Levels of Translating, by Dr. Shadia Yousef Banjar
Levels of Translating
Dr. Shadia Y. Banjar http://wwwdrshadiabanjar.blogspot.com
Dr. Shadia Yousef Banjar 1
Newmark states that translating a source
text into a target text operates in four
1. Textual Level,
2. Referential Level,
3. Cohesive Level, and
4. Naturalness Level.
Dr. Shadia Yousef Banjar 2
THE FOUR LEVELS OF TRANSLATING
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THE TEXTUAL LEVEL
It involves the source text.
At this level, you decode or render the
syntactic structures of the source text into
their correspondent structures in the target
Sometimes you have to change these
structures into something quite different in
order to achieve the target language
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The referential level operates on the content of the ST. It
deals with the message or the meaning of the text.
On this level you decode the meaning of the source text
and build the conceptual representation.
This is where you simplify polysemous words and
On it you decode idioms and figurative expressions.
This is where you figure out the pragmatic function of the
Once you have decoded the ST, you encode it into an
appropriate target language expressions.
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The referential level and the textual
level are closely related because the
language of the source text conveys
the message, and you use
language to encode the message
into the target text.
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The cohesive level
The cohesive level links the textual and the referential
It deals with the form and the meaning of the text .
Newmark identifies it as the mood of the text while others
call it the tone of the text. In fact, tone is the author's
attitude towards the text and the mood is the reader's
attitude toward the text.
tone words can be negative, neutral, and positive.
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TONE is simply the author’s attitude toward
You can recognize the tone/attitude by the
language/word choices the author uses. His
language will reveal his perspective/opinion
(that is, whether it is positive/negative) about
Tone must be inferred through the use of
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MOOD is the overall feelings or emotions that
are created IN THE READER.
Authors “move” their readers’ moods through
their choice of words and level of detail.
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Cohesive devices are typically single words
or phrases that basically make the text hang
together. By analogy, they are much like the
seams in our clothing which keep items like
jackets and trousers together. Three
elementary examples of cohesive devices are
word repetition, synonyms and pronouns.
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Cohesion is the network of lexical, grammatical,
and other relations which link various parts of a
text. These relations or ties organize and, to
some extent, create a text, for instance, by
requiring the reader to interpret words and
expressions by reference to other words and
expressions in the surrounding sentences and
paragraphs. Cohesion is a surface relation and
it connects together the actual words and
expressions that we can see or hear.
Halliday and Hasan identify five main cohesive
devices in English: reference, substitution,
ellipsis, conjunction, and lexical cohesion.
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At the structural sublevel, you investigate how various
connectors, such as conjunctions, enumerations,
repetitions or reiterations, definite articles and
determiners, general category labels, synonyms,
punctuation marks, simple or complex conjuncts, link
sentences and structure the text and what Newmark
calls its train of thought – which is basically its underlying
Dr. Shadia Yousef Banjar 13
You establish the tone by finding the so-called value-laden
and value-free passages, such as subjective and objective
bits, euphemisms, and other framing devices,
framing being the strategy of linguistically presenting
something in the perspective of one's own values and worldview,
in a way promoting these.
An author will frequently use emotional language that is value-
ladened to affect our opinions. These words reflect the bias of
the author and can express positive or negative opinions or
biases toward the subject. Sometimes these words are referred
to as loaded words.
All of this will have to be somehow transferred into the target
text so you achieve maximal equivalence at this level to.
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Dr. Shadia Yousef Banjar 15
The level of naturalness
This level is target text oriented, focusing
exclusively on the construction of the target text.
It is important that:
1. the target text makes sense.
2. the target text reads naturally like any other text
composed in the target language.
This is apparently more difficult than one might
expect, because one tends to reproduce a lot of
grammatical structures, phrases and wordings which
are natural in the source language but, while
possible in the target language, which do not feel
natural as such in the target language.
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What makes things more complicated is that
naturalness often depends on the situation, such
that something might seem natural in one context
but unnatural in another.
The best, perhaps only way, to ensure naturalness
is to read through your translation and spot
unnaturally sounding parts and change them into
something that sounds more natural. This is
something that most people skip when they do
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A textbook of translation. Newmark, Peter,1988, Prentice-Hall
International (New York).
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