GRAMMATICAL EQUIVALENTS IN TRANSLATION

The grammatical structure of language is an important part of its overall system, no less important, in fact, than its lexicon or vocabulary. The elements of the grammatical structure, such as affixes, forms of inflection and derivation, syntactic patterns, word order, functional words, etc. serve to carry meanings which are usually referred to as "grammatical" or "structural", as distinct from lexical meanings. The rendering of such meanings in the process of translation is an important problem relating to the general problem of translation equivalence, which now must be considered at length.

Grammatical forms of different languages only very seldom coincide fully as to the scope of their meaning and function. As a rule, there is only partial equivalence, that is, the grammatical meanings expressed by grammatical forms, though seemingly identical, of two different languages coincide only in part of their meaning and differ in other parts. Thus, for instance, the category of number of noun in English and in Russian seems to coincide and, indeed, does coincide in very many cases of their use; cf. table - стол, tables-столы, etc. However, there are many instances where this is not the case, in other words, where an English plural form is rendered through a Russian singular form and vice versa; this is especially common among the so-called Singularia and Pluralia Tantum, that is, those nouns that have only a Singular or a Plural form whose distribution is often arbitrary and motivated only historically. Compare: oats - овес, peas - горох, onions - лук, cherries - вишня (used collectively), outskirts (of a town) - окраина, billiards - биллиард, measles - корь; and, on the other hand, money - деньги, ink - чернила, information - новости, данные etc. Also, the forms of number in two languages often do not coincide when the noun is accompanied by a numeral; thus, in Russian all nouns preceded by such numerals as двадцать один, сто тридцать один and others ending in один are used in the Singular form while in English in corresponding patterns a Plural form must be used: twenty-one tables, one hundred and thirty-one passengers, etc.

Another good example is the category of Tense. Both English and Russian distinguish such forms of the predicate verbs as Present and Past, their general grammatical meanings being, on the whole identical; cf. He lives in Moscow - Он живет в Москве. Не lived in Moscow - Он жил в Москве, etc. However, in certain cases the Tense forms of the two verbs - English and Russian - do not coincide; thus, for instance, in English there exists such a grammar rule as "Sequence of Tenses" according to which the predicate verb in subordinate object clause following the main clause in which a Past form is used must, with a few exemptions, also be used in a Past form, whereas in Russian this is no so and a Present form is quite common in the same position: He said he lived in Moscow -Он сказал, что он живет в Москве.

The difference is even more striking when we consider other grammatical categories whose semantic content and function vary to a still greater extent. Take, for instance, such category as Gender. Russian distinguishes three genders: Masculine, Feminine and Neuter, which are formally expressed in the following ways: (a) through agreement, e.g. этот юноша - эта девушка; дедушка пришел - бабушка пришла; время пришло etc; (b) by the inflectional forms of the noun itself, e.g. стол (Masc.) - zero ending, "hard" stem, вода - (Fern.) - the ending - а, окно (Neut.) - the ending -o, etc; (c) by means of pronominal substitution, e.g. зверь (Masc.) - он; дверь (Fern.)-она; etc. In English, the same three genders are also distinguished; however, the only formal way to express the distinction is through pronominal substitution, e.g. boy - he, girl - she, house - it, their being no such things as agreement in gender or difference in inflectional (case) endings.

Consequently, the category of gender in English is expressed, actually, not in the noun itself but in the corresponding personal (possessive, reflexive) pronoun. It follows, then, that many nouns in English are not marked as to gender and can be used as Masculine or Feminine depending on the context, whereas in Russian a choice between these two genders is necessary with due regard for the wider context; cf. artist - художник, художница; worker - рабочий, работница; student - студент, студентка; teacher- учитель, учительница; writer - писатель, писательница; cook - повар, кухарка; friend - друг, подруга; acquaintance - знакомый, знакомая, etc. (See for reference Л. С. Бархударов, Язык и перевод, стр. 147-151)

The above must not be taken to mean that there is absolutely nothing in common between the grammatical structures of two different languages. On the contrary, there exist in all languages the so-called grammatical universals, that is, categories that are found in all

languages and without which no language can function as a means of communication. These, however, are mainly the so-called deep grammatical categories, i.e. categories that are semantic rather than formal, such as "object", "process", "quality", "relation", "actor", "goal" (of action), "instrument", "cause and effect", etc. The formal ways in which they are manifested may differ widely. The translator's task here is, first to assign the correct meaning to this or that form and, secondly, to find an appropriate form in the target language for the expression of the same meaning, taking into account various factors which will be described below. Moreover, it should be born in mind that the content which in one language is expressed grammatically may be expressed lexically in another language. If no grammatical forms are available in the target language, the translator must look for lexical means to render the same semantic content. Thus, for instance, the English language does not distinguish between the forms of the Perfective and Imperfective aspect (Совершенный и несовершенный вид) that are so typical of the Russian verb. Consequently, while translating such a sentence as «Что же делал Бельтов в продолжение этих десяти лет? Все или почти все. Что он сделал? Ничего, или почти ничего». (А. Герцен «Кто виноват?» (J. С. Catford, A Linguistic Theory of Translation, London, 1965, p.75)

The only way to convey in English the semantic difference between the Perfective and the Imperfective verb forms of Russian is through lexical differences between two verbs, for instance: "What did Beltov do during these ten years? Everything, or almost everything. What did he achieve? Nothing, or almost nothing."

