Translation Shift Approaches

Topics: Translation, Linguistics, Language Pages: 13 (4234 words) Published: March 24, 2011

The term “shift” commonly refers to changes which occur or may occur in the process of translating. As long as translating is a language use, the notion of shift belongs to the notion of linguistic performance as opposed to that of theories of competence. Although the term “shift” was initially adopted by Catford as “departures from formal correspondence in the process of from the Source Text (ST) to the Target Text (TT), other scholars like Levy, Popovic, Blum-Kulka, Hatim, M. Shlesinger, and Van Leuven-Zwart also attempted to produce and apply a model of “shift analysis”. In this paper, we are going to scrutinize into the topic of shift by giving a detailed account of the theories and discussions on the topic. However, as mentioned above, shifts are parts of the linguistic aspect of language, and therefore, they are closely interwoven with “Equivalence”. Hence, it is deemed necessary to give a brief description of “Equivalence” as an introduction to “shift approach”.

I. Equivalence

A. Dictionary definition of “equivalence”

A typical dictionary definition of “equivalence” is as follows: As an adjective it means:
* Equal or interchangeable in value, quantity, significance, etc. - Having the same or a similar effect or meaning.
And as a noun it means:
- The state of being equivalent or interchangeable.

B. Equivalence and Translation

It is evident that differences between the systems of the source language (SL) and the target language (TL) bring about the loss of certain functional elements whereas they also give rise to new ones through translation. This can be clearly observed when a target-language text (TLT) is compared with its source-language text (SLT). The literature in translation studies has generated a lot of discussion on the sources of this phenomenon known as ‘translation loss’ which has caused heated controversy in the theory of translation. This could be attributed to differences in views held by various theorists regarding the notion “translating”. The theorists who attempted to define this concept are, tentatively, included under two main groups. In the first, there are those scholars who are in favour of a linguistic approach to translating. Bell (1991: 20), for instance, defines translating as “the replacement of a representation of a text in one language by a representation of an equivalent text in a second language”. According to Jakobson (1959), languages, from a grammatical point of view, may differ from one another to a greater or lesser degree, which means in “interlingual translations there is no full equivalence between code units [therefore] translation involves two equivalent messages in two different codes” (Jakobson, 1959: 233). Another example can be seen in the work of Nida and Taber (1982) who adopt a less extreme position, believing that translating consists of reproducing, in the target language, the nearest equivalent to the message in the source language. From the preceding quotes it seems that there is consensus among the supporters of the linguistic approach that the main source of translation problems is mismatches between the linguistic systems of the two languages, which exert a direct and crucial influence upon the process of translating at all linguistic levels (e.g. phonological, lexical, syntactic, etc.), and can hinder the process of transfer. They lay emphasis on the concept ‘equivalence’ as an important aspect and a method for overcoming translation problems. Jakobson (1959: 234), for example, writes: “Whenever there is deficiency, terminology may be qualified and amplified by loanwords or loan-translations, neologisms or semantic shifts, and finally, by circumlocutions.” This principle stipulates that when a translator faces the problem of not finding a translation equivalent in the TL for a particular SL word or phrase, then it is up to the translator to chose (i.e. from the above-suggested methods)...

References: Baker, Mona (1992) In Other Words: a Coursebook on Translation, London: Routledge.
Catford, John C. (1965) A Linguistic Theory of Translation: an Essay on Applied Linguistics, London: Oxford University Press.
House, Juliane (1977) A Model for Translation Quality Assessment, Tübingen: Gunter Narr.
Jakobson, Roman (1959) 'On Linguistic Aspects of Translation ', in R. A. Brower (ed.) On Translation, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, pp. 232-39.
Munday, Jeremy. 2001.  Introducing Translation Studies – Theories and Applications. London and New York: Routledge. Chapter
Nida, Eugene A. (1964) Towards a Science of Translating, Leiden: E. J. Brill.
Nida, Eugene A. and C.R.Taber (1969 / 1982) The Theory and Practice of Translation, Leiden: E. J. Brill.
Vinay, J.P. and J. Darbelnet (1995) Comparative Stylistics of French and English: a Methodology for Translation, translated by J. C. Sager and M. J. Hamel, Amsterdam / Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
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