By: Alireza Sadeghi Ghadi, MA Student of Translation, Fars Science and Research University, Iran
Dr.Amir Marzban, PHD in TEFL, Faculty Member of Ghaemshar Azad University, Iran
Therefore, many studies have been focused on the nature, interlingual and
intertextual, empirical and theoretical notion of equivalence in recent years
(Catford 1965, 1994, Pym 1992, Koller 1979, Toury 1980, Hutchins and Somers
1992, Arnold 1994). The domain of equivalents covers linguistic units such as
morphemes, words, phrases, clauses, idioms and proverbs (Baker 1992).
Through using finding equivalence strategies, the translators also attempt to
improve the chance of persuading their readers by making better their qualities
of translation (Neubert 1985).
When a translator attempts to translate a text from one language (source) to
another language (target), s/he should first of all understand and comprehend the
source text and then translates it to the target language. Therefore, the full
awareness of the source and target text for finding accurate and appropriate
equivalence in rendering of the contents of the text for reader.
Leonardi (2000) believes that equivalence is the central issue in translation
although its definition, relevance, and applicability within the field of translation
theory have caused heated controversy, and many different theories of the
concept of equivalence have been elaborated within this field in the past fifty
The study of equivalence in translation shows how translators accurately
render text in translation from source language (SL) into target language or vice
versa. According to Halverson (1997), analogies between the equivalence
concept and a concept of scientific knowledge as it is and has been studied with
in the philosophy of science are highly informative in painting out the
philosophical issues involved in equivalence, translation, and knowledge. He
also believes that rather than dismissing the concept as ill – defined or
imprecise, it is in the interest of the field of translation studies to consider the
origins and manifestations of this ‘imprecision’ in order that we may be better
informed and less inclined towards theoretical antagonism.
Therefore the translators, by finding equivalence in translation can show the
tentative nature of their assertions, invite the readers, as intelligent individuals,
to join and decide which translation is accurately render the ideas, concepts and
words of original text.
According to Halverson (1997, p.207-210) equivalence is defined as a
relationship existing between two entities, and the relationship is described as
one of likeness/ sameness/ similarity/ equality in terms of any of a number of
potential qualities. Proponents of equivalence based theories of translation
usually define equivalence as the relationship between a source text (ST) and a
target text (TT) that allows the TL to be considered as a translation of the ST in
the first place. Equivalence relationships are also said to hold between parts of
ST and parts of TL the above definition of equivalence is not unproblematic.
Pym (1992, p.37), for one, has pointed to its circularity: equivalence is supposed
to define translation, and translation, in turn, defines equivalence. Unfortunately,
a few attempts have been made to define equivalence in translation in a way that
avoids this circularity (Dorothy, 1998).
Theorists who maintain that translation is predicated upon some kind of
equivalence have, for the most part, concentrated on developing typologies of
equivalence, focusing on the rank (word, sentence or text level) at which
equivalence is said to obtain or on the type of meaning (denotative, connotative,
pragmatic, etc.) that is said to be held constant in translation.
Snell – Hornby suggests that the applicability of an equivalence concept in
translation studies exist at the level of terminology and nomenclature, “though
even here reservations are called for”, In Wilss approach (1982) on the other
hand, translation equivalence was “an empirical phenomenon which carries with
it problems which presently can be solved, if at all, only for each individual
Numerous scholars, including Eugene Nida (1964), Roman Jakobson
(1959), John C. Catford (1965), Juliane House (1977), peter Newmark (1988),
Vinay and Darblenet (1995) (addressed the subject of translation equivalence
(TE) using either the linguistic approach or the functional approach their
common approach was to set the rules of TE and then to use samples drawn
from texts to support the rules. In other words, the focus of their TE studies gave
priority over practice and to fixed norms over dynamic principles.
