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The Importance of Adequacy in Translation

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Khatuna Beridze photoThere are both linguistic and extralinguistic aspects that hinder to reach adequacy in fiction translation. Semantic information of the text differs essentially from the expressive-emotional information of the text but they have one common trait: both can bear and render extralinguistic information. Extralinguistic information often becomes a stone to stumble over by a translator, as it is a lingvoethnic barrier for a fiction translator; Misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the extralinguistic information means to misrepresent:

1.      either what was actually communicated in the SL text, what means the pragmatic core of the SL text may be lost and therefore in the TL text ambivalence may arise for the recipient reader.

2.      or there may be misrepresented the author's communicative intention, the social context of the scene/situation as well as disposition or relationships of the communication act participants. 

Both semantic and pragmatic inadequacies are flaws which can pose a recipient reader to the problem or cultural misunderstanding and adequate comprehension of the TL text.

A good example could be brought from C. P. Snow's novel "Time of Hope" (p. 28) "Gaping at some dirty tea leaves, reading the cards and looking at each other's silly hands and..." - let the sentence have been translated word-to-word into my native Georgian or in any other language - the language community of which is totally unaware that in Britain clarvoyance experience admits fortunetelling on tea leaves, - it would have lost sense.

In this case the translator successfully copes with the cultural realie, which is changed for the associative realie: coffee - a trivial method of fortunetelling in Georgia.

There are also word-realies that are not translatable and as V. S. Vinogradov points out, many of them turn into borrowings. Such a word-realie may be an exotism, which in general, is transcribed in translation.

Vlakhov S. and Florin S. argue that actual realies which bear national colouring are transcribed as well - therefore it basically means, that the rule is applicable with foreignisms in the SL text.

Let's see now what is the result of blind-guidence with the rule:

"Good day, Iskander-effendi! Do you remember me? "

The man regarded him closely.

"I think you work as druggist in Otten's pharmacy...Yes, yes, at Otten's on Sololaki street...Am I mistaken? I've met you somewhere, but I can't recall for sure what it is you do..."

Zarandia handed him his calling card.

"This does not say that I am also chief of the secret service."

The exerpt is from the English translation of the famous Georgian novel "Data Tutashkhia " by Ch. Amiredzhibi ( p. 59). The only word-realie, bearing national color, exotic and transcribed is effendi! Originally it is a Turkish honorific suffix of the first name of the addressee. But should an average English reader be culture-sensitive enough to identify Turkish honorifics and distinguish them from Georgian ones? If not, the reader is bound to err identifying through the TL text effendi! as an authentic Georgian honorific. And the reader definately comes to this conclusion - the logic of it is simple: there is no footnote definition for this transcribed realie.

Even more inadequate it would be to transpose marker of distance with the marker of solidarity.

The Georgian address marker of distance: "Batono" is the transcribed equivalent for "sir", "mister"; This is a word-realie for the English language community and it expresses distance, respect, formality (degree of formality depends on the context) but may also stand as a marker of phatic communion in the Georgian language community.

However, in the English translation of the Georgian novel "Data Tutashkhia" this marker is transposed with "friend":

"Now, Bekar-friend, why so coarse! Carrion...That's not nice, not nice at all. Such expressions! You could just say deceased, passed ever, dearly departed...we have so many fine words in our language!

(Ch. Amiredzhibi, Data Tutashkhia, p. 37).

The SL text suggests that Bekar (Georgian proper name for a male) and Data Tutashkhia, arranged a night-swoop to force out their money from a debtor and use coarse language to intimidate him. The SL texts address "Batono" suggests no implication of solidarity, although the persuasive tone and implication of irony are pulpable in the speech act. But it is quite natural if we argue that "Batono" and "friend" are not even partial contextual synonyms in this case.

a. Originally there were two markers in the SL text speech act: 1. "Batono" 2. "She katso" - one expressing distance, another expressing solidaity.

"She katso" - is the marker of familiarity in the SL text speech act, viz. word-to-word translation: "she katso"(transliterated from Georgian) = "you man", would sound rather rude for the English speaking community, but is has an absolutely neutral connotation in Georgian in this particular context, being a marker of stratified speech. 

b. The translator of the TL text speech act unified them under one address: "Bekar - friend".

The translator assumes that marker of distance is neutralized with the next marker of solidarity("she katso"); As a result of this assumption, the selected marker "friend" suggests to the recepient reader that the attacked individual is either a. a courageous person who dares to address the armed-to-teeth robber with rather cynically sounding marker of solidarity for the context -"friend".

Or b. in Georgia friends attack each other and rob.

However, both are false assumptions.

The translator had to transliterate the distance marker as a realie (and comment on its meaning in the footnotes) vs. markers of irony (indicators of which are euphemisms in the rest part of the speech act). Juxtaposition of formal-informal markers in the same speech act would indicate to the stratified speech and therefore would adequately depict to the social context and the disposition of the speaker to the addresee.

Conclusions :

The conception of extralinguistic information preconditions and presupposes correct observance of its pragmatic meaning for adequate representation to TL reader. Misrepresentation and ambivalency in the TL text arise due to the selection of semantically inadequate lexical unit for the pragmatic meaning of the SL lexical unit.

The overtone of irony in the SL speech act may serve as a wrong indicator to the translator to misinterpret and misrepresent the social context of the scene/situation as well as dispositions or relationships of the communication act participants.

Therefore, a non-vernacular translator of the SL text may wrongly assume that alternated markers of distance and solidarity in the same speech act can allow selection only of the marker of solidarity in the TL translation, thus leading the recepient reader to even wronger assumptions about the scene-situation.

Realies, which are markers of solidarity and bear national colouring should be transcribed or transliterated, but supplied with comments in the footnotes.

Realies which are markers of either solidarity or distance in the language community other than of the SL text native reader and are represented in the SL text as foreignisms, should be transcribed or transliterated, but be also supplied with comments in the footnotes to the TL reader;

A non-vernacular translator of the SL text may not thoroughly understand the extralinguistic information contained in the SL text, misinterpret the pragmatic meaning of a lexical unit or wrongly deduct on the choice of the adequate correspondence of a SL lexical unit in the TL text.


1. Sakvarelidze N. Issues on Translation Theory Tbilisi University Press, 2001 (In Georgian)

2. Bates, Elizabeth. 1976. Language and Context: The Acquisition of Pragmatics. New York: Academic.

3. Chabua Amiredzhibi, Data Tutashkhia, English translation, Raduga Publishers, 1985, Translated by Antonina W. Bouis

Crystal D. Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, Cambridge University Press, 1989.

4. Влахов С. Флорин С. Непереводимое в переводе, Москва, издательство “Международные отношения”, 1980.

5. Newmark, P. Approaches to Translation, Prentice Hall International, UK 1988.


Khatuna Beridze, lecturer of the translation theory and practice at the Batumi State University. Graduated from the Tbilisi State University. Research interests: language variables and translation, stratified speech translation, situational variation of language and translation, code-switching, diglossia: dialect and translation, Recent interests: multimedia, telecommunication, audiovisual translation. Email: khatunaberidze at


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