“What’s in a name?”: On metalinguistic confusion in Translation Studies

Mary Snell-Hornby

Terminology has often proved to be a problem in scholarly discourse, and Translation Studies is a case in point. Even the name of the discipline has been an issue since James Holmes brought it up in 1972, and the central concept of the time, equivalence, despite incessant debate and revaluation in some schools of thought, has in others long since been discarded as an illusion. Basically there are three possibilities open to the scholar wanting to introduce a new technical term:

– As in the case of norm (Toury), a word from general language can be used in a specified sense and defined as such. The danger arises that it can be misinterpreted and used differently in other languages (as with Vermeer’s Norm).

– the invention of completely new terms, as with Justa Holz-Mänttäri’s Botschaftsträger.

– A word is taken over from a classical dead language, such as Latin or Greek, and given a specific definition for the theory concerned, as was the case with skopos in the functionalist approach.

Referring to experience in editing the Handbuch Translation, the essay discusses this issue in detail. It also deals with the use of English as a lingua franca in the metadiscourse of Translation Studies.

Table of contents

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone. ‘it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less’.

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