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The concepts of equivalence and equivalent effect play a crucial role in translation process and translation studies as a branch of linguistic research. It determines the controversy regarding the correspondence of the Source Text (ST) and the Target Text (TT) in terms of the degree of match of certain linguistic units that influence the overall reader’s perception of the text.
Several theories that deal with different levels of equivalence between the ST and the TT are to be highlighted as well as their orientation on the preservation of the originality of the original text or the fullness of reader’s comprehension. From the point of view of general translation approaches, equivalence theory is restricted by the issues of area that presupposes the cultural context of the massage and text-type condition that determines the usage of certain type or degree of equivalence.
This paper investigates the main approaches to the equivalency theory including the theories of Peter Newmark and Eugene Nida. Therefore, the most suitable equivalent application in terms of Chinese-English and English-Chinese translation considering the peculiarities of both languages and the type of translated texts is conditioned by the main principles of the equivalence theory based on different approaches.
Equivalent and Related Terms
In order to provide comprehensible and complete investigation of the concept of equivalent, some terms are to be introduced. In general, regarding the equivalence issue, Theodor Savory defines translation as “the surmounting of the obstacle, is made possible by an equivalence of thought which lies behind the different verbal expression of a thought” (as cited in Zhen, 2015b, p.1101). Thus, the research of equivalence is necessary to identify the most appropriate way of translation that will ensure readers’ understanding of the initial writer’s idea.
The term equivalence is defined as “a corresponding word or expression in another language” that occurs in the process of translation (SIL Glossary of Linguistic Terms, 2017). Through the prism of the concentration on author’s peculiarities or comprehension of the text by the audience, two types of translation were distinguished by Peter Newmark, namely semantic (i.e. deals with the grammatical and stylistic aspects during the translation process) and communicative (i.e. concerns the aim of the comprehension of the translated text) (Tsai, 2010, p. 294). Hence, this approach determines the degree and character of the usage of equivalents during the translation process.
Another theory regarding the level of equivalence in translation was developed by Eugene Nida. It comprises the terms of formal and dynamic (equivalent effect) equivalence. The former is oriented on the original (on the form and content) and presupposes the preservation of formal signs of the source text, and the latter is the translation oriented on the reader; therefore, it requires vocabulary and grammar adaptation (Marlow, 2009). Nida’s terms are the most significant ones in respect of investigation.
Important terms that have to be used while discussing the controversial nature of equivalents in the process of translation in general are Source Culture (SC) and Target Culture (TC) (Zhen, 2015a, p. 65). Thus, these concepts provide context for discussion of the necessity and expediency of the certain degree of equivalence as the significant condition of the accurate comprehension of the translated text by the audience with the different cultural background.
Equivalence and Equivalent Effect
In outlining the matter of equivalence and equivalent effect, some theories have to be introduced. The following approaches to the equivalence theory can be indicated: linguistic approach that is concentrated on the correspondence of linguistic units during translation; the second group deals merely with transmitting of the idea of the messages rather than its linguistic correspondence using the pragmatic approach; the last one is the group that addresses both mentioned above features to the same extent (Zhen, 2015b, p. 1099). Hence, these approaches are the basis for the main equivalence theories.
The significant theory in terms of equivalence in translation process is the theory developed by Peter Newmark. He distinguishes two types of translation, particularly semantic and communicative ones. Semantic translation presupposes the reproduction of the contextual meaning of the ST by means of the grammatical structure of the TT; while communicative translation is focused on the transmission of the exact contextual meaning of the ST with the highest degree of comprehension of both language and content by readers (Tsai, 2010, p. 294). In other words, the former approach can be called writer-orientated, as it aims to depict writer’s original style and ideas in the TT as much as possible. Meanwhile, the second approach is more reader-orientated since it highlights the necessity of readers’ complete comprehension of the TT (Tsai, 2010, p. 294). Therefore, these approaches are the basis for the main Newmark’s principles.
