2000i. Memetics and translation strategies. Synapse 5, 1-17.
Translation Studies is a branch of memetics. This is a claim, a hypothesis. More specifically, it is an interpretive hypothesis: I claim that Translation Studies can be thus interpreted, and that this is a useful thing to do because it offers a new and beneficial way of understanding translation.
Memetics is the study of memes. So what is a meme? The latest Oxford English Dictionary defines it like this:
Meme: an element of a culture that may be considered to be passed on by nongenetic means, esp. imitation.
The term was proposed and first used by Richard Dawkins, in his book The Selfish Gene (1976). This was a popular book about genetics, about how the behaviour of organisms is influenced by the way genes seek to promote their own survival. Towards the end of the book, Dawkins introduced the notion of a meme as the cultural equivalent of the gene:
[A meme is] a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. ‘Mimeme’ comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like ‘gene’. I hope my classical friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme. If it is any consolation, it could alternatively be thought of as being related to ‘memory’ or to the French word même. It should be pronounced to rhyme with ‘cream’.
Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperm or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation. If a scientist hears, or reads about, a good idea, he passes it on to his colleagues and students. He mentions it in his articles and lectures. If the idea catches on, it can be said to propagate itself, spreading from brain to brain. (1976: 206; p. 192 in the 1989 edition)
The term has since been taken up by many scholars. The philosopher Daniel Dennett uses it in his attempts to explain consciousness (1991). The sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson uses it in his theory of gene-culture coevolution. One particularly interesting aspect of Wilson’s application of the meme concept is the way he links it to neurology. A meme, says Wilson, is “a node of semantic memory [as opposed to episodic memory] and its correlates in brain activity”. That is, a meme is both an “idea” and the corresponding set of “hierarchically arranged components of semantic memory, encoded by discrete neural circuits” (Wilson 1998: 149). This view suggests that memes exist not only in Popper’s World 2 (the subjective world) and World 3 (the world of objective ideas, expressed thoughts), but also in World 1 (the world of physical objects).
The most recent full-length treatment of memes is the book The Meme Machine by the psychologist Susan Blackmore (1999). One of the themes in Blackmore’s book is the evolution of memes, and their effect on the evolution of the brain. She suggests that both brains and language actually developed in order to spread memes: in other words, the cultural and even neural development of homo sapiens was to some extent meme-driven.
Memes were explictly brought into Translation Studies by Chesterman (1996, 1997), and independently by Vermeer (1997).
Memes, then, are everything you have learned by imitating other people — habits, jokes, ideas, songs... Memes spread like genes, they replicate, often with mutation. Some memes spread, and thus survive, better than others. Memes survive well if they are easily memorable, useful, sexy or emotive. Some memes tend to co-occur with others, in groups: these groups are called mememes or memeplexes. Examples are languages, religions, ideologies, scientific theories. Blackmore suggests that the very notion of a self may well be no more than a memeplex.
From a meme’s-eye view, human beings are just convenient and rather efficient machines for spreading memes, as memes engage in their Darwinian struggle for space and survival. Memes spread as people talk to each other, as they read books and listen to music — or as they attend a lecture. Memes also spread via translations, of course. In fact, this is really what the whole translation business is about: spreading memes from one place to another, making sure that they get safely across cultural borders. So Translation Studies is a way of studying memes and their transmission under particular circumstances.
2. A meme-pool
At any given point of time, we can describe the state of a culture as a set of memes — a meme-pool. We can also describe the state of some part of that culture in such a way, or the state of a scientific field. Suppose we try to list the memes in the meme-pool of Translation Studies: here are some that occur to me.
Translation transfers/preserves meaning
The source text is holy
Translating is copying / imitating...
Translating is performing / representing...
