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TRANSLATION THEORY

BEFORE THE TWENTIETH


CENTURY
M. Fadel Danefsa S.
Ira Yunia
Aisha Shifa M.
Introduction

The central recurring theme of ‘word-for-word’


and ‘sense-for-sense’ translation, from a historic
view.
‘Word-for-word’ or ‘sense-for-sense’
• Marcus Tullius Cicero’s approach to translation in De optimo genere
oratum (46 @AC/1960 AC).

• “And I did not translate them as an interpreter, but as an orator, keeping the
same ideas and forms, or as one might say, the ‘figures’ of thought, but in
language which conforms to our usage. And in so doing, i did not hold it
necessary to render word for word, but i preserved the general style and force
of the language” (Cicero 46 @AC/1960 AC: 364)

• Horace’s Ars poetica (c.20 @AC)


‘Word-for-word’ or ‘sense-for-sense’
• St Jerome’s Latin revision and translation of the Christian Bible, later
known as the Latin Vulgate.

• His translation strategy is stated in De optimo genere interpretendi, a


letter to his friend in 395 AC.

• “Now i only admit but freely announce that in translating from the
Greek – except of course in the case of Holy Scripture, where even the
syntax contains a mystery – I render not word-for-word, but sense-for-
sense” (St. Jerome 395 AC/1997 : 25)
Early Chinese and Arabic discourse on translation

Chinese translation of Buddhist sutras from Sanskrit :

Sutra translation have different approaches from three different phases:


• Eastern Han Dynasty and the Three Kingdoms Period (c.148-265)
• Jin Dynasty and the Northern and Southern Dynasties (c.265-589)
• Sui Dynasty, Tang Dynasty and Northern Song Dynasty (c.589-1100)
Early Chinese and Arabic discourse on translation

Dào’ãn’s five elements, shiben (losses)


1. The foreign words are entirely reversed
2. The foreign sutras esteem raw material (plain style), whereas the
Chinese are elegant style.
3. The foreign sutras’ repetitive exclamations
4. Reduction in the paratextual commentaries in the TTs
5. Reduction or restructuring to ensure more logical and linear
discourse
Early Chinese and Arabic discourse on translation

Dào’ãn’s three factors that need special care (buyi)


1. the directing of the message to a new audience
2. the sanctity of the ST words
3. the special status of the STs themselves as the cumulative work of so many
followers.

• He is one of the first to highlight the importance of contrastive linguistic features


(word order, syntax differences between SL and TL) and the social and historical
context (audience, ST status).
Early Chinese and Arabic discourse on translation

Abbasid period in Arab. (750-1250 AC)

• According to Baker and Hanna (2009:330) there are two


methods used in that period. Literal/word-for-word and
sense-for-sense.
• Translation strategies helped establish a new system of
thought and improved knowledge of Greek.
Humanism and the Protestant Reformation

• European humanist movement challenged Latin in fourteenth


and fifteenth centuries.
• Protestant Reformation of northern Europe in early fifteenth
century.
• Non-literal or non-accepted translation came to be seen and
used as a weapon against the Church.
• Martin Luther’s influential translation into East Central
German of the New Testament (1522) and the Old Testament
(1534).
Humanism and the Protestant Reformation

• Luther’s response in Sendbrief vom Dolmetschen of 1530 about the Church’s


critics of the addition words allein (alone/only) applied by him
• So halten wir nun dafür, daß der Mensch gerecht werde ohne des Gesetzes
Werke, allein durch den Glauben.
(therefore, we hold that man is justified without the works of the law, only
through faith.)

• “You must ask the mother at home, the children in the street, the ordinary man
in the market and look at their mouths, how they speak and translate that way;
then they’ll understand and see that you’re speaking to them in German”
Fidelity, spirit, and truth
Flora Amos in her Early Theories of Translation (1920)

• The history of translation is not easily distinguishable and not


an ordered progression.

• Theory was generally unconnected and amounted to a broad


series of prefaces and comments by practitioners who often
ignored, or were ignorant of, earlier discourse  As a result:
slowness with which translators attained the power to put into
words, their aims and methods.
Louis Kelly in The True Interpreter (1979)

tracing the history of the ‘inextricably tangled’ terms:


‘fidelity’, ‘spirit’ and ‘truth’.
Louis Kelly in The True Interpreter (1979)

FIDELITY (fidus interpres, i.e. the ‘faithful interpreter’)


 literal, word-for-word translation (Horace)

 faithfulness to the meaning rather than the words of the


author (the end of the 17th century)
Louis Kelly in The True Interpreter (1979)

SPIRIT
 spiritus (Latin) = creative energy or inspiration (proper to literature)
 the Holy Spirit of God (St Augustine)

 the creative energy of a text or language


Louis Kelly in The True Interpreter (1979)

TRUTH
• For St Augustine, spirit and truth (Latin veritas) were intertwined,
with truth having the sense of ‘content’

• For St Jerome, truth meant the authentic Hebrew Biblical text

• truth became fully equated with ‘content’ in the 12th century


Rener (1989)
makes a persuasive case for continuity in the early translation
prefaces in the west.
• The continuity derived from a common theoretical conceptualization of
language, dominant since the writings of Cicero and Quintilian in
ancient Rome.

The study of language was divided into grammar (the ‘correct’ use of
words and sentences) and rhetoric (their use as communication, notably
to persuade).
Rener (1989)

GRAMMAR privileged words that exhibited the values of:


- proprietas (acceptability)
- puritas (purity)
- perspecuitas (clarity)

A word should be accepted as an integral part of the language


and commonly understood, it should have a long history and
be employed in the texts of high-status writers.
Rener (1989)

RHETORIC

valued elegantia (elegance) and dignitas (dignity), which


were stylistic considerations that covered structure,
rhythm and musicality.
Early attempts at systematic
translation theory:
Dryden, Dolet, Tytler and Yán Fù
Besides the Bible, the texts which are translated into English were Greek
and Latin Classics.

