Translating english paremii into kazakh

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Pavlodar State University after S. Toraigyrov

Among paremii an important place is occupied by proverbs and sayings. The study of ways of their translation is topical for the reason that they render the peculiarities of culture and way of life of the people, and for better intercultural communication their comparison is important. It is necessary to render the meaning which they have in different languages. The use of proverbs, sayings in speech creates the atmosphere of relaxed communication, communication with understanding the culture and way of life of the other people and creates conditions for better mutual understanding. The value and beauty of proverbs being the reflection of popular wisdom the peoples preserve throughout ages. The proverbs and sayings reflect their attitude to labor, war and peace, friendship, loyalty, love for the motherland, home, joy, grief, misfortune, truth and lie, honesty, etc.

The linguistic differentiation between proverbs and sayings is based on their semantic characteristics, both being a short, stable in speech use, rhythmically organized dictum of an edifying character that fixes a many-century experience of the people and has the form of a grammatically rounded sentence (simple or composite). They express a proposition, sometimes - an inducement («Готовь сани летом, а телегу зимой»). Both proverbs and sayings are subject to variance («Знает / чует кошка, чье мясо съела»).

Proverbs have a literal («Близок локоть, да не укусишь») and a transferred meaning, or only a transferred meaning («Горбатого могила исправит»). Sayings have only a literal meaning («Насильно мил не будешь»). In folkloristics, a saying is also understood as a figurative expression that is not a rounded sentence, and as a matter of fact is identified with a phraseologism («ни к селу ни к городу», «бить баклуши», «как снег на голову», «выводить на чистую воду»), though the problem of including proverbs and sayings in the phraseological system remains unsolved.

Between proverbs and sayings there is a whole class of expressions that combine the properties of both: part of the words is used in their direct meaning, and part (real or potential phraseological units) are semantically transferred («Мать да дочь — темная ночь»).

The generalizing character of a saying is supported by the type of their syntactic structure: many of them are generalizing-personal or infinitive sentences, impersonal sentences, inductive sentences («Ешь с голоду, а люби смолоду», «Нет худа без добра». The verb is usually in the form of Present Tense thus showing the usual or habitual character of the action [1].

A proverb (from the Latin proverbium), also called a byword or nayword, is a simple and concrete saying popularly known and repeated, which expresses a truth, based on common sense or the practical experience of humanity. They are often metaphorical. A proverb that describes a basic rule of conduct may also be known as a maxim. If a proverb is distinguished by particularly good phrasing, it may be known as an aphorism.

Proverbs are often borrowed from similar languages and cultures, and sometimes come down to the present through more than one language. Both the Bible (Book of Proverbs) and medieval Latin have played a considerable role in distributing proverbs across Europe, although almost every culture has examples of its own.

The study of proverbs is called paremiology (from Greek παροιμία - paroimía, "proverb") and can be dated back as far as Aristotle. Paremiography, on the other hand, is the collection of proverbs. A prominent proverb scholar in the United States is Wolfgang Mieder [2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8]. He has written or edited over 50 books on the subject, edits the journal Proverbium, has written innumerable articles on proverbs, and is very widely cited by other proverb scholars. W. Mieder defines the term proverb as follows:

A proverb is a short, generally known sentence of the folk which contains wisdom, truth, morals, and traditional views in a metaphorical, fixed and memorizable form and which is handed down from generation to generation. [3, p. 24]

Subgenres include proverbial comparisons (“as busy as a bee”), proverbial interrogatives (“Does a chicken have lips?”) and twin formulas (“give and take”).

Another subcategory are wellerisms, named after Sam Weller from Charles Dickens’s “The Pickwick Papers. They are constructed in a triadic manner which consists of a statement (often a proverb), an identification of a speaker (person or animal) and a phrase that places the statement into an unexpected situation. Ex.: “Every evil is followed by some good,” as the man said when his wife died the day after he became bankrupt.

Yet another category of proverb is the "anti-proverb" [8]. In such cases, people twist familiar proverbs to change the meaning. Sometimes the result is merely humorous, but the most spectacular examples result in the opposite meaning of the standard proverb. Examples include, "Nerds of a feather flock together", "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and likely to talk about it," and "Absence makes the heart grow wander".

A similar form is proverbial expressions (“to bite the dust”). The difference is that proverbs are unchangeable sentences, while proverbial expressions permit alterations to fit the grammar of the context [9].

Another close construction is an allusion to a proverb, such as "The new broom will sweep clean." [9]

Typical stylistic features of proverbs are [10]:

  1. alliteration (Forgive and forget)

  2. parallelism (Nothing ventured, nothing gained)

  3. rhyme (When the cat is away, the mice will play)

  4. ellipsis (Once bitten, twice shy)

In some languages, assonance, the repetition of a vowel, is also exploited in forming artistic proverbs, such as the following extreme example from the language Oromo of Ethiopia: kan mana baala, a’laa gaala (“A leaf at home, but a camel elsewhere"; somebody who has a big reputation among those who do not know him well).

