Translation definition




1. Translation definition.

2. Basic translation theories.

2.1. transformational approach;

2.2. denotative approach;

2.3. communicational approach.

3. Translation ranking.

4. Translation equivalence and equivalents.

5. Types of translation equivalence

6. Levels of equivalence

7. Types of translation

8. Factors influencing the choice of equivalents



Translation means both a process and a result. In order to explain translation we need to compare the original (source) text and the resulting (target) one.

The formation of the source and target texts is governed by the rules characteristic of the source and target languages. Hence the systems of the two languages are included in our sphere of interest. These systems consist of grammar units and rules, morphological and word-building elements and rules, stylistic variations, and lexical distribution patterns (lexico-semantic paradigms). Language itself is a formal model of thinking, i.e. of mental concepts we use when thinking.

In translation we deal with two languages (two codes) and to verify the information they give us about the extralinguistic objects (and concepts) we should consider extralinguistic situation, and background information.

As an object of linguistic study translation is a complex entity consisting of the following interrelated components:

a) elements and structures of the source text;

b) elements and structures of the target language;

c) transformation rules to transform the elements and structures of the source text into those of the target text;

d) systems of the languages involved in translation;

e) conceptual content and organization of the source text;

f) conceptual content and organization of the target text;

g) interrelation of the conceptual contents of the source and target texts.


In short, translation is functional interaction of languages and to study this process we should study both the interacting elements and the rules of interaction.

Among interacting elements we must distinguish between the observable and those deducible from the observables. The observable elements in translation are parts of words, words, and word combinations of the source text.

However, translation process involves parts of words, words, and word combinations of the target language (not of the target text, because when we start translating or, to be more exact, when we begin to build a model of future translation, the target text is yet to be generated). These translation components are deducible from observable elements of the source text.

In other words, one may draw the following conclusion:

During translation one intuitively fulfills the following operations:

a. deduces the target language elements and rules of equivalent selection and substitution on the basis of observed source text elements;

b. builds a model consisting of the target language elements selected for substitution;

c. verifies the model of the target text against context, situation and background information;

d. generates the target text on the basis of the verified model.


Thus, the process of translation may be represented as consisting of three stages:

1) analysis of the source text, situation and background information,

2) synthesis of the translation model, and

3) verification of the model against the source and target context (semantic, grammatical, stylistic), situation, and background information resulting in the generation of the final target text.

Let us illustrate this process using a simple assumption that you receive for translation one sentence at a time (by the way this assumption is a reality of consecutive translation).

For example, if you received:

At the first stage the chips are put on the conveyer as the source sentence. Unless you observe or know the situation your model of the target text will be: () ( ) ( ) () .

Having verified this model against the context provided in the next sentence (verification against semantic context):

Then they are transferred to the frying ovenyou will obtain: .

It looks easy and self-evident, but it is important, indeed, for understanding the way translation is done. In the case we have just discussed the translation model is verified against the relevance of the concepts corresponding to the word chips in all its meanings to the concept of the word frying (Is it usually fried? Or Is it worth frying?).

Verification against semantic and grammatical context is performed either simultaneously (if the grammatical and semantic references are available within a syntagma) or the verification against semantic context is delayed until the availability of a relevant semantic reference which may be available in one of the following rather than in one and the same sentence. Cases when the grammatical, semantic or situational references are delayed or missing present serious problems for translation.

The examples of specifying contexts are given in Table below.


Long stick longrun grammatical and semantic context in one syntagma
The results are shown in the table Put this book on the table grammatical and semantic context in one sentence
The tanks were positioned in specially built shelters and the tank operating proved successful. The enemy could not detect them from the air. Semantic context in different sentences


With these examples we want to stress a very important fact for translation: the co-occurring words of the words situated close to each other in a source text have invisible pointers indicating various kinds of grammatical, semantic and stylistic information. This information is stored in human memory, and the principal task of a translator is to visualize all of this information.

In the examples with chips we used so called deduction modeling, that is, we built our translation on the basis of our knowledge about the languages involved in translation and the knowledge of the way things are in life (e.g. that it is hardly reasonable to fry fried potatoes or fragmented stones). We intuitively formulated hypotheses about translation of certain words and phrases and then verified them.

So, speaking very generally, when we translate the first thing we do is analyzing the source text trying to extract from it all available information necessary for generating the target text (build the intermediate model of the target text), then verify this information against situation and background knowledge and generate the target text.

For example, let the source text be:

Europes leaders trust that these criticisms will pale into insignificance when the full import of expansion begins to grip the public mind.

Then, omitting the grammatical context which seems evident (though, of course, we have already analyzed it intuitively) we may suggest the following intermediate model of the target text that takes into account only semantic ambiguities:

/ / //, / /, () / /.

On the basis of this model we may already suggest a final target text alternative:

˳ , , . [It goes without saying that this target text alternative is not the only one many other alternatives are possible].

It is important to bear in mind that in human translation (unlike automatic) the intermediate representation of the target text will comprise on the conscious level only the most problematic variations of translation which one cannot resolve immediately.

We seldom notice this mental work of ours but always do it when translating. However, the way we do it is very much dependent on general approach, i.e., on translation theories which are our next subject.



  1. Antonymic translation
  2. B) Partial Translation Equivalents
  3. Basic translation theories
  4. By Descriptive or Interpreting Translation
  5. Definition of a matrix.
  6. Definition of philosophy
  7. Definition of way of crystallization at polymorphic transformations
  8. Definitions
  9. Faithful and equivalent translation.
  10. Free Translation
  11. Literal translation
  12. Map of disciplines interfacing with Translation Studies

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Language as a means of communication | Basic translation theories

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