Syntactic Ambiguity in English-Arabic Translation

Misbah Mahmood Dawood Al-Sulaimaan, Rahma I.A.K Al-Me'mary


Ambiguity is a common linguistic phenomenon and one of the basic characteristics of language. It refers to the words, phrases, and sentences which cover two or more meanings where just one of them can be intended. In spite of the fact that it has been divided into many types, but two main types are dominating, namely (1) syntactic ambiguity which
means that a sequence of words can be given more than one grammatical structure, and each has a different meaning, and (2) semantic ambiguity which occurs whenever a word within a context has more than one object or dictionary meaning. The problem of the current study concerns the concept of syntactic ambiguity and the possibility of translating it by keeping the same effect in the receiver similar to that in the producer. The current study aims at (1) specifying different patterns of ambiguous expressions in books of grammar, semantics and pragmatics, and studying them in the light of the theoretical chapter, (2) showing the importance of context in determining the intended meaning, (3) showing how the selected patterns are realized in Arabic, and (4) selecting the most appropriate rendering in case of subjects success or proposing a new one in case of
their failure. To achieve the above mentioned aims, the study hypothesizes that (1) syntactic ambiguity can be translated effectively if and only if dynamic equivalence is used, (2) grasping syntactic ambiguity cannot be achieved in the absence of context, and (3) there is no formal
correspondence between the ambiguous sentences in English and their counterparts in Arabic. To test the validity of the aforementioned hypotheses, the following procedures are used, (1) twenty nine sentences of different types and patterns have been selected from books of
grammar, semantics and pragmatics, (2) these selected sentences have been rendered by five assistant lecturers in the Department of Translation, College of Arts, University of Mosul, and (3) Nida's types of equivalence have been chosen as the model of translational analysis. The main findings that the study arrived at are: (1) some of the ambiguous examples were rendered into non ambiguous ones. Other cases achieved the same purpose of the SL text, (2) the potentiality of the subjects to understand ambiguous sentences is better than their capability to reproduce them in the TL. (3) both types of equivalence have been used by the subject translators, i.e. dynamic equivalence and formal equivalence.

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