There are rare cases when English proves to be more wordy than Russian. One of these cases is synonym condensation,185 or usage of a number of parallel synonyms which are very close in meaning: The government resorted to force and violence. In Russian linguistics, this phenomenon is called «парная синонимия».

One of these synonyms is usually of Romance origin, the other is Germanic: Elvis Presley denied being lewd and obscene,with lewd being a Germanic word, and obscene a Latin borrowing. Элвис Пресли не признавал себя непристойным.

As is seen in this example, a translator into Russian normally reduces the synonyms to a single one: the very first sentence in this paragraph might be translated as Правительство прибегло к насилию.

If the synonym condensation is used in an oratorical register, to make speech more emphatic and expressive, it is compensated by intensifiers: I have been open and sincere … - Я абсолютно искренен… I am safe and sound. – Я жив-здоров. (This is, probably, the only case of synonym reduplication in Russian)





One of the formal differences between the English and Russian languages causing semantic difficulties in understanding the text is dissimilarity in word building tendencies. To begin with, English words are apt to be mono-morphemic, whereas Russian has a majority of two- and more morpheme words.

There is a disparity between various types of word building processes in English and Russian. Let us discuss the most important of them.




A compound is a unit of vocabulary which consists of more than one lexical stem functioning as a single item, with its own meaning and grammar.186 For example, secondhand, waterbike; солнцестояние, водонепроницаемый.

Compounds exist in both English and Russian, but they are comparatively predominant in English, where compounds are found not only among nouns and adjectives, but also among verbs (to ill-use) and adverbs (crosslegs).

English compounds are formed mostly in the agglutinative way, that is by joining directly two or more stems: two-year-old, chewing-gum, doorknob, widespread, earthquake. Unfortunately, orthography is not a foolproof criterion to signal a compound. The parts of a word may be linked by a hyphen (fire-light), written without a space (moonlight), or stand separately (candle light)187. Note that American English uses fewer hyphens than does British English:188 cell yell (loud talking into a cellular telephone), ego wall (wall with framed awards, diplomas, and pictures of a person with famous people).

In Russian compounds, stems are mostly joined by a linking vowel, -e- or –o-: пароход, дикорастущий, землемер, кораблестроение. An English compound may also have (though not very often) a linking element, mostly the consonant –s- (sportsman, statesman, spokesman), and occasionally vowels –o-, --a-, -i- (washomat, sportsarama, pluridimensional)189 – though the cases with the linking vowel belong rather to stem reduction than to stem composition.

It is typical of English to make a compound out of a phrase, with subordinate links between the elements: son-in-law, jack-of-all-trades, day-to-day (rare in Russian: сумасшедший); coordinate links: hide-and-seek (not as usual in English as in Russian; e.g., научно-технический, scientific and technological). The tendency towards compounds is so strong in English that it is not infrequent that we come across compounds formed out of clauses: They say that what’s-his-name fellow has been staying at her house ever since he came to town. (Caldwell).

A lot of compounds used in speech are occasional coinages, not fixed by dictionaries. For example, this sentence from U. Sinclair: The baby was eight months old, and he was at the crawling stage and the looking-about stage and the putting-things-into-his-mouth stage.

To translate a new compound, especially one not included in the dictionary, it is necessary toanalyze syntactic relations between the compound elements and their meanings. These relations may be as follows:

· predicate relations, i.e. subject to verb: earthquake (the earth quakes), headache; землетрясение, снегопад;

· object relations, i.e. verb to object: scarecrow (scares crows), sightseeing; водомер, бракодел;

· attribute relations: goldfish, postman; чернозём, голубоглазый;

· adverbial relations: much-improved (improved a lot), night-flying (flying at night); вышеупомянутый, долгоиграющий.

