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POLYSYSTEM THEORY 1970s, Itamar Even-Zohar Arising from Russian literary theorists Offering a general model for understanding, analyzing and describing.

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Presentation on theme: "POLYSYSTEM THEORY 1970s, Itamar Even-Zohar Arising from Russian literary theorists Offering a general model for understanding, analyzing and describing."— Presentation transcript:

1 POLYSYSTEM THEORY 1970s, Itamar Even-Zohar Arising from Russian literary theorists Offering a general model for understanding, analyzing and describing the functioning and evolution of literary systems, its specific application to the study of translated literature

2 Defined by Shuttleworth and Cowie The polysystem is conceived as a heterogeneous, hierarchized conglomerate (or system) of systems which interact to bring about an ongoing, dynamic process of evolution within the polysystem as a whole.

3 Translated Literature Operates as a System Whem (1) in the way the TL selects works for translation; (2) in the way translation norms, behaviour and policies are influenced by other cosystems

4 Literature is thus part of the social, cultural, literary and historical framework and the key concept is that of the system, in which there is an ongoing dynamic of ‘mutation’ and struggle for the primary position in the literary canon.

5 The Primary Position Three Major Cases When Translated Literature Occupies (1) when a ‘young’ literature is being established and looks initially to ‘older’ literatures for ready-made models; (2) when a literature is ‘peripheral’ or ‘weak’ and imports those literary types which it is lacking. This can happen when a smaller nation is dominated by the culture of a larger one. (3) when there is a critical turning point in literary history at which established models are no longer considered sufficient, or when there is a vacuum in the literature of the country. Where no type holds sway, it is easier for foreign models to assume primacy.

6 Secondary Position It represents a peripheral system within the polysystem. It has no major influence over the central system and even becomes a conservative element, preserving conventional forms and conforming to the literary norms of the target system.

7 Even-Zohar points out (p. 203) that this secondary position is the ‘normal’ one for translated literatures. However, translated literature itself is stratified. Some translated literature may be secondary while others, translated from major source literatures, are primary.

8 Under which Conditions the position occupied by translated literature in the polysystem conditions the translation strategy? If it is primary, translators do not feel constrained to follow target literature models and are more prepared to break conventions. They thus often produce a TT that is a close match in terms of adequacy, reproducing the textual relations of the ST. This in itself may then lead to new SL models. On the other hand, if translated literature is secondary, translators tend to use existing target-culture models for the TT and produce more ‘non-adequate’ translations.

9 How Polysystem theory represents an important advance for translation studies (1) Literature itself is studied alongside the social, historical and cultural forces, i.e. the study of translation within the cultural and literary systems in which it functions. (2) The non-prescriptive definition of equivalence and adequacy allows for variation according to the historical and cultural situation of the text.

10 Toury (1995: 13), translations first and foremost occupy a position in the social and literary systems of the target culture, and this position determines the translation strategies that are employed.

11 Toury's model in action Gentzler (1993) lists four aspects of Toury’s theory that have had an important impact on translation studies: (1) the abandonment of one-to-one notions of correspondence as well as the possibility of literary /linguistic equivalence (unless by accident); (2) the involvement of literary tendencies within the target cultural system in the production of any translated text; (3) the destabilization of the notion of an original message with a fixed identity; (4) the integration of both the original text and the translated text in the semiotic web of intersecting cultural systems.

12 Toury (1995: 36–9 and 102) proposes the following three-phase methodology for systematic DTS, incorporating a description of the product and the wider role of the sociocultural system: (1) Situate the text within the target culture system, looking at its significance or acceptability. (2) Compare the ST and the TT for shifts, identifying relationships between ‘coupled pairs’ of ST and TT segments. (3) Attempt generalizations, reconstructing the process of translation for this ST–TT pair.

13 An important additional step is the possibility of repeating these phases for other pairs of similar texts in order to widen the corpus and to build up a descriptive profile of translations according to genre, period, author, etc. In this way, the norms pertaining to each kind of translation can be identified with the ultimate aim (as more descriptive studies are performed) of stating laws of behaviour for translation in general.

14 The Concept of Norms of Translation Behaviour The aim of Toury’s case studies is to distinguish trends of translation behaviour, to make generalizations regarding the decision- making processes of the translator and then to ‘reconstruct’ the norms that have been in operation in the translation and make hypotheses that can be tested by future descriptive studies.

15 Definition of Norms Used by Toury the translation of general values or ideas shared by a community – as to what is right or wrong, adequate or inadequate – into performance instructions appropriate for and applicable to particular situations. These norms are sociocultural constraints specific to a culture, society and time.

