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A Brief Analysis of Interlingual Transfer
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A Brief Analysis of Interlingual Transfer in English and German Technical Texts

By Karl J. Kaussen

This article discusses German and English technical language from the point of view of the translator. --The Editor

Technical language or, as it is also called, language for special purposes, differs in many respects from quotidian language. In order to pinpoint these differences it is necessary to define the parameters within which these languages function. Languages for special purposes (LSP) seem to operate on the periphery of quotidian language (QL), where they have their roots and origin, and by whose grammatical rules and norms they are bound, in that only a relatively limited number of speakers have an active command of LSPs and can communicate in them freely. Passive LSP competence among the general populace is facilitated by easy access to the information media which have contributed to the spread of technical terminology and its assimilation in the QL. Note, for example, the following set of LSP terms which have entered the competence of the QL speakers:


Eng. impacted; cardiac arrest; ambulatory
The cars impacted at high speed.
Smoking may lead to cardiac arrest.
The patient was not ambulatory.

Germ. Test; Jet; Mixer
Die Motoren werden einem rigorosen Test unterzogen.
(The engines are put through a rigorous test.)
Wir sind in einem Jet nach New York geflogen.
(We flew to New York in a jet.)
Der Mixer überträgt die akustischen Elemente des Films auf ein Tonband.
(The mixer transfers the acoustic elements of the film to a tape.)

The purpose of this article is, however, to uncover, specify, and demonstrate, albeit on a rather abridged scale due to constraints of time and space, the linguistic strategies operative in the competence of the technical/scientific translator. To circumvent preoccupation with the polemics inherent in translation theory and to shift the focus from some of the more traditional questions of translation raised in such theory, I take an approach toward two sets of data, English and German, both serving as either target or source language, which speaks directly, i.e. unencumbered as much as possible by metatheory, to the dynamics of language transfer from one language to the other. The designation 'transfer' is chosen, since it comprises an ensemble of features from all components of the grammar, from phonological to discourse elements. Further, and very importantly, the degrees of iconicity in the transfer pairs are many and varied, ranging from complete to zero.

At this point it may be appropriate to give a short overview of the older and recent history of translation research.

The worldwide interest in the problems of interlingual transfer is not a recent phenomenon. In his Libellus de optimogenere oratorum Cicero gave the advice to translators in 46 B.C. not to translate verbum pro verbe . Through the centuries interlingual transfer has been the object of study and discussion; at first the emphasis was on empirical methods. Luther's Sendbrief vom Dolmetschen (1530) , Pierre Daniel Huet's De optimo genere interpretandi , published in Paris in 1680, and Lord Woodhouselee's Essay on the Principles of Translation , London, 1792, set the tone for Friedrich Schleiermacher's essay Über die verschiedenen Methoden des Übersetzens , 1813, in which translation is seen as a hermeneutic problem. Humboldt and Schlegel continue Schleiermacher's approach of interlingual transfer as a problem of "understanding" speech acts, and into the 20th century this philosophical approach was taken by, among others, Goethe, Schopenhauer, Paul Valéry, Walter Benjamin, and Ortega y Gasset.

Toward the end of the 1940s the first machine translations appear. Linguistic theory and statistical analysis are applied in the solving of translation problems by followers of the Formalist Movement, especially in Russia and Czechoslovakia.

At the time of publication of Andrei Fedorov's Introduction to the Theory of Translation and the introduction of essays On Translation , edited by Reuben A. Brower (1959-1966), structural linguistics and information theory had become an integral part of the study of interlingual transfer.

The twentieth century has indeed become, in Pierre Caille's words, the "Century of Translation", and as modern linguistics was trying to distance itself from the Humboldt and Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis and its postulate of untranslatability, contrastive linguists like Mario Wandruska (1969) and Roman Jakobson (1959-66) took the approach of synchronic descriptive studies. Jakobson did not subscribe to the theory that some texts are untranslatable since a language can compensate for and absorb new features into its lexicon and grammatical system. Otto Kade's (1964) apparent disagreement with Jakobson's view was based on the theory that translation is only possible to the extent that two languages contain equivalent features.

