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Dept. of Translation
College of Arts
University of Basra
M.A. Programme/ 2nd Term-2017
Translation Criticism
The Models of Translation Criticism
Rifqa Hassan
5 March 2017
Translation Criticism Models
Translation criticism is a systematic study, an
evaluation, and
interpretation of different aspects of translated works, it is interdisciplinary
academic field closely related to literary criticism translation theory.
Translation criticism should take into account all the factors and elements in
the process of translation (translation as a communicative act: intention,
function, text type, register, strategies, principles, rules, constraints,
audience). Translation criticism should not be a mere identification of errors,
an intuitive or highly
subjective appraisal judging translations as ‘good’, ‘bad’. ‘faithful’ without
qualifying these adjectives.
As Newmark (1988) contends, translation criticism is an essential link
between translation theory and its practice. He also adds that as an academic
discipline, it ought to be
the keystone of any course in comparative literature, or literature in
translation and a component of any professional translation course.
However, it is worth considering that, translation criticism is not a
prescriptive process giving rules for how a translation ought to be done;
rather, it is a descriptive task for evaluating and describing the quality of a
translation, which is also, in this sense, called translation quality assessment
In general, First of all, critics should absolutely perceive why they are
criticizing. They should also be morally comfortable. They should not have
any concerns especially in the process of criticism. Critics should have a
detailed knowledge of the subject of their criticism in order to produce an
objective criticism. As well as, critics should apply the convenient criticism
method to the subject of their criticism. Furthermore, the nature of good
criticism has a great importance. Ideally, a good criticism should be clear,
relevant, well-researched, persuasive and to the point. Each criticism needs
to be based on a method or approach no matter what it is about.
Translation Criticism Models
Translation criticism is an essential link between tran Newmark argues
that a slation theory and its practice . translator must have a principle or
ideology before making translation criticism.
After that, five stages must be considered when criticizing translation,
namely (1) text analysis; (2) the translators' purpose; comparing the
translation with the origin al; (4) the evaluation of the translation; (5) an
assessment of the likely place of the translation in the target language (TL)
culture or discipline. Acco rding to Newmark [8 be considered from ]. When
conducting a translation criticism, two things need to the translation results,
namely referential and linguistics mistakes. Referential mistakes are about
facts, the real world, propositions, not words. Statements like water is air'
'water is black ' ' water breathes' are referential mistakes (though as
metaphors, they may be profoundly true). Referential mistakes exist in
'fiction' (i.e., imaginative literature) only when it incorrectly depicts the real
world now or in history. They reveal the ignorance of the translator, or
worse, of the writer, which the translator has 'copied'. Linguistic mistakes
show the translator's ignorance of the foreign language: they may be
grammatical or lexical, including words, collocations, or idioms.
1. Juliane House's Model of Translation Quality Assessment
House adopts a "functional equivalence" approach to translation, that is,
the basic principle of translation, where the translation should match the
original text in function. The functional-pragmatic model of House is based
on pragmatic theories of language use. For her, the basic requirement for
equivalence of original and translation is that the translation should have a
function, which is equivalent to that of the original (House, 1998). As it is
mentioned by Monday (2000), House' model involves a systematic
comparison of the textual 'profile' of the source text and target text. Monday
also notes that House' comparative model can be reduced to a register
analysis of both source text and target text according to their realization
through lexical, syntactic and textual means.
In House's work, there are two main notions which are the "covert
translation" that occupies a special place because "covert translations" are in
fact the only ones capable of actually achieving the main goal of the theory,
that is, "functional equivalence". By way of contrast, the other major type of
translation according to House, called "overt translation", necessarily falls
short of this goal However, even though "covert translation" is the only type
that can actually achieve functional equivalence, this does not necessarily
mean that it can do so easily, because of differences in the sociocultural
backgrounds of the source and target language audiences.
2. The Model of Katharina Reiss
Reiss' model as a text-based approach to TQA is a detailed analytical,
descriptive and objective approach to TQA. She believes that a comparison
with the original text is essential, and judgments must be based on strict and
objective criteria. It is the intelligibility, naturalness, and fluency of
translation that can be evaluated in one-sided translation criticism;
faithfulness to the meaning of the source text can be discovered only by a
strict comparison of the translation with the original (Reiss, 2000).
In Reiss’ terms, the evaluation of a translation solely on the basis of the
target language can be valuable for strictly limited purposes. But a
conclusive evaluation cannot be made without comparing the translation
with the original. One of the most important principles for translators is
complete fidelity to the intent of the original author. Only by a comparison
with the source language can it be discovered whether this fidelity has been
achieved, how well the intent of the author has been understood, how it has
been interpreted, and how successfully it has been expressed in the target
language. Evaluation on the basis of the source language represents criticism
which takes this fact into account (Reiss, 2000).
