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I need a translation. translation is a communication of a meaning of the source language text by means of an equivalent target-language text the English language draws a terminological distinction (not all languages do) between translating (a written text and interpreting (oral or sign-language communication between users of different languages under this distinction translate can only begin after the appearance of writing within the language communityOpen main menu



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This article is about language translation. For other uses, see Translation (disambiguation).

"Translator" redirects here. For other uses, see Translator (disambiguation).

For article translations in Wikipedia, see Wikipedia:Translation.

Not to be confused with Transliteration.

Translation is the communication of the meaning of a source-language text by means of an equivalent target-language text.[1] The English language draws a terminologicaldistinction (not all languages do) between translating (a written text) and interpreting(oral or sign-language communication between users of different languages); under this distinction, translation can begin only after the appearance of writing within a language community.

A translator always risks inadvertently introducing source-language words, grammar, or syntax into the target-language rendering. On the other hand, such "spill-overs" have sometimes imported useful source-language calques and loanwords that have enriched target languages. Translators, including early translators of sacred texts, have helped shape the very languages into which they have translated.[2]

Because of the laboriousness of the translation process, since the 1940s efforts have been made, with varying degrees of success, to automate translation or to mechanically aid the human translator.[3]More recently, the rise of the Internet has fostered a world-wide market for translation services and has facilitated "language localization".[4]


Rosetta Stone, a secular icon for the art of translation.[5]

The English word "translation" derives from the Latin word translatio,[6] which comes from trans, "across" + ferre, "to carry" or "to bring" (-latio in turn coming from latus, the past participle of ferre). Thus translatio is "a carrying across" or "a bringing across": in this case, of a text from one language to another.[7]

The Germanic languages (except for modern Dutch) and some Slavic languages have calqued their words for the concept of "translation" on translatio.[7]

The Romance languages and the remaining Slavic languages have derived their words for the concept of "translation" from an alternative Latin word, traductio, itself derived from traducere ("to lead across" or "to bring across", from trans, "across" + ducere, "to lead" or "to bring").[7]

The Ancient Greek term for "translation", μετάφρασις (metaphrasis, "a speaking across"), has supplied English with "metaphrase" (a "literal", or "word-for-word", translation)—as contrasted with "paraphrase" ("a saying in other words", from παράφρασις, paraphrasis).[7] "Metaphrase" corresponds, in one of the more recent terminologies, to "formal equivalence"; and "paraphrase", to "dynamic equivalence".[8]

Strictly speaking, the concept of metaphrase—of "word-for-word translation"—is an imperfect concept, because a given word in a given language often carries more than one meaning; and because a similar given meaning may often be represented in a given language by more than one word. Nevertheless, "metaphrase" and "paraphrase" may be useful as ideal concepts that mark the extremes in the spectrum of possible approaches to translation.[a]


Western theoryEdit

John Dryden

Discussions of the theory and practice of translation reach back into antiquity and show remarkable continuities. The ancient Greeksdistinguished between metaphrase (literal translation) and paraphrase. This distinction was adopted by English poet and translatorJohn Dryden (1631–1700), who described translation as the judicious blending of these two modes of phrasing when selecting, in the target language, "counterparts," or equivalents, for the expressions used in the source language:

When [words] appear... literally graceful, it were an injury to the author that they should be changed. But since... what is beautiful in one [language] is often barbarous, nay sometimes nonsense, in another, it would be unreasonable to limit a translator to the narrow compass of his author's words: 'tis enough if he choose out some expression which does not vitiate the sense.[7]


Dryden cautioned, however, against the license of "imitation", i.e., of adapted translation: "When a painter copies from the life... he has no privilege to alter features and lineaments..."[8]

This general formulation of the central concept of translation—equivalence—is as adequate as any that has been proposed since Cicero and Horace, who, in 1st-century-BCE Rome, famously and literally cautioned against translating "word for word" (verbum pro verbo).[8]

Despite occasional theoretical diversity, the actual practice of translation has hardly changed since antiquity. Except for some extreme metaphrasers in the early Christianperiod and the Middle Ages, and adapters in various periods (especially pre-Classical Rome, and the 18th century), translators have generally shown prudent flexibility in seeking equivalents—"literal" where possible, paraphrastic where necessary—for the original meaning and other crucial "values" (e.g., style, verse form, concordance with musical accompaniment or, in films, with speech articulatory movements) as determined from context.[8]


Samuel Johnson

In general, translators have sought to preserve the context itself by reproducing the original order of sememes, and hence word order—when necessary, reinterpreting the actual grammatical structure, for example, by shifting from active to passive voice, or vice versa. The grammatical differences between "fixed-word-order" languages[10] (e.g. English, French, German) and "free-word-order" languages[11] (e.g., Greek, Latin, Polish, Russian) have been no impediment in this regard.[8] The particular syntax (sentence-structure) characteristics of a text's source language are adjusted to the syntactic requirements of the target language.


