The application of case grammar to translation (summary) - peter newmark

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Chapter 12- The application of Case Grammar to Translation

Peter Newmark

Taken from Peter Newmark's A Textbook of Translation (1988)

• Lexis describes objects, actions, and qualities (nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs)

• Grammar gives you the general and main focus about a text. It also indicates who does what to whom, why, where, when, how, etc. Its main function is to indicatethe relation between the different objects.

• Halliday affirmed that lexis begins where grammar ends. Newmark, however, believes that they partly overlap.

• As translators, we are interested in grammar only as a transmitter of meaning. Therefore, structuralist grammar and the works of Saussure and Chomsky are of little interest to us. Since their approaches exclude meaning. Nida’s applicationof transformational grammar, however, clarifies the subtleties of English in an insightful way.

• Case grammar: It is a method of analyzing a sentence, a clause or a verbless compound in a manner that demonstrates the central position of the verb or the word that has central force within the word sequence. It centers upon the relationship between the verbs and its satellites or partners. Casegrammar’s function is only to sensitize the translator to these missing gaps.

• The verb is the central element in a clause, it has a directive role in allotting emphasis (communicative dynamism) to the most important component in a sentence.

Exam question: If we as translators are interested in grammar only as a transmitter of meaning, why do we need to know about grammar and in what way ithelps us?

The following is a list of how knowledge of some aspects of case grammar (or valency theory) may be useful to the translator and therefore constitutes a part of translation theory.

1) The translation of missing verbs (verbal force)

In the case of verbless sentences, the translator has a wide semantic choice if he wishes to supply a verb, since syntactically the sourcelanguage text in omitting the verb is attempting to give a rather general impression of sudden, strong action. Obviously, the selection is finally limited by the context, but contexts often exercise a wide rather than a close semantic constrain. When the stylistic effect of verb omission cannot be reproduced in the target language, the translator has to intervene semantically.

Whereas an Englishtranslation sometimes has to supply a finite verb that is missing in the SL text, there are many more examples where the ‘communicative dynamism’ of a SL verb shifts to an English verb-noun or gerund, normally retaining its case patterns. It may be the case that the implied case-partners need not be expressed.

Note also that English shows a remarkable difference between standard forms, whichrequire the use of a verb, and non-standard forms which are often verbless just like German standard forms. It is not difficult to derive missing verbs from statements since, in contrast to nouns, the number of basic verbs is limited. The number of nouns is infinite, but new words can be created on the basis of combining a few fundamental human actions with new objects; the vast majority of verbsconsist of one or more of a few meaning components (‘semantic primitives’) such as cause to, become, change, use, supply; combined with an object or quality.

2) The translation of case-gaps

There may appear several ‘missing’ or ‘empty’ case-partners for each verbal noun, whose specific content may or may not be clarified in the larger context. Most translators (or readers) would think itdesirable that at least some of the gaps were filled in. If this is accepted, we should consider first the degree of importance of such gaps, and secondly their nature.

There are four main categories of case-gaps:

a) Mandatory: This is a syntactic category. Here the translator automatically fills in the case-gap, either because the syntax of the TL requires it or because a sentence in the SL...
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