In subsequent years new insights into the problem of translation were offered by scholars such as Katharina Reiss and Wolfram Wilss. Reiss proposed a typological approach/functional approach, and Wolfram Wilss explored semiotic aspects in the science of translation.

With the rapid development in the fields of computer science and artificial intelligence there will no doubt be an ever increasing interest in translation theory, especially in view of the industrialized world's heavy dependency on technical/scientific translation.

In trying to determine the general features of language for special purposes, one recognizes that LSPs and QL overlap at some point. There is no defined separation or demarcation line, since LSPs operate within the parameters of the QL. What sets them apart is their specialized terminology and the frequency of the syntactic features that are not as prevalent in the QL. If one studies the LSPs it becomes apparent that their special lexico-stylistic features are by no means limited to their terminologies. These observations provide us with a set of parameters to be tested for generally accepted features of LSPs.

Word Formation

Technical word formation in English and German is facilitated by using affixation, compounding, and combinations of both, e.g. Eng. ambisinistrous, retrogressive, protoplasm, unipolar; Germ. ambivalent, Astronomie, Protoplasma, unipolar.

One way in which both English and German LSPs create collective nouns is by adding the suffix Eng. -ing, Germ. -ung to a verb (e.g. Eng. binding, clearing, lowering; Germ. Bindung, Klärung, Senkung).

Countable nouns can be created from non-countables by suffixation or root vowel alternation, e.g. Eng. wool>wools, earth>earths; Germ. Wasser>Wässer(water), Stahl>Stähle (steel).

A variety of meaning-changing suffixes are involved in the following derivations: Eng. malleable, lead free, faultless, angular, ferrous; Germ. schmiedbar, bleifrei, fehlerlos, eisenhaltig.

The -er suffix added to a noun derived from a verb is poly-functional in that it can occur in names of devices or agents. This rarely presents the translator with a problem since the context will usually reveal the meaning of the term, e.g. Eng. The welder broke down; The welder is on vacation; Germ. Gib mir den Bohrer (Give me the drill); der Wochenlohn eines Bohrers (the weekly wages of a drilling machine operator).

Some verbal nouns with suffixes form a sub-class, e.g. Eng. flatting mill; calcinizing furnace; fine tuning; Germ. Einschnürungspunkt (cross-over point (elektr.)); Eichungstensor (gauging tensor); Gärungsmesser (zymometer).

Compounding, although believed to be more frequent in German than in English, certainly plays a significant role in LSPs of both languages, e.g. Eng. sand-blast; dry-clean; drop-forge; cold-rivet; Germ. sandstrahlen (sand-blast); nasszwirnen (wet-twining); heißkalandrieren (hot-roll); kaltschmieden (cold-hammer).

Especially productive in German are double verb compounds, e.g. trennschleifen (cut off by grinding); spritzgießen (make a molding with the help of an injection molding machine); streckziehen (stretch-form).

Compound adjectives include, e.g. Eng. light-weight; heavy-duty; thin-spread; Germ. farbempfindlich (color sensitive); hitzeerzeugend (heat generating); sauerstoffangereichert (oxygen-enriched).

Latin and Greek Borrowings.

It is noteworthy that affixes in either English or German borrowed from Latin or Greek do not require interlingual transfer. There seems to be a definite tendency towards internationalization of scientific and technical terminology. Mario Wandruszka's contention that all languages are "polysystems" is especially true for LSPs. Indeed, the terminology of computer science and aviation is almost universally understood and accepted in its predominantly English form. An interesting phenomenon, however, is the fact that in English new scientific and technical terms are assimilated into quotidian language and become part of the active language competence of the general populace, whereas in German, there are often two sets of words with the same meaning. The Germanic words are usually used in QL, and the Latin/Greek-derived words are reserved for technical/scientific language, e.g. Eng. coherent; suspend; Germ. zusammenhängend / kohärent; des Amtes entheben / suspendieren.

