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The Specifics of Translation of Authorial Proper Names from english into Russian

Кузнецова А. А.

Казанский (Приволжский) федеральный университет (г. Казань)

In linguistical point of view, proper names are of great interest for studying them, particularly, in the context of phraseological units and authorial word-building (neologisms, nonce words). In the case of authorial word-building, proper names are created artificially and especially for some reasons that authors have to create a certain effect in their texts. These very units are the object of our research.

As is it generally known, the main function of proper names is to single out an object from the range of similar ones and to identify and individualise it.

In the context of phraseological units or authorial word-creation, proper names perform an important liguocultural function, which reflects the specifics, national colour, traditions and contain a lot of background information. This aspect was mentioned in the research conducted by the linguists Biktagirova Z. A. and Khazieva-Demirbash G. S. F., who studied proper names in the context of Tatar and Turkish proverbs. They noted that proper names in proverbs not only individualise, but also generalize a person, thus, they get additional information [Биктагирова 2012: 271–274].

It is considered, that in the process of choosing or creation of a name for a character authors refer to its morphemic and phonemic structure, consult books of names, learn its origin, historical facts about the name, take into account conventional perception and understanding of it in various cultures, which will influence the image of a character in the text, characterize their social position, national status, estimate actions of a character and even provoke readers’ guesses and suppositions about character’s appearance.

But when we are speaking not about choosing a name from the range of existing ones, but about creating a new one on special purpose, it is necessary to mention, that the components of these names can be various words belonging to different categories and languages, and they can be united into one word according to the rules of word-building or against them. The most frequently used methods of word-building are composition, affixation, compounding, contamination, fusion and also the means of using a usual word in inappropriate context, this occasion usage of the word makes it a semantic nonce word.

It is very important to understand that there is a possibility of misunderstanding or lack of understanding of authorial proper names, which non-native speakers may have. That is why we decided to analyze the components of such lexical units in the language and reveal the main problems a translator may face in the process of recreation of the same image in the translated text as it was in the original.

For our research we chose a popular nowadays series of books about Harry Potter written by J. K. Rowling and its translations made by “ROSMAN” publishing house, a translator M. Spivak. Rowling’s books are full of nonce words and authorial proper names. The writer did a great job choosing and creating the name for the characters and places, she combined several languages in one word, studied history and mythology to provide the names with a background image, and as a result, the names describe the characters and places expressively and in details, they make reference to historical figures or other fiction characters, thus she endowed each character with certain qualities.

In this article we would like to consider the authorial proper names from the point of view of their structure and the analysis of their translation into Russian. We also divided them into the following groups: names of peoples, animals and creatures, places, holidays and trademarks.

Names of people can be divided into proper names and nicknames.

Albus Dumbledore – the headmaster of a school of wizardry and magic named Hogwarts. As we now, the word “albus” is of Latin origin and means “white”. This is obviously connected with the appearance of the character, who wears long grey hear and beard and glowed. Moreover, white colour is associated with something pure and good.

We suppose, the surname of the character was created using the words “dumb” and “d’ore” which is of french origin and means “golden/of gold”. Obviously, the surname appeals to the proverb “silence is golden”. But during the process of translation it was discovered that the translators preferred to use the method of transcription and translated it to the Russian as “Альбус Дамблдор”. Here the background information is available for understanding just for those readers who know the meaning of the name components.

Similarly to this name there are some more examples of authorial proper names translated by means of transcription/transliteration: Argus Filch (argus – mythological multiocular giant, filch – to steal. The name characterises character’s job as a keeper) was translated as “Аргус Филч”; Xenophilius Lovegood (from Greek xenos-strange, phile - love. This name precisely reflects the hobbies of the character) was translated as “Ксенофилиус Лавгуд”; Salazar Slytherin (the surname “Slytherin” was possibly made of the words “sly” and “slither” joined together and adding the suffix -ing. This creates an image of a snake which is close to the character) – “Салазар Слизерин”; Godric Gryffindor (Godrich = “God+rich”, Griffindore= griffina mythological creaturewith an eagle head and the body of a lion. This endows the character with wit of an eagle and courage of a lion) – “Годрик Гриффиндор”.

Nearly Headless Nick – the name of a ghost, whose head was half-chopped off. Here the translators managed to retain the depiction of a character and translated it using calque translation as “Почти Безголовый Ник”.

One more example for calque translation is Helga Hufflepuff, which was translated as “Хельга Пуффендуй”, but in the Russian version the components are rearranged.

The example of nickname is Mad-Eye (a wizard with an artificial eye, which could move every which way), which was also translated using calque translation as “Грозный Глаз”.

The meaning of charactonyms can be revealed only within the context, so if it is provided, a translator should ensure the understanding of the meaning to the readers. A translator should find the method if not to make the meaning transparent and obvious, than to hint at it. Thus, the surname of a professor Sprout was translated by ROSMAN as “профессор Стебль”, but M. Spivak gave her version - “профессор Спаржелла”. The latter variant really sounds interesting, taking into account the fact, that the character is a witch. Here we can say that the translator tried to created her own equivalent in order to retain the image of the character. Names of animals and creatures are very difficult for translation, mainly because J. K. Rowling created them basing on the play of words, consonance, onomatopoeia, associations and subtext. For example, the name of Harry potter’s owl – Hedwig, which is appealing to St. Hedwig, who was a patron of orphans (what exactly refers to the main character). In ROSMAN translations we can fins two variants “Хэдвиг” (the method of transcription) and “Букля” (possibly, the latter variant is based on the componential analysis of “head” + “wig” and the method of calque translation was used), but M. Spivak translated the name as “Хэдвига”, using transcription and adding the ending “-a” and making the emphasis that the owl is a female.

