M1: Unit 2: Chapter 9 – Other Sources of Explanation

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Chapter 1: Introduction Chapter 6: Systemic Position Chapter 11: Self-reflection
Chapter 2: The Scientific Model Chapter 7: Norms Theory Chapter 12: Computerization
Chapter 3: Theoretical and Descriptive Branches Chapter 8: Norms Critique Chapter 13: Laws
Chapter 4: Applied Branch Chapter 9: Other Sources of Explanation Chapter 14: Conclusion
Chapter 5: Target Orientation Chapter 10: Objectivity Chapter 15: Bibliography

Chapter 9: Other Sources of Explanation

1. A common criticism of the norm concept (as well as systems theory) is that it reduces the role of the individual translator to that of a puppet. This is not the case in Toury. Toury considers that translators are free to follow norms or not, although not following norms may lead to sanctions. Translators who have attained a prominent status may more successfully challenge prevailing norms (Toury 1995, 64, 253). However, Toury has tended not to concentrate on the individual act of translation from the translator’s point of view. Other theorists wish to retain the notion of norm at the same time as taking fully into account the subjectivity of the individual translator. Simeoni suggests using Bourdieu’s theory of inculcated dispositions (Simeoni 1998); Robinson proposes the notion of the ‘translator-function’ as a mediatory middle ground between large-scale social and ideological systems, and personal experiences (Robinson 1997, 75); and Hermans focuses on the translator’s choices in relation to prevailing normative expectations (Hermans 1998a, 52).

2. In his case studies Toury considers only how individual cases relate to social constraints: literary, linguistic and translational norms and models (Toury 1995). Tourian DTS downplays issues which arise at the level of individual translations: idiosyncracies, and questions of interpretation. Such issues take on less importance in an approach which emphasizes generalization across a corpus, and the aspiration of replicability of investigations. The framework then results in exclusions in the studies. This is not only in terms of what is studied, but in terms of potential sources of explanation.

3. For Toury, certainly, the individual situation itself is not considered as a source of explanation for translational phenomena. In his theory norms, systems, and laws are the only sources of explanation of translational phenomena. Pym argues that for Toury there is in fact only one type of explanation, final cause in the form of systemic position. In contrast, Pym maintains that translation is a complex activity for which there must be multiple sources of explanation (Pym 1998a, 158). In his discussion of causes in translation, Pym takes up Aristotle’s four types of cause: material, final, formal, and efficient. With regard to translation, material causes involve ST, SL, TL, and transfer of ST; final causes are TC position as in Tourian theory, and the function of the product as in functionalist theory; formal causes are ambient notions of translational equivalence; and efficient causes are individual or collective translators (Pym 1998a, 149). Chesterman adds two other types: proximate cause, which is what is going on in the translator’s mind (this overlaps with efficient cause); and broad socio-cultural causes (political, economic, ideological, historical, etc.) which underlie the Aristotelian causes (Chesterman 1998b, 213-217). In a separate discussion, Pym challenges the assumption that texts are wholly determined by their communicative contexts and immediate purposes (Pym 1998a, 108), and thus suggests the explanatory category of textuality (the way texts operate). A systemic approach does take into account aspects of the other causes but only at a collective level, for example translators as a group, and does not accord other causes the status that Pym calls for. For Pym each type of cause must be fully recognized, although one may be more important in a particular case (Pym 1998a, 158).

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