Inseparability of form and meaning.10

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Inseparability of form and meaning.10

A translator is to convey not only the ideas and themes of the source text (meaning, sense); s/he should also pay attention to the adequate form to express these ideas. S/he should not become carried away with a free (loose) form of translation, nor force the target language by following the source text word for word. A translator always bears in mind a stardard language of the target text, for, as W.Benjamin put it figuratively, «while content and language form a certain unity in the original, like a fruit and its skin, the language of the translation envelops its content like a royal robe with ample folds.» 11

2. Social functions.

Translation does not exist outside of society. It appeared in society when communities began to trade and exchange ideas. At the same time, translation helps the world community develop. Nations could hardly have achieved the technological success as it is in the 20th century if there had been no translations in electronics, physics, chemistry and other branches of science and technology.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica12, in the 20th century most of the world’s people speak one of about 75 primary languages. A small minority speak one of 450 secondary languages, and more than 4,400 other languages are in use. Without translation and translators the world would not be able to progress.

Translation and culture are inseparable.

Translation could not have developed without culture. Literature, science, and philosophy influence translators’ conceptualizations. On the other hand, culture could not have developed without translation, since translations enrich nations with the cultural values of other nations.

3. Reflection and creativity in translation.

Translation reflects the source text but it does not copy it. To translate adequately, a translator must do his or her best to find a proper means of expression. A translator bears in mind that the receptor has a cultural background other than that of a receptor of the original text; therefore, s/he has to be very resourceful in producing the same impact upon the receptor as that of the source text. Special problems arise in translating dialects, foreign speech, puns, poetry, etc. And a translator is in constant search for new tools to solve translation problems.

4. Translation is an art and a science.

Translation is dominated by objective, scientific, and linguistic description and explanation. At the same time it is a subjective choice of means preserving stylistic equivalence of the source text.




Many linguistic terms have been borrowed from mathematics. Translation invariant is one of them. By translation invariant we mean what is in common between the two expressions, a source one and a target one, after our manipulations and transformations of variable phrases.

By translation invariant we should understand the semantic equivalence of the source and the target texts.13

Some linguists, however, consider the notion to be broader than this definition. They suppose that it is the real situation described by the text that brings together the source and the target texts.14 If the situation is understood differently, it leads to misunderstanding, which can happen in a monolanguage situation as well, and is often the basis for all sorts of comical jokes. For example, the situation in the shop:

Покупатель: Я хочу примерить платье в витрине.

Продавец: Пожалуйста, но у нас есть примерочная.

Customer: I’d like to try on the dress in the shop window.

Salesgirl: You are welcome. But we have a fitting room.

Different situations verbalized here are caused by different pragmatic emphasis. The customer presses upon trying on a featured dress whereas the salesgirl implies the impropriety of using a shop window.

If the translator of this joke had paraphrased the first sentence in a different way (I’d like to try on the dress that is in the shop window), the joke would have been lost, though the meanings of its sentences would have been equally transferred. Therefore, the invariant of translation is based not only on semantics (meaning), but also on pragmatics (communicative intention).




Singling out and defining a unit of translation is a problem widely discussed in Translation Studies.

According to R. Bell, a unit of translation is the smallest segment of a source language text which can be translated, as a whole, in isolation from other segments (as small as possible and as large as is necessary).15 Should we consider a word as a translation unit? Though there exists the notion of a word-for-word translation, the word can hardly be taken for a translation unit. First of all, this is because word borders are not always clear, especially in English. Sometimes a compound word is written in one element, sometimes it is hyphenated, or the two stems are written separately as a phrase: e.g., moonlight, fire-light, candle light. On the other hand, in oral speech it is difficult to single out separate words because they tend to fuse with each other into inseparable complexes: [‘wud3э 'ko:lim?] – according to the stress, there should be two words, while in written speech we can see four words: Would you call him?

Furthermore, it is impossible to consider a phrase (word combination) as a translation unit, because its bounderies are also vague.

Thus, it is not a language unit that should be considered in translation, but a discourse (speech) unit. A translation unit is a group of words united in speech by their meaning, rhythm and melody, i.e. it is a syntagm, or rhythmic and notional segment of speech.

This definition of the unit of translation is process-oriented. If considered from a product-oriented point of view, it can be defined as the target-text unit that can be mapped onto a source-text unit.16



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