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Quality in translation: A Lesson for the Study of Meaning

Issue: Vol 1 No. 3 (2005) Vol. 1, No. 3 (2005) FREE SAMPLE ISSUE

Journal: Linguistics and the Human Sciences

Subject Areas: Writing and Composition Linguistics

DOI: 10.1558/lhs.2005.1.3.403


This paper brings together translation and linguistics, with the stated aim of offering a modest contribution to the on-going discussion of the nature of meaning in language and the nature of quality in translation. In translation, the paper contrasts two streams in translation theory: the long-standing tendency to attempt to find the one best approach
to translation that applies to all circumstances and the more recent Functionalist movement that emphasizes specifications based on the function of the translation being
commissioned for a particular audience and purpose. In linguistics, the paper contrasts two streams in the study of meaning: the long-standing dyadic perspective based on the
usual reading of Saussure’s signifier-signified contrast and the less known ‘semiogenic’ perspective based on the work of C. S. Peirce. The term ‘semiogenic’ is borrowed, slightly
modified from Halliday’s term ‘semogenic’ (for systems that involve the dynamic creation of meaning). Meaning is so fundamental that it is hard, to say the least, to evaluate perspectives on meaning in any direct way. However, given two approaches to translation (one-best vs. specifications) and two perspectives on meaning (dyadic vs. semiogenic), the paper applies the following indirect methodology: if each approach to translation can be paired with a perspective on meaning, and if one approach to translation can be shown to be more useful and applicable in the real world, then we can at least tentatively conclude that the perspective on meaning to which it is paired is to be preferred.

Author: Alan K. Melby, Alan D. Manning, Leticia Klemetz

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