This incident, Nejadhaqiqi (ibid) continues, which “concurred with the entrance of Christianity into the Roman Empire and therefore, the necessity of translating the Holy Book, proved, for the first time, that the text type, i.e. religious or non-religious, is a determining factor in adopting translation method”(my translation).
This word-for-word method of rendering of holy text and ‘the heavy weight of tradition’ often resulted in an obscure TT and distorted the meaning (Nida, 1975: 26). In the past some justified this awkwardness, as Nida (as cited in Manafi, 2003: 37) believes, by insisting that the capacity to comprehend such a text can be “a measure of the spiritual insights granted to readers by God.”
In case of the Qur’an as well the obsessive precision in rendering resulted in word-for-word translations which were vague and awkward:
Centuries ago, with the start of Qur’an translation, first translators and interpreters who were strongly loyal to the holy text of the Qur’an, were obsessively precise in their translations, as a result fell in the trap of word-for-word and independent translations. Thus, words and concepts of the Qur’an in their works sometimes took on a different colour. When these works were publically available, it could be noted that most of them had missed the point and a strange obscurity had permeated them (Feqhizadeh, 1995/1374: 154, my translation).
Even in recent times there have been proponents of form-focused or SL-focused translation method. Among translation scholars arguing in favour of literal renderings, as a form of SL-oriented translation, one can refer to Nabokov.
Nabokov (1955) strongly talks in favour of literal translation and rejects anything but literal translation as a form of imitation, adaptation, and parody:
The person who desires to turn a literary masterpiece into another language, has only one duty to perform, and this is to produce with absolute exactitude the whole text, and nothing but the text. The term “literal translation” is tautological since anything but that is not truly a translation but an imitation, an adaptation or a parody.
He (ibid) continues his argument that “literalism” means “absolute accuracy” and that if such accuracy sometimes results in a product that one says “the letter has killed the spirit”, he imagines only one reason for it. According to him the reason is that “there must have been something wrong either with the original letter or with the original spirit, and this is not really a translator’s concern” (ibid).
As it was discussed earlier, the text of the Holy Qur’an, according to Arberry, is ‘a fusion of prose and poetry.’ Nabokov discusses that poetry should be translated in a very literal way, as discussed before, and footnotes be used along with it:
I want translations with copious footnotes, footnotes reaching up like skyscrapers to the top of this or that page so as to leave only the gleam of one textual line between commentary and eternity. I want such footnotes and the absolutely literal sense, with no emasculation and no padding- I want such sense and such notes for all the poetry in other tongues that still languishes in “poetical” versions, begrimed, and beslimed by rhyme (ibid).
However, Jakobson (ibid) calls for ‘creative transposition’ as a means to translate poetry.
Fundamentalists think that “only a literal translation can provide a faithful rendering of the substance of the Holy original.” (Mohaqeq, 2004: 49).
Pederson (1999:54) espouses an as-close-as-possible method to translate literary texts. But the degree of closeness may vary from case to case.
Newmark (1988a:137) maintains that “if a word for word, primary for primary meaning translation has functional equivalence, any other translation is wrong.”
This is while, Abdul-Raof (2001: 28) maintains that literal translation of religious texts “can confuse the target language reader and provide wrong socio-cultural presuppositions […].”
In Nida’s opinion (1975:26-27) because “no two languages segment the experience in the same way […] there can never be a word-for-word type of correspondence which is fully meaningful or accurate.” (See further Nida 1964.)
Akbar (1978: 2, as cited in Abdul-Raof, 2001: 9) gives a similar warning concerning literal translation and believes that it is “a hindrance to the full understanding of the Qur’an”.
According to Manafi (2004:44) ‘avoiding literalism and formal style’ are two key elements in precise and normal expression of original message.’
Nida (1975:265-266) points out that a rendering should communicate the sense if not so it is but ‘a string of words.’ He (ibid: 33) continues that the translator should seek “the closest natural equivalent […] first in meaning and second in style, […] i.e. the equivalent forms should not be foreign either in form […] or meaning.”
Abdul-Raof (ibid, 29) further attributes the provision of literal translation to “negligence on the part of Qur’an translators who do not refer to Muslim exegetes to check what the accurate underlying Qur’anic meaning is.”
Islamic scholars see the language of the Qur’an as sacred and require that translators be faithful to the Holy Text. This loyalty to the Holy Text and rendering it with minimum amount of alteration have led to the incomprehensibility of most of the translations of the Holy Qur’an (Shahsavandi, 2006:57).
According to Fawcett and Munday (2009) “in many instances literal translation or non-literal translation, of religious and other sensitive texts in traditions such as the Arabic or medieval European was an attempt to prevent what was seen as a potential sacrilegious distortion of sacred word of God.”
