You are on page 1of 29


Andr Lefevere Louvain Colloquium on Literature and Translation, 1976 Translation Studies discipline concerned with the problems raised by the production and description of translation - a discipline in its own right: complex - not a minor branch of comparative literary study - not a specific area of linguistics TR viewed generally as: - rendering of SL text into TL text, so as to ensure that: - the surface meaning of TL / SL texts will be approximately similar - the structures of SL text will be preserved as closely as possible BUT not so closely that the TL structures will be seriously distorted (basically syntax-oriented) TR a) analyzed as product only servant-translator b) not the process itself independent (TR a perfection of the original)

Anton Popovi (1976) set out the basis of a methodology for studying translation 1960s growing influence of linguistics and stylistics - the Russian Formalist Circle, - the Prague Linguistic Circle (R. Jakobson) Catford (1965) - tackled the problem of linguistic untranslability: In TR there is SUBSTITUTION of TL meanings for SL meanings: not TRANSFERENCE of TL meanings into SL. In transference there is an implantation of SL meanings into the TL text. These two processes must be clearly differentiated in any theory of translation J. Lev a translation is not a monistic composition BUT an interpretation and conglomerate of two structures: 1. semantic content / the formal contour of SLT 2. the entire system of aesthetic features bound up with the language of the translation HOLISTIC APPROACH: (Snell-Hornby) TR Studies bridging the gap between the vast area of: - STYLISTICS, LITERARY HISTORY, LINGUISTICS, SEMIOTICS, AESTHETICS - A discipline also firmly rooted in PRACTICAL APPLICATION guidelines for producing of translations

THEREFORE: TR Studies vs other disciplines: Product-oriented vs. Process oriented 1. history of translation (component part of literary history) 2. Process oriented TR in the TL culture 3. TR and linguistics 4. Translation and poetics

2. CENTRAL ISSUES IN THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF TRANSLATION KEY ISSUES: Types of translation - units of TR 1. Process of translation (the communicative model of TR 2. Translation equivalence 3. Loss and gain 4. (Un)translatability 5. Machine translation Language and culture in translation 6. Translation: Science or secondary activity 7. Translation quality assessment 8. Translation ethics, 9. Translation universals 10. Theory vs studies, name vs subject-matter methodology, theory vs practical translation, etc.

Types of translation - units of translation Units of translation depend on: - levels of linguistic description (word, collocation, phrase, clause, text, body of texts) - kind of message / text R. Jakobson On Linguistic Aspects of Translation ( 1959) TYPES OF TRANSLATION: 1. intralingual - rewording - interpretation of verbal signs by means of other signs in the same language 2. interlingual - TR proper - interpretation of (SL) verbal signs by means of the signs of another language (TL) 3. intersemiotic - transmutation interpretation of verbal signs by means of nonverbal sign systems

Central problem (No. 1): - TL messages may serve as adequate interpretations of SL code units of messages, (apparent synonymy does not yield equivalence) HOWEVER: - there is normally NO FULL EQUIVALENCE through translation - intralingual TR must often resort to a combination of code units in order to interpret the meaning of a single unit e.g. perfect - ideal vehicle - conveyance No equivalence : each unit contains within itself a set of: - non-transferable associations - non-transferable connotations - poetic art - untranslatable (Mounin: starting/ending point: 'significations' and 'functions') What is translatable? - Creative transposition, i.e.: 1. from one poetic shape into another 2. from one language into another 3. from one system of signs to another (verbal art to music, dance, cinema, painting

e.g. pastry
1 2 3

pasta (It.) (completely different associations in Italian/E/Cro)

flour dough or paste made with shortening and used for the crust of pies, tarts, etc. foods made with this, as pies, tarts, etc. broadly, all fancy baked goods, including cakes, sweet rolls, etc.

e.g. syr (Rus.), - Cf. Croatian

cottage cheese (svjei/kravlji sir)

(a food made of fermented pressed curds - the coagulated part of milk, from which cheese is made: it is formed when milk sours and is distinguished from whey, the watery part)

Syr (Russ) and cheese (Engl) do not cover the same referent!!! = NO / IMPOSSIBLE EQUIVALENCE: TR is only an adequate INTERPRETATION of an alien code unit Other examples: e.g. What's the time? Koliko je sati? Unit of TR? / lex-synt. level? What's your name? Kako se zovete?

