One of the most fascination things about exploring the history of translation is that it reveals how narrow and restrictive we have been in defining our object of study, even with the most flexible of definitions.

When we read about how African interpreters regularly translated African drum language into actual words, for instance, we begin to realize that the current literature on translation has hardly started to scratch the surface of this multifaceted and all-pervasive phenomenon. Similarly, intralingual translation is not such a minor issue as the existing literature on translation might suggest.

Intralingual translation figures far more prominently in the Greek translation than interlingual translation: the major preoccupation in Greece has been with translating ancient Greek texts into the modern idiom.

I know of no research that looks specifically at the phenomena of intralingual or intersemiotic translation. We do have classifications such as Jakobson’s, which alert us to the possibility of such things as intersemiotic and intralingual translation, but we do not make any genuine use of such classifications in our research.

What the historical research done for the Encyclopedia seems to suggest is that we still know very little about the history of our own profession, that what we know of it indicates that its profile has varied tremendously from one era to another, and equally important that the activities of translation and interpreting have taken such a wide variety of forms and have occurred in such a multitude of contexts over the years that we are obliged to look at the historical facts before we can even begin to develop theoretical accounts for this complex phenomenon.

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