Another example: in the sentence "Out came the chaise - in went the horses - on sprang the boys - in got the travelers." (Ch. Dickens, Pickwick Papers) inversion is employed to convey the additional meaning of rapidity of movement. In Russian, however, the same meaning cannot be conveyed by inversion alone and the lexical means must be resorted to achieve adequate translation, as, for instance: «Быстро выкатили коляску, мгновенно запрягли лошадей, мальчишки-форейторы вскочили в седло, и путешественники поспешно уселись на свои места» (см. В. Комиссаров, Я. Рецкер, В. Тархов, «Пособие по переводу с английского языка на русский» ч.2, М., 1965, стр. 33).

Finally, it should be noted that there are cases when grammatical meanings are not rendered in translation at all, that is, when this or that grammatical form is not used freely, according to its own meaning, but when its use is predetermined by purely linguistic factors, such as syntactic construction, rules of agreement (grammatical concord) or government, etc. In such cases we can speak of the bound use of the grammatical form, as opposed to its free use. One example will show the difference: in English the choice of the tense form of the verb in an independent clause is free and depends on the proper meaning of the tense form itself; cf. "He lives in Moscow - He lived in Moscow". In a dependent clause, however, the use of the tense form is not free and is determined by so-called "rule of the sequence of tenses": "He said he lived in Moscow". Consequently, in the first case the difference in the tense form (Present vs. Past) must be reflected in translation: «Он живет в Москве - Он жил в Москве».

In the independent clause, on the other hand, the use of the English Past is purely formal and, as there is no corresponding rule in Russian, it is not necessary (or even possible) to render the meaning of the "past" in the Russian translation; here the rules of Russian syntax require the use of the Present form to express non-priority (e.g. simultaneity) of the action: «Он сказал, что живет в Москве».

On the whole, the choice of the grammatical equivalent in the target language is determined by the following factors:

a) The meaning inherent in the grammatical form itself, e.g.: стол - table, столы - tables, or живет - lives, жил - lived (see the examples above).

b) The lexical character of the word or word-group used in this or that form. Thus, for instance, the use of the Plural form in Russian is impossible with certain nouns while possible with others: cf. "workers of all industries" - «рабочие всех отраслей промышленности»; "other philosophies" - «другие философские течения/направления» etc. Here the grammatical meaning of plurality has to be rendered lexically in Russian as the corresponding Russian nouns lack the plural form.

c) Factors of style. Thus, for instance, both English and Russian have the Passive form of the verb: however, in Russian the use of this form is mainly confined to the literary or bookish (formal) style. Therefore, though the English Passive structure such as "At the station John was met by his brother" can, theoretically speaking, be translated as «На вокзале Джон был встречен братом», we feel that the translation is unacceptable as it sounds too formal and hardly be used in colloquial speech or in fiction. As an appropriate version here would be: «На вокзале Джона встретил брат». In the formal language, however, for instance, in newspaper reports, this is quite acceptable; cf.: "At the station the delegation was met by a group of students" - «На вокзале делегация была встречена группой студентов».

Another example: both English and Russian make use of the so-called "Historic Present" (the Present tense used to denote past events); however, it is only in English that this form is employed in newspaper headlines. Consequently, such a headline as "Prominent Scientist Dies" can not be rendered as «Известный ученый умирает» since Russian headlines favour noun phrases, it is preferable to translate the above as «Смерть известного ученого» (for details see the lecture on style);

d) Frequency of use. Speaking about this factor, the American linguist and translator E. Nida writes: "Rare form of words may also constitute serious obstacle to a proper communication load. For example, translators often find convenient formal parallels between constructions in the source and receptor languages, and, regardless of the relative frequency of such constructions in the language concerned, endeavor to match the forms more or less automatically. Thus, both source and receptor languages may have passive forms of words, but in the source language they may be relatively frequent, while in the receptor language they are rare. (English and Russian are perfectly the case.) If under these conditions one attempts to translate every source language passive by a corresponding passive in the receptor language, the result will be an inevitable overleading of the communication..." (Toward a Science of Translating", p. 133).

Thus, Russian uses both subordinate clauses and verbal adverbs (деепричастие) to express adverbial relations: however, if a translator does not make use of the latter, his translation will sound unnatural and too "heavy". Also, both in English and in Russian

subordinate and co-ordinate are used, but their relative frequency is different: English often prefers subordination whereas Russian more often than not makes use of co-ordinate structures.

Therefore, subordinate syntactic structure of English are quite commonly replaced by co-ordinate structures in Russian translations, though, from the point of view of purely formal grammar rules such a replacement is not always necessary (see below, "Grammatical transformations").









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