Traduttore — traditore
Translations enrich the target culture
Translation honours the source text
Translation can reveal the “pure language”
Translation domesticates the Other
Translations are more neutral than originals
Translations show signs of ST interference
The best translations are not recognized as such
The best translations get the same effect as the ST
Some STs get translated more freely than others
Translating is recoding
Translating is communicating a message
The form of a translation is determined by its function
Translations can have hidden agendas
Translation is like cannibalism
Translating is a decision-making activity
Translators make formal and semantic changes
Translators change cultures
Translators make mistakes
Translations are often done by amateurs
Machines can / cannot translate well
In Memes of Translation (1997) I suggest that there are also supermemes in this meme-pool — these are particularly dominant memes that keep coming up allover the place, often in slightly different forms. They are extremely persistent: in fact, they just won’t go away!
The source-target meme
The equivalence meme
The unranslatability meme
The free vs. literal meme
The all-writing-is-translating meme
Now notice what happens to some of these supermemes if we look at translation itself as a memetic activity. This means that we see it as being based not on an equative relation, nor on one of transfer, but on replication: an additive relation.
Not: A = A’ (equative)
Nor: A —> B (transfer)
But: A —> A + A’ (additive)
It is the additive relation that most closely represents what is essential about the act of translation. There is dynamic movement over time, yes, but not from a source to a target; one is not carrying something from one place to another, because the “something” still remains at the source after the translation process is completed — source texts or messages do not disappear simply because they have been translated. What happens is that at time 1 we have one text or message (A), and then at time 2 we have two: both the original (A) and an additional one, a replica (A’) that happens to be in a different language. So the memes of text or message A now spread further. They do not have to stop spreading in the source culture, so their territory has expanded.
3. Memes in translation teaching
I claimed earlier that Translation Studies is a branch of memetics. Let us examine whether this hypothesis brings any added value to the way we might teach translation. I will suggest three ways in which an application of memetics might be beneficial.
3.1. Memes are conceptual tools
Translation is a toolbox skill, not an algorithmic skill (Séguinot, forthcoming). In the case of an algorithmic skill, there is only one answer, one formula: you just have to learn it in order to arrive at the right solution, as in learning how to use a new word-processing program. In the case of a toolbox skill, you need several tools in your pack, and you need to know how to select the right one to accomplish a given task. Translator training actually involves an initiation into the use of two kinds of tools, and both should be given adequate space in the syllabus. Some tools are technical: computer programs, for instance. Other tools are conceptual. These conceptual tools are memes, and can be taught explicitly as memes. In this way, they spread still further.
The first application of memetics to translator training is based on this fact that memes are conceptual tools. Memes about translation, in the current meme-pool, can be useful in the activity of translation itself, and in the activity of teaching translation. For without conceptual tools, we cannot think at all. Trainee translators need to be aware of what they are doing, and of what professional translators do. In order to achieve this awareness, they need ways of thinking about the activity of translation, ways of analysing it; they need the relevant concepts.
Some memes about translation are widespread, but others are more specific to the community of professional translators. All professionals have acquired a stock of concepts about translation. These shared concepts — we could call them professional translation memes — are the conceptual tools of their trade. Professionals acquire these conceptual tools partly from experience, but partly (perhaps mostly) from their training. The task of a translation trainer, therefore, is to spread memes about translation — useful memes. Let’s consider some examples.
(i) Translation is a memetic activity. Suppose that this idea of translation is introduced at the very beginning of a training course. It highlights a number of valuable aspects of translation that often remain a bit neglected. Translators are agents in the spreading of ideas, for instance; they are not mere copiers of texts. Translations change the state of the world, by adding new texts. The activity of translation is at the heart of cultural development, of the evolution of ideas. Because memetic replication (almost) always involves variation, we do not need to focus on the impossibility of preserving some kind of identity; instead, we can focus on the way texts change as they are translated, and examine the nature and motivation of such changes: this is a more realistic approach, and one that gives the translator more freedom of responsibility and more scope for creativity.
(ii) Strategy memes. One of the most useful sets of professional translation memes is that of strategy memes. These memes are, in a particularly obvious sense, essential conceptual tools of the translator’s trade. By “strategy” here I mean any well-established way of solving a translation problem. These strategies are widely used and well known in the profession (not necessarily under the same names, of course). One way of telling the difference between a professional and an amateur is that the professional usually knows at once, or can decide quite quickly, what kind of strategy to use. Professionals can do this either because they have learned the strategies explicitly during training, or because they have discovered them from their own experience, or because they have picked them up from colleagues. This is not to say that professionals always use them consciously; they may well become routine, automatic responses. But it seems likely that at the beginning of a translator’s career they are used consciously; and certainly in training they can be introduced explicitly.
