You are on page 1of 4

Language and Literature

http://lal.sagepub.com

Translation and style: A brief introduction


Jean Boase-Beier
Language and Literature 2004; 13; 9
DOI: 10.1177/0963947004039483
The online version of this article can be found at:
http://lal.sagepub.com

Published by:
http://www.sagepublications.com

On behalf of:
Poetics and Linguistics Association

Additional services and information for Language and Literature can be found at:
Email Alerts: http://lal.sagepub.com/cgi/alerts
Subscriptions: http://lal.sagepub.com/subscriptions
Reprints: http://www.sagepub.com/journalsReprints.nav
Permissions: http://www.sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav

Downloaded from http://lal.sagepub.com by Gholam-Reza Tajvidi on November 12, 2007


2004 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.

A RT I C L E
Translation and style: a brief introduction
Jean Boase-Beier, University of East Anglia, UK

Roman Jakobson, writing in 1959 in his famous paper On Linguistic Aspects of


Translation, maintains that where the style of a text is particularly important,
translation in the strict sense must give way to creative transposition (2000:
239). What sort of transposition is possible, how creative it can be, how
translation does justice to the style and the messages it conveys these are
questions which occupied translators and translation scholars long before
Jakobson made his observation and have continued to do so since. And yet
approaches and insights from stylistics have had surprisingly little effect on the
developing discipline of translation studies. In the 1960s, linguistic studies of
translation such as Nida (1964) and Catford (1965), concerned to explain how
meaning survived the transposition from language to language, paid relatively
little attention to matters of style, and in the subsequent rapid development of
translation studies as a discipline, which many scholars (e.g. Gentzler, 1993 and
Munday, 2001) would date from the early 1980s, this situation did not
substantially change. Susan Bassnetts influential introduction appeared in 1980
and it was at this time that James Holmes was presenting papers (later collected as
Holmes, 1988) in which he explicitly defined and described the emerging
discipline. But stylistics continued to play a fairly minor role in these
developments.
Conversely, insights from translation studies have rarely been brought to bear
on stylistics. In part, this lack of interaction may well result from the position of
stylistics at English-speaking universities, where it is often part of English studies.
It tends, for this reason, to be monolingual in orientation. Also, and perhaps more
importantly, it may result from the fact that translation studies since Holmes have
often resisted concentration on the textual or linguistic, in an attempt to avoid the
perceived narrowness of those early linguistic studies of the 1960s. For however
important these studies were, there is no doubt that recent translation scholars
(e.g. Venuti, 1998: 1) have viewed them with suspicion. Instead, the study of
translation in the last 25 years has tended to take its inspiration from literary
studies, and specifically from a literary studies which, influenced by
poststructuralist and postmodernist thinking, stresses notions of culture,
instability, relativity and the shaping power of language and ideology. Combining
this emphasis with a concern for translation ethics, much interesting recent work
has focused on cultural aspects, or on postcolonial or feminist modes of
translation. Catherine Claire Thomson explores this development at the beginning
of her article in this Special Issue.
This is not to say, though, that linguistics has been entirely absent from the
recent study of translation. Nida, in fact, has continued to publish in the field (e.g.

Language and Literature Copyright 2004 SAGE Publications


(London, Thousand Oaks, CA and New Delhi), Vol 13(1): 911
DOI: 10.1177/0963947004039483 www.sagepublications.com

Downloaded from http://lal.sagepub.com by Gholam-Reza Tajvidi on November 12, 2007


2004 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.

