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Review of  The Moving Text

Reviewer: Andrea Kenesei
Book Title: The Moving Text
Book Author: Anthony Pym
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Translation
Issue Number: 15.2429

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Date: Tue, 31 Aug 2004 15:00:16 +0200 (CEST)
From: Kenesei Andrea
Subject: The Moving Text: Localization, translation, and distribution

AUTHOR: Anthony Pym
TITLE: The Moving Text
SUBTITLE: Localization, translation, and distribution
SERIES: Benjamins Translation Library 49
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2004

Andrea Kenesei, Veszprem University, Hungary


Texts of every kind are produced in the source language (SL) and they
get translated into the target language (TL). If the process were as
simple as that, Pym would not have written The Moving Text (further
referred to as Text). The main point he makes about getting from SL to
TL is that a team of experts needs to apply an intricate net of steps
in order to achieve texts that will meet all the requirements of
''cross- cultural text adaptation'' (Pym 2001: 1), that is,
'localization'. The steps and components involved are 'distribution'
(the concern where the text goes), the forming of 'locales' (the
particular country/region and language), 'internationalization'
(generalization of products), 'translation' (retrieving from
'equivalence'), quantitative changes, the calculation of transaction
costs (the effort put into communication), 'segmentation' (shared
professionalization) and 'humanization' (consideration of the future
reader). Another aim is to demonstrate the fundamental differences
between 'localization' and 'translation', or rather, to show that the
latter is merely a subsection, however integral part of, the former.
The book provides a very practical approach to many theoretical


1. Distribution
Translated texts often betray their being 'transported' from another
language. Professionals can even determine the SL from the weird
phrases, strange or wrong word orders and other problems. Pym comes up
with not-so-funny examples from the computer world, mentioning that the
computer industry is just one among the many areas where the TL texts
are often incompatible with the reader, culture and language. If they
were, we could call them 'localized' texts. Localization must be
preceded by active 'distribution' rather than ''passive reproduction or
adaptation'' (p. 5). Without material distribution -- publicity,
physical distribution chains, updating, and adaptation to locales --
the TL texts remain functionless, which Pym proves very well. However,
I miss one important point from Pym's arguments -- while finding fault
with the Le Monde advertisement he fails to mention that the ad must
have been rendered to English by a non-native, as it is seen from the
spelling errors for example. No wonder that the relevant EU policy is
that the translators are allowed to translate texts into their mother
tongue only. If this rule were complied with everywhere, many of the
problems Pym discusses might be lessened if not eliminated. But mention
is not made here. Even-Zohar's 'transfer' seems to correspond to Pym's
'distribution' like 'love' to 'hug'; the first being an abstract
concept and the former a concrete chain of moves. This might be the
reason for Pym's repudiation of 'transfer', however, if we think in
terms of 'abstract' and 'concrete', we can say that 'transfer' and
'localization' being abstract concepts agree just like 'distribution'
and 'importation' being concrete things. Pym -- defying Even-Zohar --
is right in claiming that the foreign cannot be wholly domesticated,
that is, complete localization hardly ever exists. Zohar and Pym see
the issues similarly though, Zohar speaks of 'polysystem' (Even-Zohar
1990), Pym of 'localization', both having translation as one part of
the whole system.

Whenever Pym writes about localizers/translators/language workers, the
reader would like to know whether their native language is the TL or is
not because whatever we call the processes and products the question
stands or falls on this. Pym's treatment of intertextuality is strange:
''A localized text is not called on to represent any previous text'' (p.
5). ''... fanfares of generalized intertextuality should be limited
[...]. If there is to have been some kind of transfer from one text to
another, then the two texts must at some time have shared the same
locale'' (p. 20). To understand texts the readers relies on their world
knowledge, which comes partly from other texts; i.e. no text can stand
by its own. Some contradiction might be felt here: ''the logic of
separate locales and independent cultures is still strong, and that the
excluded spaces are still vast'' (p. 21); ''there are no natural borders
between languages'' (p. 21). The first complies with the Whorfian
tenets; the second relies on Saussure's diachronic approach, however,
we should emphasize synchronicity in the discussed processes. Pym's
'locale' is a feasible term and proves to be somewhat more flexible
than Zohar's 'transfer'. 'Transfer' involves the importation of culture
items, whereas Pym insists that ''cultures are usually thought to be
larger than locales'' (p. 23). Mention must be made though that both
authors are right in claiming that what we are talking about is an
extremely complicated system of linguistic and cultural transmissions.
This complexity makes the reader a bit dubious about the effectiveness
of the moves discussed. Also, Pym's examples are simply bad and even
worse translations, and he is looking for the possible explanations for
the failures. One can hardly agree with Pym's point that if a text
cannot be fully localized, it should be left at that (p. 26). It is
true that distribution may be less effective than the desired but
nobody should be prevented from distributing/translating texts; it is
always done with a well-grounded reason. He keeps repeating that
localization is hardly ever complete, which is an acceptable fact --
English-Italian example in the next chapter. The discussion of
external/internal knowledge seems hypothetical and idealistic, since we
have learnt that ''removing all the trace of the foreign'' (p. 28.)
should be avoided.

