Litres Baner
Введение в теорию и практику перевода (на материале английского языка)

Ольга Петрова
Введение в теорию и практику перевода (на материале английского языка)



Рекомендовано Учебно-методическим объединением по образованию в области лингвистики Министерства образования Российской Федерации в качестве учебного пособия для студентов вузов,обучающихся по специальности «Перевод и переводоведение»


Литвин Ф. А.–докт. филол. наук, профессор (Орловский государственный университет)

Лаврова А. Н.–докт. филол. наук, профессор (Нижегородский государственный технический университет)

Ответственный редактор

Ивашкин М. П.–докт. филол. наук, профессор

© О. В. Петрова, 2016

© ООО «Издательство ВКН», 2016

General principles of translation

Translation is a process and the result of turning a text from one language into another, which means expressing the same by the signs of a different language. Bearing in mind that every sign has two planes (plane of expression and plane of content) the essence of translation could be described as changing the elements of the plane of expression while the plane of content remains constant.

The language of the original text is called "source language", the language into which the text is translated is called "target language" (the corresponding Russian terms are "исходный язык" and "переводящий язык").

One of the main difficulties of translating lies in the fact that the meaning of the whole text is not exhausted by the sum of meanings of its elements. The meaning of a text is made up by words (characterized by their denotative and connotative meanings and stylistic reference), syntactic meaning of sentences and utterances larger than sentences, suprasegmental elements and lexico-semantic connections between words and phrases.

Every language is characterized by a specific structure of its lexico-grammatical fields and has its own lexical, morphological and syntactic systems. It may result in lack of coincidence between the means of expressing the same content in SL (source language) and TL (target language).

That is why good practical knowledge of the two languages is quite necessary but not sufficient for translating. Besides this knowledge one must possess a number of skills and be guided by a number of principles worked out by the theory of translation. These principles are connected both with linguistic and extralinguistic aspects.

While translating one must keep in view typological characteristics of both the languages and remember that the same idea may be expressed lexically in one of them and grammatically in the other. To illustrate this let us compare the ways of expressing priority in English and in Russian.

The actor, Gilbert Caster, who had been "out" for six months, emerged from his east-coast seaside lodging about noon in the day, after the opening of "Shooting the Rapids", on tour, in which he was playing Dr Dominick in the last act.


It is clear from the sentence that the period of Caster’s being "out" was prior to the moment when he "emerged from his… lodging", this priority is expressed by the Past Perfect form "had been". Now that he was playing Dr Dominick he was no longer "out". In Russian, however, it is impossible to render this idea using grammatical means only. The phrase "он был без работы" does not contain any indications to priority of this state. Hence the necessity of introducing additional lexical units conveying the meaning of the English grammatical form:

Актер Гилберт Кейстер, который перед этим шесть месяцев был без работы, …

Concrete ways and means of overcoming such difficulties depend on the structural peculiarities of SL and TL, therefore when translating one must employ one’s theoretical knowledge of phonetic, morphological, lexical and syntactic systems of the two languages.

Besides purely linguistic difficulties, translation involves a great number of problems caused by numerous extralinguistic factors. The content of any text is based upon extralinguistic reality, the text itself reflects the cultural background of the author and of the whole people speaking the language, it also reflects the history of the people, their habits and traditions, a peculiar national way of thinking, etc. All these things should necessarily be taken into consideration in order to translate the text adequately. One must know much more than the lexical meaning of the words to translate the following:

"What will you have?" he asked me. I looked at him doubtfully. Prohibition was in force and to all appearance the ship was bone-dry.


First of all it is necessary to know that the formula "What will you have?" has a conventional meaning of an invitation to choose some liquor. Besides one should know what "Prohibition" is meant here (the eighteenth amendment to the US Constitution) not to translate it as "запрет". Only in this case there may appear a correct version:

"Что Вы будете пить?", спросил он. Я посмотрел на него с недоверием: сухой закон был в силе, и на корабле, судя по всему, не было ни капли спиртного.

It is also most essential to remember that nations speaking different languages have different experience, and things naturally known to one nation are quite unknown to another. To see it one may try to translate into English the title of the film "Петровка, 38", making it as informative for Englishmen or Americans as it is for us because we know perfectly well what office is situated there.

One of the main demands upon a person translating any text is that they should be well acquainted with its subject matter. It certainly requires some knowledge of physics to decide if the word "power" in a particular context means "сила" or "мощность", which is not the same thing.

