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1) to wish but necessarily with expectation (возлагать надежду);

2) to wish (полагаться, хотеть);

3) to wish or require with strong expectation (рассчитывать, быть уверенным).

1) надеяться (to hope);

2) хотеть (to want);

3) ожидать (to expect);

4) ожидать с нетерпением (to look forward to).

The correct English translation will depend on the context and the force of the Russian. In the example, expect is clearly far too emphatic for the intention of the message. Another, even clearer, example of non-correspondence ofsemantic fieldis рука, for what in English is covered by the concepts of arm and hand. Translation from English to Russian requires disambiguation usingco-text and context (the situation).

These examples are relatively straightforward, but Nida and Larson use such visual representations of semantic structure to describe much more complex words such as spirit which we mentioned above.


At other times the problem is more one of locating an equivalent on the same level in the TL. This occurs where one language has a wider range of specific terms for a given semantic field operating at various levels. E. Nida gives the example of a series of motion verbs under the generic verb wove, which they ordered hierarchically:

Generic term move

Lower level walk, run, skip, hop, crawl

(more specific forms of move)

Lower level march, stroll

(more specific forms of walk)

The generic term is known as the superordinate and the lower level terms as hyponyms – their more specific meaning is included within the meaning of the superordinate. Here analysis contrasts elements in the same semantic area, particularly on the same semantic level. Walk involves motion, on foot, moving legs alternately while always keeping at least one foot in contact with the ground; run involves motion on foot, moving legs in 1-2,1-2 (left-right) fashion but not always keeping one foot on the ground, and so on. Both include the sense of motion, which can be described as a central or core component of meaning, and so can the use of the legs (or leg). But if we turn to the analysis of crawl we find that there is move­ment of legs and hands but not an upright posture, so this may cause us to modify what we consider to be central and what are supplementary features. Distinguishing run from skip would conversely require the addition of more clearly differentiated supplementary components.

Componential analysis

A technique of semantic analysis that examines the basic meaning components of a word and allows contrast with other terms in the same semantic field.

One of the prime elements of componential analysis is the notion of binary opposites: one sense of bachelor (a famous example in Katz and Fodor), would be: + (плюс) human, + (плюс) male, – (минус) married. This ‘principle of contrast in identifying mean­ing’ is crucial. It was initially used, and continues to have great currency, in anthropology for the mapping of kinship terms in different cultures.


The other area explored by E. Nida is connotative meaning (the emotional response evoked in the hearer). For instance, on various occasions in St John’s gospel, the Greek word gunai is translated as woman in the old King James Version but as mother in the New English Bible. The justification for this change is the positive connotation of the Greek, which, the translators felt, merited a similarly positive translation equivalent. This is a much more difficult area to investigate objectively. Nevertheless, Ch. Osgood did carry out an important study on what he terms ‘semantic space’, asking respondents to assess words according to dines of evaluation (good to bad), potency (strong to weak) and activity (active to passive).

E. Nida discusses aspects other than single words or idioms that carry connotative associations, including pronunciation (some accents are more prestigious than others), style and subject matter when translated into a radically different cultural context.

The nature of meaning and how to analyze and evaluate it is crucial for a translator working on a text and for a theorist who is assessing the transference of meaning. This unit has examined forms of ‘scientific’ analysis adapted from English linguistics for the purposes of assessing translation. These include disambiguation of refer­ential meaning through semantic structure analysis and componential analysis, and the gauging of connotative meaning using clines.



The previous lecture focused on the scientific analysis of linguistic meaning, particularly in relation to translation equivalence at the level of individual words and phrases. In this lecture, we continue the discussion of equivalence but widen the focus on meaning and define it in terms of broader contextual categories such as culture and audience in both ST and TT. Specifically, we will deal with the process of translation, the problems of establishing equivalent effect in translation and how this factor, which draws heavily on context, affects meaning and determines the choice of translation method.

