8 March 1997

Date: Fri, 07 Mar 1997 09:12:25 -0600
From: Doug Robinson <djr@olemiss.edu>
Subject: Re: Colloquium Weekend


>(The possibility
>of experimenmting with a live “chat” session of this on-line colloquium has been made by Doug Robinson, but, for the time being at least, that possibility overwhelms my own technical and animic possibilities.)

Does this mean you consulted your anima and animus and they collectively nixed the idea?



Date: Fri, 07 Mar 1997 09:49:56 -0600
From: Doug Robinson <djr@olemiss.edu>
Subject: Re: resurfacing

Daniel writes:

>Some remarks. I find the information on Douglas Hofstadter’s forthcoming book fascinating and have already put it on my list of readings this summer.

Unfortunately so far I’m kind of disappointed in it. There is lots of food for thought in the book, but the cumulative experience of reading it–and I’m halfway through 600 pages!–is that it amounts in the end to a series of discussions of cognitive games or puzzles or riddles. The kind of thing I really enjoyed when I was 13: palindromes, rebuses, scrambled words, the works. Fun, but finally rather superficial fun. Or so it seems so far to me.

>To answer Doug’s question, yes I would locate Pym strategically in the middle ground, while Skopostheoreticians might be leaning more towards the empiricists, for methodological reasons. For me, the core of the empirical mentalist group consists of those experimentally prone researchers who embarked in the 80s on an ambitious cognitive programme designed to find out “what goes on in the translator’s head”.

TAP research? Hans Krings?

>”Mosaic habitus?” No, the article has not appeared yet. I hope it does! I have just submitted it and still have to hear from the Editors.

I for one would love to see a printout of it, if you wouldn’t mind mailing me one. Also any of your other work that you’d care to send–it sounds extremely fruitful.

>detailed process that you describe regarding your suspicion of doing a backtranslation etc., as an example of how a translator’s habitus may be acquired, is exactly how I imagine research in this area developing. Based on concrete examples of that kind, the notion could then be problematized in ways that may even prove useful in more homogeneous fields where it has been used more or less exclusively so far.

I’m glad people like you are interested in doing that kind of work. I’m feeling more and more inclined in that direction myself, but feel shy about taking it on, since I don’t have the kind of training in the field (well, none at all) that would make the research really interesting and useful. I think this is incredibly important stuff.

>”What would constitute a case-study approach” in this mode of subject-centered conceptualisation? I agree that it is futile to reject studies of translatorial behaviour based on personal experience, as ‘tainted’, subjective, unfalsifiable, the works. After all, the knowledge we are interested in exists in practice. The real expert is the translator, even if s/he cannot synthesize the experience – not the translation scholar. The latter’s expertise anyway depends on the consistency of the theoretical constructs with the translator’s prior knowledge. When the translator also studies transfer, the term ‘schizophrenia’ is often heard. Am I right in supposing that what Doug is after is a way to reconcile the two activities, so translation and translation studies become less disjointed?

Well, I think there is heuristic power in that disjointedness; and certainly I couldn’t imagine a full integration of the two! But as I said in my response to Pym, I’m very interested in turboloading the practical experience of translating (my own, mainly, but I’ve borrowed a few other translators’ accounts as well) into theory, in hopes of overwhelming stale dogmas that have only been able to survive there for lack of contact with the practical experiential world. Letting oxygen in past the hermetic seals.

>Basically, it is only a very restricted group (even if it is influential) who promote quantitative ONLY, A.P.A-formatted, supposedly “objective” science. In the paper I am submitting, I cite also the fact that we are in sore need of sociographies of single translators in TS.

I’ve been envisioning a book on the life histories of single translators for a few years now. Two years ago I applied for a US Dept of Education grant to fund an ethnographic research project that would have studied how translators become translators: what kind of childhood (multilingual parents? residence in several countries? love of languages in school?) and adulthood (married a foreigner and moved to his/her country? etc.) contribute to translators’ professional formation, and what effects those backgrounds have on their professional careers. It didn’t get funded. But I’m still trying to figure out a way to do it. It sounds like a thorough grounding in sociographic research would come in very handy!

