Interpretation, reception and translation studies

Document Type


Source Publication

FIT Third Asian Translators' Forum : Translation in the New Millennium : Inter-Continental Perspectives on Translation = 第3屆國際譯聯亞洲翻譯家論壇 : 千禧年翻譯硏討 : 翻譯的洲際透視

Publication Date



Lingnan University


Translation is a substitute for the original, and the two texts thus involved cannot be exactly the same. Few would claim otherwise presently. But translation is still expected to attain a degree of approximation, which is fully understandable since it is bound up in the question of its very identity. Familiar metaphors of translation studies such as "resemblance", "matching", "adequacy" and "faithfulness" are due to an implicit awareness that translation is different from the original. Yet this difference is largely eschewed by translation scholars, who seem more interested in addressing translation problems or perceived ones unmistakably rooted in difference, rather than difference itself as a central cultural nucleus of communication in the form of translation. Instead, the emphasis is primarily on how to enable translation to reach toward an attainable state in which the translator is able to overcome untranslatability. Temporal distance and cultural difference may cause the target reader to feel alienated by translation, and for this reason distance needs to be turned into proximity, and in cultural terms, the unfamiliar into the familiar. As Benjamin observes, translation entails transplanting the original, and the accompanying necessity to appropriate or transform the translation language means irreducible violence. Violence may cause damage, but to what? Distortion of meaning is damage as a result of translation, but paradoxically it is its avoidance that causes damage in the first place. Violence is the inevitable outcome of translating culture(s), and at the same time it can be argued that in a way it is intrinsically necessary. Translation is invariably preceded by interpretation, which can be subjective and arbitrary; furthermore, its subsequent reception in the target language system is culturally determined. In this regard, some theoretical musings may help to clarify such issues. Also, the manipulative shaping force of reception, be it ideological or aesthetic, in the complex process of translation characterized by double interpretation and reception, will come under intense scrutiny.



Recommended Citation

Sun, Y. (2001, December). Interpretation, reception and translation studies. Paper presented at the FIT Third Asian Translators' Forum: Translation in the New Millennium: Inter-Continental Perspectives on Translation, Lingnan University, Hong Kong.

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