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History of Translation

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Chapter 2. Translation theory before the twentieth century


The ‘word-for-word’ (literal) vs. ‘sense-for sense’ (free) debate

The vitalization of the vernacular: Luther and the German Bible

Key notions of ‘fidelity’, ;spirit’; and ‘truth’

The influence of Dryden and the triad of metaphrase, paraphrase, imitation

Attempts at a more systematic prescriptive approach from Dolet and Tytler

Schleiermacher: a separate language of translation and respect for the foreign

The vagueness of the terms used to describe translation


2.1  ‘Word-for-word’ or ‘sense-for-sense?’

In Roman times, word-for-word was exactly what it said. Cicero disparaged (criticize), and also Horace who is famous with his Ars Poetica. St Jerome disparaged word for word approach because it produces an absurd translation, cloaking the sense of the original. On the other hand, sense for sense, allowed the sense or content of the ST to be translated.

2.2    Martin Luther

The preoccupation of the Roman Catholic Church was for the ‘correct’ established meaning of the Bible to be transmitted. Any translation diverging(different) from the accepted interpretation was likely to be deemed heretical and be censured or banned. Non literal or non-accepted translation came to be seen and be used as a weapon against the church.

MARTIN LUTHER influenced translation into East Middle German of New Testament (1522)

2.3   Faithfulness, spirit and truth

FLORA AMOS, sees the theory of translation in her “Early Theory of Translation” as by no means a record of easily distinguishable, orderly progression” . Amos notes that early translator often differed considerably in the meaning they gave to terms such as faithfulness, accuracy and the word ‘translation’ itself.

LOUIS KELLY looks in detail at the history of translation theory, starting with the teaching of the writers of Antiquity and tracing the history of inextricably tangled term FIDELITY (the faithful interpreter avoid word-for-word. SPIRIT (creative energy or inspiration), TRUTH (having the sense of content)


2.4    Early attempts at systemic translation theory: Dryden, Dolet and Tytler

à Free approach to translation by English poet and translator  JOHN DRYDEN

(1) METAPHRASE: word-for-word and line-by-line translation, which correspond to literal translation;

(2) PARAPHRASE:  translation with latitude (freedom), where the author is kept in view by the translator, so as never to be lost, but his words are not so strictly followed by his sense; this involves changing whole phrases and more or less corresponds to faithful or sense-for-sense translation.

(3) IMITATION: forsaking (leave) both word and sense; this correspond to Cowley’s very free translation and is more or less adapatation.

ETIENNE DOLET, set out 5 principles in order of importance

(1)  the translator (tt) must perfectly understand the sense and material of the original author, although he should feel free to clarify obscurities (not known/not clear)

(2)  tt should have a perfect knowledge of both Sl and TL

(3)  tt should avoid word-for-word renderings

(4)  tt should avoid Latinate and unusual form

(5)  tt should assemble and liaise word eloquently (clear) to avoid clumsiness (awkward)

TYTLER à Three general laws/rules

(1)   the translation should give a complete transcript of the ideas of the original work

(2)    the style and manner of writing should be the same character with that of the original

(3)   The translation should have all the ease (move) of the original composition

1st law of Tytler = 1,2 principles of Dolet à tt have a perfect knowledge

2nd of Tytler= 5 Doletà identifying true character= correct taste

2.5   Scleiermacher and the valorization of the foreign

FRIEDRICH SCHLEIEMACHER (German theologian & translation, 1813) known as modern Protestant theology & modern HERMENEUTICS (= a Romantic approach to interpretation based not on absolute truth but on the individual’s inner feeling and understanding)

Types of translator working:

(1) DOLMETSHER: who translates commercial texts

(2) UBERSTZER: who works on scholarly & artistic texts


Chapter 3  Equivalence and equivalent effect

The problem of equivalence in meaning discussed by Jacobson (1959) and central to translation studies for two decades

Nida’s adaptation of transformational grammar model, and ‘scientific’ methods to analyze meaning in his work on Bible translating

Nida’s concepts of formal equivalence and dynamic equivalence and the principle of equivalent effect: focus on the receptor

