Thread: Promising practices

Quotations: lost in translation?

Ailish Maher, Barcelona, Spain

Background Quotations pose requirements regarding attribution, scientific integrity and copyright that are often not viewed as an integral part of the translator's task. The interface between languages places an onus on the translator, however, to assume responsibility for compliance with these requirements in the translated text. Additional complexity arises from the fact that decisions regarding adaptations to the text may also affect referencing.

Purpose Broadly speaking this presentation aims to address such questions as the following: When can we paraphrase, why and how much? When/where should we search for the original quote? How much time should we invest? What do we do if we cannot find the original? What if languages are involved that we do not know? What if the author is paraphrasing what is itself a translation of the original? Will/should the reputation of the quoted author affect our task/decisions? At what point should we expect the client to help us? What are the copyright implications of our changes to the text? Is it right to imply that our researcher read something in the original when, in fact, she read it in translation?

Solutions My departure point is a brief review of the notion of intertextuality -“ the most explicit form of which is quoted matter -“ as a concept that aids interpretation of authoritative sources of guidance. I then highlight dilemmas and suggest possible solutions for real examples taken from two texts by the same author (a treasure trove in terms of the number of quotations, the reputation of the cited authors and the diversity of languages and nationalities involved). The presentation concludes with tentative recommendations based on my own experiences/research and an open discussion.


Ailish Maher holds a degree in business (University College Dublin, Ireland, 1986), the IOL diploma in Spanish to English translation (UK, 2001) and a master's degree in translation studies (Dublin City University, Ireland, 2003). Based in Barcelona (Spain), she is a freelance translator (from Spanish and Catalan primarily) and editor, working mainly for universities and EU bodies. .