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39 - Delabastita, Torop

«The hallucinations of hysteria and paranoia, as well as the visions of mentally normal persons, I would explain as corresponding, in fact, to regressions, i.e., to thoughts transformed into images»1.

The Israeli researcher, Gideon Toury, author of the important adequacy-acceptability theory, has given further contributions in translation criticism. His view of criticism focuses more on general regularities than on specific differences: this is due to his systemic approach. In Toury's opinion, the prototext-metatext comparison goes through three stages:

  • the first one consists in locating the metatext in the context, i.e. in the receiving culture;
  • the second stage implies a comparison of individual passages of the two texts to discover the relations between prototext and metatext segments to make general considerations on translation regularities that can be retrogressively reconstructed, starting from the result, through retroduction;
  • finally, you have to archive the results to improve the critical patrimony eventually applicable to examined texts2.

The process described by Toury accounts for the principles dictated by Holmes (the mapping theory) and goes through them from the end to the beginning. A translation critic projects the metatext onto the source culture to create a temporary, constantly updated mental map of the prototext, and from that he proceeds to the actual comparison with the prototext, so as to give form to "a series of (ad hoc) coupled pairs"3 on which he can make a partial indirect comparison to be continually revised during the analysis process itself4.

Dirk Delabastita bases his own theory of translation criticism on two strategies called "cultural analogy" and "cultural homology". Analogy is something similar to "functional equivalent", because it is a strategy whose ambition is to find - and use - a statement that, in the receiving culture, has an analogous cultural meaning, i.e. that has a relational value that is similar as compared to the culture that receives it5. The classical example of Delabastita concerns the "creaking shoes" in King Lear: since in Shakespeare's drama such a features is a sign of extreme luxury and of being "in" with the latest fashion, in the case where one wants to pursue the strategy of cultural analogy one could think of a translatant referring to a luxury brand of trendy shoes in the translator's culture, to give an idea similar to what Shakespeare wanted to give to his model of reader .

According to the cultural homology strategy, the passage to be translated is considered both in terms of 'cultural signifiers' (form) and of 'cultural signifieds' (cultural semantic contents). In the discussed case, a homological translation into Italian could be "scarpe scricchiolanti", which leaves the reader the task of filling the cultural gap between oneself and the text. "Nevertheless, we should not underestimate the problem-solving skills of text receivers"6: the reader is able to reconstruct the cultural connotation of the statements from the text as a whole, maybe through the aid of a critical apparatus. With this strategy the reader - and the critic - finds many "other" elements in the translation of "her own" culture.

The principle of the difference between analogous and homologous translation is further divided by Delabastita based on its application to language, culture and the whole text. Adding to such possibilities the three transformations deriving from what are usually called trivial translation "mistakes" - omission, addition and metatextual rendering - he creates fifteen types of translation relations, as illustrated by this table:














greater or smaller degree of (approximate) linguistic equivalence





systemic, acceptable text (potentially conservative) adaptation


total: non-translation, copy

partial: calque, literal translation, metaphrase, word-by-word, interlinear translation;


historization (through the mere intervention of time-place distance)

non-systemic text, not-acceptable (potentially innovative)


reductive translation

abridged version


expressive reduction


dehistorization (through the removal of foreign cultural signs)

the metatext is a more typical specimen of a (target) text-type

neutralization of stylistic or generic peculiarities


paraphrastic translation

more explicit text


expressive amplification


historization (through the positive addition of foreign cultural signs)

the metatext is a more typical specimen of a (target) text-type

introduction of stylistic or generic markers


compensation (metatextual) compensation (metatextual) compensation (metatextual)

>The translational relationships according to Delabastita7

Compared to Van Leuven-Zwart's model, described in unit 30 of the third part, this model is much simpler. One of the advantages is the avoiding of the notion of 'transeme', that, while considering mainly the semantic-denotative meaning of a statement, doesn't account for all other aspects, fundamental especially in "open" texts (connotation, collocation poetic value), among which those Tynjanov calls "self-functional and co-functional elements"8. This model of Delabastita's is then elaborated and integrated by Torop.

In Torop's opinion, to make the practical prototext-metatext comparative analysis easier, you need to picture the translator within the framework of her adopted method, and then check her consistency in the stated method and in its application.

A translator's style is manifested especially in the conscious shifts from the prototext, a result of ideological choices that should be the object of translation studies. The descriptive approach here allows itself a normative aspect: without criticizing the single translator's style, but criticizing a translator that hasn't any personal characteristic style.

Translation criticism cannot contemplate only the metatext, it must make a comparative analysis of the prototext as well: unlike the theory of translation, criticism focuses on the individual translator's poetics, not on translation poetics in general9.

Here are Torop's nine types of translation criticism10:

1. 1. Historical-literary criticism. Concerns the choice of the author and the translated text and their position in national and international literature.

2. 2. Informational criticism. Information on the translated work, its related advertising, product promotion,

3. 3. Adaptive criticism. It consists in mentally projecting a prototext onto the receiving culture to individualize the potential reception and study its marketing potential (a task for the professional readers working for publishers and editors).

4. 4. Innovative criticism. The innovative elements in the metatext (exotisms, historicisms, realia etc.) have an impact on the receiving culture: this kind of criticism tries to foresee the consequences of such an impact.

5. 5. Receptive criticism. Commentaries, comments, individualizing of the metatext's and prototext's dominants that help the reception by the metatext's reader.

6. 6. Theoretical criticism. The two texts are compared as a research on the question of the translatability of language, of style, of genre, of culture, of time.

7. 7. Translational method criticism. Consists in the individualization of the translational method and inquiry on how such a translation method influences the reader's metatext perception. Criticism is evaluative as well, but limited to checking the consistency within a chosen method.

8. 8. Qualitative criticism. Deals with understanding what the practical outcome of a given selected method is within the framework of the receiving culture.

9. 9. Personal criticism. The criticism of the work by an individual translator, her historical evolution.

All the described critical methods imply consideration of the analysis of only the metatext in relation to its prototext, unlike what happens in most real cases.


Bibliographical references

DELABASTITA D. There's a Double Tongue. An investigation into the translation of Shakespeare's Wordplay, with special reference to Hamlet. Amsterdam, Rodopi, 1993, ISBN 90-5183-495-0.

FREUD SIGMUND, L'interpretazione dei sogni, in Opere, vol. 3, Torino, Boringhieri, a cura di C. L. Musatti, 1966.

FREUD SIGMUND, The Interpretation Of Dreams, translated by A. A. Brill, London, G. Allen & Company, 1913.

TOROP P. La traduzione totale, a cura di Bruno Osimo, Modena, Logos - Yema, 2000, ISBN 88-8049-195-4.

1 Freud 1900: 473.
2 Toury 1995: 36-39, 102.
3 Toury 1995: 77.
4 Toury 1995: 80.
5 Delabastita 1993: 17.
6 Delabastita 1993: 19.
7 Delabastita 1993: 39.
8 Tynjanov 1929: 130.
9 Torop 2000: 65.
10 Torop 2000: 67-68.