Enriching translations, simplified language? An alternative viewpoint to lexical simplification

Outi Paloposki
Research Institute for the Languages of Finland

Intuitively, the suggestion that lexical simplification be a translation universal seems to run counter to the established idea of translation as enrichment. The present paper seeks to relate the two ideas, simplification and enrichment, while addressing the issue of testing hypotheses about universality in Translation Studies, especially in Corpus Translation Studies. The nature of the data used and its implications to the results are discussed. Finnish 19th century texts constitute a case in point on the problems that heterogeneous data may give rise to, and it is suggested that alternative ways of studying lexical phenomena are needed, in order to complement the findings in Corpus Translation Studies.

Table of contents

One of the recent developments in Translation Studies has been the growing interest in exploring what is universal in translation. Like the search for universals in linguistic research, the quest for translation-specific universals is part of a long historical continuum of paradigm change and fluctuation. Different and sometimes contrasting approaches overlap or alternate in a pendulum movement, where the focus is sometimes on what is shared and sometimes on what is locally and contingently determined. In Translation Studies, universals have been sought in linguistic simplification (e.g. Blum-Kulka and Levenston 1983) and explicitation(Séguinot 1988). The present interest in universals owes to the descriptive praxis developed by Gideon Toury [ p. 266 ](1980, 1995) in search of universal laws in translation, and has benefited from the availability of the modern methods in corpus compilation and analysis. This is a new way of putting the universality hypothesis to the test: by handling large-scale corpora, Corpus Translation Studies can yield results that are representative of large masses of data (see Baker 1995: 228). It is also conceivable that the search for universals is a way to counter the potential uncertainty and despair caused by another recent development, the focus on the non-fixity of meanings and ‘undecidability’ (see Koskinen 2000:23–30 for an account of postmodern philosophies and the reaction to them).

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