2.The main focus of this chapter is the central recurring theme of 'word-for word‘ and 'sense-for-sense' translation, a debate that has dominated much of translation theory. This theme has been described by Susan Bassnett in Translation Studies (1991) as 'emerging again and again with different degrees of emphasis in accordance with differing concepts of language and communication' (1991: 42)
3.The focus will be on a selection of the most influential writings from the history of translation. This includes Cicero, St Jerome, Dolet, Luther, Dryden, Tytler and Schleiermacher. The reason for choosing these particular writings is the influence they have exerted on the history of translation theory and research.
4.Word-for-word' or 'sense-for-sense?
Up until the second half of the twentieth century, translation theory seemed
locked to a 'sterile' debate over the 'triad' of 'literal', 'free' and 'faithful' translation.
5.The distinction between 'word-for-word' ( 'literal') and 'sense-for-sense' (i.e. 'free') translation goes back to Cicero (first century BCE) and St Jerome (late fourth century
CE) and forms the basis of key writings on translation.
6.In his translation of the speeches of the Attic (The Ancient Greek of Athens) orators Cicero outlined his approach to translation as :
And I did not translate them as an Interpreter, but as an orator, keeping the same ideas and forms, or as one might say, the 'figures' of thought, but in language which conforms to our usage. And in so doing, I do not hold it necessary to render word for word, but I preserved the general style and force of the language.'
7.The disparagement of word-for-word translation by Cicero, and indeed by Horace, who, underlines that the goal of producing an aesthetically pleasing and creative text , had great influence on the succeeding centuries.
8.St Jerome, the most famous of all translators , and in defending his translation of the Greek Old Testament into Latin, describes his strategy in the following terms:
Now I not only admit but freely announce that in translating from the Greek - except of course in the case of the Holy Scripture, where even the syntax contains a mystery - I render not word-for-word, but sense-for-sense.
9.Jerome disparaged the word-for-word approach because, by following so closely the form of the ST, it produced an absurd translation, cloaking (concealing )the sense of the original. The sense-for-sense approach, on the other hand, allowed the sense or content of the ST to be translated
10.However, as part of his defence St Jerome stresses the special mystery of both the meaning and syntax of the Bible, for to be seen to be altering the sense was liable to bring a charge of heresy.
11.Translation and the Arab World
Although St Jerome's statement is usually taken to be the clearest expression of the 'literal' and 'free' poles in translation, the same type of concern seems to have occurred in other rich and ancient translation traditions such as in China and the Arab world. For example, the 'literal' and 'free' poles (distiction) surface once again in the rich translation tradition of the Arab world, which created the great centre of translation in Baghdad.
12.There was intense translation activity in the Abbasid period (750-1250). It centred on the translation into Arabic of Greek scientific and
philosophical material, often with Syriac as an intermediary language.
The Egyptian-born translation scholar
Baker (1997) describes the two translation
methods that were adopted during Abbasid period as:
13.The first method, associated with Yuhanna Ibn al-Batriq and Ibn Naima al-Himsi, was highly literal and consisted of translating each Greek word with an equivalent Arabic word and, where none existed, borrowing the Greek word into Arabic (Transliteration )(Baker 1997a: 320-1).
14.This word-for-word method proved to be unsuccessful and had to be revised
using the second, sense-for-sense method:
The second method, associated with Ibn Ishaq and al-Jawahari, consisted of translating
sense-for-sense, creating fluent target texts which conveyed the meaning of the original without distorting the target language.
(Baker 1997a: 321)
15.There are other ways of considering the question: word for word and sense for sense. For example, Salama-Carr (1995) concentrates more on the way translation approaches 'helped establish a new system of thought that was to become the foundation of Arabic - Islamic culture- both on the conceptual and terminological levels' with the increased use of Arab neologisms rather than transliteration. Arab translators also became very creative in supplying instructive and explanatory commentaries and notes.
Within Western society, issues of free and literal translation were for over a thousand years after St Jerome bound up ( involved) with the translation of the Bible and other religious and philosophical texts.
The preoccupation (the main focus )of the Roman Catholic Church was for the 'correct' established meaning of the Bible to be transmitted. Any translation diverging from the accepted interpretation was likely to be deemed heretical and to be censured or banned. An even worse fate lay in store for some of the translators.
