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Manual Twentieth-century Chinese Translation Theory: Modes, Issues and Debates

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This follows from the diversity of translational types and genres. Fedorov came under heavy fire for his views. He did not back down, though for the second edition, which appeared in , he added the subtitle lingvisticheskie problemy linguistic problems.

Translating and interpreting

This, as he pointed out in the preface to the 4th edition , was a response to the criticisms: he was admitting that he was restricting himself to linguistic matters even though this was not sufficient for a complete understanding of translation. He thought that a complete understanding would require contributions from sociologists, psychologists, literary scholars and others add page ref. On the other hand, his linguistic approach had two great advantages in the debate with the literary approach.

First, focusing on different kinds of linguistic correspondence between source text and target was much more useful for translator training and for machine translation. Second, the linguistic approach seemed more objective and therefore more scientific--an advantage in an ideological environment where science was highly prized. Indeed a list of fields within which translation occurs is given in the very first paragraph of chapter 1, and Fedorov devotes lengthy sections of the book to specific discussions of journalistic and scientific-technical translation 25 pages , political translation 25 pages and literary translation 60 pages.

However, contrary to most literary scholars who took an interest in translation, not to mention the literary translators themselves, Fedorov did not see language merely as a means to a larger end. Fedorov was as far as I can tell the first to formulate and elaborate the idea that one should theorize about translation in general by regarding it as language. From a West European point of view, his own biography is a bit odd in this regard. It seems that some of his teachers were linguists and literary formalists Pym , but he was certainly not a comparative grammarian.

Apart from Fedorov's biography, one would need to look not only at the sources of his ideas in Soviet translation theory and practice, but also at the broader ideological, political and institutional context of thinking about language in the post-war Soviet Union. According to Medvedev , the Georgian linguist Arnold Chikobava was personally asked by Stalin to write an article on linguistics, which was published in Pravda on 9 May These articles had the effect of bringing Soviet linguistics back into the international mainstream, for between and , linguistics in the Soviet Union had been dominated by the bizarre but officially approved views of another Georgian, Nikolai Iakovlevich Marr This is very different from the mainstream view that social class is reflected in superficial differences of pronunciation and grammar within a single language [7].

The burden of the Pravda articles was to denounce the views of Marr and his followers. Perhaps Fedorov realized, in the aftermath of the Pravda articles, that certain ideas he already had could now be published. In the very first paragraph of the introduction to the edition, Fedorov writes: "In the years when the "new theory of language" [i. Marrism] dominated, the theory of translation was undervalued or rather, completely sidelined. Even the possibility of a scientific linguistic approach to the study of translation was denied by the Marrists, despite the self-evident practical importance and theoretical interest of this task" [9].

Fedorov's linguistic approach was first introduced in an article that appeared in Vinogradov's new linguistics journal Voprosy Jazykoznanija issues in linguistics Fedorov , though if the title of his doctoral dissertation is anything to go by "the linguistic foundations of translation theory" , Fedorov had been thinking about a general theory covering all fields for some time, perhaps inspired by his venture into German-Russian technical translation Fedorov as the USSR prepared for war with Hitler.

Indeed the fifth chapter is entitled "Current issues in the theory of translation in the light of I. Stalin's writings in linguistics" and makes clear the relevance of the Pravda articles to translation reference to Marr on p Nor do I think it was merely 'convenient' for Fedorov to take a linguistic approach in the aftermath of Stalin's articles. The timing of his book may well have given him a big readership, but the discussion of the nature of language in the Pravda articles was related to what Fedorov wanted to say anyway.

This can be understood to imply that language does not simply convey our thoughts to others; it is the instrument of thought: no language, no thought. Debate about the nature of language is of course ongoing today; Chomsky, to take the best known example, endorses the notion that language is first and foremost an instrument of thought and only secondarily a means of communication. Any useful discussion of the merits of a linguistic approach to translation must be based on a conception of language. A final word on Fedorov: Translation had traditionally been regarded in the European tradition as a useful practical activity but hardly ever as something of intellectual interest.

