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What is translational equivalence?



Translational equivalence is the similarity between a word (or expression) in one language and its translation in another. This similarity results from overlapping ranges of reference.


A translation equivalent is a corresponding word or expression in another language.

Examples : Alamblak (Papua New Guinea), English

Here is an example of translational equivalence between Alamblak (Papua New Guinea) and English:


An English speaker might analyze the Alamblak word y&u0268;hop with two meanings:

  1. yesterday
  2. tomorrow

The two English words are simple translational equivalents.


However, there is another word in Alamblak that can be analyzed as follows:

  1. day before yesterday
  2. day after tomorrow

These Alamblak words do not have two senses even though they each have two simple translational equivalents. A single, explanatory analytic definition followed by translational equivalents is the preferable analysis:

  1. one day removed from the present; yesterday, tomorrow
  1. two days removed from the present; day before yesterday, day after tomorrow

Bruce, L. 1995 26–27

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Go to SIL home page This page is an extract from the LinguaLinks Library, Version 5.0 published on CD-ROM by SIL International, 2003. [Ordering information.]

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