CHAPTER 1. TRANSLATION THEORY: OBJECT AND OBJECTIVES*
Translation is a means of interlingual communication. The translator makes possible an exchange of information between the users of different languages by producing in the target language (TL or the translating language) a text which has an identical communicative value with the source (or original) text (ST). This target text (TT, that is the translation) is not fully identical with ST as to its form or content due to the limitations imposed by the formal and semantic differences between the source language (SL) and TL. Nevertheless the users of TT identify it, to all intents and purposes, with ST - functionally, structurally and semantically. The functional identification is revealed in the fact that the users (or the translation receptors — TR) handle TT in such a way as if it were ST, a creation of the source text author. The translation is published, quoted, criticized, etc. as if it really belonged to the foreign Source. A Britisher may find in his paper the phrase "The French President made the following statement yesterday" and then read the statement in quotation marks. He is sure that he has read what the French President really said, which is certainly not true to fact since the President spoke French and what is cited in the paper is not the original text but something different: an English text produced by some obscure translator who blandly passes his statement for the French statesman's.
A book in Russian may bear the title: «Ч. Диккенс. Тяжелые времена» and the readers are convinced that they are reading a novel by Ch. Dickens no matter how close it actually is to the original text. They may make judgements on its merits, say, "I like Dickens" or "Dickens's style is somewhat artificial" or "Dickens's vocabulary is very rich", etc. as if they have really had access to the author's work.
The functional status of a translation is supported by its structural and semantic similarity with the original. The translator is expected to refrain from any remarks or intrusions in his text which may betray his authorship thereof. He is expected to efface himself as fully as he can to avoid interference with the process of communication between S and TR.
For reference see "Theory of Translation", Ch. I (Комиссаров В.Н. Теория перевода (лингвистические аспекты). — М., 1990).
The structure of the translation should follow that of the original text: there should be no change in the sequence of narration or in the arrangement of the segments of the text.
The aim is maximum parallelism of structure which would make it possible to relate each segment of the translation to the respective part of the original. It is presumed that any breach of parallelism is not arbitrary but dictated by the need for precision in conveying the meaning of the original. The translator is allowed to resort to a description or interpretation, only in case "direct translation" is impossible.
Structural parallelism makes it possible to compare respective units in the original text and in the translation so as to discover elements which have equivalents and those which have not, elements which have been added or omitted in translation, etc. In other words, similarity in structure is preserved in respect to the smallest segments of the text.
Of major importance is the semantic identification of the translation with ST. It is presumed that the translation has the same meaning as the original text. No exchange of information is possible if there is discrepancy between the transmitted and the received message. The presumption of semantic identity between ST and TT is based on the various degrees of equivalence of their meanings. The translator usually tries to produce in TL the closest possible equivalent to ST.
As a kind of practical activities translation (or the practice of translation) is a set of actions performed by the translator while rendering ST into another language. These actions are largely intuitive and the best results are naturally achieved by translators who are best suited for the job, who are well-trained or have a special aptitude, a talent for it. Masterpieces in translation are created by the past masters of the art, true artists in their profession. At its best translation is an art, a creation of a talented, high-skilled professional.
As any observable phenomenon, translation can be the object of scientific study aimed at understanding its nature, its components and their interaction as well as various factors influencing it or linked with it in a meaningful way. The science of translation or translatology is concerned both with theoretical and applied aspects of translation studies. A theoretical description of the translation phenomenon is the task of the theory of translation. Theoretical research is to discover what translation is, to find out what objective factors underlie the translator's intuition, to describe the ways and methods by which the identity of the communicative value of ST and TT is achieved. The objective knowledge obtained can then be used to help the translator to improve his performance as well as to train future translators.
The theory of translation provides the translator with the appropriate tools of analysis and synthesis, makes him aware of what he is to look for in the original text, what type of information he must convey in TT and how he should act to achieve his goal. In the final analysis, however, his trade remains an art. For science gives the translator the tools, but it takes brains, intuition and talent to handle the tools with great proficiency. Translation is a complicated phenomenon involving linguistic, psychological, cultural, literary, ergonomical and other factors. Different aspects of translation can be studied with the methods of the respective sciences. Up to date most of theoretical research of translation has been done within the framework of linguistics. The linguistic theory of translation is concerned with translation as a form of speech communication establishing contact between communicants who speak different languages. The basis of this theory is linguistics in the broadest sense of the word, that is, macrolinguistics with all its new branches, such as psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, text linguistics, communicative linguistics, etc., studying the language structure and its functioning in speech in their relationship to mind, culture and society. Language, which makes possible communication between people, is part of all human activities, of life itself.
