Skip to main content

A Most Useful Definition

Lawrence Venuti, on page 13 of his book The Translator's Invisibility, gives the following definition of translation:
Translation is a process by which the chain of signifiers that constitutes the foreign text is replaced by a chain of signifiers in the translating language which the translator provides on the strength of an interpretation. 

Traduction : La traduction est un processus dans lequel l'enchaînement de signifiants qui constitue le texte étranger est remplacé par un enchaînement de signifiants dans la langue cible que donne le traducteur sur la base d'une interprétation.
I like this definition, first, because it assumes the presence of meaning. After completing a master's degree in translation studies, I had been exposed to enough post-structuralism in translation studies and related fields to last a whole academic career. On my M.A. dissertation (a thesis is doctoral in the U.K.), one of my readers even remarked that my analysis of certain theories in relation to a specific text and translation was focused on the possibility of meaning. The remark was not at all negative and my approach worked just fine, if my final mark was any indicator. But the fact that the remark was made (implying that the possibility of meaning is not always assumed) left me bemused.

That said, I also like this definition, second, because it does not assume that meaning is always evident or singular. This is a very different matter from the existence of meaning. Any original has meaning, but any translation is dependent "on the strength of an interpretation" of the original.

I like this definition, third and finally, for the phrase "chain of signifiers." It sums up what could become a prolix attempt to explain what the different signifiers are (lexis, sentences, etc.) and how they relate (grammar, pragmatics, etc.).


Popular posts from this blog


Read this in English.





今週初めて黒澤明の『隠し砦の三悪人』という映画を見ました。この三悪人とは、だれですか? 三船敏郎が演じる真壁六郎太(まかべろくたろう)と二人の百姓です。この3人の登場人物の関係はとても面白くて、全ての人間の弱さも愛される性質も示します。


Children's Brains Miniseries: Age and Wisdom

Elihu, in Job 32:7, had a good thought: "I thought, 'Age should speak;  advanced years should teach wisdom.'"

According to recent research, as reported by ScienceDaily, wisdom truly is an advantage gained by age. Notice the first sentence of the second paragraph--it gives the definition of wisdom in the study. Wisdom here is basically experience. That is not a bad definition, though wisdom is a difficult word to pin down. And biblical wisdom is certainly more than mere experience.