Translatability derives from the verb translate which, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, comes from Middle English translaten, from French translater, from Latin trānslātus, past participle of trānsferre, 'to transfer': trans-, 'trans-' + lātus, 'brought'.
We will first discuss translatability by highlighting the relationships between language, thought, and reality. Two opposed trends stand out: the relativist and universalist approaches to translatability. The former advocates its impossibility (Humboldt, Sapir, Whorf), whereas the latter speaks for its possibility (Fedorov, Steiner, Nida). Translating is a bilingual communicative event involving a source language (SL) sender with a specific intention, a target language (TL) receiver, a translator who seeks to recreate the SL message in the TL text, and a commissioner who asks for a “translation proper” or any other type of text (e.g. adaptation, commentary). At the textual level, some kind of equivalence or representation holds between the SL and the TL texts. The TL socio-cultural translation norms may call for a transformation or even a manipulation of the original. Translatability can then be approached as a relative (Coseriu, Koller, Neubert & Shreve), not as an absolute notion.
Translatability problems may be classed into metalinguistic and text-bound. Metalinguistic difficulties (e.g., wordplays, puns, ambiguity) arise when the SL text contains cases where the content derives directly from its linguistic form. On the other hand, text-bound problems occur in the translation of specific text types. Translatability-related difficulties in philosophical, biblical, and literary texts are briefly discussed. As a conclusion, translatability seems to be impossible if one holds a purely formal linguistic perspective that strives to exactly match the syntactic and semantic structures of the SL and TL systems. Translatability between the SL and TL texts holds, as long as the intended communicative purpose of the SL text is reproduced in the TL text. Textual pragmatic equivalence would be the translatability criterion in this case. Finally, cultural untranslatability is overcome, if the translator recreates a TL text that is adequate regarding the TL socio-cultural translation norms and the expectations of the TL audience, e.g., literary and advertising texts. The translatability criterion would be socio-cultural adequacy. Textual pragmatic equivalence and socio-cultural adequacy are complementary translatability criteria, e.g., one can translate a literary text maintaining pragmatic equivalence with specific cultural adaptations.
|Sergio Bolaños Cuéllar|
|Bolaños Cuéllar, Sergio. 2022. "Translatability" @ ENTI (Encyclopedia of translation & interpreting). AIETI.|