* Translation Equivalence (TE) and Different Theories

Translation Equivalence (TE) and Different Theories

By: Alireza Sadeghi Ghadi, MA Student of Translation, Fars Science and Research University, Iran


Dr.Amir Marzban, PHD in TEFL, Faculty Member of Ghaemshar Azad University, Iran 


Therefore, many studies have been focused on the nature, interlingual and

intertextual, empirical and theoretical notion of equivalence in recent years

(Catford 1965, 1994, Pym 1992, Koller 1979, Toury 1980, Hutchins and Somers

1992, Arnold 1994). The domain of equivalents covers linguistic units such as

morphemes, words, phrases, clauses, idioms and proverbs (Baker 1992).

Through using finding equivalence strategies, the translators also attempt to

improve the chance of persuading their readers by making better their qualities

of translation (Neubert 1985).


When a translator attempts to translate a text from one language (source) to

another language (target), s/he should first of all understand and comprehend the

source text and then translates it to the target language. Therefore, the full

awareness of the source and target text for finding accurate and appropriate

equivalence in rendering of the contents of the text for reader.

Leonardi (2000) believes that equivalence is the central issue in translation

although its definition, relevance, and applicability within the field of translation

theory have caused heated controversy, and many different theories of the

concept of equivalence have been elaborated within this field in the past fifty


The study of equivalence in translation shows how translators accurately

render text in translation from source language (SL) into target language or vice

versa. According to Halverson (1997), analogies between the equivalence

concept and a concept of scientific knowledge as it is and has been studied with

in the philosophy of science are highly informative in painting out the

philosophical issues involved in equivalence, translation, and knowledge. He

also believes that rather than dismissing the concept as ill – defined or

imprecise, it is in the interest of the field of translation studies to consider the

origins and manifestations of this ‘imprecision’ in order that we may be better

informed and less inclined towards theoretical antagonism.

Therefore the translators, by finding equivalence in translation can show the

tentative nature of their assertions, invite the readers, as intelligent individuals,

to join and decide which translation is accurately render the ideas, concepts and

words of original text.

Historical Background

According to Halverson (1997, p.207-210) equivalence is defined as a

relationship existing between two entities, and the relationship is described as

one of likeness/ sameness/ similarity/ equality in terms of any of a number of

potential qualities. Proponents of equivalence based theories of translation

usually define equivalence as the relationship between a source text (ST) and a

target text (TT) that allows the TL to be considered as a translation of the ST in

the first place. Equivalence relationships are also said to hold between parts of

ST and parts of TL the above definition of equivalence is not unproblematic.

Pym (1992, p.37), for one, has pointed to its circularity: equivalence is supposed

to define translation, and translation, in turn, defines equivalence. Unfortunately,

a few attempts have been made to define equivalence in translation in a way that

avoids this circularity (Dorothy, 1998).

Theorists who maintain that translation is predicated upon some kind of

equivalence have, for the most part, concentrated on developing typologies of

equivalence, focusing on the rank (word, sentence or text level) at which

equivalence is said to obtain or on the type of meaning (denotative, connotative,

pragmatic, etc.) that is said to be held constant in translation.

Snell – Hornby suggests that the applicability of an equivalence concept in

translation studies exist at the level of terminology and nomenclature, “though

even here reservations are called for”, In Wilss approach (1982) on the other

hand, translation equivalence was “an empirical phenomenon which carries with

it problems which presently can be solved, if at all, only for each individual

translation text”.

Numerous scholars, including Eugene Nida (1964), Roman Jakobson

(1959), John C. Catford (1965), Juliane House (1977), peter Newmark (1988),

Vinay and Darblenet (1995) (addressed the subject of translation equivalence

(TE) using either the linguistic approach or the functional approach their

common approach was to set the rules of TE and then to use samples drawn

from texts to support the rules. In other words, the focus of their TE studies gave

priority over practice and to fixed norms over dynamic principles.

Newmark (1988) examined the translation equivalence concept from

perspective that swung “between literal and free, faithful and beautiful, exact

and natural translation, depending on whether the bias was to be in favor of the

author or the reader, the source or target language of the text”. He clarified that

“communicative translation attempts to produce in its readers an effect as close

as possible to that produced in the readers of the original” and that “ semantic

translation attempts to render as closely as the semantic and syntactic structure

of the second language allow, the exact contextual meaning of the original”.

G. Jager (1989, p.33), from the Leipzig school of translation, presents his

view about the importance of dealing scientifically with the concept of

translation equivalence, more specifically in relation to the possibility or the

need of using this concept for practical goals of the so called automatic

translation: against the background of modern conceptions of translation theory

which attempt to understand globally the linguistic exchange, there arises

inevitably the question about the general meaningfulness of research on the

discovery and description of equivalence relations. Undoubtly we would give an

affirmative answer to this question and here we bear in mind specially a

demanding test case for the science of translation: automatic translation”.

J.House (1997) expresses his point of view about translation equivalence as

follows: “The notion of equivalence is the conceptual basis of translation and, to

quote Catford, ‘the central problem of translation practice is that of finding TL

(target language) equivalents. A central task of translation theory is therefore

that of defining the nature and conditions of translation equivalence’ (1965 p.

21)” (p.25). After with the awareness of the concept of translation equivalence,

in the next section we study different taxonomies and typologies of equivalence

which are presented by renowned and famous theoreticians.

Typologies of Equivalence

Nida (1969) argued that there are two different types of equivalence, namely

formal equivalence which in the second edition by Nida and Taber (1982) is

referred to as formal correspondence and dynamic equivalence.

Formal correspondence ‘focuses attention on the message itself, in both form

and content’. Nida and Taber make it clear that there is not always formal

equivalence between language pairs. They therefore suggest that this formal

equivalence should use wherever possible if the translation aims at achieving

formal rather than dynamic equivalence.

The uses of formal equivalence sometimes have serious implications in TT

Comments (2)


Jan 05, 2012 at 2:04 AM

I would like to change back links using your site is this kind of feasible?


Jan 17, 2011 at 4:00 PM

There are so many type of cases we can think of, anyway in the end life fcuk us all;

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