Some Difficulties of Translating English Phrasal Verbs into Russian
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Some Difficulties of Translating English Phrasal Verbs into Russian Some Difficulties of Translating English Phrasal Verbs into Russian

                             Tulku m?c?bu centrs

 Diploma paper: Some Difficulties of Translating English Phrasal Verbs into

                                                            ХХХХХХХХХХ ХХХХХ

                                                   The 3rd year of education
                                                 Personal code: 211178-10916




             Diploma paper is devoted to a  very  current  theme  about  the
        translating of English phrasal verbs  to  Russian.  Translating  of
        English phrasal verbs is very important  part  of  the  science  of
        translation because it couldn’t be a real good correct  translation
        without correct translating of the phrasal verbs.
             The paper consists of four parts which touch upon questions  of
        the history of translation in  Russia  and  its  development,  some
        points of tranlsating theory, the consideration of some ways of the
        translation of English phrasal verbs, and the practical translation
        and its comments.


       Translation is a very ancient kind of human  activity.  As  soon  as
groups of people with  different  languages  were  born  in  human  history,
bilinguals appeared and they helped to communicate  between  collectives  of
different languages. With the development of the written  language,  written
translators join oral ones. They translated  different  texts  of  official,
religious and business character. Translation had the main  social  function
at first. It made possible inter-linguistic  communication  of  people.  The
spreading of the written translation opened to people  the  wide  access  to
cultural achievements of other nations; it  made  possible  interaction  and
inter-enrichment  of  literature  and  culture.  The  knowledge  of  foreign
languages let to read original books, but not everybody can  earn  at  least
one foreign language.

       My work is devoted to the basic points of theory of translation  and
the difficulties of translation of English phrasal verbs to Russian.

       Russian is a part of the East Slavonic family of languages  and  one
of the six official languages of the United Nations.  Russian  tradition  of
translation has a long history. Writing, literature  and  translations  were
introduced in Kievan Rus in a  relatively  mature  form.  The  Greek  priest
Cyril and his brother Methodius who  created  new  alphabet  (now  known  as
Cyrillic) were the first translators. Among their  first  translations  from
Greek were the New Testament, the Psalter and the  Prayer  Book.  After  Rus
embraced Christianity in 988, numerous translations were made  to  give  the
converts access to the  philosophical  and  ethical  doctrines  of  the  new
religion and to the church’s rituals and customs. In  the  17th  century,  a
great number of translations of predominantly  nonreligious  material  began
to  appear.  Scholarly  translations  included  topics  in   astronomy   and
astrology, arithmetic  and  geometry,  anatomy  and  medicine,  as  well  as
description of various animals. The 18th  century  proved  decisive  in  the
development of translation in Russia. Peter the  Great’s  political  reforms
greatly expanded Russia’s  economic  and  cultural  contacts  with  European
countries,  and  this  created  a  demand  for  numerous   translations   of
scientific and technical texts, as  well  as  works  of  fiction.  The  19th
century can be described as the golden age of Russian  translation.  If  the
previous age hade made translation a professional activity,  the  nineteenth
century raised this activity to the level of high art. The main  figures  of
translation of this  period  are  Nikolai  Karamzin  and  Vasily  Zhukovsky.
Alezander Pushkin and Mikhail Lermontov, the two great Russian  poets,  also
played a major role in  the  history  of  translation  in  Russia.  Although
translations occupied a relatively modest place in their poetry,  they  made
a significant contribution to the improvement  of  literary  translation  in
Russia. The years following  the  1917  Revolution  saw  a  new  upsurge  in
translation activity. The fact that the Soviet  Union  was  a  multinational
state contributed to the  growing  demand  fro  translation.  The  scale  of
translation among national  literatures  was  particularly  impressive.  The
years of perestroika radically changed the nature  of  translation  practice
in general and the market for translations in particular. The  abolition  of
censorship has made it possible to translate  many  books,  which  had  been
regarded as inadmissible on ideological or moral grounds. There has  been  a
greater demand of English translators and interpreters,  and  many  of  them
earn good money working for national or foreign firms,  or  joint  ventures.
English language comes to all spheres of life and translation  from  English
to Russian and back is very important part of successful  business  and  its

       Translation is the transformation  of  the  message  of  the  source
language to the message of the translating language. The  exact  translation
is impossible because of a great number  of  languages  differences  in  the
grammar and the number of words, besides, the distinction  of  the  cultures
can influence the way of translating and its  results.  Translation  is  the
art of revelation. It makes the unknown known. The translator has the  fever
and craft to recognize, recreate and reveal the works of the  other  artist.
Translation is an art between tongues.

