Russian Hunting Vocabulary Translation Into German In The Prose By Northern Authors


The article discusses translation of Russian hunting vocabulary into German in the prose by Vladimir Lichutin and Dmitry Trubin, usually referred to as the Northern text of Russian literature. Integrative translation approach allows us to argue why it is necessary to take into account not only the linguistic, speech, and communicative aspects of translation, but also semiotic, cognitive, and many others when translating the hunting texts. The view of the translation process from the perspective of integrative translation studies makes it possible to apply Werner Koller’s theory of principle translatability. Three groups of hunting vocabulary have been identified in accordance with the translatability parameter: 1) translatable with translation equivalents; 2) partially translatable 3) non-translatable. The first group of hunting vocabulary shows a significant similarity of Russian and German equivalents in semantic-pragmatic terms, the second group shows the possibility of finding a commonly used lexical unit as an adequate substitute when rejecting Jägersprache in translation. The existence of the third group is explained by the lack of sufficient background knowledge about the hunting-specific realities. Overcoming the intercultural barrier forces the translator to use domestication or foreignization strategies. The non-translatability of individual words related to hunting vocabulary is explained not only by conceptual and lexical lacunae in the translating language and host culture, but also by the impossibility to reconstruct the dialectical features of the speech of the author or characters of the considered works in translation.

Keywords: Hunter languagehunting vocabularyintegrative translation studiestranslatabilityrealitynational world view


Two important theories existing in translation studies can be considered as theoretical prerequisites for this translatologically-oriented study. The first one is related to the modelling of the translation process and is also applicable to literary translation. An integrative model of the translation process was developed taking into account foreign and Russian scientific research ( Nefedova & Remkhe, 2019; Polikarpov, 2017; Snell-Hornby, 1988) based on an integrative view of translation and together with the practice of translation this model is called integrative translation studies. The essence of this area of translatology is a fundamentally new view of translation activity as a dynamic target-oriented system, which should take into account both internal and external factors of translation, including the creative personality of the translator, the multilayer nature of his thinking and a complex assessment of the quality of translation. The integrative translation model is based on the principle of the multi-channel thinking of the translator, which implies the integration of conscious mental actions with unconscious operations. The basic principle of the integrative theory of translation is the interdisciplinarity of research, which allows us to characterize translation activities from a holistic perspective ( Polikarpov, 2017, p. 7). The integrative approach to the study of the translation process allows to successfully use interdisciplinarity as an advantage in exploring the possibilities of transmitting Russian hunting vocabulary into German when translating works on hunting by northern authors. The integrative approach to the problem of transmitting Russian hunting vocabulary in the literary translation means, first of all, taking into account knowledge from various fields and applying it. In our case, in addition to the translation study as such, we are referring to general linguistics, sociolinguistics, communicative studies, cognitive linguistics, terminology, literary studies, semiotics, hunting, forestry, ecology, history, ethics, sociology. Handling of knowledge from these scientific fields during the translation process will allow to translate the source texts and to adequately transfer Russian hunting vocabulary into German.

The second theory was developed by German translator Werner Koller. Koller’s (2011) theory of principle translatability proceeds from the statement that everything implied and expressed in one language is translatable and therefore can be expressed in another language. However, the scientist does not exclude the fact that sometimes non-translatability may exist due to the very nature of the language, which reflects the worldview of its speakers, which, in turn, determines their perception of extra-linguistic reality. According to Koller ( 2011), translation helps to transpose the linguistic content of one language into the linguistic content of another language, therefore, its implementation may cause a contradiction due to the accessibility of the real world for understanding and communication, on the one hand, and the existence of different worldview, on the other hand. Based on the ideas of integrative translation, we can agree that the solution to the problem of translatability depends on the interpretation of the correlation between linguistic and non-linguistic factors of translation, as well as on the requirements to translation and principles for assessing the quality of translation and some other aspects that integrative translation takes into account.

The present study helps to clarify the principles of integrative translation studies, which consider translatability as a category of translation, looking at numerous factors that allow us to convey the language phenomena observed in the source text as accurately, equivalently and adequately as possible. This article may be of interest to those involved in the literary translation and study of the problems of language phenomena that are significant for a particular genre of translated text.

