Translation History Culture: A Sourcebook (Translation Studies)

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  1. Andre Lefevere
  2. Translation, History, Narrative – Meta – Érudit
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Nor is there any English phrase in general use that fulfils the same function as the French. In determining what to use in English, the translator must: 1 Accept the untranslatability of the SL phrase in the TL on the linguistic level.

Aims of Translation Studies (ENG)

The translator, he believed, had the responsibility of finding a solution to the most daunting of problems, and he declared that the functional view must be adopted with regard not only to meaning but also to style and form. The wealth of studies on Bible translation and the documentation of the way in which individual translators of the Bible attempt to solve their problems through ingenious solutions is a particularly rich source of examples of semiotic transformation.

In translating Bon appetit in the scenario given above, the translator was able to extract a set of criteria from the text in order to determine what a suitable TL rendering might be, but clearly in a different context the TL phrase would alter. The emphasis always in translation is on the reader or listener, and the translator must tackle the SL text in such a way that the TL version will correspond to the SL version.

The nature of that correspondence may vary considerably see Section 3 but the principle remains constant. To attempt to impose the value system of the SL culture onto the TL culture is dangerous ground, and the translator should not be tempted by the school that pretends to determine the original intentions of an author on the basis of a self-contained text.

The translator cannot be the author of the SL text, but as the author of the TL text has a clear moral responsibility to the TL readers. The image conjured up by this sentence is somewhat startling and, unless the context referred quite specifically to such a location, the sentence would seem obscure and virtually meaningless.

The English idiom that most closely corresponds to the Italian is to beat about the bush, also obscure unless used idiomatically, and hence the sentence correctly translated becomes John is beating about the bush. Both English and Italian have corresponding idiomatic expressions that render the idea of prevarication, and so in the process of interlingual translation one idiom is substituted for another. That substitution is made not on the basis of the linguistic elements in the phrase, nor on the basis of a corresponding or similar image contained in the phrase, but on the function of the idiom.

But once the translator moves away from close linguistic equivalence, the problems of determining the exact nature of the level of equivalence aimed for begin to emerge. Albrecht Neubert, whose work on translation is unfortunately not available to English readers, distinguishes between the study of translation as a process and as a product.

In such a translation one is concerned with such correspondences as poetry to poetry, sentence to sentence, and concept to concept. Dynamic equivalence is based on the principle of equivalent effect, i. As an example of this type of equivalence, he quotes J. The principle of equivalent effect which has enjoyed great popularity in certain cultures at certain times, involves us in areas of speculation and at times can lead to very dubious conclusions. It is an established fact in Translation Studies that if a dozen translators tackle the same poem, they will produce a dozen different versions.

This invariant core, he claims, is represented by stable, basic and constant semantic elements in the text, whose existence can be proved by experimental semantic condensation. Transformations, or variants, are those changes which do not modify the core of meaning but influence the expressive form.

Andre Lefevere

In short, the invariant can be defined as that which exists in common between all existing translations of a single work. Equivalence overall results from the relation between signs themselves, the relationship between signs and what they stand for, and the relationship between signs, what they stand for and those who use them. The norms governing the writing of letters vary considerably from language to language and from period to period, even within Europe. Hence a woman writing to a friend in would no more have signed her letters with love or in sisterhood as a contemporary Englishwoman might, any more than an Italian would conclude letters without a series of formal greetings to the recipient of the letter and his relations.

In both these cases, the letter-writing formulae and the obscenity, the translator decodes and attempts to encode pragmatically. The question of defining equivalence is being pursued by two lines of development in Translation Studies. The first, rather predictably, lays an emphasis on the special problems of semantics and on the transfer of semantic content from SL to TL.

With the second, which explores the question of equivalence of literary texts, the work of the Russian Formalists and the Prague Linguists, together with more recent developments in discourse analysis, have broadened the problem of equivalence in its application to the translation of such texts. And those procedures cannot be considered in isolation, but must be located within the specific cultural—temporal context within which they are utilized.

The whisky market, older and more traditional than the Martini market, is catered to in advertising by an emphasis on the quality of the product, on the discerning taste of the buyer and on the social status the product will confer.

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The advertisement consists of a written text and a photograph of the product. Martini, on the other hand, is marketed to appeal to a different social group, one that has to be won over to the product which has appeared relatively recently. Accordingly, Martini is marketed for a younger outlook and lays less stress on the question of the quality of the product but much more on the fashionable status that it will confer.

The photograph. These two types of advertisement have become so stereotyped in British culture that they are instantly recognizable and often parodied. With the advertising of the same two products in an Italian weekly news magazine there is likewise a dual set of images—the one stressing purity, quality, social status; the other stressing glamour, excitement, trendy living and youth. But because Martini is long established and Scotch is a relatively new arrival on the mass market, the images presented with the products are exactly the reverse of the British ones. The same modes, but differently applied, are used in the advertising of these two products in two societies.

The products may be the same in both societies, but they have different values.

Hence Scotch in the British context may conceivably be defined as the equivalent of Martini in the Italian context, and vice versa, in so far as they are presented through advertising as serving equivalent social functions. The signs of the text are in a relation of opposition to the signs and structures outside the text. A translator must therefore bear in mind both its autonomous and its communicative aspects and any theory of equivalence should take both elements into account. It is again an indication of the low status of translation that so much time should have been spent on discussing what is lost in the transfer of a text from SL to TL whilst ignoring what can also be gained, for the translator can at times enrich or clarify the SL text as a direct result of the translation process.

Eugene Nida is a rich source of information about the problems of loss in translation, in particular about the difficulties encountered by the translator when faced with terms or concepts in the SL that do not exist in the TL. He cites the case of Guaica, a language of southern Venezuela, where there is little trouble in finding satisfactory terms for the English murder, stealing, lying, etc.

