Optimal Constraints on Arabic-English Translation: a Case Study of Translating Surat AlFatiHa ‘The Opening’

Baseel A. AlBzour


To add a useful brick to the huge mansion of translation theory in its modern scientific sense, this paper intrinsically endeavors to reduce the wide hiatus between the premises of conventional translation studies and modern linguistic theories in general and Optimality Theory (OT) in particular, in a very earnest hope that translation methods and techniques can find a solid and robust systematic ground that may enable professional translators and institutionalized translation agencies to conduct their translation quality assessment more accurately. Drawing on the assumptions and the mechanism of linguistically-channeled theory of Optimality in phonology, syntax and semantics, this researcher, therefore, banks on setting and implementing major OT constraints that specify the range of choices translators may opt for while oscillating between the clashing Faithfulness and Markedness principles in their vehement quest to achieve optimally the least detrimental effects to the source text and to the target text, instead of looking for the myth of closest equivalence, while translating Arabic texts into English and vice versa. Four different translations have been examined and optimally evaluated. The study shows how any choice that translators make must, therefore, be deliberately rationalized and precisely prioritized over other possible choices and candidates in light of universal violable constraints. Therefore, translation studies should be descriptively constraint-oriented and motivated instead of being prescriptively rule-controlled.


Constraints, Equivalence, Faithfulness, Markedness, Optimal Theory, Translation Studies

Full Text:



AlBzour, B. A. and Naser N. A. (2015). From semantics to semiotics: demystifying intricacies on translation theory. Advances in Language and Literary Studies, 6(5), 121-127.

Ali, A. Y. (1992). The Meaning of the Holy Quran. Maryland: Amana Corporation.

Al-Jabari, R. (2008). Reasons for the Possible Incomprehensibility of Some Verses of Three Translations of the Meaning of the Holy Quran into English. [Ph.D. Dissertation] University of Salford.

Baker, M. (2004). The status of equivalence in translation studies: An Appraisal. In Y. Zijian (Ed.), English-Chinese Comparative Study and Translation (pp. 63-71). Shanghai, China: Foreign Languages Education Press.

Baker, M. (2005). In Other Words: A Coursebook on Translation. New York and London: Routledge.

Bassnett, S. (2002). Translation Studies (3. ed.). New York and London: Routledge.

Bell, Roger T. (1991). Translation and Translating: Theory and Practice. London and New York: Longman.

Catford, J.C. (1965). A Linguistic Theory of Translation. London: Oxford University Press.

Chesterman, A. (1997). Memes of Translation, Amsterdam: Benjamin.

Chomsky, N. (1972). Language and Mind. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Chomsky, Noam (1995). The Minimalist Program. Massachusetts: MIT Press.

Dickins, James Hervey, S., & Ian Higgins. (2002). Thinking Arabic Translation, A Course in Translation Method: Arabic to English. London: Routledge.

Dols, N. and R. Mansell. (2008). Resolving meaning conflict in translation, Linguistica Antverpiensia New Series, 7, 45-74.

William Frawly, (1984). Prolegomenon to a theory of translation. In Translation: Literary, Linguistic and Philosophical Perspectives. (Ed.) William Frawly . Newwark: University of Delaware Press. pp. 159-187

Hatim, B. (1997). Communication A cross Cultures. Exter: University of Exter Press.

Hatim B., and Munday, J. (2004). Translation an Advanced Resource Book. London: Routledge.

Heinz, Jeffrey, Greg Kobele, and Jason Riggle. (2009). Evaluating the complexity of optimality theory. Linguistic Inquiry. 40, 277-288.

Gorlée, D. L., (2004). On Translating Signs: Exploring Text and Semio-Translation. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

Jakobson, Roman. (1959). On linguistic aspects of translation, Achilles Fang et al. On Translation, 232–239. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Kager, R. (2004). Optimality Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kiparsky, Paul .(1982). Linguistic universals and linguistic change. In E. Bach and R. Harms, Eds., Universals in Linguistic Theory. Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Larson, M., (1984). Meaning-based Translation: a Guide to Cross-Language Equivalence Lanham, New York, London: University Press of America.

Lefevere, A. (1992). Translating Literature: Practice and Theory in a Comparative Literature Context. New York: The Modern Language Association of America.

Lehmann, Christian. (1982). On some current views of the language universal. In Radden, Günter; Dirven, René (Eds.). Issues in the Theory of Universal Grammar. Tübingen: Gunter Narr. 75–94.

Mansell, R. (2004). Optimality theory applied to the analysis of verse translation, University of Sheffield/ Universitat de les Illes Balears, (Retrieved on 20 Aug, 2020 from: http://roa.rutgers.edu)

McCarthy, J. J. (2001). A thematic guide to Optimality Theory. Research Surveys in Linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

McCarthy, J. J. (2007). Hidden generalizations: phonological opacity in optimality theory. Advances in Optimality Theory. London: Equinox Publishing.

McCarthy, John and Alan Prince. (1993): Prosodic Morphology: Constraint Interaction and Satisfaction. Rutgers University Center for Cognitive Science Technical Report 3.

Munday, Jeremy. (2008). Introducing Translation Studies: Theories and Applications, (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.

Newmark, Peter. (1988). A Textbook of Translation. New York: Prentice Hall.

Newmark, Peter. (1981). Approaches to Translation. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

Nida, Eugene A. (1964). Toward a Science of Translating. Leiden: Brill.

Nida, E. A. (1994). Paragraphs on Translation. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters Ltd.

Nida, E.A. and C. R. Taber. (1969). The Theory and Practice of Translation. Leiden: E.J. Bril.

Nord, C. (1997). Translating as a Purposeful Activity. Manchester: St. Jerome.

Pickthall, M. M. (1999). The Meaning of the Glorious Koran. New York: New American Library.

Prince, Alan and Paul Smolensky. (1993). Optimality Theory: Constraint Interaction in Generative Grammar. Rutgers Optimality Archive version (2002), http//:roa.rutgers.edu.

Shaykhali, May (2018). Toward an optimal theory of ranslation. The European Conference on the Social Sciences. Official Conference Proceedings. Official Conference Proceedings. Brighton. U.K. ISSN: 2188- 1154

Smirkou, Ahmed. (2021). English-Arabic translation of idiomatic expressions with total tquivalence: an optimality-theoretic account. AJHSSR. 5, (1), 203-212.

Snell-Hornby, Mary. (2006). The Turns of Translation Studies: New Paradigms or Shifting Viewpoints?. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Toury, Gideon. (1995). Descriptive Translation Studies and Beyond. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Tytler, A. F. (1791). Essays on the Principles of Translation. London: Everyman's Library.

Venuti, Lawrence. (2008). The Translator's Invisibility. a History of Translation (2nd ed.). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Vermeer, Hans J., (1987). What does It mean to translate?’, Indian Journal of Applied Linguistics. 13(2):25-33.

Vermeer, H. J. (1989). Skopos and commission in translational action. In Cheserman (Ed.), Readings in Translation Theory, 173-187. Helsinki: Oy Finn Lectura Ab.

Wilss,W. (1996). Knowledge and Skills in Translator Behaviour. Amesterdam: John Benjamins.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.7575/aiac.ijalel.v.10n.6p.68


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2012-2023 (CC-BY) Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD

International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the journal emails into your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.