The concept of translation transformation and its types 

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The concept of translation transformation and its types


Translation transformations are complete changes of the appearance of a translated word, phrase, or sentence. In foreign translation theory, transformations are known as shifts of translation. There are 2 types of transformations:

a) changing only forms:

– transcription

– transliteration

– loan-words translation (word-for-word, blueprint)


b) transformation of the meaning:

– grammatical transformations,

– lexical (semantic) transformations,

– complex (lexical and grammatical) transformations.

1) Transcription is characterized by imitation of the form of a word or of a collocation. It is copying the sound form of the source language word by means of the target language letters: (Jenni ng s – Дженни нг с, Hamilton – Гамильтон, Th atcher – Т этчер, Th ackeray – Т еккерей, striptease – стриптиз, escalation – эскалация, etc.).

2) Transliteration is defined as writing a word in a different alphabet. It is often associated with transcription. However, transliteration is copying the letters of the source language by the target language letters of another system: (Рубль – ruble, копейка – kopek, царь – tsar, ku ng fu – ку н -фу, Morning Star – газета ’’Морнинг Стар”, Singer – Зингер, Mozart – Моцарт, etc.).

3) Loan-words translation is the translation of a word or a phrase by parts

Ex.: мозговой трест – bison trust, работа по правилам – work-to-rule, люди доброй воли – people of good wil, kitchen-ette – кух-онька, brainwashing – промывка мозгов, AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) – СПИД (синдром приобретенного иммунодефицита), Залив Золотой Рог - Golden Horn Bay.


Grammar transformations are morphological or syntactical changes in translated units. They are subdivided into the following types:

1. Grammar substitution, when a grammar category of the translated unit is changed. Thus a passive construction can be translated by an active voice verb form: ^ Martin Heidegger is generally regarded as one of the most influential founders of existentialism. – Мартина Хайдеггера обычно считают одним из самых значительных основоположников экзистенциализма. The reason for this transformation is stylistic: in English the passive voice is used much more often in neutral speech, whereas in Russian this category is more typical of the formal style.

Or there may be substitution of the noun number category, the singular by the plural or vice versa: Her hair is fair and wavy. –У нее светлые волнистые волосы. This transformation is due to the structural difference between the English and Russian languages: in English the analyzed noun is Singularia Tantum, in Russian it is used in the plural.

Parts of speech, along with the parts of the sentence, can be changed: He is a poorswimmer. – Он плохоплавает, where the noun is substituted by the verb, the adjective by the adverb; simultaneously the predicative is substituted by the simple verb predicate. The reason for this transformation can be accounted for by language usage preferences: English tends to the nominal expression of the state, Russian can denote the general state by means of the verb.

2. Word order change. Usually the reason for this transformation is that English and Russian sentences have different information structures, or functional sentence perspective.* For example, A new press conference was held in Washington yesterday is naturally equivalent to Вчера в Вашингтоне состоялась новая пресс-конференция, where the adverbial modifiers, subject and predicate are positioned in a mirrorlike fashion.

3. Sentence partitioning is the replacement of a simple sentence in the source text with a complex sentence (with some clauses), or a complex sentence with several independent sentences in the target text for structural, semantic or stylistic reasons: Iwant you to undestand this transformation. – Яхочу, чтобы выпоняли эту трансформацию. Моя машина не завелась, поэтому я не смогла заехать за вами. – My car wouldn’t start. Therefore, I couldn’t pick you up.

4. Sentence integration is a contrary transformation. It takes place when we make one sentence out of two or more, or convert a complex sentence into a simple one: ^ If one knows languages, one can come out on top. – Зная языки, можно далекопойти. In ancient Rome, garlic was believed to make people courageous. Roman soldiers, therefore, ate large quantities of it before a battle. – Перед боем римские воины съедали большое количество чеснока, поскольку в Древнем Римеполагали, что чеснок делает людей мужественными.

