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Philosophy of Language, Translation Theory and a Third Way in Semantics

1 January 2007


In this paper I address anew the problem of determinacy in translation by examining the Western philosophical and translation theoretic traditions of the last century. Translation theory and the philosophy of language have largely gone their separate ways (the former opting to rebrand itself as “translation studies” to emphasize its empirical and anti-theoretical underpinnings). Yet translation theory and the philosophy of language predominantly share a common assumption that stands in the way of determinate translation. It is that languages, not texts, are the objects of translation and the subjects of semantics. The way to overcome the theoretical problems surrounding the possibility and determinacy of translation is to marry the philosopher of language’s concern for determinacy and semantic accuracy in translation with the notion of a “text-type” from the translation theory literature. The resulting theory capable of explaining determinacy in translation is what I call the text-type conception of semantics (TTS). It is a novel alternative to the salient positions of Contextualism and Semantic Minimalism in the contemporary philosophy of language.


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