16 In terms of their ‘potency’ Toury places norms between rules and idiosyncrasies. He considers translation to be an activity governed by norms, and these norms ‘determine the (type and extent of) equivalence manifested in actual translations

17 norms are ‘options that translators in a given socio-historical context select on a regular basis’; Baker 1998: 164),

18 norms that have prevailed in the translation of a particular text can be reconstructed from two types of sources: (1) from the examination of texts, the products of norm-governed activity. This will show up ‘regularities of behaviour’(i.e. trends of relationships and correspondences between ST and TT segments). It will point to the processes adopted by the translator and, hence, the norms that have been in operation; (2) from the explicit statements made about norms by translators, publishers, reviewers and other participants in the translation act. However, Toury warns that such explicit statements may be incomplete or biased in favour of the role played by the informants in the sociocultural system and

19 Different Kinds of Norms Initial Norm The basic initial norm refers to a general choice made by translators. Thus, translators can subject themselves to the norms realized in the ST or to the norms of the target culture or language. If it is towards the ST, then the TT will be adequate; if the target culture norms prevail, then the TT will be acceptable. The poles of adequacy and acceptability are on a continuum since no translation is ever totally adequate or totally acceptable. Shifts – obligatory and non- obligatory – are inevitable, norm-governed and ‘a true universal of translation’.

20 Different Kinds of Norms Other, lower order, norms described by Toury are preliminary norms and operational norms. Translation policy refers to factors determining the selection of texts for translation in a specific language, culture or time. Toury does not pursue this area in his case studies. Directness of translation relates to whether translation occurs through an intermediate language. Questions for investigation include the tolerance of the TT culture to this practice, which languages are involved and whether the practice is camouflaged or not.

21 Different Kinds of Norms Operational Norms Operational norms describe the presentation and linguistic matter of the TT. Matricial norms relate to the completeness of the TT. Phenomena include omission or relocation of passages, textual segmentation, and the addition of passages or footnotes. Textual– linguistic norms govern the selection of TT linguistic material: lexical items, phrases and stylistic features.

22 DTS Aims to reconstruct the norms that have been in operation during the translation process. However, Toury stresses that norms are a ‘graded notion’ since ‘a translator’s behaviour cannot be expected to be fully systematic’. In addition, these norms are of different intensity, ranging from behaviour that is mandatory (maximum intensity) to tendencies that are common but not mandatory and to behaviour that is tolerated (minimum intensity).

23 'Laws' of Translation The law of growing standardization The law of interference

24 The Law of Growing Standardization ‘in translation, textual relations obtaining in the original are often modified, sometimes to the point of being totally ignored, in favour of [more] habitual options offered by a target repertoire’. This refers to the disruption of the ST patterns in translation and the selection of linguistic options that are more common in the TL. Thus, for example, there will a tendency towards a general standardization and loss of variation in style in the TT, or at least an accommodation to target culture models. This is especially the case if, as commonly occurs, translation assumes a weak and peripheral position in the target system.

25 The Law of Interference as ‘a kind of default’ Interference refers to ST linguistic features (mainly lexical and syntactical patterning) being copied in the TT, either ‘negatively’ (because they create non-normal TT patterns) or ‘positively’ (the existence of features in the ST that will not be non- normal in the TT makes them more likely to be used by the translator). Toury considers tolerance of interference to depend on sociocultural factors and the prestige of the different literary systems: there is greater tolerance when translating from a prestigious language or culture, especially if the target language or culture is ‘minor’.

26 CritIcisms of Polysystem Theory (1) overgeneralization to ‘universal laws’ of translation based on relatively little evidence; (2) an over-reliance on a historically based 1920s’ Formalist model which, following Even-Zohar’s own model of evolving trends, might be inappropriate for translated texts in the 1970s; (3) the tendency to focus on the abstract model rather than the ‘real-life’ constraints placed on texts and translators; (4) the question as to how far the supposed scientific model is really objective.

27 Toury answers some of these criticisms by stressing that these laws are probabilistic explanations at different levels of language. He defends the term ‘law’ rather than ‘universals’ because ‘this notion has the possibility of exception built into it [and] because it should always be possible to explain away (seeming) exceptions to a law with the help of another law, operating on another level’. As Toury argues, so-called ‘universals’ of translation such as explicitation (i.e. the target text explicates some features that are implicit in the source) cannot be understood to cover every act of translation; no features of translation are ever ‘universal’

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