17.The most famous example is that of the French humanist Etienne Dolet. He was burned at the stake having been condemned by the theological (religious) faculty of Sorbonne University in 1546, apparently for adding, in his translation of one of Plato's dialogues, the phrase rien du tout ('nothing at all') in a passage about what existed after death. The addition led to the charge of blasphemy, the assertion
being that Dolet did not believe in immortality. For such a translation 'error' he was executed
Non-literal or non-accepted translation came to be seen and used as a weapon against the Church. The most famous example of this is Martin Luther's crucially influential translation into East Middle German of the New Testament (1522) and later the Old Testament (1534).
19.Luther played a pivotal role in the Reformation while, linguistically, his use of a regional yet socially broad dialect went a long way to reinforcing that form of the German language as standard. Luther had been heavily criticized by the Church for the addition of the
word allein ('alone/ only'), as there was no equivalent Latin word (e.g. sola) in the ST.
20.Luther counters by saying that he was translating into 'pure, clear German',' where allein would be used for emphasis. Luther follows St Jerome in rejecting a word-for-word translation strategy since it would be unable to convey the same meaning as the ST and would
sometimes be incomprehensible.
21.While Luther's treatment of the free and literal debate does not show any real advance on what St Jerome had written eleven hundred years before, his infusion (Provision) of the Bible with the language of ordinary people and his consideration of translation in terms focusing on the TL and theTT reader were crucial.
22.Typical of this is his famous quote extolling (lavishly praising) the language of the people:
You must ask the mother at home, the children in the street, the ordinary man in the market [sic] and look at their mouths, how they speak, and translate that way;
then they'll understand and see that you're speaking to them in German.''
From that time onwards, the language of the ordinary German speaks clear and strong, thanks to Luther's translation.
23.Faithfulness, spirit and truth
Flora Amos, in her Early Theories of Translation (1920) , notes that early translators often differed considerably in the meaning they gave to terms such as 'faithfulness', 'accuracy'
and even the word 'translation' itself.
24.For example, Louis Kelly in The True Interpreter (1979) looks in detail at the history of translation theory and traces the history of what he calls (p. 205) the 'inextricably tangled' terms 'fidelity', 'spirit' and 'truth'. The concept of fidelity , i.e. the 'faithful interpreter') had initially been dismissed as literal word-for-word translation by Horace.
25.Indeed, it was not until the end of the seventeenth century that fidelity really came to be identified with faithfulness to the meaning rather than the words of the author. Kelly (1979: 206) describes spirit as similarly having two meanings: creative energy or inspiration, proper to literature
26.It is easy to see how, in the translation of sacred texts, where 'the Word of God' is paramount, there has been such an interconnection of fidelity (to both the words and the perceived sense), spirit (the energy of the words and the Holy Spirit) and truth (the 'content').
27.However, by the seventeenth century, fidelity had come to be generally regarded as more than just fidelity to word and spirit lost the religious sense it originally possessed and was thenceforth used solely in the sense of the creative energy of a text or language
28.Early attempts at systematic translation theory: Dryden,Dolet and Tytler
For Flora Amos (1920/73: 137), the England of the seventeenth century – with Denham, Cowley and Dryden - marked an important step forward in translation theory with 'deliberate, reasoned statements, unmistakable in their purpose and meaning‘. At that time, translation into English was almost
exclusively confined to verse renderings of Greek and Latin classics, some of which were extremely free.
29.Cowley, for instance, in his preface to Pindaric
Odes (1640), attacks poetry that is 'converted faithfully and word for word into French or Italian prose‘. His approach is also to counter the inevitable loss of beauty in translation by using 'our wit or invention' to create new beauty. In doing this, Cowley admits he has 'taken, left out and added what I please' to the Odes . Cowley even proposes the term imitation for this very free method of translating.
30.The idea was not, as in the Roman period, that such a free method would enable the translator to surpass the original; rather that this was the method that permitted the 'spirit' of the ST to he best reproduced.
31.Such a very free approach to translation produced a reaction, notably from
another English poet and translator, John Dryden, whose description of the translation process would have enormous impact on subsequent translation theory and practice.
