EDITORS: Gambier, Yves; Schlesinger, Miriam; Stolze, Radegundis
TITLE: Doubts and Directions in Translation Studies
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
Prencipe Vittoria, Phd, Departement of Linguistics, Università Cattolica ''Sacro
Cuore'', Milano (Italy).
This volume, a collection of papers, is the result of the Fourth Congress of the
European Society for Translation Studies (EST) held in September 2004. It
consists of twenty-six papers divided in five broad sections.
The first section, Theory, focuses on the theoretical aspects of Translation
Studies (TS). It consists of four papers about different aspects of the
discipline. The first paper by A. Chestermann, What is a unique item?, faces the
so-called unique item hypothesis, a hypothesis introduced by Tirkkonen-Condit
(2002) (p. 3), within the context of the research on translation universals. The
unique item, like the translation universal, is the element that allows us to
distinguish a translation from a non translated text. An example of unique item
is normalization. Chestermann criticizes the concept and presents a series of
difficulties in establishing the uniqueness of property, in identifying it in
the target text (is a unique item a word? is it a relation?), in assuming its
existence (''... are the items really unique ... or does the translator just
think they are?'', p. 8) and in limiting its use to the translation only.
Finally, the author proposes a new methodology in identifying unique items (pp.
11-12) underlying the purpose to study potential universal translation, that is
''to understand more about translation'' (p. 12) and, to look for practical
applications to find new ways of improving the quality of translation.
U. Stecconi, in his Five reasons why semiotics is good for Translation Studies,
starts with Peirce's theory of signs and analyzes the title of Eco's famous book
on translation ''Dire quasi la stessa cosa'' (Saying almost the Same Thing), and
shows how semiotics is important for translation. Translation is a special form
of semiotics; the latter can investigate the logico-semiotics conditions to
translation in general. The author divides translation into three entities:
''events, logico-semiotic conditions and norms'' (p. 23), according to Peirce's
existential categories. In doing so, he introduces the concept of foundation of
translation and its logico-semiotics conditions: difference, similarity and
mediation. Semiotics brings these categories together, and this is the foremost
reason why semiotics is important for TS.
In her Translation Studies and Transfer Studies: A plea for widening the scope
of Translation Studies, S. Göpferich compares a new transdiscipline, that of
Transfer Studies with TS and shows that ''it could be of benefit to TS to extend
its focus of interest to some questions which have been tackled in Transfer
Studies'' (p. 28). She starts with the description of equivalence oriented and
functionalist approaches in TS, then continues with the Descriptive Translation
Studies approach, and concludes by stressing the necessity for TS to adopt
Transfer Studies methods. Transfer Studies methods, a focus on readability
studies and text optimization, allows the researcher to empirically establish
the function of the text and to optimize reverbalization.
The fourth and last paper of this section, Modelling translator's competence.
Relevance and expertise under scrutiny, by F. Alves and J.L.Gonçalves, presents
an interesting cognitive model of translator's competence. The point of
departure is the Relevance Theory (RT) of Sperber and Wilson. According to RT,
translation is based on translation units, that generate, in the passage from
source language to target language, a number of contextual effects under the
influence of the Principle of Relevance. Thus the translation decision could be
more contextually oriented. ''Translator's competence should be considered a
particular cognitive configuration that allows translators to establish a
balance between the periphery and the central layers of cognitive systems and...
enables them to arrive at an inferentially driven interpretive resemblance
between resource and target texts'' (p. 53).
The second section, Methodology, includes four papers focused on how to improve
our tools of investigation, underlying the importance of a precise and
systematic definition of the object of our study, the adequacy of procedures
that will be used, the contextualisation of our results and the relevant
consequences of our research.
The first paper, Notes for a cartography of literary translation history in
Portugal by a Portuguese team under the leadership of T. Seruya, and the second
paper, Establishing an online bibliographic database for Canadian Literary
Translation Studies, by P. Grant and K. Mezey are similar in some respects. The
aim of the first paper is, on the one hand, to present what has been studied and
published on literary translation in Portugal, and, on the other hand, to
establish the most important issues to be studied in the future. The team starts
by illustrating Medieval Translation and proceeds with the Portuguese
translations of French classical drama and the conceptions of translation in
19th century, and concludes by describing the boom of TS in 20th century.
