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Translation Studies. 17. Lexical TOs: omission, addition and exchange of meaning Krisztina Károly, Spring, 2006 Sources: Klaudy, 2003. 1. Lexical omission. = a standard transfer operation whereby meaningful lexical elements of the SL text are dropped.

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translation studies

Translation Studies

17. Lexical TOs: omission, addition and exchange of meaning

Krisztina Károly, Spring, 2006

Sources: Klaudy, 2003

1 lexical omission
1. Lexical omission

= a standard transfer operation whereby meaningful lexical elements of the SL text are dropped.

  • The term is different from Vinay and Darbelnet’s term économie (1958) and economy (1995), which means “the relatively smaller quantity of expression forms required in one language for conveying the same content which is expressed by more words in another language” (1995:342).
  • In the case of omissions, we cannot speak about the “same content”, because, as a result of omission, certain meanings are lost in the TL text without being incorporated into other meanings.
the reason for lexical omissions
The reason for lexical omissions:

= the difference in background knowledge in SL and TL readers.

  • E.g., brand names, historical periods, (realia!) well known in the culture of the SL, may mean nothing to TL readers.
  • In such a situation the translator may use a variety of approaches: generalisation, paraphrase, search for analogies etc.
  • If the given realia contains no significant information for the TL readers it may be omitted.