Dryden reduces all translation to three
32.1. 'metaphrase': 'word by word and line by line' translation, which corresponds to literal translation;
2 'paraphrase': 'translation with latitude, where the author is kept in view by the translator, so as never to be lost, but his words are not so strictly followed as his sense'; this involves changing whole phrases and more or less corresponds to faithful or sense-for-sense translation;
3 'imitation': 'forsaking' both words and sense; this corresponds to Cowley's very free translation and is more or less adaptation.
33.Dryden thus prefers paraphrase, advising that metaphrase and imitation be avoided. However, Dyden changes his stance, showing a shift to a point between paraphrase and literal translation:,
I thought fit to steer betwixt the two extremes of paraphrase and literal translation; to keep as near my author as I could, without losing all his graces, the most eminent of which are in the beauty of his words.
34.In general, therefore, Dryden and others writing on translation at the time are very prescriptive, setting out what has to be done in order for successful
translation to take place. However, despite its importance for translation theory, Dryden's writing remains full of the language of his time: the 'genius'
of the ST author, the 'force' and 'spirit' of the original, the need to 'perfectly comprehend' the sense of the original, and the 'art' of translation.
Other writers on translation also began to state their 'principles' in a similarly prescriptive fashion One of the first had been Etienne Dolet. He set out five principles in order of importance as follows
36.1. The translator must perfectly understand the sense and material of the original author, although he [sic] should feel free to clarify obscurities.
2. The translator should have a perfect knowledge of both SL and TL, so as not to lessen the majesty of the language.
3. The translator should avoid word-for-word renderings.
4. The translator should avoid Latinate and unusual forms.
5 The translator should assemble and liaise words eloquently to avoid clumsiness.
37.Here again, the concern is to reproduce the sense and to avoid word-for word translation, but the stress on eloquent and natural TL form was rooted in a desire to reinforce the structure and independence of the new vernacular
In English, perhaps the first systematic study of translation after Dryden is Alexander Fraser Tytler's 'Essay on the principles of translation' (1797).
Rather than Dryden's author-oriented description ('write as the original author would have written had he known the target language'),
Tytler defines a 'good translation' in TL-reader-oriented terms to be:
39.“That in which the merit of the original work is so completely transfused into another language as to be as distinctly apprehended, and as strongly felt, by a native of the country to which that language belongs as it is by those who speak the language of the original work”.
40.Tytler has three general 'laws' or '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 of the same character with that of the original.
3 The translation should have all the ease of the original composition.
41.Tytler himself recognizes that the first two laws represent the two widely different opinions about translation. They can be seen as the poles of faithfulness of content and faithfulness of form, or even reformulations of the
sense-for-sense and word-for-word diad of Cicero and St Jerome.
42.Tytler however ranks his three laws in order of comparative importance. Such hierarchical categorizing
gains in importance in more modern translation theory; for instance, the discussion of translation 'loss' and 'gain' is in some ways presaged by Tytler's suggestion that the rank order of the laws should be a means of
determining decisions when a 'sacrifice' has to be made. Thus, ease of composition would be sacrificed if necessary for manner, and a departure would be made from manner in the interests of sense.
43.Schleiermacher and the valorization of the foreign
While the 17th century had been about imitation and the 18th century about the translator's duty to recreate the spirit of the ST for the reader of the time, the Romanticism of the early 19th nineteenth century discussed
the issues of translatability or untranslatability.
44.In 1813, the German theologian and translator Friedrich Schleiermacher wrote a highly influential treatise on translation: On the different methods of translating'). Schleiermacher is recognized as the founder of modern Protestant theology and of modern hermeneutics, a Romantic approach to interpretation based not on absolute truth but on the individual's inner feeling and understanding
45.Schleiermacher first distinguishes two different types of translator working on two different types of text; these are:
1 the 'Dolmetscher', who translates commercial texts;
2 the ubersetzer‘, who works on scholarly and artistic texts.
The real question, according to Schleiermacher, is how to bring the ST writer and the TT reader together. So he moves beyond the issues of word-for-word and sense-for-sense, literal, faithful and free translation, and considers there to be only two paths open for the 'true‘ translator:
46.Either the translator leaves the writer alone as much as possible and moves the reader toward the writer, or he leaves the reader alone as much as possible and moves the writer toward the reader."
