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Susan Bassnett: Translation Studies Introduction

translation studies - discipline that concerns itself with the problems raised by the production and description of translations discipline in its own right not a branch of comparative literary study, not a specific area of linguistics translation = source language text (SL) target language text (TL) ensuring that the surface meaning of the two will remain approximately similar and the structures of the SL will preserved as closely as possible but no so that the TL structures will be destroyed translation has been perceived as a secondary activity has been underestimated first theoretical essay on translation (1791) in English Essay on the Principles of Translation the most important advances in translation studies were in the 20th century Russian Formalist Circle, Prague Linguistic Circle criteria for the founding of a theory of translation connected with the areas of stylistics, literary history, linguistics, semiotics and aesthetics + practical application 4 general areas of interest: o 2 are product oriented functional aspects of the TL text in relation to the SL text o 2 are process oriented analysis of what actually takes place during the translation 1. History of Translation 2. Translations in the TL culture 3. Translation and Linguistics 4. Translation and Poetics (literary translation) evaluation of a translation o assessment is culture bound a translation is tied up with the context in which it is made o no universal canon to which texts may be assessed o because of the low status of translation critics were able to assess translated texts from an assumed superior position 3 sections of the book: 1. central issues of translation meaning, untranslatability, equivalence, translation as a part of communication theory 2. history of translation 3. specific problems of translating poetry, prose and drama

1. Central Issues

translation belongs most properly to semiotics ( = science which studies sign systems or structures, sign processes and sign functions) language = modeling system, the heart within the body of culture


1. Intralingual translation, rewording (an interpretation of verbal signs by means of other signs in the language) 2. Interlingual translation, translation proper (an interpretation of verbal signs by means of some other language), process of transfer from SL to TL 3. Intersemiotic translation, transmutation (an interpretation of verbal signs by means of nonverbal sign systems) problem there is no full equivalence in translation translation must often resort to a combination of code units in order to interpret the meaning of a single unit o because complete equivalence cannot take place in any categories Roman Jakobson claims that all poetic art is technically untranslatable


syntagmatic (horizontal) relationships that a word has with the words that surround it in a sentence associative (vertical) relations that a word has with the language system as a whole important to consider these associative lines when translating e.g. butter has different associations in English, than in Italian the translator decides how the interpretation will look like while taking into account that the TL phrase should have a roughly similar meaning (to omit difficult expressions is immoral) e.g. what greeting will he use when English hello has more equivalents in Italian


if a dozen translators translate the same poem, they will produce a dozen different versions but there will be an invariant core of the original poem represented by stable elements in the text this core will be the same in all of the translations the meaning is not changed by translating, only the ways it is expressed change problems e.g. when translating idioms it is not a substitution based on linguistic elements in the idiomatic phrase but one idiom is replaced for another with the same meaning even though expressed with different words the TL phrase serves the same purpose 4 types: 1. Linguistic equivalence word for word translation 2. Paradigmatic equivalence elements of grammar 3. Stylistic equivalence functional e. of elements in both original and translation aiming at an expressive identity with an identical meaning

4. Textual (syntagmatic) equivalence equivalence of form and shape - equivalence in translation should not be approached as a search for sameness because sameness cannot exist between two languages there is always the question of loss and gain in translation

the question of untranslatability emerges because of Catford speaks about linguistic and cultural unt., Popovi Mounin: o personal experience in its uniqueness is unt. o in theory the base units (e.g. phonemes) of any language are not always comparable o communication is possible when account is taken of the respective situations of speaker and hearer, or author and translator Mounin believes that translation is a process which can be accomplished with relative success the purpose of translation theory is to understand the process undertaken in the act of translation, not to provide a set of norms for the perfect translation communicative relationship in the process of translation: Author Text Receiver = Translator Text Receiver the translator is also the emitter

Structures important for a translator to understand that a literary text is made up of a complex set of systems existing in a dialectical relationship with other sets outside its boundaries idea of the reader as a translator the reader translates/decodes the text according to a different set of systems the overall structuring of a work must be taken into account by the reader when he is translating the text

Translating Prose -

more time spent debating issues surrounding the translation of poetry maybe because of the higher status poetry holds a novel does not consist of paraphrasable material that can be translated straightforawardly it must be considered as a structure whole if we do this several types of mistakes emerge: 1. mistranslation of information 2. subinterpretation of the original text 3. superficial interpretations of connections between things that we think should be related to each other Hilaire Belloc laid down 6 general rules for translators of prose

1. consider the work as an integral unit and translate in sections asking oneself what the whole sense is 2. idiom by idiom 3. intention by intention the weight a certain expression may have in a particular context in the SL which must be appropriately translated into the TL 4. careful about words which may appear to correspond both in SL and TL but actually do not 5. never embellish 6. transmute boldly -always important to determine the function of the SL system and then find a TL system which will be an equivalent