If all these principles are taken into consideration there will be no danger of so-called "literal" translation, which means a word-for-word translation. This type of translation with all its seeming accuracy ignores both linguistic and extralinguistic factors discussed above. It leads to preserving the meanings of separate words and at the same time it distorts the meaning of the whole text (or sentence), thus often creating an undesirable comic effect. The reader is sure to be surprised at such a sentence:

…в гостиной стояли одиннадцать кресел, диван, три столика, две этажерки, …и часть большого рояля.

The phrase "part of a large grand piano" does not mean that the grand piano was divided into parts, just as the Russian expression "четверть скрипки", denoting a special little violin for children, does not mean that the violin is broken into four parts. So the phrase should be translated as "небольшой рояль", which differs from "part of a large grand piano" in structure, but conveys the same meaning.

These are the main principles one should follow in the process of translating.

Translation of lexical units

Types of correlation between words in source language and target language

There are different types of correspondences between the elements of the SL and TL lexical systems.

I. A word of SL and a word of TL may be identical in their meaning. Such words are called equivalents (the corresponding Russian term is эквиваленты). To this group usually belong proper names such as "London – Лондон", "Galsworthy – Голсуорси", etc.; terms such as "a morpheme – морфема", "logarithm – логарифм", etc.; names of the months, days of the week; numerals. Equivalents are usually monosemantic words and they are easily translated.

II. The meanings of a SL word and a TL word may coincide partially (частичные, или вариантные соответствия). There are three variants within this type.

1. A word in one of the languages may have more meanings than the corresponding word of the other language, so that the meaning of the latter is as it were included in the meaning of the former, e.g. the English noun "finish" and the Russian noun "финиш" both denote "the conclusion, end", which completely exhausts the meaning of the Russian word. The English word "finish", however, also denotes "that which finishes, completes or perfects", which corresponds to the Russian words "окончание", "отделка", "аппретура". Thus the meaning of the word "finish" includes the meaning of the word "финиш", but is not exhausted by it. This is the first variant of semantic relations characterized by partial coincidence of meanings.

2. The second variant of semantic relations between partially corresponding words may be described as intersection. It means that both the words have some meaning (or even meanings) in common, but at the same time each word has some other meanings which do not coincide. E.g.: the English word "cup" and the Russian "чашка" both mean "a drinking-vessel", besides which the word "cup" means "an ornamental vessel offered as a prize for an athletic contest" (in Russian – "кубок"), while the Russian "чашка" denotes also "круглая и плоская тарелка, подвешенная к коромыслу весов", which corresponds to the English word "pan". Thus the meanings of these two words ("cup" and "чашка") intersect in one point only – i.e. they both denote a drinking-vessel.

3. The third variant of relations within this type is somewhat more complicated. The fact is that different peoples reflect reality in different ways, and these differences find their manifestation in the languages which the peoples speak. It is well known that to the speakers of English it seems quite necessary to differentiate between a hand and an arm, while in Russian we usually do not feel it so very important and use the word "рука" to denote both the notions (cf. also "watch" and "clock" – "часы", "mirror" and "looking glass" – "зеркало", etc.). On the other hand we usually differentiate between "вишня" and "черешня", while for the speakers of English there exists one notion ("cherry"), as well as "клубника" and "земляника" are both called "strawberry"; we think that "почка" and "бутон" are quite different things, while in English they always call it "a bud", no matter whether it is going to form a leaf or a blossom.


It does not mean, of course, that we cannot express the difference between a hand and an arm in Russian or that English speaking people do not see any difference between a leaf bud and a blossom bud. They do, but traditionally some aspects of reality are reflected as differentiated notions in the mind of one people and as undifferentiated notion in the mind of another people. Theoretically speaking, every language can express everything, but it differs from other languages in what it should express.

This group of words demands special attention because it often causes trouble in the process of translation (for instance, try to translate the following sentence into Russian: "They both married their cousins").

In all the cases when the meanings of words coincide partially there arises a problem of choosing the right variant of translation. This choice should be based on two factors: on the knowledge of possible semantic relations between the words of SL and TL and on the information derived from the context.

III. Finally, in one of the languages there may exist words which have no correspondences in the other language at all (безэквивалентная лексика). They are usually proper names not used or even known in other countries (personal names such as Aubrey, Hope, Игорь, Галина, etc.; place-names such as Hindley, Catmose, Молитовка, Урень, etc.), and names of specifically national notions and phenomena (such as muffin, drugstore, startup, самовар, щи, агитбригада, стройотрядовец, etc.).

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