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Different valency


The aptness of a word to appear in various combinations is described as its lexical valency or collocability which amounts to semantic agreement. Collocability implies the ability of a lexical unit to combine with other lexical units, with other words or lexical groups. A word as a lexical unit has both paradigmatic and syntagmatic collocability. The lexical meaning of a word is revealed in either case. The contexts in which a word is used bring out its distribution and potential collocability, thus the range of lexical valency of words is linguistically determined by the lexical meaning of words, by the compatibility of notions expressed by them and by the inner structure of he language word-stock.

It should be noted that valency comprises all levels of language – its phonological, syntactical and lexical levels. Only lexical valency will be considered here.

A detailed analysis of factual material shows that valency in the English language is broader and more flexible than that in the Ukrainian language. This fact confronts the translator with additional difficulties, as it enables a writer to use unexpected individual combinations. It follows that valency may be obligatory non-obligatory and words accordingly fall into two categories: “open” or discrete words and “closed” or non-discrete ones. The adjective “aquiline” is a classical example of a word with a closed valency (ср. the Ukrainian adjective кромішний).

Every language has its established valency norms, its types of word combinations, groups of words able to form such combinations. This especially concerns traditional, obligatory combinations while individual combinations give greater scope to translators. Individual collocability is by no means arbitrary and must not violate the existing models of valency. As a writer may bring out a potential meaning of some word he is also able to produce unexpected combinations. Such individual but linguistically justifiable collocations belong to the writer’s individual style in the way as his epithets or metaphors and may be regarded as an effective stylistic device, e.g.

She had seen many people die, but until now, she had never known a young foreign death. (R.Godden).

У неї на очах вмирало багато людей, але досі їй не траплялося бачити, як помирав іноземець, та ще й такий юний.

Words traditionally collocated tend to constitute clichés, e.g. a bad mistake, high hopes, heavy sea (rain, snow), etc. the translator is to find similar TL clichés, traditional collocations: груба помилка, веикі надії, бурхливе море, сильный дощ (сніг). The key word in such collocations is a noun, both semantically and structurally, while the modifying adjective plays a subordinate role. The key word is always preserved in translation but the collocated adjective is rendered by a word possessing a different referential meaning which expresses the same category (in this case – intensity) and corresponds to the TL valency norms. For example:

a bad mistake – груба помилка

a bad headache – сильний головний біль

a bed debt – неповернений борг

a bad accident –важкий нещасний випадок

a bad wound – важка рана

a bad egg – тухле яйце

a bad apple – гниле яблуко.

It should be noted that words playing a qualifying role may be not only adjectives but also verbs and adverbs, e.g. trains run – поізди ходять; to sit in dry dock – стояти в сухому доці.

The problem of semantic agreement inevitably arises in the translation of phraseological units consisting of a verb of wide meaning and a noun (collocations or set expressions). The verb is practically desemantised and the noun is the semantic centre of the collocation.

The translation of the verb is determined by the law of semantic agreement, e.g.

to make tea (coffee) – заварювати чай (каву)

to make beds – стелити постілі

to make faces – корчити гримаси

to make apologies - приноситивибачення.

Every language possesses regular and compatible collocations.

After a day of heavy selling and in spite of persistent Bank of England support, the pound closed on Monday at a new record low against the United States dollar.

Після того як впродовж усього дня посилено збувалися фунти стерлінгів і, незважаючи на стійку підтримку Англійського банку, до закриття біржі в понеділок курс фунту сягнув рекордно-низького рівня відносно долара.

The richer the semantic volume of a word is the richer is its collocability which opens up wide translation possibilities.

A detailed analysis of various collocations shows that individual and unexpected collocations in different functional styles are much more frequent in English than in Ukrainian.

Different collocability often calls for lexical and grammatical transformation, though of the collocation may have its equivalent in Russian, e.g. a “controversial question” – спірне питання but the collocation “the most controversial Prime Minister” cannot be translated as ‘самий спірний прем’єр-міністр’.


Britain will tomorrow be welcoming on an official visit one of the most controversial and youngest Prime Minister in Europe.

Завтра до Англії прибуває з офіційним візитом один з наймолодших прем’єр-міністрів Європи, який викликає найсуперечливіші думки.

Sweden's neutral faith ought not to be in doubt.

Вірність Швеції нейтралітету не підлягає сумніву.


A relatively free valency in the English language accounts for the free use of the so-called transferred epithet in which logical and syntactical modifications do not coincide.


I sat down to a very meditative breakfast.

Поринувши в роздуми, я почав снідати.


Logically the adjective “meditative” refers to the subject of the sentence whereas syntactically it is attached to the prepositional object. This unusual attachment converts it into a transferred epithet. The collocation задумливий сніданок is hardly possible in Ukrainian.


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Referential Meaning and its Rendering in Translation | Rendering of stylistic meaning in translation

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