was discussed and several worthwhile and duly acknowledged suggestions were offered. Gratitude is also expressed to Jan Berg for help supplied on the translation of the German brochure and to Alicia Ledesma for translation of the whole paper into Spanish for the readers of Estudios y Perspectivas en Turismo.


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Received 05 March 2009
Resubmitted April 19, 2009
Accepted 23 April 2009
Reviewed anonymously

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