The degree of technical and scientific language competence also depends, of course, on the speaker's level of education. The German example shows that in view of the difference in language competence among the members of a language group, it is obviously of great importance for the translator to know who will be the receiver of a text in a target language (TL) group.

Abbreviations and acronyms, e.g. NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization);

EEC (European Economic Community); DDT (Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane); PCB (Polichlorinated Biphenyl) are used in LSPs and QL of both English and German. Many abbreviations and acronyms coined in English are commonly used in mixed German-English compounds, e.g. RTT-Station (real time telemetry station); RTOL-Flugzeug (reduced take-off and landing aircraft).

German acronyms like Kfz-Steuer for Kraftfahrzeugsteuer (motor vehicle tax) or RSG for Rohstahlgewicht (crude steel unit) are language specific. They are not transferable and require an English equivalent.

Some abbreviations have no phonological reflex and exist only in written form, e.g. Eng. ft(feet); Hz (Herz); lbs (pounds); Germ. kg (Kilogramm); cm (Zentimeter); km (Kilometer). In their spoken form these abbreviations are spelled out in full. Sometimes acronyms take on a life of their own and their phonological reflex sounds like an independent term, e.g. Eng. radar (radio detecting and ranging); Germ. TÜV (Technischer Überwachungsverein) (Technical Control Board).

Whether or not an acronym becomes an accepted word in its own right depends on the distribution of vowels and consonants, leading to ease of articulation. In the sequence vowel-consonant-vowel or consonant-vowel-consonant the acronym is pronounced like a normal independent term, e.g. Eng,: NATO; OPEC; RADAR; Germ. Stuka (Sturzkampfflugzeug) (dive bomber); DIN (Deutsche Industrienorm) (German Standard Paper Size). If the sequence is V-C-C or C-C-C the letters are pronounced individually, e.g. Eng. ABC rotor (advanced blade concept...); ABM (antiballistic missile); A.C.S.R. (aluminum cable, steel reinforced); Germ. AKD (Arbeitsgemeinschaft kommunaler Datenverarbeitung) (association of municipal data processing); EDV (Elektronische Datenverarbeitung) (electronic data processing); TSV (Technische Sicherheitsvorschriften) (technical safety regulations).

Signs, symbols, and formulae are considered part of the LSP terminology since they can be linguistically reproduced, e.g. they can be read aloud. Diagrams and schematic drawings, however, are not considered part of linguistic communication, since they can only be described but not read aloud.

Another distinctive feature of LSPs is their grammatical conventions. A precise description of scientific facts and technical data requires a language that is short, to the point, and without ambiguities. This accounts for the high rate of nominalizations in LSPs, because nouns denote things and processes. Non-finite verbs are used in nominal and adjectival function because there is no need for tenses, other than the present tense. Consider, e.g. Eng. upon completion of one rotation... vs. after one rotation has been completed...; Germ. Bei Überprüfung des Ladegewichts... vs. Wenn das Ladegewicht überprüft wird...

Complex predicate constructions like pressure lubricated or temperature dependent clearly show a preference for brevity in favor of long subject-predicate-object clauses.

Since the primary function of LSP is the conveyance of information, the language must be precise and direct. This accounts for the frequent use of declarative sentences. Interrogative sentences and direct questions are seldom used, e.g. Eng. It is important to check the accuracy of the measurements vs.

It is important to check, if the measurements are accurate; Germ. Vor Inbetriebnahme Dichtheit der O-Ringe überprüfen vs Bevor die Maschine in Betrieb gesetzt wird, muß nachgeprüft werden, ob die O-Ringe dicht ansitzen (Before starting the engine, check if O-rings are tight).

Whereas in English the transitive use of intransitive verbs, and the use of transitive verbs in passive intransitive mode, i.e. medial voice, seem to be a unique LSP feature (probably introduced into QL through the use in advertising, e.g. High temperature combusts the material; The fabric washes easily ;

The book reads well, such constructions are a common feature of QL in German, where they occur as prepositional clauses with bei and/or passive clauses with sich, e.g. Bei hoher Temperatur entzündet sich das Material ; Der Stoff läßt sich leicht waschen; Das Buch läßt sich leicht lesen (same as Eng. examples).