Problem Statement

To study the possibilities of transmitting hunting vocabulary in literary translation, Russian-language literary works by two northern authors were selected as source texts. In the beginning we will briefly characterize these works and introduce their authors, as well as explain why we chose the hunting aspect when considering the feasibility of translating special vocabulary.

Short Novel by Vladimir Lichutin

The story by Vladimir Lichutin “Vdova Nyura” (Widow Nyura), which is included in the book of the author’s selected works published in Moscow in 1990 ( Lichutin, 1990), was used as the first source of language material for our study. This story describes difficult life of an elderly woman named Anna during the Soviet times in great detail. Judging by the events described in the story, Anna was an avid hunter, and her whole life was connected with the forest and hunting. She lived in a house on the fringe of the forest, all alone. Residents of the neighbouring village called the main character “Baba Nyura”. This explains the title of the story. The author of the story Vladimir Lichutin was born in the north of Russia, in the city of Mezen, Arkhangelsk Region, in 1940. He is known in Russia as a writer, whose works describe the Pomor village, the life of simple Russian people. It should be noted that the writer’s family belonged to an ancient Pomor family of hunters, which explains the writer’s love for hunting and its many literary descriptions in the story under consideration. It is important for the study of the possibilities of transmitting hunting vocabulary when translating the story of Vladimir Lichutin into German.

Stories by Dmitry Trubin

The second source of literary texts to be translated is a collection of stories by Trubin ( 2011) entitled “Okhotnich’i rosskazni” (Hunting Tales), published in Arkhangelsk in 2011. “Rosskazni” is a purely colloquial lexical unit of the Russian language with the meaning of “fiction” or “a story that does not give confidence”. Using the given lexeme in the title of the collection of stories in combination with the word “hunting”, the author means hunting stories in which you can find a lot of things that were made up. Typically, such stories are associated with fables, fiction, as reported in the annotation to the book presented by the author himself. A certain implausibility in the presentation of hunting events does not affect the presence of a large number of real hunting vocabulary, which is rather difficult to transmit into German when translating hunting stories from the book by Dmitry Trubin. The author of the book was born in 1949 in the city of Kargopol, Arkhangelsk region. Dmitry Trubin graduated from the Arkhangelsk State Forestry Engineering Institute, worked in a forest management expedition, then in forestry authorities and even held the position of the chief forest manager in the Arkhangelsk region, so he knows what forest and hunting are.

It is important to note that the two presented literary sources, which in their parameters relate to the Northern supertext of Russian literature, are united by the love of northern writers and their main characters for hunting. By Northern text we understand, following Galimova ( 2017):

The supertext created over a long period of time (...) in the work of many Russian writers, which captures a special Northern Russian version of the national worldview more precisely, the mythopoetic image of the Northern Russian world, endowed with common typological features along with individual ones, reflecting the peculiarity of the worldview of each of the authors” (p. 20-21).

Research Questions

Hunting vocabulary as an object of translatological research

Hunting is the oldest type of human activity, which does not only unite people, shows their attitude to nature, but also provides them with food and clothing. The word “okhota” is used in the Russian language primarily in the meaning of “hunting” i.e. “activity related to the search, tracking of birds and animals and the obtaining of hunting trophies, as well as their subsequent primary processing and transportation”.

The meaning of the Russian word “okhota” incorporates both professional and amateur components of semantics. Nowadays, hunting can be considered as a professional activity, and as a sphere of interests of hunting lovers. One can agree with Trubin’s very ironic statement that hunting “permeates the mind, consciousness, soul, heart, and sometimes the stomach of many people” ( Trubin, 2011, p. 2).

In addition to the term “okhotnichiy yazyk” – hunting language ( Tselykhova, 2018) Russian linguists use such expressions as “professionalnyy sleng okhotnikov” (professional slang of hunters), “okhotnichiy zhargon” (hunting jargon), “okhotnichiy sotsiolekt” (hunting sociolect) to designate a specific language of hunters used for their communication.

