Literary translation quality assessment

Literary translation quality assessment. By Beatriz Ma. Rodríguez Rodríguez. (LINCOM studies in translation 03.) Munich: LINCOM Europa, 2007. Pp. 190. ISBN 9783895861826. $94.78.

Reviewed by Taras Shmiher, Ivan Franko National University, Ukraine

This contribution to translation criticism describes a systematic and objective approach to the contrastive analysis of source and target texts. Leaving aside the translator’s competence, method, and system, the author focuses on the assessment of translation quality. Stated in Ch. 1, the main objective of this study is to establish a broad and flexible model of evaluation and assessment criteria that allows for slight modifications in each specific case to account for a variety of texts and their characteristics.

Ch. 2 discusses the ontological fundamentals of translation criticism, such as contacts with language- and literature-oriented disciplines and the principles of a macroevaluation of a translation as a whole. A model of analysis and evaluation should include four phases: (i) a study of the target text; (ii) a study of the source text; (iii) comparing and contrasting the texts; and (iv) the evaluation, which should implement criteria to assess the texts from an objective viewpoint. Comparative stylistics provides criteria for uncovering shifts and deviations that are obligatory (i.e. rule-governed or influenced by the target-text culture) or nonobligatory (i.e. norm-governed or decided by a translator). The evaluation is intended to define the degree of necessity of these deviations on the structural (i.e microtextual) and sequential (i.e macrotextual) levels. The approach to resolve the dichotomy between the subjectivity of judgement and the need for objectivity includes the principle that axiological criteria must be formulated empirically in the analysis of a particular text, covering all its characteristics. The author suggests that the assessment of literary texts should be grounded on the consideration of their text-types, functions, historical factors, coherence, and cohesion as well as the purpose, acceptability, and intertextuality of target texts.

Ch. 3 focuses on the corpus selection and examination. The study covers seventeen translations of the Spanish picaresque novel El Lazarillo de Tormes, published from the sixteenth through the twenty-first century. Particular attention is paid to the first English translation by David Rowland in 1586. Translation shifts or units for analysis are summarized in ten categories: expansion, reduction, modulation, calque, adaptation, transposition, paronomasia (puns), antithesis, idioms and sayings, and mistakes.

Ch. 4 is dedicated to the analysis of Rowland’s translation following the elaborated scheme. Ch. 5 summarizes this translation with elements of statistical analysis and theoretical interpretation. The author also exemplifies the development of translation practice and norms from the sixteenth through the twenty-first century through the comparison of other English translations of El Lazarillo de Tormes.

This book closes with references and two appendices (footnotes from Rowland’s translation and graphical statistical schemes). It will be a good resource for those interested in translation criticism.