Propositions on cross-cultural communication and translation

Anthony Pym
Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona, Spain

Cross-cultural communication can be characterized by a relatively high degree of effort required to reduce complexity, by relatively high transaction costs, by relatively low trust between communication partners, and by relatively narrow success conditions that create points of high-risk discourse. To communicate successfully between cultures would thus require a special kind of risk management. Translation, as a mode of cross-cultural communication, is held to share those same features, as well as at least two specific representational maxims concerning discursive persons and textual quantity. It is argued that the related concepts of complexity, success conditions and risk can describe not only the act of translating as a mode of cross-cultural communication, but also certain features of the professional intercultures to which translators belong. Step-by-step propositions thus synthesize an approach that runs from an analysis of cross-cultural communication to a description of professional intercultures, their sources of power, and the reasons for their apparent lack of power in a globalizing age.

Table of contents

The following are propositions designed to connect a few ideas about crosscultural communication. They are presented in fairly common language and as concisely as possible. The ideas are drawn from a multiplicity of existing theories; the aim is not particularly to be original. The propositions are instead intended to link up three endeavors: an abstract conception of cross-cultural communication, a description of the specificities of translation, and an attempt to envisage the future of cross-cultural communication in a globalizing age. The various points at which the propositions draw on previous theories are indicated in a series of endnotes. Examples and illustrations can be found in the works referred to.

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