       Some translators tried to define the row of  demands  of  which  the
good translators should be. The French  humanist  E.  Dolet  (1509  –  1546)
considered  that  a  translator  should  keep  the  following   five   basic
principles of translation:
        1. Ti understand the  content  of  the  translating  text  and  the
           intention of the author perfectly;
        2. To know the language he translates  from  and  the  language  he
           translates on perfectly;
        3. To avoid the tendency to translate word  for  word,  because  it
           misrepresents the original content and spoils the beauty of  its
        4. To use the translation the speech forms in general use;
        5. To  reproduce  the  general  impression  in  corresponding  key,
           produced  by  the  original,  by  choosing  and  placing   words

       In 1790 the Englishman A. Tayler formed the  following  requests  to
the translation in his book “The principles of the translation”:
    1.  The  translation  should  transfer  the  ideas  of   the   original
    2. The style and way of the exposition should be the  same  as  in  the
    3. The translation should  be  read  with  the  same  easiness  as  the
       original works.

       The translation is the multifaceted phenomenon and some  aspects  of
it can be the subjects of the research of different sciences. In the  frames
of  the  science  of   translation   psychological,   literature   critical,
ethnographical and other points of translation as well  as  the  history  of
translation in one or other country are  being  studied.  According  to  the
subject of research we use the knowledge of the psychology  of  translation,
the theory of  art  and  literary  translation,  ethnographical  science  of
translation, historical science of translation and so on. The main place  in
the modern translation belongs to linguistic translation, which studies  the
translation as linguistic phenomenon. The  different  kinds  of  translation
complement each other and strive to detailed description of the activity  of
the translation.

       The theory of translation puts forward the following tasks:
        1. To open and describe the common linguistic basis of  translation,
           that is to show which peculiarities  of  linguistic  systems  and
           regularities of the language  operation  are  the  basis  of  the
           translating process, make this process possible and determine its
           character and borders;
        2. To determine the translation as the  subject  of  the  linguistic
           research,  to  show  its  difference  from  the  other  kinds  of
           linguistic mediation;
        3. To  work  out  the  basis  of  classification  of  kinds  of  the
           translating activity;
        4. To open the essence of the translating equivalence as  the  basis
           of the communicative identity  of  the  original  texts  and  the
        5. To work out  the  common  principles  and  the  peculiarities  of
           construction of the peculiar and special translation theories for
           the different combinations of languages;
        6. To work out the common principles of the  scientific  description
           of  the  translation  process  as  actions  of  a  translator  of
           transforming the original text to the translating text;
        7. To open the influence on the translating process of pragmatic and
           social linguistic factors;
        8. To determine the idea “the translating norm” and to work out  the

          It is common knowledge that  in  order  to  provide  an  adequate
translation, the translator must be able to sense nuances in  the  semantics
of both the  source-language  and  target-language  texts.  English  phrasal
verbs (e.g. give up, break in, fall out) are of  great  interest  to  me  in
this respect because they possess quite a number  of  semantic,  grammatical
and stylistic peculiarities, sometimes  making  their  accurate  translation
into Russian difficult. Of course, in dealing with the translation  of  such
lexical units into his or her native language, the  translator  can  consult
the  appropriate  bilingual  dictionary,  but  what   about   the   profound
comprehension of why this or that phrasal verb is translated only  this  and
not any other way?

           To get a good idea of English phrasal verbs'  semantic  nuances,
let us first look at their conceptual features.  In  theory,  phrasal  verbs
are generally considered to be idiomatic  combinations  of  a  verb  and  an
adverbial particle. The exact status of the latter is still  being  debated,
scholars being divided on whether it is  an  adverb,  prepositional  adverb,
postpositional prefix, special part of speech, etc.  However,  here  we  are
interested only in the features of adverbial particles.

