Journal of Universal Language
Sejong University Language Research Institue

A Product-oriented Approach to Units of Translation in Iranian English- Persian Literary Translations

Esmaeel Ali Salimi1, Zohreh Shahrestani1
1Mofid University

Copyright ⓒ 2016, Sejong University Language Research Institue. This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Published Online: Jan 01, 2017


The notion of ‘unit of translation’ as a challenging issue in Descriptive Translation Studies (DTS) is addressed. Considering this notion from a product-oriented point of view as “the TT unit that can be mapped onto a ST unit” (Baker 2001: 286), the main concern here is to investigate a hierarchy of units of translation (UTs) proposed by Newmark (1991: 66-68) including word, phrase, clause, sentence, and paragraph in the literary translations. At the preliminary stage, two questions were raised to detect the most frequent UT adopted by the professional literary translators, and to explore the relationship between the UTs and the free-literal dichotomy in terms of the occurrence of unit/rank shifts. To this end, a corpus of three famous English novels (originally written in English by the renowned authors) and two best-selling translations of each (done by professional translators) were chosen to be analyzed. Through a contrastive analysis, two hundred and ten coupled pairs of ST-TT segments were extracted from the first ten pages of each novel and its two translations based on establishing relations of equivalence between the ST-TT segments and adopting sentence as the major unit of analysis. The UTs adopted in the ST- TT segments were then identified. The obtained results of the UT categories demonstrated that the most frequent UT adopted by the professional literary translators was sentence. The unit-shifts applied in the UTs were also signified. The statistical calculation of frequency of unit-shifts in each translator's UTs proved that the more frequent is the occurrence of unit-shifts in the UTs of the translator, the more deviated is his translation from the formal correspondence, the more different the size of his UTs is, and finally the freer his translation will be.

Keywords: Descriptive Translation Studies (DTS); units of translation; free-literal dichotomy; unit/rank shifts; equivalence; formal correspondence



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