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SOURCE: BOOK TITLE: READINGS IN TRANSLATION THEORIES

98 10. Equivalence in translation theory W. Koller "Equivalence" is obviously a central concept in translation theory, and much has been written on it. The general consensus nowadays seems to be that it is not helpful to think notion as a uniform one, nondifferentiated. Rather, there are several types

of

the

of

equivalence, some

more important than others, some applicable to one type of text and others to other types. Each text needs its own hierarchy ofpriorities. Much

of

the modern discussion starts with Nida's advocation

of

dynamic equivalence

against formal equivalence (see the introduction to chapter 9 above). Koller, in this extract from his book (1979), differentiates more types and sets out to clarity some term. The increasing use the study in future. "Text normative-equivalence" (cf. section 3) is obviously linked to the study

of

the confusion surrounding the

of

computers in linguistic research has an obvious application in, for instance,

of

"connotations of frequency"

(cf. 2(f)

below), with respect to the both items and

structures in different text types. We can surely expect more studies of this "statistical equivalence"

of

text types;

see chapter 11 below, which also discusses Bühler's analysis referred to by Koller here. Koller's "pragmatic equivalence" (section 4), with its stress on translating for a particular readership, has close points of contact with Vermeer's chapter 16, below. To Koller's references to studies focusing on literary translation one might also add at least these in English: Brower (1959), Brislin (1976), Holmes (1970), Steiner (1975), Bassnett-McGuire (1980), Rose (1981), Frawley (1984), Hermans (1985). 0. The concepts "equivalence", "equivalent to", "the equivalent" appear in definitions and descriptions of the translation process, particularly in studies with a linguistic or communication approach. Examples are: equivalent elements (Oettinger 1960: 110); equivalent textual material (Catford 1965: 20); as equivalent as possible (Winter 1961: 68); the closest natural equivalent (Nida

with respect to level of style (register). a normative statement is made: there exists equivalence between a given source text and a given target text if the target text fulfils certain requirements with respect to these frame conditions. or at least that the translation must seek to preserve them as far as possible. the social and geographical dimension. 3. "stylistic equivalence". equivalence of effect. (a) The concept of equivalence postulates a relation between SL text (or text element) and TL text (or text element). This means that the SL content. frequency. style. In other words. having to do with text-type specific features. functional equivalence. a maximally equivalent target language text (Wilss 1977: 72). proposed in the literature on translation theory: content equivalence (often also: content invariance). The relevant conditions are those having to do with such aspects as content. function. The mere requirement that a translation should be "equivalent" to a given original is vacuous. and the picture becomes even more confusing when one looks at the various categories of equivalence that have been 99 stylistic equivalence. (b) The kind of equivalence relation is defined in terms of the frame and the conditions to which one refers when using the concept of equivalence. textual equivalence. communicatively equivalent (Jäger 1975: 36). function. formal equivalence. "stylistic equivalence"). form. The concept as such does not say anything about the kind of relation: this must be additionally defined. etc. must be preserved. The following analysis is an attempt to specify the concept of equivalence more precisely.and Taber 1969: 12). this is connotative equivalence (cf. The connotations transmitted by means of the word choice (especially where there is a specific choice between synonymous expressions). pragmatic equivalence. the kind of equivalence oriented towards this factor I call denotative equivalence (terms commonly found in the literature are "invariance of content" or "invariance at the content level"). etc. etc. Such definitions reveal quite different concepts of equivalence. style. communicative equivalence. 2. The requirement of equivalence thus has the following form: quality (qualities) X in the SL text must be preserved. The extralinguistic content transmitted by a text. . . The text and language norms (usage norms) for given text types: this kind of equivalence. I call textnormative equivalence (cf. bearing in mind these various categories. again). Five factors can be argued to play a relevant role in the specification of equivalence types: 1.

and also complex texts themselves. Translation as the achievement of denotative equivalence sets translation theory the task of describing the potential equivalence relations between any two languages. the receiver. etc).g. the commonly used term "communicative equivalence"). one to zero. Rossipal 1973. metalinguistic aspects. Correspondences of different types (one to many. do not only have a denotative meaning. the term connotative indicates that individual expressions in the textual context. many to one. it follows that denotative equivalence is in principle attainable. "expressive equivalence" etc. and to whom the translation is "tuned" in order e. the connotative and formal value of the text. The following connotative dimensions are thus relevant for translation (see e. 1. to achieve a given effect. individual stylistic features. together with the textual factors that determine the choice of a given equivalent in any specific case. The receiver (reader) to whom the translation is directed (who is supposed to be able to understand the text). additional values are also transmitted. The central area of concern here is the lexicon (the words and syntagma of a language). although this is admittedly a heterogeneous concept (the literature also refers in this sense to "artistic-aesthetic equivalence". From the translation point of view.g. 100 5. With respect to translation equivalence. 2. including word play. A single denotative meaning can be expressed in various ("synonymous") ways: eat : dine : nosh die : pass away : kick the bucketcomplete : bring to completion we are the guilty ones : the guilty ones are we. Certain formal-aesthetic features of the SL text.4. even though the language may not always be very economically used in attaining it. particulary those with what Bühler (1934) called a symptom function. one to part) need to be analysed in order that the translation process can achieve referential identity between SL and TL units. the kind of equivalence that relates to these textual characteristics I call formal equivalence. according to the specific means of linguistic expression of the denotatum. in order to account for ever-changing and expanding communication needs and aims. "In principle" means disregarding the other factors which play a role in translation (readability and comprehensibility. especially with respect to the translation of poetry). this is pragmatic equivalence (cf. since it is here that languages are (or should be) at their most productive (particularly regarding the use of existing or new methods of word formation). .

