Language and Life Part III: A Training Device for Translation Theory and Practice -- By: Kenneth L. Pike

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 114:456 (Oct 1957)
Article: Language and Life Part III: A Training Device for Translation Theory and Practice
Author: Kenneth L. Pike

Language and Life
Part III:
A Training Device for Translation Theory and Practice

Kenneth L. Pike

[Kenneth L. Pike is Professor of Linguistics at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and is closely associated with the Wycliffe Bible Translators and their Summer Institute of Linguistics as a board member, director, and linguistic trouble-shooter.]

A Training Device for Translation Theory and Practice

In our first lecture we emphasized the fact that a language was a grid, an emic system by means of which and through which communication takes place. In the second, we indicated that such a system had, basic to it, classes of morphemes (or words, or morphemes and words, or words and phrases) with functional slots into which the classes fitted in sentence structures. In this, the third lecture, we are not so much interested in adding new linguistic concepts as we are in exploiting the ones already set forth. In order to do this we shall introduce an artificial system which will serve as the total target language into which passages are to be translated (a technique which I worked out in 1950 and 1952 for the Australian branch of the Summer Institute of Linguistics, but published here for the first time). The system’s fashioned in such a manner as to keep it small enough to be manageable within the space of a lecture of this kind, but complete enough to make concrete the manner in which slots and classes enter into the translation process. Even though the example is built to order, artificially, the person studying it carefully and experimenting with it will see in clear perspective some of the most important elements of translation theory and practice. It is the most effective method we have been able so far to develop to demonstrate these principles.

Formulas for an Artificial Training Language

Only one sentence type occurs in this artificial language—a language which I shall hereafter call Kalaba-X. This sentence type has three slots which must always be filled, and filled in a particular order: Each sentence has a predicate slot, followed by an object slot, which in turn is followed by a subject slot. If we symbolize the obligatory occurrence by a plus sign (+), the formula in so far as it is implied up to this point would be:

+ Pred.

+ Obj.


The fillers of these slots must also be specified, however, before the formula is usable. That is, both slot and filler of the three gramemes involved must be kno...

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