Newmark semantic and communicative translation


3.1 Roman Jacobson: the nature of linguistic meaning and equivalence


Jakobson follows the relation set out by SAUSSURE (SIGNIFIER = the spoken and written signal; SIGNIFIED= the concept signified(mean)). Signifier & signified form the linguistic sign, but that sign is arbitrary or unmotivated (Saussure: 1916). Jakobson consider the problem of equivalence of meaning between words in different languages. à there is ordinarily no full equivalence between code-units”

3.2 Nida and ‘the science of translating”

EUGINE NIDA (1964) describes various ‘scientific approach to meaning’, he tries to translate Bible by incorporating linguistics borrowing approach from CHOMSKY semantic and pragmatics’ work on syntactic structure which formed the theory GENERATIVE-TRANSFORMATIONAL GRAMMAR (Chomsky, 1957).

3.2.1 The nature of meaning: advances in semantics and pragmatics

Meaning is broken into LINGUISTIC MEANING (borrowing elements of Chomsky’s model) REFERENTIAL MEANING (the denotative dictionary meaning) EMOTIVE MEANING (connotative meaning). Techniques to determine inferential and emotive meaning focus on analyzing the structure of words and differentiating similar words in related lexical fields. These include

(1) HIERARCHICAL STRUCTURING (differentiates series of words according ti their level, for example superordinate ANIMAL and its hyponyms GOAT, DOG, COW) and

(2) COMPONENTIAL ANALYSIS (seek to identify and discriminate specific feature of a range of related words, for example grandmother, mother, cousin)

(3) SEMANTIC STRUCTURE ANALYSIS (separates out visually the different meanings of spirit- demon, angels-  according to their characteristics-non human, good)

3.2.2 the influence of Chomsky

Chomsky generative-transformational structure model analyses sentences into a series of related levels governed by rules.

(1)  DEEP STRUCTURE, phase structure rules generate and underlying which is

(2) Transformed by transformational rules relating one underlying structure to another (eg. Active to passive) to produce

(3) A final SURFACE STRUCTURE, which itself is subject to phonological and morphemic rules.

The basic structure is KERNEL SENTENCE which is simple, declarative, require the minimum of transformation. So kernels ‘are the basic structural elements out of which language builds its elaborate surface structures’ taken from ST surface structure.

3.2.3 Formal and dynamic equivalence and the principle of equivalent effect

Nida discarded the old term ‘literal, free and faithful translation. He introduce

(1) FORMAL EQUIVALENCE, focuses on the message itself in both form and content

(2) DYNAMIC EQUIVALENCE the relationship between receptor and message should be substantially the same as that which existed between the original receptors and the message. The success of translation depends on achieving equivalent response, it should cover four basic elements of translation, which are

(1) Making sense

(2) Conveying the spirit and manner of the original

(3) Having a natural and easy form of expression

(4) Producing a similar response

3.3 Newmark: semantic and communicative translation

(1) COMMUNICATIVE TRANSLATION attempts to produce its readers an effect as possible to that obtained on the readers if the original. (=Nida’s dynamic equivalence) ‘craft’

(2) SEMANTIC TRANSLATION attempts to render, as closely as the semantic and syntactic structures of the second language allow; the exact contextual meaning of the original. (= Nida’s formal equivalence) ‘art’

3.4 Koller: Korrespondenz and Aquivalenz

Nida’s move towards scientific translation influence Germany. Important works on equivalence was carried out by WERNER KOLLER (1979) he differentiate 5 different type of equivalence:

(1) DENOTATIVE EQUIVALENCE is related to equivalence of the extralinguistic content of a text. or ‘content invariance’

(2) CONNOTATIVE EQUIVALENCE is related to lexical choices esp. between near-synonym or ‘stylistic equivalence

(3) TEXT-NORMATIVE EQUIVALENCE is related to text types à links to Katharina Reiss

(4) PRAGMATIC EQUIVALENCE or ‘communicative equivalence’, is oriented toward the receiver of the text or massage

(5) FORMAL EQUIVALENCE  is related to form and aesthetics of the text, or ‘expressive equivalence

Chestermen (1989) equivalence is obviously a central concept in translation theory.

