Journal of Danubian Studies and Research, Vol 6, No 2 (2016)

Nationally Marked Vocabulary of the Southern Bessarabian Region: Translation Peculiarities

Chetverikova Olena1

Abstract: Southern Bessarabia is a historical region in Eastern Europe, where, one of its parts is known to be a Ukrainian territory. People, who inhabit this multiethnic region, identify their similarity by the language they speak. The main communities use Ukrainian, Russian, Bulgarian, Rumanian, and Gagauz languages in various colloquial situations. Each community acquires features characteristic of the nation only, which reflect the peculiarities of material and spiritual life, and are usually well distinguished on the language level. There we may find separate words and word-combinations designating national traditions, which give us numerous samples of national cuisines, matrimonial feasts, folk rituals, etc. For our investigation we selected different examples of nationally marked vocabulary, frequently used by the members of the named communities, and studied its linguistic forms and the peculiarities of translation into the English language, as the language of international communication.

Keywords:nationally marked vocabulary; equivalent-lacking word; translation

Analysis of the issues, connected with the interaction of lingual, ethnic and psychological factors, that explain functioning and evolution of languages as the embodiment of cultural man’s development, stands among the main tasks of XXI century linguistics. Ukrainian linguists understand language as a symbolic key to unlimited cultural treasures, a guide to the depths of ethnic experience.

The study of the interrelations between language and culture has always attracted scientists. Today the notion of “culture” acquires broad interpretation. It unites all the peculiarities of historical, psychological and social phenomena characteristic of a particular ethnic group, including its traditions, values, behaviour, household relations, life conditions, i.e. all the sides of the nation’s conscious life.

Each concrete culture is closely implemented in two forms of its existence — objective and subjective, and ensures national and cultural identity, which appears as a significant and relatively constant manifestation and, consequently, the comprehension of culturally valuable dominants of a society, functionally necessary in the process of its development. Today we need to analyze such cultural constants of a particular community (primarily national) in order to identify the existing factors “working” in modern globalized cultural space. UNESCO officially recognized the particular value of cultural “principle of identity” in self-determination of a society, including its international relations (Матузкова, 2014, pp. 63-64).

One of the manifestations of national identity is the language people speak. Though the state language of Ukraine is Ukrainian, on multi-national territories, to which our Southern Bessarabian region belongs, different ethnical groups of people live. They consider their native languages as the languages of everyday communication. The investigator of dialectal peculiarities of the Bessarabian land A. Kolesnikov, stresses that the southern part of the Odessa region – is one of the most variable parts with ethnic and language plurality, Different investigators stress that the area between the Dniester and The Danube was formed during some centuries under very specific historical and political conditions. In the region we observe Ukrainian, Russian, Bulgarian, Rumanian, Gagauz languages, and up to the 40th years of the XX century – the German language (Колесников, 2015, p. 10). Therefore, the Ukrainian language and the languages of the national minorities interweave enriching one another and causing various problems for translators and interpreters. Regional languages differ in their realization and social-political status. They are mostly presented in dialectal forms; literary forms possess all the previously named nationalities with the exception of Gagauz (Колесников, 2015, p. 29).

Growing language contacts among the countries of the Danubian basin put forward the questions connected with communication peculiarities of multicultural regions, translation and interpretation strategies, theoretical translation grounds and educational models. Both social and cultural factors have close ties with the formation of background knowledge in the course of translation studies, without which we will not be able to translate or interpret speech utterances properly.

Nationally marked vocabulary often becomes a tool in the hands of a writer. It can help to make his narration brighter, adds national coloring or cuts down the temporal distance between the reader and the addressee, which becomes a source of additional difficulties for a translator, but allows re-creating the pragmatic potential, perceived and treated by the native speaker's cultural code. According to D.O. Dobrovolsky, nationally-marked vocabulary includes words that are observed in one culture and absent in the other (i.e., non-equivalent lexis), proper names (names, troponins, ethnonyms) and their derivatives, names of the realia, specific to a certain culture (names of national currency units, units of measurement, cuisines, holidays, titles, etc.), obsolete words (archaisms and historisms) (Добровольський, 1998, pp. 48-57)

Nationally marked vocabulary generally fulfils two functions - nominative and evaluative. In its nominative function it is used to name unique or exotic phenomena of the Southern Bessarabia, e.g. Наша булка така гарна” – “Our fiancée is so cute”, “В нас іще пуканці є?” – “Is there any more pop-corn?”, “За п'ять хвилин ми пересічемо ріку Ташбунар”- “We’ll cross Tashbunar in five minutes”“Мей, що ж це таке?”- “Hey, what’s going on?”

