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Notes from Jeremy Munday 3

Equivalence therefore continues to be a central, if criticized, concept. Kenny (2009: 96)

summarizes criticism that has targeted the ‘circularity’ of the definitions of equivalence:
‘equivalence is supposed to define translation, and translation, in turn, defines equivalence’.

Bassnett Summarizes the discussion: “Translation involves far more than replacement of lexical
and grammatical items between languages . . . Once the translator moves away from close linguistic
equivalence, the problems of determining the exact nature of the level of equivalence aimed for begin
to emerge.”

** New suggestion (A.Pym)

Pym (2007) defines two types of equivalence and describes how the rise of Computer Assisted
Translation (CAT) tools (see Chapter 11) has given a new twist to these types:

a) ‘natural’ equivalence, where the focus is on identifying naturally-occurring terms or stretches of

language in the SL and TL. Translation glossaries and term bases, for example, routinely seek to plot
‘natural’ equivalents in the relevant languages;

b) ‘directional’ equivalence, where the focus is on analysing and rendering the ST meaning in an
equivalent form in the TT. Translation memories, working on a corpus of already translated material,
impose existing ‘directional’ equivalents on the translator through the flagging up of exact and fuzzy
matches with stretches of language in the database.

In descriptive studies, perhaps the biggest bone of contention in the comparison of a ST and a TT is
the so-called tertium comparationis (‘the third comparator’), an invariant against which two text
segments can be measured to evaluate variation from a core meaning.

Take the following example of a Hausa


Linza: mi da wu:ta ma:ganin mahaukacin do:ki.
(lit. ‘A bit with fire: the medicine for a mad horse’)

TT: Desperate situations require desperate measures

Tertium comparationis
‘A very strong bit is needed to control a difficult horse’, or
‘strong action is needed to control a difficult person’

Studying translation product

and process

The scope of this book necessarily restricts us initially to

describing a small number of the best-known and most
representative models,
though we shall expand the discussion to include more recent
Thus, the focus in this first part of the chapter is on the
following two linguistic
(1) Vinay and Darbelnet’s taxonomy in Comparative Stylistics
of French and English (1958/1995), which is the classic model
and one which has had a very wide impact; and (2) Catford’s
(1965) linguistic approach, which saw the introduction of the
term ‘translation shift’

Vinay and Darbelnet’s model

Influenced by earlier work by the Russian theorist and translator Andrei Fedorov.

Vinay and Darbelnet carried out a comparative stylistic analysis of French and English. They
looked at texts in both languages, noting differences between the languages and identifying
different translation ‘strategies’ and ‘procedures’.





whereas a procedure is a specific technique or method used by the

translator at a certain point in a text (e.g. the borrowing of a word
from the SL, the addition of an explanation or a footnote in the TT).
The two general translation strategies identified by Vinay and
Darbelnet (1995/2004: 128–37) are (i) direct translation and (ii)
oblique translation, which hark back to the ‘literal vs. free’ division
discussed in Chapter 2. Indeed, ‘literal’ is given by the authors as a
synonym for direct translation (1995: 31; 2004: 128). The two
strategies comprise seven procedures, of which direct translation
covers three:
Borrowing: The SL word is transferred directly to the TL. This
category (1995: 31–2; 2004: 129) covers words such as the Russian
rouble, datcha, the later glasnost and perestroika, that are used in
English and other languages to fill a semantic gap in the TL.
Sometimes borrowings may be employed to add local colour (sushi,
kimono, Osho–gatsu . . . in a tourist brochure about Japan, for
instance). Of course, in some technical fields
there is much borrowing of terms (e.g. computer, internet, from
English to Malay).
(2) Calque: This is ‘a special kind of borrowing’ (1995: 32–3; 2004:
129–30) where the SL expression or structure is transferred in a literal
translation. For example, the French calque science-fiction for the
Vinay and Darbelnet note that both borrowings and calques often
become fully integrated into the TL, although sometimes with some
semantic change, which can turn them into false friends. An example
is the German Handy for a mobile (cell) phone.
Literal translation (1995: 33–5; 2004: 130–2):
This is ‘word-for-word’ translation, which Vinay and Darbelnet
describe as being most common between languages of the same
family and culture. Their example is:
English ST: I left my spectacles on the table downstairs.
French TT: J􀁶 ai laissé mes lunettes sur la table en bas.
Literal translation is the authors’ prescription for good
translation: ‘literalness should only be sacrificed because of structural
and metalinguistic requirements and only after checking that the
meaning is fully preserved’
(1995: 288).3 But, say Vinay and Darbelnet (ibid.: 34–5), the
translator may judge literal translation to be ‘unacceptable’ for what
are grammatical, syntactic or pragmatic reasons.
In those cases where literal translation is not possible, Vinay and
Darbelnet say that the strategy of oblique translation must be used.
This covers a further four procedures: