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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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Introduction

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Almost everything that one claims about meaning is likely to be questioned or disputed. Translation studies also abound in numerous controversies. Therefore, juxtaposing meaning and translation under one title appears to be a very risky enterprise indeed. Yet, this risk must be undertaken since both these subjects are taught in numerous departments of modern languages and applied linguistics, as well as in schools of translation and in other institutions where linguistics and translation studies, sometimes also called translatology, are taught. Despite all the controversies, there are several truths which appear to be unshakable. One of them concerns the very theme of the present book viz. that translation entails meaning. This means that whenever one talks about translation, one must necessarily talk about meaning even if the opposite may not be true. One can approach meaning in abstraction from its possible relation to translation. The fact that translation evokes meaning results from another unshakable fact, namely that translation is a specific form of communication which rests on meaning. In Leech’s words “Semantics (as the study of meaning) is central to the study of communication.” (Leech 1974:ix). It follows that translation cannot be approached in isolation from meaning and anything that is said and claimed about translation must needs be placed in the context of meaning. Accordingly, the first part of the present book concerns this necessary context, while the second part views translation in terms of the semantic framework presented in the first part.

Both parts...

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