Reiss also believes that before an overall evaluation of a translation can
be made, it must be examined from a variety of perspectives. In other words,
criticism should begin with observing the type of text represented, which has
significant implications for a valid translation and then consider both the
linguistic and non-linguistic factors which are of essential significance for
the translation process. To determine the type of the text, Reiss refers to
Buhler and his three basic functions which are a representation, an
expression, and a persuasion. She then distinguishes the types of texts by the
function dominant in them which are respectively as follows: contentfocused (informative), form-focused (expressive), appeal-focused
(operative). To these three function-based text types, Reiss adds a fourth
group of texts that are audiomedial type written to be spoken or sung, not to
be read but to be heard.
In evaluating the translation of linguistic elements she considers four
kinds of elements that must be examined: the semantic elements for
assessing the “equivalence”, the lexical elements for evaluating the
“adequacy”, the grammatical elements for the evaluation of the
“correctness”, and stylistic elements for checking the “correspondence”.
3- Leuven-Zwart and Koster: “shifts” and the tertium comparationis
Kitty van Leuven-Zwart’s work on translation criticism became available to
English speakers at the very end of the 1980’s, albeit in the shortened form
of two articles appearing in Target. She proposes a two-stage model, starting
with microtextual analyses of random passages of source and target texts,
and then discusses how an accumulation of shifts on the microtextual level
can lead to shifts on the macrotextual level, with the aim of formulating
“hypotheses concerning the translator’s interpretation of the original text and
the strategy adopted” (1989: 154). Shifts on the microtextual level (microlevel) may occur on the semantic, pragmatic and stylistic levels, and are only
noted if they “substantially affect meaning” (1989: 155). Shifts are identified
by means of “transemes) ”comprehensible textual units) – these are then
compared to a common denominator, or “architranseme”, which therefore
functions as a tertium comparationis.
4. Armin Paul Frank and the transfer-oriented approach
Armin Paul Frank and a team of scholars made a distinction between
“external” and “internal” translation history, where the former is concerned
with the “circumstances and the institutions involved in translational
transfer, and the agents… those who actually
have carried out these transactions,”.
The project sought to identify a middle ground – the “transfer-oriented
approach ”- between the excesses of source- and target-oriented translation,
the aim being to embrace “considerations of the source side, the target side,
and of the differences between them”. The aim was to have a double focus,
both on the conditions prevalent in the target language and culture, and on
the insights that the act of translation can bring to the potential
interpretations of the source text. Thus the “deviations” that are discovered
are not to be considered as mistakes but as a means of gaining insight into
aspects of the source text that “are otherwise inaccessible”
5. Antoine Berman’s “critique”
Berman’s approach to translation criticism is essentially a hermeneutic
one, inspired on the one hand by Ricoeur and Jauss, and on the other hand
by Benjamin’s critical approach. Berman notes that in all the writings on
translation and translating, there have been a vast number of studies of
translations, going from the most naïve and simple to the most detailed. But
translation criticism
does not have its own specific form, and this is what Berman sets out to
“Releasing the truth of a translation” is the ultimate aim, and Berman sets
out a series of theoretical and methodological considerations to attain this
aim. Berman advocates a close reading of the target text, before turning to
the source text. This is to avoid falling into the trap of compulsive
comparison, but also to see whether the translation conforms to certain
standards – this is in
itself curious, as it seems to preclude any license with the target language
that has been taken in response to any idiosyncratic use of the source
language that the author may have exploited. On the one hand, the
translation must observe target-language norms and be well-written, and on
the other hand hold up as a text in its own right (1995: 65).
This is all very well, but presupposes a set of criteria that should, at least, be
made explicit. The only point of comparison in such an exercise is the
language and literature of the target culture; innovative decisions taken by
the translator on the basis of the source text are thus likely to be censured.
6. Raymond Van Den Broeck's Model of Translation Criticism
Raymond van den Broeck offers a model of translation criticism in his
paper “Second Thoughts on Translation Criticism: A Model of its Analytic
Function” published in 1985. Broeck tries to provide a systematic model of
the translated texts. He begins his paper by stating that translation criticism
has been reduced to subjective comments about the target text and listing the
translation mistakes.
Broeck states two preliminary remarks before describing his translation
criticism model. Firstly, he clearly expresses that it is an optimum model
based on the assumption that the critic will keep in view the original act of
communication and meta-communication. Secondly, his proposed model is
incomplete because it is especially related to one of the three functions of
translation criticism developed by Anton Popovic. The model only concerns
with the analytic function. The starting point of Broeck's model is a
comparative analysis of the source and the target texts. This analysis
demands both text structures and the systems of texts. In addition to these
two demands, the analysis should include the critic's value judgement. He
identifies the criteria for the critics. According to Broeck, the critics‟
evaluations take into consideration the translator's poetics and the
translational procedure applied by the translator. Moreover, the critics also
examine the policies followed by the translator. The aim of such a
comparison is to display the degree of factual equivalence between the two
texts. Here, Broeck uses "factual equivalence‟ as an observable phenomenon
that the two texts have the same functional relevant features.
