Conveying the Meanings of Language Units at Passage/Text Level

The text as a term is in the true sense of the word a segment of written/oral speech or a whole work consisting of grammatically

1 See: Nida E.A. Componentat Analysis of Meaning. - The Hague - Paris: Mouton, 1975. Hoey M. Patterns of Lexis in Text. - Oxford: Ox.University Press, 1991.


and logically arranged language units forming with their meanings its general content. Text as a speech unit may be smaller or larger, but irrespective of its dimension it always remains a macrostructure, which is not an indivisible monolith but a harmonious unity of different language units. A larger text usually falls into several constituent parts -supra-phrasal units and different types and kinds of sentences. All of them due to their communicative completeness and logical succession1 constitute something of a semantic and structural backbone of any text. These parts together with their various meanings make the general contextual stream of the text, whose content can be fully and faithfully conveyed only when all contents of each block are fully and exaustively expressed. As the blocks/supra-phrasal units are made of sentences, hence, the necessary degree of faithfulness in any translation of texts/passages can be achieved only through faithful translation of all types of their ingredient sentences.

It must be emphasized, however, that it is not only content (the semantic plane), in other words, not only the lexical meanings of various sense units, that have to be fully and faithfully transplanted in the process of translation. No less important is to fully convey apart from many denotative meanings of language units also their connotative characteristics, as well as their stylistic and structural peculiarities. A faithful translation of supra-phrasal units or passages/ text of any speech style, therefore, presents a complex process, which involves a full and faithful expression in the target language of all the main constituent parts forming the semantic, structural, stylisitic and other planes of a text. In view of all this it will be expedient to emphasize that all characteristics (nothing to say about the denotative and the connotative meanings of words and the means of expression in general) are identified, as a rule, by way of a thorough analysis of the original text. This analysis inevitably involves apart from the particularities of content also the pragmatic toning/orientation, which can be exhaustively established, however, only at deep level structure of the communicative units.

It must also be added that despite the differences in their actualization, the planes of a text are impossible to separate from each other, since they are closely interconnected and form the surface and the deep structures complexity of any text. Hence it follows, that the characteristic features of each plane manifest themselves and are fully realized at text level, which can sometimes be restricted, as has

See: Москальская О.И. Грамматика текста. -М.: Вьісшая школа, 1981, р.14.

been said, to a supersyntactic unit/paragraph reflecting its m^in structural, stylistic, pragmatic and other peculiarities. These peculiarities should be rendered in the faithful variant of the target language text/ passage as well, though usually by other than in the target language means of expression.

But whatever the divergences in the means of expression of the source language and of the target language, and irrespective of the fact that far from all the characteristic features of any text are fully reflected in its main componental parts, the translation of a text can be succefully performed only on the basis of its constituent sentences. This is because all syntactic level units are endowed with predication and modality, they have mostly a stuctural and sense completion, they are stylistically and pragmatically in full conformity with the whole text. In view of all this only the sentence can fully meet the requirements laid before a unit of translation, when the object assigned to translation is a text which usually consists of different types and kinds of sentences joined in supra-syntactic structures.

Since a faithful translation of any passage/text is performed sentence after sentence, their ideas/thoughts, the main structural, stylistic, genre and pragmatic characteristics are mostly conveyed in a consecutive succession too. Their constituent words, word-groups and set expressions/idioms functioning as different parts of the sentence or forming constituent elements of the latter (or even being independent elements in the sentence) are all first translated as single units. In other words, prior to translating the sentence as a whole (provided it is not a one-member sentence, like Winter. Bitter frost. Evening time), its parts and functionally independent elements are to be translated as separate sense units. E.g.:

All day we had been sitting in Цілісінький день ми просиділи
the piano box waiting for the rain в ящикові з-під піаніно, чекаючи,
to stop. (E. Caldwell) доки перестане дощ.