Translation problems come in many shapes and sizes, and so do strategies. Some problems have to do with where to find a given term; others are comprehension problems. Still others have to do with the selection of the optimal equivalent. And others again concern such things as translator’s block, getting stuck, losing the flow. For all these kinds of problems, various standard solutions are available that are worth trying. They are possible short cuts, you might say: tricks of the trade.
Here are two extracts from a recent article from the financial page of the Guardian Weekly (March 23, 2000). The headline is “Hi-tech shares brought low as old economy rises”, and the topic is the fall in new technology share prices and a rise in the value of “old economy” stocks. I have added the italics.
1. [The opening sentences] It is a corporate remake of The Empire Strikes Back. Two weeks ago a clutch of new technology stars soared into the elite of the FTSE 100 index. Since then, the shares of Freeserve, Psion and Kingston Communications have plummeted by more than a third, and even Baltimore Technology has lost more than 10% of its value.
2. [Later in the article] But analysts warn that not all cheap stocks are bargains. Michael O’Sullivan of Warburg Dillon Reed points to companies with consistently good results and strong positions in their markets, such as GKN, the engineer, CRH, and BAe. He likes technology stocks but says: “As for Freeserve and lastminute.com, we say waitaminute.com.”
How to translate the bits in italics into, say, Norwegian? Does a wonderful translation spring immediately to mind, or do you feel there is a problem here? A professional might think like this (if he has read Leppihalme 1997): In (1) we have a cultural allusion, of the “proper name” kind. Well-tried strategies for translating these cultural allusions are: retain unchanged, retain with guidance, replace by local equivalent, replace by common noun, give overt explanation, and omit (in this order of preference). So I’ll take... In (2) we have an example of wordplay. Here, the established solutions are... well, what are they? You might like to have a look at Delabastita (1993).
In other words, this professional already has the conceptual tools available in his toolbox, he knows what options are available, and can proceed directly to select the best one for this context. He does not have to waste time finding out what the possibilities are first, before choosing, but he can exploit the experience of previous translators and scholars who have explored the problem of translating cultural allusions or wordplay. He can make use of previous examples of best practice, good problem-solving ideas. (For a fuller classification and selection of strategy memes, see the appendix to this paper.)
In translator training, strategy memes need to be presented from two angles. First, trainees need to know what the strategies are. This means becoming acquainted with the concepts, learning what they mean, how the strategies can be defined, seeing what is available. Second, trainees need to learn something about the conditions under which different strategies tend to be used. (This is one of the big problems for translation research.) A memetically enlightened professional, then, is someone who can recognize a typical problem, register the relevant contextual conditions, and select an appropriate strategy.
(iii) Norm memes. Another useful set of memes concerns translation norms. These too need to be taught explicitly, as essential memes. Translation norms guide the translator’s decisions at a more general level. They are constraints on the translator’s freedom of choice, but they are also reminders that translators belong to a professional community governed by agreements on how we should behave, what our texts should look like. They can thus reinforce the translator’s sense of professional identity. Moreover, if you know what the norms are, you can feel freer to exercise your creative imagination within the limits they set, as a child can feel free, confident and responsible within the limits set by the parents. If you know what the norm is, you do not have to wonder how far you can go. Norms are not laws, however. Norms can be broken, and better ones proposed. Each time a translator conforms to a norm, and thus spreads the meme, the norm becomes stronger. But each time someone breaks the norm, it becomes a bit weaker.
Translation norms have been analysed and classified in many ways (see e.g. Bartsch 1987, Toury 1995, Chesterman 1997, Schäffner (ed.) 1998, Hermans 1999). Some norms govern the relation between source text and target text; others relate to the form of the target text, to target-language conventions of style etc.; others to the process of effective communication. These norms make manifest the general code of conduct within the profession, and also the responsibility of the profession vis-à-vis society at large. Norm memes carry ideas about what a translator should do; strategy memes carry ideas about what a translator can do.
