Logos Multilingual Portal

32 - Shift relationships

«Aunque ya tengo una idea general [...] quedan aún muchos interrogantes a los que he de dar respuesta»1.

"Though I now have a general idea [...] there remain many unresolved issues to which I must still respond"2.

Leuven-Zwart's model, concerning shifts along the generalization versus specification continuum, introduces a dichotomy that is complementary to - not a substitute for - the self/other dichotomy. While the latter binary distinction concerns a relationship between cultures, be they individual or group cultures, the distinction between generalization versus specification can concern both own (self) and other's elements.

For example, a balalaika in a Russian text can, in translation, remain "balalaika", or can become a "mandolin" (other), but can also become "a musical instrument" (generalization).

In my opinion it is, therefore, necessary, for the shifts that are placeable along a continuum, to use both categories, superimposing them. A translation choice can, therefore, be:

  • appropriating and generalizing
  • appropriating and specifying
  • recognizing and generalizing
  • recognizing and specifying

However, in the generalization versus specification dichotomy there is still a third possibility: the neutral treatment of the textual element, meaning neither specifying nor generalizing. This induces me to modify the binary opposition, evolving it into a tripolar opposition.

Even in the opposition between self and other there is, in my opinion, a third possibility. It is what could be called, with the fashionable word, "globalization", but maybe we had better call it "standardization" or "homologation", and would consist of modifying an element not towards the receiving culture, not towards the source culture, but towards a generic impartial culture, prevailing over the specific cultures considered and standard to both of them.

For example, a typically Russian soup like borsch, in a Russian text, can, in translation, remain "borsch", or can become "mulligatawny soup" (other), but can also become a stew (standardization, homologation).

So, if we revise the four-part classification obtained earlier between self/other and generalization/specification by adding a third possibility in both cases (neutral rendering and standardization), we get a nine-part division of this kind:

  • appropriating and generalizing
  • appropriating and specifying
  • appropriating and neutral
  • recognizing and generalizing
  • recognizing and specifying
  • recognizing and neutral
  • standardizing and generalizing
  • standardizing and specifying
  • standardizing and neutral

















An all-embracing model must incorporate many elements, therefore:

  • this nine-part partition;
  • the five categories of chronotopical analysis;
  • the three added categories not included in chronotopical analysis but still amenable to appropriation/acknowledgement and generalization/specification (i.e. generic lexicon, syntax, versification)
  • the category of the elements that are modified without following neither the generalization/specification nor the self/other continua, such as:
    • the shifts Leuven-Zwart nominates "contrast";
    • all non-binary or ternary shifts, for example, grammatical shifts.


In this way, we get the following model:


chronotopical analysis generic parameters
deictics realia, intertextuality conceptual words expressive fields functional words generic lexicon syntax versification generic lexicon (non-ternary oppositions): omissions, additions, radicla sense shifts, grammar category shift
dominant: individual's identity dominant: group identity dominant: microtext poetics dominant: macrotext/author's poetics dominant: text poetics paradimatic lexical generic axis syntagmatic axis meter, rhyme, rhythm
character's psychology chronotope group's psychology chronotope mictotextual contents chronotope author's poetics chronotope structure's poetics chronotope paradigm culture syntagmatic poetics culture meter, rhyme, rhythm poetics culture
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9


In the next units we will examine if and how such a model is applicable, whether or not it is productive and how its single parts are structured.


Bibliographical references

APRESJAN JU. D. Dejksis v leksike i grammatike i naivnaja model´ mira, in Integral´noe opisanie jazyka i sistemnaja leksikografija, Moskvà, JAzyki russkoj kul´tury, 1995, ISBN 5-88766-045-7.

LEFEVERE A. Translating Poetry. Seven Strategies and a Blueprint. Amsterdam, Van Gorcum, 1975, ISBN 90-232-1263-0.

LEUVEN ZWART K. van Translation and original. Similarities and dissimilarities. In Target, n. 1:2 (1989) and n. 2:1 (1990).

MARÍAS J. Negra espalda del tiempo, Punto de lectura, 2000 (original edition 1998), ISBN 84-663-0007-7.

MARÍAS J. Dark Back of Time, New York, New Directions, 2001 (translated by Esther Allen), ISBN 0-8112-1466-4.

TOROP P. La traduzione totale, edited by Bruno Osimo, Modena, Logos, 2000, ISBN 88-8049-195-4.

1 Marías 2000, p. 182.
2 Marías 2001, p. 147-148.