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Arutyunyan Armine Vanikovna1, Laskova Marina Vasilievna2
1Southern Federal University, 4th-year student of the Southern Federal Univrsity
2Southern Federal University, head of the department of translation and information science, doctor of Philology, Professor

This article is devoted to the notion of ‘obscene language’ and the way it is translated into the Russian language in secondary texts typology. The methods of translating obscene language and its specific features are mentioned in the article. The examples are given on both languages with the translation.

Keywords: methods of translation, obscene, obscene language

Category: Linguistics

Article reference:
Difficulties of translating obscene language in a secondary text // Humanities scientific researches. 2015. № 12 [Electronic journal]. URL: https://human.snauka.ru/en/2015/12/13502

View this article in Russian

Nowadays obscene language is highly spread not only in our daily life, but also in different movies, TV shows, books and various kinds of texts. They say that it is easier to talk using obscene words, because it makes speech more pithy and precise. However, such language brings a lot of difficulties for a translator as it’s very hard to find an English equivalent for a rich Russian vocabulary of obscene words.

According to the Macmillan Dictionary the word ‘obscene’ means: describing offensive language. [3] Obscene language is emotionally and stylistically – colored language. It is also used by number of reasons: to show one’s state of feelings (anger, envy, irritation and disgust), desire to express oneself or to show so-called ‘difference’ from others (it is usually spread among teenagers), and social status. It is also important to state that obscene language more brightly conveys the mood, feelings, thoughts of a speaker in different situations.

K. I. Chukovskiy noted very correctly that “before translating any fiction, a translator should determine the style of the author, his system of visions…”[2, с.  170]. It’s true that translators should be aware of the style of the text, taking into consideration the aims of the author and other important aspects. The translated text should be stylistically the same as the original one.

When translating any text it’s very important to take into account some aspects, characterizing one or another lexical unit:

  1. semantic feature;
  2. sphere of use;
  3. the degree of obscene language in the original;
  4. the degree of expression in the context and its pragmatics;

The most difficult task is given to translators: they need to convey the information correctly and find the suitable equivalent for translation. Very often obscene words are translated less emotionally compared to the original source, making the phrases to sound mildly.

Obscene language can be translated in the same way as literary language, using well-known lexical transformations:

Transcription – recording English words with the help of sounds of the language in which the information is translated to («парафинить» — “to  paraffin”).

Transliteration–translating by graphical signs of source-language into the target-language («калькулятор» — “calculator”).

Calques – literal translation of lexemes or whole sentences of the source-language («Твоя  морда  в  пуху»  —  “Your  snout  is  in  feathers” ).

Specification – selecting a word with a broader meaning in  the target-language («прикалываться» — “to make fun”).

Modulation – choosing an equivalent in the target-language the meaning of which is logically suitable in the source-language («Он уже покойник»  —  “He’s  dead  now’’).

Sentence division – the division of one compound sentence in the original into several simple sentences in the target-language with the help of punctuation marks («Ну, и пошли вы все нафиг!» —  “Go fuck yourselves! All of you!”).

Sentence combining–combining several simple sentences of the source-language and making one compound sentence in the target-language («Это было еще вчера.Он, конечно, уже смылся оттуда»  —  “That  was  just  yesterday  –  beyond  doubt  he’s  got  away  from  there”).

Grammatical substitution – method of translation, according to which a grammeme of the source-language is transformed into the suitable grammeme of the target-language with another grammatical meaning   («До  него  плохо  доходит»  —  “Не  has  poor  mind”).

Antonymic translation–substitution of a negative construction of the source-language to the affirmative construction in the target-language and vice versa («Не  особо  обломался»  —  “Got  a  small  bummer”).

Descriptive – method of intertextual translation according to which a lexical unit of the source-language is replaced by a collocation in the target-language («матерщинник»  —  “а  person  who  uses  foul,  abusive  language”).

Compensation – method of translation according to which the elements of the meaning are translated with other devices  («Было  видно,  что  он  стесняется  своих  родителей,  потому  что  они  говорили  «хочут»  и  «хочете»  и  все  в  таком  роде»  —  “You  could  tell  he  was  very  ashamed  of  his  parents  and  all,  because  they  said  ‘he  don’t’  and‘she  don’t’  and  stuff  like  that”). []

The lexical transformations are chosen due to the context and situation. They should be aimed at expressing the maximal level of equivalence and adequacy of the meaning, to convey the style and functions in the translated text. The translator should comprehend what the influence of obscene language can be in the process of communication. His task is to find the most suitable equivalent and make the translation as appropriate as it possible. Certainly, it’s not as easy as it seems as the task of any translator is not to mispresent the information. It’s very important that the style and the content should be retained.

All in all, the translation of obscene language is a very hard and painstaking job. A translator should be able to choose corresponding to the original equivalent which can save the degree of expression in the target-language. The translated text should be as close in meaning to the original as it’s possible. The translation of obscene language must sound adequate in the target-language, because everything depends on it. It shouldn’t lead to some reader’s misunderstandings.

  1. Акименко Н. Л. Стилистические аспекты перевода обсценной лексики с русского на английский язык– [Электронный ресурс] – режим доступа.: URL: sibac.info/11174
  2. Чуковский  К.И.  Высокое  искусство.  (Глава  шестая).  //  Чуковский  К.  Собрание  сочинений  в  15  т.  Т.  3.  Высокое  искусство.  М.:  Терра  Книжный  клуб,  2001.  —  382  с.
  3. MacmillanDictionaryOnline – [Электронный ресурс] – режим доступа.: URL: http://www.macmillandictionary.com


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