30 Kasım 2007 Cuma

a late response

Eugene A. Nida and Meaning-full Translations

The prevailing tendency among the theories of translation developed in the 1960s was linguistic-based and the socio-cultural aspect of translation was dismissed to a certain extent. Yet, amongst these scholars who were in favour of a linguistic-based approach to the study and practice of translation, Eugene A. Nida, mostly celebrated with his Holy Bible translations, was actually one of the forerunners of the cultural turn-to-come to study the translation practices. Nida, by melting the cultural elements and the linguistic aspects inherent in his approach in the same pot, acquires a specific place in the midst of the other translation scholars who maintained a linguistic-based approach to translation.

This dual notion of Nida’s approach, in fact, surfaces in the terms that the scholar coins. Nida’s remarkable article entitled, “Principles of Correspondence”, written in 1964, offers the gist of the scholar’s approach to a certain degree. While “formal equivalence” seeks to render the message of the ST by means of word for word, concept to concept translation, “dynamic equivalence” aspires to reflect the entire naturalness of the ST in the TT (cf. Nida: 2000 134). A detailed reading of this article, moreover, would offer the chance to understand how the scholar’s approach to translation in the 2000s is more or less relies on the theories he developed in the 1960s. An interview made by Eugene A. Nida himself in 2002, and published online in the website of “Christianity Today”, for example, suggests itself as a representative example of such an argument. In addition to re-reading Nida’s arguments with respect to translation from a contemporary perspective, the interview also comprises the stages that the scholar employs in a given translation process.

Throughout the interview, Nida puts momentous emphasis on the meaning of the TT rather than the words of the text. According to Nida, the “word-worship” helps people to have self-confidence, but on the other hand, impedes them from understanding the text. In some obscure cases, Nida advocates the usage of footnotes to get rid of the vagueness and carry the meaning for the TT reader. In the translation process –by giving tangible examples from the practical field– Nida indicates how he favours the group work and shapes the translation product in accordance with the receptions of the TT readers.

When Nida’s ideas of translation –both in this particular interview and in his theoretical writings– are taken into consideration in line with the “Vatican Norms for Translation of Biblical Texts” set out in the spring of 1997, one can see how Nida’s opinions differ from these rules to a certain degree. Whereas the Vatican Norms stress out the significance of fidelity to the words of the (sacred) text, for Nida it is the context and the meaning needs to be rendered. Seen from this perspective, Nida’s ideas of translation acquire a different position in terms of translating the sacred texts.

On the whole, Nida’s arguments regarding translation and the translation process are quite remarkable. Still, the fact that the scholar derives his ideas from the perspective of religion, that is to say, from the perspective of how to spread Christianity throughout the world, limits Nida’s ideas to some extent. When one thinks of literary translation, for instance, the search for a dynamic equivalence might distort the socio-cultural components of the TT to some degree. Literary translation process, in which there is a ST composed of socio-cultural elements of a given culture can as well as be regarded as a bridge between cultures. However, when the translator seeks to find a dynamic equivalence, s/he is in the position of taking the TT norms as the ultimate criteria and makes the socio-cultural elements of the ST compatible with the ones of the TT. Yet Nida, by adding the cultural elements of his linguistic-based approach, and by connoting some of basic ideas (i.e. the action) of the Skopostheorie of Hans J. Vermeer, acquires a specific place within the other scholars who developed a linguistic-based approach to the study and practice of translation.


Eugene Nida, “The Principles of Correspondence” in Lawrence Venuti (ed.), The Translation Studies Reader, London-New York: Routledge, 2000, pp. 126-140

Meaning-full Translations, Christianity Today
(accessed 25 November 2007).

The 1997 Vatican Norms for Translation of Biblical Texts
<http://www.bible-researcher.com/vatican-norms.html>. (accessed 25 November 2007).

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