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This article is based on a lecture that has been given to several groups of doctoral students at various times and in various places. It outlines five notions of what has been taken to constitute a “theory”: myth, metaphor, model, hypothesis and structured research programme. The most fundamental of these is the hypothesis. These different ideas of what a theory can be are illustrated with examples from Translation Studies. Any theory aims at description and explanation, and these two concepts are also discussed. A final comment takes up the idea that translations themselves are theories, and that a translator is thus a theorist or theôros .

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A common feature of much modern translation research is the notion of causality. This is true not only of empirical descriptive research and applied studies, but also of hermeneutic studies, since concepts influence action. Different approaches focus on different kinds and levels of cause and effect. Some focus on the broad socio-cultural context, some on the situational level (translation event), some on the cognitive level (translation act) and some on the linguistic level of the translation product itself (translation profile). Aristotle's classification of kinds of cause has already been applied in translation studies. This paper proposes an analysis of translation causality based on Greimas' modalities of faire , être , devoir , savoir , pouvoir and vouloir . It is argued that the study of causality does not imply a deterministic standpoint; that translation causality must include the translator's subjectivity; and that the search for regularities in cause-effect relations does not imply a neglect of what is unique about every translation. A causal reading of the modalities of être, devoir, savoir, pouvoir and vouloir as factors influencing the translator's action ( faire ) allows us to relate different kinds of causes at different levels, including the individual translator.

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Across Languages and Cultures
Andrew Chesterman
Kristina Mullamaa
Jill Orenstein
, and
Nataša Pavlovic

“The Study of Language and Translation”, Hogeschool Gent, School of Translation Studies-Belgium, Gent, 12-14 January 2006; “New Research in Translation and Interpreting Studies”, Intercultural Studies Group, Universitat Rovira i Virgili- Spain Tarragona, 7-8 October 2005

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