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Across Languages and Cultures 18 (2), pp.

323–333 (2017)
DOI: 10.1556/084.2017.18.2.9

Yves Gambier, Luc van Doorslaer (eds)

Border Crossings: Translation Studies and Other Disciplines
Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2016, xvi + 380 pp.
ISBN 978 902 725 8724

Border Crossings: Translation Studies and Other Disciplines was published as

the 126th volume of Benjamins Translation Library, joining an extensive line of
excellent scholarly works on Translation Studies (TS). The editors, Yves
Gambier and Luc van Doorslaer are well-known and respected TS researchers,
with experience not only in translation studies, but many other related fields.
Gambier’s research interests include audiovisual translation, translation theory,
discourse analysis, socioterminology, language policy and language planning
and translation teacher training. Luc van Doorslaer’s research interests are
journalism and translation, ideology and translation, imagology and translation,
combined with the institutionalization of Translation Studies.
TS has always been an interdisciplinary field as shown by a figure on page
4, which provides a useful summary of the key components and disciplines that
Translation Studies has benefited from through the years. It was during the co-
editing of the Handbook of Translation Studies that Gambier and van Doorslaer
became aware of the fact that the interdisciplinary ties of TS are expanding
further: it is crossing ever new borders and is beginning to impact other
disciplines. They claim that translation has emerged as a keyword in several
disciplines, a model for disciplinary thinking, able to describe a great variety of
phenomena, auguring perhaps a “translational turn” in the scientific world and
turning TS into a transdiscipline. It was this experience that prompted the
compilation of a volume that shows the inter/transdisciplinary nature of
Translation Studies and its multifaceted interaction with other fields of study.
While there is no doubt that the most important aim of the book is to
heighten awareness of the interdisciplinary nature of TS and to direct attention
to the gradual extension of its borders, it seems to be intended, at least to some
extent, to provide evidence that TS is not just an importer of ideas, but has had,
or could have, some impact outside its traditional borders. The editors
enthusiastically exhort translation scholars to go beyond the borders of TS and
accept extensions of the narrow meaning of translation. Inevitably, by laying so
much stress on showing the contribution of TS to other fields, they also give the
impression that this volume is, at least partially, another attempt at self-
definition and self-assertion in TS’s long-standing grappling with self-doubts
about its academic status.

1585-1923/$ 20.00 © 2017 Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest


Gambier and van Doorslaer, having crossed several interdisciplinary

borders themselves, seem to be well-placed to undertake such an ambitious
project. The book contains sixteen chapters, covering the relationship between
sixteen disciplines and TS, from history through computer science and
comparative literature to game localization. Every chapter is co-authored by a
translation expert and a scholar from another discipline with a special interest in
translation. Some of the authors are well-known to TS scholars and some are
less familiar, especially those representing the “other” discipline”.
After biographical notes on the authors, which provide a crucial insight
into the interdisciplinary nature of the sixteen chapters, the volume opens with a
foreword by the two editors, entitled Disciplinary dialogues with translation
studies: The background chapter. This chapter outlines the (by now well-
known) stages of development of TS from a polydiscipline to an interdiscipline,
providing a longish discussion of the terms polydiscipline, multidiscipline,
subdiscipline, interdiscipline, pluridiscipline, cross-discipline and
transdiscipline. This is great stuff for those with a taste for subtle terminological
distinctions. The editors finally settle for inter/transdiscipline, indicating the
fact that TS draws on several other disciplines and that there is synergy between
TS and several other disciplines. (In plain language, TS has close ties with
many other disciplines.)
The editors are of course aware of the fact that while the term translation is
used in several other disciplines, it is often used in a metaphorical meaning,
different from that generally accepted in TS, and that the contribution of TS to
other disciplines has so far been modest. Indeed, the phrase asymmetrical
relationship crops up several times in the book, showing that TS has been a
consumer of ideas from other disciplines rather than a producer of ideas. The
editors also realize that extending the meaning of translation and embracing a
multitude of new approaches may not be unmitigated blessing: “Seeking to go
beyond the traditional borders of the discipline” leads to a diversity of
perspectives, carrying the risk of fragmentation and possible loss of
independence. (We might add another pertinent question: what is TS going to
gain by extending the meaning of translation?)
In the second part of their background chapter, the editors provide
information on the genesis of the book. They note that interdisciplinarity
increases the usual difficulties of co-authoring: setting up dialogues between
different disciplines is a challenge, since researchers from different disciplines
have different theoretical assumptions and use “mutually unintelligible
specialist conceptual frameworks and terminologies” (p. 12).
On page 15, the questions addressed to the non-TS scholars are presented.
Most of them seem to seek reassurance that TS does indeed have an impact on
other disciplines:

