Re: Untranslatable Texts

From: Micheal Palmer (
Date: Sat May 24 1997 - 00:38:55 EDT

At 2:50 PM -0700 5/23/97, Will Wagers wrote:
>Micheal Palmer wrote:
>> I am legitmately puzzled by the use of 'untranslatable.' I don't think I've
>> ever seen an untranslatable text. I've seen plenty that were very
>> difficult, and I've done translations which I later felt were terribly
>> inadequate. But I've never encountered a text that I could understand, but
>> could not put into English (or Spanish) in at least some way.
>Dear Michael,
>Here is one way of looking at it:
>Simple untranslatability - the source text cannot be meaningfully
>Linguistic untranslatability - a source text ambiguity is a
>functionally-relevant feature;
>Cultural untranslatability - a functionally-relevant situational feature
>is absent from the culture of the target language;

Thank you, Will. This simple explanation is very helpful.

Micheal W. Palmer
Religion & Philosophy
Meredith College

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