Joel Christiansen

Ali Darwish: Translation Constraints

June 7, 2024
Ali Darwish, Towards A Theory of Constraints in Translation, June 1999 (footnote omitted):

Data derived from empirical research pioneered by these and other researchers has highlighted the significance of decision making as the backbone of translation. The idea of translation as a norm-governed behaviour and of norms as constraints has been propounded by Toury (1980), in what might be seen as a behavioural, sociocultural approach to translation and has been further explored and debated by various scholars. Yet, the notion of constraints and the conditions under which translation decisions are made within a translation system at the translator level remains poorly understood and largely neglected in translation studies today. Some of the early attempts at explaining the phenomenon are characteristically esoteric and sketchy, giving only glimpses of a phenomenon that has more far- reaching, wider implications for both translation competence and performance. Invariably they come up short. Perhaps the reason is their narrow focus on the parts rather than on the whole translation activity and their preoccupation with literary text and the historicity and reconstruction of translation from translation artefacts in what might be called translation forensics.

There is now general agreement among translation researchers, educators and practitioners that decision making plays an important part in both the translator’s performance and the quality of translation product. It is both a limiting and delimiting factor in translation: it restricts the choices available to the translator and sets the direction and standard of the translation product, emphasizing certain aspects and properties that are deemed important and deemphasizing other aspects and properties that are considered less important or insurmountable within the economy of the process and vis-à-vis the function, purpose and situationality of the translation product.

Translation decision making is a process that is circumvented by many constraints at various levels and stages. These constraints, which are external and internal, physical and nonphysical, must be removed in order to generate alternatives that achieve the objectives of the translation process within a defined scope, parameters and strategies.