(Schleiermacher 1813/1992: 41-2)
47.Schleiermacher's preferred strategy is the first, moving the reader towards the writer. This entails not writing as the author would have done had he written in German but rather 'giving the reader the same impression that he as a German would receive reading the work in the original language'
To achieve this, the translator must adopt an 'alienating' (as opposed to 'naturalizing') method of translation, orienting himself or herself by the language and content of the ST. He or she must valorize the foreign and transfer that into the TL.
48.There are several consequences of this Schleiermacher's approach, including;
1.if the translator is to seek to communicate the same impression which he or she received from the ST, this impression will also depend on the level of education and understanding among the TT readership, and this is likely to differ from the translator's own understanding;
2 a special language of translation may be necessary, for example compensating in one place with an imaginative word where elsewhere the translator has to make do with a hackneyed expression that cannot convey the impression of the foreign
49.Schleiermacher's influence has been enormous. Indeed, Kittel and Polterman (1997: 424) claim that 'practically every modern translation theory – at least in the German-language area - responds, in one way or another, to Schleiermacher's hypotheses.
50.' Schleiermacher's consideration of different text types becomes more prominent in Reiss's text typology (see chapter 5 of this volume). The 'alienating' and 'naturalizing' opposites are taken up by Venuti as 'foreignization' and 'domestication' (see chapter 9). Additionally, the vision of a 'language of translation' is pursued by Walter Benjamin and the description of the hermeneutics of translation is apparent in George Steiner's 'hermeneutic motion' (see chapter 10).
51.Translation theory of the nineteenth and early twentiethcenturies in Britain
In Britain, the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century focused on the status of the ST and the form of the TL. Typical of this is the polemic between Francis Newman and Matthew Arnold over the translation of Homer.
Newman emphasized the foreignness of the work by a deliberately archaic translation and yet saw himself as reaching out to a wide audience.
This was violently opposed by Matthew Arnold in his lecture On Translating Homer(1861/1978), which advocated a transparent translation method.
52.Importantly ,Arnold advises his audience to put their faith in scholars, who, he suggests, are the only ones who are qualified to compare
the effect of the TT to the ST. As Bassnett (1991: 69-70) points out, such an elitist attitude led both to the devaluation of translation (because it was felt
that a TT could never reach the heights of an ST and it was always preferable to read the work in the original language) and to the marginalization of
translation (translations were to be produced for only a select elite).
53. This attitude may even be said to be prevalent in Britain up to the present day. For example:
1.Pre-university and even university students of languages are often dissuaded from turning to translations for help.
.2 Very little popular literature is translated into English.
3. Relatively few subtitled foreign films are screened in mainstream cinemas and on the major BBC1 and ITV television channels in the UK.
The following case studies look at two areas where the vocabulary of the 'literal vs. free' debate continues to be used in contemporary writing on translation.
Case study 1 examines two examples of criteria for assessing
translations. Case study 2 looks at a modern translator's preface, from the 1981 and 1992 revised English translations of Marcel Proust's book.
In both cases the aim is to identify how far the ideas and
vocabulary of early theory held sway in later writing on translation
55.Case study I : Assessment criteria
The area of assessment criteria is one where a more expert writer (a marker of a translation examination or a reviser of a professional translation) addresses a less expert reader (usually a candidate for an examination or a junior professional translator). It is interesting to see how far the vocabulary used is the rather vague vocabulary of early translation theory.
56.The Institute of Linguists' (IoL) Diploma in Translation is the most widely known initial qualification for translators in the UK. In the IoL's Notes for Candidates,the criteria for assessing the translations are given
57.1. accuracy: the correct transfer of information and evidence of complete comprehension;
2 the appropriate choice of vocabulary, idiom, terminology and register;
3 cohesion, coherence and organization;
4 accuracy in technical aspects of punctuation, etc
58.The question of 'accuracy' appears twice (criteria 1 and 4). 'Accuracy' is in some ways the modern linguistic equivalent of 'faithfulness', 'spirit' and 'truth'; in the IoL text, there is an attempt at closer definition of accuracy, comprising 'correct transfer of information' and 'complete comprehension'.