Chapter 4  The Translation Shift Approach

Translation shifts= small linguistic change occurring in translation of ST to TT

Vinay and Dalbernet (1958): classical taxonomy of linguistic changes in translation

Catford (1965) term translation ‘shift’ in his linguistic approach to translation

Theoretical work by Chezh scholar Levy, Popovic, Miko (1960-1970s) who adopt stylistic and aesthetic parameters of language

Most detail model of translation shift: van Leuven-Zwart’s, an attempt to match shift to discourse and narratological function

The problem of the subjectivity of the invariant that it used to compare ST and TT

4.1 Vinay and Dalbernet’s model

Vinay and Dalbernet carried out a comparative stylistic analysis of French and English. Using the strategies DIRECT TRANSLATION and OBLIQUE TRANSLATION


(1) BORROWING; THE SL word is transferred directly ti the TL

(2) CALQUE; special borrowing, SL expression or structure is transferred in a literal translation

(3) LITERAL TRANSLATION; word-for-word


(4) TRANSPOSITION; the change of one part of speech for another without changing the sense

(5) MODULATION; change semantics and point of view of the SL

(6) EQUIVALENCE; translating idiom and proverbs

(7) ADAPTATION; a changing cultural reference when a situation in the source culture does not exist in the target culture.


(1) SERVITUDE; refer to obligatory transposition and modulation due ti a difference between the two language system

(2) OPTION; refers to non-obligatory changes that are due to the translator’s own style and preferences

Five steps for the translator to follow in moving from ST to TT

(1) Identify the unit of translation

(2) Examine the SL text, evaluating the descriptive, affective and intellectual; content of the units

(3) Reconstruct the metalinguistic context of the message

(4) Evaluate the stylistic effects

(5) Produce and revise the TT

4.2 Catford and translation ‘shifts’

Catford follows the Firthian and Hallidayan linguistic model, which analyses language as communication, operating functionally context and on a range of different level (phonology, graphology, grammar, lexis) and ranks (sentence, group, word, morpheme). Catford makes an important distinction between formal and textual equivalence, which was later developed by Koller.

(1) FORMAL CORRESPONDENT I is any TL category (unit, class, element of structure etc.) which can be said to occupy, as nearly as possible, the ‘same’ place in the ‘economy’ of the TL as the given SL category occupies in the SL.

(2) TEXTUAL EQUIVALENT is any TL text or portion of the text which is observed on a particular occasion … to be the equivalent of a given SL text or portion of a text.

The shift according to Catford

(1) A LEVEL SHIFT would be something which is expressed by grammar in one language and lexis in another


(a)  STRUCTURAL SHIFTS; shift in grammatical structure (from active to passive)

(b)  CLASS SHIFTS; comprise shifts from one part of speech to another (from adjective into adverb) p.61

(c)  UNIT SHIFTS/ RANK SHIFTS; the translation equivalent to the TL as at the rank of to the SL.

(d)  INTRA-SYSTEM SHIFTS; this shifts take place when the SL and TL process approximately corresponding systems but where the translation involves selection of a non-corresponding term in the TL system

4.3 Czeh writing on translation shifts p. 62

CHECHOLOSVAKIA introduces a LITERARY ASPECT, of that the EXPRESSIVE FUNCTION or style of a text. LEVY looks closely at the surface structure of the ST and TT, with particular to poetry translation, and sees literary translation as both reproductive and a creative labour with the goal of equivalent aesthetic effect. He sees the real-world of translation work as being ‘pragmatic’.


4.4 Van Leuven-Zwart’s comparative-descriptive model of translation shift

Kitty van Leuven-Zwart from Amsterdam attempts to systematize comparison and to build in a discourse framework above sentence level. The model is ‘intended for the description of integral translations of fictional texts; and comprises:

(1) COMPARATIVE MODEL involves a detailed of ST and TT and a classifications of all the microstructural shifts (within sentences, clauses and phrases). The methods as follow

–    Passage is divided into ‘comprehensible textual unit called TRANSEMES (she sat up quickly)

–    ARCHITRANSEME  invariant core sense of the ST transeme (to sit up)

–    A comparison is then made of each separate transeme with the architranseme and the relationship between the two transemes in established

Main categories of van Zwart’s comparative model p.64




(2) DESCRIPTIVE MODEL is a macrostructural model, designed for the analysis of translated literature. it attempts to interweave the concepts of ‘discourse level (the linguistic expression of the fictional world) and ‘story level’ (the narration of the text, including narrational point of view) with the three linguistic metafunctions (interpersonal, ideational and textual).