3.2. Encourage mutualist memes!
But are all memes useful? After all, some genes are destructive... The same is true of memes: some are “parasitic”, some “mutualist”. A parasitic meme is one that, in the long run at least, is harmful to its carrier. A mutualist one is beneficial to the survival of its carrier. In teaching, we should try to encourage mutualist memes and discourage parasitic ones. We can do this quite explicitly, showing that some do harm to the translator’s profession and self-confidence, while others are constructive. The strategy and norm memes mentioned above are all mutualist ones.
Here are some parasitic memes, which are bad for the people that carry them, i.e. bad for translators. A particularly destructive one is: “There is no need for a theory of translation.” This is bad for translators (and also for translator trainers, not to mention translation scholars...) because it implies that translation is something so simple, so straightforward, that anyone can do it with their eyes closed, and so the whole status of the profession is watered down to nothing. After all, what is a theory? Originally, a theory meant a way of seeing something, a way of taking a careful look, a systematic and contemplative perspective. To say that we don’t need a theory implies that we do not need to look at what we are doing, we don’t need to think about it. Or, on the other hand, it might mean that there is nothing special about translation: all we need is a theory of communication... (See Gutt 1990, Condit-Tirkkonen 1992.) But this too is a view that undermines the profession’s identity, reduces its distinguishing features.
Another parasitic meme is the untranslatability meme. Despite centuries of evidence to the contrary, the meme is a persistent one, stressed by sceptics who wish to downplay the translator’s creativity, to reduce translation to something secondary, done by people who are not real writers, and so on. Translation is impossible, and so any effort at translating is bound to fail. Translators are betrayers of the original, and particularly if they try to translate poetry, because poetry cannot be translated, indeed, poetry is that which cannot be translated... Not a position that encourages positive thinking, nor even a realistic one. People who like this meme evidently feel that the very possibility of translation is some kind of threat; they then defend themselves against this threat by claiming that translation is impossible, and thus banishing the threat by a neat circular argument.
This meme goes hand in hand with another one (together, they form a mememe) — the sameness meme. This is the idea that translations (at least, proper translations) are in some way “the same” as their originals. That the job of the translator is to transfer something that remains the same, unchanged. Because this never occurs — that is, it never occurs exactly — therefore translations (proper translations) are impossible. They are, in fact, theoretically impossible. (Note the interestingly paradoxical appeal to theory in this kind of argument, in order to deny the existence of the object of the theory.) If you think that your translations must achieve sameness, and you nevertheless accept that you can never reach this sameness, then you will always see your translations as failures. Again, this is not a helpful attitude.
I suspect that the sameness meme is also connected to the source-target supermeme mentioned earlier. If you work with the metaphor of transfer, of moving something (a message, a meaning) from one place to another, then you seem bound to believe that this something does not change during the transfer process. You cross the river, but you do not change your identity as you do so. From a memetic point of view, this metaphor is surely a destructive one.
In opposition to the parasitic sameness meme I would set the mutualist meme of “relevant similarity”. This seems to me to be a much more positive and realistic way to conceive of the equivalence relationship between source and target texts. It is also more flexible: more than one similarity may exist between the same two texts, depending on what is relevant, i.e. depending on the point of view, on the purpose of the translation, and so on. Consider how this view affects the way a translator can think of the translation process: the aim now is to produce a relevant similarity, not an impossible sameness. So: what kind of similarity will be the most relevant one? How much similarity, too? These questions force the translator to give some thought to the skopos of the translation, and to the various kinds of similarity that might be possible, before choosing the most appropriate one and deciding how to realize it. Surely this is a view that would benefit the translation profession, in that it should lead to good translations and satisfied clients.
Another useful mutualist meme is the idea of the translator as an expert, rather than as a humble slave of the source text or its author, or the client. This is a point made particularly strongly by the skopos theorists. Its beneficial influence on a translator’s self-image is obvious.
