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# Lecture 4. TRANSLATION EQUIVALENCE AND EQUIVALENTS

This Lecture: introduces the notion of equivalence and translation units;

- shows:

- how the notion of equivalence can be applied to translation at syntactic, semantic and pragmatic levels;

- how dictionary equivalents can be used in translation;

- how translation equivalence is related to that of units of translation;

- discusses:

- the optimal length of text for translation;

- to what extent the idea of full equivalence is adequate;

- how and how often translators deal with partial equivalents;

- the importance of semantic and pragmatic similarity.

Translation equivalence is the key idea of translation. According to A.S. Hornby21 equivalent means equal in value, amount, volume, etc. What does it mean if applied to translation? This lecture is an attempt to answer this question which - you will see it yourself - is not so simple.

The principle of equivalence is based on the mathematical law of transitivity that reads: if A is equal to C and В is equal to C, then В equals A.

-As applied to translation, equivalencemeans that if a word or word combination of one language (A) corresponds to certain concept (C) and a word or word combination of another language (B) corresponds to the same concept (C) these words or word combinations are considered equivalent (connected by the equivalence relation).

In other words, in translation equivalent means indirectly equal, that is equal by the similarity of meanings. Por example, words table and стіл are equivalent through the similarity of the meanings of the Ukrainian word стіл and one! of the meanings of the English word table. In general sense and in general case words table and стіл are not equal or equivalent - they are equivalent only under specific translation conditions.

This simple idea is very important for the understanding of translation: the words that you find in a dictionary as translations of the given foreign language word are not the universal substitutes of this word in your language. These translations (equivalents) are worth for specific cases which are yet to be determined by the translator.

Let us recall now the relationship between signs of the language, mental concepts and denotata (see Lecture 1). As you might remember the relation between a language sign (word or word combination) and the fragment of the real world it denotes is indirect and intermediated by the mental concept. You might also recall that the mental concept of a given language sign is usually rather broad and complex, consisting of a lexical meaning or meanings, a grammatical meaning or meanings, connotations and associations. It is also worth reminding that the mental concept of a word (and word combination) is almost never precisely outlined and may be different even in the minds of different speakers of the same language, not to mention the speakers of different languages.

All this naturally speaks for the complexity of finding the proper and only translation equivalent of the given word. Moreover, considering all just said, one may conclude that translation equivalence never means the sameness of the meaning for the signs of different languages.

H Translation equivalents in a dictionary are just the prompts for the translator. One may find a proper equivalent only in speech due to the context, situation and background knowledge.

Let's take an example. English word picture is generally considered equivalent to Ukrainian word картина. However, already in the context to take pictures {фотографувати) this equivalent is no longer correct and the word picture seems to have here no equivalent (zero equivalent); in another context English in pictures because of the situation (pictures in the book are small) equivalent картина acquires a diminutive suffix англійська в картинках; in a different situation, that of a painters studio or gallery it is полотно that becomes the Ukrainian equivalent of the English word picture and this equivalent, as well as others, disappears again in the context put me in the picture (введіть мене в курс справ).

Even in case of terms and geographical names one cannot say for sure that their meanings in different languages are universally equivalent. Again one can say this only in relation to a specific context, situation and piece of background information. For example, such seemingly unambiguous chemical term as zinc diethyl dithiophosphate is translated in special texts as протизадирна присадка but not always as діетилдитіо-фосфат цинку. То take another example, Africa is not always translated as Африка, one may also find чорний континент as its equivalent and this again means that translation equivalence depends on the context, situation and background knowledge.

The idea of translation equivalence is strongly related to that of the unit of translation,i. e. the text length required to obtain proper equivalent.

From our previous discussion we already know that one word is hardly a common unit of translation. It is especially true for so called analytical languages like English in which the words are usually polysemantic and their meaning strongly depends on the environment.

One is more likely to find a universal equivalent for a word combination, in particular for a clicheed one (e. g. hands up, ready made, good riddance, etc.), because a word combination is already a small context and the clicheed expressions are commonly used in similar situations. The general rule of translation reads: the longer is the source text, the bigger is a chance to find proper and correct translation equivalen2.

Traditionally and from practical viewpoint the optimal length of text for translation is a sentence.

Being a self-sustained syntactic entity a sentence usually contains enough syntactic and semantic information for translation. However, there are cases (and not so rare ones) when a broader stretch of the source text (called discourse) is required. It supplies additional information necessary for translation.

Let's consider the sentence: Partisans do not always play to type. One can obtain its proper Ukrainian equivalent Члени партії не завжди діють відповідно до типового уявлення про цю партію only having considered the information supplied by the discourse (that George W. Bush after the election might not behave as a typical Republican).

Thus, put with certain degree of simplification, equivalence is a similarity of meaning observed in the units of different languages and used for translation. The units of the target language with meanings similar to the relevant units of the source language are called translation equivalents. Modern translation theory suggests two basic grades of translation equivalents.

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