JEAN BOASE-BEIER

10

1997), and other studies (especially those carried out at UMIST by Mona Baker
and others: see for example Baker [2000]) have concentrated on what corpora of
translated texts can tell us. In an interesting study in the broad area of literary
pragmatics, Gutt (2000) has examined the effects of Sperber and Wilsons (1995)
relevance theory on translation. Yet Gutts work has not had a great deal of impact
on translation studies, perhaps partly because he expresses the view that no such
autonomous discipline is needed, not a view likely to be welcomed by a still
developing subject. Apart from Gutts study, recent work in both literary
pragmatics and cognitive stylistics, which examines the relationship between style
and cognition (e.g. Stockwell, 2002), has failed to have any discernible effects on
the study of translation.
This Special Issue aims to redress the balance a little, by concentrating
specifically on issues of style and translation. The topics considered in these
articles fall roughly into six main areas:
1. the style of the source text and how it can be conveyed by a translator (all five
articles consider this issue);
2. the notion of style as choice and how this affects translation (Malmkjr,
Boase-Beier, Milln-Varela);
3. the style of a group as opposed to the style of an individual writer (Thomson,
Marco);
4. the voice of the translator in the translated text (all five discuss this to varying
extents);
5. the need for a special stylistics of translated texts to account for their
relationship to a source text (Malmkjr, Milln-Varela, Thomson);
6. the role of cognitive notions such as inferred translator, implied author and
state of mind in the study of translation (Malmkjr, Boase-Beier, MillnVarela, Marco).
As this list of topics suggests, the articles in this Special Issue represent an
extremely eclectic mix of views and approaches; in fact they take on literary
notions such as intertextuality and reception as well as examining linguistic
structures such as transitivity, word-order, ambiguity and reported speech. It is a
mix all stylisticians are familiar with, and this is thus one very fundamental way
in which these articles illustrate the natural affinity of the disciplines of stylistics
and translation studies.
An important effect of their coming together in this Special Issue is to provide
stylistic access to a very broad range of material. The first two articles consider
translation into English: Kirsten Malmkjrs from the Danish of Hans Christian
Andersen and Jean Boase-Beiers from the work of the modern German poet
Volker von Trne. The other three articles examine translation out of English in
its broadest sense, though in none of the three is it British English and in one case
(Thomson) it could be argued that it is not English at all. Carmen Milln-Varela
explores the relationship between James Joyces original and its Galician
translation, Catherine Claire Thomson that between a Scots novel by Alan Warner

Language and Literature 2004 13(1)

Downloaded from http://lal.sagepub.com by Gholam-Reza Tajvidi on November 12, 2007


2004 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.

TRANSLATION AND STYLE

11

and its Danish translation, and Josep Marco discusses issues in the Catalan
translation of Henry James. It is to be hoped that this collection of articles will
help to fill a gap and also provide impetus for further study at the cross-over of
the two disciplines of translation studies and stylistics.

Note
I am grateful to the editors of Language and Literature for their helpful suggestions on the overall
shape of this Special Issue.

References
Baker, M. (2000) Towards a Methodology for Investigating the Style of a Literary Translator, Target
12(2): 24166.
Bassnett, S. (1980) Translation Studies. London: Methuen.
Catford, J. (1965) A Linguistic Theory of Translation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Gentzler, E. (1993) Contemporary Translation Theories. London: Routledge.
Gutt, E.-A. (2000) Translation and Relevance: Cognition and Context. Manchester: St Jerome Press.
Holmes, J. (1988) Translated! Papers on Literary Translation and Translation Studies. Amsterdam:
Rodopi.
Jakobson, R. (2000) On Linguistic Aspects of Translation, in R Brower (ed.) On Translation, pp.
2329. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Munday, J. (2001) Introducing Translation Studies. London: Routledge.
Nida, E. (1964) Towards a Science of Translating. Leiden: Brill.
Nida, E. (1997) Theories of Translation, Journal of Translation Studies 1: 1028.
Sperber, D. and Wilson, D. (1995) Relevance: Communication and Cognition. Oxford: Blackwell.
Stockwell, P. (2002) Cognitive Poetics: An Introduction. London: Routledge.
Venuti, L. (1998) The Scandals of Translation. London: Routledge.

Address
Jean Boase-Beier, School of Language, Linguistics and Translation Studies, University of East Anglia,
Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK. [email: j.boase-beier@uea.ac.uk]

Language and Literature 2004 13(1)

Downloaded from http://lal.sagepub.com by Gholam-Reza Tajvidi on November 12, 2007


2004 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.