LSPs show a distinct preference for the use of verbs in their non-finite form. In some instances the infinitive is the only verb possible, e.g. Eng. weather-strip; freeze-dry; spot-weld; Germ. hohlschleifen (hollow-grind); druckziehen (compress-form); tiefätzen (deep-etch).

In English LSPs the sequence verb+object+infinitive is very common, e.g. The software enables the user to interrupt the program , while in German the non-finite verb is commonly replaced by a personal verb form or a nominalized verb, e.g. Die Software ermöglicht Benutzer die Unterbrechung des Programms (same as Eng).

German LSPs often employ the infinitive to avoid the Sie or Du imperative, e.g. Vor Gebrauch gut schütteln (Shake well before using) vs. Schütteln Sie (die Flüssigkeit, die Flasche, etc.) vor Gebrauch (Shake the (fluid, bottle, etc.) before using). In addition to avoiding the dilemma of whether to use Sie or Du the non-finite form in final position also meets the requirement of brevity since the recipient of the action is implicit in the context.

German LSPs (especially in cookbooks) usually use the man form in conjunction with the subjunctive, e.g. Man nehme eine Tasse Mehl, zwei Teelöffel Zucker... (Take one cup of flour, two teaspoons of sugar...); Man gebe zunächst etwas Öl auf die Sprungfeder... (First apply some oil on the spring).

English LSPs always prefer in those cases the use of the simple imperative. In scientific and technical German LSPs, man is usually combined with a personal verb form, e.g. Man potenziert eine Potenz, indem man den Exponenten multipliziert. (A power is exponentiated by multiplying the exponent).

While English QL often uses the equivalent of the German man , e.g. One does what one can, scientific English prefers in almost every case the passive form (see preceding example). German LSPs, on the other hand, regularly interchange the passive and the man construction, e.g. Eine Potenz wird potenziert, indem man den Exponenten multipliziert.

Recent statistics also show that in a given technical text the number of technical/scientific terms amount normally to approximately 12-15%. This does not take into account frequent repetition of the same term, a syntactic device used to ensure clarity and precision, and to avoid ambiguities. Text reference and text cohesion in QL is achieved with the help of synonyms, pronominalization, and paraphrasing. In LSPs it is repetition of lexical items that ties the text together.

Another feature of LSPs worth mentioning is clause phenomena. In addition to the use of technical terminology, LSPs in both English and German show a preference for certain grammatical structures which at first glance may appear to be regular QL features, but which probably have found their way into QL via the LSPs. English, for example, frequently uses while and whereas, e.g. Force is a vector, while pressure is a scalar. The equivalent form in a German technical, or scientific text would be Während Kraft ein Vektor ist, ist Druck ein Skalar.

Scientific treatises , hypotheses, and argumentations frequently use the imperative to introduce a new theme, e.g. Eng. Assume that the multiplying factor is 6; Germ. Nehmen wir an, der Faktor beträgt 6. (Same as Eng.)

Where English uses the first person plural imperative, e.g. Let us compare..., German inverts the same form, e.g. Vergleichen wir... English uses the imperative with let much more frequently in scientific and technical language than in QL, e.g. Let F1 be the initial force. The equivalent construction with sei in German would be, e.g. F1 sei die Ausgangskraft.

Here is a good place to break the article into two parts if necessary, and publish the second half in the next issue.Pragmatics

Now I would like to take a brief look at pragmatics in interlingual transfer. Most SL texts are not directed towards a TL audience so that the pragmatics of the source language text are initially SL-oriented. The original author's work may or may not have been aimed at an audience. If the author himself is the audience, his intention is not, of course, to elicit a reaction. He may simply want to express his feelings toward a specific subject. But whatever the author's intentions, in the course of translation of his text, a modification of the pragmatic parameters takes place.