Ultimately, they show how TS could proceed in the future, that is, for example,
identifying the anonymous translator, pointing out his/her conditions of work,
highlighting what kind of background they come from; and building better
connections with literary and linguistics scholars as well as moving outside
national borders. The second paper presents the work procedures needed to
compile an on-line database in the fields of comparative Canadian literary
studies and Canadian literary TS in order to facilitate the dissemination and
the exchange of information about these two disciplines.
In The role of technology in translation management, H. Risku tries to answer
the following questions: Who uses translation technologies and why? In what
context are these technologies used? To do so Risku reports an interview study
of intercultural technical communication and describes the ordinary work day of
a translation agency in Vienna for an extended period of time. She notices that
translation technologies ''not only support translators, they also influence the
whole intercultural technical communication network'' (p. 88). Therefore, for the
author, it seems to make sense to use them at the start of the translation
process. She then describes different technologies available to support the
translation process, i.e. terminology management systems, translation memory
systems, localisation software, machine translation tools, and concludes by
asserting ''translation technologies can save intercultural communication
professionals a great deal of effort and leave them more time to concentrate on
their 'real work'...'' (p. 95).
In the last paper of the section, Establishing rigour in a between-methods
investigation of SI expertise, A. Hild outlines the assumptions of data
collection and processes of analysis in a multi-method study of TI discourse
processing and examines the strategies adopted in establishing methodological
rigor. The theoretical point of departure is the theory of expert processing
formulated starting from the '70s. From a methodological point of view, she
carefully examines the metaphor of triangulation, proposed by Alves (2003, cf
the article bibliography). She concludes that the problem of rigor must be
addressed both in meta-discourse and within each individual investigation. This
method could be gleaned from studies generated in a variety of disciplines.
The third section, Empirical Research, includes seven papers. The first paper,
Translation revision: A study of the performance of ten professional translators
revising a legal text, presents the results of a research project on translation
revision in which ten translators were asked to revise three German translations
of three French source texts. The method used to check the results is thinking
aloud protocol. The quality of translations and revisions was assessed by a
subject-matter expert for each of the three texts. The results show that when a
professional translator revises draft translation, the proportion of unjustified
changes and failures to correct errors in draft translation can be quite high.
They also indicate that the translators/revisers often impose their own
linguistics preferences, this is probably due to an absence of an appropriate
task definition. Finally, they show that hyper-revision may be due to an absence
of well-structured revision procedures, whereas dedicating a revision phase to
evaluating the appropriateness of every single change lowers the risk of
unnecessary changes. The practical implications of this project is to show the
importance of the study of how translations are being revised in translator
The next paper, Translation analysis and the dynamics of reading, by C. Alvstad,
focuses on the importance of the pedagogical implications of reading literary
texts, reading the original language first, then the translation. The point of
departure of this research is Iser's model and the context described is the
course of Literature in a Swedish university. Iser illustrates the act of
reading as a process ''where the reader in interaction with the text composes
meaning. The translational mode of reading is no exception'' (p. 132). In fact,
in the results of the translator's reading the translation, it is possible to
observe that some potential meanings have been reproduced at the cost of others.
The two following texts, The effect of translation on humor response, by D.
Chiaro and SAT, BLT, Spirit Biscuits, and the Third Amendment: What Italians
make of cultural references in dubbed texts, by R. Antonini, focuses on how
Italian audiences perceive cultural references and verbally expressed humor,
which has been translated, when watching dubbed T.V. series. The two research
tools applied by researchers are t-tests and e-questionnaires. The research
hypothesis of the first paper is that while if exposed to purely visual humor,
Italians should have the same reaction as British viewers, in the case of
translation, Italians will display a less positive reaction. The conclusions
show that translation is a significant factor in the success of a screen product
and not simply an invisible process within a larger whole. The second paper
tries to answer the following question: Do Italians perceive the countless
'culture bumps' contained in translated audiovisual products? The conclusions
show that Italian audiences are exposed to 'dubbese' the artificial language of
translated T.V. series and that they ''comprehended only a small percentage of
the clips and, in some cases, their actual understanding was close to zero'' (p.