As we discuss in chapter 3, these terms are influenced by terminology suggested by Nida in the 1960s. Criterion 2's 'appropriate choice of vocabulary, etc.' suggests a more TL approach, while criterion 3 (cohesion and coherence)
59.Thus, these criteria make an attempt at formalizing clear rules for translation. However, examiners' reports on the candidates' performances,
tend to be sprinkled with the vaguer and controversial vocabulary of early translation theory.
60.A typical IoL examiners' report (French into English )explains many student errors in considerable detail, but still stresses the criterion of TL fluency.
- 'awkwardness' is a criticism levelled at four translations.
-Candidates are praised for altering sentence structure 'to give a more natural result in English'.
- The most interesting point is the use of the term 'literal translation'. ‘Literal' is used as a relative term. For example, 'too literal a style of translating and a 'totally literal translation
61.However, the qualification of the adjective 'literal' by the adverbs 'too' and 'totally' suggests that 'literal' alone is not now being viewed as the extreme. Rather,'literal' is being
used to mean a close lexical translation; only when this strategy is taken to an extreme (when it is 'too' or 'totally' literal) is the 'naturalness' of the TL infringed
62.Case study 2 the translator's preface
Translators' prefaces are a source of extensive information on the translation approach adopted in earlier centuries. However, they are far more of a rarity in current publications and are now sometimes restricted to a justification for producing a new translation of a classic work.
63.This is the case with the revised English language translation of Proust's A la Recherche du Temps Perdu.'' Originally translated from French into English by the celebrated C. K. Scott Moncrieff in the 1920s' the English was revised in 1981 by Terence Kilmartin and in 1992 by D. J. Enright
64.One of the most interesting points about Kilmartin's comments is the vocabulary he uses to describe the revisions he has carried out:
I have refrained from officious tinkering (with the translation] for its own sake, but a translator's loyalty is to the original author, and in trying to be faithful to Proust's meaning and tone of voice I have been obliged, here and there, to make extensive alterations.
65.The concept of (loyalty) to the author and being 'faithful' to the meaning could almost have come straight from the writings of the seventeenth century.
The division between 'meaning' and 'tone of voice' could also be taken to originate in the debate on form vs. content. The use of general terms such
as 'tone' in the commentary also echoes the imprecision of earlier writing.
66.Discussion of case studies
These two brief case studies indicate that the vocabulary of early translation
theory persists widely to the present day. 'Literal', 'free', 'loyalty', 'faithfulness-
67.'accuracy', 'meaning', 'style' and 'tone' are words that reappear again
Much of translation theory from Cicero to the twentieth century centred on
the recurring and sterile debate as to whether translations should be literal
(word-for-word) or free (sense-for-sense), a diad that is famously discussed by
St Jerome in his translation of the Bible into Latin. Controversy over the
translation of the Bible and other religious texts was central to translation
theory for over a thousand years.
68.Early theorists tended to be translators who presented a justification for their approach in a preface to the translation, often paying little attention to (or not having access to) what others before them had said. Dryden's proposed triad of the late seventeenth century marked the beginning of a more systematic and precise definition of translation.
69.Schleiermacher's respect for the foreign text was to have
considerable influence over scholars in modern times.
and again, even in areas (such as assessment criteria) which draw on a more systematic theoretical background. The tendency in most of the comments
noted above is for a privileging of a 'natural' TT, one which reads as if it were originally written in the TL. In this case, one can say that 'literal' translation
has lost out, and that the elitist Victorian-style translations proposedby Matthew Arnold are no longer acceptable
70.The 'alienating' strategy promoted by Schleiermacher has not been followed. What remains is the 'natural', almost 'everyday' speech style proposed by Luther. Yet the premodifications of the term 'literal' in the IoL texts indicate the shift in use of this term over the centuries. 'Literal' now means 'sticking very closely to the original'. Translators who go further than this leave themselves open to criticism.
71.The 'imaginative' and 'idiomatic' translation is still preferred. However, the texts examined in the case studies were written mainly for the
general reader or novice translator. As we shall see in the next chapter, the direction of translation theory in the second half of the twentieth century was generally towards a systematization of different elements of the translation Process