What Is a Translating Translator Doing?

Brian Mossop
Government of Canada Translation Bureau and York University School of Translation

Translating is here defined as the quoting, in sequential chunks, of the wording of a written, oral or signed text, with an imitative purpose. These features distinguish it from other sorts of language activity—intralingual paraphrasing, re-expressing of ideas, fictive quoting, speaking from a script, ghostwriting—and thus provide an object for a theory of translation production. The defining feature 'quoting ' is taken to involve demonstrating to someone selected features of the source text. Thus the translational quoter is engaged in a dual activity: quoting OF the source text (rendering work) and quoting TO the readers or listeners (pragmatic work). The texts commonly called translations arise from some combination of rendering, pragmatic and non-translational work.

Table of contents

The title question is not to be confused with the psycholinguistic question: what is happening in the mind of the translator? Nor is it to be taken as [ p. 232 ]inquiring about the diverse economic, cultural or political functions which the translator is serving: extending a literary tradition by retranslating a novel; censoring information from foreign sources; enlarging a company's market by translating product information; allowing people to avoid learning the language of a neighbouring community.

Full-text access is restricted to subscribers. Log in to obtain additional credentials. For subscription information see Subscription & Price. Direct PDF access to this article can be purchased through our e-platform.


Bandia, Paul
1993 “Translation as Culture Transfer: Evidence from African Creative Writing”. TTR VI:2. 55–77.   DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Banfield, Ann
1982Unspeakable Sentences: Narration and Representation in the Language of Fiction. Boston: Routledge.Google Scholar
Berk-Seligson, Susan
1990The Bilingual Courtroom: Court Interpreters in the Judicial Process. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Bhaskar, Roy
1978A Realist Theory of Science (2nd ed.). Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf.Google Scholar
Clark, Herbert and Richard Gerrig
1990 “Quotations as Demonstrations”. Language 66:4. 764–805.   DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Compagnon, Antoine
1979La Seconde main ou: le travail de la citation. Paris: Seuil.Google Scholar
Cruse, David
1992 “Levels of Translation: A Linguistic Perspective”. Barbara Lewandowska-Tomaszczyk and Marcel Thelen, eds. Translation and Meaning, Part 2. Maastricht: Rijkhogeschool 1992 19–34.Google Scholar
Folkart, Barbara
1991Le conflit des énonciations: traduction et discours rapporté. Montreal: Éditions Balzac.Google Scholar
Gorp, Hendrik van
1978 “La Traduction littéraire parmi les autres métatextes”. James S Holmes, José Lambert and Raymond van den Broeck, eds. Literature and Translation: New Perspectives in Literary Studies. Leuven: Acco 1978 101–116.Google Scholar
Gutt, Ernst-August
1991Translation and Relevance: Cognition and Context. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
Jakobson, Roman
1959 “On Linguistic Aspects of Translation”. Reuben Brower, ed. On Translation. Cambridge: Harvard University Press 1959 232–239.   DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Kaufert, Joseph and John O’Neil
1990 “Biomedical Rituals and Informed Consent: Native Canadians and the Negotiation of Clinical Trust”. George Weisz, ed. Social Science Perspectives on Medical Ethics. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press 1990 41–63.   DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Levý, Jiří
1967 “Translation as a Decision Process”. To Honor Roman Jakobson vol II. The Hague: Mouton 1967 1171–1182.Google Scholar
Mel’chuk, Igor
1978 “Théorie de langage, théorie de traduction”. Meta 23:4. 271–302.   DOI logoGoogle Scholar
[ p. 263 ]
Mossop, Brian
1983 “The Translator as Rapporteur: A Concept for Training and Self-Improvement”. Meta 28:3. 244–278.   DOI logoGoogle Scholar
unpublished. “Is Paraphrasing Intralingual Translation?
Neubert, Albrecht
1985Text and Translation. Leipzig: VEB Verlag Enzyklopädie.Google Scholar
Nida, Eugene A. and Charles Taber
1969The Theory and Practice of Translation. Leiden: E.J. Brill.Google Scholar
Nord, Christiane
1988Textanalyse und Übersetzen. Heidelberg: Groos.Google Scholar
Opfell, Olga
1982The King James Bible Translators. London: McFarland.Google Scholar
Popovič, Anton
1976 “Aspects of Metatext”. Canadian Review of Comparative Literature 3. 225–235.Google Scholar
Pym, Anthony
1992Translation and Text Transfer: An Essay on the Principles of Inter-cultural Communication. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
1993 “Performatives as a Key to Modes of Translational Discourse”. Kinga Klaudy et al., eds. Transferre necesse est...: Current Issues of Translation Theory. Szombathely: Pädagogische Hochschule Berzsenyi Dániel 1993 47–62.Google Scholar
1995 “Schleiermacher and the Problem of Blendlinge ”. Translation and Literature 4:1. 5–30.   DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Schleiermacher, Friedrich
1813 “Ueber die verschiedenen Methoden des Uebersetzens”. Translated as “On the Different Methods of Translating” in André Lefevere, ed. Translating Literature: The German Tradition from Luther to Rosenzweig. Assen: Van Gorcum 1977 67–89.Google Scholar
Schreiber, Michael
1993Übersetzung und Bearbeitung: Zur Differenzierung und Abgrenzung des Übersetzungsbegrijfs. Tübingen: Gunter Narr.Google Scholar
Séguinot, Candace
1989 “The Translation Process: An Experimental Study”. Candace Séguinot, ed. The Translation Process. Toronto: H.G. Publications, School of Translation, York University 1989 21–53.Google Scholar
Seleskovitch, Danica
1984 “La Traductologie entre l’exégèse et la linguistique”. Danica Seleskovitch and Marianne Lederer, eds. Interpréter pour traduire. Paris: Didier 1984 264–272.Google Scholar
Sternberg, Meir
1981, “Polylingualism as Reality and Translation as Mimesis”. Poetics Today 2:4. 221–239.   DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Tannen, Deborah
1989Talking Voices: Repetition, Dialogue and Imagery in Conversational Discourse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Toury, Gideon
1995Descriptive Translation Studies and beyond. Amsterdam-Philadelphia: John Benjamins.   DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Vermeer, Hans J.
1982 “Translation als Informationsangebot”’. Lebende Sprachen 3/1982 97–101.Google Scholar
Voloshinov, Valentin (= Mikhail Bakhtin)
[1930]/1973Marxism and the Philosophy of Language, part III: Toward a History of Forms of Utterance in Language Constructions. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
Wadensjö, Cecilia
1995 “Dialogue Interpreting and the Distribution of Responsibility”. Hermes: Journal of Linguistics 14. 1–19.Google Scholar
Whitman-Linsen, Candace
1992Through the Dubbing Glass: The Synchronization of American Motion Pictures into German, French, and Spanish. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
Witte, Heidrun
1986Review of Mossop 1983 . TEXTconTEXT 1:1. 63–74.Google Scholar