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SKOPOSTHEORIE: A REVOLUTION CELEBRATED

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I was asked to write this collaboration as I was retiring from the UN after thirty-one years, in the middle of moving a few pieces of furniture to my new tiny pied-à-terre in Vienna and with everything else-including my books-on its way to Buenos
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   SKOPOSTHEORIE  : A REVOLUTION CELEBRATED by Sergio Viaggio I was asked to write this collaboration as I was retiring from the UN after thirty-oneyears, in the middle of moving a few pieces of furniture to my new tiny  pied-à-terre in Vienna and with everything else - including my books - on its way to Buenos AiresI cannot, therefore, hope to come up with anything resembling a scholarly piece, but Isimply could not refrain from taking part in this homage - oh so well deserved! - toone of the most influential translation theorists of our time I do beg, then, your indulgence, dear reader I hope I will be able to make it worth your while anyhowAs a young student, I was thoroughly immersed in "ussian translation theory#$edorov, Barkhoudarov, "et%ker, &chwei%er, 'omissarov, (tkind and the rest),which, pioneering as it was at the time #*+), had not .uite hit the functionalist nailon its head /es, it was acknowledged that different types of te0ts re.uired - or rather allowed for - different approaches1 but this was an ugly necessity of reality whichtheory was not altogether capable of accounting for2y eye-opener was Nida #*+34), with his demolishing .uestion5 a goodtranslation6 for whom7 8ere was a liberating view5 9he :ord had written his wordfor his people, but had his people been not the ;ews back then, he would have writtenit differently 9he translator<s task became, thus writing it for a new readership - or,more often than not, illiterate audience, as were, indeed, its srcinal addressees! - in away that they will be able to understand it the way 8e meant it and be moved by it theway 8e meant his creatures to be moved A mighty task, rewriting =od<s word for  people who could not read, and, to boot, had never seen a camel, and not >ust?translating? it An onerous responsibility, second guessing the @reator and an evenmore onerous one re-inventing 8is word ith all his new liberty, however, Nida<stranslator was simply an empowered scribe5 8is mission was to make =od<s wordunderstood as intended 9he myriad manipulations #the ?handshake all around?substituting for the ?kiss on the cheek? so derided by 2eschonic) were due to the newflock<s specific ?hermeneutic package * ? Nevertheless, two things were said - at leastto me - for the first time5 it is not enough for the translator to re-say, and it is notenough for the new interlocutor merely to have understood hat really matters iswhat happens as a conse.uence of the new interlocutor<s having understood - theeffect that comprehension has upon him 9he Bible scholar and the theologian ?listen?to the word of =od with different ears and e0pectations to those of the rank and filemembers of the flock or, more importantly, those of the stray sheep whose salvationdepends on their being touched by 8is word 9he translator<s task is, thus, to re-speak the ord #that ord, and not any other - all of it, and not simply selected utterances),and, by speaking it, to touch the new interlocutors as =od himself is supposed to havetouched 8is ne ord - as many valid translations as potential sub>ects of evangelisation insofar as the ord remains the same But if the ?handshake? and the ?kiss? are both possible renditions of the sameord, what is the ord7 hat is it that a translator must leave intact7 Nida never calls it by what I think is its name5 not a representation, based on the immediate *  9his is how that other great one, 2ariano =arcCa :anda #*++, *++D and *++E), aptly calls the baggage of linguistic and encyclopaedic knowledge, social and individual e0perience, mores and habitsthat the sub>ects bring to bear when understanding each other  comprehension of propositional content and referential meaning, but ametarepresentation 9he kiss and the handshake are meant to produce differentrepresentations that, once processed andFor filtered through the sub>ect<s hermeneutic package and ability, would presumably produce the same metarepresentation 9he:ord, after all, speaks through parables G  Indeed ith Nida, the relationship between formal - including semantic-features of te0ts ceases to be the yardstick of e.uivalence, and, therefore, of fidelity H Again, Nida never makes it e0plicit, but the relationship is not between srcinal andtranslated te0ts, but between intended and achieved metarepresentations - ie betweenmental ?states 4 ? $rom then on, looking for ?te0tual? e.uivalence as an inherentattribute of srcinalFtranslation pairs, an attribute, moreover, independent from theintention that has motivated the speaker to produce his te0t and the comprehensionthat his te0t andFor its translation eventually produce, becomes moot - which e0plainsthat so many theoreticians end throwing up their arms in the air and the concept downthe drain hat Nida realises without actually realising is that ?e.uivalence? however defined is not an attribute of a translated te0t but a conse.uence of translating I donot say Y   because the srcinal says  X  , but rather, I say Y  because this is what I think I better say in order for my interlocutor to understand - ie to metarepresent -something relevantly similar or analogous to what the srcinal author intended hisinterlocutor to understand by  X  , or, alternatively #it all depends on my  skopos , e0ceptthat nobody had put it black on white), because this is what the srcinal interlocutor ended up understanding by processing  X  D .  