Newmark (1988) examined the translation equivalence concept from
perspective that swung “between literal and free, faithful and beautiful, exact
and natural translation, depending on whether the bias was to be in favor of the
author or the reader, the source or target language of the text”. He clarified that
“communicative translation attempts to produce in its readers an effect as close
as possible to that produced in the readers of the original” and that “ semantic
translation attempts to render as closely as the semantic and syntactic structure
of the second language allow, the exact contextual meaning of the original”.
G. Jager (1989, p.33), from the Leipzig school of translation, presents his
view about the importance of dealing scientifically with the concept of
translation equivalence, more specifically in relation to the possibility or the
need of using this concept for practical goals of the so called automatic
translation: against the background of modern conceptions of translation theory
which attempt to understand globally the linguistic exchange, there arises
inevitably the question about the general meaningfulness of research on the
discovery and description of equivalence relations. Undoubtly we would give an
affirmative answer to this question and here we bear in mind specially a
demanding test case for the science of translation: automatic translation”.
J.House (1997) expresses his point of view about translation equivalence as
follows: “The notion of equivalence is the conceptual basis of translation and, to
quote Catford, ‘the central problem of translation practice is that of finding TL
(target language) equivalents. A central task of translation theory is therefore
that of defining the nature and conditions of translation equivalence’ (1965 p.
21)” (p.25). After with the awareness of the concept of translation equivalence,
in the next section we study different taxonomies and typologies of equivalence
which are presented by renowned and famous theoreticians.
Typologies of Equivalence
Nida (1969) argued that there are two different types of equivalence, namely
formal equivalence which in the second edition by Nida and Taber (1982) is
referred to as formal correspondence and dynamic equivalence.
Formal correspondence ‘focuses attention on the message itself, in both form
and content’. Nida and Taber make it clear that there is not always formal
equivalence between language pairs. They therefore suggest that this formal
equivalence should use wherever possible if the translation aims at achieving
formal rather than dynamic equivalence.
The uses of formal equivalence sometimes have serious implications in TT
since the translation will not be easily understood by the target audience.
(Fawcett, 1997). Nida and Taber themselves assert that ‘Typically, formal
correspondence distorts the grammatical and stylistic patterns of the receptor
language, and hence distorts the message, so as to cause the receptor to
misunderstand or to labor unduly hard’.
Dynamic equivalence is defined as a translation principle according to which
a translator seeks to translate the meaning of the original in such a way that the
TL wording will trigger the same impact on the TL audience as the original
wording did upon the ST audience. They argue that ‘Frequently, the form of the
original text is changed; but as long as the change follows the rules of back
transformation in the source language, of contextual consistency in the transfer,
and of transformation in the receptor language, the message is preserved and the
translation is faithful’ (Nida and Taber, 1982, P.200). Only in Nida and Taber’s
edition is it clearly stated that ‘dynamic equivalence in translation is far more
than mere correct communication of information’.
Carford (1965) defines translation equivalence clearly different from that
adopted by Nida since Catford had a preference for a more linguistic based
approach to translation and this approach is based on the linguistic work of Firth
and Halliday. His main contribution in the field of translation theory is the
introduction of the concept of types and shifts of translation.
Catford proposed very broad types of translation in terms of three criteria:
1. The extent of translation (full translation us partial translation).
2. The grammatical rank at which translation equivalence is established
(rank bound translation vs. unbound translation).
3. The level of language involved in translation (total translation vs.
We will refer to only the second type of translation, since this is the one that
concerns the concept of equivalence. In rank bound translation an equivalent is
sought in the TL for each word, or for each morpheme encountered in the ST. In
unbound translation equivalences are not tied to a particular rank, and we may
additionally find equivalences at sentence, clause and other levels. House (1977)
is in favor of semantic and pragmatic equivalence and argues that ST and TT
should match one another in function. House suggests that it is possible to
characterize the function of a text by determining the situational dimensions of
In fact according to her theory, every text itself is placed within a particular
situation which has to be correctly identified and taken in to account by the
translator. After the ST analysis, House believes that if the ST and the TT differ
substantially on situational features, then they are not functionally equivalent,
and the translation is not of a high quality in fact, she acknowledges that ‘a
translation text should not only match its source text in function, but employ
equivalent situational – dimensional means to achieve that function’. House’s
theory of equivalence in translation seems to be much more flexible than
Catford’s. In fact she gives authentic example, uses complete texts and more
importantly, she relates linguistic features to the context of both source and
target text (Leonardi 2000).