          In general, the main function  of  phrasal  verbs  is  conceptual
categorization of reality in  the  speaker's  mind.  They  denote  not  only
actions or states as "ordinary" verbs do, but also  specify  their  spatial,
temporal or other characteristics.  This  ability  to  describe  actions  or
states  more  precisely,  vividly  and  emotionally  is  determined  by  the
adverbial components of phrasal verbs. By  combining  with  these  elements,
verbs  of  broader  meaning  are  subjected  to  a  regular  and  systematic
multiplication of their semantic functions. While the English  verb  has  no
consistent structural representation of aspect, adverbial  particles  either
impart an additional aspective meaning to the base verb (e.g.  the  durative
verb sit merges with the particle down into  the  terminative  phrasal  verb
sit down) or introduce a lexical modification to its fundamental  semantics.
In most cases adverbial elements denote the  general  spatial  direction  of
the action or express its qualitative or quantitative characteristics,  like
beginning  (set  out),  duration  (bum  along),  completion   (think   out),
intensity (hurry up), and so on.

          Obviously, such semantic peculiarities of English  phrasal  verbs
must influence the process of their translation into the  Russian  language,
which has a highly developed system  of  verbal  prefixes.  In  addition  to
their function that is  analogous  to  that  of  English  prefixes,  Russian
verbal prefixes resemble  English  adverbial  particles  in  their  semantic
functions, also indicating various qualities of  actions  and  states.  Like
adverbial particles in English, Russian prefixes are lexically  strong.  For
example,  the  Russian  prefix  "раз-"  denotes  1)  division   into   parts
(раскрошить); 2) distribution, direction of action in  different  directions
(разъехаться); 3) action  in  reverse  (разминировать);  4)  termination  of
action or state (разлюбить); 5)  intensification  of  action  (расплясаться)
[The Oxford Russian Dictionary]. Thus,  in  translation  from  English  into
Russian, the meaning of the English adverbial component of the phrasal  verb
is mostly conveyed by using the Russian prefix that reflects  the  character
of the described action or state most accurately. To a greater degree,  this
refers rather to nuances of semantics than grammar.

          When dealing with translation of English phrasal  verbs  or  pre-
analysis of their adverbial elements' meaning, one  should  always  keep  in
mind  their  astounding  polysemy,  which  sometimes  borders  on  homonymy.
Compare the following: take in 4 (to receive sb in one's home with  welcome,
as a guest) and take in 12 (to deceive sb) (Longman  Dictionary  of  Phrasal
Verbs). It holds true for Russian prefixes as well, the same ones  rendering
different shades of meaning in different uses (see examples above). That  is
why it seems almost impossible  to  create  a  consistent  rigid  system  of
lexical correspondences between  English  adverbial  particles  and  Russian
prefixes, without encountering numerous debatable problems.

          Strictly speaking, proper translation of English phrasal verbs to
a high degree depends on the context in which they are used, which  suggests
the appropriate interpretation of the described action.  Having  stated  the
specific characteristics of the action denoted by a  certain  phrasal  verb,
one can  seek  a  Russian  counterpart  prefix,  which  is  the  closest  in
rendering the same idea and meets the lexical and  grammatical  requirements
of translation into the target language.

           For example, the sentence "The attack had gone across the field,
been  held  up  by  machine-gun  fire  from  sunken  road,  encountered   no
resistance in the town, and reached the bank of the river" [E. Hemingway,  A
Way You'll Never Be] should be translated as «Атака развертывалась  на  лугу
и была приостановлена пулеметным  огнем  с  дорожной  выемки,  не  встретила
отпора в городе и закончилась на берегу  реки».  According  to  the  Longman
Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs, in the above context the phrasal verb  hold  up
has the following meaning: 2. to delay (sth or sb). The Russian prefix "при-
" adequately renders the idea that the attack was delayed just for a  while.

          The sentences "There was a little fire there. Nancy built it  up,
when it was already hot inside" [W. Faulkner, That  Evening  Sun]  have  the
following translation: «В очаге еще были горячие угли,  она  их  раздула,  и
пламя вспыхнуло". The adverbial particle up in the  phrasal  verb  build  up
imparts the  idea  of  increasing  the  size  of  the  fire  and  shows  the
intensification of the action. According to  the  definition  given  in  the
Oxford Russian Dictionary, the most appropriate  Russian  prefix  should  be
"раз-", indicating the intensification of action.