The ideological frame of the text may be displaced to a certain extent in that the translator has a specific audience in mind, and specifically an audience from another culture. His motives are different from those of the original author. He must determine the function of the text in the TL; thus he may have to change the text in such way that the text will afford the receiver in the TL the same orientation as the SL text did the SL audience. In so doing he may even make some concepts clearer than they were in the SL text.

If we take, for example, the description of the features of a truck, where the target group in the SL are American truck drivers, one particular feature may be described as "the fifth wheel", a device which connects the trailer to the front part of the truck. The translator cannot assume that the German TL audience uses the same type of jargon and simply replace the term with "fünftes Rad", but rather he must use the correct technical term "Sattelkupplung". Thus the text has to be analyzed first, and the terminology used has to be judged for its appropriateness within each of the respective codes because, as Jonathan Culler writes in his Structuralist Poetics, language competence "is the result of shared assumptions and conventions" (compare this also to Ferdinand de Saussure's 'langue/parole', and Noam Chomsky's 'competence/performance'). In other words, the contents cannot be equated automatically with the same contents expressed in a different language.

The translator who, ideally, is familiar with the linguistic conditions of the text and who knows the functionality and expressive possibilities of the target language, must at the outset determine text type and text function. Text type approximates genre, and it will be identical for both SL and TL. Text function speaks to the purpose of the identified text type. While the text type remains the same under translation, the text function of the SL and TL may differ.

In her treatise "Texttyp und Übersetzungsmethode" (1976) Katharina Reiss recognizes three basic types of text, i.e. texts with emphasis on content (informative), texts with emphasis on form (expressive), and texts with emphasis on effect (operative). According to Reiss' definition, the informative text is a text expressed towards the intellect. Its primary function is the conveyance of knowledge and/or the description of facts. The expressive text, on the other hand, is characterized by its artistic nature, which emphasizes form and style, and the primary function of which will be lost if it is approached purely for its informative contents. The operative text is addressed directly towards an audience in order to influence its behavior and/or to provoke it to certain actions.

A fourth text is listed as an 'audio-medial' text. This is a sub-category which includes texts that are assigned to either one of the three types, depending upon their communicative function, e.g. "an opera libretto may be a realization of an expressive text, a scientific radio program may be informative, a T.V. commercial may be an operative text." (Reiss 1975:35)

Examples of informative texts are travel reports, service manuals, financial reports, newspaper articles, how-to instruction manuals, medical reports, as well as the report you are reading just now. In some instances informative and expressive reports may overlap, such as in travel brochures, sales manuals, or even financial reports. Some or all features in such a text describing a particular item may entice a reader to make a purchase, i.e. the information contained in the text may influence a reader's actions. Thus, text types are not mutually exclusive.

All scientific and technical texts are ultimately informative texts. For example, the following short text provides the reader with certain facts and information. It has no emotional appeal, in contrast to expressive and/or operative texts:

Germ.I can't make this paragraph indent like the following Eng. one. Can you?Die Performanz eines Sprengstoffes ist die Funktion von nahe der Detonationsfront freiwerdender Spitzenenergie und der Restenergie, die in der Taylorwelle frei wird.

Eng. The performance of an explosive is a function of both the peak energy released near the detonation front and the remainder of the energy that is released during the Taylor wave.

In the translation of an expressive text, form, style and meaning must be, or, ideally, should be transferred. But the transfer of form and style is often impossible without resorting to the use of a metalanguage that will act as an intermediary between SL and TL. The German word-for-word transfer of the Chinese poem below, for example, with its many one-syllable words, can only become an adequate transfer by disregarding the meter or by giving the audience some instructions in Chinese culture and history. A Chinese reader obviously shares with the Chinese author a system "of ... assumptions and conventions" (see above). This shared knowledge is transmitted through language, but the production and comprehension of meaningful discourse relies to a large extent on presuppositions and beliefs shared between the interlocutors. Thus, the knowledge of shared linguistic rules allow the reader to understand ellipses used in a text to accommodate meter. We may concur here with Heidegger who says that "language speaks, not the person". "Der Mensch spricht nur, indem er geschicklich der Sprache entspricht. " (Man speaks only in so far as he artfully 'complies with language'.)