Roman Jakobson (1959) in his study of equivalence gave new impetus to the
theoretical analysis of translation since he introduced the notion of ‘equivalence
in difference’. On the basis of his semiotic approach to language and his
aphorism ‘there is no signatum without signum’ he suggest three kinds of
1- Intralingual (within one language, i.e. rewording of paraphrase)
2. Interlingual (between two languages)
3- Intersemiotic (between sign systems)
Jakobson claims that, in the case of interlingual translation, the translator
makes use of synonyms in order to get the ST message across. This means that
in interlingual translations there is no full equivalence between code units.
According to his theory, ‘translation involves two equivalent messages in two
different codes’. Jakobson goes on to say that from a grammatical point of view
languages may differ from one another to a greater or lesser degrees, but this
does not mean that translation can not be possible, in other words, the translator
may face the problem of not finding a translation equivalent. He acknowledges
that ‘whenever there is deficiency, terminology may be qualified and amplified
by loanwords or loan translations, neologisms or semantic shifts and finally by
circumlocutions’. An extremely interesting discussion of the notion of
equivalence can be found in Baker (1992) who seems to offer a more detailed
list of conditions upon which the concept of equivalence can be defined. She
explores the notion of equivalence at different levels, in relation to translation
process, including all different aspects of translation and hence putting together
the linguistic and communicative approach. She distinguishes between:
Equivalence that can appear at word level which is used in this
study and above word level, when translating from one language
After dealing with the difficulties implied in the lack of
2-Gramatical equivalence, when referring to diversity of grammatical
categories across languages.
She notes that grammatical rules may vary across
3- Textual equivalence, when referring to the equivalence between a SL text
and a TL text in terms of information and cohesion.
In terms of textual equivalence, she proposes following classification of
strategies to solve textual equivalence.
4- Pragmatic equivalence, when referring to implicatures and strategies of
avoidance during translation process.
She believes that the role of the translator is to recreate the author’s intention in
another culture in such a way that enables the TT reader to understand it clearly.
Another famous and renowned model of equivalence presented by Koller
(1989). At various levels, and loosely following Koller (1979, p.187-91; 1989,
p.100-104), equivalence is commonly established as follows:
1. Referential or denotative equivalence, when the source language (SL) and
target language (TL) words supposedly referring to the same thing in the
2. Pragmatic equivalence, when the SL and TL words having the same
effect on their respective readers.
3. Formal equivalence, when the SL and TL words having similar
orthographic or phonological features.
4. Connotative equivalence, when the SL and TL words triggering the same
or similar associations in the minds of native speakers of the two languages
5. Text normative equivalence, when the SL and TL words are being used
in the same or similar contexts in their respective languages.
Other scholar, Newman (1994) stress that not all the variables in translation
are relevant in every situation and those translators must decide which
considerations should be given priority at any one time, thus establishing a kind
of functional equivalence.
Popovic (1976) in his definition of translation equivalence (TE) distinguishes
four types of equivalence as presented follow:
1- Linguistic equivalence, where there is homogeneity on the linguistic level
of both SL and TL texts, i.e. word for word translation.
2- Paradigmatic equivalence, where there is equivalence of ‘the elements of
paradigmatic expressive axis, i.e. elements of grammar, which Popovic sees
as being a higher category than lexical equivalence.
3- Stylistic (translational) equivalence, where there is functional
equivalence of elements in both original and translation aiming at an
expressive identity with an invariant of identical meaning.
