Scientificity and theory in Translation Studies

Daniel Gile
ESIT, University of Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle
Table of contents

As explained in Institutionalization of Translation Studies, Translation Studies was pioneered by academic scholars, mostly from comparative literature, but also by translator and interpreter trainers, some of whom had no scientific background. They developed much of their theoretical work (“personal theories” – Gile 1990) on the basis of personal observation and introspection without systematic empirical testing or systematic engagement with existing theoretical work. Some of their immediate successors who were dissatisfied with the situation started to call for more “scientific” work. This was particularly salient in Interpreting Studies (see Gran & Dodds 1989), where cognitive issues were the first to attract interest and cognitive science became the main reference discipline for research into interpreting. In research on written translation, initial work on the translation process was done in the mid-eighties with the Think Aloud Protocol (TAP) method, which was imported from cognitive psychology. Epistemologically speaking, the experimental paradigm prevalent in cognitive science thus found its way into a discipline with linguistic and literary roots. It soon became clear that there were major differences in how scholars from different academic backgrounds viewed the requirements of good research, and in how self-trained researchers from the ranks of translator and interpreter trainers did research. Another difficulty with which TS has had to contend were the doubts and sometimes the hostility of the translation and interpreting profession towards research as discussed in Chesterman & Wagner 2002 (see also Impact of translation theory).

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