New Words

A fascinating phenomenon is the birth of new lexical items in a language. With this also follows the creation of new lexical sets, lexical bundles (as Biber might say) as well as collocations and idioms. This is of great import for translators as the good translator should also be a linguistic observer and commentator. He/she should know what is happening to a language and why this is happening.

Most of the new births are connected to science and technology as well as philosophy and ideology. When a new field is created, a new invention made, a new gene found, a new device manufactured or doctrine developed language has to follow suit and describe it. One of the problems for translators is the fact that this is usually undertaken in the language in which the discovery is made and that happens to be – more often than not – English. For non-English speakers this is a problem.

Often the new word that is created has Latin or Greek origins (mainly because of tradition and the feeling that these Classical language are in some way more scientific than the others). Then it is borrowed into another language. So we find a Latin word borrowed or created within a particular field (in the English-speaking world, for example) that is then borrowed (or borrowed and then morphed) into yet another language.

Often the name that is tagged onto a new object is pseudo-Latin or Greek and sounds classical. Take, for example, the unofficial name of the trans-Neptunian planet 2003 UB313 – Xena. What might have been a more appropriate name for this outermost of quasi-planets is Xenial (pertaining to hospitality and relations with friendly visitors).


12 thoughts on “New Words

  1. Language is always changing,it is”alive”.New words, structures, idioms are constantly created.It is because there are many changes and new technologies in modern world and nwe words connected to particular fields are created and added to the language.
    Good translator should not only focus on the meaning of the words and all processes connected with the language but also should be aware of new technologies, new fields, inventions and vocabulary connected with them.
    Sometimes it is diffucult to translate new words connected with some new invention from one language to another because they do not make sense and translator has to know what it is all about and be “up to date”, to make a good translation of the original text.
    Most of words have its origin in Greek or Latin so it is also important for a translator to have some knowledge of classical languages.

  2. Our language isn’t stable but rather moving. It is getting bigger snd bigger. It is not enough to know and understand some range of words, idioms, expressions etc. We still have to learn new lexical items. It is important especially for translators who should learn not only new collocations but also their field. They should be also up to date with some ‘news in language’ and know what is happening to a language.
    However, translators have o know what is going on in many fields(technology, philsophy etc.). When something new is made or discovered, new words come into being. Language has to describe new invention or doctrine.
    In fact, good translators ought to be both linguistic observers and communicators. What is more, they still have to educate. As if it was not enough, they have to know not only their origin language (and foreign language of course) but also Classical languages because new words which are created have Latin or Greek origins.

  3. Some say that the best translators work in one particular field and specialise in one particularly area. This, of course, has its advantages and disadvantages. If one focuses on one area there is a danger that specialisation means a loss of other information. The reverse is also true. A greater level of generalisation leads to no in-depth knowledge.

  4. ‘Births’ of new lexical items are the issue of a great importance. A good translator should bear in mind that language is ‘alive’ and it develops all the time. That’s why being up-to-date with all new lexical items is essential.
    What is more, a good translator ought to take interest in many fields (e.g. ideology, technology). Such knowledge would enable him/her to translate new words (or dioms, collocations etc.) – it would be difficult for a total layman.
    However, the knowledge of Classical languages is also useful as many borrowings have their roots in Latin or
    All in all,being a good translator requires an endless study in many fields and improving one’s general knowledge.

  5. It would be easier for a translator/interpretor to do his/her work if he/she would have some basic knowledge about ancient languages. These are the sources from which modern languages were created and are essencial in forming new scientific terminology. But not only the history is important. Changes which occur in modern languages very often are caused by cultural,political, geographical and economical issues. Very often immigrants have a large infuence in country’s language and as a consequence new dialect, slang and even grammar appear.
    In other words translator/interpretor should know the past and the present of the languages he specialises in.

  6. “(…) the good translator should also be a linguistic observer and commentator.” I totally agree with this statement. Translators work with language, it is their tool and so, they should know it well. However, I think it is impossible for a translator to be an expert in every field. I am sure that noone could say that he/she knows every word in his/her native language, and what about different languages? In my opinion a translator should thoroughly study the expressions connected with the topic he/she will be translating.

  7. “One of the problems for translators is the fact that this is usually undertaken in the language in which the discovery is made and that happens to be – more often than not – English. For non-English speakers this is a problem”

    That’s true. If a discovery is made in some other language than our native one, we will have problems indeed. We will have problems, especially if we do not understand this language; however, even if we do understand it, we will have difficulties in naming the discovery in our mother tongue. If the discovery is completely unknown in our native land, the people lack not only the word to name it but also the mental representation of this discovery. So what to do? create an equivalent, to borrow the word? Quite difficult to say. Depends on the word’s origin, but is borrowing a good solution anyway?
    And what about the words which refer to concepts/problems that exist everywhere, that are already of interest in some countries and are becomming popular in our native land?

  8. Indeed.
    This is perhaps a form of etymology, a branch we might term neo-etymology. The interesting thing about humans is their ability to meld and manipulate language, to create words when a gap suddenly appears in our gestalt. We translators, are at the pinnacle of this pyramid of manipulative ability. People look onto us as those who will set the linguistic ground rules and create the new terms that will shape our new reality.

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