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Translation and Translation Studies

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Translation and Translation Studies (Definition and a brief history of the discipline)

Hermes the god of thieves and liars is also the god of translation. But he has so many other tasks as the god of roads, commerce, travel (these can be connected to translation) as well as arts, magic and crafts not talking about matrimonial matchmaking… A translator has, at least, as many tasks and roles when translating that I hope to show you this term.

As a translator, Hermes is a messenger from the gods to humans. As an interpreter who bridges the boundaries with strangers he is a hermeneus. So the word “hermeneutics” for the art of interpreting hidden meaning can also be traced back to his name. (By the way in Greek a lucky find was also a hermaion.)

What is translation?
1/ oral form is called interpreting or interpretation
2/ written form is called translation that has roughly 2 main categories from our point of view: (a) specialized translation
(b) literary translation

(Task: Look up the word in different dictionaries and see how different explanations work) e.g translation (an on-line dictionary; mind the phrase underlined: do you agree?) – a written communication in a second language having the same meaning as the written communication in a first language – a uniform movement without rotation (see the meaning of Hungarian word ‘fordítás’); [cf. ‘What’s in a Word?’ my lecture of April 08, 2007 now an article in Faces of English soon in print] – the act of changing in form or shape or appearance; “a photograph is a translation of a scene onto a two-dimensional surface” etc.

The most common explanation: translation is the expression in one language (target language TL) what has been expressed in the source language (SL)

• the notion of movement btw. languages
• …of some kind of content and context
• …of obligation to find “equivalents” (expression commonly used in the 1960s and ‘70s; linguistic schools) which “preserve” features of the original Is total equivalence possible?

There is no absolute synonymy btw. words in the same language; even less btw. different languages (one of the causes some say it is impossible to translate). – sg. ‘lost’ or ‘gained’ in the process –> translators ‘betraying’ the author’s intentions (cf: Hermes; Italian proverb: traduttore traditore).’translator is a traitor’ ‘a fordító ferdítő’ (Kosztolányi ÁBÉCÉ a fordításról…. Gondolat, 1957)

The term Translation has several meanings:
Translation –> the general subject field, the abstract concept encompassing the other two Translating –> the process, the activity (our main interests during the term) A Translation –> the product, the translated text, the target language text

A theory of translation must explain both the process and the product. Previously it was rather the product theorists tried to analyse, later interest turned towards the process, and translation today is as much about the translation of cultural, political, and historical contexts and concepts as it is about language. (cf. The cultural turn of the 1990s! the emergence of a new discipline called Cultural Studies that uses translation moreover literary translation as its main field of comparative analysis; all these have generated the emergence of an independent discipline called Translation Studies.) Cf.[translation turn in Cultural Studies; translating cultures is not “cultural translation”; see Rushdie= a translated man]

↓ ↓ Linguistics (applied linguistics) Literature (comparative literature)

Both fields dealt with it marginally and created their own translation theories, explanations (by researchers in linguistics and in literature but not translators!)

First linguists: looking for basic similarities in languages –> computers, machine translation They try to understand the mental process of translation: what happens in the ‘black box’ the mind of the translator. (Input and output) 1)Psychological studies: cognitive science

(a) perception
(b) information processing (encoding and decoding of messages) ( c )memory

2)Language (concerned with psychological a social aspects)
(a)psycholinguistics –> the process in the mind of the translator →focus on decoding and encoding (b)sociolinguistics –> place SLT and TLT in their cultural contexts→ focus on the participants (nature of the message; how codes are used etc)

(results made possible to create computer programmes that work in the case of simple systems such as METEO: weather forecast uses a relatively small vocabulary cf. Lecture 3.)

All translation is communication (and all communication is translation) The basic scheme (monolingual):
1/ receive signals containing messages in a communicative system
2/ deconstruct
3/ reconstruct

(vertical transfer e.g. historical epochs; horizontal transfer: e. g. social classes)–>(cf. readers’ interpretation of a text)

The basic scheme ( BILINGUAL )
The translator is a communicator, “a mediating agent” btw. 2 different languages –> 2 different monolingual language communities; decodes message transmitted in one lang. and re-encodes it in another. The main diff. lies in the encoding, re-encoding process:

• the message must be re-encoded into a different language • the same message as received
• aimed at a group of receivers who are not the same as the original sender

Faced by a text we have to work out
1) the semantic sense of words, sentences …
2) its communicative value
3) its place in time and space
4) information about the participants involved both in its production and reception

There are 6 questions to consider:

1 WHAT? – message contained in the text

2 WHY? – intention of the sender (purpose of the text issued; underlying structure : informing; persuading, flattering etc. but text usually possess more than a single function –> multiple function –> task of the receiver to find primary intention, function

3 WHEN? – time of communication realized in the text (e.g. historical context; past, present, future…)

4 HOW? – a) manner of delivery (serious, ironic); tenor of discourse b) medium of communication (channels: verbal, writing…); mode of discourse

5 WHERE? – place of communication (physical location realized in text)

6 WHO? Participants involved in communication (sender –source language, receiver –target language (reveal characteristics of speaker/writer as individual)

Lets see the a model of communication in the case of translation proper: 1 translator receives signal 1 containing message
2 recognizes code 1
3 decodes signal 1 source language 4 retrieves message
5 comprehends message
6 translator selects code 2 target language 7 encodes message by means of code 2
8 selects channel
9 transmits signal 2 containing message (Bell: 19)

As a result: there are 2 codes, 2 signals 2 texts –>2 sets of content (more than 1 message) as there is no 100% equivalence –> 2 kinds of explanation

Translation process:
transformation of SL text into TL text by means of processes, which take place within memory 1) analysis of SL text (language specific) into a non-lang. specific, universal semantic representation (cf. metatext) 2) synthesis of it into another lang. specific (TL) text

Theory won’t solve translators’ problems but helps when looking for solutions in particular cases. (more conscious )

What is the unit of translation? Word, phrase, sentence, paragraph –but one has to have the whole text (with its special qualities) in mind when trying to find solutions!

What is ‘translation studies’?
A new academic discipline that is a) multilingual, b) interdisciplinary James Holmes defined it as “the complex of problems clustered round the phenomenon of translating and translation.

It is really the discipline of the 1990’s:
1)a number of specialized translating and interpreting courses (in the UK. at least 20 postgraduate courses in 2000) and even more BA course at departments of translation in a number of European and non-European countries./ A smaller number of schools specialized in literary translation (but nearly everywhere in Europe!) 2) conferences and workshops (organized by universities and international societies e.g. EST) 3) journals Babel (NL), Meta (Ca), Target (Israel/Belgium)… 4) Publisher specialized on TS:

Multilingual Matters, John Benjamins, Rodopi, Routledge, St. Jerome

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