[b-hebrew] VERBS

Peter Kirk peterkirk at qaya.org
Thu Jul 28 18:49:39 EDT 2005

On 28/07/2005 23:18, Rolf Furuli wrote:

>Newmark writes p. 68):
>"... the prevailing orthodoxy is leading to the rejection 
>of literal translation as a legitimate translation procedure."
>Newmark then translates a French text of 75 words into English, where the 
>text has 68 words, and writes: "... 
>My thesis, however, is that literal translation is correct and must not be 
>avoided, if it secures referential and pragmatic equivalence of the 

I would reject this thesis on the basis that a literal translation, even 
if it is correct, should be avoided if it is not also clear and natural. 
At the very least it is wrong to say that any unclear or unnatural 
translation "must not be avoided", which seems to be a suggestion that 
clarity and naturalness in translation are invalid as criteria and must 
not be taken into account in translation. Of course it may well be that 
Newmark qualifies this position elsewhere. But would you take this 
unqualified version of the position, or would you agree with me that 
clarity and naturalness, as well as accuracy, are requirement for good 

>As mentioned, Newmark does not say that a word-for-word translation is the 
>best form of translation. But he says that a literal translation is a fine 
>translation provided it meets particular criteria. And he says further that 
>to abandon the word as the translation unit is a misunderstanding. You may 
>disagree with his conclusions, but by saying that this is "nonsense" you 
>elevate yourself as the highest translation authority. This does not 
>recommend you as a balanced scholar.
Well, Rolf, I would prefer not to appeal to authority here, but you did 
it before me. On this one, I am a follower of "the prevailing 
orthodoxy", and Newmark and you are the outsiders. A balanced scholar 
does not of course follow the prevailing orthodoxy blindly, but 
considers it critically. On this point, I have considered critically 
both the prevailing orthodoxy and the literal word for word translation 
philosophy, and rejected the latter in favour of the something similar 
to the former. Of course that doesn't make me "the highest translation 
authority", it just makes me one of the main stream of linguists who 
broadly accept the prevailing orthodoxy.

And by the same criterion, you, like Newmark, are an outsider who has 
rejected the prevailing orthodoxy. There is nothing wrong with that, but 
it does mean that you need to justify your position more carefully than 
just by appealing to the authority of a fellow dissident, however well 
respected he might be.

The "nonsense" I mentioned is the view that because a text consists of 
words it has to be translated word by word. By the same logic, because a 
text consists of sentences it has to be translated sentence by sentence, 
and because a text consists of letters it has to be translated letter by 
letter. I stand by "nonsense" because this claim, which I inferred from 
what you wrote before, is clearly logically false.

Peter Kirk
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)

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