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Translation theory before the twentieth century

A central debate in the history of translation theory has been between “word for word” and “sense for sense”.

Until the second half of the 20s , translation theory seems locked in what Steiner calls “sterile debate” over

the triad of “literal”, “free” and “faithful” translation. The distinction between “word for word” (literal) and

“sense for sense”(free) translation goes back to Cicero and S Jerome. Cicero said that he didn’t translate as

an interpreter but as an orator, trying to preserve the general style and force of the original language.

Within western society, issues of free and literal translation were for over a thousand years after St

Jerome bound up with the translation of the Bible and other religious and philosophical text. Any translation

diverging from the accepted interpretation was to be deemed (ritenere) heretical an to be censured or banned.

The most famous example of this is Martin Luther’s crucially influential translation into East middle German

of the New Testament and later of the Old Testament. Luther followed St Jerome in rejecting word-for-word

translation strategy.

The key concepts investigated by Louis Kelly in the True Interpreter were: fidelity, truth and spirit.

The most important authors in attempt at systematic translation theory were Dryden, Dolet and

Tytler. Tytler reduced all translation to three categories:

1. Metaphrase: word for word translation

2. Paraphrase: a translation in which is kept the point of view of the original author

3. Imitation: a very free translation

On the other hand Dolet set out five principles in order of importance:

 The translator must perfectly understand the sense and the material of the original author

 The translator should have a perfect knowledge of both language

 The translator should avoid word for word rendering

 The translator should avoid latin or obscure forms

 The translator should avoid clumsiness

Tytler has three general laws:

 The translation should give a complete transcript of the ideas of the original work

 The style and manner of writing should be of the same character of the original




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Corso di laurea: Corso di laurea in lingue e letterature moderne
A.A.: 2007-2008

I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher Exxodus di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Lingua Inglese III e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università La Sapienza - Uniroma1 o del prof Scienze letterarie Prof.

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