We argued that to insist on full translatability across languages and cultures is to risk being incomprehensible (i.e. producing TTs that are confusing at best). Similarly, to insist on full comprehensibility in translation is to perpetuate the myth that there is no real difference between translation and other forms of communication. A more reasonable position to take is perhaps to see translatability and comprehensibility in relative terms. These two principles are not always in conflict, constantly pulling in opposite directions. In practice, an important assumption which translators entertain seems to be one epitomized by something E. Nida said many years ago, echoing R. Jakobson: ‘Anything which can be said in one language can be said in another, unless the form is an essential element of the message’.

The focus in this ‘universalist’ orientation to language use in translation is on the need to respond to the communicative requirements of the text receiver and, by implication, to the purpose of the translation, without necessarily losing sight of the communicative preferences of the original message producer or the functionof the original text.


This attitude to translatability and comprehensibility has given rise to dynamic equivalence, a translation method that may helpfully be seen in terms of its counterpart – formal equivalence. The latter (also referred to as ‘structural corre­spondence’), is a relationship which involves the purely ‘formal’ replacement of one word or phrase in the SL by another in the TL. According to E. Nida, this is not the same asliteral translation, and the two terms must therefore be kept distinct. For our purposes, one way of clarifying the distinction betweenformal andliteralin this context is to suggest that: Whileliteraltranslations tend to preserve formal features almost by default (i.e. with little or no regard for context, meaning or what is implied by a given utterance), aformal translation is almost alwayscontextually motivated: formal features are preserved only if they carry contextual values that become part of overall text meaning (e.g. deliberate ambiguity in the ST).

To illustrate this special use of formal equivalence defined here in terms of contextual motivatedness, consider the following example, drawn from the Newsweek obituary of Sir Alee Guinness (the famous British actor who died on 5 August 2000). The text happens to be particularly opaque regarding one character trait of the great actor, Guinness’s reticence, and whether it is to be regarded as ‘condonable diffidence’ or ‘unforgivable arrogance’.

Read through this excerpt and note features likely to be noteworthy regarding this issue. Reflect on how you would deal with this situation in translation.

[...] a face so ordinary as to approach anonymity, a mastery of disguise so accom­plished he could vanish without a trace inside a role and a wary intelligence that allowed him to reveal the deepest secrets of his characters while slyly protecting his own.

(Newsweek 21 August 2000 [italics added])

The general ambiguity, which is no doubt intended (i.e. it is contextually motivated) in a context such as that of an obituary, and which threads its way subtly through­out the text, must somehow be preserved in translation, and one way of doing this is perhaps through opting for formal equivalence. Any explication of while slyly protecting his own, for example, could seriously compromise intended meaning.

Preserving ST ambiguity is thus one legitimate use of formal equivalence. But there are other contexts. An extreme form of this kind of equivalence may be illustrated by St Jerome’s oft-cited injunction in the context of Bible translation: ‘even the order of the words is a mystery’. More generally, however, E. Nida deals with such contexts in terms of focusing ‘attention on the message itself, in both form and content’ for whatever purpose. This is strictly the sense, which he most probably intended for his formal equivalence.


Formal equivalence is a contextually motivated method of translation (i.e. a procedure purposefully selected in order to preserve a certain linguistic / rhetorical effect). We can sometimes preserve these effects in translation simply by doing nothing, which happens quite often when we do not need to interfere with the formal arrangement of words, structure. But, even in such cases, the decision to opt for formal equivalence must always be a conscious decision (i.e. taken for a good reason and not gratuitously). The aim in this kind of adherence to form would be to bring the target reader nearer to the linguistic or cultural preferences of the ST.

Yet, for a wide variety of texts, and given a diverse range of readers and purposes of translation, there is often a need for some ST explication and adjustment. That is, if in the translator’s judgement, a form of words that is not sufficiently transparent in the TT is likely to pose a threat to comprehensibility and therefore result in unintended and unmotivated opaqueness, intervention on the part of the translator becomes inevitable. In such cases, the translator would need to resort to more ‘dynamic’ forms of equivalence.

