'Acceptability' and Language-Specific Preference in the Distribution of Information

Monika Doherty

Abstract

The paper generalizes upon some basic aspects of acceptability concerning language-specific preferences in the distribution of information in original texts and translations. It is assumed that the pragmatic principle of Optimal Relevance and major grammatical parameters jointly determine language-specific processing conditions for an optimal distribution of information. The claims are illustrated by the German translation of a passage from an English novel, where the preferred translational variants meet different processing conditions in 'right-peripheral' German, as opposed to 'left-peripheral' English. The differences concern word order, including initial and final position in simple and complex sentences, and may have an impact on the semantic readings of formally similar sentence structures, which can require redistribution of information beyond sentence boundaries.

Table of contents

Gideon Toury has recently claimed that "it is no concern of a scientific discipline ... to effect changes in the world of our experience". "Drawing conclusions is up to the practitioners, not the scholars. It is they", he says, "who must bare the consequences anyway". Toury does not exclude the possibility of "drawing conclusions from theoretical reasoning, or scientific findings, to actual behaviour, be its orientation retrospective (such as translation criticism) or prospective (such as translator training or translation planning)" (Toury 1995: 17). Applying this to his own view of translation theory he suggests that trainees be given the opportunity "to abstract their own guiding principles and routines from actual instances of behaviour" (p. 256), and even be encouraged "to violate translational norms", albeit "not as an end in itself but rather as a means of opening the students' eyes to the multiplicity of modes of translation, all of which may be legitimate, according to one set of norms or another, and helping them wend their own way through the dark forest" (p. 258).

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