When quality is in the eye of the beholder: paradigm communities and the certification of standards for judging quality

McElhanon, Kenneth A

This essay addresses the relativity of knowledge and its relevance to the assessment of quality in translation. The discussion is framed in terms of Thomas Kuhn’s theory of paradigms and paradigm communities. The concept of paradigm is used to delineate the various legacies that inform contemporary translators—their biblical/theological education, their tacit acceptance of an Aristotelian philosophy of language, and the subtle influence of the Age of Enlightenment. Because each model of translation determines the praxis of translation, it also determines how quality is assessed. It is suggested that this is not a serious problem, however, because each model of translation accounts well for particular phenomena of language. A translator is well advised to know the kinds of phenomena that each model handles best. Skill in translation is applying each model to the appropriate phenomena and thereby utilizing any given model to its maximum potential. The burden of responsibility for the quality of a translation falls correctly upon translators and not upon those who check translations.

Content Language:
Translation quality
Models of translation
Kuhn's theory of paradigms
Nature of Work:
pages 25-40
Entry Number:
40 254