5. Grammar compensation is a deliberate change of the grammar category by some other grammar means. Compensation takes place when a grammar category or form does not exist in the target laguage and, therefore, cannot produce the same impact upon the target text receptor. This can be illustrated by translating a sentence with a mistaken pronoun form from English into Russian. Since a similar mistake in using the pronoun is impossible in Russian, it is compensated by a mistaken preposition: ''Take some of the conceit out of him,'' he gurgled. '' Out of who? '' asked Barbara, knowing perfectly well that she should have said 'whom' '' - «Поубавь немного у него тщеславия,» - буркнул он. «С кого?» – спросила Барбара, хорошо зная, что ей следовало сказать ‘ у кого’». As a result, the translator showed the character's illiteracy.

Lexical transformations change the semantic core of a translated word. They can be classified into the following groups:

1. Lexical substitution, or putting one word in place of another. It often results from the different semantic structures of the source language and target language words. Thus the word молодой is not always translated as young; rather, it depends on its word combinability: молодой картофель is equal to new potatoes. This translation equivalent is predetermined by the word combination it is used in. This type of translation can hardly be called substitution, since it is a regular equivalent for this phrase.

Several subtypes:

a) Specification, or substituting words with a wider meaning with words of a narrower meaning: Will you do the room? – Ты уберешься в комнате? I’ll get the papers on the way home. – Я куплюгазеты по дороге домой. The underlined English words have larger scopes of meaning than their Russian counterparts and their particular semantics is recognized from the context.

b) Generalization, or substituting words of a narrower meaning with those of a wider meaning: People don’t like to be stared at. – Людям не нравится, когда на них смотрят. If we compare the semantic structure of the English and Russian verbs, we can see that the English stare specifies the action of seeing expressed by the Russian verb. The Russian смотреть can imply staring, facing, eyeing, etc. The specific meaning in the Russian sentence can be expressed by the adverb пристально. Another reason for generalization in translating can be that the particular meaning expressed by the source language word might be irrelevant for the translation receptor: She bought the Oolong tea on her way home. – По дороге домой она купила китайского чаю. Oolong is a sort of Chinese tea but for the receptor this information is not important; therefore, the translator can generalize.

c) Differentiation is a rather rare technique of substitution. It takes place when we substitute a word by another one with parallel meaning, denoting a similar species: bamboo curtain – железный занавес. Both bamboo and железо (iron) are materials known for their hard nature. They are used figuratively to denote the barriers between the Western and Communist countries (bamboo curtain in reference to China, железный занавес in reference to other Comecon (Council for Mutual Economic Aid) states. There are no hyponymic relations between the notions of bamboo and iron (though the referential area of железный занавес is of course much wider than that of bamboo curtain.)

d) Modulation is a logical development of the notion expressed by the word: But outside it was raining. -– Но на улице шел дождь. The primary equivalent of the word outside is снаружи. But it is impossible to say in Russian *Но снаружи шел дождь. By means of unsophisticated logical operation the translator finds another equivalent: на улице. Thus he takes into consideration a tradition of the word combination and acceptability of collocation. He is aided in this by the metonymical closeness of word meanings based on contiguity of the two notions.

2. Compensation is a deliberate introduction of some additional element in the target text to make up for the loss of a similar element in the source text. The main reason for this transformation is a vocabulary lacuna in the target language. For example, one of the Galsworthy’s characters was called a leopardess. But there is no one-word equivalent of the same stylistic coloring in Russian. Therefore, the translator compensated the word by using the word тигрица to characterize the lady.

3. Metaphoric transformations are based on transferring the meaning due to the similarity of notions. The target language can re-metaphorize a word or a phrase by using the same image (Don’t dirty your hands with that money! – Не марай рук этими деньгами!) or a different one (Он вернет нам деньги, когда рак свистнет. – He will pay us our money back when hell freezes over). The source language metaphor can be destroyed if there is no similar idiom in the target language: Весна уже на пороге. – Spring is coming very soon. Or, on the contrary, the target text is metaphorized either to compensate a stylistically marked word or phrase whose coloring was lost for some reason, or merely to express a source language lacuna: Он решил начать жить по-новому. – He decided to turn over a new life.