The core of the translation theory is the general theory of translation which is concerned with the fundamental aspects of translation inherent in the nature of bilingual communication and therefore common to all translation events, irrespective of what languages are involved or what kind of text and under what circumstances was translated. Basically, replacement of ST by TT of the same communicative value is possible because both texts are produced in human speech governed by the same rules and implying the same relationships between language, reality and the human mind. All languages are means of communication, each language is used to externalize and shape human thinking, all language units are meaningful entities related to non-linguistic realities, all speech units convey information to the communicants. In any language communication is made possible through a complicated logical interpretation by the users of the speech units, involving an assessment of the meaning of the language signs against the information derived from the contextual situation, general knowledge, previous experience, various associations and other factors. The general theory of translation deals, so to speak, with translation universals and is the basis for all other theoretical study in this area, since it describes what translation is and what makes it possible.
An important part of the general theory of translation is the theory of equivalence aimed at studying semantic relationships between ST and TT. It has been noted that there is a presumption of semantic identity between
the translation and its source text. At the same time it is easily demonstrable that there is, hi fact, no such identity for even a cursory examination of any translation reveals inevitable losses, increments or changes of the information transmitted. Let us take an elementary example. Suppose we have an English sentence 'The student is reading a book". Its Russian translation will be «Студент читает книгу». This translation is a good equivalent of the English sentence, but it is not identical in meaning. It can be pointed out, for example, that the Russian sentence leaves out the meaning of the articles as well as the specific meaning of the Continuous Tense. In Russian we do not get explicit information that it is some definite student but not some particular book or that the reading is in progress at the moment of speech. On the other hand, the Russian sentence conveys some additional information which is absent in the source text. We learn from it that the student is a male, while in ST it may just as well be a female. Then the translation implies that the student in the case is a college undergraduate, while in ST he may be a high school student or even a scholar, to say nothing of the additional grammatical meaning conveyed by the grammatical aspect of «читает», the gender of «книга» and so on. Part of this information, lost or added in the translating process, may be irrelevant for communication, another part is supplemented or neutralized by the contextual situation, but it is obvious that translation equivalence does not imply an absolute semantic identity of the two texts. The theory of equivalence is concerned with factors which prevent such an identity, it strives to discover how close ST and TT can be and how close they are in each particular case. (See Part I, Ch. 2.)
The general theory of translation describes the basic principles which bold good for each and every translation event. In each particular case, however, the translating process is influenced both by the common basic factors and by a number of specific variables which stem from the actual conditions and modes of the translator's work: the type of original texts he has to cope with, the form in which ST is presented to him and the form in which he is supposed to submit his translation, the specific requirements he may be called upon to meet in his work, etc.
Contemporary translation activities are characterized by a great variety of types, forms and levels of responsibility. The translator has to deal with works of the great authors of the past and of the leading authors of today, with intricacies of science fiction and the accepted stereotypes of detective stories. He must be able to cope with the elegancy of expression of the best masters of literary style and with the tricks and formalistic experiments of modern avant-gardists. The translator has to preserve and fit into a different linguistic and social context a gamut of shades of meaning and stylistic
nuances expressed in the original text by a great variety of language devices: neutral and emotional words, archaic words and new coinages, metaphors and similes, foreign borrowings, dialectal, jargon and slang expressions, stilted phrases and obscenities, proverbs and quotations, illiterate or inaccurate speech, and so on and so forth.
The original text may deal with any subject from general philosophical principles or postulates to minute technicalities in some obscure field of human endeavour. The translator has to tackle complicated specialized descriptions and reports on new discoveries in science or technology for which appropriate terms have not yet been invented. His duty is to translate diplomatic representations and policy statements, scientific dissertations and brilliant satires, maintenance instructions and after-dinner speeches, etc.
Translating a play the translator must bear in mind the requirements of theatrical presentation, and dubbing a film he must see to it that his translation fits the movement of the speakers' lips.
The translator may be called upon to make his translation in the shortest possible time, while taking a meal or against the background noise of loud voices or rattling type-writers.
