Since the 1980s, translation studies has focused not only on translations (as products) and translators (as persons) but also on translation processes. Various approaches and traditions have since emerged which endeavour to explain the countless factors that influence translators and translation decision processes. While, for instance, the sociological and cultural studies approaches investigate social practices in and around translating, their psychological and cognitive science counterparts concentrate on the cognitive and mental processes of translating.

This presentation centres on two hypotheses:

  1. The sociological and cognitive streams in translation studies are now increasingly converging when it comes to the question of which factors influence translation decision processes. Sociologically-oriented translation studies streams are currently starting to also pay more and more attention to the relevance of individual and contingent discretion in translation decisions. At the same time, the cognitive streams in translation studies have recognised the relevance of the social contingency.
  2. The sociological and cognitive streams in translation studies complement each other perfectly as top-down and bottom-up approaches.

The presentation will trace this development by explaining the use of the terms agency, networks, norms, social fields, actor-networks and distributed/situated/embodied/extended cognition in a translation studies context and illustrate it using two examples taken from the “Extended Translation” research project. At the same time, it will demonstrate that when it comes to the question of the aforementioned factors of influence there is no scientific basis for assigning a hierarchical structure or prioritising the different approaches: neither the cognitive nor the sociological approaches can be considered more crucial or fundamental than the other.