NB: 1:1 relationshup? (reare) 1: many relationship: (What: kako, koliko, kakav, etc.)

TEXT-BASED TYPOLOGY OF TRANSLATION (Reiss, Vermeer 1984, Neubert 1985,

Nord 1996) Role of text: (Reiss 1968-1969 / Buehler 1934): informative: (referential function in translation) inform the reader about the phenomena of the real world typology assumed to be universal - i.e. applies both to SL and TL texts TLR should try to give a correct and complete representation of the source text's content (guided by TL and culture as far as stylistic choices are concerned) -expressive: (expressive function) the informative aspect complemented or suppressed by the aesthetic component TLR tries to produce an analogous aesthetic effect on the receiver stylistic choices are guided by those made in the SLT -operative (appellative and phatic function) in these texts both CONTENT and FORM are subordinate to the extralinguistic effect that the text is designed to achieve TLR should be guided by the overall aim of bringing about the same reaction to the audience - this, however, might involve changing the CONTENT/STYLISTIC FEATURES of the original

NB: Each type of TR may include various types of text genres BUT one text genre (e.g letters): need not necessarily correlate with one text type only: a love letter may be expressive a business letter may be of informative type a letter requesting help is of the operative type, etc. NB: Role of conventions and norms in deciding on the typology of texts: cf. K. Reiss: 'Let your translation decisions be guided by the function you want to achieve by means of your translation'

2. Model of TR - Process of decoding and encoding

Model of Translating: (Nida 1969)

TRANSLATION is the process of 'interlingual transfer' : a complex procedure - basic task: to retain the 'invariant core' (sameness in difference) (universal) to allow for differences attributable to pragmatics, i.e. different the contexts of situation (culture etc.) e.g. 'yes' and 'hello' (seemingly uncontroversial items) 'yes' F - 'Oui' - used generally 'Si' - used as affirmative in case of contradiction, contention, dissent F, G, I, H - frequently doubled or 'stringing' affirmatives (si,si,si / ja,ja,ja / da, da, da) - to express confirmation E - not doubled in (standard) E H,I > E - answering by a single yes may seem brusque (abrupt, uncivil) H,I > E - stringing in E: hyperbolic or even a comic effect

'hello' (Standard) E - used as a friendly greeting when meeting F - a va?, hallo G - Wie geht's?, hallo I - Ola, pronto, ciao H - Bog, ciao, haj, zdravo, halo E: hello - same word for: a) greeting someone face to face b) when answering the phone D,G,H - all make the same distinction (a, b) F,G,H - also use c) brief rhetorical questions as a form of greeting: Wie geht's?, a va?, Kako ste? I - ciao : - the most frequent form of greeting in all layers/society and situations - also used on arrival / departure - greeting is linked to the moment of contact THEREFORE: when translating hello from E into H/F/I: the TLR must first extract from the term hello: a) the core meaning (friendly greeting on arrival) DECODING b) stages of the process of meeting/greeting (interlingua) , and then c) decide to distinguish between the forms of greeting available in TL (RE-ENCODING) THE PRAGMATIC ANALYSIShowever will also include other considerations: oui, si (F) - affirmative, but also in contention, contradicting, dissent) stylistic function of stringing (F,H,I) social context of greeting (telephonic, face to face, class poition & status of speakers) the weight of colloquial greeting in different societies

