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4. Realia in translation general

            This section of the paper will make use of examples of Hungarian-English and Russian-English translation. Our goal is to dispel the stereotype of "untranslatability", major difficulties of translatability of realia. The general modell of rendering realia proposed here intends to show the abundance of translation possibilities. This model relies upon the synergy of intralingual and interlingual mechanisms, utilizing paradigmatic and syntagmatic linguistic structures and offers the following translation possibilities:


4.1. Translation strategy

Table 1





Paradigmatic Levels

Semantic Subordination


I. meganymy

drink, beverage


II. superonymy

alkohol, liquor

alkoholic drink

III. hyperonymy


brandy, cognac

IV. co-hyponymy






Definition (+ Commentary)


alkoholic drink

Alkoholic drink originating in Hungary, made from fruits or pressed grapes.


SL micro-text

Omission 1

Omission 2

Uncle Pista poured himself a glass of pálinka.

Uncle Pista poured himself a glass.

Uncle Pista  poured (for) himself.



Table 1 shows paradigmatic, syntagmatic and discourse levels of intralingual transformation. Rendering techniques like alcohol, liquor, drink, beverage; brandy, cognac, alcoholic drink, bottle, etc. offer translation solutions based and suggested on intralingual transformation patterns. Techniques of syntagmatic levels (such as paraphrasing) and discourse levels (eg. omission) provide additional translation possibilities. These patterns, included in English vocabulary spontaneously, can be well utilized in translational decisions as precedents.


4.2. Translation tactics


At this point it is worth getting an insight into the typology of basic translation techniques for rendering realia. The following examples fall into lexical, syntactic, and mixed categories.


Table 3


Lexical Techniques



pálinka - pálinka

Transliteration (TL)

pálinka  - pálinka

Transcription  (TC)

pálinka  - palinka


pálinka  - brandy


pálinka  - brandy


pálinka  -  Scotch

Semantic calque

 Kecskeméti fütyülős barackpálinka  - Kecskemét whistler abricot brandy


Kecskeméti fütyülős barackpálinka  - Kecskemét whistler abricot brandy

Syntactic Techniques



szatmári szilvapálinka  - Hungarian brandy from East Hungary

Lexical calque

статский генерал - Civil General


веник - switch of green birch twigs used in Russian bath house


Не снимая вицмундира, он лег на диван и ... помер. - Æ  He lay down on the sofa, and died. (A. Chekhov'."Death of a clerk")

Complex Techniques


TL/TC + analogue(s)

oбласть - oblast, province, region

TL + apposition

антоновка - antonovka apples

TL/TC + paraphrase

пельмени - pelmeni (Siberian meat dumplings)

Neologism + paraphrase

москвич - muscovite (inhabitant of Moscow)

TL/TC + definition

матрешка - matreshka (wooden doll in peasant dress with succesively smaller ones fitted into it)


попляшем камаринского - Let's have a dance 


Не снимая вицмундира, он лег на диван и помер. - He lay down on the sofa, just as he was, and died. (A. Chekhov'."Death of a clerk")


4.3. Translation techniques


4.3.1. Lexical techniques


Transference: Incorporation of unchanged source text realia into the target text. This can be used when ST and TT both belong to the same script system. Transference is recommended when translating opaque lexical items that play a significant role in the ST. It is a powerful foreignizer that may need additional semantic operations (apposition, paraphrase, definition; footnote, etc.). In Russian - English relation transference does not exist because of belonging to Latin and Cyrillic alphabets.


Transliteration: Rendering of source text realia by corresponding letters of the TL alphabet. Used when source text and target text belong to different script systems.  It is also a powerful foreignizer; may need additional semantic operations (apposition, paraphrase, definition; footnote, etc.). Examples: Иванов Иван Иванович - Ivanov Ivan Ivanovich, Андрей Малахов - Andrey Malakhov.


Transcription: Rendering of source text realia according to its SL pronunciation.  Used when source text and target text belong to different script systems. As a foreignizer; it may need additional semantic operations (apposition, paraphrase, definition; footnote etc.). Examples: Виталий Григорьевич Костомаров - Vitaly Grigoryevich Kostomarov, Евгений Михайлович Верещагин - Evgeny Mikhailovich Vereshchagin, Юрий Евгеньевич Прохоров - Yuri Evgenyevich Prokhorov, Весенняя улица - Vesennyaya ulitsa.  


            Transference, transliteration, transcription, adaptation, substitution and translation proper (the latter see below) are alternative translations of telling names. „Telling names often include language specific world play resulting in the translation apparently having no connection with the original form, still being relevant and understandable in the given work" (Kuttor 2010, 149).


Adaptation: Rendering of source text realia by a TL lexical item that was formerly transliterated from SL, and afterwards assimilated to the norms of TL. Foreignizer; may need additional semantic operations (apposition, paraphrase, definition; footnote, etc.). Adaptation is used when the realia or situation of original text are lacking in the target linguaculture. Examples below demonstrate that Hungarian or Russian readers may need additional information, given by adaptation.


