Conflict and resolution

Translation as relationship management

Presenter: John Jamieson

Conflict and its resolution are coded at the deepest possible level into language, and therefore translation. Language can be seen as a succession of the violation and restoration of a consensus between the communication participants. Individual words – particularly nouns – create conflict, which grammar and syntax (particularly verbs and adjectives) then resolve.
We constantly, and repeatedly, appropriate and assimilate something that is other, every time we communicate. And “other” in terms of information also denotes otherness at the level of the communication participants and the relationships between them.
At the detailed level of the translation process, we have to manage the degree of alienation between speaker and audience, and between speaker, audience and text, and resolve that alienation appropriately. English can be shown to be fussier than other languages in this respect.
At a more general level, the whole activity of translation involves coping with the “otherness” of a foreign language, which has to be appropriated or assimilated in some form.
Now, given that the interpersonal boundaries to be overcome when communicating in, and translating into, English, are more sharply drawn than elsewhere, it may be that for translating into English in particular there is an optimum point on the foreignisation/domesticisation continuum to be found.
This paper argues that English is already a “foreignising” language, which may have to be complemented and offset with a more “domesticising” strategy.
This would open up pastures new for translation theorists, by creating the need for a different theory for every target language, perhaps every language pair. Happy hunting!

John Jamieson