We apply the concept of hunting language to the special hunting vocabulary used by the authors of literary works to depict the life and work of hunters. Terms used by German scientists to refer to the language of hunters include such words as “Jägersprache” ( Brandmayr, 2018; Roosen, 2016), “Weidmannsprache” (, 2016). Both of these composites can be translated into English as “hunting language”. In addition, some other terms can also be found in German linguistics, for example, “Fachsprache der Jäger” – “professional language of hunters” , “Jagdkunstsprache” ( Jandečková, 2017, p. 19) – literal translation into English: “language of hunting art”.

Depending on the historical period in which the hunters’ language is examined, this concept is interpreted more narrowly as a specific layer of special vocabulary of hunters, or is used in a wider sense. In modern interpretations of the term “hunters’ language”, some others components such as syntactic, functional, textual, pragmatic, communicative, sociocultural, and semiotic are added to the lexical level of consideration of this sociolinguistic phenomenon ( Wagner, 2018, p. 9). Nowadays, the language of hunters is increasingly being studied in the context of the linguosemiotics of hunting communication ( Vasil’chenko & Olyanich, 2014).

Based on the fact that the lexical level of hunting communication should be terminologically separated from other levels of the language, we will use the term “okhotnich’ya leksika” (hunting lexemes) for which there are several correspondences in the German language, for example, Jagdwortschatz (vocabulary of the hunting) ( Wagner, 2018, p.15), jagdlicher Wortschatz (hunting vocabulary) ( Roosen, 2016, p. 89). In Russian linguistics, in addition to the term “okhotnich’ya leksika” (hunting lexemes) ( Tokhtonova, 2018), such terminological nominations as “spetsial’nyye okhotnich’i slova” (special hunting words) ( Superanskaya, Podol’skaya, & Vasil’yeva, 2004, p. 62), “professional’no-okhotnich’ya leksika” (professional hunting vocabulary) ( Kulykov, 1995, p. 184), “okhotnich’ya terminologiya” (hunting terminology) ( Tokhtonova, 2018, p.108) are also used. Kulykov ( 1995, p. 183) quite rightly states the heterogeneity of the described lexical layer of the hunters’ language. He proposes to divide the vocabulary belonging to the hunting language into several categories: “spetsial’nyye terminy” (special terms), related to elevated style, “professionalizmy” (professionalisms), related to the lower style, “professional’nyye zhargonizmy” (professional jargon), characteristic of everyday colloquial speech, and “regionalizmy” (regionalisms) at the level of territorial dialects.

It should be emphasized that only limited hunting vocabulary has a terminological character in literary works by northern authors. Most often, hunting vocabulary does not reflect the scientific worldview and does not possess terminology properties. At the same time, it demonstrates the connection with the national consciousness, as well as with the national, regional and professional worldview and is aimed to represent the images of the characters-hunters or the image of the author – a fan of hunting. Stylistically, hunting vocabulary can be labelled in different ways. It can be represented in terms of scientific style, lexemes and expressions related to professional jargon, colloquial vocabulary and even dialecticisms. It is interesting to note that the German scientist. Roosen ( 2016, p. 89) suggests dividing the hunting vocabulary into two main groups: professionally determined and socially determined terms. The first group includes words that name types, techniques and objects of hunting, and the second group includes words that are used by hunters for various socio-psychological reasons. He refers to the second category of words, for example, specific nominations of body parts of animals (“Teller” in the meaning of “ears of a boar”, “Blume” in the meaning of “ears of a hare or a rabbit”, etc.).

Translatability of hunting vocabulary and translation factors

Based on the key principles of integrative translation studies, which are actively developed at the Northern (Arctic) Federal University ( Polikarpov, 2017), and Werner Koller’s theory of principle translatability ( Koller, 2011), we classify the Russian hunting vocabulary identified in literary texts in accordance with its translatability. Keeping in mind our hypothesis of the equal importance of translation studies and other scientific fields for the translation of the texts by the northern authors we will name some concepts that can be considered fundamental when understanding Russian hunting and its translation into German.