3.3. Memes evolve: teach translation history!
Memes are not static, they evolve. They mutate as they spread, sometimes more, sometimes less. You can look at the history of translation as the evolution of translation memes: a succession of ideas that come and go, like passing fashions, some more longlasting than others. They do not come and go on their own, of course: there are always socio-cultural causes, and willing or unwilling carriers of memes. Memes often tend to recur under different names, which natually affects their mutation. Compare:
Translate word for word
Translate in a source-oriented way
Produce a semantic translation
Produce a documentary translation
None of these mean exactly the same thing, but you can see that they are manifestations, mutations, of more or less the same meme.
Why should trainees be aware of the way translation memes have evolved? Because this is the history of their own profession. This is one excellent way to become socialized into the tradition of the profession, to begin to identity oneself with it and find one’s own place within it. If you are aware of the historical background, it is also easier to form your own theory of translation, your own particular combination of memes that make best sense to you. It may also be that the ontogenetic development of an individual translator runs somehow parallel to the phylogenetic evolution of the profession as a whole (see Chesterman 1997: 159f). If this is so, an awareness of the phylogenetic progression may speed up the ontogenetic one.
Memes mutate as they evolve. Trainees can also be encouraged to take part in this mutation. This would mean exploring and experimenting with norm-breaking translation, new solutions, new combinations of ideas... maybe also keeping up with the latest innovations in translation research.
4. Memes in translation research
Here I will briefly mention three ways in which memetics can be conceptually applied in translation research. To some extent, these recapitulate some of the points already made above.
4.1. The cultural turn
Most obviously, memetics appears eminently relevant to the whole of the cultural turn that has taken place in Translation Studies over the past twenty years or so (see e.g. Bassnett and Lefevere 1990). This was in part a reaction against linguistic approaches that were thought to be too narrow and to neglect the wider cultural and social aspects of translation. As a result of this turn towards a cultural dimension, scholars have looked at translation more as a way of transmitting ideas from one culture to another, and thus as a way of influencing other cultures.
One of the fashionable concepts has been that of manipulation (Hermans 1985). This can be understood in two senses. Translators and their clients manipulate the target culture by introducing and spreading new memes there; and translators manipulate the source text itself as they translate, so that the memes they express in the target text are mutations of those in the original — for instance, they may be ideologically coloured. Much interesting research has explored these senses of manipulation.
Another interesting kind of research which is clearly memetic is the study of what is known as the comet’s tail phenomenon. This means looking at the way a given work, or the work of a particular author, spreads through a series of cultures, via translation (direct or indirect). Studies of Shakespeare translation, for instance, have followed his progress through Europe in this way. One translation sparks off another, and then another, so that a whole trail of translations is created — a motorway for the spread of memes. (See e.g. work by the Göttingen research group, such as Kittel 1992.)
A memetic scholar would be particularly interested in questions like these: What happens to ideas as they mutate via translation? Which ideas tend to survive better than others, and why? How does translation affect their survival, both in the target culture and in the source culture? One example of such research (not overtly memetic, but certainly memetic in principle) is that of Lianeri (forthcoming) on the concept of democracy in 19th-century Britain. (The concept of democracy is a complex and persistent meme, and presumably a mutualist one.) Lianeri shows how J.S. Mill’s translations of Greek texts on democracy affected the way Victorians thought about it. She also shows how Mill himself manipulated the Greek texts in accordance with his own ideas of democracy. Mill thus participated in a memetic mutation that had quite widespread effects on British culture.
4.2. The historical curve
I mentioned this above: the way of looking at translation history as a succession of recurring memes, as part of cultural evolution. An example is given in Chesterman (1997, chapter 2).
One possible application of this way of thinking has to do with making predictions. If we discover that the evolution of translation memes tends to occur in certain waves or patterns, not just in one culture only but more generally, we might be able to make predictions about up-and-coming memes in a particular culture. We might also be able to offer explanations about current meme patterns, in terms of universal laws of memetic evolution.
Another line of potentially memetic research with a historical, temporal dimension is the study of retranslations. The decision to translate a given work again into the same target language, for instance a generation later, seems to suggest the need to revive certain memes that were perhaps in danger of fading away. What are the characteristics of translations that need to be supplemented by retranslations? How do retranslations differ from earlier translations? In other words, how are the memes re-expressed? What are the characteristics of translations that seem to survive without retranslations? More powerful memes? A more effective expression of them? How do different translations then compete for the honour of carrying the memes? (On retranslation in general, see e.g. the special issue of Palimpsestes 4, 1990.)