In evaluative function, nationally marked words are used as a means of speech characteristics. Nationally marked nicknames present two groups: naming by nationality (молдавашка, болгарюка) or politically non-correct (offensive) terms (комуняка) evaluating a person or an ethnic group positively or negatively, or even offensively. To name them in western sociolinguistics we may find the terms: ethnophaulism and ethronym introduced in the XXth century. They are traditionally treated as linguistic symbols and clichés showing the shades of ethnic, racial and confessional lack of tolerance. It is interesting to point out the naming by appearance here. Consequently, the noun “тюфяк” denotes a man without strong muscles, not ambitious. While translating such words we should obviously keep in mind the pragmatic aspect of translation. If a word is translated with the aim to preserve the specificity of the characteristics of a speaker or an object, transliteration should be used “moldavashka,bolgarjuka”, “komunjaka”, “tjufjak” accompanied with the description in the footnote. If such words are observed in oral speech they may be rendered by means of politically correct words “Moldavian,Bulgarian”, “communist”, or by means of descriptive explanation of the word meaning, Nearly all the analyzed ethnonyms possess pejorative meanings with occasional humiliating character.

In Russian national culture to characterize a man positively we often use the adjective “порядочный (Ukrainian – порядний). This stereotypical naming is often observed in marriage announcements. Men stress the named quality as some undoubted merit; women understand the same personal quality as positive in their choice, e.g. “О себе могу сказать: порядочный, честный, and умеющий ценить верность” – “About myself I can say: decent, honest, I’m from those men, who values loyalty”. Most often the word “порядочныйdecent”is used together with the word “честныйhonest”. In stereotypical presentation, a decent person “порядочный” in Russian language consciousness shows motivation by the meaning “order”. Decent is the one who behaves morally, in accordance with the accepted social norms of behavior. The other meaning of the word “порядочный” is “real”, “true”, which is often used to characterize man’s negative features, e.g. “Он порядочный лгун.” – “He is a decent liar”.

The distinguishing features find their reflection in various spheres of material and spiritual life and are materialized in separate words and word-groups, designating national customs, folk rites and feasts, administrative or political systems, etc. They may also designate peculiar geographical, geological and environmental conditions of a nation’s life. No less peculiar may also be cultural or religious traditions of a nation often expressed through certain proper names or names of saints” (Корунець, 2003, p. 152).

If we take Bulgarian names, used in Southern Bessarabia, we may see that they are various due to the huge number of names of Slavic origin, e.g. Зоран – Zoran, Рада - Rada, Мирослaв – Miroslav, Владимир – Vladimir, Любомир – Lubomir, which are usually transliterated into English. Also widely are presented the names of the Orthodox calendar: Георгій - Georgi, Дмитро - Dimitar, Василь - Vasil, Теодора - Teodora, Іванка - Ivanka,Олена - Elena, Маргарита – Margarita, some of which may be translated, the others are transliterated and transcribed into English. Bulgarian names of Turkic origin are observed among Gagauz people as well, e.g. Деміра – Demira (from Tur. “iron”). Borrowed foreign names, especially of women are observed in all national groups, e.g. Діана - Diane, Ніколь - Nicol (from the French. Nicole - Nicole).

European and Russian anthroponimic systems have much in common. The full name of a person includes his surname, and patronymic. There are additional forms of the name – a nickname and a diminutive form. In certain social groups we may observe monastic names.Both, Russian and Ukrainian name formulae, as well as most European ones have their own word order. The name generally comes in the first place. Violation of the order, however, will not be considered a rough mistake. A distinctive feature of the Russian nominal formula is the presence of a patronymic, e.g. Татьяна Петровна. In Eastern Slavic countries – Ukraine and Bulgaria, there is a tendency to use only the name, e.g. Петро.The majority of modern Russian names have been borrowed in the X century from the Byzantine Empire along with the Christian religion. The names have been legalized in special books, having been declared “true” and “right”. Special place in Russian culture is occupied by the names: Вера – Vera, Надежда – Nadejda, Любовь – Lubov after the names of saint women. Almost all the names of Greek origin emphasize positive moral and physical qualities in people, e.g. Андрей - Andrew, (courageous); София - Sofia (wise). The other popular names include Виктор – Viktor,Павел - Paul, Иван - Ivan, Наталья - Nataliya (Natalie), Ольга - Olga, Виктория - Victoria, etc. Hebrew names presented in the Russian language are very different from the names originating from Greek and Latin. In most of them we may observe the element with the meaning “god”, e.g. Гавриил - Gabriel (warrior of God); Илья - Elijah (power of God); Иоанн (Иван) - John (grace of God). These names are either transcribed, or transliterated into English. Today there appeared a tendency in Bessarabia to give children Christian names, such as: Акулина - Akulina, Параскева - Paraskeva, Фотиния - Fotinia, Назарий - Nazariy, Феодор - Feodor, which may be explained by great interest of people to Christianity and Christian culture.