Internal features that can be found quite frequently include:

  1. hyperbole (All is fair in love and war)

  2. paradox (For there to be peace there must first be war)

  3. personification (Hunger is the best cook)

To make the respective statement more general most proverbs are based on a metaphor. Further typical features of the proverb are its shortness (average: seven words), and the fact that its author is generally unknown (otherwise it would be a quotation).

In the article “Tensions in Proverbs: More Light on International Understanding” [11], Joseph Raymond comments on what common Russian proverbs from the 1700s and 1800s portray: Potent antiauthoritarian proverbs reflected tensions between the Russian people and the Czar. The rollickingly malicious undertone of these folk verbalizations constitutes what might be labeled a ‘paremiological revolt.’ To avoid openly criticizing a given authority or cultural pattern, folk take recourse to proverbial expressions which voice personal tensions in a tone of generalized consent. Thus, personal involvement is linked with public opinion. Proverbs that speak to the political disgruntlement include: “When the Czar spits into the soup dish, it fairly bursts with pride”; “If the Czar be a rhymester, woe be to the poets”; and “The hen of the Czarina herself does not lay swan’s eggs”. While none of these proverbs state directly, “I hate the Czar and detest my situation” (which would have been incredibly dangerous), they do get their points across.

Proverbs are found in many parts of the world, but some areas seem to have richer stores of proverbs than others (such as West Africa), while others have hardly any (North and South America) [6, pp. 108,109].

Proverbs are often borrowed across lines of language, religion, and even time. For example, a proverb of the approximate form “No flies enter a mouth that is shut” is currently found in Spain, Ethiopia, and many countries in between. It is embraced as a true local proverb in many places and should not be excluded in any collection of proverbs because it is shared by the neighbors. However, though it has gone through multiple languages and millennia, the proverb can be traced back to an ancient Babylonian proverb [12, p. 146].

Proverbs are used by speakers for a variety of purposes. Sometimes they are used as a way of saying something gently, in a veiled way [13]. Other times, they are used to carry more weight in a discussion; a weak person is able to enlist the tradition of the ancestors to support his position. Proverbs can also be used to simply make a conversation/discussion more lively. In many parts of the world, the use of proverbs is a mark of being a good orator.

The study of proverbs has application in a number of fields. Clearly, those who study folklore and literature are interested in them, but scholars from a variety of fields have found ways to profitably incorporate the study proverbs. For example, they have been used to study abstract reasoning of children, acculturation of immigrants, intelligence, the differing mental processes in mental illness, cultural themes, etc. Proverbs have also been incorporated into the strategies of social workers, teachers, preachers, and even politicians. (For the deliberate use of proverbs as a propaganda tool by Nazis, see [2].)

There are collections of saying that give suggestions for how to play games, such as dominoes [14] and the Oriental board game go [15]. However, these are not prototypical proverbs in that their application is limited to one domain.

The study of English proverbs is available in a number of sources. Among them are: a seminal work in the field of Archer Taylor “The Proverb”, later republished together with an index, by W. Mieder [16]. A good introduction to the study of proverbs is W. Mieder's 2004 volume, “Proverbs: A Handbook” [6]. W. Mieder has also published a series of bibliography volumes on proverb research, as well as a large number of articles and other books in the field. Stan Nussbaum has edited a large collection on proverbs of Africa, published on a CD, including reprints of out-of-print collections, original collections, and works on analysis, bibliography, and application of proverbs to Christian ministry [17]. Paczolay Gyula has published a collection of similar proverbs in 55 languages [18]. W. Mieder edits an academic journal of proverb study, Proverbium (ISSN: 0743-782X). A volume containing articles on a wide variety of topics touching on proverbs was edited by W. Mieder and A. Dundes [7].

As classification, and especially demarcating differentiation, between proverbs and sayings, on the one hand, proverbs and sayings and phraseological units (PU), on the other, is rather vague, ways of translating proverbs and sayings must include techniques of translating both figurative and non-figurative units. Translation (T) of non-figurative units is subject to the usual ways of rendering described in the denotational and semantic-transformational models of translation. T of figurative units is subject to the rules deduced by researchers of translation [19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24 and other].

In this respect, any bilingual theory of translation analyzes:

  1. peculiarities of semantics of PUs, relevant for their T;

  2. types of equivalents, that a translator may use;

  3. criteria for the choice of an equivalent in accord with the character of the source language (SL) unit.

