In the following article, an outline of a new linguistic theory of translation is given that can be of use to theorists and practitioners alike. The linguistic theories of the 1950s and 1960s were too normative and a-contextual to account for all the forms and aspects of translation; while the ‘skeptical turn’ of Translation Studies has succeeded in unmasking the ideological quality of all theories, but cannot produce a ‘cybernetics’ of translation, an account of how translation is materially done. A new linguistic approach can produce such a practical account, provided that the pragmatic level of analysis is given a prominent role and that a touch of non-scientific skepticism is maintained.
In what follows, a practice-based, and pragmatically-oriented, linguistic theory of translation is proposed. Formulating a linguistic theory of translation is, on the face of it, as obvious an operation as writing an ichthyological description of fish: translations are linguistic objects, and all those who think about translation must inevitably do so in terms of language. Nevertheless, the recent history of Translation Studies has made such an apparently uncontroversial expression as ‘a linguistic theory of translation’ controversial, and, indeed, suspect. Therefore, a brief historical survey of the discipline is needed before a (new, practical, pragmatic) linguistic theory is outlined.
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