1. Omission of brand names

2. Omission of toponyms

3. Omission of toponyms and ethnonyms used in attributive function

4. Omission of institutional names

5. Omission of forms of address

6. Omission of references to SL

7. Omission of names of parts of the body

1 omission of brand names
1. Omission of brand names
  • foods, beverages, clothing or furniture may have significant implications in the SL text
  • they may indicate inexpensiveness, or, conversely, its rarity, value or its social prestige
  • this meaning is frequently lost on the TL reader, even if the brand name is left unchanged in the translation
  • The use of a brand name instead of the generic name of a particular item of food or beverage can be misleading, since knowledge of brand names varies from culture to culture.
English ST: Two Maltesers. Half pound Earl Grey. Cheese – Wensleydale? or Double Gloucester? Yardley pre-shave lotion. (Greene 9)
  • Hungarian TT: Két csomag Máltai cukorka, negyed kiló Earl Grey tea. Sajtok – angol sajt? ömlesztett sajt? Yardley arcvíz a villanyborotvához. (Ungvári 119)
English ST: Suddenly even her, even her lipstick seemed a shade or two lighter, as though she had just blotted it with a sheet of Kleenex. (Salinger 20)
  • Hungarian TT: Hirtelen a rúzsa is egy árnyalattal vagy kettővel is halványabbnak látszik, mintha letörölte volna egy lemosópapirral. (Elbert 20)
2 omission of toponyms
2. Omission of toponyms
  • E.g., Hungarian readers generally know that Sportuszoda (‘Sport Swimming Pool’) is on Margitsziget (‘Margaret Island’), that crossing Margithíd (‘Margaret Bridge’) they come to Nagykörút (‘Grand Boulevard’), and that the Ferenciek Temploma (‘Franciscan Church’) is in Belváros (‘Inner City’), etc.
  • SL readers know not only the location of toponyms, but their connotative meanings as well.
  • The names of London’s districts, such as Chelsea or Belgravia suggest the elegance of the environment to an English reader, but do not suggest anything to a Hungarian reader. The translator, who knows that the TL reader may not be familiar with these districts, either omits the district or street name, or adds an explanatory comment.
English  Hungarian:
  • English ST: He was alone in the great Belgravia house with Baines and Mrs Baines. (Greene 457)
  • Hungarian TT: ... így egyedül maradt a nagy házban Baines-szel és a feleségével. (Szobotka 280)
3 omission of toponyms and ethnonyms used in attributive function
3. Omission of toponyms and ethnonyms used in attributive function
  • The names of countries, cities or nations used as attributes, are frequently omitted from translations.
  • E.g., Párizsi felvágott, angol szalonna or berliner kendő (‘large-size shawl’) are meaningful and identifiable items only for the Hungarian reader.
  • Toponyms and ethnonyms used in attributive function reflect the history of contacts between nations, image and self-image as well as value judgements (see Dutch courage, Dutch music, Dutch gold in English all with negative connotations).
  • Hungarians say angolosan távozik, while the same concept is expressed in English as to take French leave.
English ST: Do that again, you Welsh ruffian, and I'll pull your ears off. (Osborne 12)
  • Hungarian TT: Te falusi bugris! Vigyázz mert kitépem mind a két füledet. (Ottlik 13)
The translators’ task is made even more difficult in cases where the attributive form of toponyms and ethnonyms represent a concept without the attributed noun.
  • To Hungarian SL readers tokaji means obviously ‘wine from Tokaj, a wine growing region in Hungary’ zalai means ‘cold cuts from Zala, a county in western Hungary’ and pálpusztai means ‘cheese from Pálpuszta, a village in western Hungary’.
4 omission of institutional names
4. Omission of institutional names
  • Proper names designating establishments like restaurants, bars, clubs, hotels and swimming pools are also frequently omitted in the process of translation.
  • Reasons for such omissions: translators do not feel it important to broaden the TL reader’s horizon, or do not want to give explanatory, additional information (e.g., York bar), or they think that the name of a swimming pool or a garage is an unnecessary detail, which has no importance from the point of view of the plot.
English ST: ... he had preferred himself a glass of stout and some oysters at the York bar... (Greene 472)
  • Hungarian TT :.. jómaga szívesebben fogyasztott volna egy pohár sört, néhány osztrigát egy kocsmában.(Szobotka 293)
the names of establishments, restaurants, bars etc. are often accompanied by place names
  • moreover, place names often substitute for the name of the establishment,
  • e.g., Ferihegy means ‘airport’, Lipótmező means ‘lunatic asylum’, Markó utca means ‘prison’
  • In such cases the place name is frequently omitted from the translation and the specific or the generic name of the establishment appears instead in the TL text.
English ST: ‘Yes, Pokey, where should we go?’, agreed the bridegroom. Pokey considered. ‘go to the Coney Island ‘, she said. (McCarthy 33)
  • Hungarian TT: – Na, Pokey, hová menjünk? – csatlakozott Harald. Pokey tűnődött. – Menjetek a Vidám Parkba – mondta.(Dezsényi 36)
Abbreviations of names are also frequently omitted in translation.
  • The use of the full name would obviously lead to an unnecessary lengthening of the text, and even so an explanatory translation would be necessary.
  • Thus abbreviations are often left out and generic terms are used instead in the translated text.
Hungarian ST: A házban nem szeret senki. A KIK nem hajlandó rendbehozatni a plafont, mely beázik. (Örkény 1. 31)
  • English TT: The tenants do not like me. The landlord refuses to fix my leaky tap.(Sollosy 23)
  • Commentary: KIK (abbreviation of Kerületi Ingatlan Kezelő Vállalat is replaced by landlord, thereby changing the original to a concept familiar to the TL reader.
5 omission of forms of address
5. Omission of forms of address
  • Forms of addresses and forms of courtesy are frequently omitted from translations, as they are highly characteristic of a culture and also representative of an age, therefore very nearly untranslatable meaningfully.
  • E.g., tekintetes (respectful), nagyságos (greatful), méltóságos (worthful), nagyméltóságú (of great dignity) kegyelmes (graceful), ranks: báró (baron), gróf (count), lovag (knight), herceg (prince), főherceg (high prince), and forms of courtesy, such as: alázatosan kérem (I humbly request), esedezem (I beseech), méltóztassék (be pleased to, deign to), szolgálatjára (at your service), etc.
Hungarian ST: – Szóval esedezem, igazgató úr, méltóztassék megnézetni, megvan-e az apám csontváza talán... (Csáth 11)
  • English TT: ‘I beg you, sir, have somebody look for it and find out if my father's skeleton still exists...’ (Kessler 184)
  • Commentary:esedezem (lit: beseech) is replaced by I beg you, while méltóztassék (lit: be pleased ) is omitted.
Prizes, honours and medals and the distinctions attached to them are among the most personal affairs in all cultures.
  • Kossuth díj (lit: Kossuth Prize) the highest state prize for excellence in the arts and sciences, means little to an English reader and was presumably omitted from the following translation for that reason.
Hungarian ST: Megcsókolta Zsolozsmait – egy Kossuth-díjas kritikust! – az orra hegyén, aztán visszament a kirakatba.(Örkény 1.210)
  • English TT: And with that she kissed Zsolozsmai on the tip of his nose and strolled back to her store window. (Sollosy 49)
The title of married women is another culture-bound phenomenon: e.g., Kászonyné Kakas Hanna may cause problems in translations, as the translator has to use either the married name
  • In the one-minute short stories by István Örkény, where every name represents a compressed biography, the name Kászonyné Kakas Hanna is eminently characteristic of the serious, established, energetic, scholarly woman from the capital, who kindly condescends to listen to the wrinkled, old peasant woman talking about goose blood. This shade of meaning, suggested by the form of the Hungarian name, is lost in translation:
Hungarian ST: Kászonyné Kakas Hanna barátságosan rámosolygott, és elébe tartotta a mikrofont. (Örkény 1. 150)
  • English TT: With a friendly smile, Mrs. Kászony held out the microphone. (András T., Erickson 63)
6 omission of references to sl
6. Omission of references to SL
  • Translators frequently omit SL references that would be incomprehensible to the TL reader.
  • In Frigyes Karinthy’s novelUtazás a koponyám körül (A journey round my skull) the writer tries to solve a crossword puzzle, in which the solutions are non-existing Hungarian proverbs. The text of the novel contains very wittily and authentic-sounding, though non-existing Hungarian popular sayings: "Ha csálé balra, jobbra bakafánt" and "Asszonysírás repcepogácsa". The translator, very naturally, does not undertake their translation.
Hungarian ST: Kitűnő, jóízű népi mondások ezek, csak éppen az a bajuk, hogy nem léteznek a valóságban...Ilyen közmondásai vannak: Ha csálé balra, jobbra bakafánt" vagy "Asszonysírás repcepogácsa". Most tessék elképzelni, milyen nehéz egy keresztrejtvényben rekonstruálni egy ilyen ismeretlen közmondást a hiányzó betűkkel. (Karinthy 272)
  • English TT: These are racy proverbs of the finest colloquial flavour. Their only drawback is the fact that they have no existence in reality. (...) The reader will sympathise with anyone who attempts to reconstruct an unknown proverb from the missing letters in a cross-word puzzle. (Barker 11)
7 omission of names of parts of the body
7. Omission of names of parts of the body

