For a correct translation, one must know, besides the precise meaning of a word, the way the word is combined with other words in the sentence, also called the collocation. To analyze a word collocation, it is necessary to consult both bilingual dictionaries and special combinatory dictionaries, for example, The BBI Combinatory Dictionary of English,180 which gives the most typical grammatical and lexical collocations in English.

At least three reasons for the lack of collocation convergence in English and Russian may be singled out:

1. semantic reasons (different semantic structures, different denoted situations);

2. language varieties (British, American, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand English);

3. different typological tendencies characteristic of Russian and English.

The difference in word semantic structures is of a linguistic nature. The meanings of the source language and target language words do not coincide. Even one meaning in reference to different objects is verbalized by different words. For example, the word heavy implies a great amount or quantity of something and, depending on what the ‘something’ is, it corresponds to different Russian words:

heavy books – тяжелые книги;

heavy crop – богатый урожай;

heavy sky – затянутое небо;

heavy traffic – большое движение;

heavy rain – сильный дождь;

heavy sea – бурное море;

heavy penalty – суровое наказание.

Different situations can be named similarly in one language and differently in another language: провести операцию – to perform an operation (in a hospital); to carry out / conduct an operation (on the battlefield).

Varieties of English predetermine different collocations: in British English, people say they have a bath; whereas Americans take a bath. The British take a decision, Canadians and Americans make a decision. In Russian, it is принимать ванну и принимать решение respectively.

Typologically, English and Russian are opposites as far as their tendencies towards meaning generalization / specification and implicit / explicit expression are concerned.

The English language tends to express more general, abstract meanings than does Russian, whose words are more specific, having an additional seme. Therefore, in translating from English into Russian, we often employ a transformation of specification: Old birds are not to be caught with chaff. – Старого воробья на мякине не проведешь. The specified subject is typical of a corresponding Russian proverb. He went to the shop to get some milk. – Он пошел в магазин купить молока. In this sentence, the verb to get corresponds to the Russian получать, with a seme added (получать за деньги = покупать). Sometimes a translator has to offer two specified words: (Waiter) Would you like to take anything? – Не хотите ли чего-нибудь выпить или закусить?

Another contrast is manifested by the tendencies towards implicit and explicit expression. English tends to be implicit and laconic, which means it verbalizes less than Russian. On the other hand, the Russian language is more explicit than English, since it tends to express overtly all the elements of the situation named. Therefore, Russian translations are usually of greater volume than their English source texts. Examples, both of texts and separate sentences and phrases, can be numerous, one instance being the Russian phrase контроль за ходом проекта that corresponds to a very compressive English phrase the Project Control.

The so called “adverbial verbs” is another example of semantic compression in the English language.


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