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21 - The translation process - part 3

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  Having examined the consequences of a practical nature in the difference between an adequacy-oriented approach and an acceptability-oriented approach, we are aware of the fact that - pointing to the main ideological dichotomy at the basis of any translation - we have stressed the most self-evident and important distinction. Nevertheless, we are still far from providing a full description of the criteria through which it is possible to define a general model of the translation process.
  The Danish researcher L. Hjelmslev 1 proposed the distinction, within a text, between, on one hand, form and substance of the content and, on the other hand, the form and substance of expression. In this way, the text is divided into two planes (expression and content), each of which is divided into two parts (form and substance), producing the following quadripartition:

  the content substance is, in a sense, objective, and does not vary from one language to another, but points to inherent qualities. For example, colors can be described as a certain range of visible frequencies. What in English is called "green" is, for most English-speaking people, related to a given combination of impressions linked to the perception of wavelengths comprised between 5000 and 5700 angstrom. Therefore, if we superficially think of the translatability of the English concept of "green", we might think that it is easy to transpose it into another language;

  the content form: in English, the word "green" points to the content substance we just described. Hjelmslev observes that the content form varies from one language to another. This means that we do not have a perfect match between the semantic fields of similar content forms in different languages. Hjelmslev provides as example the mismatching of the names of colors spanning from green to brown in the English and in the Welsh languages 2:









Among other examples of mismatching between content form and content substance in different languages are the English words "abortion" and "miscarriage", that in some languages are identified by a single indistinctive word (for example, "aborto" in Italian, "avortement" in French). On the contrary, the content form of English word "hair" in many other languages matches two different words, one indicating the head hair, the other denoting the body hair (for example, in Italian "capello" and "pelo", in French "cheveu" and "poil");

  expression substance is the graphic and phonic expression of the content. If an utterance is a graphic expression substance, it has corresponding phonic expression form. Hjelmslev uses as an example the toponym "Berlin" (expression substance), which is translated into different expression forms, depending on the fact if it is pronounced (and then actualized) in German, English, Danish, or Japanese . If, on the other hand, an utterance is a phonic expression substance, it has its graphic expression form. To illustrate, Hjelmslev uses the example of the sound /got/, which corresponds to different expression forms and content substances according to the different languages. The pronunciation of got is the graphic form of the expression that, in English, matches the content substance "past form of to get"; but it also corresponds to the pronunciation of Gott, the graphic form of the German content substance "God"; and it is the same as the pronunciation of godt, the graphic form of the expression matching the Danish content substance of "well";

  expression form is the way in which the expression substance is actualized, i.e. the way in which a graphic form is pronounced or a phonic form is written.

  Hjelmslev's distinction between expression plan and content plan is carried on in translation studies by Torop, who postulates that the expression plane (substance and form) of the prototext is

recoded - through the means of the other language and the other culture - into the expression plan of the translated text, while the content plan is transposed into the content plan of the translated text 4.

By recoding, we mean a linguistic, formal, style process, while transposition is a process that, as regards literary texts, implies the understanding of the poetic model, of the content structure of the text. The two processes are not, however, independent one of the other. They are interrelated on the methodological plane. When discussing translation problems, however, it is better to consider them separately in order to better understand their different functions within the context of the translation process.
  Recalling what we have covered in the previous unit, and the distinction between the analysis and synthesis stages, Torop makes use of a model that results from the intersection of the distinction between phases (analysis/synthesis) and the distinction between processes (recoding/transposition). From these two pairs of elements, Torop gets a quadripartition of the potential actualizations of the translation process.
  Before exposing a taxonomy of the various kinds of translation, Torop states his general definition of "adequate translation": it is a translation in which transposition and recoding go through the analysis and synthesis stages, preserving the peculiar interrelations between expression and content plans of a given text in the process. In other words, the dominant of the original is preserved.
  However, there are many ways to preserve the peculiar interrelations between expression and content plans (to preserve the dominant of the prototext). Depending on the means the translator chooses, she may produce various translations that can be equally "adequate" . "Adequate" translations are further subdivided by Torop into "dominant-centered" [dominant-nye], and "autonomous", i.e. having the purpose of transmitting only one of the plans of the prototext. For example, an autonomous translation could be the prose translation of a poem 6.
  Summing the quadripartition analysis/synthesis and transposition/recoding and the dichotomy dominant-centered/autonomous, Torop produces the following eight-part model 7.

adequate translation























  In the next unit we will examine in detail this model.

Bibliographical references

HJELMSLEV L. I fondamenti della teoria del linguaggio. A cura di Giulio C. Lepschy. Torino, Einaudi, 1975. Or. ed. Omkring Sprogteoriens Grundlæggelse, København, Festskrift udg. af Københavns Universitet, 1943. English translation: Prolegomena to a Theory of Language, ed. by F. J. Whitfield, University of Wisconsin, 1961.

TOROP P. La traduzione totale. Ed. by B. Osimo. Modena, Guaraldi Logos, 2000. ISBN 88-8049-195-4. Or. ed. Total´nyj perevod. Tartu, Tartu Ülikooli Kirjastus [Tartu University Press], 1995. ISBN 9985-56-122-8.

1 Hjelmslev 1975.
2 Hjelmslev 1975, p. 58.
3 Hjelmslev 1975, p. 61.
4 Torop 2000, p. 200.
5 Torop 2000, p. 200
6 Torop 2000, p. 56.
7 Torop 2000, p. 204.