Every language reflects the phenomena and processes taking place in the world, as well as specific objects and processes that exist in every nation on the territory of its residence. Although the vision of the world is equal among all the nations, however in the culture of every nation, there are concepts, phenomena, objects, that are inherent only to this certain nation and connected with its historical and geographical, socio-political, and other conditions of existence. In the study of the national-cultural content of a language, features of social organization, customs, art, science, literature, everyday life and epos many scientists attached much importance to the realia. The question of relations between culture in the broadest sense of the word and the information that is contained, stored and conveyed in the words represented as language elements, since olden times has attracted not only linguists, but also representatives of other sciences. All features of the life of the people such as natural conditions, geographical location, historical development, social structure, the tendency of social thought, science, and art are necessarily reflected in the language of the people. Therefore, we can say that the language is a reflection of the culture of any nation, it bears a national-cultural code of a particular nationality. In every language there are words meanings of which reflect the relationship of language and culture, which is called the cultural component of the semantics of language units. These words are primarily realia words.
The components of culture:
a) customs and traditions, which are stable elements of culture. Custom is an inherited stereotypical way of behavior, which is reproduced in a particular society or social group and is familiar to their members. Tradition is a set of representations, rituals, habits and skills of practical and social activity, being transmitted from generation to generation, which are the regulators of social relations.
b) household culture (everyday life).
c) daily behavior, which includes not only the rules of behavior and etiquette, but also facial expressions, gestures.
d) “national picture of the world”, showing the peculiarities of thinking and perception of the world.
In the theory of translation, the term “realia” is used in two senses. On the one hand, realia are understood as all the things specific to certain people. These things include objects of culture and life, historical events, place names and personal names. On the other hand, realia are the words and phrases denoting those things. Despite the ambiguity of the use of the same term in relation to the objects of reality and linguistic signs indicating these objects, the term “realia” in the sense of “words” has become firmly established in translation and at the same time maintained its objective value. Perhaps the main reason of its use is the fact that the phrase “language unit indicating realities” would be inconvenient to use because it is too long.
There are several definitions of realia. According to the definition of O. S. Akhmanova, realia are “variety of factors, being studied by foreign linguistics, such as state structure, history and culture of the specific nation, linguistic communication between native speakers, and etc., in terms of their reflections in the language” [1, p. 482].
A. D. Schweitzer gave the following definition of realia “the units of national language, indicating unique referents which are peculiar to this linguistic culture and absent in the comparable linguistic cultural community” [2, p. 185].
The word “realia” is the Latin neuter plural (realis, -e, plural “realia” — “real”, «true»), which was turned into a feminine noun under the influence of similar lexical categories. In terms of philology realia are the subjects, things, existing or existed materially, often tying within the meaning of the concept of “life”; for example, “Realities of European (social) life”. According to the dictionary definition, realia are “any objects of material culture” [3, p. 858], “in the classical grammar a variety of factors... such as the state system of the country, history and culture of the nation, linguistic communication between the native speakers in terms of their reflection in this language”, “the objects of material culture that serve as the basis for the nominative meaning of the word” [1, p. 482].
Realia as a subject, even in the framework of geography, has a broad meaning, which does not always fit into the realia-word framework, being an element of extralinguistic reality; realia-word as part of the vocabulary of a language is a sign by which such things — their referents — can get their linguistic appearance.
As mentioned above, the word “realia” comes from medieval Latin, in which it originally meant “the real things”, i.e. material things, as opposed to abstract ones. The Bulgarian translators S.Vlahov and S.Florin, who were the first to carry out an in-depth study of realia, coined the modern sense of the word. They believe that realia are the words and phrases denoting the objects typical for the life (household, culture, social and historical development) of one nation and alien and unfamiliar for another, being the bearers of national and historical colour, they do not have exact accordance (equivalents) in other languages, and therefore cannot be translated on the general basis, requiring a specific approach. Scholars also point that since realia carry a very local overtone, they often pose a challenge for translation. Realia must not be confused with terminology: the latter is primarily used in the scientific literature to designate things that pertain to the scientific sphere, and usually only appears in other kinds of texts to serve a very specific stylistic purpose. Realia, on the other hand, are born in popular culture, and are increasingly found in very diverse kinds of texts. Fiction, in particular, is fond of realia for the exotic touch they bring [4, p. 10–48].
