Chapter One of Sign Language Interpreting continued...
banner Literal Translation

Aristotle was among the first to address concerns regarding a translator's influence on the translation. He emphasized the importance of accuracy in interpreting texts (Wadensjö 1992, 12), and the pursuit of accuracy and equivalence has continued throughout history. For instance, in 1506, Desiderius Erasmus, Dutch humanist, philologist, and translator wrote: "I have scrupulously tried to produce a literal translation, forcing myself to keep the shape of the Greek poems, and also their style, as much as possible. My goal has been to transcribe verse for verse, almost word for word, and I have tried very hard to render the power and weight of the phrase intelligible to Latin ears with the greatest fidelity" (from Lefevre 1992, 60). This emphasis on literal translation seems to deemphasize the role of the translator as an "interpreter" of the original text. The goal of literal translation is to pursue equivalency with regard to the form, rather than the content, of the text. The underlying assumption is that it is possible to decontextualize certain discourse units, such as words or syntactic units, and find corresponding units in a target language.

The goal of translating with an emphasis on this approach to establishing equivalence to the source text is problematic, however. Nida (1964) describes two distinct types of equivalence: formal and dynamic. Formal equivalence refers to equivalence of form and content. Dynamic equivalence refers to a target text that yields an effect on a target audience that is similar to the effect of the source text on the original audience. The notion of formal equivalence has been debated at every level of linguistic structure.

Perhaps the most basic form in linguistic analysis is the phonological unit. Yet, these are most obviously the units that do not translate from one language to another. The issue of phonological equivalence has often been addressed with regard to translation of poetry, where form and content are inextricably entwined. According to German critic, translator, and historian August Wilhelm Schlegel (1803) :

Since all metrical forms have a definite meaning, and their necessary character in a given language may very well be demonstrated (for unity of form and essence is the goal of all art, and the more they interpenetrate and reflect each other, the higher the perfection achieved), one of the first principles of the art of translation is that a poem should be recreated in the same meter, as far as the nature of the language allows. (from Lefevre 1992, 80)
While a poet might create the sense of a topic through unconscious or intuitive phonological choices, it is critical that translators analyze such forms as a blueprint for the production of the translation (Ray 1976). It is precisely because of the link between form and essence that some question the translatability of poetry (Firth 1951; Jakobson 1959).

In addressing this question, Hatim and Mason cite an example of a Portuguese poem that, in six words, is able to create an image of an evening tryst so embedded in the phonemic form that an attempt to translate it into Spanish was entirely abandoned (1990, 14). Similarly, questions regarding

Previous Page
Back to information about this book
Next page
Catalog Submissions Permissions Ordering Home