Try AbeBooks Description The aim of this book is to develop the first satisfactory theory of translation, or rather a complete theoretical basis to account for the phenomena of translation. By contrast with previous typological and structuralist approaches, it grounds translation squarely in cognition. It argues that the quality of a translation depends on how well it meets the psychological requirements of communication and shows that what the translator can achieve in a translation depends largely on the context of his audience. In this Ernst-August Gutt views the principles and guidelines of translation as particular applications of the principle of Relevance as described by Sperber and Wilson.

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A Theoretical Account of Translation—Without a Translation Theory by Ernst-August Gutt Abstract In this paper I argue that the phenomenon commonly referred to as "translation" can be accounted for naturally within the relevance theory of communication developed by Sperber and Wilson a : there is no need for a distinct general theory of translation. Most kinds of translation can be analysed as varieties of interpretive use. I distinguish direct from indirect translation.

Direct translation corresponds to the idea that translation should convey the same meaning as the original. It requires the receptors to familiarise themselves with the context envisaged for the original text. The idea that the meaning of the original can be communicated to any receptor audience, no matter how different their background, is shown to be a misconception based on mistaken assumptions about communication.

Indirect translation involves looser degrees of resemblance. I show that direct translation is merely a special case of interpretive use, whereas indirect translation is the general case.

In all cases the success of the translation depends on how well it meets the basic criterion for all human communication, which is consistency with the principle of relevance.

Thus the different varieties of translation can be accounted for without recourse to typologies of texts, translations, functions or the like. Introduction The amount of literature on translation is vast—people have written on this subject for about two millennia. However, the bulk of the literature that came to be written over the centuries does not necessarily indicate the depth of understanding that has been reached on this topic. Thus Steiner states that "despite this rich history, and despite the calibre of those who have written about the art and theory of translation, the number of original, significant ideas in the subject remains very meagre" , p.

Levy observed that the penetration of subject matter was lacking especially on the theoretical side: "Only a part of the literature on the problem of translation moves on the theoretical plane. Until today most studies and book publications, especially on literary translation, have not gone beyond the limits of empirical deliberations or essayistic aphorisms. Scholars increasingly began to call for a well-founded scientific study of translation. At first linguistics seemed to offer the framework needed, but it soon became clear that it would not be adequate on its own.

So today there is a strong call for a multidisciplinary investigation: linguists, psycholinguists, sociolinguists, semioticians, anthropologists, teachers and, of course, translators are all called upon to tackle the problem together. The approach generally advocated for this multidisciplinary research is essentially an inductive-descriptive one: by examining the phenomena found in translation, one aims to discover regularities that can be stated and will then form the science of translation.

However, even at this early stage questions have arisen about the value of the likely outcome of this effort. Firstly, translations seem to be so varied and the number of factors on which they depend so large that it is not clear that more than statistical generalisations can be made.

Secondly, given the variety of domains that need to be considered, what sort of a science is likely to evolve from this enterprise—will it be anything coherent at all? Thirdly, since the outcome of such inductive investigations will be crucially determined by its input, how can one avoid the risk of circularity? Related to this last point is the problem of evaluation and decision-making in translation: it is difficult to see how an inductive-descriptive approach can deal adequately with the problem of evaluating translation since by nature it describes what is rather than what should be.

Yet the concern for quality control in translation seems to be one of the major driving forces behind the search for systematic accounts or theories of translation: it is hoped that the explicit and systematic treatment of the subject matter will make possible the setting of objective standards.

Most of these attempts at the scientific treatment of translation have followed the structuralist approach to language, relying heavily on categorization, especially of text and translation types. While this in itself proved to be a major challenge, matters became more complex still when extra-linguistic factors like the function and purpose of a text, and even particular interests of the target audience had to be considered.

The following example from Neubert , discussed in Wilss , gives an idea of the difficulties involved in capturing all these factors in a single theory of translation. But if it turns out that each individual phenomenon, that is, each text, or even each instance of its use with a particular audience, may require its own theory, then this means that the phenomena in question are not accounted for in terms of generalisations at all, but that they actually fall outside the scope of theory.

She feels that the category-based approach is more of a hindrance than a help because "In its concrete realization language cannot be reduced to a system of static and clear-cut categories" p. Recognizing the existence of "blurred edges and overlappings" is commendable, but without further explication the translator is left to his own devices as how to move along the cline between the prototypes. Furthermore, one wonders what the theoretical or practical value of the prototypes themselves is.

If anything, such cross-cuts suggest that factors other than prototypology are at work. Snell-Hornby is right when she calls for "a basic reorientation in thinking", but she does not go to the core of the problem when she sees this as "a revision of the traditional forms of categorization" op.

