Discussion Questions


Newman theorized that not all information in the ST was relevant to the TT (functional equivalence). Thus, this could result in a reduction effect. Would it be possible to maintain functional equivalence when taking into account the prosodic effects of natural equivalence? How could you transfer stylistic meaning implicit in a metaphor for example? Is this translatable or untranslatable?


Danica Seleskovitch founded the term “deverbalizing” – forgetting the form of the ST to become “only aware of the sense, which can be expressed in all languages.” This is what is known as the “theory of sense”. Pym states that this is a process model of natural equivalence.

However, if you are stripping the form of the ST, I believe you are losing meaning as well. There are many terms that are only explicit through the context given. It would then be impossible to figure out the sense of the word. Also, I think that everyone would have a different sense depending on their mother tongue. Thus, trying to figure out the word expressed in “all languages” would give completely different connotations, for example between a native speaker of Arabic and Russian.

If new terminology arises in one language but not in another, how would “deverbalization” help figure out the sense of the word in all languages? If “deverbalizing” can render a natural equivalence, how could machine translation, such as Google Translate, perform “deverbalization”?


On page 255, concerning philosophical translations, Steiner discussed the idea of reading Kant, Schopenhauer, or Plato, etc. and forming an “‘undecidable’ taks of semantic reconstruction”. If you, the reader, are forming your own semantic framework around an important term used by a philosopher, it seems impossible to find the true “sense” of the word. Even if the author explains the meaning of the word, many times there are ambiguous terms in philosophical texts.

How would you figure out the semantic meaning of a word if some concepts are “not conceivable” according to Steiner – like “being” and “nothingness”? Also, he describes the abstract concepts as to “defy illustration”, how would this impact intersemiotic translation? – for example Pygmalion, the Greek tragedy/comedy into other prose and poetry (same/different language/s)?

Would the words “Kantian” or “Nietzschean” have different connotations for German speakers? How does a semantic framework operate around these terms?


In the third fold of the hermeneutic circle, incorporative, Steiner discusses the act of importing meaning and form. The TT already has a semantic framework that is “crowded”, but the addition of meaning from the ST can result in a “domestication” of the text. Thus, it would be like Schleiermacher’s idea of leaving the reader at rest and bringing the author to him/her/they. However, this can cause a “bend” toward the TT, creating an off-balance translation in Steiner’s viewpoint.

Also, the dialectic, for Steiner, is at an individual sensibility level. Thus, it is up to the reader to decipher the feeling given by the translation. The translator must have some fidelity toward the ST to keep balance in the hermeneutic circle.

There seems to be a see-saw quality to Steiner’s theories. There must always be trust and aggression (however not too much or else there will be a false translation). If there is not enough of the third fold, incorporative, the translation will be too close to the target text (domestic), and if there is too much fidelity, the translation will be too close to the source text (foreign).

I believe Steiner is looking for the equilibrium, or what he would call the ‘best translation’. Do you think a careful evaluation of his hermeneutic circle would produce a ‘best translation’? Where are the pitfalls in his theory? How can fidelity be ethical yet economic (producing a ‘best translation’)?


Schleiermacher discusses the use of “inner thought” as “outer expression” as a means of translating the text. He focuses on the sentiments he feels from words/phrases and the character of thought. In this way, Schleiermacher is using a sense for sense translation. However, I think he takes it a step further by stating the “spirit of language” and the “author’s characteristic nature”. It seems as if he is looking for a higher “sense” or “connection” with the text (his theological background?).

Schleiermacher is particularly thinking about the audience and the message behind the words.  Thus, the “true aim” is “to illuminate language using the distinctive spirit of the foreign…” Therefore, he finds that translation can better a language, and it can call upon new terms in the foreign text.

What if the translator’s sense of the ST is completely incorrect, then would that not negatively impact the TT? Is Schleiermacher’s theory suitable for all translations? How can you “illuminate” the spirit of the text without a foreignization strategy?


When translating, a foreignization strategy tends to break the semantic mold of the TL. There is a “semantic shift” to create a foreign aspect and realization for the reader. Jakobson states that lexical means are a way in which the reader fills the abases of grammatical categories in the TL.

However, what if a new word does not fit into any grammatical category in a language? Take philosophy for example; how could the phrase “Freudian” fit into a semantic category even if there is a semantic shift? Would there have to be a new semantic field created in the language around the term “Freudian”? Is it possible for a language to expand its lexicon through the pragmatics of another language?


I believe that Derrida explains that a “good” or “relevant” translation has an obligation to the ST and an obligation to the reader. This obligation is what he says an “expectation” of the reader. That “expectation” is what gives the translation relevance. To me, it seems like Derrida is hinting at a domestication of the TT.

However, if this is true, what is the extent of domesticating the TT? Is it based on the economy of the translation – thus dependent upon the text? Is Venuti’s translation of Derrida’s lecture a “relevant” translation?


There have many different biblical translations of the Bible since St. Jerome, Luther, etc. Also, there is always a “new” version of a translation. Some have even been localized for specific age groups, adding relatable scenarios or quotes from outside sources. Luther wrote for the “commoner” or so that any German speaker could understand and read the Bible. Thus, it is easier to spread the word of God, as long as Luther’s translation is the word of God and not Luther’s word.

Do you think the newer translations are an interpretation out of the word of God, like the claim against Luther’s translation? How could outside sources and quotes be interpreted within biblical writing?


There are many translations of the Bible, some have specifically adopted a sense-for-sense or a word-for-word translation depending on the audience. However, the KJB wants to provide room for curiosity rather than just endowing wisdom open its readers. Thus, there is no “bondage” to the words, allowing readers more freedom while reading the translation.