The linguistic aspects of the translation seem to be the most important for the translation of hunting vocabulary, namely, the awareness and adequate use of the following linguistic concepts from general linguistics and sociolinguistics in the pre-translation analysis and translation of these literary works by northern authors: “sublanguage”, “special language code”, “language of hunters”, “jargon of hunters”, “sociolect of hunters”, “hunting discourse”, etc. Such concepts of cognitive linguistics and linguoculturology as “worldview”, “language view of the world”, “national worldview”, “professional worldview”, “concept okhota” (hunting), “hunting culture” help to formulate a metalanguage of the description of hunting vocabulary for translatological purposes and to better understand how to translate Russian hunting vocabulary into German.

In addition, the use of speech strategies, tactics and techniques of speech, as well as knowledge related to such concepts as “literary style”, “literary worldview”, “hunting tale”, “character image”, “image of the author”, etc. are relevant aspects for the translation. These concepts from literary criticism and linguo-stylistics will help to better understand the functional-pragmatic side of the hunting vocabulary to be translated.

The communicative aspects of translation that are significant for the transmission of hunting vocabulary are associated with such important communicative concepts as “type of communication”, “professional communication”, “special communication”, and also with a number of concepts from semiotics: “semiotics of hunting”, “linguosemiotics of hunting communication” ( Vasil’chenko & Olyanich, 2014), “sound semiotics of hunting communication” (Vasil’chenko, 2016), etc.

The terminological concepts “hunting term”, “terminological field”, “terminological macrofield “okhotnichiy promysel” (hunting)”, “terminology group” and some others are important. These concepts will help to classify Russian hunting vocabulary in the literary texts under study and to find better equivalents in German, to separate terminological units from general hunting vocabulary.

From the point of view of terminography and lexicography, the important sources of information about hunting vocabulary are hunting glossaries, hunter dictionaries and special reference books of hunters that allow to verify the hunting vocabulary from the point of its belonging to the language of hunters, both in Russian ( Tselykhova, 2019) and in German ( Nummsen, 2017; Prossinagg, 2018) languages.

Here are some aspects of translation activity which justify the possibility of using the ideas of integrative translation studies as the perspective of the translation of hunting vocabulary: possession of practical skills in using special lexicographic and terminographic sources; study of the features of forest communication in Russia and in Germany and hunting communication, in particular, taking into account its national specificity; study of the basic principles of hunting activities in the countries of the original and host cultures, taking into account existing environmental problems in both diachronic and synchronous sections; getting to know the social status of Russian and German hunters and the main characteristics of their professional and amateur communities; consideration of ethical aspects of hunting, including the appropriate special vocabulary used by hunters.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this research is to study the possibilities of translating hunting vocabulary identified in the texts of short literary works belonging to the Northern supertext of Russian literature into German. In order to translate the texts by the northern authors Vladimir Lichutin and Dmitry Trubin into German, it is important to identify ways of transmitting hunting vocabulary, which is numerous in the works under study due to the hunting themes of the stories. Hunting vocabulary should be classified from the point of view of its translatability. Application of the principles of integrative translation studies, some of which were presented above, in order to study the translatability of hunting vocabulary, will establish the effectiveness of the integrative approach in ensuring the quality of translation.

Research Methods

The following methods were used as research methods in collecting linguistic material, describing Russian hunting vocabulary, and identifying the possibilities of its translation into German: continuous sampling method for selecting language material (identifying hunting vocabulary in works by northern authors) ;verification method for the selected Russian lexical units related to the hunting language in order to verify the proposed lexical correspondences with existing hunting glossaries, dictionaries and reference books of hunters; a comparison method necessary for a comparative study of lexical units of a hunting orientation in Russian and German. The use of these methods does not exclude the use of linguistic description with methods of observation, systematization, interpretation and generalization.


From the translatological point of view three main groups of Russian hunting vocabulary were identified:

  • translatable with translation equivalents: for example, the phrase “bespoleznyy vystrel” (useless shot) and its exact German-language equivalent Fehlschuss with the meaning of “ein Schuss, der das Ziel verfehlt hat” (shot past the target) or the “tsvetok” lexeme in the meaning of “hare tail” and its variant equivalent die Blume (flower) in the same meaning;

  • partially translatable: compare, for example, the Russian-speaking hunting lexeme “sakma” in the meaning of “wolf track” and its analogue Wolfsspur, which does not belong to special hunting vocabulary in German;

  • untranslatable: for example verb “chertit'”, that helps Russian hunters characterize the footprint left by the wings of wood grouse and black grouse in the snow and for which the German language lacks not only translation correspondence, but also any adequate equivalent.