Further examples: butter, spirit, say when (Bassnett 1991), p. 18-19 CONCL.: In order to ensure 'roughly' the same meaning, the translator must take into account the process of translation: I. INTERPRETATION in SL II. SELECTION in TL, but !!!! 'Exact' TR is impossible: e.g. (H) Dobar tek! - (E) Good appetite - used most naturally - meaningless (OK as a loan in a particular context) - Dig in / Tuck in - colloq. - So start - more formal - I hope you like it apologetic - I hope it's alright -" " - Bon appetit THEREFORE: TR procedure should involve the following: 1. Accept that the SL phrase is UNTRANSLATABLE on the linguistic level 2. Accept the LACK of a similar CULTURAL CONVENTION in the TL 3. Consider the RANGE of phrases AVAILABLE IN THE TARGET LANGUAGE - taking into consideration the representation of: class, status, age, sex of the speaker, speaker's relationship to the listeners, and the context of their meeting/encounter in the TL 4. Consider the significance of the phrase in the PARTICULAR CONTEXT - e.g. the moment of high tension in the dramatic text 5. Replace in the TL the INVARIANT CORE of the SL phrase in its two referential systems: a) the particular system of the text


the system of culture out of which the text has sprung

Lev (1976): advocates the adoption of a functional view of TR (=semiotic transformation): 1. meaning 2. style e.g. translation of the Bible 3. form emphasis should always be on the READER/LISTENER the TR should tackle the SL text in such a way that the TL version will correspond to the SL version. esp. e.g. literary TR: (cf. Neubert 1985): e.g. Shakespeare's sonnet: Shall compare thee to a summer's day? - ? in a language where summers are unpleasant e.g. God the Father - ? in a language where the deity is female

3. Translation equivalence - the equivalence problem

(Neubert 1985) TRANSLATION - a study which should be viewed as a) a process b) a product - dynamic model - static model THEORY OF TRANSLATION QUIVALENCE - a missing link between the two models

TRANSLATION EQUIVALENCE: a largely exploited issue, though much abused

CEDT 1. the state of being equivalent or interchangeable. 2. Maths, logic. a. the relationship between two statements each of which implies the other. b. the binary truth-function that takes the value true when both component sentences are true or when both are false, corresponding to English if and only if. Symbol: or , as in -(p ^ q) WNWD 1. equal in value, measure, force, effect, or significance: His silence is equivalent to an admission of guilt. 2. corresponding in position, function, etc. 3. having the same extent, as a triangle and a square of equal area. 4. Math. (of two sets) able to be placed in one-to-one correspondence.

Source of misinterpretations:


or or

MATHEMATICS ?'sameness'?

Van den Broeck (1981)

- the precise definition of EQUIVALENCE in mathematics is a serious obstacle to its use in TR theory


FORMAL EQUIVALENCE / GLOSS TR focuses on the message itself in both FORM and CONTENT based on formal CORRESPONDENCES: sentence-to-sentence word-for-word concept-to-concept aims to allow the reader to understand as much of the SL context as possible DYNAMIC EQUIVALENCE based on the principle of EQUIVALENT EFFECT : i.e. the relationship between the RECEIVER/MESSAGE should aim to be the SAME as that between the ORIGINAL RECEIVER and the SL MESSAGE - the communicative model of TR

e.g. Translating from Ancient Greece into modern European languages: Homer's epic poems into English prose (dyn. effect applied to formal properties of a text) e.g. (the Bible - Romans 16:16): (ORIG) greeting with a holy kiss 'give one a hearty handshake all round' (dyn.effect in E): - BUT: translation inadequate in E language, poor taste in E social context EQUIVALENT EFFECT: - a popular concept in the theory of TR - esp. literary TR and the Bible: BUT:- What is it? How to achieve it?

