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.Adequate translationmay be defined therefore as that which is determined by semantic and pragmatic equivalence between the original and target-language texts. In other words, an adequate target text describes the same reality as does the source text and at the same time it produces the same effect upon the receptor.

So, what are 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. Translation adequacy is achieved by three types of regular correlations:

· equivalents, that is regular translation forms not depending upon the context (they include geographical names, proper names, terms): the Pacific Ocean – Тихий океан, hydrogen – водень.

· analogs, or variable, contextual correspondences, when the target language possesses several words to express the same meaning of the source language word: term – термін, вислов; часовий проміжок, термін, строк; умова (договору).

· transformations, or adequate substitutions: the strongest limits – найбільші обмеження.

Cases of formal equivalence without semantic or pragmatic equivalence are usually described as literal translation.Literal ( or word-for-word) translation reproduces the linguistic form of the original (morphological or sound form, lexical items) at the expense of the meaning and distorts the original. In some cases it may violate a stylistic norm of the target-language, reproducing, for instance, the syntactic form of the original message without necessary transformations: “It was he who did it” – «Це був він, хто це зробив», замість «Саме він зробив це».

According to the language level, there exist various types of literal translation:

· on the sound level: this type of literal translation results in the so called “translator’s false friends”, that is words similar in sounds but different in meaning: conductor – не кондуктор, а диригент; herb – не герб, а лікарська рослина.

· on the syntactic level: copying the structure of the source language, and translating “accurately”, translator tries to render the meaning word for word, thus breaking combination rules of the target language. As an example, We often heard his name mentioned. – Ми часто чули його ім’я згаданим, замість – Ми часто чули, що згадують його ім’я.

· on the semantic level: giving the primary meaning of the word or its part, whereas a semantic transformation is required: підполковник - subcolonel, the word not existing in English.

Although literal translation is considered to be a rather negative way of the translation, however, sometimes it is a must, for example when rendering proper and geographical names (Kharkiv, Mykola).

Free translation,on the other hand, consists in unmotivated addition of extra elements and omission of some essential ones, when a translator distorts the message by assuming the role of co-author. Free translation is the reproduction of the source form and content in a loose way. Scholars of translation usually take a negative view of this type of free translation, known as adaptation. Nevertheless, free translation is appropriate in some cases: poetry translations, in the titles of novels, movies, etc., but absolutely inadmissible in the scientific translation.

Losses and their compensation.It should be noted that some inessential elements of information may be lost in translation due to the cultural dissimilarity between two linguistic groups since something that is very common in a particular community might be rare in another. The language of the Eskimos, for example, has more than one hundred words to describe ‘snow’ and these subtle distinctions they make between various types of snow cannot be brought out in a single word of many other languages. It may lead to miscommunication as the message will not be carried across correctly and so should be compensated for by the use of different devices.


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