LEVELS OF EQUIVALENCE AND THE CONCEPT OF ADEQUATE TRANSLATION

1. Levels of equivalence.

2. Adequate, literal and free translation

3. The ways of adequate translation

 

1. Levels of equivalence.This problem was briefly discussed in the previous lecture in connection with the distinction between semantic and pragmatic equivalence. In the theory of translation different ideas have been put forward concerning the types and levels of equivalence in translation. For instance, V. G. Gak and Ju. Levin distinguish the following types of equivalents: formal, semantic and situational.

Formal equivalence may be illustrated by such cases as. "The sun disappeared behind a cloud" – “Солнце скрылось за тучей”.

Here we find similarity of words and forms in addition to the similarity of meanings. The differences in the plane of expression are, in fact, those determined by overall structural differences between Russian and English: the use of articles in English, the use of the perfective aspect, gender forms, etc. in Russian.

Semantic equivalenceexists when the same meanings are expressed in the two languages in a different way: "Troops were airlifted to the battlefield" - «Войска были переброшены по воздуху на поле боя».

The English verb airlift contains the same meaning as the Russian phrase «перебросить по воздуху». Although different linguistic devices are used in Russian and in English (a word group and a compound word), the sum of semantic components is the same.

Situational equivalenceis established between utterances that differ both in linguistic devices used and in the semantic components expressed but, nevertheless, describe the same extralinguistic situation: "to let someone pass" - «уступить дорогу». It should be noted that formal equivalence alone is insufficient. In fact, the above examples pertain to two types of semantic equivalence:

1) semantic equivalence + formal equivalence

2)semantic equivalence without formal equivalence

As to situational equivalence,it is, in our view, another variety of semantic equivalence that differs from the first type in that it is based not on the same semantic components but on the equivalence of meanings, made up of different semantic components. In other words, sum of different semantic components may be semantically equivalent (a+b = c+d; upside down = вверх ногами). We shall therefore speak of two types of semantic equivalence: componential (identity of semantic components) and referential (referential equivalence of different semantic components). The latter is preferable to situational equivalence for descriptions of the same situation are not necessary semantically equivalent. We may thus distinguish the following levels of equivalence:

Formal equivalence Semantic equivalence Pragmatic equivalence
Componential Referential

Tabulated above are the following major types of translation equivalence (formal equivalence + semantic componential equivalence + pragmatic equivalence; semantic-componential and/or referential equivalence + pragmatic equivalence, pragmatic equivalence alone). Pragmatic equivalence, which implies a close fit between communicative intent and the receptor's response, is required at all levels of equivalence. It may sometimes appear alone, without formal or semantic equivalence, as in this case: «С днем рождения» - "Many happy returns of the day". V.N. Komissarov distinguishes between 5 types or levels of equivalence.

The first three deal with rendering of the functional and situational content of the source language text. The 4th and the 5th are attained when rendering the semantics of the language units. Here are the characteristic features of them:

At the 1st level only the aim of communication is rendered in translation, there may be found no traces of parallel syntactic patterns, nor word equivalents, e.g. Maybe there’s some chemistry between us that doesn’t mix – Бывает, люди не сходятся характерами (the aim of communication here is to render the figurative meaning); That’s a pretty thing to say! – Постыдился бы! (the aim of communication is to express the speaker’s emotions).

At the 2nd level of equivalence besides the aim of communication, the situation of communication remains the same but it is described by different lexical means, e.g. Pull – Push – К себе – от себя; We locked the door to keep the thieves out – мы заперли дверь, чтобы воры не проникли в дом; Stop, I have a gun! – Стой, стрелять буду!

At the 3d level of equivalence the translator is able not only to preserve the aim and the situation of communication, but he uses the same way of description, e.g. Scrubbing makes me bad-tempered – От мытья полов у меня настроение портится, That will not be good for you – Это может для вас плохо кончиться.

What is important here is that sentences of the 3d type of equivalence are characterized by syntactic variations due to the fact that the Russian language tends to describe the situations more explicitly than English, the degree of detalization may differ, the distribution of separate characteristics may be different in the two languages, e.g. The tired speaker was silent – Оратор устало замолчал, They lay watching – Они лежали и следили за Фредом, He was thin and tentative as he slid his birth certificate from Puerto Rico across the desk – Худой мужчина неуверенно протянул свое свидетельство о рождении пуэрто-риканца через стол.

