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Review of Introducing Translation Studies, Theories and Applications
Munday, Jeremy (2001) Introducing Translation Studies: Theories and Applications. Routledge, 222pp, paperback ISBN 0-415-22927-8, GBP14.99 and $24.95; hardback ISBN 0-415-22926-X, GBP50.00 and $85.00.
Raphael Salkie, University of Brighton, England.
[An announcement of this book can be found at http://linguistlist.org/issues/12/12-1161.html#1 --RS]
WHY TRANSLATION STUDIES? Translation raises difficult questions about language. In this new textbook, Jeremy Munday reproduces at one point the German text that appears on the screen at the start of Werner Herzog's film "The enigma of Kaspar Hauser". One sentence reads:
Das Rtsel seiner Herkunft ist bis heute nicht gelst. [Literally: The riddle of his origin is not solved until today.]
The actual English translation, which appears at the bottom of the screen, is: To this day, no one knows where he came from - or who set him free. (p. 103)
The translator apparently decided that in this context the English sentence was a good "translation" of the German one - but there are major differences in meaning, structure, information sequencing and pragmatic effect between the German original (or its literal English gloss) and the English version. The task for linguistics is to provide a model of language which can capture both the process of analysis which the translator applied to the German sentence, and the process of production which yielded the English version. Such a model will have to represent the differences between the two sentences while at the same time characterising what the German and English sentences have in common. This is a formidable challenge for any linguistic theory, and few researchers have attempted to meet it.
Meanwhile, translation studies faces its own challenge, which is to explain why the translator made these changes, in particular in examples like this one where the literal English gloss is almost faultless (the only necessary improvement would be to replace "until today" by " to this day", as the actual translation does. None of the other changes are essential). Presumably the explanation will involve some claim of the form: "For reasons X, Y and Z, the actual English translation is more natural or appropriate in this context". That raises another challenge for linguists, because explaining notions like "natural" or "appropriate" in a systematic way is terribly difficult, despite the fact that translators routinely use them. To complicate matters still further, we do not have to agree with the original decision that this was a good translation, and we might suggest alternatives. It would be helpful if translation studies gave us a systematic basis to help us make these judgements. We need to understand not only the nature of translation, primarily a linguistic problem, but also issues about the quality of translation, where non- linguistic factors weigh heavily.
SYNOPSIS OF THE BOOK Trainee translators have available to them a wealth of literature to help them consider these matters, but this material varies in quality, uses a wide range of different terminology, has differing priorities, and is often hard to find. Munday's book is an introductory guide to this literature, aimed primarily at students studying translation theory as part of a practical course in translation. Pp. 15-16 give an outline of the different chapters of the book, which I have drawn on in the summary that follows. The first chapter gives an overview of the field, based largely on Holmes (1988/2000). Chapter 2 "Translation theory before the twentieth century", concentrates on Cicero, St. Jerome, Luther, Dryden and Schleiermacher.
The next four chapters deal with what Munday calls "linguistic- oriented theories". Chapter 3 "Equivalence and equivalent effect" looks at Nida's distinction between "formal equivalence" and "dynamic equivalence", as well as the semantic framework proposed in Nida & Taber (1969). We are also introduced to the distinction between semantic and communicative translation put forward by Newmark (1988), and the analysis of different types of equivalence in Koller (1979/89). (Semantic translation stays closer to the original text, and is recommended when the distinctive style of the original author is thought to be worth preserving. It may involve unusual forms of expression in the target text. Communicative translation can depart further from the original, and the result may look no different from any non-translated text in the target language. Serious works of literature where the author has a notable personal style may be translated semantically; "popular" fiction is more likely to be translated communicatively).
Chapter 4 "The translation shift approach" focuses on attempts to classify the linguistic changes or "shifts" that translators make, including the work of Vinay & Darbelnet (1958, 1995), Catford (1965) and Leuven-Zwart (1989, 1990). Chapter 5 "Functional theories of translation" outlines text-type and skopos theories (Reiss 1981/2000; Vermeer 1989/2000), and Nord's text-linguistic approach (Nord 1988; 1991). ("Skopos", the Greek word for "aim" or "purpose", is used for the purpose of a translation and of the action of translating, and takes into account how the translation is commissioned). In Chapter 6 "Discourse and register analysis approaches", Munday summarises the work of House (1997) on translation quality, as well as the discourse- oriented work of Baker (1991) and Hatim and Mason (1990), who draw on Halliday's systemic-functional linguistics.
