Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Translation of phrases

Translation of phrases
An idiom (Latin: idioma, "special property", "special feature, special phrasing"), is a combination of words that has a figurative meaning, due to its common usage. An idiom's figurative meaning is separate from the literal meaning or definition of the words of which it is made. Idioms are numerous and they occur frequently in all languages. There are estimated to be at least 25,000 idiomatic expressions in the English language.
In phraseology, idioms are defined as a sub-type of phraseme, the meaning of which is not the regular sum of the meanings of its component parts. John Saeed defines an idiom as collocated words that became affixed to each other until metamorphosing into a fossilised term. This collocation of words redefines each component word in the word-group and becomes an idiomatic expression. Idioms usually do not translate well; in some cases, when an idiom is translated directly word-for-word into another language, either its meaning is changed or it is meaningless.

Translating idioms

Literal translation (word-by-word) of opaque idioms will not convey the same meaning in other languages. Idioms from other languages that are analogous to kick the bucket in English are listed next:
French: manger des pissenlits par la racine 'to eat dandelions by the root' or casser sa pipe 'to break his pipe' or passer l'arme à gauche 'pass the weapon to the left',
Russian: сыграть в ящик (s'igrat' v yaschik) 'to play into the box', дать дуба, откинуть копыта
Finally, in Brazil, the expression chutar o balde 'to kick the bucket' has a completely different meaning: it means 'to give up on a difficult task (since a person coming to the end of their patience might kick a bucket in frustration)'.
Some idioms, in contrast, are transparent. Much of their meaning does get through if they are taken (or translated) literally. For example, lay one's cards on the table meaning to reveal previously unknown intentions, or to reveal a secret. Transparency is a matter of degree; spill the beans (to let secret information become known) and leave no stone unturned (to do everything possible in order to achieve or find something) are not entirely literally interpretable, but only involve a slight metaphorical broadening. Another category of idioms is a word having several meanings, sometimes simultaneously, sometimes discerned from the context of its usage. This is seen in the (mostly un-inflected) English language in polysemes, the common use of the same word for an activity, for those engaged in it, for the product used, for the place or time of an activity, and sometimes for a verb.
Idioms tend to confuse those unfamiliar with them; students of a new language must learn its idiomatic expressions as vocabulary. Many natural language words have idiomatic origins, but are assimilated, so losing their figurative senses, for example, in Portuguese, the expression saber de coração 'to know by heart', with the same meaning as in English, was shortened to 'saber de cor', and, later, to the verb.

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