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Review of  Handbook of Translation Studies

Reviewer: Mairi Louise McLaughlin
Book Title: Handbook of Translation Studies
Book Author: Yves Gambier Luc van Doorslaer
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Translation
Issue Number: 22.2861

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EDITORS: Gambier, Yves and Doorslaer, Luc van
TITLE: Handbook of Translation Studies
SUBTITLE: Volume 1
SERIES TITLE: Handbook of Translation Studies 1
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2010

Mairi L. McLaughlin, Department of French, University of California, Berkeley


The Handbook of Translation Studies (Volume 1) is aimed at a relatively broad
audience of students, scholars, experts and professionals. Readers are likely to
come from both within translation studies and from other disciplines. The
handbook consists of a two-page introduction followed by 74 short articles, each
treating a different subfield in translation studies. Most of the entries are
between four and eight pages long, with a few longer pieces reserved for what
are considered more substantial topics such as 'Descriptive translation
studies', 'Interpreting studies', 'Literary studies and translation studies',
and 'The turns of translation studies'. The articles are written by specialists
in the different subfields, and were all subject to peer review. The volume ends
with a subject index.

The volume is available in print copy and in an online edition
( The articles were initially the same in
both versions, but the version online has the advantage of offering hyperlinks
to the Translation Studies Bibliography (
This is an annotated bibliography of translation and interpreting studies that
is also published by John Benjamins and has been available since 2004. The
editors point out that contributors will be asked to keep the online entries up
to date.


The Handbook of Translation Studies is definitely a useful volume for those
interested in acquiring some understanding of the vast field of research in
translation studies. It is organized in a relatively straightforward manner
around titles based on keywords (e.g. 'Adaptation', 'Corpora', 'Interpreting',
'Subtitling', 'Translation', 'Globalization and translation', 'Journalism and
translation' and 'Terminology and translation'). This is an intentional strategy
to facilitate readers' use of the handbook alongside the Translation Studies
Bibliography, also organized around keywords. It does, however, make for a
slightly unusual contents page and one or two rather peculiar titles such as
'Web and translation'. Nevertheless, this organization definitely makes the
handbook particularly accessible to readers from outside the discipline.

The entries are written by specialists in the various subfields so translation
scholars will not be surprised to find Michael Cronin writing about
'Globalization and translation', Jeremy Munday writing about 'Translation
Studies' as a discipline and Sara Laviosa writing about 'Corpora'. Some of the
other names are definitely less familiar but the spread of regions and
institutions that are represented certainly coincides with centers of activity
in the discipline today (e.g. Finland, northern Europe, Spain and Vienna). The
entries all attempt to offer an overview of the given subfield. This generally
involves an historical account of its evolution. The reader will notice obvious
parallels between the different subfields: the relative youth of the discipline
of translation studies means that most of the key developments have taken place
in the last two or three decades. A few interesting exceptions to this include
an early research article on interpreting written by Sanz in 1930 (see the entry
on 'Interpreting Studies' by Franz Pöchhacker). In a few articles, the focus
seems to shift entirely away from translation studies to the practice of
translation itself. For example, in Jorge Díaz Cintas' entry on 'Subtitling',
the reader learns a great deal about subtitling but there is very little about
the work that has been done on this practice within translation studies. Once
again, this might be related to the relative youth of the field but it is a
feature of this book that renders it more suitable for those entering the
discipline than for established scholars.

