Problems Of Translation Of Morbial Metaphors In Political Discourse


The key approach of metaphor study is a cognitive one, which is considered to be the most extensive but general as well. Each functional style has its own language peculiarities which influence on the process and the result of translation greatly. Lately there are a lot of examples of metaphoric use in mass-media texts as well because the main function of them is popularization of information for a wide audience. A metaphor is always multifunctional, giving names to economic and political realities it helps to make the comprehension of the material more understandable and vivid with the help of certain familiar images that give the narration a specific emotional background. As for the translation of metaphors, the common “classical” variants of translation can be applied in most cases. Most of them are rendered in the Russian language by means of full or literary translation, sometimes using substitution, supplementation, omission or a loan translation. While assessing the adequacy of translation of mass-media texts into the target language, it is necessary to take into account different facts. It is no coincidence that they distinguish semantic, linguistic and stylistic adequacy. The juxtaposition of translation of metaphors from the source language into the target one helps to single out facts of adequacy of translation of metaphoric images and to demonstrate that some metaphors can be and others cannot be interpreted literary which means that there are differences in existing metaphoric models in both languages.

Keywords: Morbial metaphortranslationpolitical discourseimageadequacy of translationmodel


The main approaches in the study of a metaphor are semantic and cognitive. Each of them offers its advantages for analysis. The cognitive approach seems broader and more general, helping to understand the differences in cultures and ways of conceptualizing reality, pointing to the principles of a metaphor construction in the language as a whole and in the political discourse in particular, giving the possibility to analyze the metaphor as the main mechanism for constructing tropes.

Purpose of metaphor

In the opinion of J. Charteris-Black, as a rhetorical device, the metaphor is aimed to demonstrate something illustratively (the visual metaphor sounds more convincing, draws attention to the problem, creates contact with the audience). Having examined the corps of speeches of different authors, J. Charteris-Black emphasizes that the metaphors of politicians create a certain myth, corresponding to their views and goals. He also draws attention to the importance of the context of metaphor (Charteris-Black, 2016). Consequently, the goal of the political discourse is to promote points of view, to convince the audience of the veracity of their words. Emotional information, delivered through the image, facilitates the performance of these metaphor functions.

Problem Statement

It is known that politicians tend to use conventional metaphors in their speeches, because they are understandable to a wide audience, for example, "Nation is a family", in contrast to poetic discourse, where the task most often is to create an original metaphor. The choice of a conventional metaphor is often dependent on political and economic goals. Since political problems are abstract and sometimes confusing, they are easier to convey through metaphors, which will be understood by everyone.Since people cannot take into account all aspects of politics, there is a need to simplify these issues, and then some losses are inevitable. With the help of correctly chosen language tools, the author can show the situation in a favorable light for himself. Note that with metaphorization, something manifests itself, and something is obscured, then in the metaphor "iron curtain" the "figure" is clearly implied: it is unclear who created this curtain, it seems that it originated with itself. J. Charteris-Black also emphasizes that in the political discourse, a metaphor can be applied for ideological purposes, as it activates subconscious emotional associations and creates a myth (Charteris-Black, 2016).

Research Questions

Thus, a metaphor is an indispensable component of a political discourse in which its primary role is to create a vivid, memorable and easily revealing figurative image that would help achieve the necessary pragmatic effect and display in the laconic and accessible manner the author's point of view(Sheigal, 2004). It should be noted that the translation of metaphors is a multi-level process, the purpose of which is to find in the language the translation of equivalent units at the appropriate levels of functioning of the artistic speech, the content and emotional side of which would be equivalent to the metaphors of the original. Complexities arise when metaphors do not coincide qualitatively or conceptually. The metaphor presents possible options for thinking to clarify the problem situation. For political discourse, this is very important, since mistakes and shortcomings in the translation of metaphorical models can significantly distort the communicative focus of the source text.

Types of metaphor

As the researchers note, politicians prefer to use in their statements the clearest images for the target audience, which are due to a small number of original metaphors, in which there is no expression of any standard metaphor that facilitates a rapid understanding of a new metaphor. Consequently, instead of a new metaphor, politicians often resort to a "trite" metaphor or phraseology. However, simple phraseology can hardly make a memorable impression on listeners. Therefore, we often see the non-standard use of phraseology, which animates a seemingly erased image. It happens in many ways.A particular attention should be given to examples of translation of speech metaphors, since they create an individual style of the author and sometimes become aphorisms. Speech metaphors often represent detailed metaphors, where the elements are closely interrelated and facilitate the disclosure of imagery. The original metaphors are most often based on some conceptual metaphor, which ensures their perception and clarity for the audience. The problems of translating original metaphors are also related to the features of the conceptualization of reality, just like trite ones. When translating, there may be problems associated with the different associations of certain metaphors, as well as the problem of polysemy, when an adequate interpretation is impossible when translating with the preservation of the image.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this article is to consider the most adequate means of translation of a metaphor in the political discourse.

