Found in Non-Translation: English Language in the American Travelogues of Russian Writers (1890s – 1930s)
- УДК / UDK: 821.111, 821.112.2
- Author: Lioudmila Fedorova
- About the author:
Lioudmila Fedorova (Ph.D., Associate Professor, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, USA)
The present study of Russian writers’ American travelogues (1890s – 1930s) focuses on their “language politics” – the presence of the English language in these texts and deliberate word-choices the authors made while portraying foreign reality in Russian. Vladimir Korolenko, Vladimir Tan (Bogoraz) and Maxim Gorky who visited the United States in 1890s – 1900s, Sergei Esenin and Vladimir Mayakovsky in 1920s, Ilia Ilf and Evgenii Petrov and Boris Pilniak in 1930s had a very limited knowledge of English and experienced America in translation, which inevitably influenced their perception of the country. Typically, the traveling Russians projected their frustration towards the foreign language onto the language itself and blamed it for its incomprehensibility and irrationality. In the Soviet era, the English language of America acquired additional negative connotations in the texts of Russian travelers, determined by their political agenda: while they perceived Russian as the language of the Revolution, English was associated with capitalism. Thus, they constructed America’s ideological alterity through linguistic as well as other means. The speech of the Russian immigrants served as a constant object of irony for many of the traveling writers. At the same time, they constantly used Anglicisms in various degrees of assimilation in their own texts. This study breaks the borrowings into several thematic groups in order to study their semantic and emotional load: the daily life of a traveler, technology, economic and social life. While borrowings for previously unencountered realia are generally emotionally and axiologically neutral, those that refer to concepts that do exist in Russia but for which the writers nevertheless prefer English words, like Pilniak’s “gipokritstvo” (hypocrisy) or Mayakovsky’s “dzhab” (job) and “monei” (money), are semantically and emotionally charged. When they occur, the American word and its Russian counterpart have a difference in meaning that is essential for the writers to underscore. This is how they establish the difference between the Russian (Soviet) and the American on the linguistic level. The article reviews various degrees of adaptation of English borrowings into the Russian texts of the travelogues.
- Keywords: American travelogues, language politics, Anglicisms, borrowings, Pilniak, Mayakovsky.
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