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Theoretical outline


1 Translation and translation studies

1.1 Translation studies

Translation has a very long history (tradition in Latin, translation of the Bible in different language communities) but the theoretical research has begun relatively lately. Some systematic attempts can be seen in the 19th century, but a separate scientific discipline dealing with translation - translation studies, translatology - was established only in the 20th century.

In the course of the history of modern research there have been different approaches to translation, such as: linguistic approach (e.g. Nida 1964, Catford 1967), descriptive approach (stressing description of the target language, translation equivalence as an empirical phenomenon is the primary focus of attention; Toury 1980, 1995), functional approach (the act of translating is determined by its purpose; purpose determines strategies; linking language function to text types and translation strategy; Reiss and Vermeer 1989, 2000), cultural approach (interest not only in language but also culture, representing here the entire way of life; Bassnett and Lefevere 1990), integrated, interdisciplinary approaches (trying to bridge the gap between linguistics and cultural studies; combining linguistics, literature and cultural strategy; Snell-Hornby 1988). For example, in linguistic approaches, attention is paid only to language (especially one-to-one equivalence) whereas in other approaches other facts are also taken into consideration.

Translation studies has an interdisciplinary character. It is based on general and applied linguistics, cultural history, literary studies, theory of communication, semiotics, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, socio-cultural and area studies, pragmatics and the study of special subjects (terminology, language for specific purposes).

If we look at translation studies in more detail, following the Slovak tradition (Popovič, Vilikovský, etc), we can speak about:

I. General theory of translation (oral and written activities and forms of


II. Study of special disciplines of translation/Translation of particular text-types.

(1) The study of special language (non-literary) text translation (social science texts, natural science texts, institutional texts, technical texts).

(2) The study of literary texts translation (literary translation: poetry, fiction, drama and film, the Bible and religious texts).

(3) The study of general information and advertising texts translation (general information texts - journalistic texts and advertisements).

(4) The study of translation for electronic media.

III. Praxeology of translation deals with:

(1) Translation pedagogy (translator training);

(2) Translation aids (dictionaries, ...);

(3) Translation criticism;

(4) The sociological aspects of translation;

(5) The editorial aspects of translation.

(See Popovic et al. 1983)

Translation studies is sometimes divided into pure and applied.

I. Pure translation studies: (1) theoretical, (2) descriptive

(1) Theoretical translation studies: (A) general, (B) partial

Partial translation studies: (a) medium restricted, (b) area restricted, (c) rank restricted, (d) text-type restricted, (e) time restricted, (f) problem restricted.

(2) Descriptive translation studies: (a) product oriented, (b) process oriented, (c) function oriented.

II. Applied translation studies: (1) translation pedagogy, (2) translation aids, (3) translation criticism, (4) translation policy.

(After Holmes 1988 in: Munday 2005)

In conclusion we can say that Translation studies focuses on general theoretical questions, special problems, practice, criticism of translation and translator training / translation pedagogy. It may be roughly divided into: theoretical (theory of translation and interpreting), descriptive (comparative studies of translation) and applied (translation aids/tools, criticism of translation and translation pedagogy). We can also say that translation studies aims to identify and define translation problems by indicating the factors that have to be taken into account in solving the problems of translation, and recommending the most suitable translation strategies/procedures.


Suggestions for further reading

Catford 1967, Munday 2005 (2001), Malmkjaer 2005, Newmark 1998, Popovič et al., 1983


1.2 Translation, language and communication

Translation is defined by different scholars as:

- the replacement of textual material in one language (SL) by equivalent textual material in another language (TL). (J.Catford 1967)

- functionally corresponding reproduction of the invariant information of one language by using the means of another language. (J.Vilikovky 1984)

- rendering the meaning of a text into another language in the way that the author intended the text (P.Newmark 1998)

Compare also some definitions of translation in dictionaries:

- the process of translating words or text from one language into another ... - 1. the rendering of something into another language; 2. a version in a different language: a French translation of Hamlet 3. change or conversion ... 4. act or process of translating, state of being translated ... (Random House Dictionary 1969);

- a written or spoken rendering of the meaning of a word, speech, book, or other text in another language. (New Oxford Dictionary of English 1998);

- (1) a word, phrase, or text in another language that has a meaning equivalent to that of the original; (2) the rendering of something written or spoken in one language in words of a different language;

(Encarta Webster's Dictionary of the English Language 2004)

- (1) the process of changing something that is written or spoken into another language (2) a text or work that has been changed from one language into another. (Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary 2007)

As we can see, the term translation may refer to the act of translating (translation as a process), the text that has been translated (translation as a product, text), or to the general subject field (including written and oral forms of translation - translating and interpreting).

