Creating a Russian-English Translator’s/Interpreter’s Dictionary of Lexical Items Missing from Russian-English Dictionaries

Alexander L. Burak, Moscow State University

A learner of Russian, journalist or translator/interpreter working into and out of Russian faces the double problem of either not finding a needed lexical item in a Russian-English dictionary (gruzit′ kogo-libo, prokručivat′ den′gi, etc.) or finding an entry for it which gives only a definition/description of the item in question, i.e., mainly its denotative meaning (e.g. prixvatizacija, bodun, etc.—see Shlyakhov and Adler; Marder). Knowing only the denotative meaning of a lexical item is not sufficient to achieve an effective translation.

The aim of the dictionary that is being created is to supply some of the numerous lexical items that are widely used and yet are missing from Russian-English dictionaries and to suggest their variants of translation into American English that cover their connotative meaning as well as denotative meaning. The interconnected aspects of connotative meaning are emotive charge, evaluation, register/style and dialect (regional, social and temporal). Some additional variants of translation are also added to lexical items that are represented in Russian-English dictionaries inadequately.

A group of three co-authors (two native Russians and one native American) selects prospective lexical items from the everyday flow of speech, checks them against twelve authoritative Russian-English dictionaries (see Bibliography), filters out the items that are adequately represented and makes a list of those that are missing or whose variants of translation can be added to. As of July 24, 2000 about eight hundred such items have been collected and included in the dictionary together with about two thousand English translation variants.

The distinctive features of the proposed version of a translator’s/interpreter’s dictionary are: 1) a simplified system of lexicographical notation, 2) Russian entries with their definitions/descriptions/explanations in Russian positioned opposite their English translations with definitions/explanations in English, 3) a gradation of variants of translation consisting of a) “practical” equivalents, b) communicative analogues and c) definitions/descriptions positioned and typed in a special way, and 4) a page-referenced index of all the variants of English translations contained in the dictionary at the back of the dictionary. As a result, the dictionary is a “four-in-one” monolingual-cum-bilingual Russian-English/English-Russian dictionary expected to be of help to translators, interpreters, journalists and learners of Russian and English.

The project outlined above belongs in the realm of lexicography, which has a long and distinguished history in Russian applied linguistics. The type of dictionary under discussion is expected to form a useful part of any intermediate- or upper-level Russian language or studies course for English speakers as well as provide an up-to-date addition to the existing Russian-English and English-Russian lexicographical sources. The dictionary can also be used as a methodological tool to illustrate ways of achieving different degrees of equivalence in translation/interpreting classes.

Work on the first edition of the dictionary is expected to be completed by the end of 2000.

1. Russko-anglijskij slovar′. Pod obščim rukovodstvom A. I. Smirnickogo. Okolo 50,000 slov. Izdanie dvenadcatoe, stereotipnoe. M.:Russkij jazyk.

2. The New Oxford Russian Dictionary. Russian-English and English-Russian. Over 180,000 words and phrases. 290,000 translations. Oxford University Press, 1993.

3. A. M. Taube i dr. Russko-anglijskij slovar′. 100,000 slov i slovosočetanij. Pod redakciej R. S. Dagliša. Izdanie sed′moe. M.: Russkij jazyk, 1987.

4. Stefen Marder. Dopolnitel′nyj russko-anglijskij slovar′. Novaja leksika 90-x godov. Okolo 29,000 slov. M.: Veče, 1995.

5. Vladimir Shlyakhov and Eve Adler. Dictionary of Russian Slang and Colloquial Expressions (Russkij slang). Approximately 4,500 words and their popular meanings that you won’t find in standard Russian-English dictionaries. New York: Barron’s, 1995.

6. Novyj bol′šoj russko-anglijskij slovar′. V trex tomax. Bolee 300,000 slov. Pod obšč. ruk. P. N. Makurova, M. S. Mjullera, V. Ju. Petrova. M.: Lingvistika, 1997.

7. S. I. Lubenskaja. Russko-anglijskij frazeologičeskij slovar′. M: Jazyki russkoj kul′tury, 1997.

8. D. I. Kveselevič. Russko-anglijskij frazeologičeskij slovar′. Okolo 7,000 frazeologičeskix edinic. M: Russkij jazyk, 1998.

9. I. A. Uolš, V. P. Berkov. Russko-anglijskij slovar′ krylatyx slov. Ok. 1,900 edinic. 2-e izd., stereotip. M: Russkij jazyk, 1988.

10. V. V. Gurevič, Ž. A. Dozorec. Frazeologičeskij russko-anglijskij slovar′. Okolo 1,000 frazeologičix edinic. M: Vlados, 1995.

11. S. S. Kuz′min, N. L. Šadrin. Russko-anglijskij slovar′ poslovic i pogovorok. M: Russkij jazyk, 1989.

12. Kveselevič D. I., V. P. Sasina. Russko-anglijskij slovar′ meždometij i reljativov. M: Russkij jazyk, 1990.