Approaches to Translation in the Context of Theory of Speech Activity

Keywords: translation, psycholinguistics, theory of speech activity


Over the past decades there has been a significant increase in the studies exploring cognitive foundations of translation reflected in a considerable amount of literature published on the topic. However, it is important to bear in mind that many of the ideas in the cognitive literature are mainly rooted in the psycholinguistic approaches to translation. For instance, a lot of scholarly works on translation in the former Soviet Union published in 1960-1970s emphasise the role of translator’s thinking and speech processes. The emergence of ‘theory of speech activity’, Soviet version of Western psycholinguistics, stimulated interest of linguists and psychologists who considered translation and interpreting, their procedural aspects worthy of scholarly attention. A. Leontyev (1969), one of the founders of the above mentioned ‘theory’, paid special attention to translator’s mental operations and probabilistic programming of the target language utterance(s). Thus far, a number of recent cognitive translation studies have confirmed the effectiveness of previous psycholinguistic models of translation designed within the framework of theory of speech activity. The goal of the study is a theoretical review of psycholinguistic approaches to interpreting and translation discussed in the works of scholars who were part of the Soviet theory of speech activity. The main objective is to reveal the translator’s status, his/her thinking and speech operations as psycholinguistic units in the approaches under review. Together, the psycholinguistic studies reviewed in the paper support the notion that the translator relies both on his/her algorithmic actions and heuristic solutions with the latter based on his/her background guided by probability thinking mechanism. This integrated approach proves useful in expanding our better and deeper understanding of translator’s activity.


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Zasiekin, S. (2018). Approaches to Translation in the Context of Theory of Speech Activity. PSYCHOLINGUISTICS, 24(2), 63-77.