Steiner Chapter 4 Thought Questions

Lawrence Humphrey “distinguished between major and trivial tongues according to history, philosophy, and letters which they record and express” (p. 277-278). He then claims that it is “solely between major languages that the process of translation is truly meaningful” (page 278). His work was with Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. These seem like choices that highlight many of the major biblical and Old World civilizations. However, does he therefore claim that these three languages will remain the major languages throughout time? If language is based on social climate to understand the context of the work and thus to be able to then translate it, how can the major language not change throughout history?

Furthermore, how is translation possible if there is not a true conformity between thought and speech? If the full entity of thought is not completely and exactly captured in speech, we cannot hope to then translate the words without loosing some of the original meaning of the author.

Finally,  we do not know if there is any basic commonality of language, particularly in terms of human processing, and our models of learning and memory are inferred from incomplete knowledge. How then can we have a theory of translation if we do not know how we store, organize, or produce the different languages of an individual’s mind?

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My name is Rachael Wachter and I am a sophomore neuroscience major. I am interested in translation studies because I want to learn how the brain and our behavior is affected by differences in language and culture.

One thought on “Steiner Chapter 4 Thought Questions”

  1. Nice questions, Rachel! I would be interested in looking at the final section of Chapter 4 where Steiner discusses neurophysiology and language, especially as research has burgeoned in the years since Steiner wrote this work.

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