The Origins of Translation as a Study and Its Further Evolution

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Translation as a study was shaped in the 1980s, as a fusion of literary study, history, linguistics, psychology, anthropology and economics, though reference to translators are available even in the Old Testament. Petrus Danielus Huetius defines translation as “a text written in a well-known language which refers to and represents a text in a language which is not as well known.” (Lefevere 1992: 1) “It has been denigrated as ‘uncommunicative’, ‘boring’, ‘pointless’, ‘difficult’, ‘irrelevant’, and the like, and has suffered from too close an association with its cousin, Grammar” (Duff 1991: 3). However, “two integrated activities, the comprehension of the original text and the production of the target text, frame the cognitive activity involved in translation” (Kiraly 1995: 64). The study of language was under the scrutiny of many scientists throughout history, including the famous linguist Ferdinand de Saussure. André Lefevere stated that translation is “a rewriting of an original text” (Lefevere 1992: xi), and since rewriting equals manipulation, it both helps “introduce new concepts, new genres, new devices” (ibidem), and also repress innovation.

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The author tackles aspects like the ideological constraints that is risen by translating, “the position of a central text in a culture and of a central culture in a configuration of cultures” (Lefevere 1992: xiiv), its role in education as well as techniques, linking translation to rebellion and violence against its own nation. He places an equal sign between translation and power, translation and a window or a channel from whoever and whatever to anything in between. Stating that trust is more important than quality, he supports by examples different translations and translators, drawing a line between different types of readers and translators, without leaving behind the patron. “Translation needs to be studied in connection with power and patronage, ideology and poetics, with emphasis on the various attempts to shore up or undermine an existing ideology or an existing poetics” (idem 10). He groups the difficulties one may encounter into five groups: the nature of things and poems, allegories and fables, customs and features of heroic times, fictitious inventions and finally harmony of diction. Distinguishing between the challenges of translating prose versus poetry, the author defines good and bad translations: “bad translations render the letter without the spirit in a low and servile imitation; good translations keep the spirit without moving away from the letter; they are free and noble imitations that turn the familiar into something new”.

Peter Newmark identified four levels that for the process of translation: the textual, the referential, cohesive and naturalness levels. He stated that translation operates in three main areas such as science and technology; social, economic and/or political topics and institutions, which both provide a salary, and finally literary and philosophical works, only the latter being free-lance work. The author turned his idea of the dynamics of translation into a graphic form, shown in the picture, while operating with two basic concepts, that of a source language and a target language. His definition of translating is “rendering the meaning of a text into another language in the way that the author intended the text” (Newmark 1988: 5) Among the tensions anyone may face while translating, he identified oppositions between sound and sense, figurative and literal, semantic and pragmatic, concision and accuracy, word order and grammatical / lexical naturalness, neatness and comprehensiveness. He sees translation as equal to education, as means of communication as well as an instrument of transmitting culture. ”A satisfactory translation is always possible, but a good translator is never satisfied with it” (Newmark 1988: 6), because translation is a science, a skill, an art and a matter of taste, and has to have the equivalent effect.

Peter Newmark thinks that translation theory firstly identifies a translation problem, then indicates the factors involved, lists the possible translation procedures to finally recommend one. He also states that there are two purposes for reading a text. The first one is to understand it, using close or general reading and the second is to analyze it, determining its intension and the way it is written, to select a method for translation and to identify problems. Any text has a hidden point of view, so translators have to seek it in order to preserve it, no matter which of the four text styles it fits in: narrative, descriptive, dialogue or discussion. Manner is as important as the matter in the process of translation, which the author divided into three stages. Firstly one should choose a method of approach, secondly keep in mind the four levels: the source language text level, the referential one, cohesive, that unites comprehension with reproduction and finally naturalness. The third and last step is the procedure of revision. One may tackle translation by two approaches: sentence by sentence, trusting your intuition, or analyzing and reading it a few times before translating.

Donald Kiraly states that “there are three major sources of information available to the translator: knowledge stored in long-term memory, source text input, and external resources. […] Translation-related schemata include the translator's understanding of translation norms and learned strategies, criteria for quality assessment, and potential sources of error when translating.” (Kiraly 1995: 102).

Eugene Nida in Contexts in translation states that contexts influence phonological aspect as well as grammatical, lexical aspects as well as historical aspects of each text (Nida 2001: 3). Professional translators should master technical terminology in modern fields such as merchandising, computer and environment. He also opposes translating to interpreting, since the first one is written, and the latter spoken, but however linked by the same purpose that is to produce the closest natural equivalent of the source text (2001: 9). Language is by far the identifying mark of a culture, as the sum of the opinions and dogma of a society (idem 13).

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