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23 - The translation process - part 5

  We reproduce again Torop's eight-part model here in a lightly altered form, with the addition of numbers corresponding to the descriptions of each type. The first distinction is between recoding and transposition, which, we remind the readers, distinguishes the expression plane transfer (recoding) from the content plane transfer (transposition). In this unit we will deal with transposing translation, while in the previous one we described the four types of recoding translation.


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  This group consists of those translations in which the content is considered so important, that the translator puts it foremost, even over form when necessary. The first type we are going to consider is the dominant-oriented analytic transposition, which Torop defines

  1. thematic translation. The expression plane (see unit 21) in this case is subject to the content plane. Form is sacrificed in the name of comprehensive content. The translator chooses this procedure in order to facilitate the reception of the content by the reader.
  2. Nevertheless, we must pay attention to the fact that it is easier for the reader to access the prototext content, but the reader will be deprived of the chance of seeing what was its form like. We, therefore, should not generalize affirming that this type of translation is "closer to the reader". It is a facilitated, simplified version, for which reason it does not contain all the formal characteristics of the prototext. An understanding of the semantic content is best achieved using simpler forms. If, for example, the original is a poem with a well-defined meter, rhythm, and rhyme scheme, one possible thematic translation is the use of vers libre, in which every formal structure of the prototext disappears.

    To continue with Torop's model, we find the autonomous analytic transposition, i.e. an analytic transposition in which the dominant (the content, in this case) is emphasized in an absolute way, to the point that it totally obscures form. It is called

  3. descriptive translation. Like all autonomous translation types, the prevalence of the dominant is pushed to the extreme, and the possibility of translating the entire text is rationally refused. One might think that this kind of translation is seldom seen, but, contrarily, in some cultures it is the most common.
  4. This type of translation is exemplified by the transposition of a poetic text (in verse) into a prose metatext. The attitude we found even in the thematic translation (passing from the rhyme to vers libre) is taken to the farthest limit, and the passage is taken from verse to prose.

    Let us now examine the dominant-oriented synthetic transposition, in which the focus is moved from the prototext (analysis) to the metatext (synthesis), even if the transposition dominant (i.e. the content plane) is rendered in relative terms, and the other planes are seen underneath. That is the so-called

  5. expressive (or receptive) translation. This type of translation is realized when, in the translator's intentions, the metatext dominant coincides with the metatext expressiveness. The translator postulates the standard reaction of the prototext Model Reader and, having this hypothetical reaction in mind, she produces a text that, at least in theory, has the purpose of eliciting the same kind of reaction in the metatext Model Reader. The theory behind this approach is called "dynamic equivalence"; it was predominantly originated by Eugène Nida1.
  6. Let us finally examine the last type of translation: the autonomous synthetic transposition, which is a type of free interpretation of the prototext content in a form arbitrarily chosen by the translator. It is called

  7. free translation and, among those examined in Torop's model, is that which produces a text that differs most from the prototext. It is not a real "translation" as we commonly use the word; we could call it a remake, as are those that are commonly described as "liberally drawn from'", or "liberally inspired to'".

  An example of autonomous synthetic transposition is perhaps Johnston's 1977 version of Eugene Onégin, Pushkin's novel in verse, particularly if compared to the more exact 1964 version by Vladimir Nabókov:

If only Lensky'd known the burning If he had known what wound
wound that had seared my Tanya's hear! burned my Tatiana's heart
If Tanya'd had the chance of learning If Tatiana had been aware,
that Lensky and Eugene, apart, if she could have known
would settle, on the morrow morning, that Lenski and Eugene tomorrow
for which of them the tomb was yawning, were to compete for the tomb's shelter,
perhaps her love could in the end ah, possibly her love
have reunited friend to friend! might have conjoined the friends again!
But, even by accident, her passion But even by chance that passion
was undiscovered to that day. no one had yet discovered.
Onegin had no word to say; Onegin about everything was silent;
Tatyana pined in secret fashion: Tatiana pined away in secret;
of the whole world, her nurse alone, alone the nurse might have known -
if not slow-witted, might have known 2. but then she was slow-witted 3.

Here is the prototext transliterated: "Kogda b on znal, kakaja rana / Moej Tat´jany serdce zhgla! / Kogda by vedala Tat´jana, / Kogda by znat´ ona mogla, / CHto zavtra Lenskij I Evgenij / Zasporjat o mogil´noj seni; / Ah, mozhet byt´, eë ljubov´ / Druzej soedinila vnov´! / No ètoy strasti I sluchajno / eshchë nikto ne otkry-val. / Onegin obo vsëm molchal; / Tat´jana iznyvala tajno; / Odna by nanja znat´ mogla, / Da nedogadliva byla".

Ricapitolando, abbiamo esaminato otto tipi teorici di attualizzazione del modello di processo traduttivo, distinti sulla base di tre criteri fondamentali:

  As anyone can see, even without knowing Russian, the content of the right-column version is quite different from the left-column one. The translator's poetic intent is evident, and the result is a rhyme poem with a different content and different formal characteristics from the prototext.


  We have examined the eight theoretical types of actualization of Torop's translation process model. The types are differentiated based on three fundamental criteria:

  • recoding/transposition, i.e. the distinction between expression plane translation (recoding) emphasizing formal elements, and content plane translation (transposition).
  • analysis/synthesis, i.e. the distinction between the part of the translation process centered upon the readings/interpretations of the prototext by the translator (analysis) and the projection of the potential text toward its actualization in the metatext (synthesis).
  • dominant/autonomous: it is perhaps the most difficult distinction, because the word "autonomous" could induce one to think of something very remote from the prototext. Actually, the dominant-oriented translation accounts - as in JAkobsón's original view - even with all its hierarchy of subdominants, while the type Torop calls "autonomous" is an exasperation of the "dominant" concept: the dominant is elevated to the totalization dimension of governing the entirety of the text, which is manipulated at will in order to amplify that dominant element.
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Bibliographical references

NIDA E. A., TABER C. The Theory and Practice of Translation. Leiden 1969.

PUSHKIN A. Eugene Onegin. A novel in verse. Edited by Vladimir Nabókov, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1990 (first edition: 1964), ISBN 0-691-01905-3.

PUSHKIN A. Eugene Onegin. translated by Charles Johnston with an introduction by John Bayley, London, Penguin, 1977, ISBN 0-14-044394-0.

1 Nida, Taber 1969, p. 23.
2 Pushkin 1979, p. 163.
3 Pushkin 1990, p. 235.