9here is, therefore, no necessary a priori formal #semantic or other) correspondence between  X   and Y  , between the srcinal?kiss? and my translation<s ?handshake?In *+D I became an interpreter and soon thereafter became ac.uainted withthe views of anica &eleskovitch #*+34, etc), who started looking at what happens toan srcinal in consecutive interpretation Again, lots of things, none of them kosher  from the standpoint of traditional concepts of e.uivalence 9he thing to trans-late  wassense, meaning meant, so that it would be understood by the new interlocutor 9heauthor<s word became as detached from its srcinal manifestation as the :ord<shether deverbalised sense is actually possible is moot5 the sheer fact that it canremain #more or less, and presumably) intact despite the fact that not a morpheme of the original may remain ought to be enough empirical proof that sense is notverbalisation-dependent Again, no necessary correspondence between  X   and Y   G  I have called these two superimposed layers of meaning meant direct   and indirect intended sense 1 thelatter to be distinguished from deep sense , which is no meant, but nevertheless understood despite thevery fact that it was not meant In the case of a parable - as in every other case of figurative speech -indirect intended sense is understood via a metarepresentation based on the understanding of sensedirectly intended Understanding direct sense in no way guarantees a grasp of indirect intended sense5some people simply don<t get it5 not everybody understands every single allegory #Viaggio *+++ and,especially, G4) H  A te0t<s semantics is not part of its content, but that content<s form &emantic form and propositionalcontent are not to be confused 4  r, as simo #G*) would eventually put it, between mental - as opposed to written or spoken - te0tsof which written or oral te0ts are but intermediary Jeircean interpretants D  hich is normally the intention #  skopos !) behind malicious .uotation5 whatever the srcinal speaker meant to say, this is what he actually said As I put it, objective sense  #sense as would normally beinterpreted by a typical interlocutor in a typical situation) is made to prevail over intended sense  #iesense as the speaker meant to convey) In normal intercourse it is intended sense that counts, inadversarial argument, ob>ective sense carried the day5 $ie the accused who misspeaks!G  At the end of the Es, two splendid books came simultaneously into my handsthat made me cast a completely new glance on e.uivalence5 Kina :vovskaya<s TheTheoretical Problems of Translation  and Albrecht Neubert<s Tet and Translation  $or the first time, I became aware of the overriding importance of the communicativesituation and the conse.uent hurdle that displaced situationality posed for thetranslator :vovskaya e0plained that the basic problem lies in the distinction betweenmeaning #linguistic, ob>ective) and sense #e0tralinguistic, sub>ective) &ense is the endresult of the motivation and purposes of the sub>ectLs communicative activity in aspecific situation 9wo sub>ects will hardly react identically in the same situation, butneither the absence of bi-univocal correspondence between meaning and sense nor thelatterLs sub>ective nature will stand in the way of communication if both interlocutorsshare the necessary e0tralinguistic knowledge 9he best assurance of sensecomprehension is a communicative situation shared by both interlocutors and their  belonging to the same culture 8owever, since there are no two sub>ects who share thesame knowledge, e0perience or values, sense as intended by a speaker will be more or less different to sense as comprehended by each of his interlocutors, which is ageneral feature of verbal communication No message is understood, then, perfectlyand in its entirety A key door was opened before me5 communication begins and endsin sense - ie in the minds of the interlocutors5 what counts in the end   is not what thetranslator -or, for that matter, the author- have said, but what the new interlocutor understands, and such comprehension is always situation-specific 9he fundamental problem of translation lies, therefore, not so much in the mismatches betweenlanguages, but between the e0perience and knowledge that the new interlocutorsactivate when trying to understand