As can easily be ascertained, only through translation of the component parts 1) All day, 2) we had been sitting, 3) in the piano box, 4) waiting, 5) for the rain to stop could the translation of the sentence be fully and faithfully accomplished.

Similarly in the following simple two-member sentence:
There was an old two-storey Того року на ФілдінґАве-
yellow house on Fielding A venue ню ще стояв старий де опо-
that year. (W.Saroyan) верховий жовтий будинок.


This sentence too could be translated faithfully into Ukrainian only after its component parts, which also function as parts of the sentence, were translated one after another, though not necessarily in absolutely the same, as in the source language, succession. Cf.: 1) that year, 2) on Fielding Avenue, 3) was, 4) an old two-storey yellow house. There is no need to adduce any further proofs in support of the existence of a preliminary stage of translation preceding the final one, i.e., complete and faithful translation of the whole communicative sense unit. One must acknowledge, therefore, the existence of translation at all main language levels represented by the corresponding sense units. Consequently, one can speak of the existence of some language units having their separate levels of translation. This was already exemplified more than once on the foregoing pages and it will be shown in the process of translating several supersyntactic level units/paragraphs a little further. And yet a language unit in which all possible meanings pertained to other language units, which are hierarchically lower in rank than the sentence and thus function as its componental parts, are fully realized at the level of the communicative unit or text as a whole. There will be more than one chance to ascertain in that in the process of the commented translation of an excerpt from D.Parker's short story Arrangement in Black and White below. Some other excerts representing different language styles and assigned for independent translation will also testify to the pointed above statements.

The selected passage to be analysed belongs to the belles-lettres style and consequently abounds in various features characteristic of it1. Besides it represents a dialogue with many colloquialisms peculiar of spoken American English. The authoress employed many other stylistic means to make the narration lively and the development of the plot dynamic and interesting. The story is a masterly piece of psychological motivation of each character's behavior and speech part. The text abounds in many shortened and elliptical sentences and other stylistic means which are used to create some pragmatic subtext which the translator has to comprehend and then fully convey with the help of some functionally relevant stylistic, syntactic and lexical/semantic means of the Ukrainian target language.

Before starting the commented translation of the text it is expedient to repeatedly make mention of the obligatory stages that

1 See: Коптілов В. В. Теорія і практика перекладу. - К.: Вища шк. Вид-во при Київ, ун-ті, 1982.-166с.


should precede the very process of translation. The first of them is to read through the passage/work selected for translation and to analyse it. All attention in the course of this analysis should be paid to picking out the language units whose denotative or connotative meanings present some difficulties for translating. After this all attension must be paid to choosing in dictionaries/reference books the possible semantic, structural and stylistic variants for the language units or signs as they are sometimes called1, which present difficulties for translating. The second stage implies a regular selection from the chosen variants, which are usually more than one, the most fitting into the given sentence/passage semantic, functional or stylistic equivalents and substitutes. Only when this preparatory work is completed, the translation proper can be started.

It must also be noted that the peculiar sentence structures, the tropes, the prosodic and other means in belles-lettres texts serve the aim of creating the necessary impact on the reader/listener. That is why the regular preparatory work on the text selected for translation always takes some time, the latter being often predetermined not only by the skill and theoretical grounding of the translator but by some other factors as well. These include the ease (or otherwise) of the author's style, the abundance or absence of difficult for translation linguistic phenomena in his work as neologisms, archaisms, dialectal material or any other obscure places created by some historic events or customs, culturally biased national notions and the like. Because of this the preparatory time needed for a translation proper to begin may vary from text to text. The main methods by which the «resistance» of the source language text may be overcome in translation (with particular attention to selecting the means of expression) will be shown further on the pages to come.

And now in accordance with the requirements of the first stage in the preparatory work for translation, read and thoroughly analyse the passage below paying attention to difficult or obscure (if any) places you come across in each separate sentence. Put the picket out sense units down and offer one or some suitable lexical/semantic equivalents for each of them. See to it that they also suit in the speech style of the corresponding sentences and in the excerpt of this D.Parker's story as a whole.

