A Critique Of Dynamic Or Functional Equivalency Translation -- By: Thomas A. Howe
CAJ 5:1 (Spring 2006) p. 1
A Critique Of Dynamic Or
Functional Equivalency Translation
Among those whose primary concern is the translation of the Bible, the debate over the best approach has generally taken the form of the citation of and reference to instances in which one or the other theory is depicted as inadequately communicating the meaning of the text. What constitutes adequacy is, of course, defined within the theory of the one doing the evaluation. But, a particular approach to translation assumes a certain view of the nature of language: “A translator moulds his image of translation by the function he assigns to language; from function, one extrapolates to nature.”1 Jan de Waard and Eugene Nida say the same thing: “In order to understand the significance of a number of basic principles of translation, it is important to know something about the different communicative functions of language and how languages operate to perform such functions.”2 Given that philosophy of language is basically an attempt to understand how
CAJ 5:1 (Spring 2006) p. 2
language works, Waard and Nida are essentially claiming that one’s approach to translation is built on one’s philosophy of language.
Eugene A. Nida is the touted father of Dynamic Equivalence, or what has come to be called Functional Equivalence, translation, at least for modern times. Both the Dynamic Equivalence and Formal Equivalence approaches have been used by translators throughout history, although not necessarily under these names.3 Jeremy Munday attributes Nida with having moved translation studies “into the modern era.”4 In one of Nida’s discussions of what he calls “form and content,” he seeks to illustrate the tension between these two aspects of the text by using the problem of form in poetry. Nida says, “Lyric poetry obviously cannot be adequately reduced to mere prose, for the original form of the ‘song’ must in some way be reproduced as another ‘song.’ The meter may be different, but the overall effect must be equivalent if the translation is to be in any sense adequate.”5
But Nida’s estimation of the adequacy of a translation depends upon what he believes to be the goal of translation. If the goal is simply to reproduce in the receptor language the meaning, Nida’s “content,” of what the original text expressed, then attempting to produce an equivalent “effect” may not be a necessary part of the equation. Consequently, for those w...
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