Translation of non-equivalent lexicon

Translation of Internationalisms and Pseudo-Internationalisms


Internationalisms proper are words that have more or less similar phonetic form and carry the same meaning in three or more world l-ges,

e.g. electronics, cybernetics, etc.


Most of internationalisms go back to ancient l-ges. Greek and Latin terminological elements are used to form new words that denote new notions and phenomena,

e.g. plastic operation,

cyberspace, etc.


2.3.3. Pseudo-Internationalisms or false friends of a translator differ in meaning in two l-ges either completely or partially, in some of the elements of their semantic structure (semes),

e.g. complexion


TV gave a magazine coverage to the elections

Secular and religious materials


Apart from genuine internationalisms there exist many international translation loan units of lexicon. These have a generally common structural form but rarely a similarity in sounding,

e.g. citric acid

specific gravity

outer space

weightlessness -


Identification of internationalisms, genuine or loan, presents no difficulty if they are monosemantic units. It becomes much more difficult in the case of polysemantic units which are common in modern English and less frequent in Ukrainian,

e.g. conductor ----- - genuine internationalism

- (electr.) international loan word

- pseudo-international meanings




artistic ------- civil ------ dramatic -



To avoid mistakes in tr-n we should carefully consider the environment of a word,

e.g. a fit of depression

depression of trade

the structure of the sentence

a multi-storeyed structure


A SL unit regularly used to translate a TL unit is referred to as its translation equivalent.

Equivalents are divided into single (regular) and multiple (variant). Single equivalent is the most stable and regular way of translating a definite SL unit in all (or almost all) cases, and thus relatively independent on the context. Most terms, proper names, geographical names and some common names and phrases have single equivalents,

e.g. capitalism - , House of Commons , Roosevelt - , Eugene ONeal Βͳ, Cleveland - , dog-collar - , etc.


Multiple equivalence is a set of regular ways of tr-ting a definite SL unit. The choice between equivalents is determined by the context,

e.g. attitude , , ; actual , , .


There also exist units which have no regular equivalents in TL. Non-equivalent lexical units may be presented by neologisms, specific units of national lexicon (realia), and less known names which have to be translated by occasional contextual equivalents (conservationist, baby-sitter, baby-boomers, etc.). All this concerns only two l-ges involved in the process of tr-n. A SL unit having no equivalent in the TL may have equivalents in l-ges other than TL.


The existence of l-ge units having no equivalents in the TL does not suggest that they cannot be translated or that they are tr-ted with less accuracy than units having direct equivalents. The following kinds of occasional contextual equivalents may be used:

1. Borrowings reproducing the form of a SL word: tribalism - , know-how -, impeachment - . Such equivalents are created by transcription or transliteration. They may gradually become stable and regular in TL.

2. Translation loans (calques) reproducing the morpheme structure of a word or constituents of a set expression: brain drain - , people of good will , etc. Many occasional equivalents become widely used in tr-n and gradually enter TL lexicon.

3. Analogues created by substitution of SL unit with a TL unit which is the closest in meaning: drugstore - , afternoon (R), (U). These occasional equivalents are adequate for the given context only. Afternoon does not mean ; however, if the participants of a conference have morning and afternoon sessions the tr-n will be . American drugstores are places where they sell newspapers, items of personal hygiene, soft drinks, snacks, ice-cream, etc. Therefore the occasional equivalent cannot be used to translate the following sentence: Food is awful in drugstores.

4. Lexical substitution created by one of the tr-n transformations: exposure has no direct equivalent in U/R. Thus, in tr-ting the sentence He died of exposure the transformation of specification or expansion can be employed: ³ ; ³ ; ³ , etc.

5. In case all the above mentioned methods seem impossible to use, the method of description can be employed: landslide ; brinkmanship ; coroner , . In some cases both a tr-n loan and a description in the text or in a footnote are used. The description being used once, later the tr-tor may use the loan or transcription only.



