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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

Print version ISSN 0041-4751

Abstract

GOUWS, R.H.  and  PRINSLOO, D.J.. Surrogate equivalence in bilingual dictionaries with specific reference to zero equivalence in dictionaries for African languages. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2010, vol.50, n.4, pp. 502-519. ISSN 0041-4751.

The focus in a general bilingual dictionary is on the item presenting translation equivalents for the words represented by the lemma signs. Three major types of equivalent relations prevail, i.e. full equivalence, partial equivalence and zero equivalence. These different relations of equivalence confront lexicographers with different challenges to ensure that the users will be able to achieve an optimal retrieval of information from a given dictionary article. Ideally, suitable translation equivalents in the target language would be available for each source language item. Instances where a suitable translation equivalent is not available occur in any given language pair to be treated as source and target. Adamska-Sałaciak (2006:99) goes as far as to state that "due to interlingual anisomorphism a bilingual dictionary is, strictly speaking, an impossibility" and that "all we can hope to produce are better or worse approximations". Lexicographers have an obligation towards their specific users to ensure a presentation and treatment of translation equivalents that will enable an unambiguous retrieval of information from the data on offer in the comment on semantics of a bilingual dictionary. The nature and extent of this treatment should be determined by the needs and reference skills of the intended target user group, the user situation and the lexicographic functions of the specific dictionary. There are frequent instances in any given language pair where a suitable translation equivalent is not available to be treated as source and target language in a bilingual dictionary. This is known as zero equivalence and can be regarded as the most complex type of equivalence to be dealt with in a bilingual dictionary. A linguistic gap can be identified when the speakers of both languages are familiar with a certain concept, but when one language does not have a word to refer to it, whereas the other language does have such a word. A referential gap can be postulated when a lexical item from language A has no translation equivalent in language B. This would be because the speakers of language B do not know the referent of the lexical item from language A. This article addresses the various ways in which lexicographers of different dictionaries deal with the lack of equivalence and the subsequent use of surrogate equivalents. There are a number of strategies that the lexicographer can use when dealing with instances of zero equivalence, e.g. the use of glosses, paraphrases, illustrations and even text boxes with lexicographic comments. This article suggests different types of surrogate equivalents based on user needs, and it will be done in accordance with the relevant dictionary functions, i.e. the cognitive function and the communicative functions of text reception, text production and translation. It will be indicated that lexicographic treatment of zero equivalence is a major factor in bilingual dictionaries bridging, for example, Afrikaans or English with African languages. In many cases a substantial part, even a large number of sequential lemmas in any given alphabetical stretch, comprise zero equivalence. Such instances, mostly in respect of cultural terms pose a great challenge to the lexicographer. They vary in nature and complexity and call for different and innovative ways of lexicographic treatment. In this article the focus will be on the nature and extent of zero equivalence in the African languages, and different types of surrogate equivalents form the basis of the discussion. A distinction will also be made between different levels of surrogate equivalence. The approach is contemplative as well as transformative, with the emphasis on the needs of target users in respect of text reception and text production. Acknowledging different degrees of complexity in the relation of surrogate equivalence leads to a tiered view of the concept. The first level in the hierarchy provides for linguistic gaps where a mere gloss or brief paraphrase of meaning will suffice. More complicated are the gaps where the surrogate equivalent also has to provide grammatical guidance. The top tier in the hierarchy provides for referential gaps where taboo, culture-specific or sensitive values have to be expressed. The lexicographer has to utilise available treatment options maximally and select the most appropriate one(s) in each case.

Keywords : surrogate equivalence; zero equivalence; bilingual dictionaries; linguistic gap; referential gap; African languages; cultural terms; translation equivalents; target user; lexicographic functions; paraphrase of meaning; glosses, communicative function; text production; text reception.

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