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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 Five: Translation accuracy

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16. Translation accuracy

Successful translation is to a large extent contingent on the degree of accuracy with which the source text has been translated. The degree of accuracy can be objectively assessed when the source text and the target texts are compared along a number of parameters assumed to be relevant, which eventually yield specific TCs and equivalences (cf. Chapter Two). Following this course, detailed comparisons will reveal divergences between the source text and the target texts with regard to a number of seemingly irrelevant minutiae constituting specific TCs. Such divergences as are revealed can be easily quantified in terms of percentages reflecting degrees of accuracy in rendering particular details. The sum of all divergences between the source text and each particular target text will yield the total percentage indicating the degree of overall accuracy of translation characterizing each and every target text. Once all the total percentages are calculated, the target texts making up this particular translation series can be ranked from the most to the least accurate.

In the next few subsections the concept of translation accuracy is discussed in more detail, with selected religious, poetic and legal 2-texts as examples.

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