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Benjamins Translation Library is one of the rare series of translation studies in the world which not only provides a forum for a variety of heated topics and demonstrates the frontiers of translation studies but also greatly promotes the development of the world of translation studies. Beyond Descriptive Translation Studies: Investigations in homage to Gideon Toury is the 75th of the series.
This volume is substantial, including 27 articles and an interview. It is composed of six topics: the sociology of translators, the contemporary changes in intercultural relations, the basic problem of defining translations, translation teaching and learning, the nature of explanation, and case studies. The sociology of translators is its first topic. The beginning article “Popular mass production in the periphery: Socio-political tendencies insubversive translation” written by Nitsa Ben-Ari, explores the agents (either ignored or hidden behind pseudonyms) of the massive, non-politicized literature of the periphery during pre-State Israel. The interview-based research helps us identify a common denominator between their activity in popular literature and their socio-political habituses. This paper discusses the relationship between canonic and non-canonic literary systems, between center and periphery, between different worlds of production and distribution, and between ideologically engaged translation and commercial non-politicized translation. The author thinks that the relationship may sometimes turn out to be as mobilized, yet to an opposing, subversive ideology. “Strategies of image-making and status advancement of translators and interpreters as a marginal occupational group” by Rakefet Sela-Sheffy and Miriam Shlesinger aims to analyze the translators/interpreters’ construction of a sense of an occupational identity and strategies of status improvement, drawing on interviews with the subgroups in the field such as literary and non-literary translators, subtitlers, conference, community, court and signed-language interpreters. Reine Meylaerts’ “Translators and (their) norms: Towards a sociological construction of the individual” reveals how intercultural actors interiorize the normative structures not only of the source and target fields but also of their mutual intersections. Its study shows how translatorship can be redefined in terms of habitus, as an individuation of collective normative schemes related to the translator’s personal history, to the collective histories of the target and source fields, and to the intersections between the cultures concerned. This paper argues that human agents must be accounted for not only as professionals but as socialized individuals, and that the study of plural and dynamic (intercultural) habituses may thus become a key concept for understanding intercultural relationships. “Translation constraints and the ‘sociological turn’ in literary translation studies” by Denise Merkle does a comparative analysis of the translations of four of Shakespeare’s plays by Antonine Maillet, providing insights into the impact of expressions, convention and socio-cognitive constraints on translator behaviour and, by extension, on the translation process. Ebru Diriker’s “Exploring conference interpreting as a social practice: An area for intra-disciplinary cooperation” makes a call for a more sociological viewpoint, with “norms” as a focal point. It holds that research on conference interpreting has started becoming more sociologically oriented and is moving towards more contextualization. Diriker’s findings will certainly help shape the discussion in Translation and Interpreting Studies as a whole. Gisèle Sapiro’s “Normes de traduction et contraintes sociales” proposes a model that focuses on the social constraints that condition those processes to some extent that runs from government policies to publishing strategies, which allows to analyze translation norms in terms of the sociology of fields, as proposed by Pierre Bourdieu. It argues that in the field of literary production, these constraints operate between two poles: the logic of commercial gain and restrained production governed by the logic of symbolic gain. Salah Basalamah’s “Aux sources des normes du droit de la traduction” introduces the multi-dimensional concept into descriptive translation studies and relates rights to ethics, demonstrating whether or not the other elements (editors and the conventional logical or economical norms), apart from social and political, in the subordinate or peripheral position take equal part in the discourse formation. “Downsizing the world: Translation and the politics of proximity” by Michael Cronin explores the relationship between translation and scale which helps elaborate a position for translation in cultural history and for translation scholars in critical theory. In so doing, translation perspectives can be viewed as a way of going beyond some of the current impasses in critical social theory and of providing a way to engage in a non-defensive way with current debates on multiculturalism, interculturalism and cosmopolitanism.