>Let us have honest
>introspection then, interviews, socio-historical contextualisation, and good old textual analysis – either hermeneutic or semiotic, but modulated to bring the translator center stage.

Hear hear!

>Norms do not make sense without a habitus, no more so than the habitus makes sense without norms.

Is that latter really true? Surely it’s possible to have a habitus without norms? Or, no, what I guess I mean is that the norms that pervade a habitus are invariably more fluid, overlapping, idiosyncratically realized and actualized (more disaggregated in fact) than the huge systemic norms of which Toury speaks. This is the sense in which I thought Toury’s DTS system would implode if you tried to translate it into an agent-oriented approach: certainly some norms would still figure in the picture, but they would be unrecognizable from Toury’s point of view. A systemic viewpoint yields the benefits of epiphenomenal clarity; at the agentive level things get very blurry and unstable, shifting and liminal, therefore much harder to talk and write about–and also, from my point of view, much more interesting and realistic.

>The huge difference of course, is
>that a mosaic habitus goes a long way towards accounting for the creative, imaginary, chaotic results sometimes observed in practice. In no way does it deny the power of norms at every stage of the implementation.

Oops. Yes, this is precisely what I was saying above–with the exception that I do think the “power of norms” will look very different, indeed from a systemic perspective will look virtually nightmarish, at the level of the mosaic habitus.

>As to your post-scriptum on Bourdieu, I understand the irony. I can only say that the model applies to him too. Actually, I remember a similar question put to him in the middle of a talk, in which he described in scathing terms the elite’s race for distinction; he was heckled for seemingly abstracting himself from the game. On a related theme, an interesting piece was written by Rakefet Sheffy about the canonization of Bourdieu. It is called “Rites of Coronation” and appeared in Poetics Today 12: 4 (1991). More seriously, Doug’s question of course was, how can you AT THE SAME TIME draw the map AND be on the territory? It seems fake.

Well, no, not fake. Certainly problematic. But no less interesting for its problems. Logically it’s impossible, therefore paradoxical, but human reality is mostly made up of such conundrums, and they don’t bother me all that much. What bothers me is the attempt to pretend that that isn’t what is going on. Linguists studying language as a stable object and pretending not to be using language in the process, pretending that the interpretive problems they are trying to exclude or neutralize methodologically are thereby neutralized or vaporized and don’t affect their own methodology. Bourdieu doing sociographies and pretending not to be part of the socius (or socii) he’s studying. I’d say, go ahead and do it, but (a) recognize and admit you’re doing it, that you’re trying to lift yourself up by your own bootstraps, that you’re caught in what looks like a logical impossibility, and (b) transform your methodology so as to make that fact part of the problem and part of the solution.

This I think is one of the contributions hermeneutics can make to TS methodologies. Hermeneuticists are traditionally pretty comfortable with the methodological problems and inconsistencies and paradoxes that arise in a logical tradition when scholars admit that they’re human and not gods-in-disguise. In hermeneutics the “vicious circle,” a fallacy in logic, becomes the hermeneutical circle: you travel around it and around it, and with every revolution comes new insight. I don’t know of a hermeneutical cooptation of the problem of being on the map that you’re drawing; maybe we could call it hermeneutical mapping, and imagine it visualized as one of those Escher sketches where the hand is drawing itself (back to Hofstadter!).

>maybe. I only know that I feel I can place myself on the map too fairly easily – I recognize not only the position but the itinerary – and draw it at the same time. The real obstacle is when there is no field as such yet, as with TS. But we are all working to build one, aren’t we?

I hope so! And it certainly sounds like it.


