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The Translation Equivalence Delusion

Meaning and Translation

Tomasz P. Krzeszowski

Almost everything that one claims about meaning is likely to be questioned or disputed. Translation studies also abound in numerous controversies. However, there is no doubt that translations entail a transfer of meaning, even if the exact sense of the word "meaning" remains vague. The same applies to the term "translation equivalence". This book is an attempt to cope with conceptual, terminological, theoretical, and practical difficulties resulting from this nebula of issues. Numerous examples of translated legal, religious and artistic texts are provided to substantiate the claim that translation equivalence, except in the most trivial sense of the term, is indeed a delusion. The book is addressed to all those persons who are interested in mutual relations between semantics and translation studies.

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Chapter Three: Translating various elements of meaning


8.   Alternative construals

8.1   Different construals across texts within 2-texts

The examples of 2-texts discussed in this section are taken from three novels: one translated from Polish into English and the other two translated from English into Polish. In all the examples the arrow indicates the direction of translation from the source text to the target text. The numbers in parantheses refer to pages in the quoted books:

As was said earlier (Part 1:3.2), one object of experience, which can be technically called ‘scene’, can be construed in a number of ways according to different dimensions of imagery including profiling, specificity, scale and scope, trajector and landmark, background assumptions and expectations, and perspective, i.e. orientation, vantage point, directionality, and objectivity. One can expect these construals to be preserved in translation, and they often are indeed preserved. Yet, in many cases they are not. Below we present a number of 2-texts in which the target text represents a different construal than the source text with respect to one or more dimensions of imagery. Since these dimensions of imagery are mutually co-related, a change of conceptualization along one of these dimensions may automatically bring about proportional or inversely proportional changes along other dimensions. Therefore, many of the examples presented and discussed in this section are repeated under different headings with different elements being focused on. ← 291 | 292 →

8.2   Profiling

Profiling always evokes some conceptual domain in which a particular...

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