Chapter One of Sign Language Interpreting continued...
banner the translatability of poetry between English and American Sign Language (ASL) have been raised by well-known poet and linguist Clayton Valli (personal communication, Jan. 1995). Once again, the question revolves, in part, around the lack of phonological equivalents between languages.

The search for equivalents can also occur at a syntactic level. In a literal translation, the syntactic structure of a sentence would be maintained in the target text. For example, the use of a passive construction in one language might affect the order of the words selected in the target sentence, regardless of whether the target language uses a similar structure to convey passive voice, whether passives are a part of the target language, or whether passives convey different cultural meanings in the target language. In certain East African languages, the use of a passive construction carries a negative meaning with regard to some aspect of what is being said (Filbeck 1972 ). Clearly, equivalence of form could convey a nonequivalent meaning if the syntactic form of an English passive were translated into such a language.

Perhaps the greatest testament to the problems inherent in the search for formal equivalency is the tendency to view literal translation as a continuum. Rather than discussing literal translation as an issue of right and wrong, the literature is full of references to translations that are more or less literal. For example, Newmark (1981) describes broader categories than does Nida (1964), referring to semantic and communicative translation, categories less extreme than Nida's notion of formal and dynamic, in which the former focuses on equivalence of form and content while the latter focuses on equivalence of effect (Hatim and Mason 1990). Similarly, Larson (1984) discusses a continuum of translation ranging from very literal to modified literal , to near idiomatic, to idiomatic, to unduly free (17). The pursuit of equivalence through literal translation seems to represent a goal for translators to establish a neutral position for themselves with regard to their rendered texts. However, Matthew Arnold (1861) aptly expresses the question underlying such attempts: "The translator's ‘first duty is to be faithful'; but the question at issue . . . is in what faithfulness consists" (from Lefevre 1992, 68). This is precisely the question underlying the notion of free translation.

Free Translation

Just as the search for neutrality in the translator's influence on the form of utterances has been a long-standing issue, so has the question of translation neutrality with regard to the meaning of a text . For example, Cicero described free translation as a translation that is produced in an accessible register of the target language, using as many or as few words as necessary to convey the same sense as the source text (Lefevre 1992, 47). However, focusing on an equivalent meaning is as problematic as the notion of equivalence of form. Nida (1964) has pointed out that the meaning of a text does not only reflect the intent of the originator. Meaning is also influenced by the intent of the recipient of the text, the latter being the focus of dynamic equivalence. Once again, it appears that translators face complex issues in the pursuit of equivalence.

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