Several attempts have been made to develop a translation theory based on different translation ranks or levels as they are sometimes called. Among those one of the most popular in the former Soviet Union was the “theory of translation equivalence level (TEL)” developed by V.Komissarov.
According to this theory the translation process fluctuates (ęîëĺáëĺňń˙) passing from formal inter-language transformations to the domain (ńôĺđŕ) of conceptual interrelations. V.Komissarov’s approach seems to be a realistic interpretation of the translation process; however, this approach fails to demonstrate when and why one translation equivalence level becomes no longer appropriate and why, to get a correct translation, you have to pass to a higher TEL.
Y.Retsker maintains that any two languages are related by regular correspondences (words, word-building patterns, syntactical structures) and “irregular ones”. The irregular correspondences cannot be formally represented and only the translator’s knowledge and intuition can help to find the matching formal expression in the target language for a concept expressed in the source language.
According to J.Firth, in order to bridge languages in the process of translation, one must use the whole complex of linguistic and extralinguistic information rather than limit oneself to purely linguistic objects and structures.
J.Catford, similar to V.Komissarov and J.Firth, interprets translation as a multi-level process. According to Catford a certain set of translation tools characteristic of a certain level constitutes a rank of translation and a translation performed using that or another set of tools is called rank bound.
All these theories try to explain the process of translation to a degree of precision required for practical application, but no explanation is complete so far.
The transformational approach quite convincingly suggests that in any language there are certain regular syntactic, morphological, and word-building structures which may be successfully matched with their analogies in another language during translation. The transformational approach forms the basis of machine translation design – almost any machine translation system uses the principle of matching forms of the languages involved in translation. The difference is only in the forms that are matched and the rules of matching.
The denotative approach treats different languages as closed systems with specific relationships between formal and conceptual aspects; hence in the process of translation links between the forms of different languages are established via conceptual equivalence.
The communicational approach highlights a very important aspect of translation – the matching of thesauruses. Translation may achieve its ultimate target of rendering a piece of information only if the translator knows the users’ language and the subject matter of the translation well enough (i.e. if the translator’s language and subject thesauruses are sufficiently complete). This may self-evident, but should always be kept in mind, because all translation mistakes result from the insufficiencies in the thesauruses. Moreover, wholly complete thesauruses are the ideal case and it is still virtually impossible to know everything about any possible subject matter related to the translation.
Different approaches differ only in the accents placed on this or that component but all theories discussed recognize the following three basic components of translation:
Meaningof a word or word combination in the source language (concept or concepts corresponding to this word or word combination in the minds of the source language speakers).
Equivalenceof this meaning expressed in a word or word combination of the target language (concept or concepts corresponding to this word or word combination in the minds of the target language speakers).
Extralinguistic information pertaining to the original meaning and/or its conceptual equivalent after the translation.
So, to put it differently, what you can do in translation is either match individual words and combinations of the two languages directly (transformational approach), or understand the content of the source message and render it using the formal means of the target language (denotative approach) with due regard of the translation recipient and background information (communicational approach).