Coincidence in Translation: Glory and Misery Again

Robert de Beaugrande
University of Florida and University of the Philippines, Diliman

An important factor impeding the development of explicit theories of translation has been the centrality of coincidence. Skilled translating consists not of following rules or algorithms of equivalence, but of generating coincidences between the materials of the source language and those of the target language. Conventional aspirations of linguistic theory emphasize degrees of generality, uniformity and formality, which such an activity does not readily seem to fit. Also, language science and linguistics have consistently rated form over meaning and language system over communicative context, while translation is an activity in which meaning dominates over form, and context immediately controls and influences how the language system is used. Recent approaches to text and discourse are now striving to revise traditional theoretical aspirations in order to attain better models of language use, and may thus provide a basis for unifying theory with practice in translation.

Table of contents

1.1 Coincidence can be defined as a dialectic between similarity and difference. In a negative or passive sense, a coincidence is often viewed as a merely accidental correlation, a misleading similarity to which no special significance should be attributed. But in a positive or active sense, people can intentionally "generate" a coincidence by using certain resources and materials to construct an event which is similar to a previous one despite unavoidable differences of time, place, and circumstance. The simplest form is recurrence, involving repetition of the key elements which a community would regard as constituting the form of the event.

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