The central place in describing phraseological equivalents is occupied by the problem of equivalent reproduction of figurative PUs. The semantics of such units presents a complicated informative complex that has denotative, as well as connotative components. The most important of them from the point of view of the choice of an equivalent in the target language (TL) are the following:

  1. transferred, or figurative component of the PU meaning;

  2. denotative component of the PU meaning, the basis for the image;

  3. emotional component of the PU meaning;

  4. stylistic component of the PU meaning;

  5. national-ethnic component of the PU meaning;

In the Russian PU «ездить в Тулу со своим самоваром» on the basis of the direct meaning of the phrase, presupposing the Receptor’s knowledge of the fact that it is in Tula where best samovars were made, there is a transferred meaning “to carry smth to where there is very much of it”. The PU renders negative attitude to the denoted (one should not do so), has a colloquial character and a very clearly expressed national reference (Tula and samovar may be used to create an image only in the Russian language). The indicated components of the meaning are not equal from the point of view of their reproduction in the target text (TT). The most important are 1, 3, and partially 4. An equivalent correspondence should by all means reproduce the transferred sense of the SL PU, express the same emotional attitude (positive, negative or neutral) and have the same (or at least neutral) stylistic characteristics. Retention of the direct meaning of the PU is important not only by itself, but also for retention of imagery. That’s why if necessary the transferred sense may be rendered in the T with the help of another image, and sometimes it becomes necessary to use a one-plane correspondence, devoid of figure, to retain the main (1) component of meaning.

Reproduction of the national ethnic component of the PU meaning retains the national colour of the original, but may sometimes make the transferred meaning vague and prevent achieving equivalence, because the target language receptor (TR) may not have the necessary background knowledge of the source language receptor (SR) (may not know that Tula is famous for its samovars). An essential influence of national-ethnic component on the choice of the translational equivalent is displayed in the fact that TL units having this component are excluded from the number of equivalents. We know already that the TT is associated with the source (S), speaking a different language, and appearance of a nationally coloured PU in the translation usually proves inappropriate, making an Englishman speak about Russian realias (Tula, samovar), or exclaim «Вот тебе, бабушка, и Юрьев день!», presupposing that his interlocutors know what it means [23, pp. 152-155].

There are 4 main types of equivalents to SL PU:

1. In the first type of correspondence the whole complex of meanings of a SL unit is retained. In this case in the TL there is a PU, coinciding with the SL PU in its direct and transferred meanings. As a rule, the are found among the so-called international PU, borrowed from some third language, ancient or modern: the game is not worth the candle - игра не стоит свеч; to pull chestnuts out of the fire for smb. - таскать каштаны из огня для кого-л.; The sword of Damocles - Дамоклов меч.

These equivalents reproduce all the aspects of the English idioms semantics and can be used in most contexts.

2. In the second type of correspondence the transferred meaning is rendered in the TL with the help of a different image, that is, has a different literal meaning, all other components of the PU semantics being retained: to get up on the wrong side of the bed - встать с левой ноги; make hay while the sun shines - куй железо, пока горячо; to turn back the clock - повернуть вспять колесо истории; A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush - Лучше синицу в руки, чем журавля в небе.

The use of such correspondence ensures a high degree of equivalence, if the TL PU is not nationally coloured.

3. The third type of correspondence is made by blue-print translation of the SL PU: Не was not fit to carry water for her - Он был недостоин и воду таскать для нее; to put the cart before the horse - ставить телегу впереди лошади; Necessity is the mother of invention - Необходимость - мать изобретательности.

Such correspondence are used in cases when the SL PU image is transparent enough, and its reproduction in the T will allow the TR to understand the rendered transferred meaning.

4. If the ST uses a phraseological fusion, where the connection between the transferred and the direct meanings is not quite clear, blue-print translation will ruin the sense of the PU. In such cases the translator has to reject the use of a PU in the TT and to confine by the explication of the major (transferred) sense of the SL PU: to mind one's P's and Q's соблюдать осторожность to dine with Duke Humphrey ходить голодным, остаться без обеда to grin like a Cheshire cat широко улыбаться

Though the origin of such PUs may be known through special research, it is as a rule, is not well known to SR, and their transferred meaning is not derived from the image itself. Blue-print translation of the image is used to render the national-ethnic component of the SL PU: to carry coals to Newcastle - возить уголь в Ныокастл; Rome was not built in a day - Рим не был построен за один день (не сразу Рим строился); Не will not set the Thames on fire - Он Темзы не подожжет.

The translator however will have to see to it that the TR should understand the image, and if necessary, supply the respective references and notes.

Not infrequently the translator has a choice between different types of PU correspondence. According to contextual conditions he may prefer to lose the national-ethnic component: Не will not set the Thames on fire Он пороха не изобретет; or not use the TL PU for difference in emotional-stylistic characteristics: Can the leopard change his spots? - Разве может леопард избавиться от пятен на своей шкуре? (instead of the rude Горбатого могила исправит or Черного кобеля не отмоешь добела).