          For the sentence "Three or four times while I was  going  through
their envelopes, I was tempted to get  up  and  make  a  formal  protest  to
M.Yoshoto" [J.  D.  Salinger,  De  Daumier-Smith's  Blue  Period]  the  best
translation would be "И когда я просматривал их работы, меня не  раз  так  и
подмывало вскочить и обратиться с официальным протестом к мосье Йошото",  as
there is a proper semantic  correspondence  between  the  adverbial  element
through in the phrasal verb going through and the Russian prefix  "про-"  in
the verb "просматривал", both denoting exhaustive action.

         English phrasal verbs can  be  highly  idiomatic,  their  meanings
being unpredictable from the sum of their constituents' meanings (e.g.  take
in (to deceive), lay down (to build), let on (to tell  a  secret).  In  such
cases, where the context or  professional  experience  fail  to  reveal  the
sense of a phrasal verb, a good explanatory or bilingual dictionary  can  be
of great help to the translator. For example, for a  person  who  is  not  a
native speaker of English, in  the  sentence  "He  liked  to  break  in  his
assistants slowly" neither the context, nor the  adverbial  element  of  the
phrasal verb  hint  at  the  real  meaning  of  the  combination  break  in.
According to the Longman Dictionary  of  Phrasal  Verbs,  the  phrasal  verb
break in has the following "unexpected" meaning: 4. to help (smb) to  become
accustomed (to work, etc.) . The Russian edition  of  this  very  dictionary
(Английские  фразовые  глаголы.   Англо-русский   словарь,   Russkiy   Yazyk
Publishers, Moscow, 1997) treats this meaning in the same  way:  4.  вводить
(кого-л.) в курс (новой работы и т.п.).

           I think that a thorough study and  consequent  understanding  of
semantic correspondences in the English and Russian verbal  systems  can  be
quite a powerful tool in the translator's arsenal.

                            Practical translation

       The Porsche crept along the  street  like  a  sleek  black  panther.
Hugging the curb, its engine purred so  deep  and  low  it  sounded  like  a
predator’s growl.

       Marnie Hibbs was kneeling in the fertile soil of  her  bed,  digging
among the impatiens under the ligustrum bushes and cursing the  little  bugs
that made three meals a day of them, when  the  sound  of  the  car’s  motor
attracted her attention, she glanced at it over her shoulder, then  panicked
as it came to stop on front of her house.

       “Lord, is it that late?” she  muttered.  Dropping  her  trowel,  she
stood up and brushed the clinging damp earth of her bare knees.

       She reached up to push her dark bangs off her  forehead  before  she
realized that she still had on  her  heavy  gardening  gloves.  Quickly  she
peeled them off and dropped them beside the trowel, all the  while  watching
the driver get out of the sport car and start up her front walk.

       Glancing at her wristwatch, she saw that she hadn’t  lost  track  of
time. He was just very early for their appointment, and  as  a  result,  she
wasn’t going to make a very good first impression. Being  hot,  sweaty,  and
dirty was no way to meet a client. And she needed this commission badly.

       Forcing a smile, she moved down the sidewalk to greet him, nervously
trying to remember if she had left the  house  and  studio  reasonably  neat
when she decided to do an hour’s worth of yard  work.  She  had  planned  to
tidy up before he arrived.

       She might look like  the  devil,  but  she  didn’t  want  to  appear
intimated. Self-confident friendliness  was  the  only  way  to  combat  the
disadvantage of having been caught looking her worst.

       He was still several yards away  from  her  when  she  greeted  him.
“Hello”, she said with a bright smile.

       “Obviously we got our signals switched. I thought you weren’t coming
until later.”
       “I decided this diabolical game of yours had gone on long enough.”

       Marnie’s sneakers skidded on the old concrete walk as she came to an
abrupt halt. She titled her head in stunned surprise. “I’m sorry, I –“

       “Who the hell are you, lady?”
       “Miss Hibbs. Who do you think?”
       “Never heard of you. Just what the devil are you up to?”
       “Up  to?”  She  glanced  around  helplessly,  as  though  the  giant
sycamores in her  front  yard  might  provide  an  answer  to  this  bizarre
       “Why’ve you been sending me those letters?”

