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Translation theorists have devised various procedures to deal with different types of texts in translation. In addition to word-for-word and sense-for-sense translations, translators may use a variety of procedures which differ according to the contextual aspects of both the ST and the TT. The present article sheds light on the most useful procedures of translation, focusing on the characteristics which distinguish their use.

a.    Transliteration

Transliteration occurs when the translator transcribes the SL characters or sounds in the TL (Bayar, 2007). [1] This procedure refers to the conversion of foreign letters into the letters of the TL. It is commonly used to deal with nouns that do not have equivalents in the TLT or to preserve the local color of the SLT. Examples of these nouns are /mitodolojya:/ ’ ميتدلوجيا ’, /bibliyografya:/ ’ بيبليوغرافيا ,’ /joRrafiya/ ’ جغرافيا ,’ /ikolojya/ ’ ايكلوجيا ’ and /opira/ ’ أوبيرا ’ from the English words ’methodology,’ ’bibliography,’ ’geography,’ ’ecology’ and ’opera.’ In fact, transliteration is subject of much controversy, for many scholars refuse to consider it as a translation proper because it relies on transcription instead of translation.

b.     Borrowing

Borrowing refers to the case where a word or an expression is taken from the SL and used in the TL, but in a ‘naturalized’ form. That is, it is made to conform to the rules of grammar or pronunciation of the TL. An example of Borrowing is the verb ’mailer,’ which is used in Canadian-French utterance. Here, the French suffix-er is added to the English verb ’mail’ to conform to the French rules of verb-formation (Harding & Riley 1986). [2]

Borrowed words may sometimes have different semantic significations from those of the original language. For instance, the word ‘flirter,’ which refers in French to a sexual foreplay, is used in English to mean behaving towards someone as though one were in love with but without serious intentions. (Bayar 2007). [3] Borrowing in translation is not always justified by lexical gaps in the TL. It can also be used as a way to preserve the semiotic and cultural aspects of the original word in translation.

c.     Calque

The term ‘calque,’ or ‘Through-Translation’ as Newmark (1988) [4] called it, refers to the case where the translator imitates in his translation the structure or manner of expression of the ST. Calque may introduce a structure that is stranger from the TL. For instance, ‘champions league,’ ‘week-end’ and ‘iceberg’ are used in French though it does not consist of such English structure ’NP+NP.’ Calque is widely used by translators to deal with names of international organizations. Examples of these names are: European Cultural Convention, Convention culturelle européenne; and study group, group d’étude (Newmark 1988). [5]

Calque expression concerns the imitation of the manner of expression of the ST in the TT. According to Vinay and Darbelnet, Canadians are accustomed to use the expression ’les compliments de la saison,’ which is an imitation of the English expression ’season greeting,’ (current French: fruit de saison) (cited in Bayar 2007). [6]

d.    Transposition

Transposition, or shift as Catford called it, reflects the grammatical change that occurs in translation from SL to TL. Newmark (1988), [7] argues that transposition consists of four types of grammatical changes. The first type concerns words’ form and position. For instance, ‘furniture’ is translated as ‘des meubles’ and ‘equipment’ as ‘des équipements.’ Here, it is obvious that the English singular words are changed to plural forms in French. Concerning position change, it refers to the shift that occurs in words order. To clarify this procedure, let’s see the following English/Arabic examples: ’a red car,’ ’ سيارة حمراء ;’ ’a beautiful girl,’ ’ فتاة جميلة .’ Here, we notice that the position of the adjective changes from English to Arabic. This change in position is not random; it rather depends on the TL structure.

The second type of transposition is usually used when the TL does not have the equal grammatical structure of the SL. Here, the translator looks for other options that help conveying the meaning of the ST. For example, the gerund in the English expression ’terrorizing civilians…’ can be translated into French in two different ways:

The subordinate clause: ’si vous terroriser les civils,…’

The verb-noun : ’le terrorisme contre les civils…’

For the third type, Newmark (1988) [8] defines it as "the one where literal translation is grammatically possible but may not accord with the natural usage in the TL." Transposition here offers translators a plenty of possible versions. For instance, the SL verb can shift to a TL empty verb plus noun:

J’ai parlé au parlement hier.

I gave a speech in the parliament yesterday.

The SL adverbial phrase becomes an adverb in the TL:

ST: D’une façon cruelle.

TT: Cruelly.