In simultaneous interpretation the translator is expected to keep pace with the fastest speakers, to understand all kinds of foreign accents and defective pronunciation, to guess what the speaker meant to say but failed to express due to his inadequate proficiency in the language he speaks.
In consecutive interpretation he is expected to listen to long speeches, taking the necessary notes, and then to produce his translation in full or compressed form, giving all the details or only the main ideas.
In some cases the users will be satisfied even with the most general idea of the meaning of the original, in other cases the translator may be taken to task for the slightest omission or minor error.
Each type of translation has its own combination of factors influencing the translating process. The general theory of translation should be supplemented by a number of special translation theories identifying major types of translation activities and describing the predominant features of each type. (See Part I, Ch. 6.)
Another important branch of the theory of translation is concerned with the study of ST and TT units which can replace each other in the translating process. The creation of equivalent texts results in, and in part is dependent on, the equivalence of correlated language units in the two texts. In any two languages there are pairs of units which are of identical or similar commu-nicative value and can replace each other in translation. The communicative value of a language element depends both on its own semantics and on the
way it is used in speech. Therefore translation equivalence may be established between units occupying dissimilar places in the system of respective languages. It follows that equivalent units cannot be discovered with confidence before a certain amount of TT's have been compared with their ST's. It is obvious that a description of translation equivalents, as opposed to the methods of the general theory of translation, should be bilingual, that is, it should always relate to a definite pair of languages. Moreover, a bilingual theory of translation should study two separate sets of equivalents, with either language considered, in turn, as SL and the other as TL. Nevertheless all bilingual theories of translation proceed from the identical basic assumptions as to the classification of equivalents and their role in the translating process. (See Part I, Ch. 3.)
Of particular interest is that branch of the theory of translation which is concerned with the translating process itself, that is, with the operations required for passing over from ST to TT. It is a great challenge to the translation theory to discover how the translator does the trick, what are his mental processes which ensure production in TL of a text of identical communicative value with the given ST. True, these processes are not directly observable but they can be studied, even though with a certain degree of approximation, in various indirect ways. This direction of the translation theory is of considerable practical value for it makes possible the description of particular methods of translation that can be used by the translator to ensure equivalence between ST and TT. The study of the translating process reveals both the translator's general strategy and specific techniques used to solve typical translation problems. (See Part I, Ch. 4,7.)
In conclusion, mention should be made of one more branch of the theory of translation which deals with the pragmatic aspects of the translating process. The communicants involved in interlingual communication speak different languages but they also belong to different cultures, have different general knowledge, different social and historical background. This fact has a considerable impact on the translator's strategy since the most truthful rendering of ST contents may sometimes be partially or fully misunderstood by the receptors of the translation or fail to produce a similar effect upon them. The translator has to assess the possible communicative effect of TT and take pains to ensure an adequate understanding of its message by TR. This may necessitate expanding or modifying the original message to make it more meaningful to the members of a different language community.
A further pragmatic adaptation may be imperative if TT is addressed to some specific social or professional group of people or if the translation event has some additional pragmatic purpose. In some cases the pragmatic
value of translation is the major factor in assessing the quality of the translator's performance. (See Part I, Ch. 5.)
All branches of the theory of translation are concerned with important aspects of the translator's work and constitute a body of theoretical thought of indisputable practical value.
Suggested Topics for Discussion
1. What is translation? What is interlingual communication?'How can it be demonstrated that TT has an identical communicative value with ST? In what respect do the TT users identify it with ST?
2. What is the practice of translation? What is the art of translation? What is translatology? What is the aim of the theory of translation? In what way can the theory of translation be useful to the translator?
3. What aspects of translation may be the object of study of different sciences? Which science plays a leading role in translation studies today? How can linguistic research be classified? What kind of linguistics can be the basis of the theory of translation?
4. What is the field of the general theory of translation? What common properties of all languages make translation possible? Can two texts in different languages be absolutely identical semantically? What is translation equivalence?
5. In what way do translation events differ from one another? Does the translating process depend on the type of the source text? In what form can a translation be made? What are special theories of translation concerned with?
6. Are the relationships of equivalence established only between ST and TT as a whole or also between correlated language units in these texts? What is a translation equivalent? Should translation equivalents be studied on a bilingual or a multilingual basis?
