Implications of Research into Translator Invisibility

Basil Hatim
Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh

Espousal of the cultural model in translation studies has been one of the more exciting developments in recent years. In this paper, an influential ap-proach representing this trend (outlined in Venuti 1995 and related publications) is assessed and its many strengths indicated. Also discussed are issues which have been seen as weaknesses in the model (e.g. the minimal reliance on textual evidence and the lack of a consistent methodology). A number of proposals, primarily informed by critical linguistics and contrastive rhetoric, are put forward in an attempt to fill some of the gaps. English and Arabic provide the language pair for a set of analytic procedures which focus on the teaching of literary translation.

Table of contents

The relationship between linguistics and translation studies has never been an easy one. This tension has in part been engendered by a clash of expectations regarding, on the one hand, what the theoretical linguist can or cannot do for the translator and, on the other hand, what the translator perceives as relevant to the problems at hand. For a long time, linguists had hoped that the translation [ p. 203 ]process would be amenable to the ‘rigour’ of their descriptive, system-oriented models of analysis. But, particularly in the earlier stages of its development, the linguistic approach turned out to be rather ill-equipped for the task; for example, little or no regard for meaning was shown, except of course within such highly decontextualized domains as ‘lexical fields’. Translators, for their part, have had their sights fixed on a different set of priorities: craft knowledge is systematically valued, often at the expense of theoretical comment and analytic reflection. This attitude was exacerbated by what was generally seen as the failure of linguistics to deliver: earlier approaches to linguistics all but failed to convince the practitioner that what they had to say about the translation process was in any way meaningful.

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