The second topic explores the contemporary changes in intercultural relations. Daniel Simeoni’s “Norms and the state: The geopolitics of translation theory” explores the long neglected geopolitical substrate of investigations. By revisiting the history of the field it reveals a geopolitical unconscious which is equally active under the most scientific versions of translation theory and the more recent attempts to commit theory to cultural activism. “On exploration” by Andrew Chesterman analyses the different notions of explanatory hypotheses in the light of certain work in the philosophy of science. It discusses the obvious contrast between explanation and understanding, and focuses on explanation in terms of generalization, causality, and unification. This view also allows a characterization of what is meant by explanatory power, and shows how explanation can emerge from description. “Culture planning, cohesion, and the making and maintenance of entities” by Itamar Even-Zohar illustrates the connections between the invention, codification, and diffusion of culture repertoires and the ability of groups, societies and nations to survive. Dirk Delabastita’s “Status, origin, features: Translation and beyond” revisits Toury’s concept of assumed translation as well as his threefold distinction between system, norm and performance. This paper argues that in our theoretical models of translation we need to make an absolute distinction between the status ascribed to textual materials and discursive acts, their actual textual origins and the features they show. By undoing the conceptual autonomy of Translation Studies as a discipline and by injecting multilingualism and intercultural contact straight into the heart of any study of discourse, the paper creates a comprehensive framework inviting a study of their mutual relationships and functional interactions. All these demonstrate that the “international turn” in translation studies is a necessity.
The third talks about the fundamental problem of defining translations. Rosa Rabadán’s “Refining the idea of ‘applied extensions’” shows how useful and usable data can be generated by relying on empirical, identifiable corpus-based data and by making examples directional, and holds that the concept of applied extention should be refined in light of usefulness and usability so as to bridge the gap between theory and practice to meet the needs of working professionals. It is creative because applied extensions (translation aids, translation quality assessment, and translator training) are not addressed by Descriptive Translation Studies. “Translation as institutional facts: An ontology for ‘assumed translation’” by Sandra L. Halverson manages to revise Toury’s notion of “assumed translation” in order to ensure its survival by building on the groundwork provided by Searle’s account of “the construction of social reality.” And it looks for areas in which this approach may be related to current work in the sociology of translation, specifically research inspired by Bourdieu. Lieven D’hulst’s “Cultural translation: A problematic concept?” aims at clarifying the problematic concept by making a plea for an interdisciplinary model based on the concept of Toury’s “assumed translation” and supported by insights from historiography and linguistic ethnography. “Du transhistoricisme traductionnel” by Alexis Nouss agrees with Toury that translation norms are not only historical and considers that transhistoricisme traductionnel needs a framework containing diverse norms.
The fourth topic discusses translation teaching and learning. Kirsten Malmkjoer’s “Translation competence and aesthetic attitude” thinks that the traditional Natural Translation model cannot account for non-native bilinguals’ abilities to translate, nor for translation abilities developed during formal instruction because it is not compatible with recent understanding of the Universal Grammar hypothesis and recent findings in the neurolinguistics of bilingualism, and that these abilities might be based on innate Interlingual Proficiency and Transfer Proficiency Potentials. Here the author, apart from Toury’s remedies, adds a suggestion, the notion of translation enjoyment. Sara Laviosa’s “Descriptive in the translation classroom: Universals as a case in point” examines the main features and achievements of corpus-based Descriptive Translation Studies and then focuses on the integration of corpus-based description into translator training and translation quality assessment, with particular reference to the role played by universals in applied research carried out in the specialized translation classroom.
The fifth is the nature of explanation. Gideon Toury has proposed two exemplary laws of the way translators produce translations: the law of increasing standardization, and the law of interference from the source text. However, when comparing Toury’s proposed laws with Baker’s compilation of four possible translation universals, it is found that the latter elaborate only the first of the laws and do not regularly concern interference from the source text. This one-sidedness of the “universal” agenda enhances the justification of comparable corpora but poses serious problems for any kind of causal explanation of the findings. Anthony Pym’s “On Toury’s laws of how translators translate” argues that it would seem advisable to return to the duality of Toury’s exemplary propositions, and it proposes that the tendency to standardize and the tendency to channel interference are both risk-averse strategies, and that their status as possible laws thus depends on the relative absence of rewards for translators who take risks. It follows that future possible laws might be found in the dynamics of risk management.