       He was clearly furious, and her lack of comprehension only seemed to
make him angrier. He bored down on her like a hawk on a field  mouse,  until
she had to bow her back to look up at him. The summer sun  was  behind  him,
casting him in silhouette.

       He was blond, tall, trim, and dressed in casual slacks and  a  sport
shirt – all stylish, impeccably so. He was wearing opaque  aviator  glasses,
so she couldn’t see his eyes,  but  if  they  were  as  belligerent  as  his
expression and stance, she was better off not seeing them.

       “I don’t know what you are talking about.”
       “The letters, lady, the letters.” He strained the  words  through  a
set of strong white teeth.
       “What letters?”
       “Don’t plat dumb.”
       “Are you sure you have got the right house?”

       He took another step forward. “I have got the right house”, he  said
in a voice that was little more than a snarl.

       “Obviously you don’t.” She didn’t like being put on  the  defensive,
especially by someone she’d never  met  over  something  of  which  she  was
totally ignorant. “You are either crazy or drunk, but in  any  case,  you’re
wrong. I’m not the person you are looking for and I demand  that  you  leave
my property. Now.”

       “You were expecting me. I could tell by the way you spoke you me.”
       “I thought you were the man from the advertising agency.”
       “Well, I’m not.”
       “Thanks God.” She would hate having to do business with someone this
irrational and ill-tempered.
       “You know damn well who I am”, he said, peeling off the sunglasses.

       Marnie sucked in a quick, sharp breath and fell back a step  because
she did indeed know who he was. She  raised  a  hand  to  her  chest  in  an
attempt at keeping her jumping heart in place. “Law”, she gasped…

                                             Sandra Brown “Long Time Coming”

       Порше медленно крался  вдоль  улицы,  как  будто  черная  лоснящаяся
пантера. Обнимая обочину, его двигатель урчал подобно рычанию  хищника.

       Марни Хиббс стояла на коленях на  плодородной  почве  своей  клумбы,
копаясь под кустами и проклиная маленьких жучков, которые едят их трижды  за
день, когда звук мотора машины привлек ее внимание.  Она  взглянула  на  нее
через плечо и занервничала, так как машина остановилась перед ее домом.

              -  Боже,  неужели  я  опоздала?  –  пробормотала  она.  Бросив
                лопатку, она встала и стряхнула прилипшую к ее голым коленям
                сырую землю.

       Она подняла руки, чтобы поправить свою  темную  челке  на  лбу,  как
поняла, что на ней до сих пор одеты тяжелые  садовые  перчатки.  Она  быстро
стянула их и кинула к ллопатке, все продолжая смотреть на водителя,  который
вышел из спортивной машины и появился на дорожке.

       Взглянув на свои наручные часы, она  поняла,  что  не  виновата.  Он
просто  приехал  на  встречу  слишком  рано  и,  как   результат,   она   не
подготовилась как следует, чтобы произвести хорошее  впечатдение.  Она  была
разгоряченной, встпотевшей и грязной, и это  был  не  самый  лучший  вид,  в
котором можно встречать клиента. А эта встреча была ей очень нужна.

       С натянутой улыбкой она вышла на тротуар поприветсвовать его, нервно
вспоминая оставила ли она  дом  и  студию  в  порядке,  когда  решила  часик
поработать во дворе.  Она  планировала  навести  порядок  до  того,  как  он

       Она могла выглядеть как чертенок, но ей совсем не хотелось выглядеть
испуганной. Самоуверенное дружелюбие было единственным способом скрасить  то
состояние, в котором она была застигнута.

       Он был в несколькоих ярдах от нее когда она сказала:

              - Привет!
              - Очевидно наши сигналы выключены., я думал, вы не подойдете.
              - Я решила, что эта  ваша  чертовская  игра  продолжается  уже
                достаточно долго.

       Полукеды Марни спотыкались на старой дорожке, как будто она хромала.
Она наклонила голову в ошеломляющем удивлении.