When the meaning and grammatical relations of the compound elements are clear, it is possible to look for a proper means of translation. It may be

Ø another compound: tax-payer – налогоплательщик; law-abiding – законопослушный;

Ø analogue: hangman – палач; homesick – ностальгический; childcare – детский сад; air-headed – ветер в голове;

Ø calque: waterbike – водный мотоцикл; breathtaking – захватывающий дыхание. Compounds with object and adverbial relations between the elements are often translated in the reverted linear order: tax-free – свободный от налогов; far-advanced – продвинутый вперед; home-grown vegetables – овощи, выращенные дома;

Ø half-calque: pop-star – поп-звезда; surfspeak – язык серфистов;

Ø transcription or transliteration: popcorn – попкорн; videobusiness – видеобизнес; audioplayer – аудиоплейер. This technique is normally employed when a word, denoting a piece of realia, is borrowed into the target language;

Ø explication and extension: flypaper – липкая лента от мух; gravity-challenged – не способный прыгнуть высоко;

Ø substitution of one or both of the components: popcorn – воздушная кукуруза; blackboard – классная доска; пылесос – vacuum cleaner. It is important that a translator not invent a new word, but use a standard word, fixed in the dictionary (it is of particular significance in translating terms).




Conversion is transferring a word from one part of speech to another without the use of an affix.

This way of building new words is most typical of English as compared with Russian.

There may be various directions of conversion:

· a verb may come from a noun: to word, to bicycle, to gangster;

· a noun may come from a verb: a try, a drive, a drive-in; that’s a must;

· an adjective may be converted to a noun: a round, a monthly, the bitter;

· an adjective may be changed to a verb: to empty, to better, to calm down;

· adverb to noun: Yesterday was my birthday;

· a structural word may be converted to a noun: too many ifs and buts;

· affix to noun: “ologies” and “isms”;

· grammatical word to verb: to down tools; to up and do it.190

Compound words and phrases may also be converted: to dog’s-ear - загибать уголки страниц; a would-be president – будущий президент; free-for-all - соревнования, дискуссия и т. п., в которых может участвовать любой; situps - приседания.

Root conversion takes place in Russian too, but it is not as characteristic there as it is in English, and is usually accompanied by other word building processes. For example, круглый (adj) – круг (n) – кругом (adv) – вокруг (prep) – округлять (v). In this case conversion is used along with stem reduction and affixation. Mostly, conversion in Russian is a process of changing noun to adverb: утром, шагом, осенью; adjective to noun (based on ellipsis): столовая, рабочий, учащиеся; participle to noun: раненный – раненый; nounto grammatical word: в связи с, в заключение, etc.

It should be kept in mind that not all the meanings of a word are carried through into the derivative form. Therefore, a translator should be careful about the equivalent. For example, the noun paper has several equivalents: бумага, газета, научная работа. However, the verb to paper refers only to the first of these, which is manifested in its collocation. Lecturers and editors may paper their rooms. – Преподаватели и редакторы могут оклеивать свои комнаты обоями. But they cannot *paper their audiences and readers.191 The verb to paper has no equivalent correlating with the second and third meanings of the noun.

Converted words are often very expressive and metaphorical: Sweat beads her upper lip. (F. King) – Капельки пота выступают у нее на верхней губе. Therefore, this form of coinage is often used in conversation, fiction and journalism.

The converted words with metaphorical meaning may be translated with the help of a simile: What can you do with a woman who sits and sponges all day long? – Что поделаешь с женщиной, которая весь день только и сидит, напиваясь, как сапожник. Enjoy your food. Don’t just wolf it down.- Наслаждайся пищей. Не набрасывайся на нее, как волк.

Translating converted coinages requires addition and extension of the sentence elements which are able to explain the meaning of the English word: For the first ten years of their marriage, the Bacons had holidayed in Bournemouth, because Arnold’s parents had always done so. (J. Archer) – Первые десять лет совместной жизни супруги Бэйкон проводили отпуск в Борнмуте, поскольку там всегда раньше отдыхали родители Арнольда.

