Dynamic and formal equivalence
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Dynamic equivalence and formal equivalence are terms for methods of translation coined by Eugene Nida. The two terms have often been understood as fundamentally the same as sense-for-sense translation (translating the meanings of phrases or whole sentences) and word-for-word translation (translating the meanings of individual words in their more or less exact syntactic sequence), respectively, and Nida himself often seemed to use them this way. However, his original definition of dynamic equivalence was rhetorical: the idea was that the translator should translate so that the effect of the translation on the target reader is roughly the same as the effect of the source text once was on the source reader.
Approaches to translation
The terms "dynamic equivalence" and "formal equivalence" were originally coined to describe ways of translating the Bible, but the two approaches are applicable to any translation of any text.
Formal equivalence tends to emphasise fidelity to the lexical details and grammatical structure of the original language. Dynamic equivalence, by contrast, tends to favour a more natural rendering, for instance when the readability of the translation is more important than the preservation of the original grammatical structure. In diplomacy or in some business settings people may insist on formal equivalence because they believe that fidelity to the grammatical structure of the language equals greater accuracy whereas in literature a novel might be translated with greater use of dynamic equivalence so that it may read well.
According to Nida, dynamic equivalence is the "quality of a translation in which the message of the original text has been so transported into the receptor language that the response of the receptor is essentially like that of the original receptors." Nida tended to use the term so that "the response of the receptor" was mostly semantic – the target reader took the meaning of the text to be such that the source reader would have taken the source text to mean the same thing – which led to critical accusations that this was just sense-for-sense translation in new guise. However, if "response" is taken in its full extension, dynamic equivalence could include not only what Aristotle (in the Rhetoric) calls logos (meaning and structure) but also ethos (the reader's assumption about the text's authority) and pathos (how the reader feels about the text).
In later years, Nida distanced himself the term "dynamic equivalence" and preferred the term "functional equivalence". The term "functional equivalence" suggests not just that the equivalence is between the function of the source text in the source culture and the function of the target text (translation) in the target culture, but that "function" can be thought of as a property of the text. It is, however, possible to think of functional equivalence too in the larger (dynamic/intercultural) context as about more than the structure of texts – as about how people interact in cultures. However, according to Md. Ziaul Haque, a poet, columnist, scholar, researcher and a faculty member of the English department at Sylhet International University, Bangladesh, “At the very beginning, the translator keeps both the [s]ource [l]anguage... and [t]arget [l]anguage... in mind and tries to translate carefully. But it becomes very difficult for a translator to decode the whole text... literally; therefore he takes the help of his own view and endeavours to translate accordingly.”  He has also invented a term viz, ‘translation of objects' from the perspective of literature. He proposes “a new way to view translation and equivalence since some of the characters in William Shakespeare‘s Othello and The Merchant of Venice turn into translators by translating certain objects. In these plays, the ‘handkerchief’ and the 'pound of flesh' respectively have different meanings to the individual characters. As translation deals with equivalence, the mentioned objects are equivalent to different things or concepts to the particular characters. Therefore, we can say that objects can also be translated and mistranslated since they are considered as equivalents to something else. Hence, the legacy of Derrida continues not only in the domain of equivalence but also in the newborn concept of the ‘translation of objects’.”
Theory and practice
Because dynamic equivalence eschews strict adherence to the grammatical structure of the original text in favor of a more natural rendering in the target language, it is sometimes used when the readability of the translation is more important than the preservation of the original grammatical structure.
Formal equivalence is often more goal than reality, if only because one language may contain a word for a concept which has no direct equivalent in another language. In such cases, a more dynamic translation may be used or a neologism may be created in the target language to represent the concept (sometimes by borrowing a word from the source language).
The more the source language differs from the target language, the more difficult it may be to understand a literal translation. On the other hand, formal equivalence can sometimes allow readers familiar with the source language to see how meaning was expressed in the original text, preserving untranslated idioms, rhetorical devices (such as chiastic structures in the Hebrew Bible),[clarification needed] and diction.
Translators of the Bible have taken various approaches in rendering it into English, ranging from an extreme use of formal equivalence, to extreme use of dynamic equivalence.
- Predominant use of formal equivalence
- King James Version (1611)
- Young's Literal Translation (1862)
- Lexham English Bible (2011, 2012)
- Revised Version (1885)
- American Standard Version (1901)
- Revised Standard Version (1952)
- New American Standard Bible (1995)
- New King James Version (1982)
- English Standard Version (2001)
- New Revised Standard Version (1989)
- Douay-Rheims (1610)
- Green's Literal Translation (1985)
- Moderate use of dynamic equivalence
- New International Version
- Today's New International Version
- Holman Christian Standard Bible called "optimal equivalence"
- New American Bible
- New English Translation
- Modern Language Bible
- Extensive use of dynamic equivalence or paraphrase or both
- New Jerusalem Bible
- New English Bible
- Revised English Bible
- Good News Bible (formerly "Today's English Version")
- Complete Jewish Bible
- New Living Translation
- God's Word Translation
- Contemporary English Version
- Extensive use of paraphrase
- Lexical markup framework
- The Bible version debate
- Textualism in jurisprudence:
- Nida, Eugene A., and Charles R. Taber. (1969). The Theory and Practice of Translation, With Special Reference to Bible Translating, 200. Leiden: Brill.
- Let the words be written: the lasting influence of Eugene A. Nida p. 51 Philip C. Stine – 2004 "That probably would not have happened if it hadn't been for Nida's ideas" (Charles Taber, interview with author, 21 Oct. 2000).7 Nida later felt that the term "dynamic equivalence" had been misunderstood and was partly responsible for
- Translation and religion: holy untranslatable? p91 Lynne Long – 2005 "In order to avoid certain misunderstandings, de Waard and Nida (1986: 7, 36) later replaced the term 'dynamic equivalence' with 'functional equivalence', but they stated clearly that 'The substitution of "functional equivalence"' is not..."
- The History of the Reina-Valera 1960 Spanish Bible p98 Calvin George – 2004 "190 For this reason in his later writings he distanced himself from the term 'dynamic equivalence,' preferring instead 'functional equivalence.' 191 The idea is to produce the closest natural equivalent in the target or 188 190 Nida, ..."
- Ziaul Haque, Md. "Translating Literary Prose: Problems and Solutions", International Journal of English Linguistics, vol. 2, no. 6; 2012, p. 99. Retrieved on 2013-01-12.
- Ziaul Haque, Md. Expanding the Horizon of Equivalence: The Translation of Certain Objects in William Shakespeare’s "Othello" and "The Merchant of Venice", International Researchers, vol. 2, no. 4; 2013, p. 139. Retrieved on 2014-01-07.
- Data collected from two sources that have nearly identical ranking with an overlapping (supplemental) list of translations studied: 1. Thomas, Robert L., Bible Translations: The Link Between Exegesis and Expository Preaching, pages 63ff; and 2. Clontz, T.E. and Clontz, J., The Comprehensive New Testament, page iii.
- Barker, Kenneth L. "The Balanced Translation Philosophy of the TNIV". Retrieved 2007-11-29.