Discussion Questions (9.8)

Steiner says the failings of the translator localize and are projected as onto a screen, but does this assume that the reader has knowledge of both the original and the translated text to make such failure apparent?

Steiner says that “some translations edge us away from the canvas, others bring us up close”. By what criteria would we understand translations that bring us close or pull us away?

Since translation presents the issue of cultural and societal dissolution (i.e. loss of identity), how can you translate without losing your own identity?

Reading Blog Post – “Hermeneutic Motion” – Steiner (9.8)

George Steiner begins by defining hermeneutic motion, saying “The hermeneutic motion, the act of elicitation and appropriative transfer of meaning, is fourfold” (156). Steiner is concerned with asserting the idea that in the hermeneutic motion there is something there and that the transfer between languages will not be an empty and futile effort. The act of translation is an act of trust. Generosity of the translator by instilling his trust in the “other” with the idea that there will be something of interpretation. It is that the translator must believe the world as symbolic in which one symbol can stand for another. Yet, Steiner presents a gloomy reality in that the trust cannot be final in that sometimes there is simply just nothing there to be found or to translate. The donation of trust necessitates a proof through realization and labor. Steiner says, “As he sets out, the translator must gamble on the coherence, on the symbolic plentitude of the world” (157). In many ways, the translator must find that anything for almost anything can mean everything. But does that mean the translator may be searching for meaning where it is not?  On the other hand, there may be words and meanings that cannot be divorced from its formal autonomy.

After trust, the second stage of the translator is aggression; it is incursive and extractive. Understanding is an act, and a violent one at that, which is a Hegelian thought. Steiner believes that the act of understanding is that of “primary being”. Thus, comprehension is invasive and exhaustive (aka. why people are tired after having read/spoken in their non-native tongue all day). He then goes on to say that “decipherment is deceptive”. The translator will experience sadness after both failure and success. There are certain texts or genres that are exhausted by translation. Does that mean that there are texts or genres in which their translations are fully accepted? I am confused by his statement that “There are originals we no longer turn to because the translation is of a higher magnitude”. Can translations maintain the ability to transcend the importance and meaning of the original? 

The third stage is incorporative. It deals with the importation of meaning and form, embodying the original so that the translation is not “made in a vacuum”. Problematically, importation can dissolve or disband the entirety of the native structure. All translations and meanings maintain risks of being transformed. “The incremental values of communion pivot on the moral, spiritual state of the recipient”. When the native matrix is disturbed, the importation will not enrich? (Relatively confused by this idea). The dialectic can be seen in a sense of individual sensibility. Translation adds to our means, in ways that we being to embody the energies of the feeling. “Writers have ceased from translation, sometimes too late, because the inhaled voice of the foreign text had come to choke their own”. This is an exceedingly intriguing sentence that I think plays to the concepts of the translator as a mere bridge, but not the creator. Since translation poses the issue of cultural and societal dissolution, how can you translate without losing your own identity? Our movement of trust can put us off balance. “The hermeneutic act must compensate”.

Reciprocity in order to restore balance thus is the centerpiece of translation. There is a dimension of loss and break occurs through translation. There is a residue that is left over on the original that is positive. The work that is translated is enhanced and heightened. The over-determination of the interpretive act does so. To consider a source text worthy of translation is a dynamic of magnification. Yet, what does it mean to classify a text as worthy of translation and how does one do so? It is that the source texts gains “light” from the orders of diverse relationship and distance between it and the translation. The reciprocity is dialectic. Steiner says that “Some translations edge us away from the canvas, others bring us up close”. By what criteria would we understand translations that  bring us close or pulls us away?

Steiner says the failings of the translator localize and are projected as onto a screen, but does this assume that the reader has knowledge of both the original and the translated text to make such claim about the translator’s failure? The claim to style is a claim based on relations to other articulate constructs, by which translation is the most graphic. Genuine translation will therefore seek to equalize. There doesn’t exist a perfect “double”. The ideal makes the explicit the demand for equity in the hermeneutic process. Add substantive meaning to the notion of “fidelity”. Fidelity is ethical, but also, economic. The translator-interpretor find a significant exchange. Translation is an act of double-entry; both formally and morally the books most balance. Therefore, the hermeneutic of trust will allow us to overcome the sterile triadic.