The translation criticism model proposed by Broeck also takes into
account the shifts of expressions in the translation. He observes differences
between the shifts. Considering Broeck's approach, there are two kinds of
shifts: obligatory and optional. Obligatory shifts are rule based. They are
concerned with the target linguistic and cultural system. Hence, they are not
included in regarding the adequacy of the text. On the other hand, optional
shifts are governed by the translators norms. Thus, optional shifts are
regarded as the interfering with the acceptability of the target texts because
of creating a text compatible with the norms of the target systems.
Van den Broeck divides the comparison of the source and target text into
three phases:
1. A textemic analysis of the source text. This analysis consists of all
linguistic and extra-linguistic components to acquire functional relevance.
These components include phonic, lexical, and syntactic elements, language
varieties, figures of speech, structures of narration and poetic, elements of
text convention (punctuation, italicizing etc.) and so on.
2. A comparison of the target text elements corresponding to these textemes,
considering the various shifts or deviations corresponding to the source text.
While doing this, the methods of contrastive linguistics and stylistics can be
3. A general description of the differences between the existing TT/ST and
the Adequate Translation. It will show us the factual degree of the
equivalences between TT and ST. (Broeck, 1985: 58(
Broeck's model should not be confused with 'error analyses'. The
translation criticism model proposed by Broeck has a different nature. It is
not especially interested in the adequacy or correctness of the translation. It
copes with the 'hows' and 'whys' of the translated texts. By answering these
questions, the translator's norms and choices can be detected. However,
Broeck's model does not only include the comparison between the source
and the target text. It involves multiple relations between the ST and the
system of similar texts written in the same language; between the target texts
and its readers; between the TT and other translations and so on.
Vinay and Darbelnet
In addition to Nida and Catford, there was no shortage of attempts by other
translation theorists in the 1950s and 1960s to define the concept of
equivalence and its place in translation theory. In their detailed, contrastive
analysis of English and French, Vinay and Darbelnet (1958/1977) proposed
a set of procedures for the translator to use in order to account for the need
for 'indirect' translation involving instances when equivalence in the target
language cannot be established. One such procedure, 'chasse-croise, turns
Bleriot flew across the Channel' into 'Bleriot traversa la Manche en avion'
While in English, motion and manner are both contained in the verb 'flew',
in translation into French the two features cannot be expressed through the
use of one verb. Instead the notion of 'motion' is conveyed through the verb
traversa (crossed) and that of 'manner' expressed separately, in 'en avion' (by
The two general translation strategies identified by Vinay and
Darbelnet are (i) direct translation and (ii) oblique translation, which
hark back to the ‘literal vs. free’ division ,‘literal’ is given by the authors as
a synonym for direct translation 2004: 128). The two strategies comprise
seven procedures, of which direct translation covers three (MUNDAY,
1. Borrowing: is a translation procedure that involves using the
same word, phrase or expression in the source language into the
target language, ‫كمبيوتر‬Computer ‫الجبر‬Algebra
2. Calque: is a translation procedure in which an expression in the
source language is translated word –by-word into the target
language literally. The translator adopted the structure of the
source language in the target language.
3. Literal Translation: is the procedure of translating directly
idiomatically suitable and appropriate in the target language.
Literal translation is acceptable if the translated language
contains the same word, phrase, or sentence structure, meaning
and style as the source language.
4. Transposition: is a procedure of changing the word class of a
word or certain words combination without changing the
message in the translation process. It introduces a change in
grammatical structure.
‫حال نهوضها او حالما نهضت‬Upon her rising
5. Modulation: is a translation procedure that occurs in the
translation process which involves changing the point of view
of the source language in the target language in the semantic
‫ من السهل او ليس من الصعب‬It is easy ….
6. Equivalence: this procedure is used to transfer the message of
an expression in the source language by transferring the
expression in to the closest equivalence of the expression in the
target language in totally different way of stylistic and
structural method. The expression in both languages describe
the same situation
‫يتصرف مثل ثور اهوج او يتصرف بحماقة‬bull in a china shop A
7. Adaptation: the procedure is used when certain word, phrase,
or expression in the source language is not suitable or
appropriate culturally in the target language. The translator
must replace the word, phrase, or expression in the source
language by adapting the suitable or appropriate word, phrase,
or expression of the target language ex. cricket (stadium in
French and a name of a game in British). (Nago, 2018)
We understood that evaluating the quality of a translation is dependent
on different factors. The purpose of the text and the type of the text are
amongst the most important ones that can help us in evaluating a translation.
Evaluating the quality of a translation or criticizing it is a very central issue
in translation studies. So if we want to have a productive criticism we should
look at all the different aspects of a translated text. One sided criticism
which carries no comparison of the translation with the original cannot be a
useful way of criticizing because it only shows the naturalness and not the
faithfulness of a translation.
Hewson, Lance. An approach to translation criticism: Emma and Madame
Bovary in translation. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 2012. Print.
Graduate School of Social Sciences
Department of Translation and Interpreting. 2015.access in .27.2.2017 Access to in 3.3.2017
Adelnia, Amineh. " To Be or not To Be; This is the Problem for Translation
Critics". Journal of Applied Linguistics and Language Research. 2015.