Pascal Michelucci: "Translating by Factors: Book Review"


I perceive a minor difficulty in the identification of what can be recognized as a translation factor. The useful list presented on page 5 regroups factors that "straddle" two languages for the most part. But I have trouble identifying the translation factors that are located most upstream and most downstream in the translation process where bidirectional sets of relationships, some being unequivocal comparisons, are represented (change, block, incompatibility, omission, divergence, modulation). Upstream first, those factors which are at the basis of comprehension in the source language, the same factors that are hard to impart to second-language students and present some major semiotic challenges for unskilled decoders. Identification factors fall, to my understanding, in a totally different category from all others. They are a matter of the resources available in the source language at the code level, and depend, for their recognition or actualization, on the competence of a capable decoder. As such, are they still translation factors? Language-bound morphological features in the source, since they affect a translation (the linguistic result more than the linguistic processing), appear to be of limited bearing on the final translation. The authors write that "word form [an identification factor] is the first translation factor" (p.12), although word form is a "unilingual" question (p.40). Perhaps the apparent paradox requires some attention.

The second gray area I identify is the furthest downstream in translation. I feel somewhat reluctant to accept "target," "optimizing," "revision" and "production" (linguistically the fuzziest of the four, p. 169) on the same footing as more clearly "translational" factors, as they appear to proceed from another order or another linguistic plane, or from extraneous motives. Most of these aspects are, however, convincingly covered in chapter 7 ("Essential factors of the translation situation"), in what can be summed up as the wherewithal of the skilled translator — another enjoyable chapter. Grammatical well-formedness, for instance is a case in point — well-formedness in the target language is implied in the notion of translation: provided that the source language instance is itself grammatical, its translation will also be. But poorly-formed structures might require modifications falling under what I recognize as a third type of intervention on the part of the translating agent — the very level of intervention where automatic translation devices fail miserably.

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AS/SA Nº 9, Article 5 : Page 3 / 4

© 2000, Applied Semiotics / Sémiotique appliquée

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