Norms and Nature in Translation Studies
chapterposted on 22.08.2012, 14:43 by Kirsten S. Malmkjær
Norms have played a central role in Descriptive Translation Studies, because (Toury, 1995:61 emphasis in the original) ‘it is norms that determine the (type and extent of) equivalence manifested by actual translations’. Equivalence is the name given to the relationship, of whatever type and extent, between a translation and its source text, and the existence of such a relationship is axiomatic in the theory (Toury, 1980b: 45). There is a degree of theoretical tension between norms and another notion which has recently generated interest within Translation Studies, the notion of the universal. The tension between the concept of the norm and the concept of the universal arises because ‘there is a point in assuming the existence of norms only in situations which allow for different kinds of behaviour’ (Toury 1995: 55). Insofar, therefore, as the notion of the universal in translation theory implies invariable behaviour, the explanatory power of the norm concept is inversely proportional to that of the concept of the translation universal: The more variable translational behaviour can be assumed to be, the more theoretical power accrues to the norm construct; and the less variable translational behaviour can be assumed to be, the less theoretical power accrues to the norm construct.