Causes, Translations, Effect

Andrew Chesterman

Conceptual analysis has a role to play in translation studies, but it is a means, not an end. An empirical paradigm gives central importance to testable hypotheses. Empirical research on translation profiles should result in a translation typology: one such typology is discussed. Translations have multiple causes, and we can already propose some possible causal laws. Three laws of translation effect are also proposed, and various parameters of effect are discussed, together with the associated problems of sampling and prescriptivism. I argue that prescriptive statements are hypotheses about translation effects; as such, they should be tested like any other hypothesis.

Table of contents

A number of trends can be distinguished in translation studies over the past decade or so. One is a broadening of interest from translational studies (focusing on translations themselves) to translatorial studies (focusing on translators and their decisions). Another is a move from prescriptive towards descriptive approaches. However, I think the most important trend has been the shift from philosophical conceptual analysis towards empirical research. This article outlines a general empirical paradigm which incorporates both translational and translatorial approaches, but also accommodates prescriptive claims. The focus is on translations as phenomena that have both causes and effects. After a discussion of translation types and causes I propose some preliminary laws of effect, and raise some of the problems involved in the [ p. 202 ]analysis of translation effects. Prescriptive statements turn out to be nothing other than particular kinds of hypotheses about translation effects.

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