Restricted view limits cultural perception

Linguistics and the Language of Translation. First Edition
November 24, 2006

Kirsten Malmkjaer's carefully presented Linguistics and the Language of Translation is a recent addition to the Edinburgh Textbooks in Applied Linguistics series.

In the preface, the author, a well-respected figure in translation studies, addresses herself to "students of translation, language and linguistics who would like to enhance their understanding of the relationships between translation studies and linguistics - of how linguistics can be applied to the creation, description and constructive criticism of translations". This hints at an underlying tension between disciplines fighting over disputed territory, one that, from the outset, the book resolves in favour of linguistics.

The chapters use a pattern of summary and explanation of key concepts followed by a "practice and discussion" section where students are encouraged to apply the concepts to analysis of existing translations or to the process of translating itself. The examples are mainly drawn from English, plus Danish (the author's first language), French, German, Italian and Spanish, with appropriate glosses and back translations in English for students and speakers of other languages.

The first two chapters describe the development of translation studies in the West, referring to a much wider range of sources than is customarily the case in this kind of text, and present some modern linguistic approaches to translation. The theoretical third chapter, titled "Translation and language" but really presenting a theory of meaning and interpretation and the implications for translation equivalence, is the most interesting, particularly the discussion of ontological relativity and the work of Donald Davidson. The last five chapters then describe various facets of linguistics in the context of translation.

The book is a useful addition to the field. However, although there is a necessarily limited consideration of other varieties of translation studies, the brief sections on "cultural approaches" and "language, ideology and translation" that have become dominant over the past 15 years do seem curious afterthoughts.

Jeremy Munday is senior lecturer in Spanish studies, Leeds University.

Linguistics and the Language of Translation. First Edition

Author - Kirsten Malmkjaer
Publisher - Edinburgh University Press
Pages - 208
Price - £60.00 and £19.99
ISBN - 0 7486 2055 9 and 2056 7

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