Among Rumanian and Moldavian personal names we may distinguish several groups. The first group is composed of the names of the Orthodox calendar, e.g. Андрей – Andrei (Andrew), Георгій - Gheorghe (George), Марія Елена - Maria Elena (Mary, Maria, Ileana, Helen), Ніколай - Nicolae (Nick), Василій - Vasile (Basil).The second group presents the names borrowed from Slavic languages: Мірча - Mircea (Mircha), Влад - Vlad (Vlad). The names of the third group were derived from the Romanian lexemes, e.g. Віорика - Viorica (Viorika) (ROM. viorea - “violet, bell”). The names of the fourth group originate from the Catholic calendar (mostly borrowed from Western European languages in the XIX-XX centuries), e.g. Альберт - Albert, Роберт - Robert. The personal names of the fifth group were borrowed from the related romance languages (mostly Italian and Spanish) in the XIX-XX centuries: Беатріса - Beatrice, Біанка - Bianca, Кармен - Carmen. Most often such names are transliterated or transcribed.

The anthropological vocabulary of the modern Gagauz language is little-known and very diverse. The first information about the names of the Gagauz people gives Russian ethnographer, V. A. Moshkov, who served in the late XIX century in the Royal army of Izmail district. With no written records it is difficult to investigate personal names of the ancestors of Gagauz people.Some information about their names may be recieved from some of contemporary personal names, tribe names and nicknames2.( Добровольський, 1998)

It is known that at first Gagauz people had no surnames or patronymics. Over time, the personal names were limited and to distinguish people from each other, nicknames were given. Prior to the adoption of Christianity, the personal names of the ancestors of the Gagauz were Turkic. From the second half of XX-th century the name of a child is given by his godfather (nuna) or his wife (naşa). If a boy is born, he takes the name of his godfather or one of his sons. If a girl is born, she is given the name of the wife of the godfather or the name of one of his daughters. Recently people often come to a mutual agreement and give a newborn child the name chosen by his parents 3(Корунець, 2003).Of great interest is the origin of Gagauz personal names. A large part of them is of Greek origin (Лія - Lia, Анатолій - Anatoly, Александр - Alexander, Ірина - Irina, Варвара - Varvara), of Hebrew origin (Марія - Maria, Семен - Semyon, Анна - Anna, Іванна - Ivanna, etc.), of Roman origin (Домна - Domna, Константин - Constantine), sometimes of Russian origin (Віра - Vira, Володимир - Vladimir) and of Bulgarian origin (Марин - Marin).Modern Gagauz names are transliterated and transcribed.

One of the most impressive features of nationally marked vocabulary make national meals, beverages and even parking of food, established as a result of national agricultural traditions and consumption of peculiar products. Penetration of culturally biased notions into the national languages is realized through different channels (Корунець, 2003, pp. 152-153). National peculiarities are broadly presented in the traditions of taking meals, which are understood as embodiment of ethnic self-consciousness reflecting man’s treatment of the food sphere. This element of culture is realized in national priorities, including the peculiarities and variability of cuisines as an essential part of man’s being, which are understood as source of physical and mental energy on the way of self-cognition (6, 65). After some food product has acquired symbolic meaning, its nutrition value loses its primary importance. Often words used to denote food possess another symbolic meaning that metaphorically describes various sides of man’s being, e.g.

ginger - 1) pungent aromatic rhizome of a tropical Asian herb), used as a spice and as a stimulant and carminative, 2) reddish-brown colour/color; 3) (colloquial, countable) a person with reddish-brown hair; a redhead.

pumpkin - 1) domesticated plant, similar in growth pattern, foliage, flower, and fruit to the squash or melon, 2) round yellow or orange fruit of this plant, 3) (US) A term of endearment for someone small and cute.

Bessarabian cuisine combines traditional cuisines of the peoples living in this territory. Here we traditionally use a large number of fruits and vegetables, Danube fish, spicy sauces and condiments.Its peculiarity is in the interpenetration and mutual enrichment of various national cuisines of the peoples who inhabit the southern part of Ukraine. You can taste Ukrainian borsch with pampushkas, dumplings, have some fish soup, or Bulgarian milina, stuffed grape leaves, Moldavian mamalyga and many other varied dishes.