4.3. The cognitive twist
Cognitive research on translation is relative recent. In interpreting, there has been some research using EEG measurements, but in Translation Studies the main methodology here has been the use of Think-Aloud Protocols (TAPs). (For a recent example, the TRANSLOG project, see Hansen 1999.) The central question in this research is: what happens in the translator’s head? How are decisions made? What kind of decisions are made? When? How can we observe this?
From the memetic point of view, however, the crucial question is: do memes exist in the brain, in some observable form? Chemically? Neurologically? So far, we only have guesses... but perhaps the TAP studies of the future, combined with other research methods that will have to be more intrusive ones, will come up with some evidence. Maybe, one day, we shall be able literally to see an idea.
Indeed, maybe cognitive memetics could even help provide an answer to the really big question: what is consciousness?
Memetics has not gone unchallenged, of course. Its reception so far has been a mixed one, with reactions ranging from enthusiasm to scepticism. The most frequent criticism has been that memes are no more than metaphors, so they are not properly scientific. One might reply that all science is based conceptually on metaphors, that this is the way we understand a great many things. We understand light, for instance, by seeing it as particles, or as waves, or as both at the same time.
Critics have also stressed that memes are not observable, so memetics is only speculation. Memetics scholars can only reply that genes, too, were not observable when they were first thought of. Nor were atoms. Some sub-atomic particles are not yet observable, apparently. And what about the strings of string theory, of which some say the universe ultimately consists? Memes might be observable one day, who knows?
A further criticism has been the fuzziness of the meme concept: how big is a meme? Just the first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth, or the whole symphony? Maybe both? It is true that the concept needs to be made sharper. Atoms, too, needed to be redefined after it became possible to split them, they could no longer be defined as “unsplittable” elements.
Sceptics argue, furthermore, that the concept of a meme has no added heuristic value. It is just another way of telling us things that we already know — that ideas spread. Why build an elaborate parallel with genetics if we don’t need it in order to understand?
And what about the deterministic aspect? Memetics seems to take the position that human action is determined, if not by genes then by memes. Taken to its extreme, this position leaves no room for human agency or free will; it therefore undermines human dignity and value and is profoundly anti-humanistic. So say the critics...
The memetics meme is nevertheless spreading fast. There is now an online Journal of Memetics, and hundreds of memetics sites on the Internet. A good place to start is the Memes Central site at <http://www.memes.org.uk/>. For a critical review of Blackmore’s book, by Martin Gardner in the Los Angeles Times, see <http://www.calendarlive.com/calendarlive/books/bookreview/20000305/t000000143.html>.
Bartsch, Renate (1987) Norms of Language. London: Longman.
Bassnett, Susan and André Lefevere (eds) (1990) Translation History, and Culture. London: Pinter.
Blackmore, Susan (1999) The Meme Machine. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Chesterman, Andrew (1996) “Teaching translation theory: the significance of memes”. In Cay Dollerup and Vibeke Appel (eds), Teaching Translation and Interpreting 3. New Horizons. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 63-71.
Chesterman, Andrew (1997) Memes of Translation. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Chesterman, Andrew (1998) “Communication strategies, learning strategies and translation strategies”. In Kirsten Malmkjaer (ed.) Translation and Language Teaching. Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing, 135-144.
Dawkins, Richard (1976) The Selfish Gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Delabastita, Dirk (1993) There’s a Double Tongue. An investigation into the translation of Shakespeare’s wordplay, with special reference to Hamlet. Amsterdam: Rodopi.
Dennett, Daniel C. (1991) Consciousness Explained. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Gutt, Ernst-August (1990) “A theoretical account of translation — without a translation theory”. Target 2/2, 135-164.
Hansen, Gyde (ed.) (1999) Probing the process in translation: methods and results. Copenhagen Studies in Language 24. Copenhagen: Samfundslitteratur.