Martin Luther

When a target language has lacked terms that are found in a source language, translators have borrowed those terms, thereby enriching the target language. Thanks in great measure to the exchange of calques and loanwordsbetween languages, and to their importation from other languages, there are few conceptsthat are "untranslatable" among the modern European languages.[8] A greater problem, however, is translating terms relating to cultural concepts that have no equivalent in the target language.[12] For full comprehension, such situations require the provision of a gloss.

Generally, the greater the contact and exchange that have existed between two languages, or between those languages and a third one, the greater is the ratio of metaphrase to paraphrase that may be used in translating among them. However, due to shifts in ecological niches of words, a common etymology is sometimes misleading as a guide to current meaning in one or the other language. For example, the English actual should not be confused with the cognate French actuel ("present", "current"), the Polish aktualny ("present", "current," "topical", "timely", "feasible"),[13] the Swedish aktuell ("topical", "presently of importance"), the Russian актуальный ("urgent", "topical") or the Dutch actueel ("current").

The translator's role as a bridge for "carrying across" values between cultures has been discussed at least since Terence, the 2nd-century-BCE Roman adapter of Greek comedies. The translator's role is, however, by no means a passive, mechanical one, and so has also been compared to that of an artist. The main ground seems to be the concept of parallel creation found in critics such as Cicero. Dryden observed that "Translation is a type of drawing after life..." Comparison of the translator with a musician or actor goes back at least to Samuel Johnson's remark about Alexander Pope playing Homer on a flageolet, while Homer himself used a bassoon.[13]


Johann Gottfried Herder

If translation be an art, it is no easy one. In the 13th century, Roger Bacon wrote that if a translation is to be true, the translator must know both languages, as well as the sciencethat he is to translate; and finding that few translators did, he wanted to do away with translation and translators altogether.[14]


Ignacy Krasicki

The translator of the Bible into German, Martin Luther (1483–1546), is credited with being the first European to posit that one translates satisfactorily only toward his own language. L.G. Kelly states that since Johann Gottfried Herder in the 18th century, "it has been axiomatic" that one translates only toward his own language.[15]

Compounding the demands on the translator is the fact that no dictionary or thesaurus can ever be a fully adequate guide in translating. The Scottish historian Alexander Tytler, in his Essay on the Principles of Translation (1790), emphasized that assiduous reading is a more comprehensive guide to a language than are dictionaries. The same point, but also including listening to the spoken language, had earlier, in 1783, been made by the Polish poet and grammarian Onufry Kopczyński.[16]

The translator's special role in society is described in a posthumous 1803 essay by "Poland's La Fontaine", the Roman Catholic Primate of Poland, poet, encyclopedist, authorof the first Polish novel, and translator from French and Greek, Ignacy Krasicki:

[T]ranslation... is in fact an art both estimable and very difficult, and therefore is not the labor and portion of common minds; [it] should be [practiced] by those who are themselves capable of being actors, when they see greater use in translating the works of others than in their own works, and hold higher than their own glory the service that they render their country.[17]

Other traditionsEdit

Due to Western colonialism and cultural dominance in recent centuries, Western translation traditions have largely replaced other traditions. The Western traditions draw on both ancient and medieval traditions, and on more recent European innovations.

Though earlier approaches to translation are less commonly used today, they retain importance when dealing with their products, as when historians view ancient or medieval records to piece together events which took place in non-Western or pre-Western environments. Also, though heavily influenced by Western traditions and practiced by translators taught in Western-style educational systems, Chinese and related translation traditions retain some theories and philosophies unique to the Chinese tradition.

Near EastEdit

Traditions of translating material among the languages of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Assyria (Syriac language), Anatolia, and Israel(Hebrew language) go back several millennia. There exist partial translations of the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh (c. 2000 BCE) into Southwest Asian languages of the second millennium BCE.[18]

An early example of a bilingual document is the 1274 BCE Treaty of Kadesh between the ancient Egyptian and Hittie empires.


Further information: Chinese translation theory


Buddhist Diamond Sutra, translated into Chinese by Kumārajīva: world's oldest known dated printed book (868 CE)

There is a separate tradition of translation in South, Southeast and East Asia (primarily of texts from the Indian and Chinesecivilizations), connected especially with the rendering of religious, particularly Buddhist, texts and with the governance of the Chinese empire. Classical Indian translation is characterized by loose adaptation, rather than the closer translation more commonly found in Europe; and Chinese translation theoryidentifies various criteria and limitations in translation.

