Translation Studies systematically studies translation, interpreting, localisation, adaptation and similar rewriting practices. Although in common use translation refers to interlingual translation (between two different languages), Translation Studies also deals with intralingual translation (rewriting within the same language) and intersemiotic translation (for instance adapting a novel into a film). Over the past decades, the discipline has extended its object of study from mainly interlingual translation to a broad range of text-modifying practices. Translation Studies deals with a huge variety of texts and media and the way they change through translation. As such, it inevitably has interdisciplinary features and has borrowed from and collaborated with fields such as comparative literature, computer science, cultural studies, history, linguistics, philology, philosophy, semiotics, and sociology.
Research on translation history is mostly concerned with the history of literary translation in Estonian. The coherent history of Estonian translation is still to be written. So far, a number of case studies have been performed on various issues, genres and texts as well as the translation poetics of single authors. Recently, the main focus has been on the translation history of polycoded texts, especially the problems of trans- and intermedial texts. Within this cluster, several scholars have organised conferences and seminars, and are currently carrying out research on the history of Estonian drama translations and translations of ancient literature etc.
As translation also has an important intercultural dimension, information transfers not only occur at a linguistic level. The crossing of cultural borders has its specific characteristics that differ at a local, regional, national or continental level. Moreover, when studying translational transfer, the function of different social agents in the process (not only translators, but also authors, publishers, critics, foundations, etc.) is of central importance as well. Research topics are, for instance, the study of translation flows between countries and cultures, the translation of national and cultural images, the position of translation in the news media, as well as the translation policies of states, authorities and private institutions. Within this cluster, some scholars also collaborate with the colleagues from the Department of Semiotics, where translation is investigated from a semiotic point of view.
The linguistic approach to translation has come a long way, starting with structuralism that is considered the first era of linguistic-oriented approaches in Translation Studies, followed by contrastive and functional linguistics. The linguistic approach to translation deals with the following key issues: meaning, equivalence, shift, text purpose and analysis, and discourse register. Research topics include the study of different lexical and grammatical issues in translation (grammatical gender, diminutives, verb tenses, deixis, aspect etc.), translation of culture-specific elements, development of machine translation systems, etc.
The study of translation is a privileged activity to understand meaning making processes generally. Looking into how different languages, or other media, transfer meaning and how these different media affect meaning allows for a deeper understanding of the human mind. The way we translate – in the widest sense all our actions are translations – reveals our conscious or unconscious theory of language, communication and cognition. These theories form the basis of our epistemology and have, hence, a crucial impact on how we perceive the world. Under this perspective, Translation Studies also overlaps with, for instance, philosophy of the mind and semiotics.