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TYPES OF EQUIVALENTS
The structural similarity of ST and TT implies that relationships of equivalence are established between correlated units in the two texts.
Some of the SL units have permanent equivalents in TL, that is to say, there is a one-to-one correspondence between such units and their equivalents. Thus “London” in Russian is «Лондон», “a machine-gun” as «пулемет» and “hydrogen” is always rendered as «водород». As a rule this type of correspondence is found with words of specific character, such as scientific and technical terms, proper or geographical names and similar words whose meaning is more or less independent of the particular contextual situation.
Other SL units may have several equivalents each. Such one-to-many correspondence between SL and TL units is characteristic of most regular equivalents. The existence of a number of non-permanent (or variable) equivalents to a SL units implies the necessity of selecting one of them in each particular case, taking into account the way the unit is used in ST and the points of difference between the semantics of its equivalents in TL.
Depending on the type of the language units involved regular equivalents can be classified as lexical,phraseological or grammatical.
The choice of the equivalent will depend on the relative importance of a particular semantic element in the act of communication.
A variety of equivalents may also result from a more detailed description of the same object in TL. The English word “attitude”, for instance, is translated as «отношение, позиция, политика» depending on the variant the Russian language prefers in a particular situation. Here the choice between equivalents is determined by TL factors.
Even if a SL unit has a regular equivalent in TL, this equivalent cannot be used in TT whenever the unit is found in ST. An equivalent is but a potential substitute, for the translator’s choice is, to a large extent, dependent on the context in which the SL unit is placed in ST. There are two types of context: linguistic and situational. The linguistic context is made up by the other SL units in ST while the situational context includes the temporal, spacial and other circumstances under which ST was produced as well as all facts which the receptor is expected to know so that he could adequately interpret the message.
Thus in the following sentences the linguistic context will enable the translator to make a correct choice among the Russian equivalents to the English noun “attitude”:
- (1) I don’t like your attitude to your work.
- (2) There is no sign of any change in the attitudes of the two sides.
- (3) He stood there in a threatening attitude.
It is obvious that in the first sentence it should be the Russian «отношение (к работе)», in the second sentence — «позиции (обеих сторон)», and in the third sentence - «поза (угрожающая)».
The fact that a SL unit has a number of regular equivalents does not necessarily mean that one of them will be used in each particular translation. True, in many cases the translator’s skill is well demonstrated in his ability to make a good choice among such equivalents.
Geographical names have such equivalents which are formed by imitation of the foreign name in TL. And the name of the American town of New Haven (Conn.) is invariably rendered into Russian as «Нью-Хейвен». But the sentence “I graduated from New Haven in 1915″ will be hardly translated in the regular way since the Russian reader may not know that New Haven is famous for its Yale university. The translator will rather opt for the occasional equivalent: «Я окончил Йельский университет в 1915 году».
The same goes for phraseological equivalents. Phraseological units or idioms may also have permanent or variable equivalents. Such English idioms as “the game is not worth the candle” or “to pull chestnuts out of the fire for smb.” are usually translated by the Russian idioms «игра не стоит свеч» and «таскать каштаны из огня для кого-л.», respectively. These equivalents reproduce all the aspects of the English idioms semantics and can be used in most contexts. Other permanent equivalents, though identical in their figurative meaning, are based on different images, that is, they have different literal meaning. Cf. “to get up on the wrong side of the bed” —«встать с левой нога», “make hay while the sun shines” —«куй железо, пока горячо». Now an English idiom may have several Russian equivalents among which the translator has to make his choice in each particular case. For instance, the meaning of the English “Do in Rome as the Romans do” may be rendered in some contexts as «С волками жить - по-волчьи выть», and in other contexts as «В чужой монастырь со своим уставом не ходят». But here, again, the translator may not infrequently prefer an occasional equivalent which can be formed by a word-for-word reproduction of the original unit: «В Риме поступай так, как римляне».
The choice of grammatical units in TT largely depends on the semantics and combinability of its lexical elements. Therefore there are practically no permanent grammatical equivalents. The variable equivalents in the field of grammar may be analogous forms in TL or different forms with a similar meaning. In the following English sentence “He was a guest of honour at a reception given by the Soviet government” both the Russian participle «устроенном» and the attributive clause «который был устроен» can be substituted for the English participle “given“. And the use of occasional equivalents is here more common than in the case of the lexical or phraseological units. We have seen that in the first three types of equivalence no equivalents to the grammatical units are deliberately selected in TL.
