When a qualitative leap forward is taken in any scientific discipline, the change is usually accompanied by an increased interest in research. This occurred in Translation Studies in the 1950s and in the 1990s. This paper outlines some of the most important epistemological and methodological questions faced by researchers who want to apply the so called “scientific method” to empirical research in translation. We will discuss the main steps in the research process: designing an experiment, selecting subjects or the object of study, defining experimental and control groups, controlling independent variables, choosing instruments that will measure what we want to measure and which will give us reliable data to analyse. The whole procedure should be intelligible and transparent, the objectives relevant and the results clear.
Prevalent approaches in the academic component of Translation Studies research can be divided into two main categories, one falling under the human science disciplines (HSA or Human Sciences Approaches), and the other based on canonical science (CSA or Canonical Scientific Approach). Methods used in the latter are often relatively complex and intrusive. Translation scholars without research training are sometimes drawn to the potential strengths of advanced methods and new technology. However, the use of these methods may prove to be counterproductive when they add little value for the high cost of resources, and when they jeopardize the ecological validity of the study.
The paper examines the idea that all research methodology is based on hypotheses of different kinds, both interpretive and empirical. Interpretive hypotheses (that something is usefully interpreted as something) can be tested pragmatically, but are not falsifiable; they underlie all empirical research. As an example of empirical hypotheses we focus first on the descriptive type, and in particular the literal translation hypothesis. This states that translators tend to proceed from more literal to less literal versions as they process a given text chunk. This hypothesis serves to illustrate the main criteria according to which any hypothesis can be claimed to be significant. These criteria are: explicitness, multiple testability, theoretical implications, applicability, surprise value, and explanatory power. Several other fairly well-known hypotheses in Translation Studies are also referred to.
This paper explores two interrelated problems of method of concern to translation historians and that are part of the overarching issue of interdisciplinarity. The first has to do with conflicting methods used in history and the second with deciding whether or not it is necessary for a translation scholar to define her or his philosophical position with regards to history. This article is part of a book project on the history of translation in Louisiana, which has been understudied. The writing of a translation history implies the act of rendering visible what has been obscured by the official grand narrative of History, or what Nietzsche called “monumental” history. To look for translation where officially there was none, or very little, amounts to search for multiple histories of people who do not necessarily fit into the dominant definition of what it means to be American, because they spoke languages other than English and adhered to cultural practices that resisted melting into the common pot. From this perspective history is viewed as discourse because, very much like translation, it is made up of language, seen as living matter shaped and manipulated by power relations. The focus of the study is two local 19th-century historians from Louisiana who repeatedly doubled up as translators—from French to English and back into French—to produce histories of Louisiana. The conclusion states that translation historians are first historiographers, imbued with all the disciplinary and ethical responsibilities that entails. Since historiography forms a nexus for history and translation, it is not only necessary to theorize both but also to develop methods that can be integral to both.
This paper aims to show how the study of translation in minoritized contexts can contribute to research methodology in Translation Studies. Analysing some examples from the history of Basque translation, this article demonstrates that translation in this type of marginal system is often nothing more than another way of rewriting, which does not differ much from other literary procedures such as adaptation or transformation. A research methodology that can explain all these translation phenomena should thus overcome the overly restrictive definition maintained by the traditional discourse of translation and adopt an interdisciplinary perspective that broadens the definition of translation. In this respect, postcolonial theories as well as other approaches derived from the “power turn” in Translation Studies can provide excellent tools for the study of translation in minoritized literary systems in general, and in the Basque context in particular.
Since John Dryden, most typologies of poetic translations are prescriptive, based on a restrictive conception of the poetic genre, and focused solely on one aspect of the poem. Considering that verse translation can be dealt with from three different angles (concept, sound and space), we first present a method of analysis likely to help classify poetry translations in a more precise manner. We then apply our methodology to the analysis of six English versions of the first poem of Árbol de Diana by Argentine author Alejandra Pizarnik (1936-1972). This case study will show how a rigorous analysis of the source poem according to its conceptual content as well as its treatment of sound and space, may help identify its particular features and determine how they have been integrated, if at all, in the target poem.
Translating culture poses fundamental problems of perception and
conception far deeper than matters of linguistic expression. This essay explores some of
these problems by examining Fusheng liuji (Six Records of a Floating
Life), a Chinese autobiographical text that has been translated into fourteen Asian and
European languages. Even without going into the details of the rendered versions, one can
notice various forms of intercultural mediation and reshaping in the translated titles and
added subtitles. At one end is direct, partly helpless substitution: lexically flawless
“float” cannot encompass the rich matrix of philosophical connotations and artistic
resonances of fu in the source culture. At the other end is active reshaping:
recasting, addition and omission based on interpretive (mis)reading, including a reduction
of imagistic language into abstract concept (e.g., fu becomes “fleeting”). Through
examining 17 renditions of the title of Fusheng liuji, this essay offers a case
study that helps to cast light on the unavoidable factor of intercultural mediation in the
translation process, with special focus on the translation of philosophical and aesthetic
concepts. Some forms of mediation carry more significant effects than others, and there may
be differences in verbal resources and orientations in various languages worthy of
The work of the American writer Chester Himes includes seven detective novels that are distinct in that they were first written in American English, then translated and published in French, and finally published in American English in the United States for the first time in a different version from the original source text. This article attempts to analyze the determining factors that gave rise to Himes’ deep interest in detective fiction, contextualizing the conditions that drove him to the genre. We examine Himes’ habitus, the essential role played by Marcel Duhamel (the director of the Série Noire), the French field of detective fiction and the translation (Minnie Danzas, translator), as well as the specific illusio of his detective novels, particularly The Five-Cornered Square and its translation, La reine des pommes. Finally, we see how the success of La reine des pommes in 1958 considerably broadened the range of narrative possibilities in the French field of detective fiction.