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SENTENTIA. European Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences

Objective and subjective nature of transformations in translation of a literary text

Andreeva Ekaterina Yurievna

ORCID: 0000-0001-9953-4958

PhD in Philology

Lecturer, Department of Foreign Languages and Intercultural Communication, Faculty of International Economic Relations, Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation

125993, Russia, g. Moscow, Leningradskii prospekt, 49

Other publications by this author










Abstract: The present paper is devoted to the study of objective and subjective character of translation transformations. The materials studied for the purposes of the research work relate to biographical novels by P. Kurth "Anastasia. The Riddle of Anna Anderson" and "Isadora: a Sensational Life" and their translations into Russian. As far as methodology is concerned, the methods of descriptive and comparative analyses are paramount in the present paper. The aim of the research is to analyze different types of modifications (substitution, permutation, addition, omission) to identify the inevitable changes in syntactic structures of the sentences, on the one hand, and the results of an individual approach of translators who are fluent in both Russian and English. It was revealed that all translation transformations can be divided into two groups: objective and subjective modifications. Objective transformations are the result of differences in formal and semantic systems of English and Russian, whereas subjective modifications help to express the degree of probability and emotional state or attitude of the characters towards some events, people or things. The conclusions and the main statements of this research paper may serve as a reason for the further study of the role of syntactic transformations in literary translation from English into Russian, as well as apply to the preparation of specialists studying English in lecture courses and seminars on topical issues of emotive syntax and literary translation.


substitution, transformations, literary information, adequate translation, equivalence in translation, literary translation, literary text, permutation, addition, omission

It should be stated that in modern linguistics there exist a considerable number of approaches to the translation of literary texts from English into Russian. However, before translating any text from one language into another, some essential features regarding the adequate conversion of a text in one language into an equivalent text in another language should be taken into account. T. A. Kazakova highlights the idea that translation of a literary text consists in creative modification of the original text "using all the necessary expressive capabilities of the translator, accompanied by the fullest possible transfer of the literary features of the original" [3, р. 47].

Professor O. V. Aleksandrova emphasizes that issues related to the translation of literary texts have been studied by many contemporary linguists. The fact is that this type of texts not only contains information about a certain period of time, life and cultural values of society, but also provides an opportunity to learn about the inner world of people living in a particular historical period [1].

There exists two types of literary information – objective and subjective [8]. Objective kind includes linguistic (lexis, grammatical structures, style) and cultural (social-historical) and subject-area information. Subjective type can be regarded as the impression, thoughts and emotions of the reader intensified by the author’s personal implication. It should be noted that the means of subjective information refer mostly to emotive, expressive or evaluative meanings. To transfer both objective and subjective information, a translator uses different types of translation transformations.

When translating a literary text from one language into another, the concept of "transformation" is very important. This term is widely used in modern linguistics and translation theory to analyze the relationship between original and translated linguistic expressions due to the replacement of one expression form with different ones. R. K. Minyar-Beloruchev defines transformation as follows: “Transformation is the basis of most translation techniques. It consists in changing formal (lexical or grammatical transformations) or semantic (semantic transformations) components the original text while saving information, intended for transmission" [7, p. 201].

V. N. Komissarov notes that translation transformations are considered to be modifications that help a translator to complete "a transition from original units to translation units" [4, p. 172]. Due to the fact that translation transformations are applied to the units of language which have both a plane of content and a plane of expression, they have a formal-semantic character. Thus, they convert both form and meaning of the original units.

In modern translation theory, there are different points of view regarding the division of transformations into types, however, many researchers are of the opinion that the basic ones are grammatical and lexical types of transformations, which, in turn, are divided into subtypes. In the present paper the author uses a classification of translation transformations proposed by by L. S. Barkhudarov. The linguist divides all modifications into substitutions, permutations, additions and omissions [2]. All these types of transformations will be considered in the present research when comparing the English versions of the novels "Anastasia. The Riddle of Anna Anderson"[9] and "Isadora: a Sensational Life"[10] written by a famous American publicist Peter Kurth and the Russian translations of these texts completed by I. V. Gyubbenet [5] and S. Losev [6].

For the purpose of the analysis of the modifications that are objectively determined as well as the subjective ones, several extracts from both original texts and their translated versions are taken:

1. She was no publicity seeker. / Она не искалаизвестности. – Here a substitution of the verbal noun (the agent noun with - er suffix) by the finite verb is conditioned by the grammatical features of the Russian language, therefore, it is objective.

