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Analysing Translation Studies English Language Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 1330 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Nida points out that it is wrong to speak of a Theory of Translation because translating is essentially a technology which is dependent upon a number of disciplines. Every translator or interpreter uses a number of different theoretical models and implications, drawing on several disciplines. It is for this particular reason that the translation of the same text is not uniform when it is performed by several translators. Translation is the process and, as a process, it should “be viewed from so many different perspectives” (Nida 1991, p.20), including the writer’s intent, changes in reading preferences, diversity of source and target cultures, numerous nuances of the source text, and stylistic features of the text. As not all aspects can be transferred from the source text into the target text, the translator carefully chooses these aspects, analysing the text within a certain context and relying on certain theoretical concepts taken from relevant disciplines. For instance, as translation revolves around the knowledge of two languages, it is necessary for the translator to delve into the essence of linguistics and assess the source text from the linguistic viewpoint, identifying “the differences in two linguistic systems” (Schaffner & Wiesemann 2001, p.7). In this regard, a ‘Theory of Translation’, according to Malmkjaer (2005, p.22), should be subsumed “under linguistic theory”. The linguistic theory of translation develops diverse methods and techniques of translation which are either “optional or obligatory” (Schaffner & Wiesemann 2001, p.8), and these methods help translators transfer the meaning from the source text into the target text.

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Likewise, sociolinguistics provides valuable insights into the use of theoretical concepts of translation in practice and the “ways in which societies employ language in interpersonal relations” (Nida 1991, p.25). The translator who draws on sociolinguistics when translating from one language into another pays special attention to extralinguistic and paralinguistic aspects of the text. A text (or a speech) can be properly translated only if the translator (or the interpreter) is able to draw parallels between the content of a text (or a speech) and extralinguistic and paralinguistic codes used by the writer (or the speaker). Knowledge of extralinguistic and paralinguistic codes also allows the translator to bring together the content and form and thus deduce a more exact meaning of a text. As such, a ‘Theory of Translation’ within sociolinguistics helps the translator fill the gaps in the process of decoding messages sent by the writer to the reader. Cultural studies develop a theory of translation that “resists dominant target-language cultural values so as to signify the linguistic and cultural difference of the foreign text” (Venuti 1995, p.18). The cultural theory of translation complements the linguistic theory of translation by placing the text within the socio-cultural context. In light of this, the juxtaposition of the linguistic theory of translation and the cultural theory of translation allows to establish “the systematic relationship between linguistic structures at the textual micro-level and social, cultural, historical conditions of text production and reception” (Schaffner & Wiesemann 2001, p.13).

Delving deeper into the essence of translation, scholars have also found out that the meaning of the text has relevance to three crucial components – the writer, the message, and the reader (Riccardi 2002, p.84; Armstrong 2005, p.44). The more information the translator has of the writer, of the exact message, and the intended reader, the more accurate translation he/she will produce. This recognition has paved the way to “the advance of the hermeneutics of translation” (Munday 2001, p.163). As Kin Yuen (2001, p.334) acknowledges, “the structure of translation was discovered by modern hermeneutics”. The development of the structure of translation by hermeneutics provides conclusive evidence that a ‘Theory of Translation’ is a misnomer for other disciplines. It is hermeneutics that has equated translation with interpretation, thus rejecting the assumption that translation is a simple reproduction of the text in the target language (Kin Yuen 2001, p.335). The translator does not reproduce the text in another language; he/she interprets it, adhering to certain norms and theoretical concepts.

A ‘Theory of Translation’ can not be regarded as a separate discipline or science because a separate discipline needs its metalanguage to create specific theoretical concepts; yet a ‘Theory of Translation’ employs metalanguage of the above mentioned disciplines to formulate definitions and concepts. For instance, the linguistic theory of translation operates with such concepts as ‘overt translation’, ‘covert translation’, ‘equivalence’, ‘communicative translation’, and ‘adaptation’ (Schaffner & Wiesemann 2001, p.8), while the cultural theory of translation uses such terms as ‘domestication’, ‘foreignisation’, and ‘resistancy’ (Schaffner & Wiesemann 2001, p.12). As a result of the lack of metalanguage, a ‘Theory of Translation’ has “no agreement on the central concepts” (Schaffner & Wiesemann 2001, p.6). When speaking of a ‘Theory of Translation’, scholars use such categories as ‘intersemiotic translation’ and ‘interlingual translation” (Gentzler 2001, p.1), thus explicitly emphasising the fact that the translation theory stems from such disciplines as semiotics, linguistics, and the philosophy of language and that it is only a model which is used to bring up questions for the research. As a model, a ‘Theory of Translation’ relies not on sound theoretical conception but rather on assumptions and hypotheses; as such, a ‘Theory of Translation’ is limited and can not be regarded as a valid equivalence for the mentioned disciplines. A ‘Theory of Translation’ moves along the vicious circle; it has to be drawn on reliable data from the research. Yet the research can not be conducted if theoretical concepts are not formulated.

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As the essay has clearly shown, there is no such a thing as a ‘Theory of Translation’; while this term is used in academic sources, it is more correct to regard a ‘Theory of Translation’ as a misnomer for such disciplines as linguistics, sociology, sociolinguistics, hermeneutics, philosophy of language, psychology, narratology, semiotics, stylistics, literary history, and cultural history in view of “the multifaceted nature of translational phenomena” (Malmkjaer 2005, p.21). As the acquired evidence demonstrates, it is not a “mere question of words… there [is] a deeper meaning behind these terminological hesitations” (Lambert, 2006, p.77). A consolidated ‘Theory of Translation’ has not been built yet; instead, as Schaffner and Wiesmann (2001, p.6) put it, there is a “multiplicity of different approaches, each of each focuses on specific aspects, looking at the product or the process of translation from a specific angle”. All these theoretical approaches to translation embedded in various disciplines are “not necessarily exclusive, but rather complementary” (Schaffner and Wiesmann 2001, p.13). To subsume a ‘Theory of Translation’ into a separate discipline or science, it is necessary to develop a metalanguage specific to it and, using this metalanguage, formulate new concepts and definitions which will generate a unified ‘Theory of Translation’.


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