Innovations and Reproductions in Cultures and Societies
(IRICS) Vienna, 9 - 11 december 2005

<< Translation and Ideology

The ideology of interpreting through a system dynamics Perceptive

Claudia Monacelli (Libera Università degli Studi S. Pio V, Rome)



In a volume on ideology in Translation Studies, Tymoczko (2003) discusses the 'positionality' of translators. She argues that if we consider language as part of a formal system, then we must accept that translators operate within a system. She points out (op. cit.: 195) that, in transcending the limits of a given system, translators enter a larger system that "encompasses or includes the system transcended". She thus addresses the issue whether the construct of translation as being effected in an 'in between' space can be applicable to all facets of translation (ibid.).

Considering the varying constraints involved in the different forms of translation, and interpreting, it is reasonable to question whether this construct could be applied at all. For example, interpreters always operate in the immediacy of a given situation where they are in a position of coping with contextual constraints (see Varela 1999). In this respect we can describe the guiding principle behind their operational awareness as dynamic equilibrium (see Monacelli and Punzo 2001). We thus expect the characteristics of professional behaviour also to be of a dynamic quality, unless this behaviour appears to be normative or ideological in nature.

We seek to investigate the ideology of interpreting, i.e. tacit assumptions and beliefs collectively shared among professionals as a social group, by considering with how these beliefs permeate the operative level. We examine a corpus of authentic source and target language speeches compiled from a variety of conference proceedings.

We first characterize conference interpreting as face-threatening because of the particular constraints involved in the activity. Then, at a microtextual level, we analyze interactional politeness (deictic reference, modality, hedges, threats to face) in attempt to understand an interpreter's face-work - or the "traffic rules of social interaction" (Goffman 1967: 12) - both in relation to the source text speaker, his/her own text and to target text receivers.

Findings seem to bear out the hypothesis that interpreting choices systematically made in the target language - the ideology of interpreting - create an overall mitigating effect of source texts, where the interpreter's stance, or 'position', is one of distancing and de-personalization. Our discussion of findings is couched in system dynamics terms.


Goffman, E. 1967. Interactional Ritual, New York: Pantheon Books.

Monacelli, C. and R. Punzo (2001) "Ethics in the fuzzy domain of interpreting: A 'military' perspective". In A. Pym (guest ed.), The Translator, Special issue: New ethics for new forms of translation? vol. 7/2, 265-282.

Tymoczko, M. 2003. "Ideology and the Position of the Translator: In What Sense is a Translator 'In Between'", in M. Calzada Pérez (ed.) Apropos of Ideology, Manchester and Northamption MA, 181-201.

Varela, F. J. 1999. Ethical Know-How , Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Innovationen und Reproduktionen in Kulturen und Gesellschaften (IRICS) Wien, 9. bis 11. Dezember 2005

WEBDESIGN: Peter R. Horn 2005-08-28