5.Translation of Idiomatic/Phraseological and Stable Expressions


Idiomatic or phraseological expressions are structurally, lexically and semantically fixed phrases or sentences having the meaning, which is not made up by the sum of meanings of their component parts. Their figurative, i.e. metaphorical nature and usage makes them distinct from structurally identical free combinations of words,


e.g. red tape (free word comb-n) ,

red tape (idiom) , ;


the tables are/were turned (free word comb-n) () ,

the tables are/were turned (idiom) /



On rare occasions the lexical meaning of idioms can coincide with their direct, i.e. not transferred meaning,


e.g. to make way , ,

to die a dogs death ,

to receive a heros welcome ,

to tell the truth ,


Some proper names can also have figurative meaning. These names have acquired their constant expressive meaning and can not be confused with common proper names of people:


Mrs Grundy , , ,

Jack Ketch ,

Croesus , ,

Tommy Atkins ,



Uncle Sam -


There are a lot of set/fixed prepositional, adjectival, verbal and adverbial expressions which have more transparent meaning and are easier to translate than regular genuine idioms (the so-called phraseological fusions),


e.g. to cut short, make believe, fifty-fifty, by and by, for the sake of, etc (set expressions),

Hobsons choice no choice whatsoever

To dine with Duke Humphrey to be left without dinner, etc. (phras. fusions)


The choice of the way of translation may be predetermined by the SL context or by the existence/absence of contextual equivalents for the idiomatic/stable expression in the TL. These expressions may be translated by a single word,

e.g. an odd/queer fish ,

blue bonnet ,

Canterbury tale ,

/ crammed


However, faithful translation of a large number of idiomatic expressions can be achieved only by a thorough selection of variants having in the TL a similar meaning to the original and similar expressiveness,


e.g. a grass widow ,

measure twice and cut once , ,

not for love or money ,

(he) has not all his buttons ,

all cats are grey in the dark , ,

not to know chalk from cheese , ,


There are idioms of international nature. These come mostly from Greek or Latin and therefore are identical/similar in more than one (at least European) l-ge,


e.g. to cast pearls before swine ,

to fall between Scilla and Charybdis / ,

to cherish/warm a viper in ones bosom


Only few of such expressions have national phraseological synonyms which are restricted to colloquial style and differ greatly in expressiveness,


e.g. neither fish nor flesh ; , ,

the apple of discord

the bone of contention/discord


Taking into account the above the following ways of rendering the idiomatic expressions are to be identified:


  1. By choosing absolute/complete equivalents


In this method each component of an idiom is retained in the TL including the connotative meaning. These are idioms from:

a) Greek or other mythology,

e.g. Augean stables 㳺 (, ),

a labour of Sisyphus ( ),

Pandoras box ( ),

The Trojan horse - ( )

b) ancient history or literature,

e.g. an ass in a lions skin ,

to cross/pass the Rubicon ( ),

the golden age / ,

c) the Bible or works based on a biblical plot,

e.g. a lost sheep ,

a prodigal son ,

the ten commandments ,

the thirty pieces of silver


A great many absolute equivalents originate from contemporary or historical sources relating to different languages,

English: Time is money ,

a self-made man , ,

my house is my castle ,

French: after us the deluge ,

the fair sex ,

the game is worth the candle ,

Spanish: blue blood ,

to tilt at the windmills ,

Italian: Dantes inferno ,

Finita la comedia ,

German: Sturm und Drang ,

Da ist der Hund begraben


Some expressions belonging to prominent authors have also turned into regular idiomatic expressions.


  1. Translation of idioms by choosing near equivalents


The meaning of a number of idioms originating in both l-ges from a common source may sometimes have one or more components different than in the TL,


e.g. the devil is not so black as he is painted , ,

a lot of water has flown under the bridge ( ),

in broad daylight ,

as pale as paper/a sheet ,

ones flesh and bone


Here we can observe some substitutions, both semantic and structural.



  1. Antonymic translation
  2. B) Partial Translation Equivalents
  3. Basic translation theories
  4. By Descriptive or Interpreting Translation
  5. Faithful and equivalent translation.
  6. Free Translation
  7. Literal translation
  8. Map of disciplines interfacing with Translation Studies
  9. Non-equivalents
  10. Objectively and subjectively conditioned transformations of lexical units in the process of translation.
  11. Original Metaphors and Their Translation
  12. Referential Meaning and its Rendering in Translation

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