Translation classification before the first modern theories appeared

An idea to classify translation is not the new one, but all the proposed classifications can be divided into two main approaches: thematic classification and methodological classification.

If we are talking about thematic classification, here we can single out the translation of religious and of secular (or society) works, scientific and technical translation and translation of literature.

Talking about methodological classification, we should first of all emphasize the ways of translation. This type of translation classification predominated within all the beforetheoretic stage (till the second part of the twentieth century. All the suggestions can be categorized into three categories:

  1. covering the basic contradictions between literal translation and free translation;
  2. Steiner’s principle «iusta via media»;
  3. defending the "sense" translation (even despite the fact, that within a long period the sense was identified with content).

Among all the classifications mentioned above, personally for me the most interesting is the polarization of word-for-word translation and free translation. It is also should be noted, that first of all we talk about translation, with accent on translation of literature.

The twentieth century can be called the era of translation as new theories were actively proposed, the new classifications were actively developed etc. Besides of that the new types of translation appeared: consecutive translation, simultaneous translation, dubbing, machine translation, translation of subtitles etc. People started to use translation in different spheres and it provoked the emergence of specialized translation: scientific translation, technical translation, legal translation, translation of economic and administrative texts.

Taking into account all the changes in world of translations and the parallel development of theoretical branch, in new modern theories the classification was used taking into account the new views. All the classifications can be grouped taking into account the key element (even if the classifications are crossing in this or that case). The key element can be:

  1. change of code
  2. level of translatability
  3. different methodologies
  4. different types of text
  5. different methodologies and different types of text (that are combined together)
  6. combination of different elements that can be classified as “integration”

Classification depending on the change of code

Here we analyse the classification, that broadens the “translation” term independently on transformation processes between certain codes with support of one of invariants.

Jakobson (1959) differs between “intersemiotic” translation, intralinguistic translation and interlinguistic translation. Liudskanov (1969) represents the translation process as the process of signs transformation. He was searching for polylinguistic algorithms, available for all types of human translations and also for the mechanism of translation. In Steiner’s book (1975) there are a lot of examples of intralinguistic translation: change of epochs (diachronic translation), change of status (social class, children become grown ups etc.), broadening of the concept of translation to communication in general.

Classification depending on the level of translatability

Nebert (1968) distinguished between relative translation, partial and optimal; House (1981) distinguished between «covert translation» appearing in the middle of original text, as the function of the original is not damaged, and between «overt translation», that does not repeat the original text and which needs additional function to achieve its purpose.

Classification depending on the methodology

This type of classification is based on the method of work with translation. Here it is very convenient to use the notion of dichotomic sentences and multiple sentences.

The dichotomic sentences notion is marked with two opposite concepts:

  • “word for word translation” and “free translation”, here we see the traditional opposition;
  • “word for word translation” and “covert translation”, where comparative stylistics is reflected (the comparison is made on the basis of languages);
  • “semantic translation” (oriented on author and acceptable for expressive texts) and “communicative translation” (oriented on the end user and acceptable for the informational texts) – by Newmark;
  • “covert translation” and “overt translation” by House;
  • “indirect translation” (depending on the context) and “direct translation” (fixed notions that do not depend on context) by Gutt (1991).


Multiple sentences are the sentences, where severat types of classification are accepted: Catford (1965)offered different classifications: 1) classification depending on the function of translation usage (full or partial translation) 2) classification depending on the function of the level where translation is used (full translation and a translation limited by the specific sphere: phonological translation, graphological, grammatical, lexical) 3) classification on the basis of word-for-word translation, literal translation and free translation (taking into consideration the differences between languages) 4) and one more classification where we differ between “translation” (for texts) and “transfer” (for languages).

Newmark (1988) despite the fact that he himself paid a lot of attention to the difference between the semantic translation and between the communicative translation, offered other types of translation, namely: word-for-word translation, literal translation, accurate translation, translation-adaptation, free translation, idiomatic translation…

Hewson and Martin (1991) were talking about whole series of “options for works”

  1. “reduction”, when one culture dominate over another one and which can be “restructed” against “marginalisation”, when the culture cannot be “restructed”;
  2. “inclusion”, when there is a possibility to integrate several notions from one system into another;
  3. “conversion”, when it is possible to use mutual values.

Classification depending on the type of text

Kade (1968), Koller (1979), Delisl (1980) differ between translation of pragmatic texts and between translation of literary texts; Wilss (1977) differed between translation of denotative and connotative texts…

Reis in his works of 1971 and 1976 offers the classification on the basis of function of used language: texts where the main accent is put on the content (scientific, technical texts etc.), text where emphasis is made on the expressive function (literature), texts where emphasis is made on the connotative function (publicistic texts); it also necessary to mention the “subsidiary texts”, aimed to support non-verbal communication (translation of cinematographic works, opera etc.).

It is also necessary to mention about Koller classification (1979), who claims that it is necessary to take into consideration multiple elements of context: dominating function of language, characteristics of content; linguistic and stylistic characteristics, formal and aesthetic characteristics, pragmatic characteristics.

Classification depending on the methodology and type of text

Here we talk about classification where method of translation depends on the type of text.

Undoubtedly, the most known classification is the classification by House, and here we talked about it a lot. House was talking about dual context typology, about conceptual texts and about interpersonal texts (texts that are related and that are not related to the initial culture).

Newmark was talking about the texts classification depending on the language function (informative, expressive, operative texts), where different methods should be used (semantic translation and communicative translation).

Classification about combining different elements, mentioned above or in other words “integration” deserves a special attention. A separate article will be devoted to it on our web-site.

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