In the East Asian sphere of Chinese cultural influence, more important than translation per se has been the use and reading of Chinese texts, which also had substantial influence on the Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese languages, with substantial borrowings of Chinese vocabulary and writing system. Notable is the Japanese kanbun, a system for glossing Chinese texts for Japanese speakers.

Though Indianized states in Southeast Asiaoften translated Sanskrit material into the local languages, the literate elites and scribes more commonly used Sanskrit as their primary language of culture and government.


Perry Link

Some special aspects of translating from Chinese are illustrated in Perry Link's discussion of translating the work of the Tang Dynasty poet Wang Wei (699–759 CE).[19]

Some of the art of classical Chinese poetry [writes Link] must simply be set aside as untranslatable. The internal structure of Chinese characters has a beauty of its own, and the calligraphy in which classical poems were written is another important but untranslatable dimension. Since Chinese characters do not vary in length, and because there are exactly five characters per line in a poem like [the one that Eliot Weinbergerdiscusses in 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei (with More Ways)], another untranslatable feature is that the written result, hung on a wall, presents a rectangle. Translators into languages whose word lengths vary can reproduce such an effect only at the risk of fatal awkwardness....

Another imponderable is how to imitate the 1-2, 1-2-3 rhythm in which five-syllable lines in classical Chinese poems normally are read. Chinese characters are pronounced in one syllable apiece, so producing such rhythms in Chinese is not hard and the results are unobtrusive; but any imitation in a Western language is almost inevitably stilted and distracting. Even less translatable are the patterns of tonearrangement in classical Chinese poetry. Each syllable (character) belongs to one of two categories determined by the pitch contour in which it is read; in a classical Chinese poem the patterns of alternation of the two categories exhibit parallelism and mirroring.[20]

Once the untranslatables have been set aside, the problems for a translator, especially of Chinese poetry, are two: What does the translator think the poetic line says? And once he thinks he understands it, how can he render it into the target language? Most of the difficulties, according to Link, arise in addressing the second problem, "where the impossibility of perfect answers spawns endless debate." Almost always at the center is the letter-versus-spirit dilemma. At the literalist extreme, efforts are made to dissect every conceivable detail about the language of the original Chinese poem. "The dissection, though," writes Link, "normally does to the art of a poem approximately what the scalpel of an anatomy instructor does to the life of a frog."[20]

Chinese characters, in avoiding grammaticalspecificity, offer advantages to poets (and, simultaneously, challenges to poetry translators) that are associated primarily with absences of subject, number, and tense.[21]

It is the norm in classical Chinese poetry, and common even in modern Chinese prose, to omit subjects; the reader or listener infers a subject. Some Western languages, however, ask by grammatical rule that subjects always be stated. Most of the translators cited in Eliot Weinberger's 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Weisupply a subject. Weinberger points out, however, that when an "I" as a subject is inserted, a "controlling individual mind of the poet" enters and destroys the effect of the Chinese line. Without a subject, he writes, "the experience becomes both universal and immediate to the reader." Another approach to the subjectlessness is to use the target language's passive voice; but this again particularizes the experience too much.[21]

Nouns have no number in Chinese. "If," writes Link, "you want to talk in Chinese about one rose, you may, but then you use a "measure word" to say "one blossom-of roseness."[21]

Chinese verbs are tense-less: there are several ways to specify when something happened or will happen, but verb tense is not one of them. For poets, this creates the great advantage of ambiguity. According to Link, Weinberger's insight about subjectlessness—that it produces an effect "both universal and immediate"—applies to timelessness as well.[21]

Link proposes a kind of uncertainty principle that may be applicable not only to translation from the Chinese language, but to all translation:

Dilemmas about translation do not have definitive right answers (although there can be unambiguously wrong ones if misreadings of the original are involved). Any translation (except machine translation, a different case) must pass through the mind of a translator, and that mind inevitably contains its own store of perceptions, memories, and values.