Let us consider these three groups of hunting vocabulary in more detail.

The first group of hunting vocabulary, distinguished on the basis of its translatability, demonstrates significant similarity of Russian and German hunting vocabulary in a semantic-pragmatic sense. In order to translate the hunting vocabulary found in the works of northern writers it is necessary to search for equivalents in German hunting language dictionaries and hunting glossaries. So, for the translation of lexeme “chuchelki” ( Trubin, 2011, p. 38) into German we found an equivalent in the form of a determinative composite Lockvögel in the German-language reference book of hunting language “Handbuch Jägersprache” by Nummsen ( 2017, p. 108). The interpretation of this German hunting lexeme in the reference book shows that its meaning is fully consistent with the meaning of the Russian word “chuchelki”. In both cases, the meaning is almost identical. It can be formulated as “made of wood or other material stuffed mannequins of hunting birds, which are used to lure birds during the hunt because of their similarity”.

In Dmitry Trubin’s short story “Moose Hunt” the metaphorical expression “spravlyat’ svadbu” (to celebrate a wedding) is used to indicate the time of moose mating. Here is the context for using this expression from the original text: “Losi osen’yu chasten’ko spravlyayut zdes’ svoi svad’by, nagulivayutsya na nekoshenykh travakh pered dolgoy golodnoy zimoy” ( Trubin, 2011, p. 18). Translated into English, this sentence could be as follows: In the autumn moose often celebrate their weddings here, walk on the unmowed grass before a long hungry winter. In the reference book “Handbuch Jägersprache”, as a correspondence for the Russian phrase “celebrate weddings” for moose, we found the verb brunften with reference to the fact that it is used to indicate the mating process of hoofed ruminants. Since the moose belong to this kind, the indicated German verb is quite suitable for the translation of the corresponding phrase, although at the same time demetaphorization takes place. In fact, the expression “to celebrate the wedding” is used by Russian hunters not only in relation to moose, but also to other inhabitants of the forest.

The second group of hunting vocabulary shows the possibility of finding an adequate substitute if Jägersprache (the language of the hunters) is not used and the corresponding lexeme or expression is found only in literary language. The specifics of Russian national hunting in the considered works are also represented by specific lexical units such as “zapadnya”, “oblava” with the meaning “hunting for animals surrounded by beaters, lined up in a semicircle, and sometimes with dogs, and driving animals to the line of hunters”, “zagon” (the space between the shooters and the beaters on the beat), “liniya” (network of shooters on the beat), “nomer” (the place where the shooter stands during a hunt), “oklad” (plot of forest, covered by beaters or cord with flags) ( Trubin, 2011, p. 61). This is primarily due to the fact that in the forests of Russia, including the Russian North, a large number of predators, in particular, wolves, have recently appeared. In the story by Trubin “Volch’ya okhota. Smertel’naya skhvatka” (Wolf hunting. Deadly battle.) the collective wolf hunt in the form of a trap and with a beat is described in detail. In order to translate the corresponding passages of the Russian text into German, Russian hunting vocabulary with the indicated meanings are substituted for German common lexis. But the words found are not correspondences for Russian hunting terms. As a result of such a transfer, hunting communication is not entirely Russian. Resorting to the strategy of domestication, i.e. becoming closer to the norms of the recipient culture (moving away from the donor hunting culture), the translator loses national specificity, clearly manifested in the source text.

One of the problems in translating literary works by northern authors is the translation of dialectisms. The only way to translate the Russian dialectisms of northern origin kun’ya shkura, kuropotʹ, pester’, sakma, sil’ya into German is to abandon the dialect and specificity of the hunting language, using neutralization and choosing the words, belonging to the common lexis in the translating language (Marderfell - skin of a marten; Auerhahn - partridge; Rucksack - backpack; Wolfsspuren - wolf footprints; Schleifen zum Fangen von Vögeln - loops for catching birds).

