Main issues in translation studies
Aims of this chapter
This chapter sets out toexamine:what exactly is understood by thisfast growingfield;and briefly describes the history of the development andaimsofthe discipline.
The concept of translationThe term "translation" itself has several meanings: it can refer to the general subject field, the product (the text that has been translated) or the process (the act of producing the translation, known as translating).
The process of translation between two different written languages involves the translator changing an original written text (the source text or ST) in the original verbal language (the source language or SL) into a written text (the target text or TT) in a different verbal language (the target language or TL).
This type corresponds to 'interlingualtranslation' and is one ofthe threecategories of translation described by RomanJakobson1.intralingualtranslation, or 'rewording': 'an interpretation ofverbal signsby means of other signs of the same language';2interlingualtranslation, or 'translation proper': 'an interpretationof verbalsigns by means ofverbal signs of someother language';3intersemiotictranslation, or 'transmutation': 'an interpretationof verbalsigns by means of signs of non-verbal sign systems').
Throughout history, written and spoken translations have played acrucial roleincommunication,for example inproviding access toimportant textsfor scholarship and religious purposes.However, asan academic subjecttranslation has onlyreally begun in the past fiftyyears.
IntheEnglish-speakingworld, this discipline is nowknownas'translation studies', thanks tothe efforts of JamesS. Holmes.Holmes describes the then nascent discipline asbeing concernedwith 'the complex of problems clustered round thephenomenonoftranslating.andtranslations'
By 1988, MarySnell- Hornby, in the first edition of her Translation Studies: An Integrated Approach, was writing that 'the demand that translation studies should be viewed as an independent discipline . . . has come from several quarters in recent years' (Snell-Hornby 1988).By 1995, the time of the second edition of her work, Snell-Hornby is able to talk in the preface of 'the breathtaking development of translation studies as an independent discipline' and the 'prolific international discussion' on the subject.
Mona Baker, in her introduction to The Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation (1997a), talks effusively of the richness of the 'exciting new discipline, perhaps the discipline of the 1990s', bringing together scholars from a wide variety ofoftenmore traditional disciplines.
The development of TS
Thereare two very visible ways in which translation studies hasbecome moreprominent.First, there has been a proliferation of specialized translating and interpreting courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. In the UK, the first specialized university postgraduate courses in interpreting and translating were set up in the 1960s. In the academic year 1999/2000,there were at least twenty postgraduate translation courses in the UKand severaldesignated 'CentresofTranslation.
Caminadeand Pym(1995) list at least 250 university-level bodies in over sixty countries offering four-year undergraduate degrees and/ or postgraduate courses in translation. These courses, which attract thousands of students, are mainly oriented towards training future professional commercial translators and, interpreters.
Proliferationof conferences, books and journals on translation
The 1990s also saw a proliferation of conferences, books and journals on translation in many languages. Long-standing international translationstudies journals such as Babel (the Netherlands), Meta (Canada) havenow been joined by, amongstothers, AcrossLanguages and Cultures (Hungary), Literaturein Translation (UK), Perspectives (France), Target (Israel/Belgium), The Translator (UK).Turjuman(Morocco).
The lists of European publishers such asJohn Benjamins,Multilingual Matters,Rodopi,Routledge and St Jeromenow contain considerable numbers of books in the field of translation studies. In addition, there are variousprofessional publications dedicated to the practice of translation (in the UK these includeThe Linguist of the Institute of Linguists
In the year 1999-2000, for instance, international translation conferences were held in a large number of countries and on a wide variety of key themes,including:-translation and training translators (Bratislava, Slovakia);-literary translation (Mons, Belgium);-research models in translation studies (UMIST, Manchester, UK);
-gender and translation (Norwich, UK);-translation as/at the crossroads of culture (Lisbon, Portugal);-translation and globalization (Tangiers, Morocco);-legal translation (Geneva, Switzerland);translationand meaning (Maastricht, the Netherlands and Lodz, Poland);the history of translation (Leon, Spain);transadaptationand pedagogical challenges (Turku, Finland);translation-focused comparative literature (Pretoria, South Africaand Salvador, Brazil).
A brief history of the discipline
Writings on the subject of translating go far back in recorded history.The practiceof translation was discussed by, for example, Cicero andHorace (firstcentury BCE) and St Jerome (fourth centuryCE).In St Jerome's case, his approach to translating the GreekBibleinto Latin would affect later translations of the Scriptures.Indeed, the translation of the Bible was to be - for well over a thousandyears thebattlegroundof conflicting ideologies in western Europe.
However, although the practice of translating is long established,the studyof the field developed into an academic discipline only in thesecond halfof the twentieth century.Beforethat, translation had normallybeen anelement of language learning in modern language courses. In fact,from the late eighteenth century to the 1960s, language learning insecondary schoolsin many countries had come to be dominated by what was knownasthe grammar-translation method.