Popovi (1976) : Four types of Equivalence 1. linguistic - if there is homogeneity on the linguistic level (e.g. word-for-word TR) 2. paradigmatic - if there is equivalence on the paradigmatic axis (grammatical level) 3. stylistic - if there is function equivalence of elements in both original and translation - aiming at an expressive identity with the invariant of identical meaning 4. textual (syntagmatic) - if there is equivalence of the syntagmatic structuring of a text, i.e. equivalence of both form and shape e.g. idioms in SL substituted by idioms in TL THE PROBLEM, however, STILL REMAINS: What is the exact level of equivalence aimed?

Any TR (i.e. each of its many possible versions) should aim at: (a) preserving the INVARIANT CORE of the original (basic semantic elements) (b) TRANSFORMATIONS - to add the expressive form (e.g. poems) BUT: invariant - an indefinable quality that TLRs rarely achieve.

E. Translation equivalence and the theory of texts TE = a semiotic category comprising: a) semantic (primary) b) syntactic - component (secondary) c) pragmatic - conditions & modifies a) & b) The OVERALL EQUIVALENCE is the result of: - the relationship between signs themselves - the relationship between signs and what they stand for, and - the relationship between those who use them e.g. blasphemous expressions in Italian / H - the shocking effect in E can be rendered pragmatically by substituting expressions with sexual overtones: porca Madonna fucking hell e.g. letter writing - formal greetings between friends (concluding the letter) with love; in sisterhood (today and in 1812), cultures!? - variations from language to language / period to period / sex / age etc.


Defining the object of TE in TR studies - two lines of development:

explores the question of TE in: LITERARY texts - Russian Formalists - Prague Linguists - discourse analysis

emphasis laid on: SEMANTICS TRANSFER of semantic content from SL to TL

Reiss, Vermeer, Nord, (Toury)

TRANSLATION OF A SLT INTO THE TLT: SLT = an offer of information which the ST author takes into account the presumed interests, expectations, knowledge an situational constraints of the source-culture addressees

TRANSLATOR in the process of translations = a) the receiver of the source text b) has the task of informing another audience (ST), located in a situation under target-culture conditions about c) the offer (of information) made in the source text d) the translator has his own assumptions about the needs, expectations, previous knowledge of the TL audience/receivers/addressees (obviously different from those for SL receivers!) THEREFORE: The translator CANNOT offer the same amount and kind of information to the TL audience/receivers as the source-text producer!!!!!


What does he offer?: another kind of information in another form, in another setting
SKOPOSTHEORIE directly challenges the traditional concept of TE as a constitutive feature of TR

EQUIVALENCE vs. ADEQUACY: - An adequate TR is a translation which realizes in the TL the textual relationship of a ST with no breach of its own linguistic system (adequate to the TR brief) - a dynamic concept of EQ - EQ in Nida's sense (communicative approach) - a static concept of EQ - i.e. equal communicative value between two texts EQUIVALENCE: - when between the TLT and the SLT there exists a relationship which can be designated as a TRANSLATIONAL EQUIVALENCE or equivalence relation (Koller 1995) FUNCTIONAL EQUIVALENCE - a kind of adequacy in which: - the TLT serves the same communicative function as the SLT (a functional TR) e.g. SLT: Is life worth living? - It depends upon the liver! F: La vie, vaut-elle la peine? - C'est une question de foi(e)! G: Ist das Leben lebenswert? - Das haengt von den Lebenwerten ab? H: Isplati li se ivjeti? - To ovisi o ? F & G TR - functional TR - fulfil the same communicative function (a play on words) E 'liver' (homonymy) F 'foi'(homophony: foi/faith and foie/liver) G similarity (worth living - lebenswert); (liver count Leberwerte)


CONCLUSION: EQ in TR should NOT be approached as a search for sameness, - since sameness cannot even exist between two TL versions of the same text - let alone between the SLT and the TLT Popovi's four types of EQ - a useful starting point and Neubert's three semiotic categories : point the way towards an approach that perceives EQ as a dialectic relationship between the signs and the structures within and surrounding the SLT and the TLT. - Communicative (Nida) and functional approach (Vermeer, Toury)