The fourth type occurs when the translator uses a grammatical structure as a way to replace a lexical gap. For the sake of clarification, one of the interesting examples given by Newmark (1988) [9] in his Textbook of Translation is used below :

ST: Après sa sortie.

TT: After he’d gone out.

It is obvious here that the grammatical structure of the TLT is used by the translator as a way to compensate for the lexical gap existing in its linguistic system.

In short, transposition concerns the changes of grammatical categories in translation. This procedure is very common among translators, for it offers them a variety of possibilities that help avoiding problems of untranslatability. It should be noted that translators mostly use transposition intuitively while looking for ways to transfer the ST into the TT.

e.     Modulation

Modulation is defined by Gérard Hardin and Gynthia Picot (1990) as "a change in point of view that allows us to express the same phenomenon in a different way." [10] This semantic-pragmatic procedure that changes the category of thought, the focus, the point of view and the whole conceptualization is distinguished, according to Vinay and Darbelnet (1977: 11, cited in Bayar 2007), [11] into two types: ‘recorded modulation,’ also called ‘standard modulation,’ and free modulation. Recorded modulation is usually used in bilingual dictionaries. It is conventionally established and is considered by many to be a ready-made procedure. An example of this type is given by Bayar (2007): [12] ’help-line,’ ’ خلية انصات ,’ ’cellule d’écoute.’

Concerning ‘free modulation,’ it is practical in cases where "the TL rejects literal translation" (Vinay and Darbelnet, cited in Bayar 2007). [13] Vinay and Darbelnet distinguished between eleven categories of free modulation: ‘Negated contrary,’ for instance, is a procedure that relies on changing the value of the ST in translation from negative to positive or vice versa. The examples ’it is difficult,’ ’he never lies’ and ’remember to pay the taxe’ can be translated as ’ce n’est pas facile,’ ’il est honnête’ and ’n’oublier pas de payer la taxe,’ respectively. It is noteworthy here that the accuracy of these examples depends on the context and that modulation becomes compulsory when there is a lexical gap in the target language (Newmark 1988). [14]

Another category of modulation is ’part of the whole.’ ’La fille aimée de l’Eglise,’ for instance, stands for ’France’ (Newmark 1988) [15] and ’ اليد العاملة ’ stands for ’workers.’

Free modulation also consists of other procedures such as abstract for concrete, cause for effect, space for time. Nevertheless, impersonal or active for passive is still the most useful procedure in translation. The following translation gives an example of active for passive modulation:

He is said to be serious.

On dit qu’il est sérieux.

In sum, modulation occurs when there is a change of perspective accompanied by a lexical change in the TL. This procedure should better be avoided unless it is necessary for the naturalness of the translation.

f.      Reduction and expansion

These two procedures are usually used in poor written texts and lead to a change in lexical and stylistic aspects. Expansion refers to the case where the translator exceeds the number of words of the SLT in translation, as the following example shows:

ST: Homme noir

TT: Dark skinned man.

This example shows a shift from n+adj in French to adj+ptp (compound adj) +noun. Expansion procedure also occurs when the translator tries to shift from the implicit to the explicit. For instance, ’the child cries for the game’ should not be translated as ’l’enfant pleure pour le jeux,’ since the term ’pour’ does not convey the right meaning and may mislead the reader. The translator here should look for another explicit meaning of the item ’pour’ which is ’pour avoir (in order to get), as in ’l’enfant pleure pour avoir le jeux.’

In reduction procedure, the translator is more likely to reduce the number of elements that form the SLT. This procedure should respect the principle of relevance. That is, the translator ought to make sure that no crucial information is omitted in the translation. An example of reduction in translation is ’sciences politiques:’ ’politics.’ Here, the SL adjective plus noun becomes a general noun (politics) in the TL.

g.    Adaptation

In adaptation, the translator changes the content and form of the ST in a way that conforms to the rules of the target language and culture. In general, this procedure is used to deal with culturally-bound words or expressions, metaphors and images in translation. Monia Bayar (2007) [16] argues that adaptation is based on three main procedures: cultural substitution, paraphrase and omission.

Cultural substitution refers to the case where the translator uses equivalent words that are ready-made in the TL and serve the same goal as those of the SL. In other words, the translator substitutes cultural words of the SL by cultural words of the TL. An example of cultural substitution is used in the translation of the expressions below:

Tel père, tel fils : هذا الشبل من ذاك الأسد .

She is innocent as an egg : elle est innocente comme un agneau.

