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Saturday, February 26, 2011

... leaving Nida behind — part two

Kenneth A. McElhanon has written a brief history of translation theory since 1950[1]. He claims that Relevance Theory has not really escaped from the clutches of the Code Model of Communication (CMC)

In practice, many RT translators have chosen to reintroduce the contextual effects in footnotes. In effect the footnotes become a kind of catechism or study Bible. In most cases, the footnotes typically add (1) implicit SL information so that the TL readers can access the SL message or (2) TL contextual information to smooth the transference of the SL message. Removing the contextual effects from the text and placing them in footnotes does not enable RT translators to free the translation from the influence of the CMC. Rather, a copious use of footnotes is a clear indication that the CMC is implicit in the application of RT. The greater the use of footnotes, the stronger the implication that the CMC underlies the translation. [2]
So perhaps we have no need to overhaul or replace the Chicago Statement  since the CMC apparently isn't dead, not yet. I was thinking about a conversation that took place over forty years ago with a young woman named Sue Jackson (fictitious name) who was the daughter of  a successful businessman, a casualty of the late 60s cultural revolution, a heroin addict and a convicted felon. I had just made some comment about Richard Nixon, Henry A. Kissinger and the bombing of Cambodia. Sue Jackson replied with one word: Really. I remember my amazement at how much Sue Jackson could pack into that one word. It wasn't just an affirmation, or even an exclamation. It was delivered in monotone with only a slight stress on the first syllable. It communicated her entire worldview. And all of this information was inferential. None of it was in the code. The word and the flat enunciation was simply an indicator that she had an attitude. It was your problem to discover what that attitude involved.

A translator working within the CMC when confronted with the word Really in reported dialogue will be without recourse for solving the problem. On the other hand, a footnote might help for some readers, but I doubt very much that Sue Jackson's Really could be made intelligible to a reader born around 1990 in Kazakhstan using a foot note.    

[1] From Word to Scenario: The Influence of Linguistic Theories Upon Models of Translation,  Kenneth A. McElhanon, Journal of Translation, Volume 1, Number 3 (2005).

[2] ibid, p. 41


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