The non-equivalence problem rare or no one-to-one relationship between word and meaning LEXICAL MEANING (Cruse 1986): types: 1. Propositional Referential - relation between the word/form and what it refers to or describes in a real or imaginary world, as conceived by the speakers of the particular language Used in judging whether an utterance is true or false (socks, shirt, cap) 2. Expressive Cannot be judged as true or false Relates to speakers feeling or attitude (e.g. Dont complain, Dont): difference not in the propositional meaning but in the expressiveness of growl - to utter (words) in a gruff or angry manner) E.g. notorious (well-known; publicly discussed) notoran (widely but unfavorably known or talked about) famous - famozan 3. Presupposed Arises from co-occurrence of restrictions (i.e. what other words or expressions we expect to see before and after a particular lexical unit) a) Selectional restrictions : depend on the propositional meaning (adj. clever invokes a human subject; triangular an inanimate subject) b) Collocational restrictions: semantically arbitrary restr. do not follow logically from the propositional meaning; e.g. laws are broken in English but violated (CRO), contradicted in Arabic: e.g. brush the teeth prati/wash in Croatian/Polish/German/Italian e.g. donijeti zakon pass the law; poloiti ispit pass / It. superare 4. Evoked Arises from variations such as :

dialect (geographical, temporal, social) and register: field : what is going on, subject-matter of speech), tenor: relationship between the speakers / roles: Father /Dad; Tell me / Would you mind mode: the role that the language is playing and the medium of transmission (spoken, written)

SEMANTIC FIELDS AND LEXICAL SETS a set o words belonging to a conceptual fiel divisions & subdivisions of words imposed by a given linguistic community on the continuum of experience fields of PLANTS, ANIMALS, SPEECH, VEHICLES fields of SIZE, SHAPE, DISTANCE, TIME, EMOTION, BELIEFS, MILITARY RANKS, ACAD. SUBJECTS, COLOUR verbs of speech (say, tell, mumble, mutter) verbs of motion, lexical taxonomies, hierarchies, etc PROBLEMS IN DEALING WITH NON-EQ a) common problems of non-eq b) SL concept not lexicalized in TL c) SL word is semantically complex d) SL and TL make different distinctions in meaning e) TL lacks a superordinate f) TL lacks a specific term (hyponym) g) Differences in physical and interpersonal perspective h) Differences in expressive meanings i) Difference in form j) Difference in frequency and purpose of using specific terms k) The use of loan in the SLT false friends


Loss and Gain in Translation

loss a concept too much and too often over-emphasized: cf. Enrichment of poetry (translations of Petrarch, Dante etc.- Wyatt & Surrey, Kombol, Torbarina, I.G.Kovai,) - most frequently: loss due to non-existing concepts in TL , cf. Nida: (E good bad) / Guaica: good bad - violating taboo - large number of terms for : variations of snow in Finnish, aspects of camel behaviour in Arabic, bread in France - water, sea, light in English



LINGUISTIC: (Catford 1965) - no lexical or syntactical substitute in the TL for a SL term: e.g. I found your message on the table. Naao sam Vau poruku na stolu. e.g. Koliko je sati? U koliko sati je doao vlak?- CRO sentence (formally) untranslatable in E - adjustments must be made in TL (word order, lexical choice/restrictions, tense, etc.) to produce an acceptable sentence and translation CULTURAL /SITUATIONAL: - absence in the TL culture of a relevant situational feature for the SLT: e.g. bathroom, soda; plava riba, bijela riba, sitna stoka, krupna stoka; gornji tok, ciklona-anticiklona e.g. Dobar tek! Hvala! Izvolite! Hvala. Nema na emu. Juer su bile tri prometne u okolici Rijeke. Problems: a) LING. - lack of denotation or connotation b) CULT. - what is a cult. unit?, arbitrariness, culture-bound concepts e.g. democracy, home (normally translatable in H, G) international term, BUT: different values in:
three different political concepts international term: BUT - no common ground from which to select relevant situational features

