Equivalence in Translation

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  • Topic: Translation, Dynamic and formal equivalence, Literal translation
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  • Published : April 25, 2011
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Equivalence in Translation

Dynamic equivalence, as a respectable principle of translation, has been around in the translation sector for a long time. It is the method whereby the translator's purpose is not to give a literal, word-for-word rendition but to transfer the meaning of the text as would be best expressed in the words of the receptor (native) language. In this paper, we will focus on the criteria necessary to qualify dynamic equivalence with special reference to Eugene Nida, as well as distinctive viewpoints from famous translation theorists. Also, we will talk about the formal equivalence and structural equivalence. Finally, we will have the criticism of dynamic equivalence.

Eugene A. Nida and ‘Dynamic Equivalence’
Eugene A. Nida has the deep conviction justified by his research that anything that can be said in one language can be said in another with reasonable accuracy by establishing equivalent points of reference in the receptor’s culture. Communication across languages and cultures is thus viewed as a processof translational equivalence of messages in appropriately reconstructed formal and semantic structures.

Nida deals with both theoretical and practical problems in his extensive works on translation. In his view, translation is a work of re-structural in the target language of the linguistic production of the source language, and this re-organize takes into account both form and meaning. Nida’s most normative and most controversial contribution to translation theory is his notion of ‘dynamic equivalence’, as opposed to that of ‘formal correspondence’ (Nida, 1993: 123-24). “Dynamic equivalence’ is characterized by Nida as the closest natural equivalent to the source-language message, whereas ‘formal correspondence’ distorts the message (Nida and Taber, 1982: 202-3). He pointed out more recently that the validity of a translation cannot be judged with a comparison of corresponding lexical meanings, grammatical classes, and rhetorical devices. What is important is the extent to which receptors correctly understand and appreciate the translated text. (Nida, 1993: 116).

In Nida’s work with Charles R. Taber, ‘The Theory and Practice of Translation’, he has established certain fundamental sets of priorities: (1) contextual consistency has priority over verbal consistency or word-for-word concordance, (2) dynamic equivalence has priority over formal correspondence, (3) the aural (heard) form of language has priority over the written form, (4) forms that are used by and acceptable to the audience for which a translation is intended have priority over forms that may be traditionally more prestigious (Nida and Taber, 1982: 14).

According to Nida, translating consists in producing in the receptor language the ‘closest natural equivalent’ to the message of the source language, first in meaning and secondly in style. He seems to have recognized the lack of any absolute correspondence, yet still points up the importance of finding the closest equivalence. By ‘natural’, he means that the equivalent should not be ‘foreign’ either in form or meaning. That is to say, a good translation should reveal its non-native source. It is recognized that equivalence in both meaning and style cannot always be retained. When, therefore, one must be abandoned for the sake of the other, the meaning must have priority over the stylistic forms (Nida, 1975: 33).

Famous Theorists Viewpoints
Other than Nida, there are many famous translation theorists have suggestion and discussion on this topic. Vinay and Darbelnet view equivalence-oriented translation as a procedure which 'replicates the same situation as in the original, whilst using completely different wording' (Kenny, 1998: 342). If this procedure is applied during the translation process, it can maintain the stylistic impact of the SL text in the TL text. Thus, equivalence is therefore the ideal method when the translator has to deal...
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