Analogue: Rendering of source text realia (or other culture specific items) by a standard TL lexical item with similar but not equivalent meaning- For example, the English fuck is mostly translated into Russian by блин (pancake), черт (devil), твою мать (your mother) largely disregarding the dictionary equivalent ебать. The word блин [blin], lit. Pancake, sounds similar to блядь [blyad], lit. Whore) and serves as euphemism. Analogues are strong domesticators. They are helpful for bringing foreign culture items close to the target language reader or learner, but require careful handling. We don't recommend to use them for translation of key words of the SL text. For example: Bakony - Sherwood forest, Balaton - Brighton, ballagás - barackpálinka - brandy, betlehemesek - Carol singers, betyár (Rózsa Sándor) - Robin Hood, cf.:


Hungarian Realia

Transmission, transliteration


Word-by-word translation






Mountainous region north of lake Balaton




Freshwater lake in the Transdanubian region of Hungary



Apricot brandy

 Brandy distilled from apricots








Nativity players




Outlaw, highwayman: thief, murderer


Substitution: Replacement of the realia by TL correspondent with the same encyclopaedic meaning. It is a synonym of adaptation often making use of analogues. Subtitution is also a domesticator. Being a forceful domesticator, substitution deprives the original text of the initial couleur locale and may give it the character of target language's culture, e. g.: Charly - Karcsi, Joe - Józsi, Willy - Vili etc. Among the literary characters' names there are also examples of substitution, e. g.  Winnie-the-Pooh - Micimackó. The names of monarchs, emperors etc. may be exceptions, see: King George - György király, queen Elisabeth - Erzsébet királynő, princess Diana - Diana hercegnő, but William Shakespeare -  William Shakespeare, George Bush -  George Bush etc.

Modification: Rendering of source text realia by TL connotative correspondence. It is also ecommended for translating telling names. Domesticator.

Semantic calque: Rendering of source text realia by enlarging the semantic structure of TL dictionary correspondent, imitating the polysemantic structure of the SL lexical item. Domesticator.


Hungarian Realia

Transmission, transliteration


Word-by-word translation





Sauntering, wandering

Graduation parade in schools

Bánk bán

Bánk Bán

Palatine Bánk

Bánk, the Palatine



Bull's blood

Dark heavy red wine from the Eger region




Wallnut or poppy seed roll



Modulation: Rendering of source text realia by its intralingual synonymy. Foreignizer and/or domesticator.

Neologism: Rendering of source text realia by a newly coined lexical item. Foreignizers and/or domesticators.

Translation proper: Rendering the SL realia according to dictionary correspondence of its morphologic components. Foreignizer and/or domesticator.

Replacement: Rendering of source text realia by a lexical item different from its dictionary correspondent, based on a distant resemblance. Domesticator.

            At this point, we suggest an overview of some of the most significant approaches to translation techniques. We are going to consider the next scholars' approaches. Newmark's  (1988) suggestions for rendering realia: Transfer (First and surnames. If there is no connotations in the text.), translation (Names of monarchs, popes, saints), Naturalisation or Substitution (Rendering by existing corespontent,Geographical names). Tarnóczi's (1966) recommendations:  Transliteration (rendering proper names between languages of different scripts), explication (rendering proper names), modulation (rendering proper names). Schultze's (1991) views: substitution  (rendering by existing correspondent, semantic translation (in the case of connotative meaning), transfer (telling names), omission (use of a different title), addition (use of a different title), replacement (use of a different title). For rendering culture-bound lexical items, different world picture and differences between background knowledge Klaudy (1994, 1999) recommends concretisation of meaning, generalisation of meaning, contraction of meaning, splitting of meaning, lexical omission, lexical addition, transposition of meaning, substitution of meaning, antonymous translation, total tranformation of meaning, compensation. For rendering proper names (personal names, geographical names, nationality names, names of institutions and organisations) Vermes (2005) proposes the next translation techniques: transference (Duncan, Heyward, Alice, New York, Boston, Hudson), substitution (David - Dávid, Chingachgook - Csingacsguk, Uncas - Unkasz, England - Anglia, the West Indies - Nyugat-Indiai Szigetek), transliteration, translation proper (Hawkeye - Sólyomszem, Big Sarpent - Nagy Kígyó, The Long Rifle - Hosszú Puska), modification (Renard - Ravasz Róka, La Longue Carabine - Hosszú Puska, Bounding Elk - Fürge Szarvas), omission, supplementation, and generalisation (153-168).


4.3.2. Syntactic techniques


            Paraphrase: Rendering of source text realia by a set of its semantic components. Domesticator; Lecixal Calque: Rendering of transparent (semantically motivated) source text realia by its word for word translation. Domesticator and/or foreignizator. Definition: Rendering the source text realia by specification of its essential and sufficient semantic components.  Domesticator; mainly used in footnotes. Omission: Rendering the source text realia by zero correspondent. Domesticator; used on text level.


4.3.3. Complex techniques


The most frequently utilized complex techniques are as follows: TRL + analogue, TRL + apposition, TRL + paraphrase, neologism + paraphrase, TRL + definition, TRL + commentary, Generalisation (+ omission) and (Omission +) Compensation. Here we provide Russian-English culture-bounded material for further reference:


Translation of Russian realia into English


Lexical techniques


Transferece or Loaning



Водка - vodka, Евгений Онегин  - Evgeny Onegin


царь - tsar


боярин - boyar

Analogue or Substitution

царица  - queen, Иван  - John

Modification or Substitution

«Машенька» (Nabokov, 1925) - Mary (Nabokov 1970)

Semantic calque

Красная армия  - Red Army


Владимир Ильич  - Lenin


царица  - tsarina

Translation proper

Набатов - Alarmov

Syntactic techniques



баян - old Russian bard

Lecixal Calque

 статский генерал  - Civil General


веник  - switch of green birch twigs used in Russian bath house


Не снимая вицмундира, он лег на диван и ... помер.  - He lay down on the sofa, just as he was and died.

Комплексные способы


Transliteration + Transcription + Analogue

область  - oblast, province, region

 Transliteration +  apposition

антоновка  - antonovka apples

Transliteration + Transcription + Paraphrase

пельмени  - pelmeni (Siberian meat dumplings)

Neologism + Paraphrase

москвич  - muscovite (inhabitant of Moscow)

Transliteration + Transcription + Definition

матрешка  - matreshka (wooden doll in peasant dress with succesively smaller ones fitted into it)


Попляшем камаринского - Let's have a dance