Through dynamic equivalence, we can thus cater for a rich variety of contextual values and effects which utterances carry within texts and which a literal translation would simply compromise. These effects would not be so much form-bound, as content-bound. That is, we opt for varying degrees of dynamic equivalence when form is not significantly involved in conveying a particular meaning, and when a formal rendering is therefore unnecessary (e.g. in cases where there is no contextual justification for preserving ST opaqueness, ambiguity, etc.).

An important point to underline here is that opting for this or that form of equiva­lence is not an either/or choice. The distinction dynamic vs formal equivalence (or dynamic vs structural correspondence) is best seen in relative terms, as points on a cline. The two methods are not absolute techniques but rather general orien­tations. In fact, what experienced translators seem to do most of the time is to resort to a literal kind of equivalence initially, reconsider the decision in the light of a range of factors, and ultimately make a choice from literal, formal or dynamic equivalence in this order and as appropriate.


Adjustment or the gradual move away from form-by-form renderings and towards more dynamic kinds of equivalence is thus an important translation technique. In the search for dynamic equivalence, it is proposed by Nida as an overall translation technique which may take several forms. In dealing with texts that are likely to produce a dense translation, for instance, we may opt for building in redundancy, explicating or even repeating information when appropriate. Alternatively, we may opt for gisting, a technique most useful in dealing with lan­guages characterized by a noticeably high degree of repetition of meaning. Also as part of adjustment, we may at times have to re-order an entire sequence of sentences if the ST order of events, for example, does not match normal chronology, or proves too cumbersome to visualize.

Adjustment is also needed to cope with the wide range ofpurposes, which translations might serve.


The dynamically equivalent version of the above editorial exhibits some of the following adjustment strategies:

• Jettisoning less accessible ST items

We can strike a deal with someone, or we can deal them a blow preserves theword play in the source.

• Regulating redundancy

There are those, however, who enjoy deliberately confusing the two ideas. So where there should be honor and trust we find lies and deceit establishes a contrast which enhances the relevance of the distinction introduced earlier.

These changes are introduced in the so-called ‘restructuring’ stage, the last of three phases through which the process of translation is said to pass.

The translator:

(1)analyses the SL message into its simplest and structurally clearest forms (or ‘kernels');

(2)transfers the message at this kernel level;

(3)restructuresthe message in the TL to the level which is most appropriate for the audience addressed.

The ‘analysis’ phase begins with discovering the so-called ‘kernels’ (a term which E. Nida borrows from Chomsky’s transformational generative grammar). Kernels are basic structural elements to which syntactically more elaborate surface structures of a language can be reduced. To return to an example a phrase such as children of wrath yields ‘God directs wrath at the transgressors’ or ‘the transgressors suffers God’s wrath’ as possible kernels representing the clearest understanding of ST meaning.

Kernel analysis is thus a crucial step in the process of moving from ST to TT. This is in keeping with the essentially universalist hypothesis to which E. Nida subscribes: languages ‘agree far more on the level of the kernels than on the level of the more elaborate structures’.

Kernels consist of combinations of items from four basic semantic categories:

• object words (nouns referring to physical objects including human beings);

• event words (actions often represented by verbs);

• abstracts (qualities and quantities, including adjectives);

• relationals (including linking devices, gender markers).

Kernel sentences are derived from the actual source sentence by means of a variety of techniques including, most importantly,back-transformation. Inexplicatinggrammatical relationships, ST surface structures are ‘paraphrased’ into ‘formulae’ capturing the way in which elements from the various categories listed above are combined. Thus, the surface structure will of God may be back-transformed into a formula such as: В (object, God) performs A (event, wills).

