Pascal Michelucci: "Translating by Factors: Book Review"


Many introductions to translation fail in this respect, and rely merely on a vague set of loosely- defined operations used selectively according to some sort of "sense of native correctness," much to the disappointment of students who are looking for a frame of reference that might guide their own efforts. In this sense, Translating by Factors is an ambitious endeavour, even daring, and, happily, a qualified success. It offers the certainties of a carefully-reasoned approach to translation, and to the problems one can attribute to its staggering scope. It is thorough, all-encompassing, but brings about a sense of atomization that goes with a synthesis of that nature: the unwieldy corpus of itemized examples in both languages verges on 1,200! The kinds of linguistic constraints of varying priority that motivate translations are numerous, and are variously brought to bear on different instances, and with varying felicity in terms of the adequacy of the end results of translation, which in turn, in many cases, are mandated differently according to audience and task.

So although Gutknecht and Rolle deliver a convincing argument for the relevance of factor strata in translation, with ample illustrative evidence, their synthesis is perhaps too punctilious to be called a systematic presentation of the multifarious layers of factor theory. Chapter 8 (p.273-305), actually the most fascinating and controversial portion of their work, best fulfills the initial goal of a study "geared toward making the complexity of the translation situation transparent by presenting translation factors in a systematic way" (p.10). Perhaps a better grouping and sequencing of the some twenty types of factors listed (p. 5) than the one afforded by the litmus test of modals, necessarily an aspectual and therefore atomistic one, would have made the broader study more successful in its primary objective. Gutknecht, a translator himself, has translated Palmer's Semantics into German. The originality and strength of this work lies in its exemplification of sound didactic practice — technical terms are explained, background theories are introduced, examples are well -integrated. A reliance on linguistic knowledge is never out of place and always conveys a sense of direction to the study of particular examples, which, out of context, might sometimes appear merely anecdotal (p.187). This analysis also shows strength in its impressive scope for the investigation of modal renditions — spanning morphology and prosody, pragmatic factors and linguistics-beyond-the-sentence, and of course the staples of syntax and semantics. In every domain, salient aspects of modal translation are hierarchized and thoroughly explained as they pertain to specific problems pertaining to translation.

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AS/SA Nº 9, Article 5 : Page 2 / 4

© 2000, Applied Semiotics / Sémiotique appliquée

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