Complex transformations concern both the lexical (semantic) and grammatical level, i.e. it touches upon structure and meaning. The following techniques can be associated with lexical and grammatical transformations:

1. Explicatory translation, that is, rewording the meaning into another structure so that the receptor will have a better understanding of the phrase. Sometimes this transformation is named as explicitation, defined as the technique of making explicit in the target text information that is imlicit in the source text. This transformation is often accompanied by the extension of the structure, the addition of new elements: I have a nine-to-five job. – Я работаю с 9 утра до 5 вечера. Leslie Mill’s play, which was also included in the FORUM, was taken up with children from grades 1-5. – Пьеса Лесли Милла, которая также была опубликована в журнале «Форум», была поставлена детьми 1-5 классов. The reason for which this transformation is made is that the target text receptor has different background knowledge. Sometimes this transformation is required because of the dissimilarity between the language structures, with the source language structure being incomplete for the target language, like gun licence is удостоверение на право ношения оружия.

2. Reduction (omission, implicitation) is giving up redundant and communicatively irrelevant words: Elvis Presley denied being lewd and obscene. – Элвис Пресли отрицал свою непристойность. The reduction is a must if a source language expresses the notion by a phrase and the target language compresses the idea in one word: сторонники охраны окружающей среды – conservationists. There is a general tendency of the English language to laconic and compressed expressions as compared with Russian: внебюджетные источники финансирования – nonbudget sources; контроль за ходом проекта – the Project control.

Summer rains in Florida may be violent, while they last. – Летом во Флориде бывают сильные ливни.

3. Integral transformation is the replacement of a set phrase with another clichéd structure that has the same speech function: How do you do! – Здравствуйте!; Wet paint. – Осторожно, окрашено. Help yourself. – Угощайтесь.

4. Antonymic translation is describing the situation by the target language from the contrary angle.

It can be done through antonyms: the inferiority of friendly troops – превосходство сил противника. The reason for this transformation is the lack of a one-word translation equivalent to the word inferiority.

This transformation can also take place when we change the negation modality of the sentence: She is notunworthy of your attention. – Она вполнедостойна вашего внимания. In the English sentence we deal with double negation, called understatement, which, according to logic rules, means the positive expressed in the Russian sentence. Through understatement, English-speaking people avoid expressing their ideas in too a categoric tone.

Shifting the negation is another manifestation of the antonymous translation: I don’t think I can do it. – Думаю, я не смогу сделать это., which is a result of linguistic tradition peculiar to this or that language.

5. Metonymical translation is the transference of meaning and structure based on the contiguity of forms and meanings of the source and target languages: The last twenty years has seen many advances in our linguistic knowledge. – В последние 20 лет наблюдается значительный прогресс в лингвистике. In the English sentence, time is expressed by the subject of the sentence, whereas in Russian it is more typical to express it by the adverbial modifier. This causes grammar restructuring of the sentence.

6. Complex compensation is a deliberate change of the word or structure by another one because the exact equivalent of the target language word or phrase is unable to produce the same impact upon the receptor as does the source language word or phrase. For example, we often have to compensate on the lexical level the meaning of the Past Perfect in the Russian text translation, since there is no similar tense category in Russian: Their food, clothing and wages were less bad than they had been. – Теперь их еда, одежда и зарплата были не такими уж плохими, как когда-то. Puns, riddles, tongue-twisters are often compensated; for example, Don’t trouble trouble until trouble troubles you. – Во дворе трава на траве дрова. Compensation exercises the translator’s ingenuity; however, the effort it requires should not be wasted on textually unimportant features.



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