Date: Fri, 07 Mar 1997 12:00:19 -0500
From: Robert Bononno <rb28@is4.nyu.edu>
Subject: Re: resurfacing

Daniel writes:

>>maybe. I only know that I feel I can place myself on the map too fairly easily – I recognize not only the position but the itinerary – and draw it at the same time. The real obstacle is when there is no field as such yet, as with TS. But we are all working to build one, aren’t we?

Then Doug:

>I hope so! And it certainly sounds like it.

If TS is translation studies, how is this true? It was my impression that the field in question is fairly well established but admits of a number of conflicting interpretations, none of which seems to have had too much influence on the field as a whole. The scope of the field is changing in interesting ways, I think, which is all for the better, but unless I am reading you incorrectly, the field certainly exists. I think another part of the problem is that the field itself keeps shifting depending on the attitude and methodology of the investigator.

Robert Bononno rb28@is4.nyu.edu CIS: 73670,1570

Date: Fri, 07 Mar 1997 17:34:25 -0300
From: Haroldo Netto <haroldo@mail.rio.com.br>
Subject: Re: Listening to Portuguese


I haven’t seen the mention to an official idiom for the Colloquium. Perhaps I didn’t want to see it. Anyway, I tried to take advantage of your text: you don’t have to translate everything all the time. Specially at a Colloquium on Translation. But the battle was lost, I didn’t make my point, what can I do?

About Gaza:
I have been stationed there for one year, April 66/April 67. The UN Forces were called Emergency Forces but the <<emergency>> lasted for about ten years. We were Brazilians, Yugos, Indians, Danors (Danish+Norwegians), Swedish, Canadians and, in the HQ, a number of nacionalities. Working language was English. The only two units that had interpreters / translators were the Yugo Bn and the Brazilian Bn. The others supposedly were proficient in that idiom. The Brazilians only designated interpreters after almost ten years in the Middle East. I think the Yugos always have had interpreters.

In my opinion, you can’t do without <<official>> interpreters/translators in a situation like that, where Peace was at stake. And I’m deeply convinced that if we all had people who could act as translators/interpreters of Arabic and Hebrew, many terrible things, deaths included, would be avoided in 67.

The need for interpreters/translators, in a case like that, is permanent. Besides working (in all fields: military, administrative, personnel) you have to understand and feel the environment in which you are embedded.

I hope I’ve answered your question, and it will be a pleasure to answeranything else you might want to know.



At 08:48 05/03/97 +0200, you wrote:
>For Haroldo Netto,

>I *love* listening to Brazilian Portuguese. But I think Seán mentioned that the colloquium language would be English.

>Just one question: How long were you stationed in Gaza? How long were/are UN forces expected to be there? i.e. what is the approximate time frame for the need for interpreters/translators?

>Anthony Pym

Date: Fri, 07 Mar 1997 17:56:13 -0300
From: Haroldo Netto <haroldo@mail.rio.com.br>
Subject: Re: Listening to Portuguese

Dra. Estella,

based upon my UN experience, I can assure you translators (or interpreters) NEVER should act as mediators. The commanding officer is always the one and only responsible for the decisions. Translators can help Commanding Officers to reach a decision, but I can’t see how they can be able to mediate without having the rank and the authority in the same level of the commanding officer. In my point of view, a mediator needs to be able to bargain, needs to have something to offer when necessary – needs to have power to decide when insist and when give up. And it will be very hard to find a good translator/interpreter capable to act as well as a mediator.

Haroldo Netto

At 09:14 06/03/97 +1000, you wrote:
>Pym says: I *love* listening to Brazilian Portuguese. But I think Seán
>that the colloquium language would be English.

>And I question: Perhaps because our Portuguese interligua is not enough to understand the subtleties of the argument?

>Perhaps Netto -through his UN experience- can comment on Pym’s suggestion that translators (I guess he really is talking more about interpreters) should act and be trained as mediators.