in their new situation:ater on, in the early +s, I chanced upon &perber and ilsonLs "elevance9heory #&perber and ilson *+E3F*++D) and, more specifically, its adoption by =utt#*++ and *++*), who held that it is sufficient to e0plain translation, which thus nolonger re.uires a theory of its own According to &perber and ilson, utterances can be used as representations in two basically different ways5 *) an utterance may propositionally resemble a state of affairs in the world - in which case language isused descriptively , and G) an utterance may propositionally resemble another utterance - in which case language is used interpretively  In the first instance, theutterance describes a #real or imaginary) state of affairs in the world, in the second - itreproduces, as it were, the propositional content of a previous utterance, or, if youwish, of a previous description of a #real or imaginary) state of affairs in the world Inother words, the Mtruth - and, eventually, relevance - of a descriptive utterance is, basically, a function of the state of affairs it describes and the way it describes it,whilst that of an interpretive utterance lies in the way it propositionally resemblesanother utterance 9his leads =utt to define translation as second-degree interpretiveuse5 A translator says, by means of an utterance in the target language, what thesrcinal speaker communicated by means of an utterance in the source language - thetranslated utterance is thus supposed interpretively to resemble the srcinal one It isassumed, therefore, that a translated utterance interpretivley resembles its srcinalJarallel te0ts - vi!. , the different language versions of an ownerLs manual, in whichlanguage is used descriptively to Mdescribe the device and the correct way to use it -would not be translations #regardless of the fact that they may have been arrived at bytranslators basing their own descriptions on the description verbalised in the sourcelanguage) 3 . 9he definition was theoretically tight, but it posed a practical problem5 3  n the other hand, a te0t whose Mtruth lies e0clusively on its propositional resemblance to thesrcinal instructions - say, in order to prove their aptness or ineptness before a court of law - would,H  According to it, most translators do not translate at all, and most translated te0ts arenot really translations All these scholars empowered translators and interpreters in a new, refreshingand fearsome way5 =one was the safe haven of the srcinal as the last and ultimatealibi for all manner of infelicities &emantic e.uivalence was demolished as the lastrefuge of translating scoundrels $rom now on, translators and interpreters wereresponsible not only for having understood, but for what really counts in the end5making themselves understood &till, both Nida<s, :vovskaya<s, Neubert<s and =utt<stranslator and &eleskovitch<s interpreter were beholden to the srcinal<s intent andmeaning If there was no longer a necessary correspondence between forms, there stillhad to be strict correspondence between meaning meant and meaning newlyunderstood 9he mediator<s freedom and prowess were strictly bounded by it 9hetranslator<s addressees were, for all practical purposes, seen as passive sub>ects, whosesole purpose was to understand and be affected by meaning as meant - and then tomanage on their own 9heir interests, motivations and, generally speaking, stakes inunderstanding were of no concern to the mediator5 8is was not to helpcommunication, but simply to make it possibleAnd then I came across  skopostheorie.  It took the *++3 &panish translation for me to be able to read "eiss and Vermeer<s classic, but by that time I was familiar enough with the concept to embrace it wholeheartedly "egardless of the intention behind it, an srcinal was now a sheer ?information offer?, a smorgasbord of meaningmeant from which an interlocutor would necessarily eat as much or as little as he pleased I do not mean the comparison to be facetious5 hat else is a newspaper7ho reads absolutely every word in it7 nly intelligence agents - and not preciselyout of a keen interest in the price of real estate coupled with an addiction to footballand a morbid curiosity for gossip, gore and mayhem5 9heir  skopos  is anything but reading the news! 8as anybody other than a few un.uenchable bibliophiles read theBook of Numbers, for that matter7 Skopos theorists are the first ones to realise - and boldly state - that an interlocutor<s interest may not coincide with that of the speaker<s,much less the interests of someone reading a translation or, more crucially, a third party commissioning it, and that a professional translator must take this into accountIt is, in other words, not enough for a translation interpretively to resemble an srcinalfor it to be "sef"l   to its reader - its comprehension had to product relevant conte0tualeffects  , the production of which is not necessarily linked to interpretive resemblanceUnlike previous theoreticians, "eiss and Vermeer do not ask themselves, then, how atranslator can convey to