The last topic focuses on case studies. Şehnaz Tahir-Gürcağlar’s “Sherlock Holmes in the interculture: Pseudotranslation and anonymity in Turkish literature” offers a case study of the Sherlock Holmes pseudotranslations which provides fertile ground for exploration of what happened to a poetics that was largely inherited from the folklore literary tradition in the Ottoman Empire. The poetics of folklore still governs the field of translated popular literature (e.g. detective fiction), included great numbers of borderline texts such as pseudotranslations, concealed translations and anonymous texts. “When a text is both a pseudotranslation and a translation: The enlightening case of Matteo Maria Boiardo (1441-1494)” by Andrea Rizzi, by looking at a text from the early Italian Renaissance that has been considered by many contemporary scholars a pseudotranslation: Matteo Maria Boiardo’s Historia Imperiale (1471-1473), demonstrates that the various conceptions of what counts as translation in different societies and historical periods (e.g. the Renaissance) blur the boundary between the two cultural practices (translation and pseudotranslation) even more than Toury suggests. John Milton’s “The importance of economic factors in translation publication: An example from Brazil” focuses on a topic ignored in Translation Studies. The examination of it in Brazil offers a model for incorporating economic elements in Translation Studies in general and in Even-Zohar’s polysystem model and Toury’s concept of norms in particular. The analysis of the relationship between the two suggests a possible structural correlation: high tariff barriers will generally result in an increase in the number of domestic translations published. “Responding to globalization: The development of book translations in France and the Netherlands” by Johan Heilbron explores the position of the target cultures within changing translational relations neglected by Toury. Compare the case of France with that of the Netherlands, two different strategies with regard to the hegemony of English are observed. Here the paper not only studies the proportion of translations from English, French, German and other languages in relation to the total number of books in the Dutch market but also analyzes the situation of Dutch translations within the French book market during the same period. This comparative case study is a plea to explore translations from a broader, sociological perspective and to include geopolitical and geocultural dimensions in this type of Translation Studies. Hannah Amit-Kochavi’s “Arabic plays translated for the Israel Hebrew stage: A descriptive-analytical case study” provides a descriptive-analytical study of a corpus of 47 plays translated from Arabic into Hebrew (1945-2006), viewed here as a cultural subsystem, in terms of Even Zohar’s polysysten theory. The author explains their respective positions in the Arabic and Hebrew literary and theatrical systems against the background of the Israeli-Arab conflict that has both prevented and encouraged their venue into Israeli Hebrew culture, enumerates frameworks where the plays have been published or performed and the people responsible for their translation/adaptation and dissemination, and demonstrates their motivation. Mahmoud Kayyal’s “Interference of the Hebrew language in translations from modern Hebrew literature into Arabic” deals with the increasingly widespread general interference of the Hebrew language in spoken Arabic among Israeli Arabs. To our amazement the conclusion is that the number of interferences of the source language in the target language was limited, both because of the lack of direct contact with Hebrew culture and because the translators leaned towards the extreme of equivalence and tended to work in bigger units. Rachel Weissbrod’s “Implications of Israeli multilingualism and multiculturalism for translation research” addresses a neglected issue in Israel. It refers briefly to the translation activity in such sites as Arabic, Russian and other languages besides Hebrew, and does an analysis of an episode from The Simpsons so as to provide a preliminary insight into translation norms. The paper not only illustrates Israeli multilingualism but also illustrates that the concentration on Hebrew as a target language may testify to ideological preferences, and the power relations involved in translation have become a major issue in the discipline in order to respond to the criticism directed at Israeli Descriptive Translation Studies for insisting on ideological neutrality, and putting too little stress on the power relations involved in translation. Sherry Simon’s “Yiddish in America, or styles of self-translation” tells the story of I.B. Singer’s success in translating his themes into English. When people spoke of Jewish literary multilingualism before 1941 they referred to the joined systems of Hebrew and Yiddish. However, after that English would soon emerge as a new competitor. To keep on with the time, authors such as A.M. Klein and I.B. Singer looked for ways in which they could successfully translate their themes into English. And Singer was successful beyond expectation. However, his success is challenged by some scholars, who regard the very process of his self-translation as a betrayal of the original.
The most impressive word in this volume is “beyond” which indicates the endless of translation studies. In the field of translation studies no one could say that his theory is perfect and could solve all the problems she/he comes across, so is Descriptive Translation Studies. The praise, the criticism, the revision of and the complement to Toury’s in the book show the true nature of developing translation studies.
Beyond Descriptive Translation Studies not only offered a common base but also laid down precisely that intellectual challenge: not just to describe translation, but to explain it through reference to wider relations. To respond to Toury’s challenge in one way or another, the key scholars and their diverse contributions direct their attention to issues such as the sociology of translators, contemporary changes in intercultural relations, the fundamental problem of defining translations, the nature of explanation, and case studies. They all seek to explain as well as describe, providing a research-based space for conceptual coherence and creativity. In this sense, I believe that Toury’s call has been answered beyond expectations.
It is a pity that we find no articles of Chinese scholars in the volume. In recent years translation studies in China has made great progress and Chinese scholars are now actively integrating into the world. So it is our hope that the world of translation could hear the Chinese voices.