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The context-bound word is a word whose meaning is clear only in a specific context.

Context is the text that comes immediately before or after a particular word or phrase and helps to explain its meaning. The context is classified into micro- and macrocontext. The microcontext is a word surrounding within a sentence or phrase. The macrocontext is a larger text (a passage, a story, etc) where the word is used.

In translation both types of context are essential for guessing the meaning of a polysemantic word or a homonym. For example, a macrocontext is very important for translating newspaper headlines which are characterized by ellipses not only of structural words but also of notional parts of the sentence.

It is obligatory for a translator to take into account, along with the context, the consituation, which is often called background knowledge. This notion implies awareness of the time, place, and circumstances of what is spoken about. For example, to translate the following microdialogue:

- Сколько?

- 2:5.

several versions might be offered depending on the situation: “How much?” – “Two dollars five cents.” (in the store); “What’s the score?” – “Two to five” (after a match); “What’s the time?” – “Five minutes after two.”

The context helps to find a translation equivalent to a word not fixed in the dictionary or fixed in the dictionary but with another meaning. For example, in his novel Pninwritten in English, V. Nabokov used the phrase a very commonplace mind to characterize a hero. None of the dictionary equivalents (банальный, избитый, плоский) suited the translator (Barabturlo), who found his own equivalent: трафаретный ум. This is an occasional, irregular equivalent, fitting in a certain context. An occasional equivalent is obtained by substituting one word for another one to better reveal the contextual meaning.

Over time, a contextual meaning may become a normative meaning fixed by the dictionary. This occurred, for instance, with the word dear. All dictionaries translated it as дорогой, милый, любимый. But in the phrase my dear this word is used as a term of a very formal address and, therefore, corresponds to the Russian глубокоуважаемый, which has recently been fixed by the 3-volume New English-Russian Dictionary, edited by Y. Apresyan.

To find an occasional equivalent to a word, a logical method of interpolationis used. The contextual meaning of a word, expressed by the occasional equivalent, is found by studying the whole semantic structure of the word and deducing the appropriate meaning from the two adjacent meanings fixed in the dictionary.

For example, in the sentence The waves lap the granite of the embankment. the word lap contextualizes its two meanings at the same time: 1) to drink by taking up with quick movements of the tongue, which corresponds to the Russian лакать, жадно пить, глотать; and 2) to move or hit with little waves and soft sounds, corresponding to the Russian плескаться. The first meaning brings up an image of some kind of creature. The image is retained with the interpolated equivalent in translation: Волны лижут гранит набережной.

No doubt, to interpolate the equivalent, a translator should be aware of all the meanings a word has by using translation and monolingual dictionaries, as well as dictionaries of synonyms and thesauri.

Another way to translate a word whose dictionary equivalent does not suit a translator is to explain the meaning of the word. For example, at a meeting the chairperson can say, “Mr. N will be our timekeeper.” The word timekeeper has the following dictionary equivalents: хронометражист, хронометрист, счетчик времени, but none of them suits the style or the con-situation. Thus, a better solution for a translator will be translation by explanation: Господин Н. будет следить за регламентом собрания.

Usually explicatory translation is applied to neologisms, or newly coined words not yet fixed by bilingual dictionaries: e.g., People with can-do attitudes are essential to enterprise culture. – Люди, готовые к новым делам, очень важны для предпринимательства.




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