Translation Theory Revisited
Translation and the Nature of Philosophy: A New Theory of Words. London and New York: Routledge, 1989. 193 pp. ISBN 0-415-04485-5 £ 8.95..
Raymond van den Broeck
K.V.H. & U.I.A. Antwerpen
Table of contents
Among the branches of translation studies, theory has certainly become the most unpopular one these last few years. The general aversion towards theorizing in our field manifests itself in various ways and on several occasions; even to the point where many of those within the discipline who may rightly call themselves theorists tend to abjure any theoretical claims for the time being and prefer to regard themselves as promoters of the descriptive branch. This tendency is manifest in Target, for example. In at least two of the theoretical contributions published in the first two volumes, the respective authors voice their unmistakable displeasure with translation theory. Wolfgang Lörscher (1989), to begin with, examines the theory in search of adequate models reflecting the process of translation, but finds none. The result of his critical survey is that, apart from "idealized schematic arrangements showing the interrelations among those components which are, in all likelihood, involved in the process" (p. 43), none of the models suggested so far is deemed able to offer a psychologically valid reconstruction of that process. Under the paradoxical and highly suggestive title "A Theoretical [ p. 112 ]Account of Translation—Without a Translation Theory" Ernst-August Gutt (1990), for his part, argues that translation can be accounted for naturally within the relevance theory of communication developed by Sperber and Wilson, there being no need for a distinct general theory of translation. Each of these two articles calls into question that branch of translation studies whose main objective James S Holmes (1988: 71) characterized as establishing "general principles" by means of which the phenomena of translating and translation(s) as they manifest themselves in the world of our experience, "can be explained and predicted". Translation theory, in that light, would be either hopelessly deficient or simply superfluous: in either case it turns out to be a dead loss.