A translation must:give the ideas of the original
read like an original work
reflect the style of the original
read as a contemporary of the translator
sometimes add to or omit from the original
translate verse into verse
Quoted by Ernst-August Gutt, Translation and Relevance, Blackwell 1991, p.120
from: The Art of Translation, by Theodore H.Savory, The Writer Inc 1968, p.50

Translation Two

This site favours the above precepts. Obviously. This page will add or quote opinions which debate the above. At present it is believed that the maxims below by Wayne Leman, from the web, can't be improved upon. Some theorists might disagree. A wide range of links on his site here:



by Wayne Leman

1. Any concept can be expressed in any language, using the natural linguistic resources of that language. The translation of a concept will often have a different number of words from what it had in the original text, because all languages differ in their vocabulary (lexicon) and how their words relate to each other (syntax).

2. A translation should not sound like a translation. It should sound like any other good, natural speech or writing in that language.

3. Accuracy is measured by the degree to which users of a translation get the same meaning from it which the original text had. Accuracy can be determined by field testing the translation among a wide range of speakers of the target language.

4. Word-for-word translation does not necessarily increase accuracy. In fact, it often reduces accuracy.

5. Thought-for-thought translation does not increase accuracy, if the translator inserts ideas of his/her own which are not in the meaning of the original text.

6. Meaning is found more than just in words. It is the total expression of an utterance, including meaning which is found in the words, but also in the syntax of how the words are connected to each other, how the resultant phrases are connected to each other, and how sentences, paragraphs, episodes, and discourse segments relate to each other. Meaning is also often not explicitly expressed in one language, because there are cultural clues making it unnecessary to do so. But that implicit meaning is just as much a part of the meaning of an utterance as are the explicit words and syntax. Meaning is also found not just in the denotations of words, but also in their connotations. A good translation will reflect, to the best degree possible, the connotations, rhetorical impact, and emotive style of the original text. Total accuracy requires preserving all of these aspects of the original meaning, lexical meaning, syntactic and discourse meaning, implicit meaning (that which is necessary for accurately understanding an utterance), connotations, rhetorical impact, and other aspects of good style.

7. The best translations are made by individuals who are native speakers of the target language. The best native speaker translators are those who are very sensitive to proper grammar and word combinations in their own language. These translators will likely be recognized by others in their language community as being good speakers, perhaps even eloquent.



The above maxims seem to me unusually clear and admirable. I am inclined to discuss and expand on them, and measure this site version against the standards they propose. But it is taking me a long time to get round to it.

Any concept can be expressed in any language, using the natural linguistic resources of that language. The translation of a concept will often have a different number of words from what it had in the original text, because all languages differ in their vocabulary (lexicon) and how their words relate to each other (syntax).


still under construction       and the years roll by



A Digression

The following excerpt seems of interest. It touches on translation, although perhaps of greater relevance in wider contexts. It raises the question of whether any Anglo-Saxon authors spoke Hebrew, and if any of them were of Hebrew origin. The early Christians were, of course, born as Jews, and later converted to what was at first a schismatic Jewish sect. This sequence continued, for centuries --- who knows? The difference was that the schismatics were filled with missionary zeal. The passage suggests a natural receptivity of the Anglo-Saxon, and all so-called "Germanic" speakers, to Biblical language. From Songs from a strange land; Psalms 42-51, by John Goldingay, Inter-Varsity Press 1978, p.21:

"The Psalms are poetry, though they are not set out as such.......Old Testament poetry has two distinctive features...........The first is that there are a set number of stresses in each line. There can be any number of unemphasized syllables, but the number of stressed syllables generally falls into a pattern. The most common pattern is 3-3 (three stressed in each half-line).........Hebrew makes a great deal of use of compound words ........ the other characteristic of Hebrew poetry [is] the phenomenon of parallelism. In each verse the second half of the line balances the first half, by repeating, amplifying, developing or contrasting with it. The whole line is thus the unit of thought, and sometimes it is important to realise this in order to understand the psalmist aright."

These features seem to me sufficiently striking in relationship to the conversion of Biblical phrasing to Anglo-Saxon to make one wonder if all Anglo-Saxon poetry is not influenced, from beginning to end, by patterns established first in the Hebrew Bible. Could this transference of style and idiom even have happened by way of Greek and Latin? The matter seems to be worthy of serious study, unless this has already been undertaken. If so, by whom?

And answer came there none.       A few years later: March, 2010. Biblical Echoes: click..

      A second opinion:

We perfectly agree with Professor Longfellow, p.159, in the style of Translation always to be adopted: --- "There are," says Goethe, two maxims of Translation; the one requires that the author of a foreign nation be brought to us in such a manner that we regard him as our own; the other, on the contrary, demands of us that we transport ourselves over to him, and adopt his situation, his mode of speaking, his peculiarities." We recognize only one of these maxims of translation, --- the last.

Quoted by George Stephens, in Frithiof's Saga, translated from the Swedish of Esaias Tégner; London and Stockholm 1839; footnote p.viii.


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