Reading Blog Post – Chapter Four – Steiner (9/6)

There are four periods of translation. The first period would extend from Cicero’s famous precept to not translate “verbal pro verbo” and Horace’s reiteration of the formula. It includes observations and polemics of Saint Jerome and Luther’s magisterial Sendbrief vom Dolmetschen. Many theoretic texts within the first period, mainly dealing with the nature and problems of translation. The focus is that of immediate empirical focus. The period is said to end with Tytler’s “Essay on the Principles of Translation”. The second stage is characterized by theory and hermeneutic inquiry. It was posed within  moral general framework. Hermeneutic understanding was first posed by Schleiermacher, giving the subject a philosophic understanding.

After it transformed into the modern current, papers that are now printed on machine translation? Attempts to model relationships between formal logic and models of linguistic transfer. Directions set out by: On Translation by Reuben Brower and The Craft and Context of Translation: A critical Symposium by William Arrowsmith and Roger Shattuck. Many consider us still in the third phase, but why? Concepts are always developed but are they the same concepts? Much of the confidence in the scope of mechanical translation has ebbed. Translation has become a bridge for newly developing disciplines. All trying to clarify the act of translation (i.e. the process of life between languages). However, the degree of original ideas in regards to the topic of translation remains meagre.  Ronald Knox synthesizes such ideal  into two questions: which should come first, the literary version or the literal; and is the translator free to express the sense of the original in any sale and idiom he chooses? The skepticism of translation is rooted in ancient religious and psychological doubts. Some see translation as blasphemy.

Many believe that there can be no true symmetry between languages and translation. Since speech is arbitrary, it is conventionalized in signals and thus meaning can never be wholly understood from its expressive form. Semantic boundaries are determined by linguistic form and linguistic usage coincide with absolute boundaries –> modern way of stating argument for semantic dissonance. The strength of a language cannot be transferred, which much of the argument is held on poetry. Each word in a poem is semantically unique in that it establishes its own completeness of contextual range and tonality. This is just the basic understanding the there will be fundamental losses in translation.

Much is tension from philosophy in that we are meant to feel a tension between ideas of universality. The problem becomes with language that much is institutive, so how can that be relayed in a translation. Translation is a teleological imperative. In many ways translation is looking for a single mode by which to understand language. Until the undoing of babel, the access to translation will only be partial. But, then how do we undo Babel and is it possible? Much need for translation is to disseminate the gospels so that religious texts can be understood in a variety of languages: “No man must be kept from salvation by mere barriers of language” Interesting that translation thus becomes essential to spiritual process, but does that mean Christian religion is the religion of all?

Translation provided the “energies” to the Renaissance, I guess in many ways translation allowed for ideas to be spread throughout cultures, yet would such ideas be the same in translated texts? The need for an “echo” was so great that even indirect translation was considered a success. It is hard to refute the charge of theoretic and practical impossibility, yet hard to disband the desire for moral and cultural excellence of translation. Not everything can be translated. Theology and gnosis posit an upper limit. Ruckeinfuhlung = gift of retrospective empathy. The relationship between the SL and the language of the translator are in a state of continuous wobble. There is never a concrete foundation to achieve within translation. Interpretation is always reinterpretation? No two speakers mean exactly the same thing when they use the same terms, so then what do they mean? No way to demonstrate perfect homology. An argument becomes though that no human action or conduct can be perfect so how can we expect translation to be perfect? Yet we must asses to what degree of similarity can we achieve? How close to perfect can we get? 

