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This article first surveys the current, somewhat unproductive state of research into potential universals of translation. Then it considers in specific the “first translational response universal” (Malmkjær 2011), suggesting that it may be rooted in the cognitive mechanism of priming. Empirical evidence for this is next sought in the analysis of a set of 34 novice translations of the same short passage from Swedish into Polish, which are shown to exhibit the effects of priming to a considerable extent. Overall, the objective is to illustrate a possible way of investigating postulated translation universals: first identifying a cluster of cognitive mechanisms to motivate the universal, then determining the linguistic structures that are concrete manifestations of such mechanisms in languages meeting in translation. The proposed research procedure thus proceeds from a cognitive process to a detailed language structure, allowing for the examination of phenomena observed in the “third code” on the supra-cultural level.
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