HANDLING CONTEXT-FREE WORDS
CHAPTER 1. LEXICAL PROBLEMS OF TRANSLATION
P A R Т II. EXERCISES IN TRANSLATION
As a rule, the object of translation is not a list of separate lexical units but a coherent text in which the SL words make up an integral whole. Though each word in the language has its own meaning, the actual information it conveys in a text depends, to a great extent, on its contextual environment. Generally speaking, the meaning of any word in the text cannot be understood and translated without due regard to the specific context in which it is actualized. Some words, however, are less sensitive to the contextual influence than others. There are words with definite meanings which are retained in most contexts and are relatively context-free. Context-free words are mainly found among proper and geographical names, titles of magazines and newspapers, names of various firms, organizations, ships, aircraft and the like, as well as among technical terms used by experts in all fields of human endeavour.
Context-free words have an important role to play in the translating process. They usually have permanent equivalents in TL which, in most cases, can be used in TT. The translator is thus provided with reference points helping him to choose the appropriate translation variants. The permanent equivalents of context-free words are often formed by transcription (with possible elements of transliteration) or loan translations.
^ Proper and geographical names are transcribed with TL letters, e.g.: Smith - Смит, Brown - Браун, John Fitzgerald Kennedy - Джон Фитц-жеральд Кеннеди; Cleveland - Кливленд, Rhode Island — Род-Айленд, Ontario — Онтарио; Downing Street — Даунинг-стрит, Foley Square — Фоли-сквер.
The same is true about the titles of periodicals and the names of firms and corporations, e.g.: Life-лЛайф», US News and World Report — «ЮС ньюс энд уорлд рипорт», General Motors Corporation - «Дженерал моторе корпорейшн», Harriman and Brothers — «Гар-риман энд бразерс», Anaconda Mining Company — «Анаконда май-нинг компани».
Transcription is also used to reproduce in TL the names of ships, aircraft,missiles and pieces of military equipment: Queen Elisabeth — «Ky-ин Рлизабет», Spitfire — «Спитфайр», Hawk — «Хок», Trident - «Трайдент», Honest John - «Онест Джон».
The rules of transcription have two minor exceptions. First, it is sometimes supplemented by elements of transliteration when SL letters are
.reproduced in TT instead of sounds. This technique is used with mute and double consonants between vowels or at the end of the word and with neutral vowels (Dorset —Дорсет, Bonners Ferry —Боннере Ферри) as well as to preserve some elements of SL spelling so as to make the TL equivalent resemble some familiar pattern (the Hercules missile — ракета «Геркулес», Columbia - Колумбия). Second, there are some traditional exceptions in rendering the names of historical personalities and geographical names, e.g.: Charles I —Карл I, James II —Яков П, Edinborough — Эдинбург.
Some geographical names are made up of common nouns and are translated word-for-word: the United States of America - Соединенные Штаты Америки, the United Kingdom — Соединенное Королевство, the Rocky Mountains — Скалистые горы.
If the name includes both a proper name and a common name, the former is transcribed while the latter is either translated or transcribed or both: the Atlantic Ocean - Атлантический океан, Kansas City— Канзас-сити, New Hampshire - Нью-Хемпшир, Firth of Clyde — залив Ферт-оф-Кпайд,
^ Names of political parties, trade unions and similar bodies are usually translated word-for-word (with or without a change in the word-order): the Republican Party — республиканская партия, the United Automobile Workers Union — Объединенный npoqscoioa рабочих автомобильной промышленности, the Federal Bureau of Investigation - Федеральное бюро расследований.
^ Terminological words are also relatively context-free though the context often helps to identify the specific field to which the term belongs. In the sentence 'These rifles are provided with a new type of foresight", the context clearly shows that the meaning of "foresight" is that of a military term and therefore all other meanings of the word can be disregarded. The context may also help to understand the meaning of the term in the text when it can denote more than one specific concept. For instance, in the US political terminology the term "state" can refer either to a national state or to one of the states within a federal entity. The following context will enable the translator to make the correct choice: "Both the state and Federal authorities were accused of establishing a police state." In the first case the term "state" is contrasted with "Federal" and will be translated as «штат», while in the second case it obviously means «государство».
As a rule, English technical terms (as well as political terms and terms in any other specific field) have their permanent equivalents in the respective Russian terminological systems: magnitude — величина, oxy-
gen - кислород, surplus value - прибавочная стоимость, Embassy — посольство, legislation — законодательство.
Many Russian equivalents have been formed from the English terms by transcription or loan translations: computer — компьютер, electron -электрон, Congressman — конгрессмен, impeachment — импичмент, shadow cabinet — «теневой кабинет», nuclear deterrent — ядерное устрашение. Quite a few among them are international terms: theorem — теорема, television — телевидение, president — президент, declaration — декларация, diplomacy — дипломатия. In some cases there are parallel forms in Russian: one formed by transcription and the other, so to speak, native, e.g.: резистор and сопротивление, бустер and ускоритель, индустрия and промышленность, тред-юнион and про4>союз, лидер and руководитель.
The translator makes his choice considering whether ST is highly technical or not, for a borrowed term is usually more familiar to specialists than to laymen. He has also to take into account the possible differences between the two forms in the way they are used in TL. For example, the Russian «индустрия» is restricted in usage and somewhat old-fashioned, «тред-юнион» always refers to British trade-unions and «лидер» gives the text a slightly foreign flavour.
Dealing with context-free words the translator must be aware of two common causes of translation errors. First, English and Russian terms can be similar in form but different in meaning. A "decade" is not «декада», an "instrument" is not «инструмент», and a "department" in the United Slates is not «департамент». Such words belong to the so-called false friends of the translator (see below). Second, the translator should not rely on the "inner form" of the English term to understand its meaning or to find a proper Russian equivalent for it is often misleading. A "packing industry is not «упаковочная» but «консервная промышленность», "conventional armaments" are not «условные» but «обычные вооружения» and a "public school" in Britain is not «публичная» or «общедоступная» but «частная школа».
Translation of technical terms puts a premium on the translator's knowledge of the subject-matter of ST. He must take great pains to get familiar with the system of terms in the appropriate field and make good use of technical dictionaries and other books of reference.