Hermans, Theo (ed.) (1985) The Manipulation of Literature. Studies in Literary Translation. London: Croom Helm.
Hermans, Theo (1999) Translation in Systems. Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing.
Leppihalme, Ritva (1997) Culture Bumps. An empirical approach to the translation of allusions. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Lianeri, Alexandra (forthcoming). “Translation and the shaping of modern democracy”. In A. Chesterman, A., N. Gallardo and Y. Gambier (eds), Translation in Context. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Kittel, Harald (ed.) (1992) Geschichte, System, Literarische Übersetzung / Histories, Systems, Literary Translations. [Göttinger Beiträge zur Internationalen Übersetzungsforschung 5.] Berlin: Erich Schmidt.
Schäffner, Christina (ed.) (1998) Translation and Norms. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Séguinot, Candace (forthcoming). “Knowledge, expertise, and theory in translation”. In A. Chesterman, N. Gallardo and Y. Gambier (eds), Translation in Context. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Tirkkonen-Condit, Sonja (1992) “A theoretical account of translation — without translation theory?” Target 4/2, 237-245.
Toury, Gideon (1995) Descriptive Translation Studies and Beyond. Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Vermeer, Hans J. (1997) “Translation and the ‘meme’”. Target 9/1, 155-166.
Wilson, Edward O. (1998) Consilience. London: Little, Brown and Company.
Appendix. Translation strategies
This appendix outlines the main kinds of translation strategies, in note form. (For more details, see e.g. Chesterman 1997, chapter 4, and also Chesterman 1998.)
1. Strategies are also known as tactics or procedures — the terminology varies. Strategies are established ways of solving problems: potentially conscious; intersubjective.
2. A problem is a perceived difficulty in getting from the present state to the desired goal state.
(a) means to reach goal state are not known
—> a MEANS problem (e.g. alchemy)
(b) cannot decide what is the best means
—> a CHOICE problem (chess)
(c) cannot see goal state clearly
—> a GOAL problem (creative writing)
3. Different kinds of problems require different types of strategies.
3a. MEANS problems: search strategies (reference works, parallel texts, databases, terminologies, Internet, telephone etc.)
3b. CHOICE problems: textual strategies (also called procedures, shifts). Some of these are language-pair specific, of the kind: if there is structure X in the English source text, try structure Y in a Norwegian translation (–> contrastive analysis).
Others are more general textual tricks. Some examples:
(i) Syntactic strategies
Transposition (word class change)
Unit shift (morpheme, word, phrase...)
Structure changes at level of phrase.../ clause.../ sentence...
Change of rhetorical scheme (pattern),
e.g. alliteration, repetition...
(ii) Semantic strategies
Using a near-synonym
Using an antonym + a negation
Using a hyponym or a superordinate
Changing between abstract and concrete
Changing the distribution (condensing or diluting)
Change of emphasis
Change of rhetorical trope (metaphor, personification...)
(iii) Pragmatic strategies
Cultural filtering (domesticating or foreignizing)
Explicitation or implicitation
Adding or omitting information
Change of formality level
Change of speech act
(e.g. rhetorical question; speech representation...)
Change of coherence
3c. GOAL problems: creativity or distancing strategies... survival strategies! How to keep up the feeling of flow? What to do when you get stuck?
Some examples suggested by the EU translation services.
— When producing text:
• Plan frequent small breaks
• Share the job with others
• Switch to another task for a bit
• Leave overnight
• Change internal state (e.g. from creative mode to checking mode; e.g. by changing chair, posture)
• Change from ‘cogitate’ to ‘contemplate’
• Change your surroundings
• Change the medium (try dictating?)
• Consult someone else (real or imagined; a different point of view)
— When decoding:
• Put yourself in the place of the author
• Read another document on the same subject
• Get the subconscious working... (music?)
— When revising:
• Learn to forget
• Change the medium (screen, print)
• Give the text to someone else to read
• Imagine you are someone else reading
• Start reading in the middle
• Adopt a regular proof-reading routine
• Separate the tasks involved:
> accuracy of numbers, spelling, names, formatting
> clarity of syntax and style
> transmission of the message