Is this translation truly the word of God, if it is interpreted by the “commoner”? Is God’s word not set in stone or are we saying it is malleable? Are all the different translations of the Bible into English removing us further from the word of God or closer to the Word of God? 


Dryden decides that he likes neither the literal translations or the “imitations” of translations. He finds an intermediary form of translation that he calls “paraphrase” or sense-for-sense. He critiques the idea of imitation by stating that the translator has too much liberty – it becomes easier to misconstrue the author’s original words and meaning. He seems “imitation” as a way in which the translator assumes authority over the author and the translator takes into consideration how the author would have wrote the original work.

Do you believe it’s important to understand the author’s mental processes while he/she originally wrote his/her poetry, etc? Is it not important to think like the author? or understand the environment in which the translator is writing? (biographical information) Does this lead to translator visibility or does the translator assume complete authority over the author? How far can a translator push his/her interpretation of the text in terms of a “paraphrase” translation?


On page 76, Benjamin says “Translation is a form”; he continues to say this form is based in the original text. Thus, it is determined by the original’s translatability. However, the translatability of a work is “ambiguous”. He closes his argument stating, “If translation is a form, then translatability must be essential to certain works.”

I don’t understand how a translation can ever be a form if…

  1. translatability of an original is ambiguous
    1. there is no adequate translator
    2. the original does not allow itself to be translated
  2. there are no norms of a translation

If “Translation is a form” can there ever be a certain set of norms in translation theory? How could there be norms if a translation is always in a state of “becoming” or its afterlife? Are there only specific norms based on the original text? If you don’t let the specific meaning inherent in the ST and the pure language flow in the translation, what becomes of the TT?


Retranslations aim at applying a new set of values to a translated text, and thus directly impact the target culture. If a text is translated multiple times, with many different translation strategies aiming at different values within the source text,

  1. is the text ever fully disambiguated?
  2. can there ever be a certain set of ethics a translator must follow, especially with pushing particular ideologies or values?

Could a translator potentially indoctrinate a certain audience depending on the created values in the TT? (Colonization)


In the area of world literature, there are certain texts that have permeated through different cultures. However, the pragmatics and structure of the target culture and TL make it difficult to convey the appropriate meaning. Foster advocates for the translation of universality and immediacy. As literary canons change, so do the values of a culture.

Does world literature require a retranslation if the values are ever-changing from culture to culture? Is it possible if a world lit text is domesticated that a person could realize it is a translated text?


In the encyclopedia of translation, it comments that adaptation can be used as a translation technique. Thus, adaptation as a technique attempts to find equivalence wherever cultural mismatches are encountered. However, if this is used in a localized manner, i.e. local adaptation, this would only refer to certain parts of the TT.

How could using an adaptation translation strategy in one specific part of the text and a different translation strategy in another effect the underlying network of signification in the TT? Is there a way in which a translator could borrow a word to fit into the target culture that would allow a concrete signification of networks throughout the TT?

Even using a word that is italicized will slow the reading process and the network of signifiers could be distorted.


Spivak urges that translators surrender to the texts they are translating in order to form an intimate relationship between the translator and the ST. Also, this will allow translators to “be able to discriminate on the terrain of the original”. Thus, for translators of Third World nations, they must be better equipped to confront the old colonial attitude.

However, how would a translator who is not from a Third World nation accurately detect the colonial attitude in a text? Is it ever possible for a post-colonial translator to ignore the history of the colonizer when translating a ST from a colonized country?


Gricean maxims relate to the utterances we speak every day. Sometimes, there is a literal and distinct referentiality to our utterances. However, sometimes there is no referentiality or it is ambiguous. But to understand the non-referentiality, a person has to understand the literal meaning of the utterance.

How can a reader draw on a referentiality when a writer who writes unsystematically leaves the reader with a “thin” description/context? Are pure nonsense and utterance with no referentiality considered what we all “untranslatable”? Is there a meaning within a word with no referentiality?


Tymoczko discuses the issues around writing a post-colonial book in the colonized language and the a priori language. Considering the lingua franca, there is a much more diverse market to write in the colonizer’s language at times. However, it is important to keep the sentiments of the colonized distinct from the colonizer.

How could the semantic framework of the colonizer and colonized’s languages affect the emotion that is carried throughout the text? Is it possible to translate the semantic field of both ST & TT, especially in this case – language that was colonized to colonizer’s language? How would the audience most likely be affected?


Venuti discusses the translator’s repressed desires in relation to the source author and text. It seems as though he thinks most translators want to assume an authoritative role while they translate. Thus, the visibility of a translator would likely increase, however, the translation may fail to have fidelity to the ST.

I am curious about the comment on “Freud’s magisterial use of the native language”. In other words, through Freud’s language a reader can develop their own ideas about Freud, asking questions as if there is any sexist language? perpetuating points? unsystematic writing/thinking? What do all these characteristics “translate” to the reader about Freud as a person?

Also, if the process of translation is a very intimate experience between the translator, ST, TT, source culture, and target culture, is it possible that while translating a translator develops a better sense of who they are and can they ultimately understand much better Steiner’s first hermeneutic motion (why they chose to translate this text—-an unconscious choice)? 


See post on : Presentation Notes & DQs : Louise von Flotow


Thinking in terms of Antoine Berman’s deforming tendencies, I was wondering about the implications about translating sound over sense. Many of the linguistic tendencies would remain undistorted, however, I am curious about the network of signification. von Flotow argues that there are still lexical relationships between words.

Does this mean that there can be an underlying network of signifiers, even if you preference sound over meaning? Would it even matter for nursery rhymes where the meaning might be in the reader’s position to make meaning?