Resolving meaning conflict in translation: An optimality approach to verse translation

Nicolau Dols, Richard Mansell


This article proposes an application of Optimality Theory (Prince and Smolensky 1993) to translation analysis, suggesting that the translation process is regulated by a hierarchy of universal yet violable constraints. The constraints are always present but in conflict: strategies are determined by their hierarchy, and a constraint can be violated but only to avoid violation of a more highly-ranked constraint, i.e. a prioritised form of transfer. Optimalist concepts present in the literature are surveyed, and after a series of examples the authors propose that an optimalist approach reveals translators’ strategies and their basis both at a micro- and textual level, a theoretical basis for a multi-layer unit of translation, a cognitive basis for Toury’s two laws of translation, and they suggest that there are no others.


constraints; decision-making; faithfulness; hierarchies; laws of translation; markedness; optimality; unit of translation; universals

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