The remainder of the book is devoted to "cultural studies" approaches to translation. Chapter 7 "Systems theories" discusses the place of translated literature within the cultural and literary system of the target language (TL), following Even-Zohar (1971/2000). Toury's "descriptive translation studies (1995), which grew out of this work, is then outlined, highlighting Toury's notion of translation norms, and his proposal that translated texts tend to have specific characteristics such as greater standardisation and less variation in style than their source texts. (Translation norms are sociocultural constraints which affect the way that translation is viewed and carried out in different cultures, societies and times). This chapter then summarises the development of this work by Chesterman (1997), and looks briefly at the Manipulation School (Hermans 1985). Chapter 8 "Varieties of cultural studies" examines Lefevere (1992), who treats translation as "rewriting" and identifies ideological pressures on translated texts. This chapter also looks at the writing of Simon (1996) on gender in translation, and at postcolonial translation theories which stress the part that translation has played in the colonisation process and the image of the colonised (cf. Bassnett and Trivedi 1999).
Chapter 9 "Translating the foreign: the (in)visibility of translation" follows Berman (1985/2000) and Venuti (1995) in analysing the foreign element in translation and exploring the contention that translation is often considered a derivative and second-rate activity, and that the most common method of literary translation is to "naturalise" the text so that it makes for comfortable reading in the target language. Munday argues that this method should not be taken for granted. In Chapter 10 "Philosophical theories of translation" the book introduces a selection of philosophical issues concerned with language and translation, including Steiner's (1998) "hermeneutic motion" and Derrida (1995) and deconstructionism. Finally chapter 11 "Translation studies as an interdiscipline" starts from Snell-Hornby (1995) and looks at recent work that tries to integrate the linguistic and cultural approaches. The author also discusses the relationship between the internet and translation.
Each chapter contains:
- one or more case studies which apply the concepts of that chapter to a particular text. - a set of "discussion and research points" as activities for students. - a list of key concepts and key literature at the beginning. - a summary at the end.
In my opinion, this book is a brave and largely successful attempt to synthesise a wide range of disparate material. Most of the important contributions to translation studies are represented here, though the book leaves out some work that perhaps should have been included. To mention three in particular: many people think that Gutt (1991/2000) is an important and original study, which says useful things about different types of translation and which is linked to a specific linguistic framework, relevance theory. Gutt is mentioned briefly in passing, but with no attempt to discuss his ideas in detail.
Secondly, there is an interesting line of research, mostly in French, which develops some ideas of Vinay & Darbelnet (1958). Munday limits his discussion of Vinay & Darbelnet to their classification of translation shifts, ignoring the bulk of their book which proposes that there are underlying differences between French and English textual practices. Other writers on translation who have pursued this idea include Guillemin-Flescher (1981), Ballard (1995, 1998), Van Hoof (1989) and Delisle (1995) (although Delisle's earlier work on discourse analysis (1982) is alluded to, I think that his later work is more important in a book like this).
A third body of work under-reported here is that of Peter Newmark, who has said many profound things about translation. Students should be made aware of his recent collections of provocative insights (1993, 1998), not least because they are more readable than most writing about translation. I accept that Newmark is hard to summarise, but he has much more to offer than just the distinction between semantic and communicative translation outlined in chapter 3 - which in any case is refined and elaborated in his more recent books.
As a textbook this volume is admirably designed, and its weaknesses mostly stem from the field that it covers and are not the fault of the writer. Munday criticises much of the work he outlines in the earlier chapters because it relies on notions such as "equivalent communicative effect" which are slippery and very hard to define; or because the principles discussed in these chapters sometimes do not take into account different types of text (translating a poem is different in many ways from translating a software manual). But at no point in the book does he mention any work which tries to define "equivalent communicative effect" precisely (perhaps there is none worth mentioning), and his section on text-types in chapter 5 is very brief - indeed, it questions "whether text types can really be differentiated" (p. 76). This is too dismissive: translators have to operate with some notion of the type of text which they are about to translate, so a principled attempt to classify texts in a translationally-relevant way can help them do this in a more informed way.
What's more, many of the contributions which are discussed in the chapters on "cultural studies approaches" focus exclusively on literary translation - a "text-type" limitation if ever there was one. On the other hand, as a linguist who is sceptical about cultural studies I was pleased to find some of the topics covered in these chapters genuinely enlightening. Should serious literature be translated in a way which loses its foreign flavour, or should readers of translated literature be encouraged to read versions which are not "naturalised", even though they will be more difficult? My son, a literature student, has recently read English translations of novels by Balzac, Kafka, Marquez and Grass, trying to remember each time that the version he was reading was not as definitive as the original. Maybe published translations of novels ought to come with a health warning, indicating the approach to translation that was adopted.
The book covers a wide area, and some topics are only sketched rapidly. The work of Nida in chapter 3, and the discourse-based approaches in chapter 6, will be hard for some students to grasp for this reason. On the other hand, Munday makes great efforts to encourage further reading of the original sources, giving references which are quite easy to access. As a survey of some of the basic material in translation studies this book is generally excellent, and I think that students and teachers of translation will welcome it with enthusiasm.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Baker, M. 1991. In other words: a coursebook on translation. London & New York, Routledge.