The American Democratic Party The German Democratic Party The democratic wing of the Tory Party

Cf. Vinay & Darbelnet (1958) and Mounin (1963): 1. personal experience in its uniqueness is untranslatable 2. in theory the base units of any two languages (phonemes, morphemes, etc.) are not always comparable 3. communication is possible when account is taken of the respective situations of speaker and hearer, or author and translator:

TR is a dialectic process that can be accomplished with relative success if: - it starts with the clearest situations, - the most concrete messages - the most elementary universals HOWEVER: - it involves the consideration of the TR process in its entirety, - examination of situations etc

THEREFORE - there is no doubt that communication through translation can never be completely finished, - which also demonstrates that it is never wholly impossible either.

Language and culture in translation

Sapir-Whorf hypothesis: (relativism) - No two languages are ever sufficiently similar to be considered as representing the same social reality. The worlds in which different societies live are distinct worlds, not merely the same world with different labels attached. Language is a modelling system: - No language can exist unless it is steeped in the context of culture. And, no culture can exist which does not have at its center, the structure of natural language (Lotman) - a text cannot be treated in isolation from the culture where it works Vermeer (1987): - a theory of culture is needed to explain the specificity of communicative situations, and - the relationship between verbalized and nonverbalized situational elements

Definition of culture: (Goodenough 1964) A society's culture consists of whatever one has to know or believe in order to operate in a manner acceptable to its members, and do so in any role that they accept for one of themselves, Culture is not a material phenomenon; it does not consist of things, people, behaviour, or emotions. It is rather an organization of these things. It is the forms of things that people have in mind, the models of perceiving, relating, and otherwise interpreting them. Culture is: the entire setting of norms and conventions an individual as a member of his society must know in order to be 'like (Vermeer 1987) Therefore: translating means comparing cultures : - culturemes: units/features of culture : universal (similarity) and language-specific (differences) - a culture-specific phenomenon: one that is found to exist in a particular form or function in only one of the two cultures being compared e.g. translating religious, political, administrative, behavioural phenomena, etc. from a SL culture into a TL culture: taxonomies of settlements (city, town, village; state, region, county, municipality, borough, district; food terms) - UK/US/F/I/H


Translation: Science or secondary activity

Purpose of TR theory: to try to understand the process of translation NOT to provide a set of norms for effecting the perfect translation The pragmatic dimension of TR cannot be categorized, just as the inspiration of a text cannot be defined and prescribed: but PRAGMATIC ANALYSIS is ESSENTIAL AND INDESPENSABLE in the process of TR The problem still remains: Is TR a science or a secondary activity?

there is obviously no THEORY of TR, - no NORMS but A GUIDELINE FOR PRODUCING TRANSLATIONS Translation Studies: a serious discipline investigating the process of TR, attempting to clarify the question of EQUIVALENCE and to examine what constitutes MEANING within that process

Communicative relationships in the process of TR:


Theory and practice are indissolubly linked, NOT in conflict

The case for Translation Studies and for translation itself (Octavio Paz 1971): "Every text is unique, at the same time, it is already the translation of another text. NO text is original because language itself is already a translation: - Firstly, a translation of the non-verbal world - Secondly, since every sign and very phrase is the translation of another sign and another phrase However, this argument can be turned around without losing any of its validity: - All texts are original because every translation is distinctive Every translation up to a certain point is an invention and as such it constitutes a unique text."

"On Defining Translation" Mariano Garca-Landa

Meta : journal des traducteurs / Meta: Translators' Journal, vol. 51, n 3, 2006, p. 435-444.

First, a definition of the so-called language: what we

call language is a perceptual system and therefore, there is a difference between the acoustic (or written) perceptual waves, the process of perception and the resulting percept.
a definition of translation:

Translators reproduce with a second sign system (language) in a second speech act (language game) the percepts produced by other speakers/writers in a first speech act (language game) with a first sign system