Translation theory: ways of conveying the passive voice constructions

Translation theory: ways of conveying the passive voice constructions

It is common knowledge that the quantitative representation of the passive voice constructions in English by far exceeds that in Ukrainian. This is not reflected, naturally, in translation since En­glish passive constructions are far from always transplanted to Ukrai­nian sentences. The much larger quantity of passive constructions in English is explained 1). by the ability of not only the direct but also of the indirect and prepositional objects to perform the function of the subject to the predicate in the passive voice; 2). by the ability of several intransitive verbs to become transitive and take a direct object, and consequently form the passive voice (cf. Her dog is often walked by her brother. The office is run by Mr.Brown). No transposi­tions of such type are possible in Ukrainian where only the direct object can be transformed into the subject of the sentence in the passive voice. Nevertheless, the meaning of the passive voice may sometimes be maintained, though expressed then not with the help of the analytical means. This can be seen from the following English sentence:

He was offered a better job of some sort of somebody or other. (Saroyan)

Йому кимсь пропонувалась нібито якась навіть краща робота.

Parallel to this Ukrainian version and less common or less faithful is one more version and way via the active form of the verbal predi­cate: йому буцімто хтось пропонував кращу роботу or: йому нібито десь пропонували кращу роботу. A similar expression is also pos­sible in English: some sort of somebody offered him a better job, which the author (Saroyan) ignored in his sentence above.

Some ways of expressing the passive voice in both languages may coincide in form and structure, as can be seen in the first sen­tence below; others should be transformed (as in the second sen­tence), in order to achieve faithfulness in translation:

She was faintly disturbed by what mother had said. (Maugham)

Вона_була дещо стурбована тим, що сказала її мати.

If the U.N. peace plan is implemented, frozen Serb assets in the USA would be released. (USA Today)

Якщо план мирного врегулювання OОН буде здійснений, заморожені рахунки Сербії у США… будуть відпущені.

The passive constructions in the above sentences, however, may not necessarily be rendered into Ukrainian through passive equiva­lents only. Other contextual variants may also be suggested by the translator, for example: вона була трохи стурбована – її трохи турбувало, рахунки будуть відпущені – рахунки розморозять/ відпустять.

Nevertheless, English passive forms referring to present tense have mostly no structural equivalents in Ukrainian where the auxiliary verb to be (є) is usually omitted and the past participle acquires other morphological (e.g., finite form) and semantic expression. Cf.:

Rescue efforts are being ham­pered by dozens of aftershocks, below-freezing temperatures. (Ibid.)

Рятувальним роботам перешкоджають повторні поштовхи і температура, що падає нижче нуля.

One more faithful Ukrainian transformation of this passive sen­tence construction may be achieved by way of conveying it through the so-called middle voice form or -ся/-сь verb: Рятувальні роботи утруднюються повторними підземними поштовхами і тем­пературою, що падає нижче нуля.

Depending on the form of the passive construction and still more on the lexical verbal meaning, this voice form may have in Ukrainian some still other transformations, which express the same meaning of the passive construction; they may acquire the following outer forms of expression in Ukrainian:

 a) that of an indefinite personal sentence/clause:

«І am told that pork-packing is the most lucrative profession after politics in Атеrіса.» (O.Wilde)

Кажуть, що в Америці пакування свинини – найбільш прибуткова праця після політики.

 b) that of a single predicative word/simple nominal predicate:

“ They’re prepared to sacrifice everything to satisfy their yearn­ing.” (Maugham)

«Вони ладні пожертвувати всім, аби задовольнити/ здійснити своє прагнення.»

 с) a finite form of the verb/simple verbal predicate:

He has never been answered. (B.Aidiss)

Його ще ніхто і ніколи не спростував.

d) an indefinite personal past participle ending in -но/ -то:

It is a sound instinct of the common people which persuades that this all. that needs to be said, is said. (Maugham)

Це здоровий глузд простого люду переконує його, таким чином, що все те, що треба сказати, – сказано.

The room had certainly been transformed. (I.Murdoch)

У кімнаті безперечно зроблено перестановку.

е) any other contextual and structural substitution of the En­glish passive voice predicate verb:

 «I must be left to myself for a while.» (Hemingway)

 «Мені треба якийсь час побути самому/самим із со­бою.»

 «If Isabel had come in then, I suppose I’d be married to Larry now.» (Maugham)

  «Якби Ізабель була зайшла тоді, мабуть зараз я була б замужем за Пері.»

 The passive structure sense units of both the English sentences, as can be seen, are practically translated into Ukrainian in a descrip­tive way, i.e., avoiding their source language outer structure. Never­theless grammatically correct, though literal and stylistically not quite appropriate or justified, would also be passive variant constructions in Ukrainian: 1). Я мусив бути залишений самим; 2). Я була^б замужем/ була б одружена з Пері.

Not infrequently the Ukrainian past participle in its predicative function may be one, if not the only possible passive form equivalent of the English passive construction in Ukrainian, as in the following sentence:

«Their children slept, their gate was shut for the night.» (Fitzgerald)

«їхні діти спали, і (їхня) брама була зачинена на ніч.» (І браму зачинили на ніч?)

 The common English passive voice constructions with the prepo­sitional object as their subject have generally no equivalent passive constructions in Ukrainian. These are rendered then with the help of the indefinite personal forms of the verb (sometimes through reflexive verbs):

« Why do you not answer when you are spoken to?» (Galsworthy)

I may say, that he is rightly looked upon by all the publishing business as one of the mainstays of literature in America. (Leacock)

«Чому ви не відповідаєте, коли до вас звертаються

Я можу сказати, що у видавничих колах його справедливо вважають однією з головних постатей в американській літературі.

 Consequently, some English passive voice constructions often change their outer and inner form and become active voice forms in Ukrainian. The main concern of the translator, in this case then, must be not so much the structural form of a source language sense unit, than its contextual meaning and, respectively, its form of realization/ presentation in the target language.