LI Международная научная филологическая конференция имени Людмилы Алексеевны Вербицкой

The English correspondences of Russian nonequivalent utterances in plays by A. Chekhov

Анна Ивановна Анфиногенова
Санкт-Петербургский государственный университет

17:20 - 17:40

Ключевые слова, аннотация

Key words: expressiveness; the equivalence of the expressive effect; nonequivalent utterances; the means of translation
The article deals with the problems of translation of Russian nonequivalent utterances into English. Russian nonequivalent utterances have been studied in the stories by A.P.Chekhov: "The Propposal", "The Bear", "The Wedding" in their English  translations. The article describes the models of expressive sentences in English. The result of the analysis has shown that the equivalence of the expressive effect of a target text is viewed as the norm in the translation of expressive sentences from a source text.


This article examines the English correspondences of several Russian (NEU) nonequivalent utterances found in three one-act plays by Anton Chekhov: "The Bear", "The Proposal", and "The Wedding". Translations of these plays by Constance Garnett, Elizabeth Fen, Julius West, Kathleen Cook, and Paul Schmidt were taken into account. It is possible to define a non-equivalent utterance as such utterances, the full pragmasemantic meaning of which is very difficult to convey in English not only at the "similar level of the perception plan", but, and most importantly, with preservation of the purpose of the Russian-speakers' communication. Examples of such statements are the Russian phrases "Горько!" (‘Gorko!’, l.t. ‘Bitter’) (said at a wedding with the intention of inducing the bride and groom to stand up and kiss each other on the lips), "Хорошо сидим!” (‘Khorosho sidim!’, l.t.  ‘Good sitting!’) said during a meal together with the intention of expressing satisfaction with the time spent), ‘Ты меня уважаешь?’, ‘Ty menia uvazhaesh?’, l.t. "Do you respect me?") (said to a drinking partner with the intention of forcing him to drink another shot of hard liquor). Russian NEUs can also include statements with an impersonal or indefinite-personal structure with significant lexical discrepancies, which have no direct lexical-semantic correspondences in English. "Чем это вас?’ (“Chem eto vas?’"  "What hit you?". The importance of the sign of national semantic coloration is pointed out by a number of researchers. D.N. Shmelev described as early as 1958 expressive-negative constructions of the Russian language such as ‘Буду я молчать!  (‘Budu ia molchat!’, l.y. "I'll be silent!"), ‘Поговори еще!’ (‘Pogovori eshche! ’, l.t. "Talk more!"), ‘Как бы не так! ’ (‘Kak by ne tak!’, l.t. "As if!"), ‘Этого еще не хватало!’ (‘Etogo eshche ne khvatalo!’, l.t. "That's not enough!") [Shmelev 1958: 63–75]. The philologists differ in their views on the existence of equivalent-free utterances. Based on V.N. Komissarov's theory, there are no equivalence-free statements (one taken from the original text and another which is a translated correspondence of the first) at all.  Such pairs of original and translated statements simply belong to different levels (or types) of equivalence. The closest correspondences belong to the fifth type — it is the maximum correspondence of lexical composition and syntactic constructions). The most distant correspondences belong to the first type - these are correspondence phrases in which only the purpose of communication is preserved. [ Komissarov 1990: 61–70] Other linguists admit the existence of the NEUs in both Russian and English speech. Thus, A.O. Ivanov defines the non-equivalent vocabulary as "lexical units of the source language which do not have equivalents in the vocabulary of the translating language, i.e. units which can be used to convey, at a similar level of expression, all the relevant components of meaning within a given context or one of the variants of meaning of the source lexical unit". [ Ivanov 1985: 45] Thus, two essential features can be distinguished: 1) the presence of a correspondence unit of the same level of the plan of expression and 2) the need to transfer all the relevant components of the meaning of the source lexeme within the given context. Accordingly, NEUs are utterances of the source language, which do not have equivalents in the system of the translating language, i.e. lexical-semantic units, with which, at a similar level of the plan of expression, we could transfer all the relevant within the given speech situation components of meaning of the source utterances. The following factors may be regarded as the reasons for the existence of NEUs: 1) the absence of a phenomenon in the life of the people of the translated language, 2) the absence of an identical concept, and 3) the difference in stylistic characteristics.  In the three plays by A. Chekhov reviewed, the following variants of non-equivalent utterances were noted — conversational utterances, including those that include names in the feminine gender, addressed to men; constructions with both explicit and implicit incentive semantics; all kinds of precedent texts and fixed expressions; the use of jargon and authorial occasionalisms. The analysis of the material showed that the translation of an ES into another language presents in some cases certain difficulties due to the structure of the language, the peculiarities of the vocabulary and/or grammar. For instance, in all the translations, the meaning of the feminine gender is naturally lost that causes difficulties in conveying the expressiveness of the Russian utterance. Likewise, the translators are faced with the problem of transmitting Russian precedent texts and idioms or fixed expressions into English. Naturally, for most English-speaking readers, the allusion to the Russian precedent text is lost. The expressiveness of the translated text may change. The study of ways of transferring similar Russian constructions with expressive meaning belonging to colloquial speech into English may become an interesting area of theory and practice of Russian-English translation.
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