The third group include the North Russian realities, which are widely used in the text of Vladimir Lichutin’s novel “Vdova Nyura” and present the biggest challenge for the translation into German. Russian hunting realia words include such lexemes as “zymoveyka”, “kamus”, “kundy”, “luzan”, “pechka-kamenka”. The uniqueness of the typically northern hunting denotations makes it impossible to translate these words by finding simple matches or analogue substitutions. When translating, you can of course use transliteration followed by translation commentary. In this case, the translator simultaneously uses two translation strategies: foreignization (transliteration) and domestication (in the subsequent translation description or translation commentary. In some cases one can use the omission of the realia word with the following compensation. It probably does not make sense to keep too many transliterated foreign realia words in the text like this: Kundy, podbityye losinymi kamusami, nesli khorosho, ne poddavali nazad (Lichutin, 1990, p. 51).

It’s easier to translate this, having carried out cultural adaptation, and therefore, to use the strategy of foreignization and then explain in the course of further narration that the skis of the northern hunter are usually covered with the skin of a moose so that they do not fall into the snow and do not move back when sliding.

We can say that the recipient of the translation does not have the corresponding background information or knowledge about the ethnocultural, national-specific realities of the hunting nature, which are described in the source text. He also does not have knowledge about the features of the national and regional worldview, which are reflected in the original text. This forces the translator to skillfully use appropriate compensating translation techniques (compensation, transliteration, translation commentary, etc.) when transmitting such “nonequivalent” hunting vocabulary in translation. In some cases, the non-translatability of hunting vocabulary is due to the impossibility of reconstructing the translation of the dialectical features of the author or characters of literary works (compare sil’ya instead of the general literary option silki (snares) ( Lichutin, 1990, p. 68). In this case, integrative translation studies suggest using the advantages of text-centrism as the basic principle of translation, which helps to ensure the integrity of the transmitted information and to constantly keep in mind the four-stage translation process, which, in addition to the three generally recognized stages of the translation act (pre-understanding, deverbalization and reverbalization), also has a stage of extracting the meaning of the translated text by the recipient, and in the case of literary translation the stage of receiving aesthetic pleasure of reading, which is sometimes forgotten by translators of fiction.


The results of the analysis of the translatability of Russian hunting vocabulary into German, taking into account the features of the functioning of this vocabulary in the works of northern authors Vladimir Lichutin and Dmitry Trubin showed that despite the existing possibilities of translatability (using direct correspondences, analogue substitutions, transliteration, some other translation techniques), the hunting vocabulary of Russia and Germany differ significantly in both denotative-semantic and pragmatic properties, and the presence of special word-formation models and specific metaphorical formations. The discrepancy concerns primarily the existence of national and regional hunting realities, which demonstrate differences in the national worldview. The difficulties of translation that arise in connection with this increase in the translation of works belonging in their literary and linguistic characteristics to the Northern text of Russian literature. The non-translatability of some hunting lexical nominations and expressions in this case still does not mean that the text cannot be translated. Based on the theory of principle translatability by W. Koller and on the ideas of integrative translation, which gives advantages in the approach to the translation process, we consider that the possibilities of translation are expanded if we approach the translation activity as creative one, penetrating deeply into the essence of the transmitted content and taking into account factors influencing quality of translation.


The reported study was funded by RFBR and the Government of the Arkhangelsk Region, Russia, project number 17-14-29002 “Russian émigré writers from Arkhangelsk North E.A. Gagarin, A.S. Arsenyeva, G. Revaldt in Germany in the 1930s - 1940s: biography reconstruction and the study of their Russian and German-language works”.


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03 August 2020

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

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Polikarpov, A., & Lyutyanskaya, M. (2020). Russian Hunting Vocabulary Translation Into German In The Prose By Northern Authors. In & N. L. Amiryanovna (Ed.), Word, Utterance, Text: Cognitive, Pragmatic and Cultural Aspects, vol 86. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 1122-1132). European Publisher.