Literal translation

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Literal translation, direct translation or word-for-word translation, is a translation of a text done by translating each word separately, without looking at how the words are used together in a phrase or sentence. [1]

Contents

In translation theory, another term for "literal translation" is metaphrase (as opposed to paraphrase for an analogous translation).

Literal translation leads to mistranslating of idioms, which is a serious problem for machine translation. [2]

The term as used in translation studies

Usage

The term "literal translation" often appeared in the titles of 19th-century English translations of classical, Bible and other texts.

Cribs

Word-for-word translations ("cribs," "ponies" or "trots") are sometimes prepared for a writer who is translating a work written in a language they do not know. For example, Robert Pinsky is reported to have used a literal translation in preparing his translation of Dante's Inferno (1994), as he does not know Italian.[ citation needed ] Similarly, Richard Pevear worked from literal translations provided by his wife, Larissa Volokhonsky, in their translations of several Russian novels.[ citation needed ]

Poetry to prose

Literal translation can also denote a translation that represents the precise meaning of the original text but does not attempt to convey its style, beauty, or poetry. There is, however, a great deal of difference between a literal translation of a poetic work and a prose translation. A literal translation of poetry may be in prose rather than verse, but also be error free. Charles Singleton's translation of The Divine Comedy (1975) is regarded as a prose translation.

As bad practice

"Literal" translation implies that it is probably full of errors, since the translator has made no effort to convey, for example, correct idioms or shades of meaning, but it might be also useful in seeing how words are used to convey meaning in the source language.

Examples

A literal English translation of the German word "Kindergarten" would be "children's garden," but also in (mainly US) English, the expression refers to the preschool institution. Literal translations in which individual components within words or compounds are translated to create new lexical items in the target language (a process also known as “loan translation”) are called calques, e.g., “beer garden” from German “Biergarten.”

The literal translation of the Italian sentence, "So che questo non va bene" ("I know that this is not good"), produces "Know(I) that this not goes(it) well," which has English words and Italian grammar.

Machine translation

Early machine translations (as of 1962 [2] at least) were notorious for this type of translation as they simply employed a database of words and their translations. Later attempts utilized common phrases which resulted in better grammatical structure and capture of idioms but with many words left in the original language. For translating synthetic languages, a morphosyntactic analyzer and synthesizer is required.

The best systems today use a combination of the above technologies and apply algorithms to correct the "natural" sound of the translation. In the end though, professional translation firms that employ machine translation use it as a tool to create a rough translation that is then tweaked by a human, professional translator.

Douglas Hofstadter gave an example for the failures of a machine translation: The English sentence "In their house, everything comes in pairs. There's his car and her car, his towels and her towels, and his library and hers." is translated into French as "Dans leur maison, tout vient en paires. Il y a sa voiture et sa voiture, ses serviettes et ses serviettes, sa bibliothèque et les siennes." That does not make sense, because the literal translation of both "his" and "hers" into French is "sa" in case of singular, and "ses" in case of plural, therefore the French version is not understandable. [3]

Pidgins

Often, first-generation immigrants create something of a literal translation in how they speak their parents' native language. This results in a mix of the two languages in something of a pidgin. Many such mixes have specific names, e.g. Spanglish or Germish. For example, American children of German immigrants are heard using "rockingstool" from the German word "Schaukelstuhl" instead of "rocking chair".

Translator's humor

Literal translation of idioms is a source of translators' jokes and apocrypha. The following has often been told in relation to inexperienced translators or to machine translations: When the sentence, "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" ("дух бодр, плоть же немощна", an allusion to Mark 14:38) was translated into Russian and then back into English, the result was "The vodka is good, but the meat is rotten" ("водка хорошая, но мясо протухло"). This is generally believed an amusing apocrypha rather than a reference to an actual machine-translation error. [2]

See also

Related Research Articles

An idiom is a phrase or expression that typically presents a figurative, non-literal meaning attached to the phrase; but some phrases become figurative idioms while retaining the literal meaning of the phrase. Categorized as formulaic language, an idiom's figurative meaning is different from the literal meaning. Idioms occur frequently in all languages; in English alone there are an estimated twenty-five thousand idiomatic expressions.

Literal and figurative language is a distinction within some fields of language analysis, in particular stylistics, rhetoric, and semantics.

In linguistics, a calque or loan translation is a word or phrase borrowed from another language by literal word-for-word or root-for-root translation. When used as a verb, "to calque" means to borrow a word or phrase from another language while translating its components, so as to create a new lexeme in the target language. For instance, the English word "skyscraper" led to calques in dozens of other languages. Another notable example is the Latin weekday names, which came to be associated by ancient Germanic speakers with their own gods following a practice known as interpretatio germanica: the Latin "Day of Mercury", Mercurii dies, was borrowed into Late Proto-Germanic as the "Day of Wōđanaz" (*Wodanesdag), which became Wōdnesdæg in Old English, then "Wednesday" in Modern English.

Paraphrase Restatement of the meaning of a text or passage using other words

A paraphrase is a restatement of the meaning of a text or passage using other words. The term itself is derived via Latin paraphrasis from Greek paráfrasis. The act of paraphrasing is also called paraphrasis.

Untranslatability is the property of text or speech for which no equivalent can be found when translated into another language. A text that is considered to be untranslatable is considered a lacuna, or lexical gap. The term arises when describing the difficulty of achieving the so-called perfect translation. It is based on the notion that there are certain concepts and words that are so interrelated that an accurate translation becomes an impossible task. Some writers have suggested that language carries sacred notions or is intrinsic to national identity. Brian James Baer posits that untranslatability is sometimes seen by nations as proof of the national genius. He quotes Alexandra Jaffe: "When translators talk about untranslatable, they often reinforce the notion that each language has its own 'genius', an 'essence' that naturally sets it apart from all other languages and reflects something of the 'soul' of its culture or people".