In general, theorists and translators describe translation as (a) a science, because it needs verification of the facts and knowledge of language description; (b) an art, because it is creative; (c) a skill, because it needs training to acquire new habits (appropriate language skills). Translation is also understood as a matter of taste because it reflects individual preferences/differences and intuition.

In the past, discussions and arguments were frequently focused on the question: "Is translation possible?" "Optimistic" views (attitudes) frequently alternated with "pessimistic" ideas about the impossibility of translation. Many of these views were supported also by the fact that extra-linguistic reality in different languages is differently approached and classified. Concrete examples of individual words really show that some items have no straightforward equivalents in two languages; they do not have the same semantic content (semantic structure) and emotional charge; the meanings of some fixed expressions are not based on the meanings of individual words (idioms, e.g. kick in kick the bucket); words may evoke different attitudes (e.g. duck), they may be analysed differently (morning), may combine with different words (heavy rain, heavy drinker, heavy traffic; dirt road), etc. Thus the translation of individual lexical items/units may be in some cases very difficult (See also Ch. 2). It is this atomistic approach to language which led some to think that translation was impossible. The emphasis on the communicative aspect of language, the socio-cultural and practical side of speech, helps to overcome many of these problems. Viewing translation as an act of communication seems to be the best solution.

Modern approaches characterize language as a system of signs used to express and convey information (message). The main function of language is to communicate. The basic (simplified) scheme (pattern) is: sender - information - receiver, with due attention paid to the fact that the object of communication is the extra linguistic reality. The communication is (may be) successful if the message (information) on the receiver's end is the same as the original sender's information.

Translation viewed as a process is understood as an act of communication. The process of translation begins with the reception of an original text (the source text or ST) of one language (the source language or SL) and ends with its conversion into (reproduction in) a new text (the target text or TT) of another language (the target language or TL). A translator plays a double role: in relation to the original text, s/he is a receiver; in relation to a reader s/he is the author of a new text.

The translator's task is to decode the original information (meaning of information) and express (reproduce) it by the TL means, which may not necessarily be in agreement with the SL. Reproduction of particular information is/may be complicated, as we have said before, because individual linguistic units/items (may) have different content (denotation), connotation (stylistic and emotional colouring), different usage and other features. However, the aim of translation is not to reproduce language means but to convey the information which they express. The bearer of the information is the message as a whole (text as a whole with all the levels: lexical, grammatical, phonological...). It means the aim is to reproduce the function of information and not its constituent elements. In other words: if the information in one language (SL) is expressed even by different means in another language (TL) and it fulfils the same function in this language as a whole then we can say that translation is possible.

Translation taken as an act of communication is primarily a linguistic operation but not exclusively. That is, we have to take into consideration not only pure language, but attention should also be paid to other facts such as extra- linguistic reality and cultural background.

The whole process (basic scheme) of translation/translating may be illustrated as follows. (Figure 1).

author text 1 (ST) translator text 2 (TT) reader (receiver)

SL culture TL culture

SL tradition TL tradition

SL norms TL norms

(after Newmark 1998)

In conclusion we can say that:

(1) Translation is a secondary, derived form of communication.

(2) The object of translation is information as a whole (text), although the

individual constituents (lexical items) may play a certain important

role in some types of texts or at some stages of translation.

(3) Translation should fulfil the same function as the original.

(4) Translation is possible from one natural language (or even artificial

language) to another and vice versa within a larger whole (text).


Suggestions for further reading

Catford 1967, Hochel 1990, Munday 2005 (2001), Newmark 1998, Vilikovský 1984

1.3 Types of translation

From the linguistic point of view we can speak about the following types of translation: interlingual, intralingual and intersemiotic translation (Jakobson in Munday 2005).

Interlingual translation is a reproduction of a text in another language (translation from one language to another, for example from English into Slovak).

Intralingual translation is a paraphrase (reproduction, rewording) of a text in different mode, style or genre within the same language (interpretation of verbal signs by means of other signs of the same language, e.g.: from a dialect into standard language, from the Old English into present-day English, etc.).

Intersemiotic translation is a reproduction of verbal signs by means of non-verbal ones, or vice versa (e.g.: using sign language, traffic signs, computer language, etc.).

If we take into consideration the ways information is reproduced in another language, the most frequently encountered are, namely: word for word translation, literal translation, faithful translation, idiomatic translation and free translation. Some of these types are used only as pre-translation activities.

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