Unit A4 Translation shifts

Unit A4
Translation shifts
the best known taxonomy of translation shifts,
devised by Vinay and Darbelnet
E.g. Keep right = az samt rast beranid
• The small linguistic changes that occur
between ST and TT are known as translation
• John Catford was the first scholar to use the
term in his A Linguistic Theory of Translation
(1965, see Section B Text B4.1).His definition of
shifts is ‘departures from formal
correspondence in the process of going from
the SL to the TL’ .
Formal correspondence
A formal correspondent is defined by Catford as
‘any TL category (unit, class, structure,
element of structure, etc.) which can be said
to occupy, as nearly as possible, the “same”
place in the “economy” of the TL as the given
SL category occupies in the SL’ (Catford
1965:27). In simplified terms, this means a TL
piece of language which plays the same role in
the TL system as an SL piece of language plays
in the SL system.
Catford: Two Kinds of Translation Shifts
• level shifts (between the levels of grammar
and lexis) By a shift of level we mean that a
SL item at one linguistic level has a TL
translation equivalent at a different level.
• translation between the levels of phonology
and graphology—or between either of these
levels and the levels of grammar and lexis—is
• category shifts: referred to unbounded and rank-bound
• unbounded: being approximately “normal” or “free”
translation in which SL-TL equivalences are set up at
whatever rank is appropriate. Usually there is
sentence-sentence equivalence, but in the course of a
text, equivalences may shift up and down the rankscale, often being established at ranks lower than the
• In normal, unbounded, translation, then, translation
equivalences may occur between sentences, clauses,
groups, words and (though rarely) morphemes.
• (unbounded and rank-bounded). Changes of
rank (unit-shifts) are by no means the only
changes of this type which occur in
translation; there are also changes of
structure, changes of class, changes of term in
systems, etc. Some of these – particularly
structure-changes – are even more frequent
than rank-changes. It is changes of these types
which we refer to as category-shifts
• the term “rank-bound” translation only to refer
to those special cases where equivalence is
deliberately limited to ranks below the sentence,
thus leading to “bad translation”=i.e. translation
in which the TL text is either not a normal TL form
at all, or is not relatable to the same situational
substance as the SL text.
• Changes of rank (unit-shifts) are by no means the
only changes of this type which occur in
translation; there are also changes of structure,
changes of class, changes of term in systems, etc.
• It is changes of these types which we refer to
as category-shifts. Category-shifts are
departures from formal correspondence in
translation. In order they are: structure-shifts,
class-shifts, unit-shifts (rank-changes), intrasystem-shifts
category-shift, in the order structure-shifts,
class-shifts, nit-shifts (rank-changes), intra-systemshifts
• Structure-shifts. These are amongst the most
frequent category shifts at all ranks in translation;
they occur in phonological and graphological
translation as well as in total translation.
• Class-shifts. Following Halliday, we define a class
as ‘that grouping of members of a given unit
which is defined by operation in the structure of
the unit next above’. occurs when the translation
equivalent of a SL item is a member of a different
class from the original item.
• Intra-system shift: the shift occurs internally,
within a system; that is, for those cases where
SL and TL possess systems which
approximately correspond formally as to their
constitution, but when translation involves
selection of a non-corresponding term in the
TL system (singular / plural)
• Unit-shift. By unit-shift we mean changes of
rank – that is, departures from formal
correspondence in which the translation
equivalent of a unit at one rank in the SL is a
unit at a different rank in the TL. Unit-shift
(rank-changes): departures from formal
correspondence in which the translation
equivalent of a unit at one rank in the SL is a
unit at a different rank in the TL
Textual equivalence
• A shift is said to occur if, in a given TT, a
translation equivalent other than the formal
correspondent occurs for a specific SL
The first step involves
• identification and numbering of the ST units
and the units of translation (see Section A,
Unit 3).
• This is followed by a matching of the two
using the back-translation to help you, note
any ‘mismatches’, denoting shifts.
Classification based on Vinay and Darbelnet’s
categorization of translation
two ‘methods’ covering seven procedures:
• 1. direct translation, which covers borrowing,
calque and literal translation, and
• 2. oblique translation, which is transposition,
modulation, equivalence and adaptation.
• To overcome a lacuna, usually a metalinguistic
one (e.g. a new technical process, an unknown
concept), borrowing is the simplest of all
translation methods.
• in order to introduce the flavour of the SL
culture into a translation, foreign terms may
be used,
• A calque is a special kind of borrowing whereby a
language borrows an expression form of another,
but then translates literally each of its elements.
The result is either:
• i. a lexical calque, as in the first example below,
i.e. a calque which respects the syntactic
structure of the TL, whilst introducing a new
mode of expression; or
• ii. a structural calque, as in the second example,
below, which introduces a new construction into
the language,
Literal translation
• Literal, or word for word, translation is the
direct transfer of a SL text into a grammatically
and idiomatically appropriate TL text in which
the translators’ task is limited to observing the
adherence to the linguistic servitudes of the
• The method called Transposition involves
replacing one word class with another without
changing the meaning of the message.
• Modulation is a variation of the form of the
message, obtained by a change in the point of
view. This change can be justified when,
although a literal, or even transposed,
translation results in a grammatically correct
utterance, it is considered unsuitable,
unidiomatic or awkward in the TL.
• We have repeatedly stressed that one and the
same situation can be rendered by two texts
using completely different stylistic and
structural methods. In such cases we are
dealing with the method which produces
equivalent texts.
• With this seventh method we reach the extreme
limit of translation: it is used in those cases where
the type of situation being referred to by the SL
message is unknown in the TL culture. In such
cases translators have to create a new situation
that can be considered as being equivalent.
Adaptation can, therefore, be described as a
special kind of equivalence, a situational
equivalence. [They] are particularly frequent in
the translation of book and film titles,
These procedures are applied on
three levels of language:
• i. the lexicon
• ii. the grammatical structures and
• iii. the ‘message’, which is used to refer to the
situational utterance and some of the higher text
elements such as sentence and paragraphs.
• At the level of message, Vinay and Darbelnet
discuss such strategies as compensation,
• an important term in translation which is linked
to the notion of loss and gain.
Compensation, loss and gain
• A translation technique used to compensate
for translation loss. The translator offsets an
inevitable loss at one point in the text by
adding a suitable element at another point,
achieving a compensatory translation gain.
• Compensation in an interpretive sense,
restoring life to the TT, is the fourth
‘movement’ of Steiner’s hermeneutic process
(Steiner 1998:39, see Part A, Unit 13).