Steiner now goes into the account that translation is desirable and possible. Yet the methods of criteria need to be investigated. Various classes of translation: strict literalism, great central area of “translation” as a faithful but autonomous restatement, and finally initiation, recreation, variation, and interpretive parallel. Yet the dividing lines are inherently blurred. However, these three methods are interconnected and inherently useful. Dryden’s metaphrase is the converting from one word to another word etc.. On the opposite end is imitation where author assumes liberty of words but also to forsake them both as he sees occasion. The true road is that of paraphrasing in that author is kept in view but translator but his words are not so strictly followed. 

Goethe’s schemes are also tripartite, but they are chronological. He believes that every literature must pass through three phases of translation. The first is through acquaintance with transference of our own sense between foreign languages. Understanding the plain and modest prose. The second is appropriation through surrogate, in that the translator must absorb the sense of the foreign work as to find a potential substitute. Finally, the highest and last mode is that of perfect identity, in that the text is able to exist within its place. Steiner criticizes such as being intricate and not clear.  Goethe considers Johann Heinrich Voss’ versions of the Odyssey and Illiad as trust glories of interpretation and translation. He sees the life of the original as inseparable from the risks of translation. 

Among other triadic systems that of Roman Jakobson is worth noting as it is far more comprehensive than both Dryden and Goethe. Jakobson is exceedingly concerned with the translation of signs into further and alternative signs. Interlingual translation is an interpretation of verbal signs by means of signs in some other language. Language synonymy is rarely ever equivalent. Mere act of paraphrase is simply evaluative. Translation involves two different equivalent messages in different codes. It requires transmutation. In what ways can or ought fidelity be achieved? 

Dolet’s five rules for translation: must virtue of obviousness, possess knowledge in depth of original language as well as own tongue, aim for a version in plain speech, must achieve harmonious cadences. Allows for history of originality. Vocabulary by which Herder, Schleiermacher, and Humboldt describe theory of translation is new. Debate of translatability is now part of epistemology. Theory of translation takes on unprecedented authority and philosophic texture. Yet classical polarities remain unchanged. Relationship should be that of portrait-painter to his sitter. “A good translation is a new garment which makes the inherent form familiar to us yet in on way hinders its integral expressive motion” Question of how though. 

Stephen MacKenna best recorded his inner life between languages, as well as intensity between the problem of letter versus spirit. He favors a free parallel text. He comes close to defining the proper modernity of a good translation. Still struggled with nature of translation like all the others. Yet knew that in the art there is a large margin for obscurity. Each translation always falls short.

Much translation has not been of importance other than that of the Bible. Only recently are we now truly concerned with close attention being paid to history and epistemology of the transmission of meaning. We must figure out the nature of translation. Much of what Steiner considers is now the nature of translation in regards to the complexity of diverse languages. The problem with the classification of translation study is that you need a final product for study… Analysis and judgement work from outside comes after the fact

Only recently are the anatomy and raw materials of translation accessible for methodical scrutiny. Much of the theory of translation pivots around undefined alternatives. Theory of translation must mean tier of two things: it is an intentionally sharpened, hermeneutically oriented way of designated a working model of all meaningful exchanged or it is a subsection of such  model with a specific reference to interlingual exchanges of significant messages between languages.

Steiner says that different languages are different. They are the instruments of storage and of transmission of legacies of experience and imaginative construction particular to a given community. Yet we do not know if the deep structure postulated are in fact substantive universals. Languages communicate inward to the native speaker.

He summarizes in that we have no working model for the fundamentals of neurochemistry and historical etiology of human speech, nor anthropological evidence as to the causes or chronology of its diversity. We are at a very preliminary stage in this understanding.

Discussion Question – After Babel – Steiner (9.6)

Wittgenstein says that the translation of texts between languages can be considered a mathematical problem. Yet in math there is always an answer and only one, so can it truly be considered a math problem?

This was previously posed by Steiner but it was a recurrent thought through my reading of his work: In what ways can or ought fidelity be achieved?

An argument against perfect equivalence becomes that since no human action or conduct can be perfect, how can we expect translation to be perfect? How do we assess to what degree of similarity can we achieve? How close to perfect can we get?