Translations of literature were often seen as inferior to their sources and therefore worthy of only occasional mention, certainly not systematic study.

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Translations of non-literary material, though commonplace, were never mentioned at all as objects of study. This changed with Fedorov, at least among those who could read him or learned about him from others. There was now a book-length argument conveying a sense that translation, in all fields, is worth studying for itself. Pym , and elsewhere has emphasized the ongoing importance of the various notions of equivalence developed in the and 60s.

However before such discussions could start, it was necessary to establish that it was worthwhile investigating translation as a linguistic phenomenon in the first place. A little later in Paris: the translator steps forward.

Freely available

The professional translator may translate agriculture in the morning, finance in the afternoon and a minister's speech the next day, yet he or she is not a part of the farming, banking or political spheres, but simply 'a translator'. Meanwhile the translators who assembled in Paris in were quite naturally interested not in texts but in themselves and in the services they provided: their economic and professional status in society, and how they could ensure that translators produced high-quality translations.

The translator as a figure of interest continued to appear, as in the past, only in the work of historians of translation or biographers of famous translators.


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The focus on translations rather than translators was to continue among theorists, with the result that while the professional translator began to come into view in society, the translation producer did not come into view as an entity in the world of theory until the end of the century Simeoni ; Chesterman Starting in the late s, theorists finally began to observe translators at work, using various kinds of recording equipment, in an attempt to understand what was going on their minds.

But then in the late s, the idea of a sociology of translation appeared, a trend that saw translators not as cognitive agents using their brains to construct text but as social agents entering into relationships with others. However there is a world of difference between theory assisting practitioners and theory studying them, whether in terms of their socio-economic activity or in terms of their language production work.

The interest in translations rather than translators can no doubt be explained by the twin disciplinary origins of translation theory. The discipline that had traditionally provided concepts for thinking about translation, and continued to do so, was literary studies—an obviously text-based discipline [12]. Thus the language-producing subject, in our case the translator, remained invisible to theory, which concerned itself with completed texts.

When linguistics-trained theorists considered translation, their observations of linguistic forms were comparative in nature. It was not simply a matter of noting the degree of similarity of a certain Russian verb form within the Russian system and a certain French verb form within the French system , for if two forms had a certain similarity e. Still, even an approach based on textual rather than system comparisons inevitably placed in the background the subject who was producing the translation. The temptation to ignore the producer is also much greater when studying the written rather than the oral forms of translating.

Written texts appear to exist independently of their writers and readers, in a physical object that can be seen and touched.

When the theoretical study of oral translating got under way in the s, eventually constituting itself in the early s as Interpreting Studies, its focus was on the translator from the outset. In oral translating, the speaker and what is spoken are intimately linked. True, they are not completely inseparable, since an analyst can record and transcribe an oral translation, but such separation does not exist for the actual speakers and listeners in the translating situation: the language producer is right there.

Nida used two box diagrams of the translation process. Yet the chapter then plunges into these same box diagrams. Of course it would be absurd to say that Nida of all people was uninterested in translators. Nida innovated by focusing on the receptors of translational communication; he can be seen as a precursor of the target-oriented theorizing that emerged in Germany, Belgium and Israel a decade later. In other respects, his formulations were text-focused, not translator-focused, and this, I think, was typical of the period.

It would be some time before the two strands we have been considering came together in theoretical work: the linguistic aspect of translation and the person of the translator. Ye Gongchao On translation and language reform Some thoughts on translating poetry Translation and its positivenegative impact. On building our translation theories The translations of Lin Shu Review of Si Guos Studies of Translation The debate of art vs science On translation A letter to Lu Xun Again on translation A reply to Lu Xun The basic paradigm of Chinese translation.

Part I; 4. Part II; 5. Responses to Yan Fu; 6.

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Spiritual resonance; 7. Art vs. The language of translation; 9. Literal translation vs. The untranslatability of poetry; Translation theory for China;