7. What is the translating process? Is the translating process directly observable? Can the result of the translating process (TT) give some information about the process itself? What is the practical aspect of studying the translating process?
8. What are the pragmatic aspects of translation? Why might one and the same message be understood in a different way by SR and TR? How can pragmatic considerations influence the translating process?
CHAPTER 2. EQUIVALENCE IN TRANSLATION* Basic Assumptions
For reference see "Theory of Translation", Chs. II and Ш.. 10
This section of the Manual deals with the problems of translation equivalence which is defined as a measure of semantic similarity between ST and TT.
If we compare a number of TTs with their STs we shall discover that the degree of semantic similarity between the two texts involved in the translating process may vary. In other words the equivalence between ST and TT may be based on the reproduction of different parts of the ST contents. Accordingly, several types of translation equivalence can be distinguished.
Let us first of all single out translations in which the degree of semantic similarity with ST seems to be the lowest. This type of equivalence can be illustrated by the following examples (cited from the published translations):
(1) Maybe there is some chemistry between us that doesn't mix. Бывает, что люди не сходятся характерами.
(2) A rolling stone gathers no moss.
Кому дома не сидится, тот добра не наживет.
(3) That's a pretty thing to say. Постыдился бы!
Неге we cannot discover any common schemes or invariant structures in the original and its translation. An absolute dissimilarity of language units is accompanied by the absence of obvious logical link between the two messages which could lead to the conclusion that they arc "about the same thing", Le. that they describe one and the same situation. Yet, it is evident that the two sentences have something in common as to their meaning. This common part of their contents is obviously of great importance, since it is enough to ensure an adequate communication.
Moreover, it comprises the information which must be preserved by all means even though the greater part of the contents of the original is lost in the translation.
From the examples we can see that common to the original and its translation in each case is only the general intent of the message, the implied or figurative sense, in other words, the conclusions the Receptor candraw from the total contents or the associations they can evoke in him, or the special emphasis on some aspect of communication. In plain English, the translation does not convey either "what the original text is about", or what is said in it" or "how it is said", but only "what it is said for", i.e. what the Source meant, what the aim of the message is.
This part of the contents which contains information about the general intent of the message, its orientation towards a certain communicative ef-
feet can be called "the purport of communication". Thus we can deduce that in the first type of equivalence it is only the purport of communication that is retained in translation.
The second group of translations can be illustrated by the following examples:
He answered the telephone.
Он снял трубку.
You see one bear, you have seen them all.
Все медведи похожи друг на друга.
It was late in the day.
This group of examples is similar to the first one, as the equivalence of translations here does not involve any parallelism of lexical or structural units. Most of the words or syntactical structures of the original have no direct correspondences in the translation. At the same time it is obvious that there is a greater proximity of contents than in the preceding group. Besides the purport of communication there is some additional information contained in the original that is retained. This fact can be easily proved if we compare the examples of the two groups.
Consider, for instance, the translations:
(1) Maybe there is some chemistry between us that doesn't mix. Бывает, что люди не сходятся характерами.
(2) Не answered the telephone. Он снял трубку.
In (I) the things referred to are different, so that there is hardly any logical connection between the two statements. The similarity of the original and the translation is restricted to the fact that in both cases we can draw identical conclusions about the speaker's sentiments: there is no love lost between him and another person.
In (2) the incomparable language units in the original and in the translation describe, in fact, the same action, refer to identical reality, as a telephone call cannot be answered unless one picks up the receiver. Both texts give different information about the same, or, as one sometimes says, they express the same idea "using different words". It is the type of equivalence that can be well explained in terms of the situational theory. We may presume that such phrases describe identical situations but each is presented in a different way. Thus in this group of translations the equivalence implies retention of two types of information contained in the original — the purport of communication and the indication of the situation. Since in each of the two texts the situation is described in a different way, the common feature
в not the method of description but the reference to the situation, the pos-sibility of identifying the situation, no matter how it is described in the text. The information which characterized the second type of equivalence can, therefore, be designated as "identification of the situation".
In the next group of translations the part of the contents which is to be retained is still larger. This type of equivalence can be exemplified as follows:
Scrubbing makes me bad-tempered.
Or мытья полов у меня настроение портится.
London saw a cold winter last year.
В прошлом году зима в Лондоне была холодной.
You are not serious?