+ colloquial. to translate in accordance with these norms is to aim at textnormative equivalence. + ironic. scientific texts and the like all follow lexical and syntactic norms of both selection and usage (i. accepted . to analyse their features and structural elements. + plain. using emotive language to describe a given topic]. fashionable. + slang. In a similar sense.g. + educated class. instructions for use. norms of style). Legal contracts. Boecker 1973). and can seldom be absolute. (h) connotations of evaluation (+ positively evaluative. + descriptive. e. (e) connotations of stylistic effect (+ archaic. + euphemistic. + neutral). (c) connotations of geographical relation or origin (+ non-regional. (d) connotations of medium (+ spoken language. and then relate these to the connotative dimensions of a given target language. (f) connotations of frequency (+ common. + normal. + working-class language. + pompous. etc). + pejorative.e. in his discussion of translation criticism. Wilss (1974:37) speaks of "usage norms" because both SL and TL have certain pre-established schemata of linguistic expression.g. + vulgar). + military usage.Baldinger 1968): 101 (a) connotations of speech level (connotative values such as + elevated. + written).e. (i) connotations of emotion (+ emotive [i. this makes it all the more important to set up corpus-oriented studies of individual languages and texts. + poetic. +. The achievement of connotative equivalence is one of the hardest problems of translation.. and also the translation procedures involved in the area of connotation. 1 A major task of translation theory is to characterize the connotative dimensions of individual languages (e. etc). 3. (b) connotations of socially determined usage (+ student language. + uncommon). focusing on particular lexical and syntactic areas that are connotatively "loaded" (cf. Further research could examine problematic cases in translations of particular texts. + medical). business letters. with the support of stylistic studies). etc). + dialect X. + artifical. + technical. etc). -(g) connotations of register (+ normal usage. + American English.

This kind of research can make good use of the methods and results of functional text analysis. To achieve formal equivalence in a TL text is to produce an "analogy of form" in the translation. syntax.e.needs to be translated in such a way that the TL text does not follow the usage norms. the expectations that the reader brings to a given type of text.forms of linguistic behaviour and restrictive rules.result in deviating from the requirements of text-normative. a legal text . and addresses its readers with different presuppositions. style and structure are manipulated in such a way that they bring about in the target language an aesthetic effect which is analogous to the expressive individual character of the source text. Now. Heger 1976). which looks at the functionally differentiated.g. This may . these norms are basically intralingual. 4.. taking as its guiding principle the author's creative will. translation theory should analyse the communicative conditions appropriate for different receiver groups in different language-pairs and texts. Reiss (1976: 21) describes this kind of equivalence as follows: It [the translation] orients itself towards the particular character of the work of art. and in fact edited. then. . means translating the text for a particular readership (see e. A translation of a political commentary which sought to persuade the original readers to a particular political action usually has a different function in the target language. The achievement of pragmatic equivalence. it often happens that a text . 102 The description and correlation of these patterns of speech usage in particular text types is an important goal of a translation theory oriented towards two given languages. and they must be correlatable. where the communicative effect of the translation therefore lies in the TL realization of quite specific performance norms. From this point of view. be comprehensible to them.g. by exploiting the formal possibilities of the TL or even by creating new forms if necessary. because the TL readership is not restricted to a narrow circle of legal experts. 5. In such a case the text must be translated. and hence also interlingually conventionalized to some extent. and establish the principles and procedures whereby pragmatic equivalence can be achieved. Lexis. obligatory patterns of language usage in a variety of actual communication situations. The concepts of "usage norm" and "functional norm" introduce a pragmatic point of view: in observing the usage norms for particular texts one takes account of the linguistic/textual expectation norm. into a form that will reach the intended receivers. i. connotative or even denotative equivalence.e.or even must .

every segment of a text. Jumpelt (1961: 46) refers with good reason to the empirical fact that "translation carinot guarantee a global. undifferentiated preservation of all values." With every text as a whole. 6. and there are also some general discussions of literary translation such as those of Kloepfer (1967). word play. In his study of the translation of scientific and technical literature. 103 special stylistic forms of expression in syntax and lexis.Here. translation always involves the necessity of a choice.and one on which no more than some preliminary work has so far been done . There already exist a large number of individual literary studies of different texts and authors. rhythm. and to bring together and systematize such analyses in terms of translationally relevant typologies of textual features. metaphor and so on. It is an urgent task for translation theory . translation theory needs to analyse the possibilities of formal equivalence with the respect to categories such as rhyme. verse forms. Levy (1969) and Savory (1968). the translator who conciously makes such a choice must set up a hierarchy of values to be preserved in the translation.to develop a methodology and conceptual apparatus for this kind of text analysis. This in turn must be preceded by a translationally relevant text analysis. and also with . 104 . from this he can derive a hierarchy of equivalence requirements for the text or segment in question.