Semantic dissimilarity of analogous structures in SL and TL also result in SL structures having several equivalents in TL. For instance, attributive groups are common both in English , Russian and Romanian: “a green tree“—«зеленое дерево/ copac verde». But the semantic relationships between the numbers of the group are broader in English, which often precludes a blue-print translation of the group into Russian. As often as not the English attributive group is used to convey various adverbial ideas of location, purpose, cause, etc. Consider such groups as “Madrid trial” (location), “profits drive” (purpose), “war suffering” (cause). Such groups may also express various action-object relationships. Cf. labour movement” (movement by the workers), “labour raids” (raids against the workers), and “labour spies” (spies among the workers).
A word within an attributive group may sometimes alter its meaning. So, “war rehabilitation” is, in fact, rehabilitation of economy after the war, that is, “post-war rehabilitation”.
As a result, many attributive groups are polysemantic and are translated in a different way in different contexts. “War prosperity” may mean “prosperity during the war” or “prosperity in the post-war period caused by the war”. ‘The Berlin proposals” may imply “proposals made in Berlin” (say, at an international conference), “proposals made by Berlin” (i.e. by the FRG), “proposal on Berlin” (of political, economic or other nature).
No small number of SL units have no regular equivalents in TL. Equivalent-lacking words are often found among SL names of specific national phenomena, such as the English words “coroner, condominium, impeachment, baby-sitter” and the like. However, there are quite a number of “ordinary” words for which TL may have no equivalent lexical units: “fluid, bidder, qualifier, conservationist”, etc. Some grammar forms and categories may also be equivalent-lacking. (Cf. the English gerund, article or absolute participle construction which have no counterparts in Russian.)
The absence of regular equivalents does not imply that the meaning of an equivalent-lacking SL unit cannot be rendered in translation or that its translation must be less accurate. We have seen that words with regular equivalents are not infrequently translated with the help of contextual substitutes. Similarly, the translator, coming across an equivalent-lacking word, resorts to occasional equivalents which can be created in one of the following ways:
1. Using loan-words imitating in TL the form of the SL word or word combination, e.g. tribalism — трайбализм, impeachment — импичмент, backbencher — заднескамеечник, brain-drain — утечка мозгов.
2. Using approximate substitutes, that is TL words with similar meaning which is extended to convey additional information (if necessary, with the help of foot-notes), e.g. drugstore — аптека, witchhunter — мракобес, afternoon — вечер. The Russian «аптека» is not exactly a drugstore where they also sell such items as magazines, soft drinks, ice-cream, etc., but in some cases this approximate equivalent can well be used.
3. Using all kinds of lexical (semantic) transformations modifying the meaning of the SL word, e.g. “He died of exposure” may be rendered into Russian as «Он умер от простуды» or «Он погиб от солнечного удара».
4. Using an explanation to convey the meaning of the SL unit, e.g. landslide-победа на выборах подавляющим большинством голосов, brinkmanship — искусство проведения политики на грани войны, etc.
This method is sometimes used in conjunction with the first one when the introduction of a loan-word is followed by a foot-note explaining the meaning of the equivalent-lacking word in ST.
There are also quite a number of equivalent-lacking idioms. Such English phraseological units as “You cannot eat your cake and have it”, “to dine with Duke Humphrey”, “to send smb. to Coventry” and many others have no regular equivalents in Russian. They are translated either by reproducing their form in TL through a word-for-word translation or by explaining the figurative meaning of the idiom, e.g.: People who live in glass should not throw stones. — Люди, живущие в стеклянных домах, не должны бросать камни; to see eye-to-eye with srnb. - придерживаться одних взглядов.
Equivalent-lacking grammatical forms give less trouble to the translator. Here occasional substitutes can be classified under three main headings, namely:
1. Zero translations when the meaning of the grammatical unit is not rendered in the translation since it is practically identical to the meaning of some other unit and can be safely left out. In the sentence “By that time he had already left Britain” — К тому времени он уже уехал из Англии the idea of priority expressed by the Past Perfect Tense needn’t be separately reproduced in TT as it is made superfluous by the presence of “by that time” and “already”.
2. Approximate translations when the translator makes use of a TL form partially equivalent to the equivalent-lacking SL unit, e.g.: I saw him enter the room — Я видел, как он вошел в комнату. The Russian/ Romanian languages have no complex objects of this type but the meaning of the object clause is a sufficient approximation.
3. Transformational translation when the translator resorts to one of the grammatical transformations e.g.: Your presence at the meeting is not obligatory. Nor is it desirable — Ваше присутствие на собрании необязательно и даже нежелательно (the syntactical integration).
As has been emphasized, equivalents are not mechanical substitutes for SL units but they may come handy as a starting point in search of adequate translation. The translator will much profit if he knows many permanent equivalents, is good at selecting among variable equivalents and resourceful at creating occasional equivalents, taking into account all contextual factors.