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− At what point and for what purpose did you (did your discipline) feel
the need to adopt the concept of translation? And how has this concept
been adapted to and understood in your discipline?
− How would you define ‘translation’ the way it is used in your
− Do you see any theoretical/conceptual/methodological exchange/input
between your discipline and TS?
− Did you profit from work in TS? How would you describe the exchange
(if there is any) between your field and TS?
− What has your discipline gained by applying ways of thinking about,
and looking at, translations?

No format uniformity was imposed on the authors: some contributions represent

classic common texts, others are variants of a dialogic format. In the first
chapter, the TS scholar Christopher Rundle and the historian Vicente Rafael use
an interview format. Taking their task very seriously they reflect on most of the
questions posed by the editors and discuss how historical scholarship and TS
interact. The historian Rafael believes that translation has always played an
important role in history, a role largely ignored by historians, and he gives
fascinating insights into the role of translation in colonization, nation-building
and situations where manifestations of power are involved and one culture is
trying to dominate another. He claims that translation is a key to understanding
early colonial history: conversion to Christianity was a crucial element in
colonization, and conversion was dependent on translation into local languages
by missionaries. “There was an entire theology of translation that served to
frame the missionary ‘reduction’ of native speech into Christian terms” (p. 26).
Rafael tends to see translation in terms of power relations, conquest, insurgency,
war, treachery and treason, as historical events. The TS scholar Rundle talks
about the history of translation under fascist regimes, explaining how the study
of translations helps to show the specific characteristics of four different fascist
regimes. However, he admits that he is dealing with the “material history of
translation” – the material conditions of production, distribution and control of
translations, while he did not devote much time to examining actual
translations. So it seems that there is little difference between studying the role
of translation from the perspective of TS and from that of historiography. Yet
both authors agree that there is an asymmetrical relationship: Rafael confirms
that very few historians have so far engaged TS and Rundle admits that most
research on translation history is addressed to TS scholars and not much of it
filters down into historical studies. Incidentally, it would be nice to know which
TS research findings could be expected to filter down into historical studies,
since the two authors seem to agree that TS paradigms like

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foreignization/domestication or polysystem theory have little relevance for

historiography. Nevertheless, they optimistically conclude that the disciplines of
history and translation can and should work fruitfully together.
The second chapter continues exploring the relationship between
translation and history. Pekka Kujamäki and Hilary Footitt in Military history
and translation studies: Shifting territories, uneasy borders carry on a very
interesting dialogue on translation and military history, revealing the difference
between the TS and the military history perspective respectively. Military
history used to be part of military education, focusing on military doctrines,
operations and technology of war, deployment of forces, etc., while the
mediators remained beyond the scope of military history. In recent times,
however, there has been a “cultural turn”, and “practitioners began to talk far
more about ideology and culture as being the key to military success” (p. 55). In
this way, multilinguality, translation and interpretation have also come to
receive heightened attention in military history. War involves polylingualism
and cultures come into contact during military conflicts. In contemporary
conflicts the military “find it increasingly unsustainable to ignore foreign
languages when cultural understanding is now an integral part of sophisticated
counterinsurgency” (p. 56). It has been realized that the personality and the
background of translators and interpreters has military significance, and the
notion of translator neutrality has to be re-examined. The TS perspective,
articulated by Kujamäki, places emphasis on “military translation cultures” and
“puts translators and interpreters at the centre of analysis” (p. 60) in situations
of war and conflict. In this way, the two disciplines seem to converge. It is a
pity that concrete examples of military translation cultures – “socially
determined norms, conventions, expectations and values of all those involved in
T/I activities” and “acceptable, recommended and obligatory forms” of T/I in
the given cultures – are not given. The two authors claim that a holistic
approach is needed in studying military translation and interpretation, and
emphasise their intention to step beyond the boundaries of their respective
disciplines in the study of war-time multilingualism and multiculturality and the
people who undertake T/I tasks, with special attention to how cultures meet,
interact and intertwine in times of military conflict.
In Chapter Three, the discussion continues with the relationship between
information science, terminology and TS studies. Lynne Bowker and Tom
Delsey identify a number of interconnections between the two disciplines at the
level of theory, applications of technology and the level of practice. Both
disciplines use theories derived from linguistics and cognitive science (e.g., the
process model of knowledge transfer); both are involved in the technologies of
cross-language information retrieval, machine translation and information
discovery tools, as well as in practical applications like term extraction and