2. Asymmetries of distribution
In his criticism of the LISA definitions he says ''we have preferred to
talk about 'texts' rather than 'products''' (p. 29.). But if the things
defined come mainly from industries like e. g. localization, 'industry'
and 'product' are a good match. 'Internationalization' as such may
result in something of doubtful value; English-wise, the films he
refers to (p. 33) are just awful. The reasons are understandable, but
the linguistic purification 'internationalization' involves will
impoverish the source languages (see the language of the above
mentioned American films). This is the price that is paid for
maintaining and helping the target cultures/languages. The examples
(pp. 31-32.) are good to demonstrate 'internationalization', however, a
real 'text' would be more difficult to handle. Having this model in
mind ST -- internationalization -- TT1/TT2/TTn and that ''...the role of
the initial source will fade away'' (p. 35.) -- one raises at least two
i. Why not write the original texts so that they would not need any
ii. The more channels a text goes through the more fatal errors can and
will occur.

Practically, it seems impossible to retain the information with this
much transformation. We are reminded that ''initial drafts will go
through committee processes'' (p. 36.) the texts are ''ideally
translated''; the emphasis should be put on ''ideally''. The automatic
translation system may work well between Romance languages, but the EU
includes other languages as well (the English-Hungarian machine
translations are just horrifying). The hitherto examples are from non-
literary texts; one is curious to learn how this theory/model works
with fiction. We are happy to learn that Pym does not enjoy the
prophecy that ''internalization would spell the death of cultural
difference on many levels, unless we believe in 'glocalization' (the
local embedded in the global). Even if we accept all this, what if the
source text is from a minor language? Does the model work vice versa?
And we should not forget that the hitherto attempts to create an
international language -- even though they were artificial languages --
have failed. The asymmetry of distribution and incomplete localization
is quite all right but I think as many technical terms ought to be
localized as possible for the sake of the non-professional users (see
example in Figure 9.). I just cannot imagine that e. g. 'browser' has
no Italian equivalent. If we expect the users to pick up the English
terms, why not wait until everybody learns English?

3. Equivalence, malgré tout
Translation is part of localization. True, but (good) translators and
translation theorists all know that translation involves the
transmission of the message retaining the source culture (and
everything else) as much as needed and the conversion of the text to
meet the requirements of the target language reader. This means that
translation has always embedded exactly what Pym calls 'localization'.
The hermeneutic circle -- the question of part and whole -- is
revisited. And we need not get out of the circle. Good translators keep
cooperating with the professionals if the text is of technical nature,
and they are fiction writers and poets in the case of literary works.
Localization is not achieved when the translator, thinking (s)he is
omniscient, works in isolation. Doubts can be raised about this:
''translation theory [...] in tune with text linguistics, discourse
analysis'' and ''translation [...] returned to the narrow linguistic
exercise'' (p. 52.). Text and discourse analysis came about for the very
reason that the linguists realized the importance of linking social
studies and language, which means the widening and definitely not the
narrowing of 'linguistic exercise'. Or this: ''Translation is not text
adaptation'' (p. 54.); it is. ''Internationalization'' remains on a
theoretical level, along with the ''paratext''; they imply rules
operating in a few cases only. Pym calls equivalence as a constraint;
the reason is that he has local rather than global equivalence in mind.
Also, a text is equivalent with the original (input), therefore not
only is localization the two-edged sword.

4. How translations speak
Pym treats translation as an ''asymmetric replacement of natural-
language strings'' (p. 67.). And localization can never be fully
successful. Are not we talking about the same thing? Also, equivalence
is achieved if the reception proves so. Mention must be made though
that local equivalence is more frequently achieved than the global as
my research in literary translations has shown (Kenesei 2004). In the
sentence ''A good/bad translation is one where we can/cannot see the
translator'' I presume the reverse order holds. To the requisition ''Ask
receivers if the translator can be 'seen''' I note that my findings have
proved that
i. about half of the translators betray themselves and
ii. the translator's mother tongue is not a decisive factor in the
success of the translation.

When the receivers treat a text as original can we say that
i. localization is successful and
ii. it does not imply a second person?

This is why I doubt that ''translation turns the world of persons into a
world of things'' (p. 80).

