On history in formal conceptualizations of translation

Anthony Pym
2007 Across Languages and Cultures  
Any multilingual Begriffsgeschichte or histoire des idées requires some conceptualization of translation, no matter how minimal. If not, how are we to talk about the concepts (or Begriffe) or ideas (or idées) that come in different words? Some conceptualization of translation might reasonably be sought in the interdiscipline of Translation Studies, taken here as a mostly European set of discourses on the products and processes of translation. That discipline can indeed say something about
more » ... ation, as we hope to show. Unfortunately, Translation Studies is not currently in any position to supply measures of comparison, or indeed any degree of surety about the distribution of concepts across languages and cultures. We cannot tell anyone that Begriff is the equivalent of idée, nor that it is a non-equivalent. The reason for this is quite simple. Since concepts of translation are themselves culturally variable, since there are shifts within their own translations, they cannot be used as a yardstick for relations between other concepts. Translation has its own Begriffsgeschichte, and possibly a histoire des idées as well. Yet how might those histories be written? No matter how frequently we fleetingly attribute equal values to terms like translation, traduction, Übersetzung and so on, the only guarantee of consistency is the assumption that they somehow translate each other, over time and across space. One would thus need some vague notion of translation before any such terms could be selected for analysis. Such a preliminary opening to the concept-what we are here terming a conceptualization-must somehow precede its historiography, even if only as a quickstep to set things in motion. Translation Studies offers several ways of doing this. An inductive mode of conceptualization would set out from intuitively collected historical terms, related in
doi:10.1556/acr.8.2007.2.1 fatcat:ve6jkph2z5hqjkbs2tf742nwve