Chapter 5: Target Orientation
1. According to Toury the cultural constraints governing translation operate primarily in the target system. Toury’s research approach is target-oriented in that he considers that translations are “facts of the culture which hosts them” (Toury 1995, 24): translations are initiated by the hosting or target culture, and the forces shaping them are to be found in TC (Target Culture). Toury recognizes that translation presupposes a relation with a ST/SC (Source Text/Source Culture), and that translators have bi-cultural knowledge. However, he considers that in the production of translations, choices are importantly regulated by TC situation and norms. Mona Baker welcomes Toury’s target orientation, since she considers that in the past in translation research there had been an excessive emphasis on ST (Baker 1993, 237). Simeoni too considers that freeing translation research from the “source” in the 1970s was “the single most important act of emancipation for the discipline” (Simeoni 1997, 4).
2. Other theorists warn, however, that the emphasis on target orientation tends to neglect the numerous complex relations between source and target cultures (Hermans 1995, 218). Anthony Pym points out the importance of influences and causes external to the target culture (Pym 1998a, 153), and places emphasis on intercultural relations and agreements (Pym 1992, 138-143). In some complex scenarios it is in fact difficult to distinguish source and target cultures – for example, when translations are undertaken within one culture into languages other than the national language of the country (Frank 1990, 51), when translations are reimported into the environment of their originals (Hermans 1999, 40), and in the multilingual networks in contemporary international mass communication (Lambert 1989, 217). In response Toury argues that a refinement of target orientation, the concept of the hosting (sub)culture, is not necessarily related to linguistic or geographical borders (Toury 1995, 29). Furthermore, target-oriented research is a starting point, and it therefore does not entail the exclusion of other approaches involving source-oriented or intercultural explanations; approaches indeed may converge (Toury 1995, 173). Toury thus goes a long way towards answering the objections raised.
3. Various aspects of Toury’s research method reflect target orientation. Firstly the choice of the object of study. As mentioned in chapter 3 para 2, Descriptive Translation Studies research takes as its object of study actual translations. Toury wants, however, to avoid basing the choice of object of study on an a priori definition of exactly what a translation is, since that is what will be established through descriptive studies. The object of study will therefore be a text that members of the target culture consider to be a translation. From the point of view of the researcher it is an “assumed translation” (Toury 1995, 31). Vilen Komissarov points out a deficiency of the notion of “assumed translation” in that there are “a large number of translations which are not accepted as such in the TC since readers do not expect or suspect them to have a foreign source” – for example, tourist guides, advertisements, and technical materials (Komissarov 1996, 372). Yves Gambier indicates another problem in that a particular cultural group may not consider certain cultural products to be translations (for example, they may be considered ‘adaptations’), whereas very similar products may be considered translations at another time or by a different cultural group (Gambier 1997, 581). Sandra Halverson is worried about the notion of “assumed translation” because of its relativity: she considers this is a vital issue, since in order for studies to be comparable and thus capable of leading to the construction of explanatory theories, there must be agreement on the conception of the object of study (Halverson 1997, 223-225).
4. Toury does, however, in contradiction with his supposed relativism, posit a universal notion of translation. It involves three postulates: the assumed existence of ST, a transfer process, and a relationship between source and target entities (Toury 1995, 33-35). These postulates are problematic. There is the thorny question of fictitious translations (Toury says they are legitimate objects of study), and the philosophically contentious idea that something is transferred (Hermans 1999, 50-52). More important is the question of how universal Toury’s postulates are, and what the relationship between this universal and the culture-bound concepts of translation, traduction etc. is (Hermans 1995, 221). Pym considers that Toury’s criteria are too broad; Toury doesn’t tell us how to prove a text is not a translation. Certainly Pym has no time for the relativistic approach (Pym 1998a, 59-61). Hermans, on the other hand, points out that for many practical research purposes, the position that we take a translation to be whatever the community in question decides to call a translation is in fact justified (Hermans 1995, 221), just as in many cases starting investigation at the target pole is a pragmatically sound methodological move (Hermans 1999, 39).
5. Apart from the issue of the object of study, further aspects of Toury’s method which reflect a target-oriented research approach are the following. Before addressing or even finding ST, Toury recommends that comparisons can be undertaken which do not involve ST. Examples are the comparison of two translations of the same ST which were produced at approximately the same historical time; the comparison of two translations of the same ST produced at different times; the comparison of different phases in the emergence of a single translation; and the comparison of translations of the same ST into different languages (Toury 1995, 72-74).