Saturday, June 30, 2018

Chesterman, A. (2000). A causal model for translation studies.

In this paperAndrew Chesterman (2000) discusses models for translation research. He starts by explaining the differences between a theory, hypothesis, and a model. According to Chesterman, a theory is a set of concepts and statements (claims, hypotheses) that provides a systematic perspective that allows us to understand something in any way, and consequently attempt to explain it. A model, he elaborates, is less abstract, and oftentimes viewed in an intermediate position between theory and data. A model is typically used to illustrate a theory or a part of a theory. When it comes to 'Models of translation' Chesterman defines them as 'preliminary, pre-theoretical setting the object of research that has specific methodological...they constrain research models, and hence the construction of translation theories' (p. 16). 

The paper introduces four types of models of translation: 
1. Comparative model, commonly used in contrastive research, and it aligns translations with source texts of parallel text to explore correlations between them.
2. Process modelrepresented by communication approaches, and it maps different phases of the translation process over time. 
3. Causal model, where translations are seen as both affected by precursor conditions and as inducing effects on readers and cultures. 

The paper also provides a discussion of for types of hypotheses traditionally used to understand the phenomenon of translation: interpretive, descriptive, explanatory and predictive

According to Chesterman, only a causal model enables us to generate all four types of hypotheses, therefore, we should 'explicitly seek to develop in translation research'. Furthermore, a causal model can provide a comprehensive empirical research programme for translation studies, and operate as a basis on which to construct a translation theory or theories. Another practical consequence of research based on a causal model would be its applicability to translator training and quality assurance. If we can illustrate particular ties between causal conditions, translation profile features, and observed effects, this might lead to a greater perception of how to produce translations that have more desired effects and less undesired ones.

This paper is a required reading for the Ph.D. in Translation Studies candidacy exam (Comps) at the Institute for Applied Linguistics at Kent State University. This Xmind map (you can view and download by clicking the Xmind icon) provides a summary of the main concepts presented in this paper: 

Chesterman, A. (2000). A causal model for translation studies. Intercultural faultlines, 15-27.


  1. Is it worth going for my MA in Translation Studies or is it more practical to go for a certificate program?
    For background, I'm currently in my Junior year dual-majoring in Spanish and International Affairs with a minor in Latin American Studies. At first I was unsure about what path I wanted to go in but I've always been drawn towards translating and I think it's the right career path for me. Any other tips/advice are DEFINITELY welcome!

    1. if you plan on sticking to research in the field of translation studies continue to MA whereas if you want to specialization in a particular branch like a medical translatior or legal translator etc then look for the best possible course which also provides hands on experience


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