4- Textual (syntagmatic) equivalence, where there is equivalence of
syntagmatic structuring of a text, i.e. equivalence of form and shape.
Interlingual and Intertextual Equivalence
In earlier work on equivalence, theorists made a distinction between
hypothetical mapping between elements of abstract language systems (at level of
langue) on the one hand, and actual observable mappings between elements of
real ST and TT (at the level of parole) on the other. Catford (1965, p.27) used
the term formal correspondence and textual equivalence respectively to refer to
the two categories. Koller (1979, p.183-184) made a similar distinction when he
differentiated between korrespondez, formal similarity between language
systems, and Aquivalenz, equivalence relations between real texts and
Koller then went on to present Aquivalenz as the real object of enquiry in
translation studies. Similarly, Toury (1980, p.24-6) charts the evolution of the
notion of translatability from interlingual phenomenon to an intertextual one.
While relationships established at the level of langue are now largely seen as the
concern of comparative linguistics, formal correspondence continues to have
pride of place in machine translation, where linguistic – knowledge – based
systems using direct or transfer architecture often rely on mapping between the
formal structures of two language.
Indeed Catford’s translation shifts bear real similarities to notions of complex
transfer in machine translation (Hutchins and Somers 1992; Arnold et al. 1994).
Thus Koller (1979) and Pym (1995, p.157-8) believed that the general view
in translation studies soon came to be that equivalence was a relation between
texts in two different languages, rather than between the languages themselves.
They also mention that this step liberated translation studies from debates on
interlingual translatability based on entire language systems with their entire all
their unactualized meaning potential. Such debates had centered on in
compatibilities between the worlds inhabited by speakers of different languages
and on the structural dissimilarities between languages (Dorothy, 1998).
Dorothy also believes that once attention was focused on texts and utterances,
many of the potential multiple meanings and functions of words and structures
in a language system could be eliminated by reference to their context and co
text, making translation not only more tractable, but also more realistic. In the
next section we investigate equivalence from empirical and theoretical concept
that plays important role in this article.
Equivalence as an Empirical and a Theoretical Concept
The narrowing down of the scope of the term equivalence to an intertextual
relation still left plenty of room for competing notions of the concept. Toury
(1980 p. 39) identified two main used of the term: first, equivalence could be ‘a
descriptive term, denoting concrete objects – actual relationships between actual
utterances in two languages (and literatures), recognized as TT and ST – which
are subject to direct observation’. This definition regards equivalence as an
empirical category which could be established only after the event of translation.
Toury contrasted this approach with equivalence as ‘a theoretical term, denoting
an abstract, ideal relationship, or category of relationships between TT and ST,
translations and their sources’. This dichotomy can be problematic, however.
For one, it may not be psychologically plausible. From the translator’s point of
view, it is not clear whether a real distinction can be made between what one
intends to write, and what one actually writes.
Furthermore, equivalence as a theoretical term, a prospective and often
descriptive notion, is responsible for acquiring a bad name for equivalence in
some quarters in translation studies (Dorothy 1998). Gentzler (1993 p.4), for
example, contends that standards of translation analysis that rely on equivalence
or non – equivalence and other associated judgmental criteria ‘imply notions of
substantialism that limit other possibilities of translation practice, marginalize
unorthodox translation, and impinge upon real intercultural exchange’. Newman
(1994, p. 4694), on the other hand, describes translation equivalence as ‘a
commonsense term for describing the ideal relationship that a reader would
expect to exist between an original and its translation’. Newman’s equivalence is
clearly prospective and ideal, although empirical approaches also feature in the
analysis. Pym also speaks about equivalence as a fact of reception and about the
socially determined ‘expectation’ that TT should stand in some kind of
equivalence relation to their ST.
Hutchins and Somers (1992, p.317-22) believe that while Catford view of
textual equivalence may say very little about the nature of equivalence, the
approach has found application in areas such as example and statistics based
machine translation and, more recently, in translation memory system, where
previously translated ST and their TT are stored with a view to recycling old
translations, should the system recognize new input for which it already has an
equivalent target rendering.