It is typical of the 4th level of equivalence in addition to what has been said about the first three, to render in translation most of meaningful units of the language as well as syntactic patterns of the sentences. Nevertheless we may observe some lexical or grammatical variations, e.g. He was never tired of old songs – Старые песни ему никогда не надоедали, Mine is a long and sad tale - Повесть моя длинна и печальна. Besides it may be typical of this type of equivalence to change the number and types of sentences, especially when translating newspaper texts.

The 5th type of equivalence is characterized by a maximum similarity of the content of the original and the translation, e.g. The house was sold for $10,000 – Дом был продан за 10 тысяч долларов. It is typical at this level to preserve the aim and situation of communication, describe it from the same point of view, preserve the syntactic patterns and find adequate lexical units in the target language, sometimes even having the same semes and if not, the losses of information are usually compensated for in different parts of the sentence or by different means, e.g. Do you know anything about books? – Yes, I am a bookkeeper. – Holy Moses! Our job is getting rid of them. My firm are publishers. – Вы что-нибудь смыслите в книгах? – Умею вести конторские книги. – У нас надо не вести книги, а избавляться от них. Ведь у нас издательство.

 

 

2. Adequate, literal and free translation.There is a fundamental difference between formal equivalence, on the one hand, and semantic and pragmatic equivalence, on the other. Formal equivalence may accompany semantic and pragmatic equivalence but it is by no means mandatory. It has been pointed out that the translator does not set himself the task of preserving the syntactic relations of the original. Nor does he aim at formal equivalence between the original and the translation. Usually formal equivalence results from similarity of grammatical forms and lexical items of the two languages. But it does not arise out of a deliberate effort. Adequate translation may be defined therefore as that which is determined by semantic and pragmatic equivalence between the original and target-language text. Cases of formal equivalence without semantic or pragmatic equivalence are usually described as literal translation. Literal translation reproduces the linguistic form of the original regardless of semantic or pragmatic equivalence. It may reproduce the morphological and sound form as, for instance, in Chukovsky's well-known examples: композитор for compositor, Черри Орчард (Cherry Orchard) instead of «Вишневый сад». It may also reproduce lexical items, overlooking the idiomatic meaning of the phrase ("God bless my soul" -«Боже, благослови мою душу»).

In other words, literal translation reproduces the form at the expense of the meaning and distorts the original. In some cases it may violate a stylistic norm as, for instance, in reproducing the syntactic form of the original message: "It was he who did it" - «Это был он, кто это сделал».

Finally, it may reproduce both the linguistic form and the denotational meaning but ignore the pragmatic aspects of the message. As a result, the message will not get across, and the intended communicative effect will not be attained (e.g. the English sentence, comparing "the sky to Guiseley sandstone", translated as «Небо было серым, как гизлейский песчаник», is pragmatically inadequate).

Free translation,on the other hand, consists in pragmatically unmotivated additions and omissions of semantic information. In literal translation the translator distorts the message by slavishly reproducing the form while in free translation he distorts it by overstepping his authority and assuming the role of a co-author.

For instance, Irinarkh Vvedensky sometimes added pages of his own to Dickens's novels. He translates the phrase "She burst out crying" as «Слезы показались на прелестных глазах милой малютки». And the word "refuge" as «Приют, где наслаждался я мирным счастьем детских лет».

3. The ways of adequate translation.Grammatical and lexical parallelisms between the source language and the target language made it possible in some cases to retain formal equivalence without departing from semantic or pragmatic equivalence. Otherwise various lexico-grammatical transformations are used. (For details see the lectures on the lexical and grammatical problems of translation.)

Losses and their compensation. It will be recalled that some marginal elements of information may be lost in translation. Some of them may be compensated for by the use of different devices, sometimes in a different portion of the message. For instance, the Russian vernacular «Но ваше дело рисковое» (Sholokhov) may be translated as "But your job is damn risky" thus the use of a low colloquial lexical item (damn) compensates for the nonstandard morphological form (рисковое). In the phrase «подкинуть идейку» a derogatory connotation is expressed by the suffix. In the English phrase "to sell the idea" the noun is neutral but the derogatory connotation is shifted to the verb.








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