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Referential Meaning and its Rendering in Translation

Three types of lexical meaning in translation


As one of the main tasks of translation is to render the exact meaning of words, it is important to consider here the three types of lexical meaning which can be distinguished. They are: referential, emotive and stylistic.

Referential meaning (also called nominative, denotative or cognitive) has direct reference to things or phenomena of objective reality, naming abstract notions and processes as well. Referential meaning may be primary and secondary thus consisting of different lexical Semantic Variants (LSV).

Emotivemeaning unlike referential meaning has no direct reference to things or phenomena of objective reality but to the feelings and emotions of the speaker. Therefore emotive meaning bears reference to things, phenomena or ideas through the speaker’s evaluation of them. Emotive meaning is inherent in a definite group of words even when they are taken out of the context.

Stylisticmeaning is based on the stylistic stratification of the English vocabulary and is formed by stylistic reference, e.g. face (neutral), countenance (literary), mug (colloquial).


Lexical transformation which are practically always required in the rendering of referential meaning in translation are caused by various factors. They may be classed as follows:

a) different vision of objects and phenomena and different approach to them;

b) different semantic structure of a word in the SL and in the TL;

c) different valency or collocability;

d) different usage. Different vision.

It is common knowledge that one and the same object of reality may be viewed by different languages from different aspects: the eye (of the needle – вушко голки; hooks and eyesкрючки й петельки).

Hot milk with skin on it – гаряче молоко з пінкою.

Desalination – опріснення; visible to the naked eye – видимий неозброєним оком; a fortnight (forteen nights) – два тижні.

He lives next door – Він мешкає в сусідньому будинку.

All these words (naked eye – неозброєне око; fortnight – два тижні; next door – сусідній будинок) describe the same facts and although formally not correlated they are equivalents.

He was no armchair strategist – Він аж ніяк не був кабінетним стратегом.

Not only words of full meaning but even prepositions may imply different vision.

He folded his arms across his chest, crossed his knees.

Він схрестив руки на грудях, поклав ногу на ногу.

This factor (different vision) usually presents little difficulty for the translator but it must never be overlooked, otherwise the translator may lapse into literal translation. The difficulty arises when such words are used figuratively as part of some lexical stylistic device, that is, when they fulfill a stylistic function, e.g.


Instant history, like instant coffee, can be remarkably palatable, at least it is in this memoir by a former Whitehouse side who sees L.B.J. as “an extraordinary gifted President who was the wrong man, from the wrong place, at the wrong time, under the wrong circumstances.

Сучасна історія, подібно такому сучасному продукту як розчинна кава, іноді буває на диво приємною, принаймні це так у рецензованих мемуарах колишнього помічника президента Джонсона, який характеризує його як «виключно обдарованого президента, котрий був непридатною людиною, походив з непридатного місця, в непридатний час, за непридатних обставин».


One and the same product is named in the S and T languages according to its different properties: the English language stresses the speed with such coffee can be prepared whereas the Ukrainian language lays special accent on the fact that it is soluble.

A word in one Language may denote, due to different vision, a wider non-differentiated notion, while the same notion is, as it were dismembered in the other language, and, consequently, there are two or more words denoting it. For example, the Ukrainian word годинник corresponds to two English words; “watch” and “clock”. The Ukrainian word місто has two couterparts; “town” and “city”. And vice versa, one English word may correspond to two or more Russian/Ukrainian words, e.g. “moon” – луна, месяц, bell” – колокол, колокольчик, бубенчик, звонок, склянка, рында. The Ukrainian language uses one word палець which is indiscriminately applies “to terminal members” of the hand and foot, while the English language discriminates between these members and has accordingly three different words: thumb, finger, toe.


Читайте також:

  1. Analyze the meanings of the italicized words. Identify the result of the changes of the connotational aspect of lexical meaning in the given words.
  2. Antonymic translation
  3. B) Partial Translation Equivalents
  4. Basic translation theories
  5. By Descriptive or Interpreting Translation
  6. Classification of word meaning
  7. Compare the meanings of the given words. Define what semantic features are shared by all the members of the group and what semantic properties distinguish them from each other.
  8. Faithful and equivalent translation.
  9. Free Translation
  10. Grammatical meaning.
  11. Grammatical meaning.
  12. Lexical meaning and its structure.

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Literal translation | Different valency

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