They classify them in various categories:
‒ Physical geography: fjord, mistral, steppe, tornado, tsunami.
‒ Geographic objects tied to man’s activity: polder.
‒ Endemic species: kiwi, koala, sequoia, Abominable Snowman.
‒ Everyday life: paprika, spaghetti, empanada, cider, sauna, kimono, sari, sombrero, jeans, igloo, bungalow.
‒ Work: carabinieri, concierge, machete, bolas.
‒ Art and culture: kozachok, tarantella, banjo, gong, commedia dell’arte, harlequin, bard, geisha, Ramadan, easter, Santa Claus, werewolf, vampire, Mormon, quaker, dervish, pagoda, synagogue.
‒ Ethnic characterizations: cockney, Fritz, gringo, yankee.
‒ Measures and money: mile, kilometer, hectare, gallon, perch, ruble, lira, peseta, agora, greenback.
3. Politics and society
‒ Administrative divisions: region, province, department, state, county, canton, principality, favela, bidonville, arrondissement, souk, promenade.
‒ Organs and functions: forum, Knesset, duma, senate, chancellor, tzar, shah, pharaoh, vizier, ayatollah, satrap.
‒ Political and social life: Ku Klux Klan, slavophile, lobbying, lord, Bolshevik, samurai, union jack, fleur-de-lis.
‒ Military realia: cohort, phalanx, arquebus, AK-47, katyusha, cuirassier. [4, p. 52].
According to their classification realia can also be ethnic, domestic, cultural and historical.
The realia are divided into five main groups:
‒ absolute (full) realia which are the words that only occur in one culture, in one language. These are proper names (especially geographical names, the names of companies, the names of holidays, national cuisine, customs, clothing, fairytale and mythological characters, drinks and so on).
‒ partial realia. It is a non-equivalent vocabulary, so-called translators’ “false” friends. They only coincide partially in their meanings. These are the words with the cultural overtone carrying some background information.
‒ structural realia (structural exoticism).
‒ realia that have no language equivalent, but have the conceptual equivalent instead.
‒ words with connotations that have equivalents [4, p. 16].
In light of the above, we would like to accept the definition of realia given by S. Vlahov and S. Florin. In my opinion, their concept of this type of lexical units is the most complete and detailed.
The notion of “realia” should be distinguished from the concept of “term”. The realia are characteristic of the sub-language of belles-lettres and media, and are inseparably connected with the culture of a particular nation, they are commonly used for the language of this nation and alien to other languages. The terms that are devoid of any national coloring and primarily related to the sphere of science, created artificially, only in order to name an object or phenomenon. The first thing that stands out is the resemblance of realia and the term. Unlike most of the lexical units, the terms refer to precisely defined concepts, objects and phenomena; ideally these are unambiguous words (or phrases), devoid of synonyms, often of foreign origin; among them there are also the ones which have historically restricted values. All this can be said about realia. Moreover, at the junction of these two categories there are a number of units, which are difficult to define as a term or as realia, and quite a few that can be “legally” considered at the same time as terms and as realia. A. D. Schweitzer has even created the “reality-term” or “realia-term” notion. [2, p. 164]
There are various strategies that help to translate realia: they range from phonetic transcription to translation of the overall meaning. According to Israeli scholar Gideon Toury’s characterization, each of these can be placed between two extremes: adequacy (closeness to the original) and acceptability (making the word entirely consistent with the target culture) [5, p. 100]. Here are various possibilities at hand for translating realia:
‒ Transcribing (i.e. copying) the word, character by character. This is called transliteration when the original word is written in a different alphabet;
‒ Transcribing according to the target language’s pronunciation rules. For instance, the Hindi word “Kašmir” becomes “cachemire” in French;
‒ Creating a new word or a calque, such as the English “flea market” inspired by the French “marché aux puces”;
‒ Creating a new word, analogous to the original one, but which has a more local facet to it, e.g. “muezzin” from the Arabic “mu'adhdhin”;
‒ Using a different but related word from the source language, passing it off as the original word. For instance, the Italian word “cappuccino” is often translated into English as “latte”, which in Italian means “milk”;