Chapter 5  Functional Theories of translation

Functional theories from Germany in the 1970-1980s mark a move away from static linguistic typologies

Reiss stresses equivalence at text level, linking language functions to text types and translation strategy

Holz-Manttari’s theory of translational action: a communicative process involving a series of players

Vermeer’s skopos theory of translation strategy depending on purpose of TT is expanded in Reiss and Vermeer

Nord’s translation-oriented text analysis: a functional approach with more attention to ST

5.1 Text Type-Katharina Reiss

KATHARINA REISS builds in the concept of equivalence but views the text rather than word or sentence as the level at which communication is achieved and at which equivalence must be bought.  The text types

(1) INFORMATIVE à plain communication of facts: information, knowledge, opinions (report, lecture)

(2) EXPRESSIVE à creative composition (poem) p.74

(3) OPERATIVE à including behavioral responses; the aims of the appellative function is to appeal to or persuade the reader/receiver (advertisement)

(4) AUDIOMEDIAL texts, such as films and visual and spoken advertisement

5.2 Translational Action – Holz Mantaari

Holz mantaari takes up concepts from communication theory and action theory with the aim of providing and guidelines applicable to a wide range of professional translation situations.

Interlingual translation is described as ‘translational action from a source text’ and as a communicative process involving a series of roles and players:

(1) THE INITIATOR, the company/individual who needs the translation

(2) THE COMISSIONER, the individual who contact the translator

(3) THE ST PRODUCER, the individual within the company

(4) THE TT PRODUCER, the translator

(5) THE TT USER, the person who uses the TT

(6) THE TT RECEIVER, the final recipient of the TT

Relevant features are described according to the age-old split of CONTENT (factual information and communicative strategy) and FORM (terminology and cohesive elements)

5.3 Skopos Theory –Hans J. van Vermeer

Skopos is the Greek word for ‘aim’ or ‘purpose’. the basic underlying ‘rules’ of the theory

(1) The translatum (TT) is determined by its skopos

(2) A TT is an offer information in a target culture and TL concerning an offer information in a source culture and SL

(3) A TT does not initiate an offer information in a clearly reversible way

(4) A TT must be internally coherent

(5) A TT must be coherent with the ST

(6) The five rules above stand in hierarchical order, with the skopos rule predominating (the most important)

5.4  Translation-oriented text analysis – Christine Nord

CHRISTINE NORD (1988) presents a more detailed functional model incorporating elements of text analysis which examines text organization at or above sentence level. These are known as

(1)   DOCUMENTARY TRANSLATION, serves as a document of a source culture communication between the author and the ST recipient

(2)   INSTRUMENTAL TRANSLATION serves as an independent message-transmitting instrument an a new communicative action in the target culture, and is intended to fulfill its communicative purpose without the recipient being conscious of reading or hearing a text

Chapter 6  Discourse and register analysis approach

In the 1990s discourse analyses came to prominence in translation studies. Text analysis normally concentrates on describing in the way in which texts are organized (sentence, structure, cohesion); discourse analysis looks at the way language communicates meaning and social and power relation.

6.1 the Hallidayan model of language and discourse

HALLIDAY’s model discourse analysis is based on SYSTEMIC FUNCTIONAL GRAMMAR, is geared to the study of language as communication, seeing meaning in the writer’s linguistic choices and systematically relating these choices to a wider sociocultural framework. The systemic framework comprises three elements FIELD (ideational meaning), TENOR (interpersonal meaning), MODE (thematic and information structure, cohesion) p.91

6.2 House’s model of translation quality assessment

JULIANE HOUSE introduces the model of systematic comparison of the textual ‘profile of the ST and TT. The register analysis of both ST and TT according to their realization through LIXICAL, SYNTACTIC, and TEXTUAL MEANs refer to:

(1) THEME-DYNAMIC, thematic structure and cohesion

(2) CLAUSAL LINKAGE, additive (and, in addition) adversative (but)

(3) ICONIC LINKAGE, parallelism of structure

The translation can be categorized as:

(1) OVERT TRANSLATION, is a TT does not purport (do) to be an original

(2) COVERT TRANSLATION,  is a translation which enjoys the status of an original source text in the target culture.

