Chapter 4: Applied Branch
1. The applied branch of the discipline as set out by Holmes consists of areas such as translator training, translation aids (dictionaries, grammars), and translation criticism (Holmes 1988). For Toury the kind of generalizations established in the theoretical branch can be projected onto the applied branch or applied extensions in order that these extensions be “closer to reality” (Toury 1995, 17). There is thus a possible one-way relation between the pure and applied branches. Certainly for Toury there is no relation in the opposite direction. Toury wants to make a very firm distinction between the pursuits and methods of the pure and the applied branches, between the descriptive and the prescriptive. For Toury description must not contain evaluative elements or prescriptive statements – it must “refrain from value judgements in selecting subject matter, and in presenting findings” (Toury 1995, 2). It is not the task of researchers in the pure branch to draw conclusions from their findings as to appropriate translation methods. Drawing such conclusions must be left to the “practitioners” of the applied extensions, that is, translation critics, teachers of translation and translation planners (Toury 1995, 17).
2. Here Toury again pits himself against another kind of writing on translation, a priori prescriptive writing. The researcher in Descriptive Translation Studies is not to set out to support a particular point of view on how translation should be done. Toury considers that the underdevelopment of the descriptive branch is due to the emphasis in the past on the applied orientation:
the immediate needs of particular applications of Translation Studies have often been taken as a major constraint on the formation of the theory itself, if not its very raison d’être. Small wonder that a scholarly framework geared almost exclusively towards applicability in practice should show preference for prescriptivism at the expense of description, explanation and prediction. (Toury 1995, 2)
3. Toury deplores the fact that all too often translations are still (1995) studied with a view to criticizing them with respect to a priori criteria, based on a notion of the ideal translation of the source text; regularities of actual translational behaviour are ignored; and often examples of translational behaviour are chosen to support the superiority of a particular point of view, and by implication a change of behaviour is recommended. When personal preferences or recommendations are falsely put forward as representative of behaviour in the culture, this writing of an applied persuasion masks itself as theoretical:
formulations using modals – mainly verbs such as ‘should’ and ‘must’, or their antonyms – abound in our field…More often than not they are even masked as downright theoretical formulations ie. as inherently binding rather than as a reflection of a particular socio-cultural attitude. (Toury 1995, 261)
4. Contrary to Toury’s somewhat pessimistic evaluation of the contemporary situation, Hermans considers that Toury has been successful in declaring “speculation…out of bounds” and in reducing “to rubble the existing prescriptive, source-oriented approaches” (Hermans 1995, 216). For Hermans and others (Chesterman 1998a, Gentzler 1993), Toury’s “resolute empiricism” liberated the study of translation by urging researchers to look at translations as they had turned out in reality (Hermans 1995, 217).