Substituting parts of speech and restructuring of the sentence are often typical of utterances with converted words: e.g., For those who still prefer the traditional ‘at home’ office party, there are a number of dos and don’ts. – Для тех, кто до сих пор предпочитает устраивать торжества “по-домашнему” на рабочем месте, следует напомнить несколько правил о том, что можно и чего нельзя делать.




There are two major types of word-building affixes in English and Russian:

· prefixes, that is, affixes which occur before the root of a word: re-team, miscommunication, hypermarket; влёт, прилиз, пропутинский;

· suffixes, which occur after the root: rankler, ranklee, shopin, donkey-philes, собачище, мамонтёнок.

A third possible type of affix, infix, occurring within the root, is not used frequently either in English or in Russian. In the Russian language, linguists also single out postfixes, such as affixes after the ending, e.g., -ся (разрастаются).192

English does not have affixes in large numbers – only about 50 common prefixes [including international ones, like a- (amoral), pro- (prosocialist), auto- (autobiography), non- (nonfan), etc.], and somewhat fewer suffixes.193 In Russian, affixation is a predominant way of making new words.

Russian prefixes are most typical of verbs,194 as they help to specify an aspect modification of the action: вмять, измять, намять, помять, подмять, примять, размять. In English, these verbs mean respectively to dent, rumple, beat, muss, crush, trample down, mash.

Russian suffixes, on the other hand, prevail with nouns and adjectives.195 New words in Russian are most frequently formed with the help of suffixes.196 The most productive are expressive suffixes of subjective estimate197: diminutive (домик), pejorative (домишко), and exaggerative (домище).

Since English words are not regularly formed with expressive suffixes, these words are not normally given in the dictionary. To find an equivalent to a word, it is necessary to look up a derivative’s stem (лебедушка → лебед- → лебедь). In the text translated into English, the expressive meaning of the suffix is often lost, since its preservation may have an odd impact on the English-speaking receptor, who is unaccustomed to such an abundance of expressive suffixes. We can illustrate this with a short extract from V. Arsenyev: День склонялся к вечеру. По небу медленно ползли легкие розовые облачка. – Evening was near, and light pink clouds crept slowly across the sky. (Transl. by V. Shneerson)

If a word with a subjective suffix, in fact, has a connotative meaning, which should be rendered in translation, this meaning is compensated by an expressive adjective: И до фронта ведь не дошла лошаденка-то…- Never got as far as the front, poor thing. Людей тут скоро без разбору, а он над лошаденкой… - They’ll soon be slaughtering us, all and sundry, out there and he sits crying over a bloody horse! (Ю.Бондарев. Transl. by S. Vasilyev) When a Russian suffix bears an expressive connotation, it may also be compensated by other expressive means, such as synonymous condensation (Добренькими хотите быть? – Do you want to be kind and gentle?) or any other.

In translating from English into Russian a translator should be aware of the possible usage of words with diminutive suffixes. In Russian, they are proper when depicting discourse with a child, when showingthe small size of an object, when expressing a friendly relation towards an interlocutor.

An extract from Milne’s Winnie-the-Poor can serve as an example: Piglet looked up and said in his squeaky voice, “What about me?” “My dear Piglet,” I said, the whole book is about you.” In the English text, the author, telling the story to a kid, uses the diminutive suffix only in the name of the character (Piglet). In the Russian translation, the translators T. Vorogushina and L. Lisitskaya, used two more suffixed words, quite to the point: Пятачок посмотрел и проговорил своим писклявым голоском: “А как же Я?” “Мой дорогой Пятачок, - сказал я, - вся книжка о тебе.”

A collocation of a noun and the adjective little can also point to the need of a diminutive or pejorative suffix: First they went to a little restaurant near some railroad tracks. (J.Oats) – Сперва они пошли в ресторанчик возле железной дороги. (Tr. by N. Gal and R. Oblonskaya); On a porch two witheredlittle women watched them. – С одного крыльца на них смотрели две маленькиестарушонки. The attribute withered shows an attitude of disrespect toward the two women, which is emphasized in Russian by the suffix – онк-.