6.3 Baker’s text and pragmatic level analysis: a course book for translation

MONA BAKER (1992) looks at equivalence at a series of levels: a word, above-word, grammar, thematic structure, cohesion and pragmatic level.

6.4 Hatim and Mason: the semiotic level of context and discourse

BASIL HATIM & IAN MASON (1997) both pay extra attention to the realization in translation of ideational and interpersonal function and incorporate into their model a semiotic level of discourse.

 6.5 Criticism of discourse and register analysis approaches to translation

Discourse analysis model have become extremely popular among many linguistics-oriented translation theorist of a text. however, the Hallidayan model has been attacked by:

(1) Fish (1981), cause to struggle to cope with the variety of interpretation of literature

(2) Gutt (1991) raises question whether it is possible to recover authorial intention of ST function from register analysis

Chapter 7 System theories

Linguistics broadened out from static models in the 1960s to an approach which incorporates first skopos theory + register + discourse analysis, relating language its sociocultural function. In the 1970s another reaction to the static perspective models was POLYSYSTEM THEORY which show translated literature as a system operating in the larger social, literary and historical system. This was important move, since translated literature had up to that point mostly been dismissed as a derivative, second-rate form. polysystem theory fed into developments in the descriptive translation studies a branch of translation studies that aim in identifying norms and laws of translation.

7.1 Polysystem theory

Polysystem theory developed by Israeli scholar ITAMAR EVEN-ZOHAR borrowing ideas from Russian Formalists of the 1920s, who had worked on literary historiography. A literary work is part of a system and defined as ‘ a SYSTEM of functions of the literary order which are continual relationship with other orders’. Even-Zohar emphasis that translated literature operates a system:

(1) In the way the TL selects works for translation

(2) In the way translation norms, behavior and policies are influenced by other co-system.

The POLYSYSTEM is concerned as a hetereogeneous, hierarchized conglomerate (or system) of system which interact to bring about on going, dynamic process of evolution within the polysystem as a whole (Shuttleworth &Cowie 1997).

7.2 Toury and descriptive translation study

GIDEON TOURY focused on developing a general theory of translation. Toury proposes a methodology for the branch of descriptive translation study (DTS). Systematic DTS incorporate a description of the product and the wider role of the sociocultural sysyem:

(1) Situate the text within the culture system, looking at its significance or acceptability

(2) Compare the ST and the TT for shifts, identifying relationship between ‘coupled part’ of ST and TT segments, and attempting generalization about the underlying concept of translation

(3) Draw implications for decision-making in future translating

The aim of Toury’s case is to distinguish trends of translation behacior, to make generalizations regarding the decision-making process of the translator and then to ‘reconstruct’ the norms that have been in operation in the translation and make hypothesis that can be tested by future descriptive studies. The NORM = the translation of general value or ideas shared by a community-as to what is right or wrong, adequate or inadequate-into performance instruction appropriate for and applicable to particular situations. P.113

The LAW OF GROWING STANDARDIZATION = in translation, textual relation obtaining the original are often modified, sometimes ignored, in favor of habitual options offered by a target repertoire.

The LAW OF INTERFERENCE = ST linguistic features of TT as ‘ a kind of default’. Interference refer to ST linguistic features mainly lexical and syntactical patterning being copied in the TT.

7.3 Chesterman’s translation norms

ANDREW CHESTERMAN (1997) states that all norms ‘exert a prescriptive pressure’. The norms covers

(1) PRODUCT or EXPECTANCY NORM are established by the expectancies of readers of a translation (of a given type) concerning what a translation (of this type) should be like

–    Expectancy norms allow evaluative judgments about translation since readers have a notion of what  is appropriate or acceptable

–    Expectancy norms are sometimes ‘validated by norm-authority of some kind for example teacher, literary critic and publisher’s reader can confirm the prevalent norm by encouraging translation that confirm with that norm.

