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I was just reading Peter Newmark's A Textbook of Translation and ran into:

In fact, the greater the quantity of a language's resources (e.g. polysemy, word-play, sound-effect, metre, rhyme) expended on a text, the more difficult it is likely to be to translate, and the more worthwhile.

The structure is the greater A, the more difficult B, and the more worthwhile C.

My problem lies in the B part that is it is likely to be to translate. What does this mean? Does it bear any redundancy? Couldn't have it been said as the more difficult it is to be translated?

And C is a placeholder referring to something like it is or they are.

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    It seems to me like we could roughly swap the ordering of the words difficult and translate, and this would make more sense: the more likely it is to be difficult to translate.
    – J.R.
    Mar 9, 2016 at 19:06

2 Answers 2

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The author painted himself into an awkward corner by choosing "the more X... the more Y" construct, while wanting to hedge.

Consider:

The taller the basketball player, the more difficult he is to guard.

Now, let's hedge, and replace "is" with "is likely to be":

The taller the basketball player, the more difficult he is likely to be to guard.

We can rephrase using a participle phrase instead of the infinitive:

The taller the basketball player, the more difficult guarding him is likely to be.

And we could also make "guarding" the subject:

Guarding a basketball player is likely to be the more difficult the taller he is.

I won't bother to apply these shifted patterns to the original, because "expanded on a text" is a separate mess.

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  • honestly I checked to see whether the writer is a native speaker of English and found out no doubt he is: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Newmark
    – Juya
    Mar 9, 2016 at 19:02
  • A non-native speaker would have been more likely to back off and express this in a less confusing way. I mean confusing for the reader and for the writer.
    – gnasher729
    Mar 9, 2016 at 21:04
  • I need to apologize since in the 1st part I made an error; it is actually expended not expanded.
    – Juya
    Mar 10, 2016 at 10:43
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    expended is better than expanded, but the "resources expended" metaphor is weak, as these expressive features of a language do not get used up when they get used. Mar 10, 2016 at 10:51
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The author could definitely have phrased it differently, but it doesn't seem redundant to me. A simpler way to phrase it would have been:

It will probably be more difficult to translate as more features of the language (e.g. ....) are used, but it will be more worthwhile.

(I'm assuming that that random "C." at the end of your quote is a typo of some type)

As for the actual part that you're asking about, I would break it down as follows:

  • likely to be: describes the most probable outcome
  • to translate: the action whose difficulty is being described

Looking at it like this, we can replace "likely to be" with another phrase and change the meaning: "the more difficult it is certain to be to translate". This implies that a text absolutely must be more difficult to translate if the text uses more language resources, but since this might not be the case, the author says "likely" rather than "certain".

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    I think the "C" at the end is a placeholder for more of a sentence, such as "The more complex the sentence, the more difficult it is to translate, and the more worthwhile it is to hire a professional to translate for you", so the full structure is "the greater A, the more difficult B, and the more worthwhile C"
    – Sarah
    Mar 9, 2016 at 20:08
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    @Sarah If that's the case, then my example simplified rewording will need to be reworked. I'll have to see if OP can clarify. Mar 9, 2016 at 20:09
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    Looking at the question, it seems like someone edited it after the OP posted, which probably made it clearer overall, but messed up that particular piece, accidentally leaving the C in the quote part, but removing it from the italicized sentence below (and chopping off the period as well).
    – Sarah
    Mar 9, 2016 at 20:14
  • I've proposed an edit that removes the C, extends the bolded section of the quote, AND fixes the typo "expanded" to "expended."
    – mkennedy
    Mar 9, 2016 at 22:31
  • I considered C as a placeholder referring to something like it is or they are.
    – Juya
    Mar 10, 2016 at 10:48

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