Predominant direction: from IEinto Hungarian

  • The cases of omission hitherto discussed were independent of L pair and of the direction of translation. In the previous sub-types, we dealt with omissions due to Lic reasons, but their reasons were not systemic differences, but the impossibility of rendering the linguistic references of one L in another L.
  • The final sub-type will deal with omissions for which we must seek the reason in the differences between the two Lic systems: lexical redundancy
  • Verbs have mandatory or optional complements in every L. The complements, mandatory only in the SL, naturally have to be omitted in the translation. In the case of activities involving a part of the body int (‘to wave with the hand’), megszorít (‘to press with the hand’) megsimogat (‘to caress with the hand’), English requires that the part of the body be mentioned, Hungarian generally does not.
English  Hungarian:
  • English ST: He sat by the candle in the middle of the room, tapping with his hands on the edge of the table. (Wilder 116)
  • Hungarian TT: Ült a gyertya mellett a szoba közepében, és dobolt az asztal peremén. (Kosztolányi 117)
summary comments on lexical omission
Summary comments on lexical omission

This operation must be used with the greatest caution, since the references to realia in the TL may be important for several reasons:

(1) the poeticfunction of SL realia (brand names, food, beverage, household goods or geographic names, etc.) may play an important role in the description of characters and situations.

(2) the atmosphere creating function of realia less familiar to the TL reader is to create 'local colour" (cf. sheriff, coyote, grizzly, prairie, savannah, mustang in Wild West novels).

(3) the informative function of SL realia is to inform us about the way of life of a SL community, their customs and habits.

(4) the culture-transmittingfunction of SL realia is to bring the SL and TL communities closer to each other and overcome communication difficulties between the two cultures.

2 lexical addition
2. Lexical addition

= is a standard transfer operation whereby new meaningful elements, which cannot be found in the SL text appear in the TL text.

