Professor Anthony Pym, in a paper on (linguistic) translation errors, writes:

The definition of translational competence may be used to define a translation error as a manifestation of a defect in any of the factors entering into the above skills. But such simple negation puts relatively little order into a very confused field, basically because errors may be attributed to numerous causes (lack of comprehension, inappropriateness to readership, misuse of time) and located on numerous levels (language, pragmatics, culture), but also because the terms often employed to describe such errors (over-translation, under-translation, discursive or semantic inadequacy, etc.) lack commonly agreed distinctions or fixed points of reference: “equivalence” has been used and abused so many times that it is no longer equivalent to anything, and one quickly gets lost following the wanderings of “discourse” and associated concepts.

The bolding is mine. Given this academic context, what does "time" mean? I strongly suspect it means the grammatical device related to time. An example for this would be "tense": misuse of tense or related constructs is likely a kind of translation error. I doubt this means "mismanagement of the translator's personal usge of time," which hardly counts as a translation error. Unfortunately, "misuse of time" is only mentioned as an example of translation error and the paper does not come back to clarify it. I would appreciate your input on this.

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    It's unclear, but the best guess is problems with tense or with other time-indicative features of the wording. – Hot Licks Dec 13 '19 at 21:59
  • @hotlicks I feel the same. Thank you! – langtechie Dec 13 '19 at 22:01
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    Lack of comprehension and inappropriateness to readership seem much broader than mistakes with tense. If the third point were mistakes with tense, wouldn't you expect the first two to be similar? Misuse of gender, misuse of mood, misuse of tense. Tense mistakes also sound like a kind of lack of comprehension. That's all to say, I have no idea what "misuse of time" means, but I find the bad personal time management idea more compelling than mistakes with tense. – Juhasz Dec 13 '19 at 22:11
  • @Juhasz Thanks for the input. If "misuse of time" means "misuse of tense or other time-related grammatical devices," it will be a mistake during the production phase of translation, whereas "lack of comprehension" is a phase of understanding the source language that precedes production. They are distinct phases: A translator can comprehend the source text perfectly well but still goes on to make a grammatical mistake regarding tense when producing the target language. Therefore I see no semantic overlap in the three examples given. Though they're not equal in breadth, no one is too narrow. – langtechie Dec 15 '19 at 1:02

The only instance I could see "mismanagement of the translator's personal usge of time" being in any way relevant to translation errors is if he's referring to translating in real time where perhaps spending too much time perfectly translating one sentence or phrase causes an error in translating a subsequent sentence or phrase in attempting to keep up with the pace of the original speaker.

Barring this, mistakes regarding tense is the only interpretation of the two that seems logical. Perhaps he meant to expand on simply tense to include nuances of how time itself is expressed in different languages as well.

  • Exactly. I arrived at the "grammatical time" interpretation by virtue of the implausibility of "the translator's personal time." – langtechie Dec 15 '19 at 0:50

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