In her Reception, text and context in the study of opera surtitles, M. Mateo
describes the marked differences among subtitles in the same languages as a
function of the translation strategies adopted by certain opera houses. These
differences are the consequence of ''differing ways of prioritizing the multiple
elements which come together in these multimedia texts... and of solving the
space and time restrictions in the process'' (p. 178). Her research changes
certain concepts traditionally used in translation theory and asserts the
applicability of Function-oriented TS approach to the study of multimedia
H. Dam, in her What makes interpreters' note efficient: Features of
(non-)efficiency in interpreters' notes for consecutive, aims to test three
hypotheses: 1. the more the notes, the better the target text – and vice versa;
2. the more the abbreviations/the fewer the full words, the better the target
text – and vice versa; 3. the more the notes in the source language/the fewer in
the target language, the better the target text – and vice versa. The data are
drawn from a corpus generated in a simulated conference with consecutive
interpreting from Spanish into Danish. The analyses of note language presented
in the paper show that ''the relationship between the choice of language for
note-taking and target text accuracy seems to be much more complex than we first
assumed'' (p. 195). In short this paper is only a point of departure for a more
Finally, D. Sanchez in her Traduction, genre et discourse scientifique, shows
the sociological approach focusing on the genre playing an important role in
literary translation can be applied to other discursive productions,
particularly to scientific discourse. The procedures adopted include think-aloud
protocol, statistics, use of metatextual information, analysis of
macrostructural elements, semantic network analysis and Critical Discourse Analysis.
The fourth section which is Linguistics-based, includes seven papers that focus
on different aspects of linguistic translation research. The first paper,
Evaluative noun phrases in journalism and their translation from English to
Finnish, by t. Puurtinen, compares the use of premodified noun phrases (NPs) in
English and Finnish magazine articles and discusses the relevance of potential
differences with translation. She notes, for instance, that explicit and
implicit meanings are not clearly definable, and editors tend to use them to
manipulate and influence readers. Moreover, while in Finnish evaluative NPs may
be specific to argumentative texts, in English they seem to be used even in
''neutral'' articles. Contrastive studies of the linguistic realization of
subjective opinions ''yield useful information which translators should be aware
of to be able to conform to language-specific text type conventions'' (p. 221).
L. Denver in Translating the implicit. On the inferencing and transfer of
semantic relations, focuses on how two groups of translators, professionals and
semi-professionals, deal with the task of translating from Spanish (L2) into
Danish (L1) a text characterized by a high level of implicit semantic relations
among sentences. ''It can be assumed that routine procedures and decision-making
are progressively incorporated in the translation process with the growing
experience of the translator...'' (p. 224). In the writing phase, for instance,
the professionals add connectives to the TT when they start a new sentence,
after they have written the few words needed to infer the relation. While the
semi-professionals tend to be more hesitant. This research is particularly
interesting; however, the author acknowledges that it needs further study.
Division, description and applications. The interface between DTS, corpus-based
research and contrastive analysis, by R. Rabadán, concerns the relationship
between contrastive analysis and translation and highlights the lack of
cooperation between researchers in the two fields. The aim of the paper is ''to
show how to draw on the interdependencies among these three areas – contrastive
analysis, translation studies, corpus-based studies – in order to obtain
application-oriented data'' (p. 237). The author illustrates how successfully
combining these two areas of research outlines the importance to be flexible
about the use of otherwise well-established concepts in the new research
T. Reichmann in A clivagem no português. Criterios de classificação e métodos de
tradução, focuses on clefting structures in Portuguese. The variety of these
structures is connected to a complex variety of functions and the translation of
such structures is challenged by translating them into another language. The
paper takes into account German, a language which doesn't have this structural
In Construals in literary translation. Spatial particles and spatial imagery, H.