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terminology management. The authors describe several emerging trends and

challenges that the two disciplines share, such as the “transition from authority
to inclusion”, i.e., from prescriptive, norm-based approaches to description and
the de-professionalization of translation services (the “rise of the amateur”).
They see potential for further collaboration in technology-related research.
The fourth dialogue addresses the possible interrelationship of
communication studies and translation studies. Juliane House and Jens Loenhoff
explain how ‘translation’ is used as a concept in communication studies and
how ‘communication’ as a concept appears in translation studies. The
connection between the two disciplines seems obvious, and cooperation natural,
since TS views translation as communication – communication across cultures.
Yet, surprisingly, cooperation has not been very frequent: according to
Loenhoff, the two disciplines “have so far only very selectively taken notice of
one another” (p. 106). This is due to their different perspectives: communication
studies focuses on monolingual communication and presupposes a common
cultural background, while TS pays more attention to linguistic and cultural
differences. In communication studies, the concept of translation does not play a
significant role: when it is used, it refers to the transfer of ‘internal’ mental
states into ‘external’ mental states. The authors discuss potential areas of
common research interests, which seem to lie particularly in areas which
examine the understanding and transformation of meaning across cultural
borders. Communication studies could benefit from devoting more attention to
linguistic and cultural differences and by applying such TS concepts as cultural
filter, overt and covert translation, and the results of contrastive pragmatics and
discourse studies might be successfully adapted to communication studies just
as translation research has already integrated them. TS, on the other hand, could
benefit from cooperation with communication research by gaining a deeper
understanding of the internal workings of communication. Common research
might pursue “(contrastive) pragmatic and discourse studies both inside and
across different linguacultures” (p. 110).
Sociology and translation studies: Two disciplines meeting is the title of
the fifth chapter in the volume. The authors, Hélène Buelin and Claudio Baraldi,
a translation scholar and a sociologist, discuss the differring perspectives on
translation and interpretation in their fields. In the following quote, we illustrate
the sociological perspective on interpretation (and translation): “Interpreting, as
a specific social system, achieves a specific function, i.e. active participation,
and from this function originates its structure. Therefore, the theoretical
problem, in this sociological perspective, is finding the function of a system of
interpreting, rather than finding the function of interpreting in mediating
between different systems” (p. 122). Evidently, what we have here is not just a
difference of perspectives, but a difference of concepts and terminologies.

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Nevertheless, in TS we see a frequent search for sociological explanations, in

