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Translation studies and memetics



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  • Glossary: some brief definitions of technical terms
  • All of these underlined terms i.e. information pattern, unit of imitation, adaptation, fidelity, reproduction etc. are hints to be taken by distinguished scholars like Chesterman to import memetics into TS.
  • These were some technical terms that help us understand memetics better.
  • There are many definitions for meme. Most authorshave altered the original definition; either by adding more information or by limiting the definition to fit within a specific field of research.
  • Recall Jakobson’s intersemiotic translation
  • To succeed in replication,a good replicator should exhibit the following characteristics:A drawing made by etching lines in the sand is likely to be erased before anybody could have reproduced it.An industrial printing press can make many more copies of a pamphlet than an office-copying machine.If a painting is reproduced by making photocopies from photocopies, the picture will quickly become unrecognizable.
  • Chain Letters:whose only purpose is to have themselves replicated and sent to as many people as possibleReligious cults:which teach their followers to make as many converts as possible, while isolating them from alternative sources of information, so that it may end fatally, as in the mass suicidesPseudo-sciences can be dangerous, showing solid scientific theories, but asserting claims that are not supported by the facts, like in astrology.
  • Chesterman sees translation as spreading memes from ST to TT, making sure that they get safely across language borders.
  • Memes in TS can be dichotomies, concepts or ideas that pop up over and over again, under different names but with"the same" foundation.
  • Chesterman suggests three ways in which an application of memetics in translation teaching might be beneficial:
  • Because memetic replication always involves variation, instead of identity, we can focus on the way texts change as they are translated, and examine the nature and motivation of such changesVarious standard solutions for translation problems are possible short cuts, you might say: tricks of the tradeTranslation norms are constraints on the translator’s freedom of choice, but they are also reminders that translators belong to a professional community governed by agreements on how we should behave and what our texts should look like.
  • 1) A parasitic meme is one that, in the long run, is harmful to its host. 2) A mutualist one is beneficial to the survival of its host.
  • a succession of ideas that come and go, some more long-lasting than others.
  • Chesterman mentions three ways in which memetics can be conceptually applied in translation research:
  • As you know, the Cultural Turn was a reaction against linguistic approaches that were too narrow and neglect the wider cultural and social aspects of translationTranslators and their clients manipulate the target culture by introducing and spreading new memestranslators manipulate the source text itself as they translate, so that the memes they express in the target text are mutations of those in the original.
  • One possible application of considering translation history as a succession of recurring memes has to do with making predictions. Another line of potentially memetic research with a historicaldimension is the study of retranslations.
  • Maybe, one day, we shall be able literally to see an idea!
  • The memetic view has wider implications for the whole way we see the translation process. It assumes that:


  • 2. OVERVIEW • Glossary 1. Memetics 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 Conclusion
  • 3. GLOSSARY • 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) viruses • 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
  • 4. • 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. GLOSSARY
  • 5. 1. MEMETICS 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.
  • 6. 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. Memetics
  • 7. 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 from elsewhere. • 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). Memetics
  • 8. 1. Longevity: The longer the meme survives, the more copies can be made of it. 2. Fecundity: The faster the rate of copying, the more the replicator will spread. 3. Copying-fidelity: the more accurate or faithful the copy, the more will remain of the initial pattern after several rounds of copying. Characteristics of a successful replicator (meme):Memetics
  • 9. 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 replicated. Memetics
  • 10. EXAMPLES OF PARASITIC MEMES • Chain letters, emails or text messages • Certain religious cults • Pseudo-sciences Memetics
  • 11. 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.
  • 12. • 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- pool (TS): The free vs. literal meme The equivalence meme The untranslatability meme Memetics&TS Dichotomy Concept Idea
  • 13. 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 Memetics&TS
  • 14. 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 Strategy memes Norm memes Memetics&TS Memesintranslationteaching
  • 15. 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. Memetics&TS Memesintranslationteaching
  • 16. 2.1.3 MEMES EVOLVE: TEACH TRANSLATION HISTORY! •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 translation research. Memetics&TS Memesintranslationteaching
  • 17. 2.2 MEMES IN TRANSLATION RESEARCH 2.2.1 The cultural turn 2.2.2 The historical curve 2.2.3 The cognitive twist Memetics&TS
  • 18. 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? Memetics&TS Memesintranslationresearch
  • 19. 2.2.2 THE HISTORICAL CURVE • Predictions: 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. • Retranslations: 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? Memetics&TS Memesintranslationresearch
  • 20. 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. Memetics&TS Memesintranslationresearch
  • 21. CONCLUSION 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!
  • 22. THANK YOU FOR YOUR ATTENTION Now that you are infected with the memetic framework it’s your turn to infect another person!