  • The increase in the number of words in the TL text is also characteristic of another standard transfer operation, distribution of meaning, although there is a conceptual difference between the two operations.
  • While in the case of distribution there is no extra information in the TL text, and the same amount of information is divided into its elements, in the case of addition there will always be new elements in the TL text.
The reason for adding meanings is the same as for omitting them, namely differences in the background knowledge of the SL and TL readers.
  • Lexical additions are not obligatory transfer operations.
  • Examination of lexical addition as a transfer operation from the point of view of universal translation strategies (Baker 1993, Laviosa 1998), found that additions are typical manifestations of the universal translation strategy explicitation.

1. Addition in the case of brand names

2. Addition in the case of toponyms

3. Addition in the case of institutional names

4. Addition in the case of historical realia

5. Addition of names of parts of the body.

1 addition in the case of brand names
1. Addition in the case of brand names
  • English ST: Two Maltasers, Half pound Earl Grey. Cheese - Wensleydale or Double Gloucester? Yardley pre-shave lotion. (Greene 9)
  • Hungarian TT: Két csomag Máltai cukorka, negyed kiló Earl Grey tea. Sajtok – angol sajt? ömlesztett sajt? Yardley arcvízvillanyborotvához. (Ungvári 119)
2 addition in the case of toponyms
2. Addition in the case of toponyms

Explanatory additions are commonly used for geographical names(common in travel books)

English  Hungarian:

  • English ST: He was the son of a proprietor of a certain well-known cotton mill in Massachusetts. (James 107)
  • Hungarian TT: Caspar Goodwood atyja ismert pamutfonógyár tulajdonosa volt Massachusetts államban. (Balabán 164)
The toponym by itself does not give any information about the size of the settlement, and frequently does not reveal even whether it refers to a lake, a river, a mountain, a park or a district.
  • The English translator of Édes Anna, György Szirtes, used various additions to increase the English reader's understanding of the place in question, instead of omitting any of the Hungarian names.
Hungarian ST: Legalább Krisztinában ezt beszélték. (Kosztolányi 7)
  • English TT: Such at least were the rumors in the Krisztina area. (Szirtes 1)
  • Hungarian ST: ... és ott egy öreges úr, régi krisztinai polgár...meg is találta...(Kosztolányi 7)
  • English TT: ... where it was found by an elderly long-established resident of the Krisztina area...(Szirtes 1)
3 addition in the case of institutional names
3. Addition in the case of institutional names
  • Translators are more familiar with the culture of the TL than the majority of the TL readers by virtue of their occupation, know that in London, St. Pancras is a railroad station, Bentley a restaurant and Fortnum’s a high-class foodstore.
  • An explanatory addition will assist TL readers and will increase their understanding of the SL culture.
English  Hungarian:
  • English ST: Even today, when I went to the booking office at St. Pancras...(Osborne 218)
  • Hungarian TT: Még ma is, amikor jegyet váltottam a St. Pancras pályaudvaron… (Ottlik 219)
Translators are generally aware of the TL reader's level of knowledge about the SL culture. One can take it for granted that Scotland Yard is not unknown to the Hungarian reader, but it is unusual to refer to it in Hungarian simply as the Yard. Thus, in this instance, there is no need for an explanatory addition, but the full name should be restored by adding the missing word.
English ST: We'll send these up to the Yard and see what they have to say. (Christie 34)
  • Hungarian TT: Ezt felküldjük a Scotland Yardra, és majd meglátjuk mit szólnak hozzá. (Borbás 35)
4 addition in the case of historical realia
4. Addition in the case of historical realia
  • In the translation of historical realia (events, personalities, historical garments, armory, etc.) the amount of necessary omissions and additions depends on the direction of translation.
  • While many of the events of English, French, German and Russian history are well known in Hungary, the events of Hungarian history often require explanatory additions in English, French, German and Russian translations
Hungarian ST: Az orosz áttörés után csapódtunk egymáshoz, ... (Örkény 1. 102)
  • English TT: We were thrown together by the Russian offensive of 1944 .... (Sollosy 76)
Hungarian ST: Nem különben kalandos története van a magyar katolikus egyház legbecsesebb ereklyéjének, a ma a Bazilika egyik oldalkápolnájában őrzött Szent Jobbnak – a szent király mumifikálódott jobb keze ... (Bart 16)
  • English TT: The most highly revered relic of the Hungarian Catholic Church, the Holy Right – the clenched right hand of King Stephen preserved through the centuries – has a no less spectacular history. (Gorman 15)
5 addition of names of the parts of the body
5. Addition of names of the parts of the body

