Need help understanding this quote.
Thread poster: Athina Danhier

Athina Danhier
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:36
English to French
+ ...
Jan 9

English not being my native language has resulted in me not being fully able to comprehend exactly what the author is trying to say in this piece of text. Can anyone simplify or explain what it means? Thank you in advance!

The paragraph:

Appeals to the foreign text cannot finally adjudicate between competing translations in the absence of linguistic error, because canons of accuracy in translation, notions of “fidelity” and “freedom,” are historically determined categories.

Source: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.475.4973&rep=rep1&type=pdf


 

Adrien Esparron
Local time: 04:36
Member (2007)
German to French
+ ...
An interpretation Jan 10

AthinaDanhier wrote:

Appeals to the foreign text cannot finally adjudicate between competing translations in the absence of linguistic error, because canons of accuracy in translation, notions of “fidelity” and “freedom,” are historically determined categories.


An explanation could be the following:

It is useless to refer to the original text in order to distinguish between different translations insofar as the notions of freedom are decisive, except in the case of a visible technical translation error.

Il est inutile de se référer au texte original pour départager différentes traductions dans la mesure où les notions de liberté sont déterminantes, sauf en cas d'erreur technique visible de traduction.

The translation of the quote could be:

Les appels au texte étranger ne permettent finalement pas de se prononcer entre différentes traductions en l'absence d'erreur linguistique, dans la mesure où les canons de la précision dans la traduction, les notions de "fidélité" et de "liberté", sont des catégories historiquement déterminées.


 

Tina Vonhof
Canada
Local time: 20:36
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Quote Jan 10

I think it means that if two translations are different, but there are no errors in either one, the source text cannot be used to judge which translation is more accurate because concepts of accuracy, such as fidelity (to what extent should a translation be true to the original) or freedom (to what extent can a text be more freely translated), have evolved over time and are thus more or less fixed.

I'm not sure I completely understand this or the idea that these are fixed categories. If indeed it is impossible to judge 'accuracy', then the conclusion would be that it is a matter of preference. It may become more clear by reading more of the book you refer to would but that would take too much time right now - it looks like an interesting book though.

It will be interesting to see what others think.

Added comment: I see that Adrien was the first to respond and gives more or less the same explanation.



[Edited at 2018-01-10 17:10 GMT]

[Edited at 2018-01-10 17:11 GMT]


 

Mario Chavez (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:36
English to Spanish
+ ...
Adjudicate? Jan 10

AthinaDanhier wrote:

English not being my native language has resulted in me not being fully able to comprehend exactly what the author is trying to say in this piece of text. Can anyone simplify or explain what it means? Thank you in advance!

The paragraph:

Appeals to the foreign text cannot finally adjudicate between competing translations in the absence of linguistic error, because canons of accuracy in translation, notions of “fidelity” and “freedom,” are historically determined categories.

Source: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.475.4973&rep=rep1&type=pdf


A friend of mine, a former librarian, warned me that academics like to use highfalutin language to obscure meaning. So, the paragraph seems to say this to me:

Using the foreign text [source language text?] as a decisive factor to determine which competing translation is correct, where there are no linguistic errors, is unhelpful because notions of fidelity and freedom are categories dependent on historical circumstances.

Now, the context here is important. The sentence appears in Lawrence Venuti's The Translator's Invisibility book, page 18. To better understand what the sentence in question means, we need to look back at half the page:

“. As a result, a foreign text is the site
of many different semantic possibilities that are fixed only
provisionally in any one translation, on the basis of varying cultural
assumptions and interpretive choices, in specific social situations, in
different historical periods. Meaning is a plural and contingent
relation, not an unchanging unified essence, and therefore a
translation cannot be judged according to mathematics-based
concepts of semantic equivalence or one-to-one correspondence.
Appeals to the foreign text cannot finally adjudicate between
competing translations in the absence of linguistic error, because
canons of accuracy in translation, notions of “fidelity” and
“freedom,” are historically determined categories. Even the notion
of “linguistic error” is subject to variation, since mistranslations,
especially in literary texts, can be not merely intelligible but
significant in the target-language culture. The viability of a
translation is established by its relationship to the cultural and social
conditions under which it is produced and read.”

Regardless of English not being your native language, the sentence above cannot be correctly interpreted in a vacuum. I know reading some scholarly books in translation studies can be a real pain, what with all the unnecessary circomlutions and idiotic jargon. Hope this helps.


 

The Misha
Local time: 22:36
Russian to English
+ ...
What a gawdawful way of saying a fairly simple thing - Jan 11

- that any translation should be appraised with due regard given to the time when it was made and the then prevailing perceptions of what a translation should look like. It is no particular revelation either since this applies pretty much to everything.

If there existed a Derrida prize for meaningless obscurantism, this sentence would be a prime candidate indeed.


 

Axelle H.  Identity Verified
Member (2017)
English to French
+ ...
Pas simple à comprendre .. Jan 12

Adrien Esparron wrote:

AthinaDanhier wrote:

Appeals to the foreign text cannot finally adjudicate between competing translations in the absence of linguistic error, because canons of accuracy in translation, notions of “fidelity” and “freedom,” are historically determined categories.



The translation of the quote could be:

Les appels au texte étranger ne permettent finalement pas de se prononcer entre différentes traductions en l'absence d'erreur linguistique, dans la mesure où les canons de la précision dans la traduction, les notions de "fidélité" et de "liberté", sont des catégories historiquement déterminées.


Even in French (my native language), it gives me a headache icon_wink.gif ...


 


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