Jansen compares Italian and Danish. These two languages have many similarities
when it comes to spatial particles, but have many differences too, in the
options laid down by the language systems, and in the exploitation of these
options by the language norms. Both Danish and Italian translators have opted
for solutions that conform to the conventional imagery of the target language,
as an act of domestication or naturalization of original imagery.
The aim of the following paper, Phraseologie und Übersetzung unter Anwendung von
Parallelkorpora by H. van Lawick, is to analyze phrase-level units in literary
texts and their translations, using a parallel-corpus, which allows the search
of keywords in different languages. The units focused on are somatisms. The
Author examines how these units are translated and if their figurative
constituents are maintained.
In the last paper of this section, The relevance of uttered-centered linguistics
to Translation Studies, S. Grammenidis and T. Nenopoulou attempt to demonstrate
''how the adoption of a theoretical framework relating the utterer and the
utterance can clarify some aspects of the translation process'' (pp. 297-298).
The paper starts with a description of linguistics and TS and the
utterer-centered approach and translation; it continues with the use of specific
examples, whereby the authors show the advantages of the utterer-decentered
approach which allows one to identify units of meaning, thus providing coherent
theoretical tools that clarify the verbalized intention of the author of a text,
and allow one to shift the emphasis from ''how'' to ''why''.
The fifth section which is Literature-based, contains four papers focusing on
different aspects and methods of Literary TS.
The first paper, De la question de la lisibilité des traductions françaises de
Don Quijote, by M. Charron examines the readability of classics. As for a
translated text, readability plays an important role, because it is the
expression of its relation with the history of literature, to another language,
and to another time. The author focuses on 20th century French translations of
Don Quixote, because this text better highlights the question of readability.
In Collusion or authenticity: Problems in translated dialogues in modern women's
travel, M. Mulligan tries to answer the following question: ''Is travel writing a
form of translation?'' The author bases his research on a vast number of
theoretical contributions and on examples that show how dialogues in travel
writing are not a simply translations, but rather voices of another culture.
Thus travel writing is, he argues, a kind of parallel activity to translation.
O. Paloposki, in Translators' agency in 19th-century Finland, focuses on the
shift from texts to translators, then from system to subject. He analyzes
decisions and arguments of a translator, that of K.G.S. Soumalainen, and shows
how agency in a translator's professional history is individual, but it is also
linked with norms. Different degrees of norms can be seen to correspond with
different degrees of translator's agency. ''The balance between the individual
translator's creativity, subjectivity and agency and the norms and constraints
of surrounding society is an issue of negotiation and change, where each
individual translator is differently positioned'' (p. 344).
Finally, in Le concept de mimésis. Une clé pour la définition de réécritures
d'Antonin Artaud, A. Mannekens analyzes the concept of re-writing in the work of
Antoine Artaud, a French author many scholars consider to be an innovative
genius. The point of departure of the analysis is the concept of mimesis of
The volume is an interesting collection of a varied range of research concerning
the vast field of TS. The theoretical reflection is well proportioned in terms
of practical aspects: the translators' and revisers' experience plays an
important role in the framework of the volume. Moreover, every paper presents a
well-organized and updated bibliography from both a theoretical and
The volume is addressed to young scholars who are looking for new research
perspectives as well as experienced scholars who want to be updated in the most
recent trends of TS. Still, since the pa-pers included in this volume are often
based on a varied range of theoretical assumptions that are taken for granted
without further discussion, I do not believe the volume is appropriate for
under-graduate or graduate students without experience in TS. Such scholars
could, nonetheless, count on the wealth of the vast bibliography.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Vittoria Prencipe, Ph.D. works as a postdoctoral researcher in the field of
Translation Studies at the Università Cattolica “Sacro Cuore”, Milan (Italy).
Her current research deals with the applica-tion of a Sense-Text model to the
field of linguistic translation.