The Chinese poem reads word-for-word in German:
still Nacht denken (title)
Bett (da-)vor hell Mond Schein
Zweifeln dies Erde (dar-)auf Reif
Heben Haupt blicken hell Mond
Senken Haupt denken alt Land,Dorf
(translated into German by von Tscharner)

A very rough translation into English would look something like the following:
Nocturnal Contemplation
A full moon shines on my bed,
Could it be that the earth is covered with frost?
I lift my head and look at the full moon.
I bow my head and think of home.

This example obviously does not yield data for LSP studies. Its discussion here is to clarify the text type system suggested earlier.

The operative text presents the translator with a different set of parameters. He must know exactly what type of audience is to be targeted. An example would be the text below for advertising purposes which elicits a response from the reader. The content of the text is often changed in translation, since it is determined by the target group. Which is why we no longer simply speak of translation in such cases, but of 'localizing'.

Don't let your greens get the blues. Life isn't always rosy. But you can capture the color of any mood with Kodachrome... films. With Kodachrome... your moods won't lose a shade of their meaning.

(Kodak advertising. I'd rather not try my hand on that one in German.)

In order to catch the nuances and hidden meanings in the foregoing advertising, its contents could not be translated into German and still have the same effect. A new and different text would be required for a German target group.

Once the translator has determined the type of text that is to be translated, he is confronted with the more difficult task of determining which function the text will serve, since the functions of the SL text and the TL text are not always identical, although they always are of the same type. For example, a text can serve didactic purposes, e.g. "It is well known what part the equation E=mc2 played in the construction of the atom bomb...", or it can be a means of international communication (for example an article in a trade magazine), e.g. "Texas Instruments is producing two-chip and one-chip versions of the TMS 9900."

It can also be a purely scholarly endeavor, e.g. "Die Signal- und Rauscheigenschaften eines Mikrowellen-Konverters aus einem parametrischen Gleichlage-Aufwärtsmischer und einem parametrischen ZF-Verstärker werden untersucht." (The signal and noise behavior of a parametric microwave superheterodyne receiver is discussed comprising a parametric upper-sideband downconverter, followed by a parametric intermediate frequency amplifier.)

Any of the above texts could conceivably fall into the sub-category of 'audio medial' text. If that is the case, the translator probably will not know his target audience and will therefore be confronted with the necessity to render a translation that is not too technical for the layman, yet which is interesting enough for listeners who are familiar with the subject matter and thus have an active command of the terminology of the particular field.

A comparison of such texts shows clearly the different linguistic means used to generate each text in accordance with their specific function. The didactic and informative tone of the informative text serves to convey information and facts well known to the author, yet new to the listener or reader. This tone is reflected by such linguistic features as the use of the present tense to state facts. The second sentence defines the first, which begins with the attention-getting introductory phrase It is well known.

Expressive texts, while also informative in nature, have no didactic function. The author merely conveys to an interested audience information concerning new developments in a particular field. Linguistically this is achieved by such features as, for example, the use of the future and by popular terminology. This terminology, e.g. two-chip, microcomputer, has become part of quotidian language and is also of a socio-scientific nature. Abbreviations such as TMS (the Texas Instruments microchip), need not be transfered into the TL, since the author and audience share a common knowledge of, and interest in, the subject described.

The scholarly nature of the operative text is immediately apparent from the very technical, scientific terminology used in the text and by its mere density, i.e. frequency. Present tense prevails in unembellished simple propositional sentences. Terms such as parametric, superheterodyne, and intermediate frequency are not commonly used in quotidian language, and are not part of a layman's active lexicon.

