Direct Translation: Striving For Complete Resemblance -- By: Kevin Gary Smith

Journal: Conspectus
Volume: CONSPECTUS 05:1 (Mar 2008)
Article: Direct Translation: Striving For Complete Resemblance
Author: Kevin Gary Smith

Direct Translation:
Striving For Complete Resemblance1

Kevin Gary Smith2


The purpose of this article is to provide a readable description of direct translation, an approach that emerges logically from a relevance theoretical perspective on communication. Direct translation is an approach that strives to attain the highest possible level of resemblance to the source text. It does this by transferring the source’s communicative clues and requiring readers to familiarise themselves with the its context, an assumption that minimises the need to provide contextually implicit information, explicate figurative language, adopt inclusive language or remove ambiguities. It values a good balance between naturalness and literalness, prioritising naturalness when these two conflict.

1. Introduction

Basing his views on a communication model known as relevance theory (Sperber and Wilson 1986; 1995), Ernst-August Gutt (1991; 2000) proposed two approaches two translation based an analogy with direct and indirect

reported speech; he called the two approaches direct translation and indirect translation. Failing to understand Gutt's framework completely, early critics labelled direct and indirect translation as just new names for the age-old distinction between formal and functional equivalence (e.g., Wendland 1997).

Although Gutt objected to equating direct translation with formal equivalence, to my knowledge he never attempted to spell out what a direct translation should look like. Van der Merwe (1999), exploring the possibility of producing a concordant (direct) translation in Afrikaans, made a helpful contribution to understanding what such a translation might look like. In my doctoral dissertation (Smith 2000), I tried to explore the principles that would be applied to produce a direct translation. Unfortunately, relevance theory is so complex and littered with technical jargon that most presentations of the translation approaches based on it are difficult for most readers to follow.

The objective of this article is both modest and ambitious, namely, to describe how direct translation works and to do so with minimal technical language. This goal is modest in that it does not attempt to break new ground. It is ambitious because a readable presentation of a translation model based on relevance theory, keeping technical jargon to a minimum, is no simple task.

2. The Purpose Of Direct Translation

There are two kinds of reported speech, namely, direct and indirect quotation. Direct qu...

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