The problem is not the form of categorization used, but reliance on categorization as such. As Snell-Hornby herself says, translation is a cross-cultural event—it is part of cross-cultural communication, and communication is an event in which people share their world of thought with others. Therefore, the account of translation I propose is embedded in an explanatory theory of communication that focuses on how people share thoughts with one another.

The framework In the space given, I have to limit myself to a brief sketch of those ideas of relevance theory that have a bearing on the topic in hand.

The theory offers an empirical, cognition-based account of human communication. Since the range of inferences one can make from any phenomenon is huge and open-ended, there needs to be some constraint that helps the audience to identify those assumptions which the communicator intended to communicate.

This presumption of optimal relevance is necessarily communicated by every instance of ostensive communication—it is part of our human psychology.

In effect this means that the audience is entitled to assume that the first interpretation of the stimulus found to be consistent with the principle of relevance is the one intended by the communicator. The notion of relevance itself is defined as a cost-benefit relation: the cost is the amount of mental processing effort required to interpret the stimulus, and the pay-off consists in the contextual effects derived from it.

Hence the less effort the processing of a stimulus requires and the more contextual effects it has, the more relevant it will be. Contextual effects result when information conveyed by the stimulus is inferentially combined with contextual assumptions, that is, with information already available to the audience, perhaps from memory or perception.

This accounts for the intuition that for successful communication it is not enough for the information conveyed to be new; rather it must lead to some alteration of the knowledge possessed previously. Thus suppose I told you out of the blue: 1 There is butter available at the foreign currency store.

While I am quite sure that this information would be completely new to most of my readers, I think that they would have problems in making sense of my utterance. Firstly, you would not know which store I am talking about, and secondly you would not know what to do with this information.

Relevance theory accounts for this reaction: for most readers utterance 1 does not link up with any other information readily available to them, so no contextual effects are achieved, and the utterance is felt to be irrelevant.

Combined with the information contained in 2 , the information supplied by 1 yields assumption 3 as a contextual effect, more specifically, as a contextual implication: 5 3 One needs to buy butter quickly from the foreign currency store. It is important to note that not all contextual assumptions are equally accessible to the audience at all times; for example, as you read this paper, the information contained in the last sentence or so will be highly accessible to you, whereas information you read at the beginning of the paper might be much less so.

You may be able to recall that information too, but it would require greater effort. This relationship between accessibility of contextual information and processing cost is important for the process of context selection: under the principle of relevance it induces the audience to work with the most highly accessible contextual assumptions that will yield adequate contextual effects. As mentioned above, relevance theory applies to both verbal and non-verbal communication alike.

Verbal stimuli differ from non-verbal ones in that they typically encode semantic representations in virtue of their linguistic properties. However, these semantic representations are usually incomplete—they provide schemas or "blueprints" Blakemore for propositions which need to be inferentially enriched and developed through the use of contextual information in order to yield mental representations with a fully propositional form.

This process includes such aspects as disambiguation, reference assignment, interpretation of semantically vague expressions like "soon" or "some" and so forth. Again, this process of developing the semantic representation of an utterance into a propositional form is controlled by the criterion of consistency with the principle of relevance.

He will do this by searching the contextually available information for a referent that is highly accessible in his mind and that will yield an interpretation with adequate contextual effects.

Returning to our concern with translation, let us start from the hypothesis that all instances of human translation can be accounted for as instances of ostensive-inferential communication. As we consider different kinds of translation, we will be testing the validity of this assumption.

However, it seems doubtful that we need to refer to a theory of translation to account for such cases. Suppose, for example, that your company has produced photocopiers for export to an Eastern African country, and produces an operating manual in, say, Swahili.

It is completely inconsequential to them whether there was an English original of this manual and whether the Swahili manual faithfully represents the information of that original. In fact, they may need to be given more or different information than the customers in England, perhaps because the conditions under which they use the copier differ from those in England, or because the background knowledge they bring to the machine differs from those of the average customer in England and so forth.

So the aim of the producer, too, is that the manual provide all the information which that particular group of customers needs to operate the copier appropriately. It is not his primary interest to inform them of what the English manual says.

Of course, the producer may find it very convenient to use the English original as a starting point for the Swahili manual, but this fact is incidental rather than essential for the success of the Swahili manual: he could just as well appoint a Swahili-speaking technician to produce a Swahili manual for that copier from scratch, and again the quality of the manual would be judged by how helpful it proved to the customers.

Put in general terms, such instances are characterized by the fact that the receptor language text is produced and presented to the target audience not because it faithfully represents the contents of some source language original, but in its own right; the existence of a source language text in such situations is incidental rather than necessary for the interlingual communication act to succeed.

These cases are clearly instances of ostensive-inferential communication: a communicator wants to communicate certain thoughts to a target audience—the only complication is that the source language communicator does not master the receptor language.

