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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 –

elevator –

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 – лимонна кислота

specific gravity – питома вага

outer space – відкритий космос

weightlessness - невагомість


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 ----- кондуктор - genuine internationalism

провідник - (electr.) international loan word

диригент - pseudo-international meanings


провід (дріт)




artistic ------- мистецький civil ------ громадянський dramatic - раптовий

художній цивільний непередбачений

артистичний ввічливий, чемний драматичний


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 - капіталізм, House of Commons – Палата громад, Roosevelt - Рузвельт, Eugene O’Neal – Юджин О’Ніл, Cleveland - Клівленд, dog-collar - ошийник, 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 – ставлення, позиція, політика; actual – справжній, дійсний, поточний.


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 - трайбалізм, know-how – ноу-хау, impeachment - імпічмент. 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 - відтік мізків, people of good will – люди доброї волі, 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 - аптека, afternoon – вечер (R), надвечір’я (U). These occasional equivalents are adequate for the given context only. “Afternoon” does not mean “вечер”; however, if the participants of a conference have morning and afternoon sessions the tr-n will be «дневное и вечернее заседание». American drugstores are places where they sell newspapers, items of personal hygiene, soft drinks, snacks, ice-cream, etc. Therefore the occasional equivalent “аптека” 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: “Він помер від застуди”; “Він помер від сонячного удару”; “Він замерз у снігах”, etc.

5. In case all the above mentioned methods seem impossible to use, the method of description can be employed: landslide – перемога на виборах переважною більшістю голосів; brinkmanship – мистецтво ведення політики на межі війни; coroner – слідчий, що проводить допити у випадках насильницької чи наглої смерті. 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) – червона стрічка,

red tape (idiom) – бюрократизм, канцелярський формалізм;


the tables are/were turned (free word comb-n) – столи (були) перекинуті,

the tables are/were turned (idiom) – ситуація докорінно змінилася/ супротивники

помінятися ролями/місцями


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


e.g. to make way – дати дорогу, поступитися,

to die a dog’s death – здохнути як собака,

to receive a hero’s welcome – зустрічати як героя,

to tell the truth – правду казати, правду кажучи


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 – світ, люди, існуюча мораль,

Jack Ketch – кат,

Croesus – Крез, надзвичайно багата людина,

Tommy Atkins – англійський солдат,

Yankee –

Bobby –

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),

Hobson’s 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 – дивак,

blue bonnet – шотландець,

Canterbury tale – небувальщина,

ніде курці клюнути/яблуку впасти – 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 – солом’яна вдова,

measure twice and cut once – сім раз одміряй, а раз відріж,

not for love or money – ні за які гроші,

(he) has not all his buttons – клепки бракує,

all cats are grey in the dark – вночі що сіре, те й вовк,

not to know chalk from cheese – не тямить ні бе, ні ме, ні кукуріку


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 – кидати перла перед свинями,

to fall between Scilla and Charybdis – між Сциллою і Харибдою/між двох вогнів,

to cherish/warm a viper in one’s bosom – пригріти гадюку в пазусі


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 – ні риба ні м’ясо; ні пава, ні ґава,

the apple of discord

the bone of contention/discord – яблуко розбрату


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 – авгієві стайні (занедбане, занехаяне місце),

a labour of Sisyphus – сізіфова праця (важка і марна праця),

Pandora’s box – скринька Пандори (джерело всіляких лих),

The Trojan horse - троянський кінь (прихована небезпека)

b) ancient history or literature,

e.g. an ass in a lion’s skin – осел у левовій шкурі,

to cross/pass the Rubicon – перейти Рубікон (прийняти важливе рішення),

the golden age – золотий вік/золоті часи,

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

e.g. a lost sheep – заблудла вівця,

a prodigal son – блудний син,

the ten commandments – десять заповідей,

the thirty pieces of silver – тридцять срібняків


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

English: Time is money – час – гроші,

a self-made man – людина, що сама собі проклала шлях,

my house is my castle – мій дім – моя фортеця,

French: after us the deluge – після нас хоч потоп,

the fair sex – прекрасна стать,

the game is worth the candle – гра варта свічок,

Spanish: blue blood – блакитна кров,

to tilt at the windmills – воювати з вітряками,

Italian: Dante’s inferno – Дантове пекло,

Finita la comedia – ділу кінець,

German: Sturm und Drang – буря і натиск,

Da ist der Hund begraben – ось де собака заритий


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 – не такий страшний чорт, як його малюють,

a lot of water has flown under the bridge – багато води спливло (з тих пір),

in broad daylight – серед білого дня,

as pale as paper/a sheet – блідий мов стіна,

one’s flesh and bone – рідна кровинка


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


Читайте також:

  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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