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Metonymy is transference of meaning from one object to another one based on their contiguity. The word is derived from the Greek meta “change” and onoma “name”. Classified semantically, meanings can transfer from

· process to result (e.g. translation indicates the process of decoding and the result of this process)

· material to a work (to drink from a glass)

· location to people (Vladivostok greets honored guests)

· cause to effect (The little horror never stops playing tricks on his mother)

· part to whole and vice versa. This type of metonymy is called synecdoche (Little Red Riding Hood).

Metonymic transference can take place on the language level, and is called lexical metonymy. In this case metonymy is a means of coining new words: e.g. in informal English a new word to box meaning ‘to present on TV’173 is converted from the noun a box, as a TV set, an old one in particular, resembles a box. Ultimately, the new word gets fixed by a dictionary and becomes part of the language vocabulary stock.

Speech metonymy usually occurs on syntactical level. In this case the word acquires a metonymic meaning in a sentence, and this occasional meaning is normally not fixed in the dictionary. For example, I am late because of the buswhere the word bus does not denote an object but a situation, normally verbalized by the phrase or clause like there was no bus or the bus was late.

Stylistic metonymy is a figure of speech used to decorate the style and make the text more expressive by creating images and appealing to the receptor’s feelings. An example of stylistic metonymy is as follows: The pen is mightier than the sword.

These types of metonymy are monolingual. When metonymy is traced between two languages, we deal with metonymic translation that might be defined as a lexical or complex transformation based on metonymous relations between the source language and the target language structures.




Newspapers often name location meaning officials: Pentagon – американские военные круги; the Kremlin – правительство России, the city – администрация города. If the name is well known to the receptor, the metonymy may be preserved. In this case it is impossible to speak about metonymic translation, since no interlingual transformation takes place.

If the translator is not sure that the metonymic realia are well known to the receptor, it is better to explain the realia by a synecdoche shift: Downing Street reported a drop in the number of unemployed. – ПравительствоВеликобритании сообщило о снижении безработицы. Fleet Street can make or break a politician. – Английская пресса может сделать карьеру политическому деятелю или испортить ее.




Lexical metonymic transformations are often applied in translating predicates. This is due to the fact that in Russian the action is mostly expressed by the verb, whereas English implies the action by verbalizing the state with a nominal language unit.

These interlingual metonymic relations are typical of translating predicates expressed by

· the link verb to be + an adverbial phrase of place: We were at school together when we were boys. – В детстве мы учились в одной школе. Are the boys in bed? – Мальчики спят?174 This metonymic transformation is a kind of modulation, or logical development of the notion.

· to be + adjective / participle: Still she was hesitant. – Она все еще колебалась. Don’t berude! – Не груби! Don’t be so literal. – Не понимай все так буквально. I am serious. – Я говорю серьезно. By the time it was dark they were airborne. – К тому времени, когда стемнело, они уже летели на самолете.

· to be + noun: She is not much of a cook. – Она плохо готовит. If your handwriting is illegible, you are a fast thinker. – Если у вас неразборчивый почерк, значит, вы быстро думаете.

There are structures with abstract nouns: I am a bad influence on you. – Я плохо на вас в­лияю. It was some consolation that Harry was to be there. – Несколько утешало то, что там должен был быть Гарри. These nouns mostly indicate a temporary state, whereas class nouns denote characteristic, typical features of the subject.175

As compared with Russian, it is much easier in English to derive an affixed noun, especially from a verb stem: Always a mouth-breather, he was biting his tongue now and panting slightly. – Поскольку он всегда дышал ртом, сейчас он кусал язык и тяжело дышал. These nouns are mostly new words, not yet fixed by a dictionary. Nevertheless their meanings are easily guessed from the context and given an explicatory translation: He is a muster. – Он любит командовать.

English is also different from Russian in having close links between a predicative (nominal part of the predicate) and its modifiers that normally are introduced between the linking verb and the predicative, that is, the nominal part of a predicate: Vladivostok is 7 hours ahead of Moscow time.Владивостокское время опережает московское на семь часов. The wall is six feet high.Стена высотой в два метра. He was mountain born. – Он родился в горах. She was house proud. – Она гордилась своим домом.176 In English, the modifier refers to the noun predicative and is expressed by an adjective. In Russian it corresponds to the adverb modifying the verb: The children are taken good care of. – О детях хорошо заботятся.

The Russian adverb also corresponds to the English adjective after linking verbs (to be, seem, become, smell, taste, feel, sound). – The lunch smells delicious. – Обед пахнет превосходно. She looks good. – Она хорошо выглядит­.


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