Therefore he needs the help of a bilingual person to produce a receptor language stimulus that will communicate his informative intention. In other words, the process of stimulus production is shared between at least two individuals, but there is only one stimulus that is significant, and that is the receptor language one.

Conveying the original message If one were to ask around what people think a translation should achieve, the most frequent answer would probably be that it should communicate the meaning of the original. This has not always been so, but since the middle of this century this view has been adopted increasingly by translation theorists. Accordingly, the quality of a translation is now often judged in terms of its comprehensibility and impact on the receptors.

This re-orientation has probably found its fullest development in circles concerned with the translation of the Bible, though it is not limited to this enterprise. The first and probably most influential approach along these lines is that of "dynamic equivalence" translation developed by Nida and Taber Nida ; Nida and Taber What do these approaches mean by the "meaning" or "message" of the original? There are no explicit definitions given, but it is clear from what is said that the notions held are very comprehensive; they include both the "explicit" and "implicit" information content of the original, and extend to connotations and other emotional aspects of meaning as well.

According to relevance theory, the assumptions the communicator intends to communicate can be conveyed in two different ways: as explicatures or as implicatures. Explicatures are a subset of assumptions that are analytically implied by a text or utterance; more specifically, explicatures are those analytic implications which the communicator intended to communicate. Both explicatures and implicatures are identified by the audience on the basis of consistency with the principle of relevance.

With this framework in mind, the demand to preserve the information content of the original amounts to the demand that the explicatures and implicatures of the translation should be the same as the explicatures and implicatures of the original. Straightforward as this demand may sound, there is a rather serious problem here, and this lies in the logical interdependence between explicatures, implicatures, and the potential context—or, more technically, the cognitive environment—in which a text or utterance is processed.

This is, of course, one of the most basic characteristics of inferential communication. In both cases, the propositional form of the utterance and its explicatures may be the same, indicating that there is a police car at a certain distance in the environment; the implicatures, however, can be very different indeed, depending on what contextual assumptions are accessible in the mutual cognitive environment of speaker and hearer.

One consequence of this is that whenever a given stimulus is interpreted in a potential context that differs in information content from the one envisaged by the original communicator, misunderstandings are likely to arise.

Let us use the term secondary communication situation for such instances. Since most translation is done in secondary communication situations, it is not surprising that it has run into difficulties along these very lines. For example, the Gospel of Mark reports an incident where four men lowered a paralyzed man through an opening in the roof in order to get him to Jesus; in one language it was found that a translation of this passage implied a miracle: "Since no indication was given of how four men, carrying a paralyzed friend, could get onto a roof and the language helper tended, naturally enough, to think in terms of his own familiar steep thatched roof , the language helper assumed a miracle, Unfortunately, the approaches advocating "same-meaning- translation" have failed to understand the inferential nature of this problem; mistaking it for a language problem rather than one of mismatch in contextual knowledge, they have proposed that the principle of keeping the meaning constant obliges the translator to express himself in such a way that misunderstandings will not arise.

In practice this has meant one of two things: either the translator can "explicate" the implicit information needed to arrive at the correct interpretation of the text; thus in the example given it is suggested that he may have to add the information that the men climbed up stairs that led to the roof. That is, he would express in the translation a contextual assumption of the original. Or he can, in certain cases at least, change the meaning expressed in the text.

This latter practice is subject to some other constraints and is mostly suggested for the rendering of non-literal uses of speech, such as metaphors or irony. As it has turned out, these solutions have succeeded only in part: it has not always been possible to prevent misinterpretation by either explication or semantic changes in the text.

In the light of relevance theory, this is not surprising because the demand that a translation should convey the same interpretation as the original in secondary communication situations is at variance with one of the most basic requirements of successful communication; this is the requirement that to be communicable an interpretation has to be consistent with the principle of relevance.

Since consistency with the principle of relevance is always context-dependent, what this means is that it is not necessarily possible to communicate a given set of assumptions to any audience, regardless of what their context might be.


Translation and Relevance

A Theoretical Account of Translation—Without a Translation Theory by Ernst-August Gutt Abstract In this paper I argue that the phenomenon commonly referred to as "translation" can be accounted for naturally within the relevance theory of communication developed by Sperber and Wilson a : there is no need for a distinct general theory of translation. Most kinds of translation can be analysed as varieties of interpretive use. I distinguish direct from indirect translation. Direct translation corresponds to the idea that translation should convey the same meaning as the original. It requires the receptors to familiarise themselves with the context envisaged for the original text. The idea that the meaning of the original can be communicated to any receptor audience, no matter how different their background, is shown to be a misconception based on mistaken assumptions about communication. Indirect translation involves looser degrees of resemblance.





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Translation And Relevance: Cognition And Context


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