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After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation 3rd Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0192880932
ISBN-10: 0192880934
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Frequently Bought Together

  • After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation
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  • Theories of Translation: An Anthology of Essays from Dryden to Derrida
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  • Why Translation Matters (Why X Matters Series)
Total price: $55.29
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Editorial Reviews


"[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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 3 edition (December 10, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192880934
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192880932
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 1.3 x 5.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #431,567 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Paperback
For those who expect to find a list of practical instructions on translation methods or a review on the history of translation, the book "After Babel" by Professor George Steiner will be a bit of a surprise. Because you won't find anything of the kind. On the contrary, it deals with the more general linguistic and philosophic notions - such as meaning, context, historic relativity, cultural aspects of the language and literature - to bring up the nature of the art of translation and language. The author treats translation not as an aquired skill only, but rather as a natural ability of a human being to perceive and interpret one's native language as well as a foreign tongue.
Professor Steiner employs numerous examples of works of literature and translation that appeared in the 18th century and still are major guidelines for both scholars and readers. Throughout the book we come across multiple references to the works of ancient Greek scholars who defined the linguistic areas of interest for the generations of scholars to come.
This work - even though it does not provide us with "how-tos" - is of major importance to the linguistic community and expecially to translators, since it opens up the physical curtain of the language and brings us behind the words and structure.
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