particular Actor-Network Theory and Social Systems Theory, while there is
little interest for translation in sociology. Again, there is a recognizable
asymmetry in the interdisciplinary relation. The authors identify social
constructivism as a potential bridge and point out that sociology needs to find a
way of including translation as an established object of research.
In the next chapter, the relationship between cognitive neurosciences and
cognitive translation studies is described by Gregory M. Shreve and Bruce J.
Diamond. After providing a brief introduction to cognitive sciences, they detail
the problems of studying translation within the cognitive framework.
Translation is a “higher-order” cognitive process that can be studied at different
levels of organization: at the highest level we are dealing with the translation of
a text, while at the lowest level with the neuro-chemical processes of the brain.
The authors stress that TS must “extend its interest to the implementation level
and use the findings of cognitive neuroscience to understand how the structure
and function of the brain relates to the way even a very complex higher level
activity like translation can be carried out” (p. 147). In order to be able to study
the process of translation at the implementation level, cognitive translation
studies must find a manageable unit that can serve as the object of
transdisciplinary study. They note some difficulties, too. Cognitive
neuroscience has well-defined experimental protocols, methodology and
instrumentation and translation scholars lack this expertise. On the other hand,
they cannot just rely on studies conducted in cognitive neuroscience because
these are not designed to study translation. In addition, cognitive neuroscience
and neuropsychology have a decomposition tendency, breaking down processes
into small parts, while TS is interested in the processes involved in translating
larger chunks. Therefore, TS scholars must design experimental protocols that
enables them to use the new instruments and methodological frameworks of
cognitive neuroscience and neuropsychology fruitfully, and use “well-defined
experimental tasks that have a clearly defined translational aspect”. In this they
need the expertise and cooperation of neuroscience researchers. The authors
identify several new interdisciplinary research directions, such as independent
or shared neural substrates for language processes, inhibitory control,
interference, language switching costs, localization of translation-related neural
activity, processing load and task interference, development aspects of
translation skill, spatial activation patterns and translation direction. They
conclude that “translation units produced during a representative translation task
are an appropriate focus of study” (p. 155).
Chapter Seven presents the thoughts of Kobus Marais and Kalevi Kull on
biosemiotics, defined as prelinguistic semiotics (i.e., the study of non-symbolic
sign processes), and translation studies. Comparing the use of the term in TS

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with the notion of translation as used in biosemiotics, they ultimately challenge

the notion of translation itself. In this chapter, readers can explore the mutual
benefits to which an interdisciplinary perspective between biosemiotics and
translation studies may lead, where the common ground is semiotics. The
authors claim that “all living processes entail aspects of translation, which could
be studied in a field of study such as Translation studies” (p. 181). What
remains unclear, however, is what TS is going to gain by extending the meaning
of translation to include, e.g. ‘translation’ by ribosomes.
In the next chapter, Adaptation studies and translation studies: very
interactive yet distinct, Luc van Doorslaer and Laurence Raw discuss the
common and dissimilar features of the two disciplines. They show that
adaptation studies (AS) and TS have a lot of common ground: both translation
and adaptation produce non-original target texts that are considered inferior to
their source, they share interests in the issue of fidelity to the original, and
(according to some researchers) adaptation may be regarded as a form of
translation. In spite of that, AS continues to be based on the literature-film-
theater-media paradigm, paying little attention to TS. AS researchers believe
that TS is preoccupied with linguistic issues, which have no relevance in their
field, and interest in starting a dialogue with AS is also limited among
translation scholars. However, TS and AS “have started to talk to each other”,
and Raw, one of the authors of this chapter, has published a book in 2012 that
deals with both fields. The authors conclude that there is considerable scope for
collaborative research projects.
The ninth chapter, by Salvatore Giammarresi and Guy Lapalme, explores a
rather new topic within translation studies, namely how computer scientists
came into contact with linguistic and translational issues, mainly in the course
of work on machine translation (MT). They give an overview of the history of
MT, showing how ambiguity in general language proved a stumbling block and
has been bypassed by developing statistically based MT, which exploits the
formulaic nature of language. The evolutionary process of MT has raised a
number of linguistic and translational issues: What does it really mean to
translate? How much ‘deep’ understanding is neccessary to perform a
translation? How much are we willing to lose in translation? Is a professional
translation always needed?
The next dialogue, Computational linguistics and translation studies, by
Michael Carl, Srinivas Bangalore and Moritz Schaeffer, is also technologically
driven. It shows how computational linguistics methods have been adapted to
study the processes of translation. Computational linguistics provides important
tools (e.g. key-logging software) for cognitive translation studies for analysing
real human behaviour. The authors present the development of computational
linguistics and translation process research from a historical perspective. They

