What Is a Translating Translator Doing?

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

Abstract

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.

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