1 For further information on the meaning of various language signs зее:Комиссаров B.H. Слово о переводе. - M.: Междунар. отношения, 1973. - р.213


1. The woman with the pink velvet poppies turned round the
assisted gold of her hair1, traversed the crowded room at an inter
esting gait combining a skip with a sidle, and clutched the lean arm
of her host.

2. «Now I got you!» she said. «Now you can't get away!»

3. «Why, hello,» said her host. «Well. How are you?»

4. «Oh, I'm finely,» she said. «Just simply finely. Listen. I want
you to do me the most terrible favor. Will you? Will you please? Pretty

5. «What is it?» said her host.

6. «Listen,» she said. «I want to meet Walter Williams. Hon
estly, I'm just simply crazy about that man. Oh, when he sings! When
he sings those spirituals2. Well, I said to Burton, «It's a good thing for
you Walter Williams is colored,» I said, «or you'd have lots of reason
to be jealous.» I'd really love to meet him. I'd like to tell him I've heard
him sing. Will you be an angel and introduce me to him?»

7. «Why, certainly,» said her host. «I thought you'd met him.
The party's for him. Where is he, anyway?»

8. «He's over there by the bookcase,» she said. «Let's wait till
those people get through talking to him. Well, I think you're simply
marvellous, giving this perfectly marvellous party for him and having
him meet all those white people, and all. Isn't he terribly grateful?»

9. «I hope not,» said her host.


10. «I think it's really terribly nice,» she said. «I do. I don't see
why on earth it isn't perfectly all right to meet colored people. I haven't
any feeling about it at all - not one single bit. Burton, - oh, he's just
the other way. Well, you know, he comes from Virginia, and you know
how they are.»

11. «Did he come tonight?» said her host.

12. «No, he couldn't,» she said. «I'm a regular grass widow
tonight. I told him when I left, There's no telling what I'll do, I said. He
was just so tired out, he couldn't move. Isn't it a shame?»

13. «Ah,» said her host.

14. «Wait till I tell him I met Walter Williams!» she said. «He'll
just about die. Oh, we have more arguments about colored people.

1 the assisted gold of her hair- her hair had been dyed gold.

2 spirituals - Negro songs, religious in essence, like folk ballades.

I talk to him like I don't know what, I get so excited. «Oh, don't be so silly,» I say. But I must say for Burton, he's heaps broader-minded than lots of these Southerners. He's really awfully fond of colored people. Well, he says himself, he wouldn't have white servants. And you know, he had this old colored nurse, this regular old nigger mammy and he just simply loves her. Why, every time he goes home, he goes out in the kitchen to see her. He does, really, to this day. All he says is, he says, he hasn't got a word to say against colored people as long as they keep their place. He's always doing things for them - giving them clothes and I don't know what all. The only thing he says, he says he wouldn't sit down at the table with one for a million dollars. «Oh,» I say to him, «you make me sick, talking like that. I'm just terrible to him. Aren't I terrible?»

15. «Oh, no, no, no,» said her host. «No, no.»

16. «I am», she said. «I know I am. Poor Burton! Now, me, I
don't feel that way at all. I haven't the slightest feeling about colored
people. Why, I'm just crazy about some of them. They're just like
children - just as easy-going, and always singing and laughing and
everything. Aren't they the happiest things you ever saw in your life?
Honestly, it makes me laugh just to hear them. Oh, I like them. I
really do.»

Note.As could be ascertained, the excerpt contains several features characterestic of the belles-lettres style. This is also proved by some ways of expression and by syntactic peculiarities of speech pertained only to present-day colloquial English of the USA. The translator has to recreate and convey faithfully the content side, the style, the artistic and syntactic peculiarities, and the pragmatic intention/ the subtext only of D.Parker's highly artistic story. This can be disclosed through a complex analysis of the main planes of the excerpt. Such an explicatory analysis of the afore-cited sentences is also performed on the forthcoming pages.

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