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take a brief look at the most recent developments in empirical translation

process research aimed at modelling translator behaviour, showing how
automatically identified activity patterns from recorded translation sessions can
be used to predict indicators of a translator’s expertise, as well as the learning
effect experienced by a post-editor over a period of sessions. Finally, the
chapter points to developments that may further fuel this field of research,
recognizing a shift within the translation processing paradigm from qualitative
to quantitative research and from descriptive to predictive data analysis in order
to enable the computational processing of data.
In the next chapter Miguel A. Jiménez-Crespo and Nitish Singh continue
the interdisciplinary discourse, exploring connections between translation
studies and international business and marketing, particularly with regard to the
different approaches to localization of websites and the links between the two
disciplines. International business and marketing has benefited from Translation
Studies in a number of ways: besides gaining greater effectiveness of cross-
cultural communications practice and research, it has borrowed the concepts of
vocabulary equivalence, conceptual equivalence, as well as idiomatic
equivalence to enhance the quality of their global communications.
Multinational companies often benefit from the multi-talent, interdisciplinary
working teams of business, localization and translation experts – a topic that
links this chapter with the chapter on localization and translation studies.
The title of the twelfth chapter, Multilingualism studies and translation
studies: Still a long road ahead seems to forebode a rocky relationship between
the two disciplines, one that still presents a lot of challenges along the way.
Reine Meylaerts and Theo de Plessis discuss the relation between multilingual
studies and translation and interpreting, focusing on the role of translation
policy (TP) in language policy and planning (LPP). They show that “there is
(sic!)1 many opportunities for TS concepts to be incorporated into LPP and to
increase the field’s performance in addressing certain societal needs” (p. 221).
The societal – and political – needs are related mainly to majority and minority
languages. Translation and interpretation represent a developmental and
intellectualization tool for minority languages. Thus, translation policies have a
key role in LPP worldwide, with TP being an important factor in maintaining
the minority languages. Other issues touched upon in this chapter include
‘translational resistance’, i.e., deliberate use of the features of different
languages in English as a form of resistance to the ‘language of the oppressor’
and the historical role of literary translation in language culture planning. The
authors find little evidence of constructive exchange between LPP and TS,
although there is ample scope for collaboration in, e.g., studying translation
legislation and its effects on actual translation practices and linguistic evolution.
It should be noted, however, that things seem to be looking up: a recent book by

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Gabriel González Núñez (reviewed in this issue of Across Languages and

Cultures) discusses translation policy in the UK within the framework of
language policy, thus helping to build bridges between the fields of
multilingualism studies and translation studies; and in 2017 Routledge
published Translation and Public Policy: Interdisciplinary Perspectives and
Case Studies, a volume co-edited by Meylaerts and Núñez. We can also add
that, apart from LPP, interest in TS in multilingualism is increasing as shown by
several research projects, such as those in Hamburg (the project on translation
and multilingual business communication and the project on multilingualism
and multiculturalism in German universities) directed by Juliane House, another
author of this volume.
The thirteenth chapter, Comparative literature and translation: A cross-
cultural and interdisciplinary perspective by Wang Ning and César Domínguez
claim that interest in translated literature has been increasing in comparative
literature studies, which until lately largely ignored the existence of translation
or considered it as a mere mediator with no real value. Cross-fertilization
between comparative literature and TS raises a number of questions for future
research, shedding light on how communication between literary systems takes
place, as well as on the institutional dimension of literature and the power
relations in intercultural settings. When it comes to accessing and understanding
literature, we are dependent on translation, because – as the authors point out –
nobody is capable of learning all the world languages in their lifetime, therefore
we must take translation into consideration when studying world literature. The
interdisciplinary relationship between translation and comparative literature is
dynamic and interactive; the two disciplines complement each other.
The next dialogue addresses the issue of loss and gain under an
interdisciplinary lens, from the perspective of game localization research and
translation studies. The authors, Minako O’Hagan and Heather Chandler, from
the joint perspectives of game producer and translation scholar, emphasize that
interactive games require deeper cooperation between the participating parties
in game localization than the way it works now – every contributor working on
their own, pursuing independent strategies and agendas, with little attention to
harmonizing work potentials and processes. Crowdfunding and crowdsourcing,
experienced in translation, have also impacted the game localization industry,
which further emphasizes the value of cooperation between the game developer
team and the game localizer team, the localization process being part of actual
game development.
Talking about the interdisciplinary facets of translation studies would not
be complete without touching on the relationship between translation and
language pedagogy. The authors of the fifteenth chapter, Vanessa Leonardi and
Rita Salvi draw attention to the redefined role of translation within language