Weinberger [...] pushes this insight further when he writes that "every reading of every poem, regardless of language, is an act of translation: translation into the reader's intellectual and emotional life." Then he goes still further: because a reader's mental life shifts over time, there is a sense in which "the same poem cannot be read twice."[21]

Islamic worldEdit

Translation of material into Arabic expanded after the creation of Arabic script in the 5th century, and gained great importance with the rise of Islam and Islamic empires. Arab translation initially focused primarily on politics, rendering Persian, Greek, even Chinese and Indic diplomatic materials into Arabic. It later focused on translating classical Greek and Persian works, as well as some Chinese and Indian texts, into Arabic for scholarly study at major Islamic learning centers, such as the Al-Karaouine (Fes, Morocco), Al-Azhar (Cairo, Egypt), and the Al-Nizamiyya of Baghdad. In terms of theory, Arabic translation drew heavily on earlier Near Eastern traditions as well as more contemporary Greek and Persian traditions.

Arabic translation efforts and techniques are important to Western translation traditions due to centuries of close contacts and exchanges. Especially after the Renaissance, Europeans began more intensive study of Arabic and Persian translations of classical works as well as scientific and philosophical works of Arab and oriental origins. Arabic and, to a lesser degree, Persian became important sources of material and perhaps of techniques for revitalized Western traditions, which in time would overtake the Islamic and oriental traditions.

In the 19th century, after the Middle East's Islamic clerics and copyists

had conceded defeat in their centuries-old battle to contain the corrupting effects of the printing press, [an] explosion in publishing... ensued. Along with expanding secular education, printing transformed an overwhelmingly illiterate society into a partly literate one.

In the past, the sheikhs and the government had exercised a monopoly over knowledge. Now an expanding elite benefitted from a stream of information on virtually anything that interested them. Between 1880 and 1908... more than six hundred newspapers and periodicals were founded in Egypt alone.

The most prominent among them was al-Muqtataf... [It] was the popular expression of a translation movementthat had begun earlier in the century with military and medical manuals and highlights from the Enlightenment canon. (Montesquieu's Considerations on the Romans and Fénelon's Telemachus had been favorites.)[22]

A translator who contributed mightily to the advance of the Islamic Enlightenment was the Egyptian cleric Rifaa al-Tahtawi (1801–73), who had spent five years in Paris in the late 1820s, teaching religion to Muslim students. After returning to Cairo with the encouragement of Muhammad Ali (1769–1849), the Ottoman viceroy of Egypt, al–Tahtawi became head of the new school of languages and embarked on an intellectual revolution by initiating a program to translate some two thousand European and Turkish volumes, ranging from ancient texts on geography and geometry to Voltaire's biography of Peter the Great, along with the Marseillaise and the entire Code Napoléon. This was the biggest, most meaningful importation of foreign thought into Arabic since Abbasid times (750–1258).[23]

In France al-Tahtawi had been struck by the way the French language... was constantly renewing itself to fit modern ways of living. Yet Arabic has its own sources of reinvention. The root system that Arabic shares with other Semitic tongues such as Hebrew is capable of expanding the meanings of words using structured consonantal variations: the word for airplane, for example, has the same root as the word for bird.[24]


Muhammad Abduh

The movement to translate English and European texts transformed the Arabic and Ottoman Turkish languages, and new words, simplified syntax, and directness came to be valued over the previous convolutions. Educated Arabs and Turks in the new professions and the modernized civil serviceexpressed skepticism, writes Christopher de Bellaigue, "with a freedom that is rarely witnessed today.... No longer was legitimate knowledge defined by texts in the religious schools, interpreted for the most part with stultifying literalness. It had come to include virtually any intellectual production anywhere in the world." One of the neologisms that, in a way, came to characterize the infusion of new ideas via translation was "darwiniya", or "Darwinism".[22]

One of the most influential liberal Islamic thinkers of the time was Muhammad Abduh(1849–1905), Egypt's senior judicial authority—its chief mufti—at the turn of the 20th century and an admirer of Darwin who in 1903 visited Darwin's exponent Herbert Spencer at his home in Brighton. Spencer's view of society as an organism with its own laws of evolution paralleled Abduh's ideas.[25]

After World War I, when Britain and France divided up the Middle East's countries, apart from Turkey, between them, pursuant to the Sykes-Picot agreement—in violation of solemn wartime promises of postwar Arab autonomy—there came an immediate reaction: the Muslim Brotherhood emerged in Egypt, the House of Saud took over the Hijaz, and regimes led by army officers came to power in Iran and Turkey. "[B]oth illiberal currents of the modern Middle East," writes de Bellaigue, "Islamism and militarism, received a major impetus from Western empire-builders." As often happens in countries undergoing social crisis, the aspirations of the Muslim world's translators and modernizers, such as Muhammad Abduh, largely had to yield to retrograde currents.[26]

Fidelity and transparency


Machine translation

Literary translation

Technical translation

See also




Further reading

External links

Last edited 7 days ago by Bearcat




Sense-for-sense translation

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