2. Daily verbal battles are fought by the two factions. / Каждый день происходят словесные перепалки между тем и другими. – In this case the translator replaces the passive construction ‘battles are fought’ with an active one that is more familiar to Russian-speaking people. Thus, this transformation is also objective.

3. The Duncans started out in Italy, where they sailed from Brindisi to the island of Levkas, the ancient site of Ithaca and, according to the legend, the place where the poet Sappho threw herself from the rocks to her death. / Семья Дункан начала свое путешествие в Италии; сев на суденышко в Бриндизи, они приплыли на остров Левкас, где находилось местоположение античной Итаки, а такжескала, с которой, согласно легенде, бросилась в море поэтесса Сапфо. – Here a set of objective transformations can be observed. First, the translator replaces the combination ‘definite article + surname’ with the structure ‘noun + surname’ which meets the rules of Russian grammar. Another example of the objective modification in this sentence is omission: the translator omits the word combination ‘to her death’ appealing to the background knowledge of the reader: it is known that the poet Sappho died after she threw herself in the sea. So, the translator mentions ‘the sea’ in the context, omitting semantically redundant combination ‘to her death’.

4. One photograph of the Tsar's four daughters had immediately caught the nurses' attention. / Вниманиесестёрсразужепривлеклафотографиячетырёхцарскихдочерей.

5. Comedy followed comedy on Isadora’s return to Europe, as if in counterpoint to the solemnity of her Greek fugue. / По возвращении Айседоры комедия следовала за комедией, как бы в контрапункт ее торжественной греческой фуге. – Examples 4 and 5 demonstrate permutation. This modification is also objective, since it is conditioned by the peculiarities of the communicative perspective of the Russian sentence where the new information usually appears at the end of the sentence, whereas the given is located at the beginning.

6. Still, it was a shame about the contract. / Но как всё-таки жаль, что у неё этот контракт! – This example shows the substitution of a simple sentence with a complex one. It is worth paying attention to the fact that in the original version this sentence does not contain any emotive shades, and it could be translated as a simple one: *Всё-таки было сожаление/она сожалела об этом контракте. However, the translator aims to convey as vividly as possible the emotion of disappointment of Doris Wingender about the fact that she was under a contract with the newspaper Nachtausgabe and therefore missed an advantageous opportunity to enrich herself by telling the story of Francis Shantskovskaya to another journalist. In the Russian version, emotions are emphasized by an amplifying particle 'как' and an exclamation mark. In this example, the modification of the sentence structure is subjective.

7. If the old conditions should ever be restored in Russia, he hoped for great advancement from having looked after the young woman. / Он надеялся извлечь из своей заботы о молодой женщине немалые выгоды, если бы в России когда-либо утвердился прежний порядок. - In this example, there is a permutation of parts of a complex sentence with a subordinate clause of reason. It might have been possible to avoid the permutation: *Если бы в России когда-либо утвердился прежний порядок, он (бы) надеялся извлечь из своей заботы о молодой женщине немалые выгоды. The difference between these two translation options lies in expressing a degree of probability of the fact that Russia can return to the previous condition. When permutation is avoided, the conditional sentence can be considered neutral, while by using this modification the translator aims to convey a note of common doubt that the former orders in Russia will ever be restored. Thus, in this example, the transformation is subjective.

8. Isadora ran there, grabbed a handful of the paper and metal coins, held them up high and let them drop back. She said laughingly: ’’Money, money, money, you are nothing, nothing, money is nothing…’’ / Тут подскочила Айседора, и, схватив пригоршню ассигнаций и монет, воздела руку кверху - разжала ладонь; денежки посыпались обратно на стол. Затем она сказала со смехом: «Денежки, денежки, денежки – вы ничто, ничто, ничто! Деньгиничто!». The second sentence in this piece of the text could have been translated into Russian in a neutral manner: * «Деньги, деньги, деньги, вы ничто, ничто, деньги – (это) ничто…». But the translator divides one original sentence into two. Moreover, he enhances expressiveness by adding lexical units (+1 ‘ничто) and exclamation marks at the end of the sentences. On top of that, expressive diminutive suffixes to the word ‘money’ are added. Thus, the author of the translation wants to express extremely disdainful attitude of the dance genius Isadora Duncan to money. This is an example of the subjective transformation.

To sum it all, the present research demonstrates active use of different transformations in the process of translation of literary texts from English into Russian. It was found out all modifications can be divided into two types: 1) objective and 2) subjective. Objective transformations are conditioned by differences in formal and semantic systems of the two languages. Subjective modifications are used to express the degree of probability, on the one hand, and emotional state or attitude of the characters towards something, on the other hand.

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