>Dr. Estela Valverde
>Assoc. Prof. in Spanish
>Dept of Romance Languages
>The University of Queensland
>St. Lucia
>Qld 4072, AUSTRALIA

>Phone: 61 7 3365 2277
>Fax: 61 7 3365 2798
>E-mail: E.Valverde@mailbox.uq.oz.au (Estela Valverde)

Date: Fri, 07 Mar 1997 21:53:25 -0300
From: Haroldo Netto <haroldo@mail.rio.com.br>
Subject: Re: Listening to Portuguese


a few comments on your comments about Joao’s translation and my text:

1.”by own initiative”
>which in English needs a third-person possessive pronoun, but what? His? Her? His or her? Her or his? Their? I’m editing Joao’s translation with my native command of English; but my choice of possessive pronoun to add in there is clearly going to be guided invisibly by the hands of ideology, of gender politics.

I wrote in Portuguese:

<<…by the translator’s own initiative or the editor’s.>>
I can’t see here any problem related with the choice of a possessive pronoun to be added.You don’t have to add anything. It is clearly stated whose the initiative is.
What could be said here, in my opinion, is that every choice, included the books to be
translated has a strong ideological component.

2.<<What about when the author and the translator are the
ssame person?>>

What about when the author and the translator are NOT the same person? The books are there, likehome pages and infornmations in Internet. You have to chose them, to access them, to ranslate them and finally to publish them e having people reading them. The author (specially when dead) simply can’t interfere in the process.

3.>is already dead, which is often the case. Even if it goes about spirits,
TTThat “goes about” was one of the phrases that was puzzling me in the
PPortuguese. What does it mean?

I wrote in Portuguese:
<<Even when we are talking strictly about spirits, they (the spirits) only talk when evoked or conjured.>> There is no <<it>> to be discussed here.
The subject of the first sentence is we. Your tentative translation in this case it was far better than Joao’s: “Even if we’re talking
aabout spirits …”

4. Pentecostes

Pentecostes is the Portuguese word for Pentecoste (French) and Pentecost) English.

Yes, I believe in this thing of spirit-chanelling, in the translator acting as a “medium”, or
a person through whom the spirits of the dead are alleged to be able to contact the living,
as a metaphor. I use it to say IT LOOKS LIKE, not that IT IS. Nothing more than a (good)
figure of speech.

6. The Author”s Spirit
Again you understood me very well: << …the author’s metaphorical spirit.
And what would
>that be, exactly? The author’s intention? >> Yes, you are absolutely right,
It’s the author’s intention. If your can translate the authors intentions, together with his choice of words and his ideas, your are translating his spirit.

What the author meant is his/her spirit.

That’s what I tried to say.


Date: Sat, 08 Mar 1997 15:54:03 +0001
From: “Joao C. Pijnappel” <jon.avatar@pi.net>
Subject: Re: Listening to Portuguese

>I wrote in Portuguese:
><<Even when we are talking strictly about spirits, they (the spirits) only talk when evoked or conjured.>> There is no <<it>> to be discussed here.
TThe subject of the first sentence is we. Your tentative translation in this case it was far better than Joao’s: “Even if we’re talking >about spirits …”

Yes, it certainly was. In my “10 min. translation” – unrevised – I tried to preserve the impersonal subject in ’em se tratando’, and let my English translation impregnate with the Dutch form ‘gaan over’ – literally ‘to go about’, but meaning ‘what concerns’,’talking about’, etc. (‘Zelfs als het over geesten gaat…’), which is also impersonal. My humble apologies to all the persons involved.



Joao C. Pijnappel
Sworn translator Dutch-Portuguese
Portuguese/Spanish/English/French/Dutch translator Certified member of the Dutch Association of Translators – NGV <joao@pi.net>
Tel&fax: +31 (0) 30- 2510229
Utrecht, The Netherlands

Date: Sat, 08 Mar 1997 17:54:48 +0000
From: sgolden@cc.uab.es (Sean Golden)
Subject: Geographical respresentation

Hungary is now respresented on the list as well.

Sean Golden