The translator in the above examples substitutes the STs by expressions which are culturally specific in the TL. In the last example, for instance, he uses the term ‘agneau’ as a cultural equivalent for the word ‘egg,’ which also connotes imbecility, as in the example "ne fait pas l’oeuf:" "ne fait pas l’imbécile" (Hardin & Picot 1990). [17] Yet, if the translator cannot find a cultural expression to substitute the SL expression, he may resort to paraphrase.

The procedure of paraphrase is used to surpass all cultural barriers that the ST presents for the translator. It is based on explanations, additions and changes in words’ order. For instance, the English metaphor "he is a ship without compass" has no cultural equivalent in Arabic. Thus, the saying could be translated as " انه يعيش في عالم من الضياع لا موجها له فيه ". Actually, paraphrase is not only used in culturally-bound texts, but also in poor written and anonymous texts which include omissions (Newmark, 1988). [18] One of the drawbacks of paraphrase is infidelity to the ST. The translator should not overuse this procedure unless necessary, otherwise his translation will be judged as different from the original.

Omission means the deletion of a word or words from the SLT while translating. This procedure is used to deal with the cultural disparity existing between the SL and the TL. In fact, translation by omission is very common in subtitling. Translators usually omit vulgar words that do not have equivalents in the TT, or that may not be accepted by the receptor. Arab translators, for instance, omit English taboos while translating films into Arabic for the sake of respecting Arab receptors, who may not tolerate their use.

In short, adaptation is an important procedure of translation. It enhances the readability of the TT and eases the receptor’s understanding of the ST’s ideas, images, metaphors and culture through his own language and culture. Cultural substitution, paraphrase and omission offer various possibilities for translators to deal with culturally-bound texts.

h.    Additions, notes and glosses

These procedures are used by translators to give information about culturally-bound words or technical words that are related to a specific domain. They may occupy various places within the text. They can be used inside the text, and here they should be enclosed by round or square brackets, except in case these brackets are used as parts of the SLT. They can also be used as notes in the bottom of the page, or at the end of the chapter, unless the chapter is too long. Further, additional information can be written as glosses at the end of the book, with the help of number references. However, this procedure is less favored by translators because it can be exhausting for the reader to move to the end of the translated book every time he finds a cultural or technical word. Finally, the use of these procedures depends on the target reader and the degree of the gap existing between his language and the SLT. It is recommended that these procedures should be preceded by a short introduction where the translator discusses the difficulty of the author’s terms and his ways and degrees of assistance in transferring their meanings.

In summary, the present article provides an overview of the main procedures used by translators to deal with different types of texts and to avoid issues of untranslatability. It shows that each procedure has its own characteristics and purposes in translation. Translators may restrict themselves to one procedure, or use two, three or even four procedures in translation. This technique is referred to as couplets, triplets and quadruplets.





[1] Monia Bayar, (2007). To Mean or Not to Mean , Kadmous cultural foundation. Khatawat for publishing and distribution. Damascus, Syria, pp. 67-68.

[2] Harding, E. & Riley, P. (1986). The Bilingual Family :  A Handbook for Parents , Cambridge University Press, p. 57.

[3] Monia Bayar, op.cit., (2007), p.68.

[4] Peter Newmark. (1988). A Textbook of Translation . London and New York: Prentice Hall International (UK) Ltd,p. 84.

[5] Ibid, p. 84.

[6] Monia Bayar, op. cit ., (2007), p. 70.

[7] Peter Newmark, op. cit ., (1988), pp. 85-86.

[8] Ibid, p. 86.

[9] Ibid, p. 87.

[10] Gérard Hardin & Cynthia Picot, (1990) Translate: Initiation à la pratique de la traduction , Bordas, Paris: Aubin Imprimeur, p. 21 . "Un changement de point de vue qui permet d’exprimer de manière différente une même phénomène".

[11] Monia Bayar, op. cit ., (2007), p. 76.

[12] Ibid, p. 77.

[13] Ibid, p. 77. "Lorsque la langue d’arrivée rejette la traduction littérale."

[14] Peter Newmark. op. cit ., (1988), p. 88

[15] Ibid, p. 89.

[16] Monia Bayar, op. cit ., (2007), p. 80-82.

[17] Gérard Hardin & Cynthia Picot, op. cit ., (1990), p. 23.

[18] Peter Newmark, op. cit ., (1988), p. 90.

Published - October 2008

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