Thismethodcentredonthe rote study of the grammatical rules and structures of the foreignlanguage. These rules were bothpractisedand tested by the translation ofa seriesof usually unconnected and artificially constructedsentences exemplifyingthe structure(s) being studied, an approach that persists evennowadays in certain countries andcontexts.
Thedirect method or communicativeapproach
However, thegrammartranslationmethodfell into increasing disrepute, particularly inmany English-languagecountries, with the rise of the direct method orcommunicative approachto English language teaching in the 1960s and 1970s.Thisapproachplaces stress on students' natural capacity to learn languageand attemptsto replicate 'authentic' language learning conditions in the classroom.
It often privileges spoken over written forms, at least initially,and tendsto shun the use of the students' mother tongue. This focus led tothe abandoningof translation in language learning. As far as teaching wasconcerned, translationthen tended to become restricted to higher-level anduniversity languagecourses and professional translatortraining.
the translation workshop
In the USA, translation - specifically literary translation - waspromoted inuniversities in the 1960s bythe translation workshop concept.Based on I. A. Richards's reading workshops and practical criticism approachthat beganin the 1920s, thesetranslationworkshopswereintended as a platform for the introduction ofnew translationsinto the target culture and for the discussion of the finer principlesof the translation process and of understanding atext.
Running parallel to this approach was that of comparative literature, where literature is studied and comparedtransnationallyandtransculturally, necessitating the readingof some literature in translation. This would later link into the growthofcourses of the cultural studiestype.
Another area in which translation became the subject of researchwas contrastiveanalysis. This is the study of two languages in contrast inan attempt to identify general and specific differences between them.Translations andtranslatedexamples provided much of the data in these studies (e.g. DiPietro1971, James 1980
The contrastive approach heavily influencedother studies, such asVinay andDarbelnet's(1958) andCatford's(1965), whichovertly stated their aim of assisting translation research. Althoughuseful, contrastiveanalysis does not, however, incorporate sociocultural andpragmatic factors, nor the role of translation as a communicative act.
Nevertheless,thecontinued application of a linguistic approach in general,and specificlinguistic models such as generative grammar or functionalgrammar hasdemonstrated an inherent and gut linkwith translation.The more systematic, and mostly linguistic-oriented, approach tothe studyof translation began to emerge in the 1950s and 1960s.
linguistic-oriented approachto the study oftranslation: examples
Jean-Paul Vinay and JeanDarbelnet(1958) produced a contrastive approach that categorized whatthey saw happening in the practice of translation between French and English;AlfredMalblanc(1963) did the same for translation between French and German;GeorgesMounin's(1963) examined linguistic issues of translation;Eugene Nida (1964a) incorporated elements of Chomsky's generative grammar as a theoretical underpinning of his books, which were initially designed to be practical manuals for Bible translators
This more systematic and 'scientific' approach in many ways began tomark outthe territory of the academic investigation of translation. The word'science' was used by Nida in the title of his 1964 book(Towards aScience ofTranslating,1964a); the Germanequivalentwas takenup by WolframWilss,byKollerinandby theLeipzigschool, where scholars such asKadeandNeubertbecameactive.
TheHolmes l Toury'map
A seminalpaper in the development of the field as a distinct disciplinewas JamesS. Holmes's 'The name and nature of translation studies' (Holmes 1988b/2000).Inhis Contemporary Translation Theories,Gentzler(1993:92) describesHolmes's paper as 'generally accepted as the foundingstatement forthe field'.
Holmesdraws attention to the limitations imposed at the time by the fact that translation research was dispersed across older disciplines. He also stresses the need to forge 'other communication channels, cutting across the traditionaldisciplines toreach all scholars working in the field, from whatever background'(1988bl2000: 173).
Crucially, Holmes puts forward an overall framework, describingwhat translationstudies covers. Thisframeworkhas subsequently beenpresented bythe leading Israeli translation scholar GideonTouryas in figure 1.1.InHolmes's explanations of this framework, theobjectives of the 'pure' areas of research are:
1the description of the phenomena of translation (descriptive translationtheory);2 the establishment of general principles to explain and predictsuchphenomena(translationtheory).
The 'theoretical' branch is divided into general and partial theories.By 'general', Holmes is referring to those writings that seek to describeor accountfor every type of translation and to make generalizations that will berelevant for translation as a whole.
