Book Review: Translating by Factors

Pascal Michelucci

on behalf of the Editors

Translating by Factors, Christoph Gutknecht and Lutz Rölle, Albany, State University of New York Press, SUNY Series in Linguistics, 1996, vii -- 346pp.

This book is a much-expanded adaptation of the authors' 1988 sixty-page paper on the same topic. It is a case study in language translation, in particular of the bi-directional determination of modals between German and English (with passing incursions into other European languages, p.157, p.191), as an examination of the relevance of factors in translation. Although the work's primary claim is to analyze how factors can be applied to translation, according to its title, it might best be described as an in-depth study of modals in the two languages, in which factors are employed to inform lexical choices and to analyze competing variants. The authors have elected to take a morpho-syntactic approach to the definition of modals (p.8, p.67, p.308 n.9), despite the fact that a study of modality in a larger sense, as the authors themselves admit (p. 68), would have allowed them to exploit factors more fruitfully.

A more apt title might therefore have been one which referred specifically to modals, which not only would have characterized the main thrust of their endeavour more accurately, but would have expressed with greater clarity just what area has most to gain by using factors. Indeed, factors are the field in which Gutknecht and Rölle prove themselves best able to resolve difficult questions (those involving numerous uncertainties and competing answers). Significant insights are provided in the process regarding the nature, quality, hierarchy and pertinence of a variety of factors, which are called upon to build linguistic frameworks around diverse sets of occurrences.

Not the least interesting aspect of Gutknecht and Rölle's study is their attempt to arrive at a terminological standards through which to refine, evaluate and apply the rather vague notion of factor. They take constant care to define the terms they are using. In this respect at least, their work is aptly named: the idea of Translating by Factors is not new; common sense readily admits that there are "several things" to take into account in a translation. But it is more a problem of coming to a definition of what each factor is, and how it affects translations in specific cases, and the translation process in general, and ultimately, to pin down the subtle interplay between them.


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AS/SA Nº 9, Article 5 : Page 1 / 4

© 2000, Applied Semiotics / Sémiotique appliquée

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