‒ Making the meaning explicit, such as “jewish temple” for “synagogue”;
‒ Replacing the word with one that is more generic or international, such as “red wine” for “Beaujolais”;
‒ Adding an adjective to help the reader identify the origin of the element of realia, as in the “Argentine pampa”. [5, p. 104]
How suitable each of these solutions depends on various factors. One of them is the type of text that is being translated. Adequate translations (in Toury's sense) of realia add some exoticism, a quality that is often desirable in fiction. For non-fiction, nowadays adequacy is usually preferred to acceptability, so as to avoid the ambiguity that can arise from the use of more culturally neutral translations — though the opposite preference has prevailed in the past. One must also consider how the element of realia is related to the source culture in terms of importance and familiarity. If, for instance, it is rather common in the source culture, then providing an adequate translation creates an exotic note that wasn’t there in the first place (though this can be justified by the fact that, after all, one is not dealing with an original, but a translation). If, on the contrary, the source culture perceives the element of realia as unusual, unless the translator renders such an element more culturally neutral, readers of the translation will most likely also perceive it as unusual. Another thing to keep in mind when establishing a translation strategy is that not all languages are equally open to “foreignisms”, and how familiar speakers of that language may be with the realia one introduces. Some languages, such as Italian, welcome such words and frequently integrate them into their vocabulary. Other languages, on the contrary, have the opposite tendency: they are wary of foreign words and are very impermeable to them. French is a good example of such protectionism. Lastly, the expected readership (which may or may not be similar to that of the original) influences on the choice of a suitable translation strategy. For example, the name of a chemical compound will be translated differently depending on whether one expects the text to be read by chemists or schoolchildren [5, p. 115].
When conveying the cultural realia, there are some obstacles which arise due to different linguistic worldviews. Those obstacles are caused by the differences in the conditions and the ways of life of different nationalities, and by the differences between civilizations and their inherent systems of values.
In order to translate the cultural realia one needs to focus on the full and adequate interpretation of the source language which contains linguistic, social and cultural information. To interpret means to truly and completely express what has been expressed before by means of another language. Ideally, the interpretation of the cultural realia must convey the full meaning, the spirit and the style of the original, and cause the equivalent impression.
As a conclusion it ought to be remarked that linguistic visions of the world reflect all existing laws caused by the unity of human existence, and also have a specific national content. However, the reality is refracted when it is being conveyed through a set of signs, tools and techniques that are common for the members of the particular society. Thus, the language pictures are reflections of worldviews, and as pointed by W. von Humboldt, every language indicating the certain things, in reality forms the whole picture of the world for those who speak it [6, p. 353]. It is traditionally believed that realia as objects of material and spiritual culture reflect the lifestyle and the way of thinking of a particular society and have no analogues in other cultures and respectively there are no lexical units denoting them. If, for example, in the source text or in the original language they are invisible, it means that in translation they always are contrasted to the context, being bright exponents of the national identity of another culture, which significantly increases their stylistic load.
Thus, we can summarize that realia are objects or phenomena of material culture, ethnic-national characteristics, customs, as well as historical facts or processes, which usually do not have lexical equivalents in other languages and represent a very interesting and unusual layer of language vocabulary.
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