Translation Process Research and the Changing Notion of Representation - Speaker: Michael Carl

Translation Process Research and the Changing Notion of Representation
Michael Carl
Department of Classical and Modern Language Studies – Kent University


Around 40 years ago, Translation Process Research (TPR) set out to investigate „What goes on in the minds of translators“ (Krings, 1986). The research was based on the assumption that cognition is computation over representations, where representations are distinct and identifiable components in a cognitive system (Bermúdez 2014). A large number of techniques have been deployed within the past 40 years to illuminate the translator’s black box, and models have been suggested to explain the hidden translation processes. The Monitor Model (Schaffer and Carl 2013) stipulates that two concurrent (sets of) translation processes complement each other in the translator’s mind. Automatic/horizontal processes are driven by priming mechanisms. They are modular and quick. Controlled/vertical processes are slower. They take into account a large(r) number of cognitive resources, including internal and external search and conscious/reflective thought.
The assessment of horizontal/priming processes suggests that cognition consists of interferences over superposed mental activations that are neither discrete nor static and that cannot be distinguished from rules. Rather than seeing cognition as a manipulation of distinguishable symbols, this assessment offers a holistic view on representation and computation. Based on these observations and supported by traces of translational behavior from translation process data, I will introduce a dynamic notion of translation affordances and translation relevance (Gutt 2000) . This view shifts focus on non-conscious (priming) and non-representational (dynamic) processes, in which the principle of relevance defines an optimal path as a multivariate field of effort and effect indicators. I will use data from the CRITT TPR-DB (Carl et al. 2016) to illustrate parameters of such a field of relevance. I will illustrate different trajectories through the relevance field and point out their relation to automatic and reflective translation processes.


Bermúdez, José Luis  (2014) Cognitive Science: An Introduction to the Science of the Mind. Cambridge University Press,
Carl, Michael; Bangalore, Srinivas and Schaeffer, Moritz (2016) New Directions in Empirical Translation Process Research. Springer
Gutt, E. A. (2000). Translation and relevance: Cognition and context . Manchester: St. Jerome.
Krings, Hans. (1986) Was in den Köpfen von Übersetzern vorgeht, Narr
Schaeffer, Moritz and Carl, Michael. (2013). Shared Representations and the Translation Process: A Recursive Model. In: Translation and Interpreting Studies, Vol. 8, No. 2, 2013, p. 169–190

Michael Carl is a professor at the Department of Classical and Modern Language Studies at Kent University.