In translating the Bible and using such as a foundation for translation, do we begin to assume Christianity as the central religion of the world?

How can we view the translation of religious texts without accounting for cultural differences?

In being at the preliminary stages of understanding translation, where do we now go next? What are the next stages in understanding/uncovering translation?

Discussion Questions (9.1)

Here are some questions that I pondered while reading the most recent readings:

Differences in language is considered a gap, so how do you fill that gap? In addition, do you need to fill in the gap or can you assess it through your own personal interpretation as a reader? Sometimes I believe that the gap can offer more information than the actual words.

Since the Bible has been translated throughout languages and provides an equivalence can you necessarily take it as being the correct translation for each language? The bible very much maintains a heavy emphasis on interpretation, so translation obviously will pose many questions. Therefore, how can you account for these variations in interpretation? Does the Bible then become a different text?

Is translation really a form of treason or is it just a change in perspective about the same idea?

Reading Blog (9.1)

The act of translating is passing from one language to another. Close proximity between translation, metaphor and equivocation can be troubling. Thus, some believe translation can be a form of treason.

Two manners of translation: exchange of supposed equivalent linguistic values and displacement of the reader from his native language.

Normally translation needs two languages yet the Greeks were monolistic in that they let their language “speak for itself”. In order to easily speak what is written, you must respect and understand the “natural order” such as grammar and sequence of articles and conjunctions. Place of translation is more of a gap or a void. Sometimes theres just no equivalent which provides many problems, much of with is due to phonetic differences. Large difference between literary translation and literary adaptation. Sometimes theres a difference between meaning and imitation. A lot is defining in relation. Sometimes you must create your own language in order to maintain meaning.  Translation of Bible into Greek is an example of a monolinguism. The bible began to be translated in all different languages, allowing for a semi-fluid translation of languages and exchange.

Transfer of meaning (from proper usage to improper usage); Transfer of a term from one language to an equivalent term to another; Transfer of one government or culture to the next epoch

Discussion Questions (8/30)

Here are some questions that I thought about when going over the readings:

How are issues of untranslatability accounted for? It seems that in translating the equivalent of an untranslatable from the ST to the TT that the general tone and style must change. So, can you consider an untranslatable  to have an equivalent?

Since there are many circumstances by which equivalence occurs, how can we as readers understand such circumstances by which the translator considered? Do we assume that the translator is effectively accounting for various cultural, syntactical and language differences?

Should you consider a translated text a new piece of work  if it diverges considerably from the style of the ST? When should you consider the TT as an original text?

Reading Notes (8/30)

PYM Chapter 2 

The relation of the source text and the translation is that of equivalence (equal value). The relation is that the languages do not say the same, but the values are the same. Equal value prior to translation is that of natural equivalence, in which translation from language A to B or vice verse makes no difference in value. The value can vary: level of form, reference, function. Natural in definitions: “Translating consists in reproducing in the receptor language the closest natural equivalent of the source language message” I think it is important to understand that is it is the closest natural equivalent, allowing for differences in language, culture, etc. Markedness is the idea that some things are natural and others are less natural. Different languages express different views of the world. Languages considered to be a set of structures. Thus, structuralism says that we should study those relations rather than analyze them. It will ultimately demonstrate more value in doing so. Translation studies developed equivalence theory to explain the inconsistencies with language.

Signification – close attention to what is meant by “meaning” It depends on the actual signification in regards to the actual use of the language

Language Use – Closer look at language than as a system. If something like equivalence can be demonstrated, then there were systems beyond language

Text levels – does not depend solely on isolated word but whole texts. It must provide equivalence for layers of text


Componential analysis – More lexical within semantics, it is to list all that are equivalent within value and functions of the source text and the target-side

Natural equivalents do exists but rarely exist in the natural state. Problems arise when things are untranslatable which begs the question: how do you find an equivalence for untranslatables? Literal translation provides nearly straightforward word to word translation. Procedures of correspondence: correspond proverbs and referents & adaptation: to refer to different things are loosely equivalent with cultural functions must be considered. Considered prosodic effects.