A good attempt at translating English proverbs and sayings was taken by prof. Akhmetova S.K. in her recently published dictionary of English proverbs, sayings phraseological units and ways of their rendering into Russian, Kazakh and German [25].

Analysis of correspondences of English proverbs and sayings and their Kazakh counterparts shows the same regularities.

1. Some of the proverbs and sayings have an international character and have a similar expression in both the languages: Strike the iron while it is hot - Темірді ќызєан кезде соќ. All the components of a SL unit are preserved.

2. Other proverbs and sayings render the same idea expressed by different lexical units: When pigs fly - Тїйеніѕ ќўйрыєы жерге; ешкініѕ ќўйрыєы кґкке жеткенде. The denotative component in the TL unit differs from that of the SL. The transferred meaning is rendered in the TL with the help of a different image, i.e. has a different literal meaning, all other components of the PU semantics being retained.

3. When there is no proverb or saying that expresses the meaning of the English unit it may be blue-printed in the Kazakh language: When poverty comes in at the door, love flies out of the window - Есіктен кедейлік кірсе, махаббат терезеден ўшады.

4. When the connection between the transferred and the direct meanings is not quite clear, and blue-print translation will ruin the sense of the PU, the translator has to confine himself to the explication of the transferred sense of the SL PU: To cross the Rubicon - Шешім ќабылдау.

Thus, we can draw some conclusions on the ways of rendering English proverbs and sayings into the Kazakh language:

    1. English proverbs are translated by one of the four abovementioned ways.

    2. Sayings bordering on phraseological units (to kick the bucket) are rendered by the fourth way.

    3. The majority of sayings, so far as they are marked by literal meaning, are either blue-printed, or rendered within the framework of the situational or semantic-transformational models of translation.


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  2. Mieder W. Proverbs in Nazi Germany: The Promulgation of Anti-Semitism and Stereotypes Through Folklore // The Journal of American Folklore 95, 1982, No. 378. - Pp. 435-464.

  3. Mieder W. International Proverb Scholarship: An Annotated Bibliography, with supplements. - New York: Garland Publishing, 1993.

  4. Mieder W. Wise Words. Essays on the Proverb. - New York: Garland, 1994.

  5. Mieder W. International Proverb Scholarship: An Annotated Bibliography. Supplement III (1990-2000). Bern, New York: Peter Lang, 2001.

  6. Mieder W. Proverbs: A Handbook. (Greenwood Folklore Handbooks). Greenwood Press, 2004.

  7. Mieder W., Dundes A. The wisdom of many: essays on the proverb. (Originally published in 1981 by Garland.) Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1994.

  8. Mieder W., Litovkina A.T. Twisted Wisdom: Modern Anti-Proverbs. DeProverbio, 2002.

  9. Adams O.S Proverbial Phrases from California // Western Folklore, Vol. 8, No. 2, - 1949. - Pp. 95-116.

  10. Arora S. The Perception of Proverbiality (1984)// De Proverbio – Electronic Journal of International Proverb Studies. Proverbs, Quotations, Sayings, Wellrisms (at

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  12. Pritchard, James. The Ancient Near East, vol. 2. - Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1958.

  13. Obeng, S. G. The Proverb as a Mitigating and Politeness Strategy in Akan Discourse. Anthropological Linguistics 38(3), 1996. – Pp. 521-549.

  14. Borajo D., Rios J., Perez M. A., Pazos J. Dominoes as a domain where to use proverbs as heuristics. //Data & Knowledge Engineering 5. - 1990. – Pp. 129-137.

  15. Mitchell D. Go Proverbs (reprint of 1980). - Slate and Shell, 2001.

  16. Taylor A. The Proverb and an index to "The Proverb", with an Introduction and Bibliography by Wolfgang Mieder. Bern: Peter Lang, 1985.

  17. Nussbaum S. The Wisdom of African Proverbs (CD-ROM). - Colorado Springs: Global Mapping International, 1998.

  18. Paczolay G. European Proverbs in 55 Languages. - Veszpre’m, Hungary, 1997.

  19. Комиссаров В.Н., Рецкер Я.И., Тархов В.И. Пособие по переводу с английского языка на русский. – Ч. I. Лексико-фразеологические основы перевода. – М.: Изд-во лит-ры на ин.языках, 1960. – 176 с.

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  22. Комиссаров В.Н, Коралова А.Л. Практикум по переводу с английского языка на русский, - М., 1990.

  23. Комиссаров В.Н. Теория перевода (лингвистические аспекты). - М., 1990.

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  25. Ахметова С. Г. Словарь английских пословиц, поговорок, фразеологических единиц и способов их передачи в русском, казахском и немецком языках. — Алматы: Изд-во "Мектеп", 2009. — 224 с.

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