Equivalence as an empirical phenomenon has seen perhaps its most powerful
manifestation to date Toury’s (1980, 1995) work. Where as other theorists might
ask whether two text are equivalence according to some predefined, prescriptive
criterion of equivalence, Toury treats the existence of equivalence between TT
and ST a given. This equivalence postulate them allows him to state that ‘the
question to be asked in the actual study of translations (especially in the
comparative analysis of TT and ST) is not whether the two texts are equivalence
(from a certain aspect), but what type and degree of translation equivalence they
reveal’. Toury’s approach and subsequently koller’s (1995, p.196), makes
appeal to historical, relative notion of equivalence.
Non – Equivalence at Word Level
Non – equivalence at word level means that the target language has no direct
equivalence for a word that occurs in the source text. There are many factors to
cause the problems of non – equivalence. Baker (1992) categories some of the
problems of non equivalence at word level which is presented in the following:
1. Culture – specific concepts
2. The source language concept is not lexicalized in the target language
3. The source language word is semantically complex
4. The source and target language make different distinctions in meaning
5. The target language lacks a superordinate term
6. The target language lacks a specific term (hyponym)
7. Differences in physical or interpersonal perspective
8. Differences in expressive meaning
9. Differences in from
10. Differences in frequency and purpose of using specific forms
11. The use of loan words in the source text
12. Differences in propositional meaning
Due to importance of this section, researcher will explain some of the problems
which are presented in table by Baker. According to her cultural – specific
concepts are those SL words may express a concept that is totally unknown in
the target culture. They may have something to do with a religious belief, social
custom, or even a type of food. For example, in Persian we have Ashura, Jihad
as a religious word which is unknown in most of the other languages. The
second category is SL concept is not lexicalized in the target language which
means that the SL word may express a concept that is known in the target
culture but simply not lexicalized. Landslide has no exact equivalence in many
languages, although it only means over whelming majority. Another Baker’s
category is that the SL word is semantically complicated which means that a
single word can some times express a complex meaning than a whole sentence.
The other is that the TL lacks a super ordinate or a hyponym which means
that the TL may have specific word (hyponym) but no general words (super
ordinate), and vice versa. For example under “house”, English has a variety of
hyponyms which have no equivalence in many languages such as Persian, for
example in English we have: “bungalow”, cottage, croft, chalet, hut, manor,
lodge and so on.
Differences in expressive meaning is another problem of non – equivalence
at word level mentioned by Baker which mean that there may exist a TL word
which has the same propositional meaning as the SL word, but may have a
different expressive meaning. Words like homosexuality provide good examples
Homosexuality is not inherently pejorative word in English, although it is often
used in this way. On the other hand, the equivalence expression in some other
languages is inherently more pejorative and would be quite difficult to use in
neutral context without suggesting strong disapproval.
Equivalence in English and Persian
Karimi (2006) believes that translator should not always find one – to – one
categorically or structurally or structurally equivalent units in two languages,
that is, sometimes two different languages carry the same function. For example,
the verb happened in English sentence he happens to be happy equals the adverb
etefaghan (by chance) in the Persian sentence: u etefaghan khoshhal ast.
Safarzadeh (1995) stated that the translator for finding equivalence should
finding out the meaning of an SL linguistic form, should ask himself / herself
what the linguistic form is in another language TL for the same meaning to be
encoded. Ziahosseini (1994) believes that to render a satisfactory translation, the
translator needs to be acquainted with phonological, pragmatic, religious and
cultural systems of both SL and TL to find standard equivalence to the TL
Some examples of equivalents in Persian and English
1. Coal in English may equal zire in Persian and Newcastle in English may
equal Kerman (a city in Iran), hence taking coal to Newcastle = zire be Kerman
bordan (Karimi 2006)
2. Sometimes a multiple meaning term in English may have several equal terms
in Persian and vice versa. (Karimi 2006).