We move from ST to TT via a phase called transfer. This is the stage ‘in which the analysed material is transferred in the mind of the translator from language A to language B’. What does this essentially ‘mental’ activity involve? It is important to remember that, during ‘transfer’, kernels are not treated in isolation since they would already be marked temporally, spatially and logically. But they would still be raw material which the translator, in the light of his or her knowledge of TL structure, must now modify in preparation for restructuring (the stage of putting pen to paper, as it were). A SL word may have to be expanded into several TL words, or alternatively, a SL phrase re-moulded into a single TL word. Along similar lines, structural differences between SL and TL are reconciled at the sound, word, sentence or even discourse level. It is probably here that ‘strategy’ (or the translator’s ‘game plan’) is worked out, and decisions regarding such matters as register and genre are initially taken. Thus, rather than a simple replacement exercise of actual SL elements with their most literal TL counterparts, 'transfer' is a dynamic process of ‘reconfiguration’ in the TL of sets of SL semantic and structural components.

The translator should now be ready for restructuring the transferred material, which hitherto has existed only in the form of kernel sentences. What is needed is a set of procedures by which the input accrued so far may be transformed into a ‘stylistic form appropriate to the receptor language and to the intended receptors. In particular, restructuring ensures that the impact which the translation is to have on its intended receptors is what the ST producer has intended: any message which does not communicate is simply useless. It is only when a translation produces in the audience a response, which is essentially the same as that of the original audience that the translation can be said to be dynamically equivalent to its ST.



1. Translation as a professional activity.

2. The role of training professionals in translation.

3. Academic and vocational training in translation.

4. Definitions of translation.

5. Language, culture and thought.

6. Interligual translation.

7. Intralingual translation.

8. Intersemiotic translation.

9. Translation strategies: format and content.

10. Translation strategies: literal and free.

11. Comprehensibility and translatability.

12. Systematic approaches to the translation unit.

Once the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, King of Spain and master of several European languages, professed to ‘speaking Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men, and German to my horse’.

A nation’s language reflects its culture, psyche, and modes of thought. It is well known that the grammar of some languages is simply not logical enough to express complex ideas. German, for example, is an ideal vehicle for formulating the most precise philosophical profundities, as it is a particularly orderly language, which is why the Germans have such orderly, systematic minds. Due to its grammar order we always hear the goose-step (leisureliness, unhurriedness – неторопливый шаг) in their speech.

Some languages do not have a future tense, so their speakers naturally have no grasp of the future. English has a future tense, but English speakers can hold lengthy conversations about forthcoming events wholly in the present tense (next week I’m flying to…) without any detectable loosening in their grip on the concepts of futurity. The Babylonians would have been hard-pressed to understand Crime and Punishment (of Dostoevsky), because their language used one and the same word to describe both of these concepts.

We always remember, that no language – not even that of the most ‘primitive’ tribes – is inherently unsuitable for expressing the most complex ideas. Any shortcomings in a language’s ability to philosophize simply boil down to the lack of some specialized abstract vocabulary and perhaps a few syntactic constructions, but these can easily be borrowed, just as all European languages pinched their verbal philosophical toolkit from Latin, which in turn lifted it wholesale from Greek.

Philosophers of all persuasions and nationalities have lined up to proclaim that each language reflects the qualities of the nation that speaks it. In the 17th century, the Englishman Francis Bacon explained that one can infer ‘significant marks of the genius and manners of people and nations from their languages’. The Frenchman Etienne de Condillac a century later agreed that ‘everything confirms that each language expresses the character of the people who speak it’. His younger contemporary, the German Gottfried Herder, concurred that ‘the intellect and the character of every nation are stamped in its language’. Industrious nations, he said, ‘have an abundance of moods in their verbs, while more refined nations have a large amount of nouns that have been exalted to abstract notions’. He also added, that ‘the genius of a nation is nowhere better revealed than in the physiognomy of its speech’. The American Ralph Waldo Emerson summed it up in 1844: ‘We infer the spirit of the nation in great measure from the language, which is a sort of monument to which each forcible individual in a course of many hundred years has contributed a stone’.