As one would expect in a publication such as this, frequent reference is made to
key publications and each entry is followed by a short list of references. This
is the feature of the entries that is probably the most useful for scholars,
particularly those starting out research in an area that is new to them.
Scholars new to the field -- or subfields -- will also be introduced to the
terminology of the discipline. The entry on 'Corpora', for example, offers a
very clear outline of the different types of corpora that can be compiled (e.g.
sample or monitor; synchronic or diachronic; general or specialized;
monolingual, bilingual or multilingual; written, spoken, mixed or multimodal;
annotated or non-annotated). This entry is particularly clear and logical in
describing corpora, the tools of analysis and the field of corpus-based
translation studies. The final section of the article on 'Looking to the future'
suggests a certain amount of excitement about the future of this subfield that
has come to dominate translation studies in the first decade of the twentieth
century. What is absent from this article -- and indeed from many others -- is a
good sense of the principal findings of the subfield. This is not wholly
surprising: this is a field in its early days, many findings remain contentious
and it is not the purpose of a handbook to become embroiled in these debates.
Nevertheless, the book as a whole might have benefited from more mention of
particular findings and results so as to avoid the occasional vague passage.

Given the large number of contributors, it is not surprising that there is a
certain level of stylistic variation between the articles. The entry on
'Literary studies and translation studies' (perhaps aptly) stands out for its
lively engaging tone. The entry on 'Semiotics and translation' achieves a
welcome clarity despite the relative complexity of some of the notions treated.
In a few cases, a little more editing would have made for a smoother style; the
entry on 'Drama translation', for example, contains some awkward collocations
such as 'reveal of' instead of 'reveal about' and the occasional obscure phrase
such as 'The expected life span of such is long'. The translation-studies
readership is likely to be as forgiving as possible when it comes to such errors
but slightly more rigorous copy-editing would have been beneficial. It is to the
editors' and publishers' credit, however, that this variety of styles does not
lead to an uncomfortable choppiness. A feeling of unity is created by the
constancy of aims, and formal features such as article-length, number of
references and the mise-en-page.

As the editors themselves admit, this ''Handbook of Translation Studies'' is ''not
the first of its kind'' (p. 1). Indeed, a number of encyclopedias and handbooks
have been published in recent years. The most useful of these for researchers in
translation studies is without doubt the four-volume ''Translation Studies:
Critical Concepts in Linguistics'', edited by Mona Baker (2009). Baker also
edited the ''Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies'' (2008). Also a
one-volume reference work, this is arguably the closest competition to Gambier
and Doorslaer's handbook. It is also worth mentioning Kuhiwczak and Littau's
(2007) ''Companion to Translation Studies''. Although it is considerably shorter
than any of the other works mentioned here -- it contains just 9 articles -- it
considers in greater detail some of the same subfields covered by the ''Handbook
of Translation Studies''. The shorter companion also highlights the relatively
narrow perspective adopted in some of the entries in the handbook; where the
''Handbook of Translation Studies'' has a six-page article on drama translation
(by Sirkku Aaltonen), the ''Companion to Translation Studies'' has a fourteen-page
article that addresses both theater and opera translation (by Mary
Snell-Hornby). It is somewhat surprising that opera translation is not mentioned
in the handbook.

Although it is not the only one of its kind, the ''Handbook of Translation
Studies (Volume 1) '' will indeed be useful to the broad audience of students,
scholars and professionals targeted by the publisher. It will serve some as an
entry into translation studies as a discipline, whereas for others, it will be
the first point of contact with a range of different subfields. It is less
likely to be useful as a reference work once scholars have begun working in a
particular subfield. It is unclear how regularly contributors will update their
entries in the online version of the handbook, but if they do so with some
frequency, then the existence of the online version could represent the greatest
advantage of this handbook over all others.


Baker, Mona (ed.). 2008. Routledge encyclopedia of translation studies, 2nd ed.
London/New York: Routledge.

Baker, Mona (ed.). 2009. Translation studies: Critical concepts in linguistics.
4 vols. Abingdon/New York: Routledge.

Kuhiwczak Piotr & Karin Littau (eds.). 2007. A companion to translation studies.
Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Mairi L. McLaughlin is an Assistant Professor of French at the University of California, Berkeley. She specializes in French and Romance linguistics as well as translation studies. Most of her work in both linguistics and translation studies centers on syntax, and she is particularly interested in the language of the press. She is the author of the book 'Syntactic Borrowing in Contemporary French: A Linguistic Analysis of News Translation' (Oxford: Legenda, 2011).