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After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation Paperback

ISBN-13: 978-0192880932 ISBN-10: 0192880934 Edition: 3rd

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After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation + Theories of Translation: An Anthology of Essays from Dryden to Derrida + The Craft of Translation (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; 3 edition (December 10, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192880934
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192880932
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #295,065 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review


"[Steiner's] ideas display even-handedness, seriousness without heaviness, learning without pedantry, and sober charm."--Naomi Bliven, The New Yorker


"Great erudition brought to bear on linguistics...celebrates the beauty and mystery of the subject."--The New York Times Book Review


About the Author


George Steiner is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Geneva. His books include The Death of Tragedy, Language in Silence, In Bluebeard's Castle, and On Difficulty and Other Essays.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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An absolute tour de force of a book.
J. J. Guzy
The objective of After Babel is clearly delineated in the preface/prefaces, and the six chapters that comprise it are well organized.
Jodi Bowen
It is a book to be contemplated and considered rather than accepted as the way forward.
Christopher R. Travers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
George Steiner takes the reader through the history, theory and justification of translation in this challenging book.
His book is divided into six sections. In Understanding as Translation, he explains that since language is used to imperfectly express thoughts and ideas, all speech is translation. Language and Gnosis addresses the reasons behind the surprising and seemingly counterintuitive diversity of languages. Word and Object covers a variety of subjects, including the sounds native to a language and the purpose (if any) of falsity in expression.
The Claims of Theory traces the history of translation theory, with some very helpful comments on Chomskyan linguistics. The Hermeneutic Motion gives examples and detailed analysis of various triumphs and failures of translation. Topologies of Culture closes with a look at all imitative art as translation and a conjecture about the future need for translation in light of English as a world language.
Although this book is written in English, the author cites text in French and German extensively, and a reader unfamiliar with these languages will miss out on some passages.
Professor Steiner's selected bibliography and extensive footnotes offer a decade's worth of further reading for those who are interested in following up on some of the ideas.
I hightly recommend this incredible book!
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Jodi Bowen on December 18, 2002
Format: Paperback
George Steiner's After Babel is a must-read for anyone interested in language and translation. Yes, the book is rather long; however, the information found there can be applied to many fields of study: language, literature, linguistics, and even sociology and anthropology.
The first edition of the book was published in 1975, and two subsequent editions have hit the press since then: the second edition in 1992, and the third in 1998. According to Steiner, the first edition has some "inexactitudes of phrasing, particularly in reference to what were then called transformational generative grammars," and it "lacked clarity in regard to the vital topic of temporality in Semitic and Indo-European syntax." Taking this into account, I would recommend that you read the second or the third edition of the book. The second edition does not seem to stray much from the third; however there are some significant changes in the last chapter of the book.
The objective of After Babel is clearly delineated in the preface/prefaces, and the six chapters that comprise it are well organized. Throughout the book, George Steiner tries to reconcile the supposed chaos stemming from the Biblical fall of Babel Tower and the Darwinian benefit of having so many languages in the world. The first three chapters basically deal with issues of language. They are sprinkled with some interesting tidbits from Steiner's experiences as, what he claims to be, a native speaker of English, French, and German. The fourth chapter gives the reader a nice history of translation in about sixty pages; however, the fifth chapter, "The Hermeneutic Motion," seems to be Steiner's shining glory because it explains his own ideas about translation which includes a very interesting bit about the translation of time.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Emre Sevinc on September 2, 2010
Format: Paperback
I had the greatest pleasure reading this book and I think anybody who is into linguistics, translation and literary theory will respect the author's breadth of knowledge as well as his clear style. Coming from a mostly Chomskyan background I must admit that I find the attacks on Chomsky far too outdated and mostly irrelevant. On the other hand I accept that this book gave me a broader and deeper perspective on translation and subtle points of communication (before that I could not imagine how many things can go wrong in a seemingly simple and 'innocent' translation. The author also does not refrain from entering the field of philosophy of mind and philosophy of language and I think he does a good job of introducing the main points and problems while showing the relationship between these fields and the subject matter of translation. I also appreciate his claim that there is no theory of translation in the strict scientific sense of having a theory. Nevertheless his lively description of 'theory of translation' is full of inspirations for future research and speculation on big questions of language, mind and culture. I would definitely recommend this book together with two other books: Mouse or Rat: Translation as Negotiation and Le Ton Beau De Marot: In Praise Of The Music Of Language.
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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful By J. J. Guzy on June 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
Steiner examines questions of how we understand and use language by focussing upon the difficulties of translation. Many readers brought up on a coding theory view of language may find the book's thesis difficult to understand and thereby experience the problem at first hand. Steiner takes a view of language antithetic to the rule governed coding system espoused by Chomsky. He does not suggest a mechanism for language understanding. Instead he provides a myriad examples of cases which the coding theory approach could never hope to account for. In order to understand you have to try and work out what the other is saying. Language facilitates but is not the prerequisite of communication. An absolute tour de force of a book.
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