Nevertheless, Saffarzadeh (2009:1203) argues against translations which are word-for-word to “uphold the holiness of the Words of God” treating it like the Bible. In her Book, The Principles and Foundations of Translation (۱۹۷۹, as cited in Saffarzadeh, 2009:1203), Saffarzadeh points out that in a literary text ‘faithfulness demands reproduction of style, structure and meaning altogether […],” this is while the situation differs in case of a religious text. In dealing with these sorts of texts the faithfulness means “paying full attention for conveying the meaning in the framework of the Message […].” The “meaning in the framework of the Message” implies that the tone of the utterance, whether commanding or ironical, should be taken into serious consideration because, as she states, it “contribute[s] to the meaning” of the text. She gives the example of Mekkan Surahs in this regard. As she (ibid) points out, the rhythmical and rhetorical aspects of these Surahs are paid more attention to therefore, the meaning is lost, but she argues that it is quite possible that these aspects of such Surahs are revealed to the Holy Messenger in those forms to enter “the field of rivalry for showing his poetic outmost skill against the disbelieving yet competent writers and poets of Arabia.” As a whole, she asserts that neither literal nor literary translation has proved adequate, but on the contrary, in her view they “have done their harms in reaching the Divine Message of the Truth to its rightful audience” (ibid).
Nida, (as cited in Manafi, 2004:37) accentuates the intelligibility of the message, and calls for “some measure of freedom” which is required “if the target audience is to understand the Biblical text, since, in his opinion, the relevance of the message is not in the formal features of a text but in its semantic context.”
Abdul-Raof (2001: 110) recommends a similar ‘measure of freedom’: Translation of the sensitive Qur’anic text into a different language and culture does not always require one to keep intact the same source language linguistic and/or rhetorical constituents of texture; target text linguistic/rhetorical constituents of textur
e have to be employed.
However, as it went by the focus gradually moved from form-based methods towards meaning-based strategies (Manafi, 2004: 38).
Haqani (1386: 27, as cited in Nejadhaqiqi, 2009/1388: 40) discusses that with the start of Reformation period and the appearance of Renaissance, translation of religious texts experienced a dramatic change. He (ibid) continues that translation of Bible into German by (Martin Luther) in 1522 was a milestone in the evolution [of religious texts’ translation], and the beginning of a change of view on the method of translating these types of texts (my translation).
According to him (ibid: 40-41) Luther distinguished his translation from others by basing his translation on a method of deforeignization, in accordance with the [requirements] of the target text, and a sort of localization (my translation).
Nida and Taber (1969) also maintain that ‘the new focus, however, has shifted from form of the message to the response of the receptor.’ (As cited in Manafi, 2004:38).
During the past, however, there have been a marked shift of emphasis from the formal to the dynamic dimension (Nida, 1964:160).
Mansouri (2010:33) shows that almost all English translations [nowadays] follow the target language (English) word order which can be seen as a movement towards TL-based translation method.
As a moderate method of translation, Manafi (2004:48) restates many theorist who believe that both ‘faithfulness to the original’ and ‘the natural flow of the TT’ are important in a translation. This means conveying the message within the limits of TL communication system and thus, avoiding literalism and awkward structures.
Nida and Taber (1969, as cited in Manafi, 2004: 35) believe that:
A translator must not attempt just to render the words and grammatical constructions of the ST; rather he/she should reproduce the translated text in the TL in a manner which is both informative and expressive; that is, it conveys the same information as is in the original and impress the target audience as the original impresses its own readers.
In Newmark’s view (1998:45-47) religious texts must be translated by means of ‘semantic translation’ method. In ‘semantic translation’ translator takes care of the ‘meaning’, ‘author’s thoughts’, and ‘text details’. (Nejadhaqiqi, 2009/1388:42, my translation).
It should be noted that in recent years attempts have been made to apply ‘structural translation’ to religious texts. In this method translator tries to create “a contextual balance in the text, and relies on the purposefulness of Surahs, draws their tree diagram, and outlines each Surah’s table of content so that the result is a more coherent translation.” (Khamegar, 1385, Bayanat 1 & 2, 285, as cited in Nejadhaqiqi, 2009/1388:43, my translation).
۲٫۷٫۲٫۲ Formal Correspondence & Dynamic Equivalence
۲٫۷٫۲٫۲٫۱ Formal Correspondence
Formal Correspondence is delineated by Nida (1964: 159) as a method which focuses its attention “on the message itself in both form and content. In such a translation one is concerned with such correspondences as poetry to poetry, sentence to sentence, and concept to concept. […] the message in the receptor language should match as closely as possible the different elements in the source language.” It is clear that this method sees ‘accuracy and correctness’ as necessary elements of the target text which is constantly compared with that of the source.
In Nida’s view (ibid) the most complete example of this type of translation “attempts to reproduce as literally and meaningfully as possible the form and content of the original with numerous footnotes to make the text fully comprehensible.”
