[b-hebrew] VERBS

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Fri Jul 29 06:12:38 EDT 2005

Dear Peter,

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Peter Kirk" <peterkirk at qaya.org>
To: "Rolf Furuli" <furuli at online.no>
Cc: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Thursday, July 28, 2005 11:49 PM
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] VERBS

> 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 original."
> 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
> translation?

I think Newmark would have said that your last words above regarding
clarity, naturalness, AND accuracy can be self-contradictory.  If I
understand Newmark correctly, his message can be expressed by the words of
John 9:41 NIV: "Jesus said, if you were blind, you would not be guilty of
sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains."
The principle is applied to pupolar modern translation theories and those 
subscribing to them and not to single persons. If people thinks that their 
theoretical translation principles are the only ones that can convey meaning 
from the SL accurately and very different principles/theories cannot, then 
Jesus` words can be applied.

Any translator wants to convey the SL text clear and accurate to the TL
readers. However, the methods of modern Bible translators (Newmark deals
with translation generally) often prevent both goals to be achieved at the 
same time, and
the translators do not understand it! Therefore they are fooling themselves,
according to Newmark.

I would like to stress again that when I opt for the word as the
fundamental translation unit, this does not necessarily mean that I want to
make a word-by-word translation! The problem that both I and Newmark see is
that when the word is abandoned, it is opened up for reading subjective
viewpoints, theology, philosophy and whatever into the text. When the word
is abandoned, the translator`s own views and interpretation is now the
translation unit. And the constraints are his or her views of the 
commentaries and aids written by
theologians, translation consultants etc.  So the translators believe they
are conveying the text accurately, while they are conveying a colored 
subjective text.
And the translators do not realize it!

In addition to this problem, English and Hebrew are so different that it
very often is impossible to translate parts of the text in the natural 
language of the day without
subtracting Hebrew elements and adding elements that are not in the Hebrew

I do not say that modern idiomatic translations should not be made. To the
contrary, such versions serve the interests of the general Bible reader in a 
fine way. What I do say is that the translators should admit that such
translations are not the best ones for *any* target group. And to serve the
purpose of particular groups it is much more important to convey the
original text accurately than to have a natural text. The goal for both for 
the literal translation
and for the idiomatic one is to convey the original text/message in a clear 
way. Those advocating an idiomatic method believe that the only way to make 
a good translation is to use clear and natural English.  Those advocating a 
literal translation accept that this is fine for many or most Bible readers. 
But they relate clarity, not to the *text* but to the *minds* of the 
readers, and this clarity of mind is achieved by a more wooden but literal 
text. Such a text to a much greater degree represents the SL accurately than 
a natural TL text, for particular target groups.
>>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.

I do not appeal to the authority of anybody, but I referred to one author 
whose book was a part of the curriculum in applied linguistics i Oslo. And I 
found his thoughts very interesting. I do not fight against translation 
orthodoxy, but I argue against the view that "our orthodox translation 
theory is the only theory that can create translations that convey the 
meaning of the SL accurately," and the keyword here is "target group".  And 
I argue against the view that single words are not important for 
translation, but units above the word must be used.

> 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.

Neither I nor Newmark has said that a word-by-word translation is the only 
fine translation. But we have both said that those who abandon the word as a 
fundamental translation unit are fooling themselves.

Best regards

Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo
> -- 
> Peter Kirk
> peter at qaya.org (personal)
> peterkirk at qaya.org (work)
> http://www.qaya.org/
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