Green's Literal Translation or the Literal Translation of the Holy Bible (LITV) is a translation of the Bible by Jay P. Green, Sr., first published in 1985. The LITV takes a literal, formal equivalence approach to translation. The Masoretic Text is used as the Hebrew basis for the Old Testament, and the Textus Receptus is used as the Greek basis for the New Testament. This translation is available in book form and is freely available online for use with the e-Sword software program. Some also refer to it as the "KJ3" or "KJV3".

There have been various debates concerning the proper family of biblical manuscripts and translation techniques that should be used to translate the Bible into other languages. Biblical translation has been employed since the first translations were made from the Hebrew Bible into Greek and Aramaic. Until the Late Middle Ages, the Western Church used the Latin Vulgate almost entirely while the Eastern Church, centered in Constantinople, mostly used the Greek Byzantine text. Beginning in the 14th century, there have been increasing numbers of vernacular translations into various languages. With the development of modern printing techniques, these increased enormously.

On Translating <i>Beowulf</i> Essay on Old English poetry and metre by J. R. R. Tolkien

"On Translating Beowulf" is an essay by J. R. R. Tolkien which discusses the difficulties faced by anyone attempting to translate the Old English heroic-elegiac poem Beowulf into modern English. It was first published in 1940 as a preface contributed by Tolkien to a translation of Old English poetry; it was first published as an essay under its current name in the 1983 collection The Monsters and the Critics, and Other Essays.

Poglish, also known as Polglish and Ponglish, is a blend of two words from Polish and English. It is the product of macaronically mixing Polish- and English-language elements within a single speech production, or the use of "false friends" or of cognate words in senses that have diverged from those of the common etymological root. Such combining or confusion of Polish and English elements, when it occurs within a single word, term, or phrase, may, inadvertently or deliberately, produce a neologism.

Statistical machine translation (SMT) is a machine translation paradigm where translations are generated on the basis of statistical models whose parameters are derived from the analysis of bilingual text corpora. The statistical approach contrasts with the rule-based approaches to machine translation as well as with example-based machine translation.

Franz Kafka bibliography Wikipedia bibliography

Franz Kafka, a German-language writer of novels and short stories who is regarded by critics as one of the most influential authors of the 20th century, was trained as a lawyer and later employed by an insurance company, writing only in his spare time.

A semantic loan is a process of borrowing semantic meaning from another language, very similar to the formation of calques. In this case, however, the complete word in the borrowing language already exists; the change is that its meaning is extended to include another meaning its existing translation has in the lending language. Calques, loanwords and semantic loans are often grouped roughly under the phrase "borrowing". Semantic loans often occur when two languages are in close contact, and takes various forms. The source and target word may be cognates, which may or may not share any contemporary meaning in common; they may be an existing loan translation or parallel construction ; or they may be unrelated words that share an existing meaning.

Translation Transfer of the meaning of something in one language into another

Translation is the communication of the meaning of a source-language text by means of an equivalent target-language text. The English language draws a terminological distinction between translating and interpreting ; under this distinction, translation can begin only after the appearance of writing within a language community.

Mother tongue mirroring is the adaptation of word-for word translation in language education. The aim is to make foreign constructions salient and transparent to learners and, in many cases, spare them the technical jargon of grammatical analysis. It differs from literal translation and interlinear text as used in the past, since it takes the progress learners have made into account and only focuses upon one specific structure at a time. As a didactic device, it can only be used to the extent that it remains intelligible to the learner, unless it is combined with a normal idiomatic translation.

The Lexham English Bible (LEB) is an online Bible released by Logos Bible Software. The New Testament was published in October 2010 and has an audio narration spoken by Marv Allen. It lists as General Editor W. Hall Harris, III. The Old Testament translation was completed in 2011.

Sense-for-sense translation is the oldest norm for translating. It fundamentally means translating the meaning of each whole sentence before moving on to the next, and stands in normative opposition to word-for-word translation.

Humour in translation can be caused by translation errors, because of irregularities and discrepancies between certain items that translators attempt to translate. This could be due to the ignorance of the translator, as well as the untranslatability of the text as a result of linguistic or cultural differences. In addition, translation errors can be caused by the language incompetence of the translator in the target language, resulting in unintended ambiguity in the message conveyed. Translation errors can distort the intended meaning of the author or speaker, to the point of absurdity and ludicrousness, giving a humorous and comedic effect.

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Literal Standard Version Modern English translation of the Bible

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Translating <i>Beowulf</i> Challenges of translating the Old English poem Beowulf

The difficulty of translating Beowulf from its compact, metrical, alliterative form in a single surviving but damaged Old English manuscript into any modern language is considerable, matched by the large number of attempts to make the poem approachable, and the scholarly attention given to the problem.

References

  1. "LITERAL | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary". dictionary.cambridge.org. Retrieved 2019-09-21.
  2. 1 2 3 Hutchins, John (June 1995). ""The whisky was invisible", or Persistent myths of MT" (PDF). MT News International (11): 17–18. Archived from the original on 3 January 2021. Retrieved 16 February 2022.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  3. Hofstadter, Douglas (30 January 2018). "The Shallowness of Google Translate". The Atlantic . Retrieved 16 February 2022.

Further reading