              - Извините, я...
              - Кто вы?
              - Мисс Хиббс. А кто вы думали?
              - Никогда не слышал о вас. Просто какого черта вы это делаете?
              - Что делаю? – она беспомощно  оглянулась  вокруг,  как  будто
                гигантские платаны в ее переднем дворе могли  предложить  ей
                ответ на этот странный вопрос.
              - Почему вы посылали мне те письма?
              - Письма?

       Он был взбешен и ее недопонимание, казалось,только  делало  его  еще
более злым. Он сверлил ее глазами  как  ястреб  полевую  мышь  пока  она  не
выпрямилась и не посмотрела на него.  Летнее  солнце  было  за  его  спиной,
обрамляя его силуэт.

       Он был блондин, высокий, стройный и  был  одет  в  обычные  брюки  и
спортивню рубашку – все  стильно  и  так  безупречно.  На  нем  были  темные
пилотские очки, так что она не видела его глаз, но если бы  они  были  такие
же воинственные, как и его выражение лица и  стойка,  она  предпочла  бы  не
видеть их.

              - Я не знаю о чем вы говорите.
              -  О  письмах,  леди,  о  письмах,  -  он  выговаривал  слова,
                показывая ряд крепких белых зубов.
              - Каких письмах?
              - Не валяйте дурака.
              - Вы уверены, что обратились по адресу?

       Он сделал шаг вперед.

              - Я уверен,что обратился  по  адресу,  -  сказал  он  голосом,
                немного похожим на рычание.
              - Очевидно нет, - ей  не  нравилось  защищаться,  особенно  от
                того, кого она раньше никогда не видела и кто был  полностью
                невежественен к ней. – Вы или ненормальный, или пьяный, но в
                любом случае, вы ошибаетесь. Я не тот человек, кого вы ищете
                и я прошу вас покинуть мой дом. Сейчас.
              - Вы ждали меня. Я могу судить об этом по той манере,  как  вы
                разговаривали со мной.
              - Я думала,что вы человек из рекламного агенства.
              - Нет.
              - Слава Богу! – ей  бы  не  понравилось  иметь  дело  с  таким
                неразумным человеком с ужасным характером.
              - Вы отлично знаете кто я, - сказал он, снимая очки.
       Быстрый, острый вздох засосал Марни и она отступила на  шаг,  потому
что она на самом деле знала, кто он. Она подняла  руки  к  груди  в  попытке
удержать выпрыгивающее сердце.

              - Луи! – задыхаясь произнесла она...

                                      Сандра Браун «Настанут лучшие времена»

       As  we  can  see,  phrasal  verbs  are  widely  spread  in   English
literature.  Translating  phrasal  verbs  of  this  passage   I   had   some
difficulties because of difference in the meaning given in a dictionary  and
the contextual meaning. For example, the verb “to reach  up”  is  translated
like “протянуть руку  ввeрх”,  but  this  meaning  isn’t  suitable  for  the
context. The sentence would sound like  “Она  протянула  руку  вверх,  чтобы
поправить челку” and it isn’t correct for the Russian language, because  she
didn’t stretch her arms.
       The next phrasal verb is “to push off”.  It  is  translated  in  the
dictionary like “отталкивать, смываться” and  this  meaning  isn’t  suitable
for the word “челка” in Russian completely.
       The phrasal verb “to peel off” is translated in the dictionary  like
“слезать, облезать”. We can meet this verb twice in the  passage:  “to  peel
off gloves” and “to peel off glasses”. Both in the first  and  second  cases
the  dictionary’s  meaning  isn’t  suitable  for   the   translation.   It’s
impossible “слезать перчатки” and “облезать очки”.  Therefore  I  translated
them like “стягивать” in the first case and “снимать” in the second.


       Discerned translating problems and difficulties  don’t  exhaust  the
all  variety  of  complications  in  translation.  They  reflect  only   the
fundamental, the most typical situations.  Translating  of  English  phrasal
verbs is very important part  of  the  science  of  translation  because  it
couldn’t be a real good correct translation without correct  translating  of
the phrasal verbs. Every translator should pay attention to the  translation
of the phrasal verbs and work hard  with  each  phrasal  verb.  English  and
Russian lexical systems are  so  different  that  they  demand  the  special
approach to translating of each verb according to its contextual meaning.

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