When translating the texts which contain the proper names of animals translator should aim at their orientation on a certain situation and bright motivation of figurative nomination. If the motivation of such names is based on the context, it should be reflected in the translation either.

Names of places (toponyms) sound like real geographical names of places in England. Before translating them, a translator should identify what exactly it is: if the toponym is a product of authorial word-building, a translator should recreate the name basing on Russian word-building elements, for example, the made-up name of the village Ottery St. Catchpole was translated by M. Spivak as “Колготтери Сент-Инспекторт”, creating a new authorial proper name, that really sounds like a name of an English village.

If a translator considers a name as a toponymic unit of a primary or secondary world of the text, then they usually use the basic means of translation of such words – practical transcription. But at the same time there is a risk of losing associative of other additional binds, which native speakers may have. For example, the name of the street Privet Drive (privet – бирючина) was translated by M. Spivak as “Бирючиновая аллея”, but ROSMAN translated it as “Тисовая улица”, emphasising that it refers to a plant. But English readers associate the word “privet” mostly with a hedge and as it is known from the context of the book, all the houses on the street are separated from each other by hedges.

In the secondary (magic) world of the book, there is a place named The Burrow (the house of the Weasleys). The word “burrow” has two meanings: 1) a hole or tunnel in the ground made by a rabbit, fox, or similar animal for habitation and refuge; 2) «shelter or refuge». The translators of ROSMAN translated the proper name as “Нора”, using calque translation. But in Russian the meaning of the word “нора” mostly corresponds only with the first meaning of an English word “burrow” and does not reflect the full image of the house. But M. Spivak gave another variant of translation – “Пристанище”, which corresponds only with the second meaning of the English “burrow”, but it reflects the figurative meaning of the original word in full. The next group is trademarks, which are mostly nonce words. Usually, trademarks are translated by means of transliteration. But the translators of Harry Potter books used calque translation and descriptive translation. As a result, some of them look quite bulky after translation, for example: “Grow Your Own Warts kit” was translated as набор для желающих обзавестись бородавками”.

But there is a better example of a trademark “Spellotape” – a magic tape that can fix almost everything. This word was translated by means of calque translation as “чудоскотч” by ROSMAN translators, and as “колдолента” by M. Spivak.

The names of the food cooked in the magic world was also mainly translated by means of calque translation and descriptive translation, for example, the name “Pumpkin pasties” was translated by ROSMAN just as “тыквенный пирог” without any extraordinary word forms. M. Spivak proposed another Russian variant – “тыквеченьки”, by means of creating a new occasional word which contains the meaning of the original.

Translators had to create new versions of nonce proper names when they were translating the names of magic holidays, because the method of transcription/transliteration was absolutely inadmissible in that case. Thus, the holiday of ghosts, which is called “the Deathday Party”, which was created on the analogy of the word “birthday”, was precisely translated by M. Spivak as “смертенины”, created on the analogy of the Russian word “именины”.

The fact that is proved within the research is that the fantasy fiction about Harry Potter refers to the type of texts oriented on the word form. Translators should translate it retaining the form and the pragmatic potential at the same time, not forgetting about the main recipients – children and teenagers. If all the rules of translation of fantasy fiction are obeyed, the text provides the plot and does not lose the specifics, inner and outer forms of words. The main task of a translator is to retain meaningful and emotional information, which is put into the authorial proper names, with the minimal change of the form.


Биктагирова З. А., Хазиева-Демирбаш Г. С. Ф. Личные имена в татарских и турецких пословицах и поговорках // Вопросы современной науки и практики. университет им. В. И. Вернадского. – 2012. – № 2-40. – С. 271-274.

Роулинг Дж. К. Гарри Поттер и Волшебный Камень. / пер. с англ. М. Спивак. – [Электронный ресурс]. – Режим доступа : http: //alexfl. ru/potter/potter11. html

Роулинг Дж. К. Гарри Поттер и Комната Секретов / пер. с англ. М. Спивак. – [Электронный ресурс]. – Режим доступа : http: // alexfl. ru/potter/potter21. html

Роулинг Дж. К. Гарри Поттер и Тайная Комната / пер. с англ. М. Литвинова. – М.: РОСМЭН-ПРЕСС, 2007. – 480 с.

Роулинг Дж. К. Гарри Поттер и Дары Смерти / пер. с англ. С. Ильина, М. Лахути, М. Сокольской. – М.: РОСМЭН-ПРЕСС, 2007. – 640 с.

Роулинг Дж. К. Гарри Поттер и Дары Смерти / пер. с англ. М. Спивак. – [Электронный ресурс]. – Режим доступа : http: //alexfl. ru/potter/potter71. html

Роулинг Дж. К. Гарри Поттер и Философский Камень / пер. с англ. М. Литвинова. – М.: РОСМЭН-ПРЕСС, 2013. – 399 с.

Rowling J. K. Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets. – Bloomsbury, 2007. – 608 p.

Rowling J. K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. – N. Y.: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2007. – 784 p. Rowling J. K. Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone. – Scholastic, 1999. – 320 p.

Для цитирования:

Kuznetsova A. A. The Specifics of Translation of Authorial Proper Names from English into Russian // Перевод в меняющемся мире: Материалы Международной научно-практической конференции. – М.: Издательский центр «Азбуковник», 2015. – С. 163-166.


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