Research Methods

While studying this issue we used the following methods:


When establishing the adequacy of translation of journalistic texts, the original needs have to be taken into account along with the various features. No wonder they should talk about the adequacy of the semantic, linguistic, stylistic features, etc. Traditionally, in the theory of translation, the adequacy of translation means the categories of semantic completeness and accuracy, supplemented by stylistic and pragmatic equivalence. V.N. Komissarov asserts that within each functional style it is possible to distinguish some linguistic features whose influence on the course and outcome of the translation process is very significant ... In the newspaper and information style, along with the important role of terms, names and titles, there is the special feature of the headings, the abundance of abbreviations etc. (Komissarov, 2013). The degree of adequacy of translation depends not only on the lexical and grammatical features of the original, but also on their correlation with similar phenomena in the target language. For publicistic texts, metaphorical usage is traditionally considered logical, since in newspapers and magazines it is one of the characteristic means of textual expression. The metaphor is multifunctional: giving names to different economic and political realities, it often makes the proposed material more understandable and accessible, based on the concrete images familiar to the readers, creates an emotional background of the narrative. Comparison of the metaphors of the text in the original and its translation into another language makes it possible to reveal the facts of the adequacy of metaphorical images and to show that some metaphors can, and others, on the contrary, cannot be translated into another language literally, which indicates the differences in metaphorical languages ​​existing in these languages models. A.P.Chudinov defines the metaphorical model, as the typical correlation of the semantics of the immediate motivation of primary and secondary values ​​existing in the minds of native speakers, which is a model for the emergence of new secondary meanings (Chudinov, 2001). The attitude to the modern world as an unhealthy physically and mentally one caused the dissemination in the political discourse of the vocabulary of the medical sphere.Morbial metaphors appeared in newspaper and journalistic speech in the 19th century. The metaphorical model "The society is a healthy / sick organism" is one of the most vividly represented models in the English and American press. The society and the economy appear in the form of a human body, with its physiology and anatomy. The society as a living organism, and therefore categories of health / illness can be applied to it as well. As for the latter, the whole scenario of the disease is included here - from infection and observation of symptoms to treatment and recovery / death, and sometimes suicide (Shmeleva, 2000). In Russian and English, you can see very similar facts of metaphorical use, and in some cases you can apply a translation.

sickeconomy – больнаяэкономика, recoveryofprice – оздоровлениецены, warfever – военнаялихорадка.

western governments have always blinked first when Russia has threatened to commit financial suicide .

западные правительства всегда удивленно моргали глазами, когда Россия грозила совершить финансовоесамоубийство .

investors greeted 2009 with one hell of hangover , after U.S. and European markets ended a third year of declines .

инвесторы встретили 2009 год муками похмелья , после того, как рынок Соединенных Штатов и Европы закончил свой третий год упадка .

Compromises will cushion the shock of enlargement and monetary convergence .

Компромисс смягчит шок увеличения и денежной конвергенции .

Sometimes metaphors are translated from English into Russian by means of a description (techniques of descriptive or contextual translation are used).

health - благополучие (букв. здоровье), heart – суть (букв. сердце).

Saddam is a pain in the neck for Bush’s Administration .

Саддам (Хусейн) – это наболевшая проблема (букв. «боль в шее» ) для Правительства Буша.

…U.S. Companies have slashed spending and have convalesced .

…американские компании снизили затраты и поправили свое положение (букв. «выздоровели» ).

What happens to the share price does not necessarily have any relation to the health of our business .

То, что происходит со стoимостью акций, вряд ли имеет какое-то отношение к благополучию (букв. «здоровью» ) нашегобизнеса .


Thus, in some cases, the analogous translation of the English metaphor and its literal translation essentially coincide (the inner form of English and Russian metaphors are identical). Parallelism of the form can be due to the fact that many terms in English are traced into the Russian terminology, and in fact these comparable images can appear in the process of autonomous development of languages.As T.V.Shmeleva notes, modern media are already a kind of interdiscourse, in which the differences of individual languages ​​are a purely superficial thing. We look at the world very much the same ... (Shmeleva, 2000). The metaphor in the political discourse serves to convey emotionally-evaluative information, to attract attention of the audience, to create a myth, to promote one's opinion. The problems of translation may be related to the preservation of the meaning, image, emotionally-evaluative information, a way of describing the situation and highlighting the same elements of the metaphor. The application of certain transformations is caused by such problems as the ambiguity of the auxiliary subject and the differences in combinatorics. The translation of the original image is often not a problem, however, in the translation language the original image can be interpreted inconsistently if the context does not show those attributes that are implied in the original metaphor. The difficulties of compatibility are also the cause of various transformations, often causing a transposition of this metaphor, which allows us to convey the imagery of the original metaphor. Mainly, metaphors allow the author to represent events in a certain light. There are a number of recurring common models, which politicians consistently adhere to in their statements. The presence of such models makes it possible to reveal the connectedness of metaphors and their rhetorical load, which is important in solving translation problems. The use of traditional metaphors makes it possible to achieve simplicity, at the same time it is always possible to bring some originality, to beat in a new way something familiar, due to non-standard compatibility or unexpected development of thought.


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30 April 2018

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Sociolinguistics, linguistics, semantics, discourse analysis, translation, interpretation

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Denisova, I., & Telesheva, I. (2018). Problems Of Translation Of Morbial Metaphors In Political Discourse. In I. V. Denisova (Ed.), Word, Utterance, Text: Cognitive, Pragmatic and Cultural Aspects, vol 39. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 1-6). Future Academy.