5. Quantity speaks
As part of transliteration proper names are mentioned as untranslatable
(p. 92.), however, if they are telling names (in fiction) they should
be made clear in TT. That TT is longer than ST due to its more explicit
nature might be true but the examples for the asymmetric distribution
(salicyclic acid, sheep) are counterexamples. The comments are the
reiterations of the old principle -- text in context. When the output
is much lengthier than the input we should simply accept the fact that
cultural items are of unequal nature but here I would emphasize neutral
inequality rather than difference in values. ''Translators are not
supposed to be authors'' (p. 98.) -- recalling the problem of
'localization within translation' OR 'translation within localization'
I repeat: translators must cooperate with professionals (technical
texts) or be authors themselves (fiction). ''La Movida'' illustrates one
of the paraphrasing strategies to which translators turn as last
resorts. We might call this non-equivalence, however, it is an
indispensable tool. Deletion is not acceptable; paraphrase or
generalization can be used instead. This chapter is devoted to the
discussion of various strategies; Pym prefers to call them non-
translational procedures; I insist that they are parts of translation
and localization because they are employed to satisfy the receiver by
making TT ''appropriate'' and ''acceptable'' (Toury 1980). It is
understandable though that Pym fights against equivalence which may
involve the peril of an atomic approach and he finds localization the
way-out, rightly. Again, I equal localization with global/text-
level/context-level equivalence (see the Hamlet translation in Quebec).

6. Belonging as resistance
''Translation, localization, globalization'' at
provides human and machine translation. What is the guarantee for a
good rendering of ST to TT? Machine translations have a bad reputation
for good reason. Human translation is done by a team of language
workers. But as I have said translation is teamwork, involving either
at least two persons or two professions in one. I wonder why Pym
separates nature and culture; this world is governed by the same rules.
However, memes represent an atomic view, which does not fit into the
broad approach. If localization resists globalization, it is welcomed!
Why talk about constraints on distribution when any stretch of language
can be transformed in one way or another? Pym asserts that
performatives become constatives through translation. 1. We do know
that Austin, father of performatives, changed his views and declared
that every utterance performs an action. 2. The audience is aware of
the function of the translated stretch. Pym asks ''what participation is
left to the ... actual receivers?'' (p. 121.) There are as many
interpretations as people (author, receivers) involved. Thus much is
left to the receiver. The question is how big is the difference between
the receptions of ST and TT? From the differences we can make
inferences about how well the text has been distributed / localized /
translated. ''Localization is by no means an exclusively linguistic
phenomenon'' (p. 125.) -- is this what we have learnt so far? As for the
cultural embeddedness of texts, technical texts are the most neutral.

7. Transaction costs
The economic grounds for calculating the costs is convincing. From the
definitions of ''internationalization'' we learn that it is basically the
determination of general rules applicable for further movements. Is it
true then that the more locales are to accessed internationalization is
more complex? One might think that generalization is one act or step
(bearing in mind the doubts about its highly theoretical nature).

8. Professionalization
Pym is looking for the ''shared professionalization'' which is very
logical for (good) translators. One thing is true though -- when the
translator cooperates with a professional, it is either done on 1. a
friendly basis (2. or like me and my engineer husband with technical
translations), or 3. the money is shared, or 4. the professional does
the text adaptation and the translator checks the linguistic errors.
The first two are few, the third does not mean much profit for either
party, but the fourth seems a feasible way. I do not find the situation
Pym describes that disastrous -- the party ordering the translation
decides whether something valuable has been done or not, and goes on
ordering further works or suspends the contact with the translator.
Well, this is not the ideal situation, and Pym is rightfully trying to
change it. Also, many companies employ their own translators who grow
into the profession. There are editors who publish translated books and
organize an efficient teamwork of translators and professionals. They
work on segments but there are good databases and terminology sources.

9. Humanizing discourse
Localization seems to be very much humanizing discourse, language and
other contacts. Internationalization, however, seems to be working the
opposite direction. Standardization and simplification does not help to
keep up diversity, which is against humanization. The non- linear
nature of hyper-linked hypertexts need not be put in contradiction with
text linguistics. There are no ''stand-alone chunks'' (p. 186.); it is
CONTEXT that bears the omni-connecting power for both the electronic
and traditional texts. Pym calls it ''concept'' (p. 187.), yes, concept
is contextual, and context is conceptual, both fundamentally required
by localization and translation within and vice versa. Technically, we
can speak of non-linearity, but contexts and concepts ensure mental


Even-Zohar, I. ''Polysystem Theory'' Poetics Today 11:1, 1990, pp. 9- 26.

Kenesei, A. (2004) ''Emily Dickinson Interpreted Today in English and in
Hungarian.'' IN: Modern Filológiai Közlemények V. 2. under publication

Toury, G. (1980) In Search of a Theory of Translation. Tel-Aviv: The
Porter Institute for Poetics and Semiotics

Andrea Kenesei is a senior lecturer of linguistics. Her interests
include pragmatics, discourse and text analysis, linguistic analysis of
literature, translation and reader-response theories. She is working on
her Ph.D. dissertation on "Frame-based reader-response of translated