A Systems Theory Perspective on the Translation Process

Michael Carl, Andrew Tonge, Isabel Lacruz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The translation process has often been described as a sequence of three steps, source text (ST) analysis, source-target transfer, and target text (TT) generation. We propose a radically different view, in which the human translation process consists of a hierarchy of interacting word and phrase translations systems which organize and integrate as dissipative structures. Activation of word (or phrase) translation systems is a non-selective subliminal process in the translator’s mind not restricted to one language. Depending on the entropy (i.e., the internal order) of the word translation systems, a human translator spends more or less time and energy during the translation process, which can be measured in the form of gaze patterns and production duration.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTranslation, Cognition & Behavior
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)211–232
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Translation effort
  • Translation production
  • Entropy and dissipation in translation

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