"normal", non-linguistically trained persons think of translation as a text which is some sort of "reproduction" of a text originally produced in another language, with the "reproduction" being of comparable value. Over and above its role as a concept constitutive of translation, "equivalence" is also a fundamental notion for translation criticism. Translations must be conceived as texts, which are doubly bound: on the one hand to its source text and on the other hand to the (potential) recipient's communicative conditions. This double linkage nature is the basis of the so-called "equivalence relation". One of the aims of a theory of translation quality assessment is then to specify and operationalize the equivalence relation by differentiating between a numbers of frameworks of equivalence. For example, extra-linguistic circumstances, connotative and aesthetic values, audience design and last but not least textual and language norms of usage that have emerged from empirical investigations of parallel texts, contrastive rhetoric and contrastive pragmatic and discourse analyses.
The notion of equivalence is the conceptual basis of translation and, to quote Catford, "the central problem of translation-practice is that of finding TL (Target Language) equivalents. A central task of translation theory is therefore that of defining the nature and conditions of translation equivalence" (1965:21). However, the concept of equivalence is also the basis of translation criticism, it is the fundamental criterion of translation quality.
Equivalence is a relative concept, and has nothing to do with identity. "Absolute equivalence" would be a contradictio in adiecto. Equivalence is a relative concept in several aspects. It is determined by the socio-historical conditions in which the translation act is embedded, and by the range of often-irreconcilable linguistic and contextual factors, among them at least the following; Source and target languages with their specific structural constraints, the extra-linguistic world, and the way it is "cut up" by the two languages resulting in different representation of reality, the original reflecting particular linguistic and stylistic source language and culture; structural features of the original; target language receptor's expectation norms; the translator's comprehension and interpretation of the original and his "creativity"; the translator's explicit and/or implicit theory of translation; translation traditions in the target culture; interpretation of the original by its author.
Given these different types of equivalence in translation, it is clear that - true to the nature of translation as a decision process (Levy 1967) - it is necessary for the translator to make choices, i.e., the translator must set up a hierarchy of demands on equivalence which he wants to follow. It is also clear that the many recent polemical attacks against using the concept of "equivalence" in translation theory, because of its imputed vicinity imputed vicinity to "identity" and formal linguistic equivalence, are quite unfounded. Views of equivalence as simply based on formal, syntactic, and lexical similarities alone have been criticized for a long time- not at least because it has long been recognized that any two linguistic items in two different languages are multiply ambiguous. Further, purely formal definitions of equivalence have long been revealed as