Ballard, M. (ed.). 1995. Relations discursives et traduction. Lille, Presses Universitaires de Lille.
Ballard, M. 1998. La traduction de l'anglais au franais, 2e d. Paris, Nathan.
Bassnett, S. & H. Trivedi (eds). 1999. Postcolonial translation: theory and practice. London & New York, Pinter.
Berman, A. (1985/2000). Translation and the trials of the foreign (translated by L. Venuti). In L. Venuti (ed.) (2000), pp. 284-97.
Catford, J. 1965. A linguistic theory of translation. Oxford, Oxford University Press. (An extract "translation shifts" can be found in L. Venuti (ed.) (2000), pp. 141-7).
Chesterman, A. 1997. Memes of translation. Amsterdam, John Benjamins.
Delisle, J. 1993. La traduction raisonne: manuel d'initiation la traduction professionnelle. Ottawa, Presses de l'Universit d'Ottawa.
Delisle, J. 1982. L'analyse du discours comme mthode de traduction: initiation la traduction. (2nd Edn.). Ottawa, University of Ottawa Press. (Translated by P. Logan & M. Creery (1988) as Translation: an interpretive approach. Ottawa, University of Ottawa Press).
Derrida, J. 1985. Des tours de babel. In J.F. Graham (ed.), Difference in translation (Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press), pp. 209-48. [English translation by J.F. Graham in the same volume, pp. 165-207].
Even-Zohar, I. The position of translated literature within the literary polysystem. In L. Venuti (ed.) (2000), pp. 192-7.
Guillemin-Flescher, J. 1991. Syntaxe compare du franais et de l'anglais. Gap, Ophrys.
Gutt, E.-A. 1991. Translation and relevance. Oxford, Blackwell.
Hatim, B. & I. Mason. 1990. Discourse and the translator. London, Longman.
Herman, T. (ed.). The manipulation of literature: studies in literary translation. Beckenham, Croom Helm.
Holmes, J.S. 1988/2000. The name and nature of translation studies. In L. Venuti (ed.) (2000), pp. 172-85.
House, J. 1997. Translation quality assessment: a model revisited. Tbingen, Niemeyer.
Koller, W. 1979/89. Equivalence in translation theory (translated by A. Chesterman). In A. Chesterman (ed.), Readings in translation theory (Helskinki, Finn Lectures), 99-104.
Lefevere, A. 1992. Translation, rewriting and the manipulation of literary fame. London & New York, Routledge.
Leuven-Zwart, K. van. 1989 & 1990. Translation and original: similarities and dissimilarities, I and II. Target 1.2: 151-81 & Target 2.1: 69-95.
Newmark, P. 1988. A textbook of translation. New York & London, Prentice-Hall.
Newmark, P. 1993. Paragraphs on translation. Clevedon, Multilingual Matters.
Newmark, P. 1998. More paragraphs on translation. Clevedon, Multilingual Matters.
Nida, E. & C. Taber. 1969. The theory and practice of translation. Leiden, E.J. Brill.
Nord, C. 1988. Textanalyse und bersetzen. Heidelberg, J. Groos.
Nord, C. 1991. Text analysis in translation. Amsterdam, Rodopi.
Reiss, M. 1981/2000. Type, kind and individuality of text: decision making in translation (translated by S. Kitron). In L. Venuti (ed.) (2000), pp. 160-71.
Simon, S. 1996. Gender in translation: cultural identity and the politics of transmission. London & New York, Routledge.
Snell-Hornby, M. 1995. Translation studies: an integrated approach. Amsterdam, John Benjamins.
Steiner, G. 1998. After babel: aspects of language and translation. (3rd edition). Oxford, Oxford University Press.
Toury, G. 1995. Descriptive translation studies - and beyond. Amsterdam, John Benjamins.
Van Hoof, H. 1989. Traduire l'anglais. Paris & Louvain-la-neuve, Duculot.
Venuti, L. 1995. The translator's invisibility: a history of translation. London & New York, Routledge.
Venuti, L. (ed.). 2000. The translation studies reader. London & New York, Routledge.
Vermeer, H. 1989/2000. Skopos and commission in translational action. In L. Venuti (ed.) (2000), pp. 221-32.
Vinay, J.-P. & J. Darbelnet. 1958. Stylistique compare du franais et de l'anglais. Paris, Didier.
Vinay, J.-P. & J. Darbelnet. 1995. Comparative stylistics of French and English (translated and edited by J. Sager and M.-J. Hammel). Amsterdam, John Benjamins.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER Raphael Salkie teaches linguistics and translation in the School of Languages, University of Brighton, England. His research interests include contrastive linguistics, translation strategies, reported speech, and tense and modality in English, French and German. He is the editor of the journal LANGUAGES IN CONTRAST.