The large number of terms in Finnish for variations of snow, in Arabic for aspects of camel behaviour, in English for light and water, in French for types of bread, all present the translator with, on one level, an untranslatable problem. Bible translators have documented the additional difficulties involved in, for example, the concept of the Trinity or the social significance of the parables in certain cultures. In addition to the lexical problems, there are of course languages that do not have tense systems or concepts of time that in any way correspond to Indo-European systems.

Catford distinguishes two types of untranslatability, which he terms linguistic and cultural. On the linguistic level, untranslatability occurs when there is no lexical or syntactical substitute in the TL for an SL item. So, for example, the German Um wieviel Uhr darf man Sie morgen wecken? Yet both can be adequately translated into English once the rules of English structure are applied.

A translator would unhesitatingly render the two sentences as What time would you like to be woken tomorrow? Linguistic untranslatability, he argues, is due to differences in the SL and the TL, whereas cultural untranslatability is due to the absence in the TL culture of a relevant situational feature for the SL text. Now on one level, Catford is right. The English phrases can be translated into most European languages and democracy is an internationally used term.

But he fails to take into account two significant factors, and this seems to typify the problem of an overly narrow approach to the question of untranslatability. Moreover the English term home, like the French foyer, has a range of associative meanings that are not translated by the more restricted phrase chez moi.

Translation, History, Narrative – Meta – Érudit

Home, therefore, would appear to present exactly the same range of problems as the Finnish or Japanese bathroom. With the translation of democracy, further complexities arise. Catford feels that the term is largely present in the lexis of many languages and, although it may be relatable to different political situations, the context will guide the reader to select the appropriate situational features. The problem here is that the reader will have a concept of the term based on his or her own cultural context, and will apply that particularized view accordingly.

Hence the difference between the adjective democratic as it appears in the following three phrases is fundamental to three totally different political concepts: the American Democratic Party the German Democratic Republic the democratic wing of the British Conservative Party. So although the term is international, its usage in different contexts shows that there is no longer if indeed there ever was any common ground from which to select relevant situational features.

If culture is perceived as dynamic, then the terminology of social structuring must be dynamic also. In so far as language is the primary modelling system within a culture, cultural untranslatability must be de facto implied in any process of translation. The first is defined as A situation in which the linguistic elements of the original cannot be replaced adequately in structural, linear, functional or semantic terms in consequence of a lack of denotation or connotation.

The second type goes beyond the purely linguistic: A situation where the relation of expressing the meaning, i. Since English and Italian are sufficiently close to follow a loosely approximate pattern of sentence organization with regard to component parts and word order, the sentence appears fully translatable. The conceptual level is also translatable: an event occurring in time past is being reported in time present.

The difficulty concerns the translation of the Italian noun, which emerges in English as a noun phrase. Because of the differences in tense-usage, the TL sentence may take one of two forms depending on the context of the sentence, and because of the length of the noun phrase, this can also be cut down, provided the nature of the accident can be determined outside the sentence by the receiver. In short, tomponamento is a sign that has a culture-bound or context meaning, which cannot be translated even by an explanatory phrase.

The relation between the creative subject and its linguistic expression cannot therefore be adequately replaced in the translation. Mounin acknowledges the great benefits that advances in linguistics have brought to Translation Studies; the development of structural linguistics, the work of Saussure, of Hjelmslev, of the Moscow and Prague Linguistic Circles has been of great value, and the work of Chomsky and the transformational linguists has also had its impact, particularly with regard to the study of semantics.

Mounin feels that it is thanks to developments in contemporary linguistics that we can and must accept that: 1 Personal experience in its uniqueness is untranslatable. In other words, Mounin believes that linguistics demonstrates that translation is a dialectic process that can be accomplished with relative success: Translation may always start with the clearest situations, the most concrete messages, the most elementary universals. But as it involves the consideration of a language in its entirety, together with its most subjective messages, through an examination of common situations and a multiplication of contacts that need clarifying, then there is no doubt that communication through translation can never be completely finished, which also demonstrates that it is never wholly impossible either.

Translation theory tends to be normative, to instruct translators on the OPTIMAL solution; actual translation work, however, is pragmatic; the translator resolves for that one of the possible solutions which promises a maximum of effect with a minimum of effort. In the same way, literary criticism does not seek to provide a set of instructions for producing the ultimate poem or novel, but rather to understand the internal and external structures operating within and around a work of art. From the above discussion, it would seem quite clear that any debate about the existence of a science of translation is out of date: there already exists, with Translation Studies, a serious discipline investigating the process of translation, attempting to clarify the question of equivalence and to examine what constitutes meaning within that process.

Theory and practice are indissolubly linked, and are not in conflict. The case for Translation Studies and for translation itself is summed up by Octavio Paz in his short work on translation. No text is entirely original because language itself, in its essence, is already a translation: firstly, of the non- verbal world and secondly, since every sign and every phrase is the translation of another sign and another phrase.

However, this argument can be turned around without losing any of its validity: all texts are original because every translation is distinctive.

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Every translation, up to a certain point, is an invention and as such it constitutes a unique text. What can be done in the time and space allowed here is to look at the way in which certain basic lines of approach to translation have emerged at different periods of European and American culture and to consider how the role and function of translation has varied. So, for example, the distinction between word for word and sense for sense translation, established within the Roman system, has continued to be a point for debate in one way or another right up to the present, while the relationship between translation and emergent nationalism can shed light on the significance of differing concepts of culture.

The persecution of Bible translators during the centuries when scholars were avidly translating and retranslating Classical Greek and Roman authors is an important link in the chain of the development of capitalism and the decline of feudalism.