different intended readers all of, and nothing but, the propositional #ie ?informative?) content of an srcinal or, even, its larger intendedmeaning, but why understanding a translation or having it understood by othersactually serves the commissioner<s purpose - what is worth his while to process #if heis the intended interlocutor) or have someone else process #if he is the author or athird party) and towards what end Although not brought in e0plicitly, "elevance9heory loomed large behind the approach, e0cept that now emphasis was madedecisively on relevance for the users #mind you, not necessarily the readers) of translations, as opposed to the producers of srcinals - with which the translator<sorientation became forward - rather than backward-looking5 o not think only and somuch what you can do for the author, but what you can do for your client1 do not indeed, be a translation   "eiss and Vermeer, of course, do not put it in these relevance-theoretical terms, but this is e0actlywhat I take them to mean4  think only and so much what the srcinal author meant to say, but what the new reader will end up understanding1 do not think only and so much what was the author<s purpose in saying, but the new interlocutor<s in understanding1 in short, think first of all why someone has bothered to re.uest this te0t to be translated and is ready to payyou for it&till, it behoved the commissioner to present the translator with his brief   9hetranslator was, in principle, beholden to it as he has previously been beholden tosrcinal meaning In its initial concept, in other words, Skopostheorie  empowered notso much the translator as the commissioner5 the author dethroned, it was he who picked up the sceptre - after all, he paid the piper /et, oftentimes, commissioners arenot even aware that their translator needs such briefs in order to produce a translationas closely tailored to their needs Also, blissfully unaware of the workings of communication, many commissioners produce the #rong   briefing5 they do not reallyknow what is good for them - as is very often the case with lay users of any serviceAs with any other professional service provider, it is then up to the translator to advisehis clients, or simply to second-guess them5 A professional service provider knowswhen to bother his client with .uestions #some of which he will not be in a position toanswer, anyhow), and when >ust go ahead and do what, in his professional >udgement,is best for him 8ere, the translator is finally fully empowered In this new light, then, Skopostheorie  empowers the professional translator as a true professional5 someonewho m"st   know best - and act accordingly 8is competence is thus e0pected to go well beyond understanding te0ts in the srcinal and being able to reproduce their  prepositional content, and imitate or manipulate their form in the target languageIndeed, a translator<s ling"istic  competence must be such as to be able to produce allmanner of re-writings, in different styles and registers, catering to different tastes anddispositions and abilities to understand, serving al manner of different purposes Andindeed, his bi-cultural competence must be such as to foresee and overcome, or atleast palliate, cultural obstacles to comprehension But this dual competence is itself at the service of an overriding metacompetence5 that of determining and taking stock of the metacomm"nicative p"rposes E  of the different parties to communication and tochoose from his performing arsenal the best tools and the best way to serve those of the commissioner who has hired him 8is is still a service, but a comprehensivelye0pert one If the client<s brief is inept, it behoves the truly professional translator tohelp him see the light If the client insists, of course, the translator has the samechoices as a physician whose patient refuses to heed his advice5 ?cheat,? throw up hisarms in despair and make the best of it, or send him packingIt sounds dauntingly mercenary and, up to a point, it is5 All services are provided for money and the motto  is always very close to ?the client is always right?or ?we are there to please? Now, that a lawyer - and a damn good one, to boot - putall his e0pertise at the service of defending a serial killer is a fact that does not scaremany people or puts legal and >udicial systems into .uestion As a matter of fact, it isa necessary feature of fairness and >ustice that even a serial killer should be able to benefit from the best defence possible hy should the public be aghast, then, at the possibility of translators ?manipulating? an srcinal to further the ends of his author or, heaven forbid!, someone else7 9he misplaced >oke that is omitted or changed ininterpretation so as to make a speaker more effective #the speaker<s  skopos ), theadvertisement whose translation is not meant to convey the same meaning but to sellin the new medium #the commissioner<s  skopos ), the sinister na%is turned marihuana E  $or a full development, see Viaggio #G4)D
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