(2) PROFESSIONAL NORM ‘regulate process of the translation itself”

(a)  THE ACCOUNTABILITY NORM, ETHICAL norm dealing with professional standards of integrity and thoroughness

(b)  THE COMMUNICATION NORM, SOCIAL norm, the translator, the communication ‘expert’ works to ensure maximum communication between the parties

(c)  THE ‘REALTION’ NORM, LINGUISTIC norm which deals with the relation between ST and TT.

7.4 Other models of descriptive translation studies:

Lambert and van Gorp and the Manipulation School divided scheme

(1) PRELIMINARY DATA, information on the title page, metatext and the general strategy (whether translation is partial or complete)

(2) MACRO-LEVEL, the division of text, titles and presentation of the chapters, the internal narrative structure and any overt authorial comment.

(3) MICRO-LEVEL, the identification of shifts on different linguistic levels, include lexical level, grammatical pattern, narrative, point of view and modality

(4) SYSTEMIC CONTEXT, micro- and macro-levels, text and theory are compared and norms identified.

Chapter 8 Varieties of cultural studies

SUSAN BASSNETT and ANDRE LEFEVERE go beyond language and focus on the interaction between translation and culture, on the way in which culture impacts and constrains translation and on the larger issue of context, history and convention à collection fo essay Translation. History and culture (1990)

8.1 Translation as rewriting

ANDRE LEFEVERE worked in comparative literature departments in Belgium and then in USA. He focuses particularly on the examination of a ‘very concrete factors’ that systematically govern the reception. Acceptance or rejection of literary texts; that is ‘issues such as power, ideology, institution and manipulation.’

Lefevere describes literary system in which translation functions as being controlled by:


(2) PATRONAGE (support) OUTSIDE THE LITERARY SYSTEM, these are powers (persons, institutions) that can further hinder the reading, writing and rewriting of literature







8.2 Translation and gender

SHERRY SIMON (1996) approaches translation from gender-studies angle. à sees a language of sexism in translation studies, with its images of dominance, fidelity, faithfulness and betrayal. TRANSLATION PROJECT = for feminist translation, fidelity is to be directed toward neither the author nor the reader, but toward writing project-a project in which both writer and translator participate.

8.3 Postcolonial theory

Simon links gender and cultural studies to the developments in POSTCOLONIALISM.

Chapter 9 Translation the foreign: the (in)visibility of translation

Venuti notably the ‘invisibility of translation and the translator in Anglo American culture and the ‘domesticating and ‘foreignizing translation strategies which are available to the translator. Berman’s ‘negative analytic’ attacking the homogenization of the translation of literary prose.

9.1 Venuti: the cultural and political agenda of translation

INVISIBILITY: the translator’s situation and activity in contemporary Anglo-American culture, thus creating an illusion of transparency, (b) by the way the translated texts are typically read in the target culture p146

A translated text, whether prose or poetry, fiction or non-fiction, is judged acceptable by most publishers, reviewers and readers when it reads fluently, when the absence of any linguistics or stylistic peculiarities makes it seems transparent, giving the appearance that it reflects the foreign writer’s personality or intention or the essential meaning of the foreign text-the appearance in other words, that the translation is not in fact a translation, but the ‘original’. (Venuti: 1995)

DOMESTICATION: ethnocentric reduction of the foreign text to target language cultural values. This entails translating in a transparent fluent, ‘invisible’ style in order to minimize the foreignness of the TT.

FOREIGNIZATION: entails choosing a foreign text and developing a translation method along lines which are excluded by dominant cultural values in the target language à the translator leaves the writer alone, as much as possible and moves the reader towards the writer. The foreignizing method non-fluent also term RESISTANCY or estranging translation style designed to make visible the presence of the translator by highlighting the foreign identity of the ST and protecting it from the ideological dominance of the target culture.

9.2 Antoine Berman: negative analytic of translat



  1. Thank you very much. U help me more thanks again

  2. Hasan says:

    I wana know and read more about the shift approach (Vinay and Darbelnet approach + Catford Approach)
    could you please help me more

    Hasan O. Eljetlawi
    MA. Student,
    Business Translation,

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