Newmark combines different types of texts to certain types of translation. Semantic translation is the most appropriate for translation of poems, as it fully reflects author’s ideas and thoughts. It does not mean word-for-word translation, but rather interpretation of each sentence as a unit (Tsai, 2010, p. 298). By contrast, communicative translation would be better in terms of informative and vocative texts e.g. journalism, articles, advertisements, instructions etc. Therefore, the usage of the definite approach depends on the fact whether translation is oriented on the Source Culture or the Target Culture (Zhen, 2015a, p. 65). For instance, the name of the brand Coca-Cola is translated as Keko-Kelein in Chinese, which is re-translated in English as “joyous in the mouth”; hence, the marketing aim is achieved with the help of communicative translation (Tsai, 2010, p. 299). Consequently, it is obvious that particular approach is supposed to be applied for the definite type of text in order to create the most successful translation.
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The last and the most influential theory concerning equivalence is the one developed by Eugene Nida. According to it, there exist formal equivalence that implies the most accurate transmission of the massage from the ST including grammatical structures, concepts, ideas, and dynamic equivalence (the principle of equivalent effect) that is concentrated on the adaptation of the ST to the TC in order to provide comprehensible text for the reader (Dayan, 2012, p. 242). Thus, both definitions are based on the degree of equivalence of the TT.
Nida prefers the first approach stating the limitation of the second. Particularly, it deprives the TT of originality and the essential idea of the author (Marlowe, 2009). In support to this argument, he represents the example with the translation of Bible, where the interpretation of some concepts such as “Solomon’s temple”, “cities of refuges” cannot be adapted according to the TC concepts, as it will totally loose the underlying concept of the message (Marlowe, 2009). However, there is the evidence, which states that readers’ responses to the translated text are determined by certain cultural background that cannot be omitted (Liu, 1994, p. 311). Still, formal equivalence is preferable approach for Nida.
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Nevertheless, in terms of Chinese-English and English-Chinese translation, dynamic equivalence is more suitable than formal. Such a statement is determined by the peculiarities of these two languages. Since the languages belong to divergent language families (Chinese – Sino-Tibetan, English – Indo-European), they are totally different in their structures. Chinese is the ideographic language with paratactic structure that render merely ideas and things; English is the alphabetic language with hypotactic structure that represents sounds and words (Dayan, 2012, p. 243). Among other distinctions one may distinguish the following: the interrogative sentence in English is formed by means of inverted word order, when in Chinese by means of adding the auxiliary word “吗” (pronounced ma). The same method is applied with rhetoric questions, as in the Chinese language emotional meaning is also conveyed by the auxiliary words. Therefore, it is obvious that formal equivalence in case of translation into Chinese from English or vice versa will not render complete sense of the TT; therefore, it is limited for translation of languages of different language families.
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Current research is helpful due to its clarifications regarding text types and their correspondence to the definite translation approach. As equivalence and equivalent effect are considered very controversial issues of the translation theory because of the question concerning the degree of equivalence that have to be preserved in the TT, this investigation lacks deeper insight into other equivalence theories that are to provide more detailed analysis of the problem. Moreover, with regard to the highlighted surveys on equivalence theory, it can be deduced that in terms of the Chinese-English translation there are not enough direct examples of the informative and vocative texts for representing the peculiarities of the certain approach in translation of theses languages. However, the analyzed material that refers to different degree of equivalence in translation, the types of texts, the context of the ST and language families will be beneficial in further translation process, as they determine accurate choice of particular approach.
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Considering the main principles of the equivalence theory, it can be stated that the most effective way to translate in terms of the language pair of Chinese and English is to use the concepts of communicative translation and dynamic equivalence. Analyzed theories provide theoretical principles of translation that are mainly based on the degree of equivalence in the TT. The Newmark’s theory offers detailed investigation of the correspondence of the type of the translated text to the certain type of translation – semantic or communicative. From the perspective of the Nida’s theory regarding formal and dynamic equivalence and the peculiarities of English and Chinese, it becomes clear that the best type of equivalence within the framework of translation is the dynamic one. Thus, current research presented brief review of the main theories concerning the most controversial translation theory concept, namely equivalence.
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