In this case the translation retains the two preceding informative complexes as well as the method of describing the situation. In other words, it contains the same general notions as the original. This means that the translation is a semantic paraphrase of the original, preserving its basic semesand allowing their free reshuffle in the sentence. Thus we are faced with a situation that can be explained in terms of the semantic theory. The common semes are easily discovered in the comparative analysis of the translations of this group. Consider the first of the examples cited. Both in thetranslation and in the original the situation is described as a "cause-effect" event with a different pattern of identical semes. In the original: A (scrubbing) causes В (I) to have С (temper) characterized by the property D (bad). In the translation: С (temper) belonging to В (I) acquires the property D (bad) because of A (scrubbing).
The use of the identical notions in the two texts means that the basic structure of the messages they convey remains intact. If in the previous types of equivalence the translation gave the information of "what the origi-nal message is for" and "what it is about", here it also indicates "what is said in the original", i.e. what aspect of the described situation is mentioned in the communication.
We can now say that the third type of equivalence exemplified by the translations of the third group, implies retention in the translation of the three parts of the original contents which we have conventionally designated as the purport of communication, the identification of the situation andthe method of its description.
The fourth group of translations can be illustrated by the following samples:
He was never tired of old songs.
Старые песни ему никогда не надоедали. I don't see that I need to convince you. He вижу надобности доказывать это вам. Не was standing with his arms crossed and his bare head bent. Он стоял, сложив руки на груди и опустив непокрытую голову.
In this group the semantic similarity of the previous types of equivalence is reinforced by the invariant meaning of the syntactic structures in the original and the translation. In such translations the syntactic structures can be regarded as derived from those in the original through direct or backward transformations. This includes cases when the translation makes use of similar or parallel structures.
An important feature of this and the subsequent type of equivalence is that they imply the retention of the linguistic meaning, i.e. the information fixed in the substantial or structural elements of language as their plane of content. We can say that here the translation conveys not only the "what for", the "what about" and the "what*' of the original but also something of the "how-it-is-said in the original". The meaning of language units is an important part of the overall contents of the text and the translator strives to preserve it in his translation as best he can.
Thus, the fourth type of equivalence presupposes retention in the translation of the four meaningful components of the original: the purport of communication, the identification of the situation, the method of its description, and the invariant meaning of the syntactic structures.
Last but not least, comes the fifth group of translations that can be discovered when we analyse their relationships with the respective originals. Here we find the maximum possible semantic similarity between texts in different languages. These translations try to retain the meaning of all the words used in the original text. The examples cited below illustrate this considerable semantic proximity of the correlated words in the two sentences:
I saw him at the theatre.
Я видел его в театре.
The house was sold for 10 thousand dollars.
Дом был продан за десять тысяч долларов.
The Organisation is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.
Организация основана на принципе суверенного равенства всех ее членов.
Here we can observe the equivalence of semes which make up the meaning of correlated words in the original text and the translation; paral-14
lelism of syntactic structures implying the maximum invariance of their meanings; the similarity of the notional categories which determine the method of describing the situation; the identity of the situations; the identical functional aim of the utterance or the purport of communication. The relative identity of the contents of the two texts depends in this case on the extent to which various components of the word meaning can be rendered in translation without detriment to the retention of the rest of the information contained in the original.
Now we can sum up our findings. We have discovered that there are five different types of semantic relationships between equivalent phrases (texts) in two languages. Thus all translations can be classified into five types of equivalence which differ as to the volume and character of the information retained in each. Each subsequent type of equivalence retains the part of the original contents which includes the information preserved in the previous types.
Every translation can be regarded as belonging to a certain type of equivalence. Since each subsequent type implies a higher degree of semantic similarity we can say that every translation is made at a certain level of equivalence.
Each level of equivalence is characterized by the part of information the retention of which distinguishes it from the previous level. The list of levels, therefore, includes: 1) the level of the purport of communication; 2) the level of (the identification of) the situation; 3) the level of the method of description (of the situation); 4) the level of syntactic meanings; 5) the level of word semantics.
It is worth noting that the information characterizing different levels is inherent to any unit of speech. Indeed, a unit of speech always has some communicative intent, denotes a certain situation, possesses a certain notional structure, and is produced as a syntactically patterned string of words.
Thus, a translation event is accomplished at a definite level of equivalence. It should be emphasized that the level hierarchy does not imply the idea of approbation or disapprobation. A translation can be good at any level of equivalence.