'Partial' theoretical studies are restrictedaccording to the parameters discussed below.The other branch of 'pure' research in Holmes's map is descriptive.Descriptive translation studies(DTS) has three possible foci: examinationof (1) the product, (2) the function and(3)the process:
1.Function-oriented DTS:Holmes means the description of the'function of translations’in the recipient sociocultural situation: it is a studyof contexts rather than texts'.Issuesthat may beresearched includewhichbooks were translatedwhenandwhere, andwhatinfluences theyexerted. This area, which Holmes terms'socio-translationstudies‘/Cultural TS
2.Product-orientedDTSexamines existing translations. This caninvolve thedescription or analysis of a single ST-TT pair or acomparative analysisof several TTs of the sameST. These smaller-scalestudies can build up into a larger body oftranslation analysislooking at a specific period, language ortext/discourse type. Larger-scalestudies can be either diachronic (followingdevelopmentovertime) or synchronic (at a single point or period intime).
3.Process-orientedDTSisconcerned with thepsychology of translation, i.e. it is concerned with trying to findout whathappens in the mind of a translator. Despite some later work onthink-aloud protocols (where recordings are made of translators'verbalization ofthe translation process as they translate), this is an area ofresearch which has still not yet been systematically analyzed.
The results of DTS research can be fed into the theoreticalbranch toevolve either a general theory of translation or, more likely, partialtheories of translation 'restricted' according to the subdivisions in figure1.1above.
1. Medium-restrictedtheoriessubdivide according to translationby machineand humans, with further subdivisions according to whetherthe Machine/computeris working alone or as an aid to the humantranslator, towhether the human translation is written or spoken and towhether spokentranslation (interpreting) is consecutive or simultaneous.
Area-restricted theoriesare restricted to specific languages or groupsof languages and/orcultures. Holmes notes that language-restrictedtheories areclosely related to work in contrastive linguistics and stylistics.
Rank-restricted theoriesare linguistic theories that have beenrestricted toa specific level oftheword or sentence. At the timeHolmes waswriting, there was already a trend towards text linguistics, i.e.text rankanalysis.
Text-type restricted theorieslook at specific discourse types orgenres; e.g. literary, business and technical translation. Text-type approachescame to prominence with the work of Reiss and Vermeer,amongst others.
The term time-restrictedis self-explanatory, referring to theoriesand translationslimited according to specific time frames and periods.The historyof translation falls into this category.Problem-restricted theoriescan refer to specific problems suchas equivalence- a key issue of the 1960s and 1970s - or to a wider questionof whether universals of translated language exist.
The 'applied' branch of Holmes'sframework
Translatortraining: teaching methods, testing techniques,curriculumdesign;Translationaids: such as dictionaries, grammars andinformationtechnology;translationcriticism: the evaluation of translations, including the markingof student translations and the reviews of published translations.
The surge in translation studies since the 1970s has seen different areasof Holmes'smap come to the fore. Contrastive analysis has fallen by the wayside.The linguistic-oriented 'science' of translation has continuedstrongly inGermany, but the concept of equivalence associated with it has declined.Germany has seen the rise of theoriescentredaround texttypes (Reiss)and text purpose (theskopostheory of Reiss and Vermeer
TheHallidayaninfluence of discourse analysis andsystemic functionalgrammar, which views language as a communicative act in a socioculturalcontext, has been prominent over the past decades, especiallyin Australiaand the UK, and has been applied to translation in a series of worksby scholars such asBell(1991), Baker (1992) andHatimand Mason (1990,1997)
The late 1970s and the 1980s alsosawthe rise of adescriptive approachthat had its origins in comparative literature and Russian Formalism.A pioneeringcentrehas been Tel Aviv, whereItamarEven-Zoharand GideonTouryhave pursued the idea of the literarypolysystemin which,amongst other things, different literatures and genres, includingtranslated andnon-translated works, compete for dominance.
Thepolysystemistshaveworkedwith a Belgium-based group including Jose Lambert and the lateAndreLefevere,and with the UK-based scholars SusanBassnettand TheoHermans.
A key volume was the collection of essays edited byHermans, TheManipulation ofLiterature: Studies in Literary Translation(Hermans1985a), whichgave riseto the name of the'Manipulation School'. This dynamic, culturallyoriented approach heldswayfor much of the following decade,andlinguisticslookedverystaid.
The 1990s saw the incorporation of new schools and concepts,with Canadian-basedtranslation and gender research led by Sherry Simon, theBraziliancannibalistschool promoted by Else Vieira, postcolonialtranslation theory, with the prominent figures of the Bengali scholarsTejaswiniNiranjanaandGayatriSpivakand, in the USA, thecultural-studies-oriented analysisof Lawrence Venuti, who champions the cause of the translator
For years, the practice of translation was considered to be derivativeand secondary, an attitude that inevitably devalued any academic study ofthe activity. Now, after much neglect and repression, translation studieshas becomewell established. It is making swift advances worldwide, althoughnot withouta hint of trepidation. Translation and translation studies often continueto take place within the context of modern language departments,and thepractice of translation is still often denied parity with otheracademicresearch.