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learning settings, particularly from the perspective of teaching languages for

specific purposes (LSP). Pointing out that translation, reintegrated into language
learning curricula as a fifth skill, may have important educational value
especially for advanced learners in schools and universities. They argue that
translating and comparing authentic translations with their source texts can help
language learners observe and understand cultural differences, and providing
learners with activities contrasting linguistic structures and cultural situations
will contribute to language learning. Functionalist approaches prevalent in both
language pedagogy and TS point in the same direction: developing intercultural
competence is a key objective for language learners and translators alike, and
negotiation of meaning is also a central concept in both areas. The authors
advocate a discourse analysis approach to the translation of LSP texts, paying
special attention to the information structures of texts with a content and genre-
based method, facilitating successful communication strategies. They
recommend contrastive analysis of legal texts translated from English into
Italian to show learners the complexities involved in transferring both linguistic
structures and non-matching legal concepts, and point out that in translating
business texts – in view of the context-sensitive nature of the field –
functionalist translation strategies should be encouraged. Some potential
applications of corpus linguistics to translation are also provided – in itself an
interdisciplinary method gaining more and more momentum.
The last chapter in the volume is a dialogue between two transdisciplines,
represented by Luise von Flotow and Joan W. Scott. The format of this chapter
is dialogic in that Scott’s essay is preceded by a foreword and followed by an
afterword written by von Flotow. Scott points out that the concept of gender has
close ties with politics: indeed, it is a political concept. Translation has played
an important role in the development and spreading of feminist notions in the
post-war period. There is an extended discussion of the problems of translating
the term gender into various languages, showing that “all questions around
gender and translation are political” (p. 367). Here we see another link between
gender studies and TS: the issue of translating social sciences terminology. As
von Flotow points out, gender is “a multiple term meaning different things to
different groups” (p. 368). The authors see potentials for deeper collaboration in
the future between the two disciplines.
Together, the above discussed dialogues truly represent the
interdisciplinary nature of Translation Studies, even if the selection of the
represented disciplines is not complete. Some disciplines (e.g. psycholinguistics
and contrastive linguistics) that have played a crucial role in the development of
Translation Studies do not appear in the volume. However, the editors do not
claim representativeness: they merely wish to provide an insight into the
complicated and diverse academic work within translation research. The array

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of the various fields of study and their relationships to translation show that this
interdisciplinarity is ever expanding, bringing more and more disciplines into
contact with each other. As the editors put it in their introductory chapter: “It is
a feature of fruitful dialogues that they generate new perspectives and new
approaches again and again. The best dialogues are never ending stories, never
ceasing border crossings. Even if the boundaries as such do not change, their
perception does. Once you begin an interdisciplinary journey, you cannot really
stop it anymore” (p. 18).
Summing up, Gambier and van Doorslaer’s ambitious undertaking may be
said to be successful. The volume does provide important and interesting
insights into the relationships between TS and other disciplines, contains lots of
useful suggestions for further cooperation and places translation and TS in a
wider context. However, it remains unclear how many readers the book will
attract. In their introduction, the editors note the difficulties of co-authoring
involving scholars from different disciplines: disciplinary discourses are
different and hardly accessible to outsiders. The same difficulties may be
expected to arise with readers: those involved in TS (like the present reviewers)
may find it difficult to follow the jargon of other disciplines, especially in the
condensed form imposed by the genre, and non-TS scholars may find
themselves in the same position faced with TS jargon. Therefore, Border
Crossings is not easy reading; it presupposes a dedicated audience.
We must also note another problem. The editors, as well as the authors,
seem to treat the word translation and TS as synonyms. This ambiguity may
well undermine the effort to show that TS is extending its scope. The term
translation may figure in several disciplines but in itself, in our view, this does
not mean that the given discipline and TS are closely related, or that TS
concepts, models, theories and empirical findings are or could be used in the
given discipline.
On the whole, however, there is no denying that this is an important book,
recording the evolution of TS from an interdiscipline into a transdiscipline. We
expect that it will rank high on the reading list of any translation scholar and,
hopefully, some non-translation scholars, too.
Edina Robin
Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest
E-mail: robin.edina@btk.elte.hu

It is a pity that the volume contains a number of linguistic errors (e.g. on pages 170, 174,
181, 276, 277) that more careful editing could have eliminated.

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