Andrew Chesterman (2002d)
Semiotic modalities in translation causality.
Across Languages and Cultures 3, 2, 145-158
A common feature of much modern translation research is the notion of causality. This is true not only of empirical descriptive research and applied studies, but also of hermeneutic studies, since concepts influence action.
Different approaches focus on different kinds and levels of cause and effect. Some focus on the broad socio-cultural context, some on the situational level (translation event), some on the cognitive level (translation act) and some on the linguistic level of the translation product itself (translation profile). Aristotle’s classification of kinds of cause has already been applied in translation studies. This paper proposes an analysis of translation causality, based on Greimas’ modalities of faire, être, devoir, savoir, pouvoir and vouloir. It is argued that the study of causality does not imply a deterministic standpoint; that translation causality must include the translator’s subjectivity; and that the search for regularities in cause-effect relations does not imply a neglect of what is unique about every translation. A causal reading of the modalities of être, devoir, savoir, pouvoir and vouloir as factors influencing the translator’s action (faire) allows us to relate different kinds of causes at different levels, including the individual translator.
Keywords: translation, causality, modality, Greimas, subjectivity