« back to unit 2» next chapter
Chapter 1: Introduction
- This unit is written by Siobhan Brownlie, lecturer at the University of Manchester. The unit will concentrate on the founding of the descriptive approach to translation by examining the notions of one of the seminal figures of the approach, Gideon Toury, as well as discussing criticisms of his work. At the end of each chapter you will be asked to answer a question, or to accomplish a task. In order to undertake a number of the tasks and questions, you need to have constituted a small group (non-electronic corpus) of source texts (ST) and corresponding translations (TT) in your normal language direction (ST should be your foreign language, and TT should be your native language). Your corpus should be made up of texts in the same genre and from the same time period. Each ST-TT should be the length of a chapter or article, and you should have about six of them. Please constitute your corpus before proceeding with this unit.
- Descriptive Translation Studies (DTS) started in the 1970s, and established Translation Studies firmly as an academic discipline. The main reason this became possible was the adoption of a descriptive-explanatory approach to the object of study rather than a speculative or prescriptive one. The discipline was to be firmly empirical, and the centuries-long tradition of discourse prescribing how one should translate, was put aside in favour of describing what translations were like, and proposing hypotheses as to why. In order to set up and promote the discipline, Toury developed James Holmes’ proposed map and goals of the discipline, which were based on the paradigm of the natural sciences. Toury also developed his own particular approach, combining notions from Itamar Even-Zohar’s polysystem theory with the concept of norm from sociology, which is probably Toury’s most influential conceptual contribution with regard to on-going research. Following from his aversion to a priori conceptions of translation, Toury refused to give an abstract definition of translation, and chose simply to study texts which were considered to be translations in the society concerned. An important specificity of Toury’s approach is its target-orientation: translations are considered to be facts of the target culture, their characteristics being conditioned by target culture forces. Toury’s theory is at times positivistic, but his contribution to Translation Studies has been immense.