Translation was valued as an exercise in creativity and novelty 


extremely free.
• Purpose: to permit the ‘spirit’ of the ST to be best reproduced
• Produced a reaction, notably from another English poet and translator,
John Dryden (1631–1700)
John Dryden
reduces all translation to 3 categories:

1. METAPHRASE : literal translation

2. PARAPHRASE : faithful or sense-for-sense translation

3. IMITATION : very free translation or adaptation


John Dryden
• Dryden thus prefers paraphrase, advising that metaphrase and
imitation be avoided.
• However, Dryden shows more preference to imitation rather than
to metaphrase, as shown in his description of his translation approach
of Virgil’s Aeneid (1697):
“I may presume to say . . . I have endeavoured to make Virgil speak
such English as he would himself have spoken, if he had been born in
England, and in this present age”
• Later, this concept is called ‘naturalizing’
Étienne Dolet’s five principles
1. The translator must perfectly understand the sense and material of the original
author, although he [sic] should feel free to clarify obscurities.
2. The translator should have a perfect knowledge of both SL and TL, so as not to
lessen the majesty of the language.
3. The translator should avoid word-for-word renderings.
4. The translator should avoid Latinate and unusual forms.
5. The translator should assemble and liaise words eloquently to avoid clumsiness.

These are in order of importance.


Tytler’s three general ‘laws’
1. The translation should give a complete transcript of the ideas of
the original work.
2. The style and manner of writing should be of the same character
with that of the original.
3. The translation should have all the ease of the original
composition.

Tytler ranks his three laws in order of comparative importance


Yán Fù
Tytler’s three general ‘laws’ have influenced the work of the renowned
Chinese thinker and translator, Yán Fù (1854–1921)

His translation principles:


• xìn (fidelity/ faithfulness/trueness)
• dá (fluency/expressiveness/intelligibility/comprehensibility)
• ya (elegance/gracefulness)
Schleiermacher and the
valorization of the
foreign
Friedrich Schleiermacher
• a founder of modern Protestant theology and modern
hermeneutics

• distinguishes 2 types of translator :


1. the ‘Dolmetscher’, who translates commercial texts
2. the ‘Übersetzer’, who works on scholarly and artistic
texts
Friedrich Schleiermacher
• preferred strategy is ‘alienating’ or moving the reader
towards the writer (in contrast to Dryden, the ‘naturalizing’)
to give the impression to the reader as if they read
the work in the original language

Through this, the translator can help the less competent but
intelligent reader to appreciate the ST.
Friedrich Schleiermacher’s ‘alienating’
There are 2 consequences of this approach :

1. If the translator is to seek to communicate the same impression


which he or she received from the ST, this impression will also
depend on the level of education and understanding among the TT
readership, and this is likely to differ from the translator’s own
understanding.
2. A special language of translation may be necessary, if there is no
expression that can convey the impression of the foreign.
TOWARDS CONTEMPORARY
TRANSLATION THEORY
George Steiner:

We have seen how much of the theory of translation – if there


is one as distinct from idealized recipes – pivots monotonously
around undefined alternatives: ‘letter’ or ‘spirit’, ‘word’ or
‘sense’. The dichotomy is assumed to have analyzable meaning.
This is the central epistemological weakness and sleight of
hand.
(Steiner 1998:290)
Case studies
• Case study 1 examine 2 examples of criteria for
assessing translation

• Case study 2 looks at modern translators’ prefaces


from English translation of Marcel Proust’s A la
recherché du temps perdu
Case Study 1: Assessment Criteria
The Chartered Institute of Linguistics (CIoL) Diploma in translation is the most
widely known initial qualification for translators in the UK. Late in the 20th
century, the organization's Notes for Candidates gave the following criteria for
assessing the translation:
• Accuracy: the correct transfer of information and evidence of complex
comprehension
• The appropriate choice of vocabulary, idiom, terminology and register
• Cohesion, coherence and organization
• Accuracy in technical aspects of punctuation etc
Case Study 1: Assessment Criteria
• Similar criteria are repeated In the UNESCO'S Guidelines for Translator
of the same period the term ‘accuracy’ is again become the first
requirement.

• The description of the aim of translation is that after reaching an


understanding of what the ST writer was trying to say, the translator
should put this meaning into English which will, so far as possible,
produce the same impression on the English-language reader as the
original would have done on the appropriate foreign-language reader.
Case Study 2: The Translator’s Preface
There is a case with the English-language translation of Marcel
Proust’s A la recherché du temps perdu (1913-1927):
• First translated from French to English in 1920s by Charles Kenneth
Scott Moncrief (1889-1930)
• Revised in 1981 by Terence Kilmartin and in 1922 by D. J. Enright
• A new translation published by Penguin in 2002
Case Study 2: The Translator’s Preface
Kilmartin stated:

I have refrained from officious tinkering for its own sake, but a
translator’s loyalty is to the original author, and in trying to be faithful
to Proust’s meaning and tone of voice I have been obliged, here and
there, to make extensive alterations
(Kilmartin in Proust 1996:ix)
Case Study 2: The Translator’s Preface
Prendergrast stated:

How to manage proust’s extraordinary syntactic structures in English is a


very difficult issue. They are often strange even to French ears, and
there may well be a respectable argument to the effect that oddly
unEnglish shapes are sometimes the best way of preserving their
estranging force.

(Prendergast in Proust 2003:xi)


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