How to Translate Neologisms



-- Neologisms are new words, word-combinations or fixed phrases that appear in the language due to the development of social life, culture, science and engineering. New meanings of existing words are also accepted as neologisms.

-- Nonce words are new words made up by writers and publicists for a special literary effect. They are rarely adopted into common language.

A problem of translation of new words ranks high on the list of challenges facing translators because such words are not readily found in ordinary dictionaries and even in the newest specialized dictionaries.

Dictionaries lag behind changes in languages. New words, figurative words and phrases, slang and nonce words are coined in the language so swiftly that no dictionary can and should register them immediately. Indeed, the number of neologisms appearing in mass media during a year amounts to tens of thousands in developed languages. For example:

English:
schoolteacherly, promo-tainment, overdescribe

Russian:
студент-платник (a student who pays tuition fees), путинизация (putinization - a process of extension of influence of the second President of Russia V. Putin), сейл (a clearance sale)

Ukrainian:
рекапіталізація (recapitalization), тусівник (a party-goer), меседж (a message), відпіарити (to promote)

Therefore, translators have to find out the meaning of very new neologisms mainly based on the context (a sentence, paragraph, chapter or even the whole document) in which the neologism is used.

Neologisms are usually formed on the basis of words and morphemes that already exist in the language. The analysis of these words and morphemes is an additional helpful tool in finding out the meaning of the neologism. For this purpose, the translator should remember word-formation rules, in particular the following:

1. Giving words new affixes (i.e. suffixes, prefixes, and endings attached to words/word stems to form new words):

English:
losingest, googling, telescam

Russian:
постсоветский (post-Soviet) , мобильник (a mobile phone), наркотизм (narcotism)

Ukrainian
підсектор (a subsector), антиглобаліст (an antiglobalist), медійник (a mass media employee)

2. Creation of new meaning of existing words:

English:
footprint – an impact on our planet

Russian:
мыло ("an email" – the new IT-slang meaning; "a soap" – the traditional meaning)

Ukrainian:
евакуація ("towing services" – the new meaning, "an evacuation" – the traditional meaning)

3. Loanwords (mostly professional and scientific terms borrowed from other languages):

English:
glasnost (from Russian: publicity, openness), ponzu (from Japanese: a sauce made with soy sauce and citrus juice), chuddies (from Hindi: underpants)

Russian:
бизнес-ланч (from English: a business lunch), секьюрити (from English: a bodyguard), спичрайтер (from English: a speech writer)

Ukrainian:
аутсорсинг (from English: outsourcing), інтернет-банкінг (from English: Internet-banking), ґаджет (from English: a gadget)

4. Semi-abbreviations (words made up of parts of other words), abbreviations and acronyms:

English:
biosecurity, nomophobia (an abbreviation for "no-mobile-phone phobia" which means a fear of being out of mobile phone contact), FSU (the Former Soviet Union)

Russian:
СПИД (AIDS), страхагент (an insurance agent), туроператор (a tour operator)

Ukrainian:
нунсівець (a member of the Ukrainian NU-NS political bloc), ЛЖВ (PLHIV - People Living with HIV), політтехнолог (a political technologist)


Ways of translation of neologisms:

- Selection of an appropriate analogue in a target language (UFO (unidentified flying object) => НЛО (неопознанный летающий объект))

- Transcription and transliteration (disk jockey => диск-жокей)

- Loan translation and calque (wet market => мокрый рынок)

- Explanatory translation and descriptive translation (blue sky laws => законы различных штатов, регулирующие выпуск и размещение ценных бумаг в целях защиты покупателей от махинаций с ценными бумагами)

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_____________________________________________________________________ Website owner: Irina Lychak, self-employed freelance linguist, Russian translator, Ukrainian translator, Kiev (Kyiv), Ukraine

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