Problems of rendering word order in translation

Word order is an important syntactical means which performs a manifold role in creating the semantic structure of an utterance so it is a translator’s task to render it adequately in translation. L.A.Chernyakhovskaya who studied word order from a translator’s point of view describes in her monograph “Perevod i smyslovaya structura” published in 1976 two structures that comprise an utterance:

1) formal grammatical or syntactical structure which is made up by main and secondary parts of a sentence,

2) informative or communicative structure of an utterance which is created by the correlation of the given or background information which serves as Problems of rendering word order in translation the starting point and the new information which is a focus of new information in an utterance. The first element is known as the theme of an utterance, the second is called the rheme.

The scholars who have investigated this problem such as L.Visson, Ye.B.Breus, L.A.Chernyakhovskaya and others believe that the main difficulty when translating from Russian into English is connected with the problems of rendering the communicative structure of an utterance which is created and changed thanks to the flexible word order in Russian. For a translator this means search Problems of rendering word order in translation for other than word order means in English the fixed word order in which cannot be easily changed at a translator’s will. Russian scholars single out two types of utterances in English that differ in their communicative structure:

1) monorhematic utterances that contain only new information as even the theme of an utterance points at smth that is relatively new to the reader, e.g. The winter that year was cold and windy – when the sentence is used at the beginning of a book both the winter is new information (minimum new) and was cold and windy carries new information (maximum Problems of rendering word order in translation new) so they differ in the degree of novelty;

2) dirhematic utterances which contain given information and a rhematic focus of information, e.g. An old man (maximum new) came into the room (minimum new) (monorhematic). He (theme) had a book (rheme) in his hand (dirhematic).

A translator has to solve the following tasks when dealing with the communicative structure of an utterance with an unmarked or neutral word order:

1) to make out the type of an utterance. It is recommended to take into account the position of an utterance in a text, namely, monorhematic utterances are usually Problems of rendering word order in translation opening phrases in a paragraph, chapter or a text, while dirhematic utterances appear, as a rule, within a narration.

2) If an utterance is monorhematic a translator may resort to two solutions:

· shift the rheme from the sentence-final position in Russian to the beginning of an English utterance. The rheme retains the function of the subject, but it must be preceded by the indefinite article to stress its rhematic role. This is conditioned by the FTF rule, that is “First things first” which is particularly important in English monorhematic utterances, e.g. На улице появилась толпа зевак. - A crowd of idlers appeared Problems of rendering word order in translation in the street.

· make no changes in word-order, but use the indefinite article to point at the rheme, e.g. На южном берегу, у самого Чёрного моря, лежит город. – On the South coast, close to the Black Sea, lies a town. Such an approach is permitted in sentences which have no direct object and contain a logical inversion (adverbial modifiers of place, time, circumstances are placed at the beginning of a sentence which are followed by a predicate – subject word-order).

3) If an utterance is dirhematic, a translator has to make several steps:

· he has Problems of rendering word order in translation to establish the boundaries of the theme (s) and state its (their) syntactic functions;

· if the theme is an adverbial modifier, it has to be transformed into the subject of an English sentence accompanied by all the other necessary changes, e.g. Из-за тумана остановилось движение транспорта. – The fog stopped the traffic. Another solution involves no transformations as it is enough to use the definite and indefinite articles to show the theme and the rheme, За домом белела березовая роща – Behind the house a birht grove showed white. A third solution demands shifting the rheme to the beginning of the Problems of rendering word order in translation sentence and using the indefinite article if the noun permits it, На скамейке, около тропы, сидела девушка. – A girl sat on the bench near the path.

· if the theme is a direct object, it is transformed into the thematic subject of an English sentence which is accompanied by the Active > Passive voice transformation, e.g. Повременный тарифный план предпочли многие абоненты. – The time-based tariff bill was chosen by many subscribers. Another way to translate such sentences is by using a stylistic means of stressing the rheme of an utterance, Эту плитку шоколада положила ему дочь перед самым Problems of rendering word order in translation выездом. – It was his daughter who put the bar of chocolate just before he set out.

· if the theme is an indirect object, it is usually translated by a thematic subject which is often accompanied by Active > Passive voice change, e.g. Грузинскому режиму оказывали военную помощь многие страны Запада. – The Georgian regime was given military aid by many countries of the West.

In all these cases the changes in word order are caused by the SVO(M)PT rule in English according to which the placement of the core elements of the sentence is strictly regulated.



e) if Problems of rendering word order in translation a Russian utterance begins with the thematic verb there may be three variants of translation:

· by using the formal subject ‘it’,

· by using the formal subject ‘there’,

· by turning the Russian verb into a noun at the beginning of the sentence and making all other changes, Идти было нелегко – The going was not easy.

Below we give one more example illustrating various solutions mentioned above:

Вошли в практику совещания экспертов. –

a) It has become common practice to arrange meetings of experts.

b) There have been arrangements of meetings of experts.

c) Our regular activities included meetings of experts.

It should Problems of rendering word order in translation be stressed that the above mentioned rules should be applied correctly as in rendering a sentence a translator has to depend upon a context, e.g. the sentence В комнате установилась мёртвая тишина will be translated differently: at thebeginning of a text it is a monorhematic utterance hence we translate it as A deathly silence descended upon the room. In the middle of a text it is a dirhematic utterance and should be translated as The room turned deathly silent.

When translation is made from English into Russian a translator’s main task is to find proper means available in Problems of rendering word order in translation Russian to retain the expressive properties of English emphatic word order. As it has been noted above English has a fixed order of the core elements of the sentence, nevertheless, according to D.Biber word order is employed to express emphasis, contrast, intensification. In sentences with marked word order even core elements of the sentence may be placed in an unusual position for this purpose. To such devices in English refer:

1) Fronting (foregrounding), i.e. putting in an initial position, e.g. This I do not understand.

2) Subject-verb and other kinds of inversion, e.g. Then came Problems of rendering word order in translation the turning point of the match.

To compensate for the stylistic effect of English sentences with marked word order a translator has to resort to various compensatory means in Russian:

1) syntactic restructuring of a sentence by shifting the rhematic centre from its usual end position in a Russian sentence to the beginning of a sentence, e.g. Though mentally ill, he continued working. – Смертельно больной, он продолжал работать.

2) Lexico-phraseological means, e.g. Mine is a long and sad tale. – Повесть моя длинна и печальна.

3) Special intensifiers, e.g. Bitterly did he complain of poor provision. – Сколько горечи Problems of rendering word order in translation было в его жалобах на плохое снабжение.

There are English sentences with logical inversion which are translated into Russian without changes in word order. This happens in two cases:

1) they begin with some adverbial modifier,

2) the predicate has no direct object, i.e. it is expressed by an intransitive verb. E.g. Up in that lake country were many, many lakes. – Там, в этом краю, очень много озер.


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