For example depression in English equals kesadi (in Engish may have several
equal terms in Persian and vice versa.
For example depression in English equals kesadi (in economy), afsordegi (in
psychology) and frooraftegi (in dissection). Or the term Tabaghah in Persian
equals: 1 class 2. Layer 3-floor 4- category in English.
3. The word khordan (to eat) in Persian collocates with many other words, in the
examples: sarma (cold) khordan, chaie (tea) khordan, zamin (ground) khordan,
ghaze (food) khordan. Its equivalents in English are: To eat (for food), 2) To
drink (for tea) 3) To fall (for ground) 4) To catch (for cold) respectively
4. The Persian word Raies collocates with:
1- edarah (office) 2- deneshgah (university) 3- dadgah (court) while in English
parenthetical words are collocated by 1) boss 2) chancellor 3) magistrate(Karimi
5. A three part compound word in English may be translated into a single word
in Persian: daughter in law = aroos (zia hoseini 1994)
6. A simple Persian word maybe translated into a compound form in English and
vice versa: hound (sag shekari), asa (walking stick), divan (complete works) and
so on (Hozhabr Nejad, 1994, p.305).
7. The perfect future tense in English may be translated into present perfect or
simple future tense in Persian (Modiri, 1942). I shall have written =
Neveshteham/ Khaham nevesht.
In other words, a translator should achieve a similar effect on the target text
receiver as the source text has on the source text receiver. However, between
languages with greater cultural differences, it may not be easy to achieve this.
Investigating equivalence in ST and TT is a good way to appraise the
meaning of original and translated version. Then by comparing them one can
notice how much of the meaning is transferred in the process of translation and
how much is lost; and the quality of translation in the realm of meaning as far as
of equivalence is concerned is being revealed.
According to above examples, we can conclude that due to religious, cultural
and literary factors, it is difficult to find a standard equivalent in one language
for another. Nevertheless, awareness of different theories which are presented by
famous theoretician can help us to find appropriates equivalence in translation of
different texts such as: scientific, literary and so on.
3. Producing different lexical chains
6. Rechunking (re organizing or renumbering paragraphs, sentences)
languages and this may pose some problems in terms of finding a direct
correspondence in TL. In fact, she claims that different grammatical structures
in the SL and TL may cause remarkable changes in the way the information or
message is carried across. These changes may induce the translator either to add
or to omit information in the TT because of the lack of particular grammatical
devices in the TL itself.
Amongst these grammatical devices which might cause problems in translation
Baker focuses on number, tense and aspects, voice, person and gender.
equivalence at word level, Baker (1992, p.26-42) proposes the
following classification of strategies to solve non-equivalence at word
1. Translation by more general word (superordinate)
2. Translation by more neutral/ less expressive word
3. Translation by cultural substitution
4. Translation using a loan word
5. Translation by paraphrase using a related word
6. Translation by paraphrase using unrelated word
7. Translation by omission
8. Translation by illustration
9. Translation by loan word plus explanation
Baker’s word level is the first element to be taken into consideration by the
translator. In fact, when the translator starts analyzing the ST, s/he looks at
the words as single units in order to find a direct ‘equivalent’ term in the TL.
Bake gives a definition of the term “word” since it should be remembered
that a single word can sometimes be assigned different meanings in different
languages and be regarded as being a more complex unit or Morpheme. This
means that the translator should pay attention to a number of factors when
considering a single word, such a number, gender and tense. She also
proposes the following classification of strategies to solve non-equivalence
above word level such as: collocations, idioms and fixed expressions.
2. Using an idiom of similar meaning and form
3. Using an idiom of similar meaning but differing form
8. Translation by paraphrase using unrelated words
9. Translation by illustration
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MA STUDENT OF TRANSLATION, FARS SCIENCE AND RESEARCH UNIVERSITY,SHIRAZ ,IRAN
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