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Language as a means of communication

To form the Sentence English Ukrainian

Names of Paradigms Used Elements Activated in the Sentence


Personal Pronouns Paradigm he він

Verb Paradigm used, come приїздив

Verb Tense Paradigm Past Indef. минулий час

Particles Paradigm to none

Prepositions Paradigm to до

Noun Paradigm Italy, spring Італія, весна

Adjectives Paradigm each кожний

Adverbs Paradigm none зазвичай

Noun Cases Paradigm Common Case род. відм.

Adjective Cases Paradigm none род. відм.


Comparing the paradigm sets used to form the above English and Ukrainian sentences and paradigm elements activated in the syntagmas of these sentences one may easily note that both the sets used and the set elements activated are often different.

They are different because English and Ukrainian possess different language systems. It goes without saying, that this fact is very important for translation and explains many translation problems.

Any language has a particular multi-level organization: its elements are organized in sets (paradigms) at various levels and a language speaker is using the elements of these sets to generate a message intended for communication with other speakers of this language and entirely incomprehensible for those who have no command of this language. So a language is a code understood only by its users. Then, may be, translation is a process of decoding a message in one code and encoding it in another which is understood by another group of users using a different code.



Thus, a language may be regarded as a specific code intended for information exchange between its users. Indeed, any language resembles a code being a system of interrelated material signs (sounds or letters), various combinations of which stand for various messages. Language grammars and dictionaries may be considered as a kind of Code Books, indicating both the meaningful combinations of signs for a particular language and their meanings.

The process of language communication involves sending a message by a message sender to a message recipient – the sender encodes his mental message into the code of a particular language and the recipient decodes it using the same code (language).

The communication variety with one common language is called the monolingual communication.

If, however, the communication process involves two languages (codes) this variety is called the bilingual communication.

Bilingual communication is a rather typical occurrence in countries with two languages in use (e.g. in Ukraine or Canada). In Ukraine one may rather often observe a conversation where one speaker speaks Ukrainian and another one speaks Russian. The peculiarity of this communication type lies in the fact that decoding and encoding of mental messages is performed simultaneously in two different codes. For example, in a Ukrainian-Russian pair one speaker encodes his message in Ukrainian and decodes the message he received in Russian.

Translation is a specific type of bilingual communication since (as opposed to bilingual communication proper) it obligatory involves a third actor (translator) and for the message sender and recipient the communication is, in fact, monolingual.

Thus, a language is a code used by language speakers for communication. However, a language is a specific code unlike any other and its peculiarity as a code lies in its ambiguity – as opposed to a code proper a language produces originally ambiguous messages which are specified against context, situationand background information.

Let us take an example. Let the original message in English be an instruction or order Book! It is evidently ambiguous having at least two grammatical meanings (a noun and a verb) and many lexical ones (e.g., the Bible, a code, a book, etc. as a noun) but one will easily and without any doubt understand this message:

1. as Book tickets in a situation involving reservation of tickets or

2. as Give that book! in a situation involving sudden and urgent necessity to be given the book in question.

So, one of the means clarifying the meaning of ambiguous messages is the fragment of the real world that surrounds the speaker which is usually called extralinguistic situation.

Another possibility to clarify the meaning of the word book is provided by the context which may be as short as one more word a (a book) or several words (e.g., the book I gave you).

In simple words a context may be defined as a length of speech (text) necessary to clarify the meaning of a given word.

The ambiguity of a language makes it necessary to use situation and context to properly generate and understand a message (i.e. encode and decode it). Since translation according to communicational approach is decoding and encoding in two languages the significance of situation and context for translation cannot be overestimated.

There is another factor also to be taken into account in communication and, naturally, in translation. This factor is background information, i.e. general awareness of the subject of communication.

To take an example the word combination Electoral College will mean unless one is aware of the presidential election system in the USA.

Apart from being a code strongly dependent on the context, situation and background information a language is also a code of codes. There are codes within codes in specific areas of communication (scientific, technical, military, etc.) and so called sub-languages (of professional, age groups, etc.). This applies mostly to specific vocabulary used by these groups though there are differences in grammar rules as well.

As example of the elements of such in-house languages one may take words and word combinations from financial sphere (chart of accounts, value added, listing), diplomatic practice (credentials, charge d’affaires, framework agreement) or legal language (bail, disbar, plaintiff).

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