Towards a meta-theoretical model for translation: A multidimensional approach

Piotr Blumczynski and Ghodrat Hassani

In this study, we propose a meta-theoretical model for translation. In doing so, we start from a critique of bivalent thinking – rooted in classical logic – exposing unidimensionality as its fundamental weakness. We then consider how this problem has traditionally been addressed by proposing continua. While recognising their cognitive, heuristic and didactic values, we argue that despite the promise of alleviating strict polarisation symptomatic of binarisms, continua are still unidimensional and thus counterproductive to theorising that seeks to capture translational complexity. As a way out of this impasse, building on the premises of fuzzy logic and the understanding that translation is a non-zero-sum concept, we suggest that theoretical concepts be couched in terms of multidimensionality (that is, contrasted with numerous oppositions, rather than a single one, as is the case with polar thinking). Finally, we suggest how our proposed approach can be translated into a practice of theorising.

Publication history
Table of contents

This article is a reaction to a certain methodological crisis which both of us started to notice independently of one another, working as researchers, translators, and translator trainers in two cultural contexts as different as Ireland and Iran. Consequently, we aim to make here a methodological point which crosses many historical and geographical boundaries and concerns a broad range of theoretical approaches in translation studies. We believe that we have identified an issue affecting no single theory in particular but rather a widespread manner of theorising: that is why we point to meta-theoretical implications. The selection of examples evoked to support our claims may seem somewhat haphazard (though we would prefer the term ‘random’, as in ‘random sampling’); indeed, we refer to various frameworks which are not always closely connected to one another but our argument does not depend on any potential parallels between them except for a widely shared meta-theoretical commitment to a certain kind of logic. John Ellis in his book Language, Thought, and Logic argues that “the most important steps in any theoretical enquiry are the initial ones” (1993, 14), and it is precisely these first, spontaneous, perhaps habitual, steps of logic that we are concerned with here. However, in order to present our critique of the problem and suggest a way of addressing it, we first need to outline its context.

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