Amplification: translation uses more words than source text to express same idea.

Reduction: the opposite of amplification

Explicitation: procedure whereby translation gives specifications only implicit in the source text

Implicitation: opposite of explicitation

Generalization: when a specific term is translated to a more general term

Particularization: opposite of generalization

Main point is that translation can give more or less. These try to mitigate the systemic differences between source and target language. Directionality is a obstacle. Compensation: procedure by which tenor of the whole piece is maintained by playing in a stylistic detour. Many ways and methods to cut up the conceptual space. John Catford saw equivalence as being mostly “rank-bound”, in that its not established on all linguistic levels at the same time. Five frames for equivalence: denotative, connotative, text-normative, and formal. Three basic text types: informative, expressive and operative. Danica Seleskovitch understands it as “deverbalizing”, to not look at the linguistic forms in great detail. Natural equivalence presupposes a non-existent symmetry. The test of equivalence have no psychological basis. New information cannot be nature, new ideas cannot be translated as natural. Natural equivalence is a hirostical idea. Some languages at one point were considered in a  hierarchical manner in which some were superior to others. Equivalence was a difficult idea to maintain prior to the printing press. In general, Pym Chapter 2 defends the equivalence paradigm

Encyclopedia of Translation – Translatability and Equivalence 

Trainability is the capacity for one meaning to be transferred from one language to another. However, there are debates as to what kind of “meaning” is involved. Translatability may operate in three ways: meanings are universal and generally translatable, thinking and speaking are more tightly bound, although languages have individuality, texts should still be able to be translated. In hermeneutic terms, translatability can rest of grammatical structure. Translatability very much depends on the target language. Translatability is extremely a dynamic category.


Notions of equivalence are highly controversial. Relationship between source text and target text that allows the TT to be considered as a translate of the ST in the first place. Referential or denotative equivalence mean the SL and TL words refer to the same thing in the real world. Connotative equivalence means SL and TL words trigger the same meaning for native speakers of the two languages. Text-normative equivalence is that words are being used in the same or similar contexts. Pragmatic or dynamic equivalence is that they have the same orthographic or phonological features. Textual equivalence is that the concept covers similarities in TL and SL information flows. One-to-one equivalence is that there is a single expression. SL and TL features must have some sort of reliability in order to be equivalent. Equivalence as a equality of exchange value in which its a negotiation of entity. Even narrowing down the scope of term equivalence leaves large rooms for competition of conceptual notions.. Commutation is a method of discovering textual equivalents. Equivalence postulate is to ask not whether or not the two texts are equivalence but what type and kind of translation equivalence. It is that equivalence occurs under certain circumstances.

First Homework Questions on Translation – 8.25.16

In searching for a recently translated book on the New York Times’ Book Review, I came across a page that reviewed ‘This Should Be Written in the Present Tense,’ by Helle Helle (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/24/books/review/this-should-be-written-in-the-present-tense-by-helle-helle.html). The reviewer describes the relation of the original text to the translation mainly in regards to tone and style, saying “Helle’s prose, translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken, is at once frank in its directness and elusive in its selective ­economy”. The reviewer accounts for and acknowledges the original style of the book when talking about the translation. The reviewer mainly speaks to the original text, highlighting and offering the storyline while talking about the style in which it is written. The reviewer also speaks to the quality of the translation, suggesting that Helle Helle should further pursue translations of future works due to the success of this one. Much of the discussion between the two works (translation and original) doesn’t seem to occur. The reviewer seems to mainly speak to the book as a whole, instead of differentiating between the two. I wonder if that is an indication of the translation as being very closely relatable to the original text in regards to voice, syntax, style, and prose. The review seems to follow a very commonplace review to that of a novel that wasn’t translated, which begs the question of whether or not the reviewer truly took time to acknowledge the differences in texts.