LINGUIST List 22.2861

Tue Jul 12 2011

Review: Translation: Gambier & van Doorslaer

Editor for this issue: Monica Macaulay <>

        1.     Mairi McLaughlin , Handbook of Translation Studies, Volume I

Message 1: Handbook of Translation Studies, Volume I
Date: 12-Jul-2011
From: Mairi McLaughlin <>
Subject: Handbook of Translation Studies, Volume I
E-mail this message to a friend

Discuss this message

Announced at
EDITORS: Gambier, Yves and Doorslaer, Luc vanTITLE: Handbook of Translation StudiesSUBTITLE: Volume 1SERIES TITLE: Handbook of Translation Studies 1PUBLISHER: John BenjaminsYEAR: 2010

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


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

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


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

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

As one would expect in a publication such as this, frequent reference is made tokey publications and each entry is followed by a short list of references. Thisis 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 theterminology of the discipline. The entry on 'Corpora', for example, offers avery 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 indescribing corpora, the tools of analysis and the field of corpus-basedtranslation studies. The final section of the article on 'Looking to the future'suggests a certain amount of excitement about the future of this subfield thathas come to dominate translation studies in the first decade of the twentiethcentury. What is absent from this article -- and indeed from many others -- is agood sense of the principal findings of the subfield. This is not whollysurprising: this is a field in its early days, many findings remain contentiousand 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 ofparticular findings and results so as to avoid the occasional vague passage.

Given the large number of contributors, it is not surprising that there is acertain level of stylistic variation between the articles. The entry on'Literary studies and translation studies' (perhaps aptly) stands out for itslively engaging tone. The entry on 'Semiotics and translation' achieves awelcome 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; theentry on 'Drama translation', for example, contains some awkward collocationssuch as 'reveal of' instead of 'reveal about' and the occasional obscure phrasesuch as 'The expected life span of such is long'. The translation-studiesreadership is likely to be as forgiving as possible when it comes to such errorsbut slightly more rigorous copy-editing would have been beneficial. It is to theeditors' and publishers' credit, however, that this variety of styles does notlead to an uncomfortable choppiness. A feeling of unity is created by theconstancy of aims, and formal features such as article-length, number ofreferences and the mise-en-page.

As the editors themselves admit, this ''Handbook of Translation Studies'' is ''notthe first of its kind'' (p. 1). Indeed, a number of encyclopedias and handbookshave been published in recent years. The most useful of these for researchers intranslation studies is without doubt the four-volume ''Translation Studies:Critical Concepts in Linguistics'', edited by Mona Baker (2009). Baker alsoedited the ''Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies'' (2008). Also aone-volume reference work, this is arguably the closest competition to Gambierand Doorslaer's handbook. It is also worth mentioning Kuhiwczak and Littau's(2007) ''Companion to Translation Studies''. Although it is considerably shorterthan any of the other works mentioned here -- it contains just 9 articles -- itconsiders in greater detail some of the same subfields covered by the ''Handbookof Translation Studies''. The shorter companion also highlights the relativelynarrow 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-pagearticle that addresses both theater and opera translation (by MarySnell-Hornby). It is somewhat surprising that opera translation is not mentionedin the handbook.

Although it is not the only one of its kind, the ''Handbook of TranslationStudies (Volume 1) '' will indeed be useful to the broad audience of students,scholars and professionals targeted by the publisher. It will serve some as anentry into translation studies as a discipline, whereas for others, it will bethe first point of contact with a range of different subfields. It is lesslikely to be useful as a reference work once scholars have begun working in aparticular subfield. It is unclear how regularly contributors will update theirentries in the online version of the handbook, but if they do so with somefrequency, then the existence of the online version could represent the greatestadvantage 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).

Page Updated: 12-Jul-2011