As mentioned above, although the type of the text will remain constant with translation, the function may differ between the two languages. Thus, the translator is often faced with the problem of interdisciplinary polysemy. This problem arises from the fact that a large number of LSP terms have different meanings in different fields, e.g valence (physics, linguistics), density (sociology, physics, chemistry), plasma (physics, medicine). In a situation where different terms stand for the same object, for example, salicylic acid, o-hydroxybenzoic acid, and 2-carboxyphenol describe the same chemical compound (Beier 1980) which is freely variant in English, the appropriateness of the translation is determined by the context. Whereas the author of a text may have had certain functional-typological categories in mind which influenced his selection of terminology, the translator may not only transfer the text, but indeed perceive it, according to different categories. This often results in a general reinterpretation of certain terminological units, e.g. Eng. salicylic acid; Germ. Salizilsäure, if the text is to be used for didactic purposes, or Germ. o-Hydroxybenzoesäure, if the text is a scholarly treatise.

A distinction must be made between scientific and technical texts; scientific texts are characterized by less quotidian language and are more precise in their terminology, with an avoidance of jargon, e.g. fifth wheel. Finally, text functions are not mutually exclusive. The interplay of functions within a language and across languages allows a text to have more than one function.

Most LSP texts, while generated with a target audience in mind, need to be reanalyzed for their pragmatic parameter when approached for interlingual transfer, with the aim to establish what has been called a 'situational discourse typology'. The assumption that author and audience have a common language/terminology/subject knowledge allows for the brevity and pared-down format of scientific and technical texts. Umberto Eco speaks of 'closed texts', and inasmuch as technical/scientific texts are 'closed texts' their informative contents and their meaning are established once and for all. A technical/scientific text will never become an 'open text' that becomes, in Eco's words, "randomly open to every pragmatic accident", once it is targeted for interlingual transfer. The meaning and contents of such a text must be transferred exactly from the SL to the TL text, albeit the format of the linguistic means with which such a transfer is facilitated may differ depending on context and function.

The often proposed argument that, in a case of zero equivalency, a text is untranslatable only holds true in a translation of form, where the TL cannot accommodate the meter of the SL. In a translation that conveys the meaning of the SL text, I propose that the argument of zero equivalency is not valid since a language community, whose language is influenced and formed to a large extent by its environment, is always able to form new linguistic signs to add to its lexicon in order to describe new phenomena and items introduced to its environment. The way these new items are expressed reflects how the language community perceives and experiences its environment. (Whorf 1963)

The language must be considered a tool that can be modified whenever necessary. The primary task for the translator is to convey to the audience the 'experience' of the SL text. That is to say, equivalency is not absolutely necessary as long as the sense is not compromised. The target language must be considered a system of signs that is used to describe that experience.

In that respect I find Roman Jakobson's contention valid that "whatever is expressible in one language can be translated into another, or, in other words, the entire body of human knowledge may be expressed in any language." If the purpose of a translation is the conveyance of referents from an SL to a TL in which these referents do not exist, and if the translator need not be concerned with the effect of form and style, then, certainly, ways can be found to express and to coin those new referents in the TL.

The forgoing argument holds especially true in the case of technical and scientific translations. To transfer a scientific treatise into the language of a linguistic community that is not scientifically or technically as advanced as that of the SL, the translator need only familiarize him/herself with the pragmatic conventions, that is to say, the cultural and socio-linguistic rules of the TL group. He is then able to coin a metalanguage that will describe the technical concepts of the SL. The translation of English LSP texts into German, and vice versa, poses few equivalency problems, since both languages draw from a common pool of terminology. This applies to purely scientific and technical texts that use no jargon. Quite often translinguistic icons are used such as Germ. Komputer for Eng. computer.

A sampling of English and German scientific/technical texts will show that the features they have in common are primarily of a lexical /terminological nature. Contrary to QL the number of semantic equivalences increases as a text becomes more scientific. The reason for this may be found in the fact that modern science and technology has its roots in Western culture. Most of the differences appear to be on the grammatical, in particular the syntactic, level, where a scientific text tends to show less congruence between a TL and an SL than a technical text. Technical /scientific language is unembellished, yet its rich array of features challenges even the most astute translator.


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