Re: post.prepared for anglican (reversible translation)

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed May 21 1997 - 07:52:30 EDT

At 2:42 AM -0400 5/21/97, Brian E. Wilson wrote:
>I am absolutely fascinated that no-one else has yet come up with an
>alternative definition of the distinction between a translation and a
>paraphrase. I appreciate that my suggestion that a translation is
>reversible, but a parapharase irreversible, may include too strict a
>view of translation for some scholars. But unless an alternative
>objective test for distinguishing between translating and paraphrasing
>is laid down, should we not draw the conclusion that they are one and
>the same activity, and that when one person says something is a
>translation he is simply affirming that it is the paraphrase he
>subjectively prefers to other paraphrases?

Dare I state what is probably so obvious that it's not worth saying in
response to this question? It seems to me that only the most concrete
quotidian statements and questions are really translatable in the sense of
admitting reversible translation: "I'm hungry," "He died yesterday
morning," "Do you have a nickel?" But once you get into anything even
slightly profound, metaphorical, or poetic, I suspect that we're involved
with paraphrase, with a version that would admit of a variety of reverse
"translations," several of which might be valid and some of which might be
patently invalid.

I don't think, however, that subjective preference is the only distinction
between paraphrases: so long as one can present a cogent, defensible
argument for one paraphrase over another (which is what we are doing most
of the time on B-Greek, isn't it), one's choice cannot be called arbitrary
(although it may be demonstrated to be questionable or even wrong).

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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