Download 95074003 J C Catford A Linguistic Theory of Translation Oxford Univ Press 1965 PDF

Title95074003 J C Catford A Linguistic Theory of Translation Oxford Univ Press 1965
File Size3.5 MB
Total Pages110
Table of Contents
Title Page
1. General Linguistic Theory
2. Translation: Definition and General Types
3. Translation Equivalence
4. Formal Correspondence
5. Meaning and Total Translation
6. Transference
7. Conditions of Translation Equivalence
8. Phonological Translation
9. Graphological Translation
10. Transliteration
11. Grammatical and Lexical Translation
12. Translation Shifts
13. Language Varieties in Translation
14. The Limits of Translatability
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Document Text Contents
Page 1



A Linguistic
of Translation

Oxford University Press LL

Page 2

A Linguistic Theory

of Translation

An Essay in Applied Linguistics


Oxford University Press

Page 55

Conditions of Translation


7.1 We are now in a position to consider the necessary condi-
tions in which a given T L item can, or does, function as trans-
lation equivalent of a given SL item.

The SL and T L items rarely have 'the same meaning' in the
linguistic sense; but they can function in the same situation. In
total translation, SL and T L texts or items are translation
equivalents when they are interchangeable in a given situation. This
is why translation equivalence can nearly always be established
at sentence-rank—the sentence is the grammatical unit most
directly related to speech-function within a situation.

7.2 As our examples in Chapter 5 showed, in total translation
SL and T L items have overlapping meanings; their contextual
meanings include relationship to certain situational features in
common. In the case of Eng. / have arrived/Russ. ja prisla we saw
that even for the rough characterization given in 5.4 we had to
specify 8 situational features: 5 for the English text, 6 for the
Russian. Only three of these (a speaker, an arrival and a prior event)
were common to both. The T L text must be relatable to at least
some of the situational features to which the SL text is relatable.
Presumably, the greater the number of situational features
common to the contextual meanings of both SL and T L text,
the 'better' the translation. The aim in total translation must
therefore be to select T L equivalents not with 'the same meaning'
as the SL items, but with the greatest possible overlap of situa-
tional range. We will return later to the special problems which
arise when the situation contains elements relevant to the SL

'text, but absent from the cultural context of the TL.
7.3 In order to generalize our statement of the conditions of
translation equivalence so as to be applicable to restricted trans-
lation as well as total translation we must examine these 'situa-
tional features' or elements more closely.


Page 56


7.31 The bundles of situational features which are contextually
relevant to a text—that is, those which determine the selection of
this or that linguistic form as opposed to any other—are bundles
of distinctive features; and these are quite analogous to distinctive
features in phonology.

Thus, the situational features arrival, prior event, linked to,
present are situational distinctive features which distinguish the
contextual meaning of have arrived from that of have left, or arrive,
or arrived, or had arrived, in much the same way as stop, labial,
voiceless, oral are distinctive features which distinguish the English
phonological unit / p / from / f /, / 1 /, / b /, / m /.
7.32 Now, the distinctive features of phonology are, in fact,
features of phonic substance, categorized in general phonetic terms;
general phonetics being the theory of phonic substance from which
we derive descriptive categories ('labial', 'voiceless', etc.) which
can be used for describing the distinctive features of phonological
units of particular languages. There is, as yet, no general theory
of situation-substance, no general semetics (or general pleretics)1

from which to draw descriptive terms for the distinctive features
of contextual meanings of grammatical or lexical items in
particular languages.

We are therefore forced to operate with ad hoc terms in dis-
cussing contextual meaning and its relation to situation-substance.
But the parallelism holds good; the distinctive features of phono-
logy are phonetically categorized features of phonic substance,
the distinctive features of contextual meaning are (semetically
categorized) features of situation substance.

7.4 It is now possible to generalize the conditions for trans-
lation equivalence as follows:

translation equivalence occurs when an SL and a TL text or item are
relatable to (at least some of) the same features of substance.2

1 The obvious choice of term is an -etic derivate either ofsem- (from Gk. sema)
as in many commonly used terms, or a derivate of pier- (from Gk. pleris), as
used in Glossematics.

* The type oi substance depends on the scope of the translation. For total
translation it is situation-substance: for phonological translation it is phonic-
substance: for graphological translation it is graphic-substance.


Page 109


of a 'good' translation, because a very similar strangeness of
collocations exists in the original:

'Le soleil allume un crepitement d'oiseaux dans les jardins.''

I n other words, the collocation soleil—allume—crepitement—
oiseaux is about as unusual as the collocation: sun—kindles—
crackling—birds. From this we may deduce that collocational
abnormality in the T L text is a symptom of (so-called 'cultural')
untranslatability only when the original SL text is collocationally
normal. When the SL text is itself collocationally abnormal an
equivalent collocational abnormality in the T L text may be
merely the mark of a 'good' translation.

In this particular example from Colette there is,as Weightman
points out, some degree of untranslatability. The French item
crepitement has certain associations for a French reader which are
—perhaps inevitably—lost in the English translation. The major
untranslatable 'association' of crepitement is that it is somewhat
reminiscent of pepiement, a lexical item used to refer to the twitter-
ing of birds. Now this untranslatable association of crepitement is a
good example of one of the types of linguistic untranslatability
referred to in 14.211 above, namely shared exponence. The phono-
logical forms represented graphologically by crepitement and
pepiement are partially alike—in other words, we have here two
French lexical items with (partially) shared exponence. Whether
or not we regard the resultant simultaneous reference to situa-
tional features of the contextual meanings of both these items as
functionally relevant or not may be a matter of opinion. But if
we do accept this view, and if we do in consequence say that
crepitement is to some degree untranslatable, then we must accept
the fact that this is a case of linguistic untranslatability.
14.6 Here we have been able only to touch on the problem of
the limits of translatability. The subject is a large one and requires
much further study. If, indeed, it should turn out that 'cultural
untranslatability' is ultimately describable in all cases as a variety
of linguistic untranslatability, then the power of translation-theory
will have been considerably increased and, among other things,
the horizon of machine translation will have been enlarged.


Page 110



A series bringing together writings

from the different fields of linguistics,

language study, and language teaching

methodology and materials.

J. C. Catford A Linguistic Theory of Translation

This is an important work which brings a new degree
of precision into the analysis of what is involved in
translation from one language to another. Starting from
the assumption that any process concerned with
human language can be illuminated by applying to it
the latest insights into the nature of language, the
author outlines a current British frame-work of
descriptive linguistics and applies it to the analysis of
translation. Translation is shown to be a much more
complex matter than is commonly realized, while at
the same time the author indicates important new ways
of approaching it. The book is a valuable addition
to the literature of a subject which has only recently
begun to receive the scientific treatment it deserves.

Oxford University Press

ISBN 0 19 437018 6

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