Predominant direction: Hungarian  IE

  • The only lexical addition, which is not triggered by cultural differences but linguistic ones, is the addition of names of parts of the body in H-IE translation.
  • In the case of activity involving certain parts of the body int, bólint (‘to nod’) , megszorít (‘to press’), megsimogat (‘to stroke’) in Hungarian it is not essential to mention the part of the body involved, unlike IE languages.
Hungarian English:
  • Hungarian ST: Nem szerette a feltűnést, az autóbuszon mindig az ablak felé fordult. (Örkény 1. 238)
  • English TT: She hated calling attention to herself so much that even on the bus she'd sit with her headturned to the window. (Sollosy 59)
3 exchange of meanings
3. Exchange of meanings

= is a standard transfer operation whereby a meaning in the SL text is replaced by another meaning in the TL text, which is seemingly different from the SL meanings but is logically related (e.g., an expression of reason may be replaced by an expression of consequences in TL).

  • The operation of exchanging meanings is a more radical departure from the original text than the operations described previously.
  • The translator not only broadens or narrows the source language meaning but endeavours to render the meaning of the source language sentence using completely different means (= logical expansion)
English ST: He had not heard her coming. (Greene 557)
  • Hungarian TT: Nem hallotta, hogy Mabel ott van a közelben. (Osztovits 311)
  • Commentary: The process of coming is replaced by the result in the Hungarian translation. (lit: He did not know that she was in the proximity).

1. Exchange of action for result

2. Exchange of result for action

3. Exchange of action for object

4. Exchange of object for action

5. Exchange of action for place

6. Exchange of place for action

7. Exchange of action for actor

8. Exchange of actor for action

9. Exchange of state for action

10. Exchange of cause for action

11. Exchange of sound for action

12. Static vs dynamic and dynamic vs static exchange

1 exchange of action for result
1. Exchange of action for result

English  Hungarian:

  • English ST: The Indian summer was nearly over, the clocks had all been altered, and you could feel the approach of winter concealed in the smallest wind. (Green 73)
  • Hungarian TT: A vénasszonyok nyara már csaknem véget ért, visszaállt a téli időszámítás, s a legenyhébb szél rezzenéseiben is már érezhető volt a készülő tél lehelete. (Ungvári 119)
  • Commentary: “action” in English (clocks had all been altered) isreplaced by “result” in Hungarian (téli időszámítás ‘winter time’).
7 2 exchange of result for action
7.2 Exchange of result for action

English  Hungarian:

  • English ST: I hate it when they are absolutely all gin. (Salinger 16)
  • Hungarian TT: Utálom, amikor telerakják ginnel. (Elbert 15)
  • Commentary: “result” in English (absolutely all gin) isreplaced by “action” in Hungarian (telerakják ginnel ‘fill up with gin’).
3 exchange of action for object
3. Exchange of action for object
  • English ST: ... he carried his body with him like something he hated. (Greene 412)
  • Hungarian TT: ...úgy cipelte magával a testét mint valami undorító tárgyat. (Borbás 226)
  • Commentary: “action” in English (something he hated) isreplacedby “object” in Hungarian (undorító tárgyat ’disgusting thing’).
4 exchange of object for action
4. Exchange of object for action
  • English ST: It was as if he had discovered my secret interest. (Greene 125)
  • Hungarian TT: Rajtakapott, amint titkos szenvedélyemnek hódolok. (Borbás 236)
  • Commentary: “object” in English (secret interest) isreplacedby “action” in Hungarian (titkos szenvedélyemnek hódolok ’I follow a secret passion’).
5 exchange of action for place
5. Exchange of action for place

Hungarian  English:

  • Hungarian ST: ... gőzvonat volt, a Baross utcán közlekedett, ahol laktunk. (Karinthy 273)
  • English TT: It was drawn by a steam engine and ran along the Baross utca, where my home was. (Barker 12)
  • Commentary: “action” in Hungarian (ahol laktunk ‘where we lived’) isreplacedby “place” in English (where my home was).
6 exchange of place for action
6. Exchange of place for action
  • English ST: I am not afraid of death, Lucius in your arms. (Greene 417)
  • Hungarian TT:Ha te ölelsz, Lucius, nem félek a haláltól. (Borbás 230)
  • Commentary: “place” in English (in your arms) isreplaced by “action ” in Hungarian (Ha te ölelsz. ‘if you embrace me’).
7 exchange of action for actor
7. Exchange of action for actor
  • English ST: ... and the bedclothes had been neatly turned back on one side, all ready for someone to get in. (Dahl 64)
  • Hungarian TT: ... és a paplan takarosan felhajtott sarokkal várja az új vendéget. (Borbás 65)
  • Commentary:“action” in English (someone to get in) isreplacedby “actor ” in Hungarian (az új vendéget ‘waiting for the new guest’).
8 exchange of actor for action
8. Exchange of actor for action
  • English ST:You sound so crazy. (Vonnegut 79)
  • Hungarian TT: Annyira őrülten hangzik, amit mond. (Szilágyi 72)
  • Commentary: “actor” in English (You) isreplacedby “action” in Hungarian ( amit mond ‘what you are saying’).
9 exchange of state for action
9. Exchange of state for action

English  Hungarian:

  • English ST: Yet weeks went by and the store stayed empty. (Malamud 14)
  • Teltek, múltak a hetek, és az üzlet csak nem talált bérlőre. (Balassa 13)
  • Commentary: “state” in English (stayed empty) isreplacedby “action” in Hungarian (nem talált bérlőre ‘did not find tenant’).
English ST: ... but surely Tobaccos are about as low as possible. (Green 126)
  • Hungarian TT: ... de annyi biztos, hogy a dohánynemű már nem mehet lejjebb. (Borbás 237)
  • Commentary: “state” in English (as low as possible) isreplacedby “action” in Hungarian (nem mehet lejjebb ‘can not go lower’).
10 exchange of cause for action
10. Exchange of cause for action

English  Hungarian:

  • English ST: He couldn't get his story out for laughter. (Greene 127)
  • Hungarian TT: Egyszerűen egy szót sem bírt kinyögni, annyira kacagott.(Borbás 237)
  • Commentary: “cause” in English for laughter isreplacedby “action” in Hungarian: annyira kacagott (‘laughed so much’).
11 exchange of sound for action
11. Exchange of sound for action
  • English ST: Behind him were the lights of the hall and the sound of a servant laying the table for dinner. (Greene 555)
  • Hungarian TT: Mögöttük kivilágított hall, egy szolgáló vacsorához terített. (Osztovits 313)
  • Commentary: “sound” in English (sound of a servant laying) isreplacedby “action” in Hungarian (terített ‘she layed the table for dinner’).
12 dynamic vs static and static vs dynamic exchanges
12. Dynamic vs. static and static vs. dynamic exchanges
  • All the exchanges described above can be categorised as either static or dynamic exchanges. When we exchange “action” for the “result”, “cause”, “place” or “object” of the action, etc. we choose a static approach over a dynamic one.
English  Hungarian:
  • English ST: He didn't want anybody to hear what he was going to say now. (Greene 125)
  • Hungarian TT: Nem akarta, hogy bárki is meghallja a következőket (Borbás 236)
  • Commentary: “dynamic approach” in English (what he was going to say now) isreplacedby “static approach” in Hungarian (a következőket ‘the followings’).
When we exchange the “result”, “object”, “cause” or “site” of an action for the “action” itself we do the opposite and move from a static approach to a dynamic one.
  • English ST: He couldn't get his story out for laughter. (Green 127)
  • Hungarian TT: Egyszerűen egyetlen szót sem bírt kinyögni, annyira kacagott. (Borbás 237)
  • Commentary: “static approach” in English (for laughter) isreplacedby “dynamic approach ” in Hungarian (annyira kacagott ‘he laughed so much’).