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Translation Quality Assessment: The Examination of a Literary Text by Baker’s Taxonomy

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Asghar Haghani photoJavad Heidary photoThis study aims to evaluate the translation of a literary text, namely, Ante-gone which was translated from English into Persian. Firstly, literary Translation and its relevant issues will be explicated. Then, some aspects of translation quality assessment (TQA) will be elaborated. Finally, a Persian translation of the above-mentioned English literary work, namely, ”Ante-gone” is going to be evaluated based on Baker’s taxonomy of translation.

Key words: Translation Quality Assessment, Literary Translation, Baker’s Taxonomy.


Basically, majority of scholars of translation and translators believe translating literary works is more difficult than translating other types of texts. Some scholars contended that this is because of the fact that literary texts or works contain specific words and structures. These structures bring specific values to literary texts which make their translations very difficult.

The traditional discussion of the problems about literary translation regards searching for proper equivalents for lexical items and syntactic structures. However, recent studies pay much attention to some other features like style, genre, figurative language, and connotation. The choices made by the translators like the decision whether to retain the stylistic features of the source language text or whether to retain the historical stylistic dimension of the original becomes the most important issue in the case of literary translation.

Literature Review

Some translation scholars consider literary texts different from other texts just in terms of words and structures. However, others regard some other aspects besides word and structures. In addition, they contend that literary texts are the production of cultures. This is also related to the social aspects.

Therefore, any literary work is the matter of social and cultural aspects.

The assumption that literary texts or works are closely related to the culture and society comes from significant ideas of four scholars and theorists, namely, Andre, Tory, Evan-Zahra, and Theo Herman. All these theorists consider literature as a system. They are central system and peripheral system. Furthermore, André contends that literature is one of the systems which constitute the systems of discourse. In addition, he refers to literature as a subsystem of a society or a culture. It may mean that literary translation is also the translation which is related to the cultural and social issues and matters.

Here, two points of view were elaborated. The first one posits that literary translation is just matter of different words and structures. This is due to fact that literature comprises different words and structures. Consequently, for this point of view, in the process of literary translation, translating just word and structures from one language into another is adequate. On the other hand, the second point of view contends that literature is the matter of culture and society or literature is subsystem of society and culture. Andre maintains that literature is one of the systems which constitute the system of discourses in society and culture.

Hypothetically, parallel to these two ideas toward literary translation, there are approaches of TQA which regard both ideas. Traditional approach which is taken into consideration by some translation theorists like Nabokov and the others. The recent or novel approach which is culture-bound is regarded by some other scholar like Mona Baker.

Baker theorized a taxonomy which is based on equivalence. Various equivalents were introduced by Mona Baker. On the basis of what has been mentioned before, Baker’s equivalents almost consider both views of TQA. This is because of the types of equivalents which are taken into consideration by Mona Baker. Baker’s equivalents comprise both approaches (Traditional approach which is word and structure-based and novel approach which is culture-based).Although Baker’s taxonomy of equivalents is not specifically theorized for literary translation, it can be applied in this field as a type of a translation, generally.

To put it in a nutshell, this study regards Baker’s taxonomy as a model for translation quality assessment. In other words, Baker’s model will be utilized in order to evaluate a translation of a literary text.

In fact, Baker’s taxonomy of equivalents will be a model for assessing translation quality of an English literary text, namely, Ante-gone which was rendered into Persian.


In accordance with Baker, there are, at least, five levels for equivalence. They are as follows:

Word level: This equivalence exists in almost all languages of the world. It is at the level of the word.

Above word level: This equivalence comprises collocation meaning of a group of the words.

Grammatical level: This equivalence includes word order in a sentence.

Textual level: This equivalence includes thematic and information structures like cohesive devices like references, substitution, ellipsis, conjunction, and lexical cohesion.

Pragmatic level: This level of equivalence comprises coherence and processes of interpretation like speech act forces.

As a part of literature, Ante-gone is a drama written by Sophocles. It is a story happened at the time of pagan Greece. Ante-gone is the daughter of Oedipus and Jacinta. She has a sister by the name of Ismene. The uncle of Ante-gone is the king of Thebes. In this story or playwright Ante-gone is called a tragic heroin.

Ante-gone as an English text was translated by Alidade and Davidic.

This study is going to evaluate the Persian translation of Ante-gone according to Baker’s taxonomy. It includes the following steps:

1.     From among fifty problematic paragraphs, five paragraph will be selected randomly to be evaluated.(population and sample)

2.     These paragraphs will be analyzed in accordance with five types of above-mentioned equivalence by Mona Baker.

3.     Frequency and percentage will be calculated in terms of five equivalents.

4.     A conclusion is drawn based on the assessment of the Persian translation of Ante-gone.

Conclusion one
(From paragraph one)

  Word level Above word level Gram-matical level Textual level Pragmatic level
Mistakes 5Edict
Dearest profit

Loyal friend

Goes off

Eye of golden day Two mistakes One mistake
Frequency 4 3 1 2 1
Percentage 4% 3% 1% 2% 1%

Conclusion two
(From paragraph two)

  Word level Above word level Gram-matical level Textual level Pragmatic level
Mistakes 5 2 3 1 -
Frequency 5 2 3 1 -
Percentage 5% 2% 3% 1% -

Conclusion three
(From paragraph three)

  Word level Above word level Gram-matical level Textual level Pragmatic level
Mistakes 3 2 2 1 1
Frequency 3 2 2 1 1
Percentage 3% 2% 2% 1% 1%

Conclusion four
(From paragraph four)

  Word level Above word level Gram-matical level Textual level Pragmatic level
Mistakes 2 2 1 3 1
Frequency 2 2 1 3 1
Percentage 2% 2% 1% 3% 1%

Conclusion five
(From paragraph five)

  Word level Above word level Gram-matical level Textual level Pragmatic level
Mistakes 3 - 1 2 2
Frequency 3 - 1 2 2
Percentage 3% - 1% 2% 2%

Conclusion Table
(From table one, two, three, four and five)

  Word level Above word level Gram-matical level Textual level Pragmatic level
All mistakes 17 9 8 9 5
Frequency 17 9 8 9 5
Percentage 17% 9% 8% 9% 5%

The table of the mistakes of all levels

All mistakes


In this study, the Persian translation of the English book ‘Ante-gone’ written by Sophocles was evaluated based on Baker’s model of equivalence in various situations and conditions. As a sample five controversial paragraphs were selected and analyzed. Then various levels of equivalence were assessed based on Baker’s taxonomy.

The most problematic equivalence in this translation was recognized at the level of words. Then, equivalence above the level of word and textual level were controversial. Equivalence at the level of grammar and word order seem to be less problematic. Finally pragmatic equivalence was the least distribution in the tables of the mistakes.

All in all, by considering all mistakes in all levels holistically, forty eight percent is very high for a literary translation. This frequency and percentage can be generalized to all paragraphs which were controversial and problematic. It seems that the Persian translation of the English book, namely, “Ante-gone “by Alidade and Davidic is very poor. In terms of equivalence levels, this translation has a low quality and needs to be revised.


Monday, J. (2002). An Introduction to Translation Studies. New York: Rutledge.

Sophocles, D. (No Date).  Ante-gone.

منابع فارسی


داوودیِ،مریم و حاج علیزاده، ابوالفضل، 1381، ترجمه فارسی درام انتیگونه،تهران،انتشارات اندیشه. 


Published - July 2009

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