As I’ve become more involved in ‘artistic’ translation, i.e. the translation of fiction and creative writing, I’ve thought more about the problem of equivalence in translation. It is an ongoing discussion in Translation Theory, as there are various approaches and schools of thought, ranging from grammatical and linguistic equivalence to semantic equivalence. Here is an overview of some of the contributions to theories of equivalence in the last century.
Linguistic vs. Semantic Equivalence
Roman Jacobson made a valuable contribution to the development of translation theory.He introduced the concept of “equivalence in difference” which had an important meaning for the further development of the translation theory. Roman Jacobson distinguished three kinds of translation, which included:
– intralingual (dealing with one language)
Some favorite passages from Paul Bowles great novel, The Sheltering Sky:
“Because neither she nor Port had ever lived a life of any kind of regularity, they had both made the fatal error of coming hazily to regard time as non-existent. One year was like another year. Eventually everything would happen.”
“He stood looking up the valley a little wistfully, his tongue seeking the fig seeds between his teeth, with the small tenacious flies forever returning to crawl along his face. And it occurred to him that a walk through the countryside was a sort of epitome of the passage through life itself. One never took the time to savor the details; one said: another day, but always with the hidden knowledge that each day was unique and final, that there never would be a return, another time.”
“Death is always on the way, but the fact that you don’t know when it will arrive seems to take away from the finiteness of life. It’s that terrible precision that we hate so much. But because we don’t know, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.”