The following two are the principles of Formal Correspondence:
It is basically source oriented; that is, it is designed to reveal as much as possible of the form and content of the original message. In doing so it attempts to reproduce several formal elements.
As far as meaning is concerned it attempts not to make adjustments in idioms, but rather to reproduce such expressions more or less literally […] (Nida, ibid: 165-166).
۲٫۷٫۲٫۲٫۲ Dynamic Equivalence
This type of translation is based on “the principle of equivalent effect” (Rieu and Philips, 1954, as cited in Nida, 1964:159). In such a translation, Nida (ibid) says, the translator “is not so concerned with matching the receptor language message with the source language message, but with the dynamic relationship […].” This very relationship occurs between receptors and the message and it should be “substantially the same as that which existed between the original receptors and the message” (ibid).
‘Naturalness of expression’ is a key concept in this translation and it “tries to relate the receptor to modes of behaviour relevant within the context of his own culture; it does not insist that he understand the cultural patterns of the source-language context in order to comprehend the message. Therefore, as a requirement the cultural items must be smoothed over in translation. Thus, a phrase like “greet one another with a holy kiss,” in English, as Nida points out, should be translated as “give one another a hearty handshake all around” in Roman (Nida, 1964: 160).
It reflects the meaning and the intent of the source. It is ‘the closest natural equivalent to the source language message”. It contains three important elements: 1) Equivalent which leans towards the source language 2) natural which makes it lean towards the receptor language and 3) closest which binds the two orientations together on the basis of the highest degree of approximation (Nida, 1964:166). Naturalness in Dynamic Equivalence requires naturalness on both levels of grammar and lexicon.
The present chapter draws on the details of the study including the methodology of the research, type of research, corpus of research and its elements, i.e. source and target texts and size of the corpus, data procedure, collection, analysis and classification.
۳٫۲ Type of Research
The present study falls under corpus-based descriptive translation studies. Three translations of the original text were compared to the original to find out what is lost and gained in each translation type in terms of meaning and form.
۳٫۳ Corpus of the Study
The corpus of this study is a parallel one consisting of one original book and three different English translations of the original, i.e. poetic, prose and explanatory.
۳٫۳٫۱ Elements of the Corpus
۳٫۳٫۱٫۱ Source Text
Translation of Tafsir Al’Mizan by Seyyed Mohammad Baqer Mousavi Hamedani. The source is a Tafsir book originally authored by Seyyed Mohammad Hossein Tabataba’i. The translation which is done by Mousavi Hamedani and others is in 20 volumes. From among these 20 volumes I have selected volume 17th by the above translator as it is on Surah Ya Sean. Surah Ya Sean, in this book runs from page 94 to 187. The book is published in Qom by Mohammadi Publications and is translated in 1340/1961 and has 651 pages in total.
۳٫۳٫۱٫۲ Target Texts
The target texts consist of three different English translations of the source, i.e. the Glorious Qur’an. The first target text is a complete poetic translation called QURAN, A Poetic Translation From the Original by Fazlollah Nikayin. Published by The Ultimate Book, Inc. publications in the US, Illinois in 2006, the book contains 114 Surahs in 1088 pages. The book does not contain the original Arabic text.
The second target text is a complete prose translation called Holy Quran by Arthur J. Arberry. Enjoying third reprint which is published by Ansariyan Pub
lications in Iran, Qum in 2007, the book contains 114 Surahs in 815 pages. The book contains the original Arabic text.
The third and the last target text is a complete explanatory translation called THE HOLY QUR-AN: ARABIC TEXT WITH AN ENGLISH TRANSLATION AND COMMENTARY by Abdullah Yusuf Ali. A three-volume translation published by Sheikh Muhammad Sharif Publications Kashmiri Bazar, Lahore (India) in 1937, the book contains 114 Surahs in 1812 pages. It contains the original Arabic text of the Qur’an.
۳٫۳٫۲ Size of the Corpus
As it is clear from the above the total corpus contains the original text and three translations. Not the total Surahs of the original Qur’an and the translations will be worked on but rather a specific Surah, i.e. Ya Sean. Therefore the 36th Surah of the Qur’an, that is to say Surah Ya Sean which contains 83 Ayahs in total together with 3 translations of Surah in 83 Ayahs comprise the corpus.
The reason why the Qur’an was chosen as the source text is that the Qur’an as a religious text is a very sensitive text both in terms of its all features and the methods adopted to translate it. It has been a sensitive and significant text during human history and will remain so. Target texts are chosen meticulously too. They reflect somehow translation methods which are deemed suitable for translating this glorious book. There has been much controversy regarding the method to be used in translating the Qur’an. Thus TTs reflect different translation types emanating, naturally, from somehow translation methods or the priorities given to specific features of the Qur’an.