The only problem with this impressive international unanimity is that it breaks down as soon as thinkers move on from the general principles to reflect on the particular qualities of particular languages, and about what these linguistic qualities can tell about the qualities of particular nations. In 1889 the seventeen-year-old Bertrand Russel, being at a crammer in London preparing for the scholarship entrance exam to Trinity College (Cambridge), responded with these pearls: ‘We may study the character of a people by the ideas which its language best expresses’. We naturally draw the inference from his words, that if the concept doesn’t have any form of expression in language, it means that this concept does not exist in the culture of this nation. The prominent philosopher of ancient times Cicero embarked on a lengthy sermon about the lack of a Greek equivalent for the Latin word ineptus (meaning impertinent, or tactless). For him, the absence of the word was a proof that the fault was so wide-spread among the Greeks that they didn’t even notice it. Centuries later Bertrand Russel argued this statement by saying that the Greeks had such impeccable manners that they simply did not need a word to describe a non-existent flaw.

For many centuries, many philosophers entertained the sentiment that languages are not equal: some languages are better, because they are more matured, better (mentally) cultivated and intelligent. One of the objective reasons of the immense popularity of the French language in the 18th century was the fact that this language was considered the paragon of logic and clarity. The French writer and philosopher Voltaire once noticed that the unique genius of the French language was its clearness and order. A whole century earlier, in the 17th century, the French grammarians had spent decades trying to understand why it was that the French possessed clarity beyond all other languages in the world and why French was endowed with such clarity and precision that simply translating into it had the effect of a real commentary. It was Louis Le Laboureur, who in 1669 discovered that the answer was simplicity itself. His painstaking grammatical researches revealed that, in contrast to speakers of other languages, ‘we French follow in all our utterances exactly the order of thought, which is the order of Nature’. The later thinker Antoine de Rivarol put it: ‘What is not clear may be English, Italian, Greek or Latin, but never French’.

Not all intellectuals of the world unite, however, in concurring with this analysis. Equally distinguished thinkers, mostly from outside France, have expressed different opinions. The Danish linguist Otto Jesperson believed that the English was superior to French in a whole range of attributes, including logic, for, as opposed to French, English is a ‘methodical, energetic, business-like and sober language, that does not care much to finery and elegance, but does care for logical consistency’. He also concluded: ‘As the language is, so also is the nation’.

Great minds have churned out even richer fare when advancing from the issue of how language reflects the character of its speakers to the grander question of how language influences the thought processes of its speakers. Benjamin Lee Whorf captivated the whole generation with the idea, that out habit of separating the world into objects (like ‘stone’) and actions (like ‘fall’) is not a true reflection of reality but merely a division thrust upon us by the grammar of European languages. According to Benjamin Lee Whorf, American Indian languages, which combine the verb and the object into one word, impose a ‘monistic view’ on the universe, so their speakers would simply not understand our distinction between objects and actions.

A generation later (in1975), George Steiner in his book After Babel resoned that the ‘conventions of forwardness in our syntax’, our ‘articulate futurity’, or, in other words, the existence of the future tense, is what gives us hope for the future, saves us from nihilism, even from mass suicide. He said ‘If our system of tenses was more fragile, we might not endure’.

More recently, one philosopher has revolutionized a new, pretty debatable and controversial, theory in understanding of Todor history by uncovering the real cause for Henry’s break with the Pope. The Anglican revolution, he established, was not a result of the king’s desperate wish for an heir, as previously assumed, nor was it a cynical ploy to siphon off the Church’s wealth and property. Rather, the birth of Anglican theology ensued inevitable from the exigencies of the English language: English grammar, being halfway between French and German, compelled English religious thought inexorably towards a position halfway between Catholicism (French) and Protestantism (German).


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