Bulgarians, being the heirs of Byzantium, became one of the leading nations in the field of culinary arts. Even in the most prestigious houses of Paris and London Bulgarian dishes are greatly appreciated, not to mention Bulgarian vegetable salads, ketchups, seasonings, and marinades. Bulgarians who inhabit the Southern Bessarabia carefully preserve their national traditions concerning meals. One of the most famous Bulgarian dishes is a thick soup – Чобра (chobra). It is prepared from a variety of products: vegetables, mushrooms, fish, poultry, meat, and beans. As a rule, at the end of cooking we add red pepper and a mixture of beaten eggs and sour milk (yogurt). Many Bulgarian meat dishes gained fame not only in Ukraine, e.g. гювеч - hotchpotch meat, stewed with vegetables, кебабчета - kebabcheta - pieces of pork or lamb, roasted on a spit or fried in boiling oil. A peculiar dish borrowed from the Greeks is мусака - moussaka, which is a vegetable casserole with chopped meat or cheese. Sheep cheese (сирене - sirene as Bulgarians call it) is worth mentioning separately. It is extremely popular in Bulgaria and Bessarabia (sometimes made of sheep's milk kashkaval (кашкавал) cheese); it is added to appetizers, soups, stews, and dough. But the Bulgarian real miracle is specially prepared sour milk – yogurt - йогурт. Yogurt is very popular in Bessarabia. It is usually served with different additives: sugar, jam and berries. It has been deeply assimilated in Ukrainian culture and is known everywhere. Milina (міліна) is a traditional Bulgarian pie made of tender air dough with traditional Bulgarian cottage cheese and cream. Milina may be cooked salty or sweet.

Among the Russian national meals eaten in Southern Bessarabia we must mention dumplings (вареники), which are cooked with very different fillings. On Christmas Eve (the night before Christmas) – they are traditionally served with potatoes or cabbage. On holidays - with cottage cheese (cheese) and sour cream. In summer - with different fruits and berries. The other traditional meals include (борщ)borshch, (мясные котлеты) - meat burgers, (жаркое «Русское» в горшочке) - “Russian” stew in а pot, (утка с яблоками) - duck stuffed with apples, (картофельная запеканка) – potato cake, (фаршированный молочный поросенок) - stuffed suckling pig, (филе миньон с соусомбефстроганов) - filet Mignon with sauce beef Stroganoff. As we may see from the above given examples, the names of Russian nationally marked dishes, popular in Southern Bessarabia, are word combinations which are translated by mixed types of translation and often demand transformations – semantic, lexical and grammatical.

Among the meals of Romanian cuisine eaten in Southern Bessarabia, we frequently meet dishes of meat, fish (often known as salamure) and vegetables. People like beef or veal, pork and poultry. Romanian cuisine prefers fresh, boiled, fried, and marinated vegetables.

Common dishes include stuffed grape leaves, grilled or roasted meat, stew of chicken, (гуляш) calamo (goulash) -veal in white sauce, and(мітітєї) mititei (grilled sausages of minced meat). As for soft drinks, people have Rumanian (узвар) uzvar, traditional tea, coffee or juice. Mititei are known as a masterpiece of Moldavian and Romanian cuisines.

Moldovan national dish is (плацинда, прлачинда) placinda (placenta, placinta) cooled in the form of round flat cakes with a stuffing.Mamaliga (мамалига)– is a maize porridge, originating from Romania. Many people like to eat (чорба) сhobra (Moldavian cork soup) which is traditionally cooked with vegetables. Among sweet dishes we must mention (вертура) vertuta cooked with sugar, apples, peaches or pumpkin. Depending on the purpose, these specific words may be also explicated in translation.

Gagauzian cuisine is the national cuisine is a small Turkic-speaking people residing in the South of Moldova and in Southern Bessrabia formed under the influence of Turkish and Balkan cuisines. Alongside with the traditional food Gagauzian cuisine contains dishes that originate from Western European countries and Moldavia4. The main and favourite product is the so-called (буджака) budjaka, which is made from lamb. It is based on special, half-forgotten folk recipes and l southern spices, gathered and prepared by the Gagauz people. From the Bulgarian cuisine they borrowed the roasted lamb leg dish. Among the other national Gagauz dishes we find: kavurma, bulgur, manga, gözleme, kurban, sarma, kabakly, gevrek. The names of these Bessarabian dishes are very specific and are transcribed or transliterated with the explication of their genuine nationally specific meaning in the course of translation and, as almost all nationally marked words, are supplied with commentaries.

As we may see, the analysis of nationally marked units is predetermined by both lingual and extra-lingual factors. The investigation of nationally marked units of the Southern Bessarsbian region should be based on different methods depending on the aims researchers put forward. The translation variants combine transcription, transliteration, translation by componential parts with additional explication, loan forms of translation and semantic analogies. The prospects of further investigation may include the derivation peculiarities of Bessarabian nationally marked vocabulary including the degree of their assimilation in the Ukrainian culture.


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1 PhD, Izmail State University of Humanities, Izmail, Ukraine, Address: Str. Repin 12, Izmail, 68600 Odessa Oblast, Ukraine, Corresponding author:





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