TRANSLATION STUDIES AND MEMETICS
PRESENTED BY: NIMA MEHDIZADEH ASHRAFI
1.1 What is a meme?
1.2 Meme Definitions
1.3 Meme Transmission
1.4 Parasitic memes
2. Memetics in Translation Studies
2.1 Memes in translation teaching
2.2 Memes in translation research
• Culture: the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that, for a certain group, define their
general way of life and that they have taken over from others
• Natural selection: the process by which certain organisms that can adapt to their
environment survive and reproduce, while the others disappear
• Cultural evolution: the development of culture over time, as conceptualized
through the mechanisms of variation and natural selection of cultural elements
• Replicator: an information pattern that is able to make copies of itself, typically
with the help of another system. Examples are genes, memes, and (computer)
• Meme: a cultural replicator; a unit of imitation or communication
• Meme pool: the set of all memes present in a given human population (cultural
context), in an analogy to gene pool
• Memeplex (or meme complex): a collection of mutually supporting memes, which
tend to replicate together
• Memetics: the theoretical and empirical science that studies the replication, spread
and evolution of memes
• Fitness: the overall success rate of a replicator, as determined by its degree of
adaptation to its environment, and the three requirements of longevity, fecundity
and copying- fidelity
• Longevity: the duration that an individual replicator survives
• Fecundity: the speed of reproduction of a replicator, as measured by the number of
copies made per time unit
• Copying-fidelity: the degree to which a replicator is accurately reproduced.
1.1 What is a meme?
The word meme is a neologism coined
by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish
Gene (1976, 2006), and defined as a
self-reproducing and propagating
information structure analogous to a
gene in biology. Memes consist of
information which persist, propagate,
and influence human behavior.
1.2 MEME DEFINITIONS
• A few of the many definitions extracted from the literature:
A unit of cultural transmission (or a unit of imitation) that is a
replicator that propagates in the meme pool leaping from brain to
brain via (in a broad sense) imitation; examples:
tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots
or of building arches
Information patterns infecting human minds
An observable cultural phenomenon, such as a behavior, artifact
or an objective piece of information, which is copied, imitated or
learned, and thus may replicate within a cultural system.
1.3 MEME TRANSMISSION
• A meme is transmitted after either being created in the mind of an
individual or re-transmitted after being received by an individual
• The potential host becomes an actual host if the meme satisfies
certain selection and fitness criteria. The new host replicates and
transmits the meme (perhaps with a different vector, such as a text
message instead of speech).
• Because the number of memes at any given time typically exceeds
the number of recipients able to absorb them, fitness criteria
determine which memes will survive (Natural Selection).
The longer the meme survives, the
more copies can be made of it.
The faster the rate of copying, the
more the replicator will spread.
the more accurate or faithful the copy,
the more will remain of the initial
pattern after several rounds of
Characteristics of a successful replicator (meme):Memetics
1.4 PARASITIC MEMES
• We may call some memes selfish or parasitic, as they free ride on
the effort invested by individuals to gather and communicate
useful information. Such information parasites succeed by faking
the criteria that we use to recognize high-quality information.
• Memes have therefore been described as “mind viruses”, since
they similarly exploit our cognitive machinery to get themselves
EXAMPLES OF PARASITIC MEMES
• Chain letters, emails or text messages
• Certain religious cults
2. MEMETICS IN TRANSLATION STUDIES
• Memes were explicitly brought into Translation Studies by
Chesterman (1997), and independently by Vermeer (1997).
• Memes can spread via translations.
• So translation studies is a way of studying memes and their
transmission under particular circumstances. Translation studies is,
in fact, a branch of memetics!
• If we look at translation this way, it is not a matter of moving texts
or messages or meanings from one place to another, but rather of
replicating them (with inevitable mutations) in a different
environment: to translate is to spread ideas.
• Some memes have to do with translation itself: traditional ideas
about translation, ideas that have been carried down from one
generation to the next and spread from one culture to another.
• Chesterman suggests that there are also supermemes in this meme-
The free vs. literal meme
The equivalence meme
The untranslatability meme
2.1 MEMES IN TRANSLATION TEACHING
2.1.1 Memes as conceptual tools
2.1.2 Encouraging mutualist memes
2.1.3 Teaching translation history
2.1.1 MEMES ARE CONCEPTUAL TOOLS
• All professionals have acquired a stock of concepts about
translation. These shared concepts — we could call them
professional translation memes — are the conceptual tools of their
trade. Professionals acquire these conceptual tools partly from
experience, but partly (perhaps mostly) from their training. The
task of a translation trainer, therefore, is to spread memes about
translation — useful memes.
Translation is a memetic activity
2.1.2 ENCOURAGE MUTUALIST MEMES!
In teaching translation, we should try to encourage mutualist memes
and discourage parasitic ones.
1) Parasitic meme
There is no need for a theory of translation.
The untranslatability meme
The sameness/identity meme
2) Mutualist meme
Relevant similarity between ST & TT
The translator as an expert, rather than a humble slave of the source text or
its author, or the client.
2.1.3 MEMES EVOLVE: TEACH
•Chesterman sees the history of translation as the evolution
of translation memes.
•Memes mutate as they evolve. Trainees can also be
encouraged to take part in this mutation. This would mean
exploring and experimenting with norm-breaking
translation, new solutions, new combinations of ideas...
maybe also keeping up with the latest innovations in
2.2 MEMES IN TRANSLATION RESEARCH
2.2.1 The cultural turn
2.2.2 The historical curve
2.2.3 The cognitive twist
2.2.1 THE CULTURAL TURN
• One of the fashionable concepts in cultural turn has been that of
manipulation. This can be understood in two senses:
a) Manipulating the target culture
b) Manipulating the source text
• A memetic scholar would be particularly interested in questions
like these: What happens to ideas as they mutate via translation?
Which ideas tend to survive better than others, and why? How
does translation affect their survival, both in the target culture and
in the source culture?
2.2.2 THE HISTORICAL CURVE
If we discover that the evolution of translation memes tends to occur in
certain waves or patterns, we might be able to make predictions about up-
and-coming memes in a particular culture.
The decision to translate a given work again into the same target
language, seems to suggest the need to revive certain memes that were
perhaps in danger of fading away. What are the characteristics of
translations that need to be supplemented by retranslations? What are the
characteristics of translations that seem to survive without retranslations?
More powerful memes?
2.2.3 THE COGNITIVE TWIST
• The central questions in cognitive approaches are: What happens
in the translator’s head? How are decisions made? What kind of
decisions are made? When? How can we observe this?
• From the memetic point of view, however, the crucial question is:
Do memes exist in the brain, in some observable form?
Chemically? Neurologically? Perhaps the TAP studies of the
future will come up with some evidence.
We translate ideas, not languages
Modification is an inherent aspect of this process
Equivalence in translation is not identity but more like continuity
Translation, like all communication, is always relative, never
absolute. So translatability is not a problem.
Any many more assumptions that are going to be
presented and criticized in my thesis!
THANK YOU FOR YOUR ATTENTION
Now that you are infected with
the memetic framework
it’s your turn to infect another person!