Abbreviation, or shortening a word, is one of the most noticeable features of the English language, and it is used both in formal and informal registers.

Based on the level of their usage, abbreviations can be divided into three groups:

· Graphical abbreviations, used only in writing, and, therefore, pronounced and translated in its full form. These abbreviations are widely employed in faxes: e.g., agst = against, f/b = feedback, ETA = expected date of arrival, ETD = expected date of departure, etc. However, though rarely, some of these abbreviations enter the common stock of vocabulary and, pronounced in a shortened way, they become new words of the language: asap = as soon as possible, AGAP= As Gorgeous As Possible.

· Phonetic abbreviations, or a non-standard way of writing some common words based on their pronunciation; typical of advertising. For example, u = you, thru = through. Of the same type is the word OK (all correct). Normally, in translation this type of abbreviation is lost.

· Lexical abbreviations, including initialisms, spoken as individual letters (BBC, MP, USA); acronyms, pronounced as single words (NATO, UNESCO, AIDS; WAP = Wireless Application Protocol); clippings, or parts of words which serve for the whole (ad, phone, sci-fi = science fiction; m-commerce = mobile-commerce, business conducted over a mobile telephone system; e-bucks = electronic money); blends, or words made out of the shortened forms of two other words (brunch= breakfast + lunch, smog = smoke + fog, Eurovision = Europe + television; anetsitized= anesthetized + net + sit = numb from spending many consecutive hours on the Internet).

Initialisms and acronyms may be rendered through transcription (BBC - Би-Би-Си, IBM – Ай-Би-Эм, IREX - АЙРЕКС), transliteration (NATO - НАТО, USIS – ЮСИС, UNESCO – ЮНЕСКО), or their full form can be translated with a calque and then abbreviated (USA – США, AIDS – СПИД, CIA – ЦРУ). To make the word clearer to the receptor, an abbreviation may be deciphered and/or explained: USIS – Информационная служба США, TESOL – международная ассоциация преподавателей английского языка как иностранного. To translate words of this type, it is necessary to consult a special dictionary of abbreviations, both monolingual (e.g., J. Rosenberg, McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Wall Street Acronyms, Initials & Abbreviations. – New York a.o.: McGraw-Hill, 1992; Дюжикова Е.А. Словарь сокращений современного английского языка. – Владивосток: Изд-во Дальневост. Ун-та, 1991) and bilingual (e.g., Волкова Н.О., Никанорова И.А. Англо-русский словарь наиболее употребительных сокращений. – М.: Русский язык, 1993).

A standard form of a translation, if it exists, should be used by a translator. It must be kept in mind that sometimes a standard form can require some shifts, for instance, a change of letters in the initialism: PRC (People’s Republic of China) – КНР (Китайская Народная Республика).

Clippings usually have a regular equivalent in the dictionary (ad – объявление, phone – телефон, sci-fi – научная фантастика).

Blends are either transferred into the target language (through transcription / transliteration (smog – смог), explained (brunch – плотный поздний завтрак; coffee-zilla < coffee + Godzilla – очень крепкий кофе), orsubstituted by an analog (physed – физкультура).

When translating abbreviations, one should pay attention to the style of the text. Whereas in English abbreviations are mostly neutral and can be used both in formal and informal speech, in Russian abbreviations are strongly separated by styles. For example, clippings are typical of very formal style: тяжмашстрой, совнархоз, универсам ; these require explanatory translation, which is sometimes combined with transcription. In informal speech, abbreviations with affixes are widely used: телик, видик, велик. As often as not, similar words exist in English: telly, bike. For видик, there is a shortened form, video (from video set).

Before suggesting a TL equivalent, it is important to find out the precise meaning of the word. Care should be taken of words that differ in various varieties of English, like the informal adjective dinky< which in British English means “small and attractive”: a dinky little bag, while in American English it has the antonymous meaning oftoo small and often not very nice”: It was a really dinky hotel room.



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