In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Culture-Specific Items in Bilingual Dictionaries of English1 Morton Benson .Linguists and lexicographers have recognized that, except for some scientific and technical vocabularies, many lexical items in any language are culture-specific or culture-bound, and that, consequently , one must be cautious about assuming the absolute equivalency of any two items in different languages (Bugarski 159; Hohulin 43; Tomaszczyk 43; Zgusta 296). Ifculture-specific items occupy a significant part of the lexicon of any language, one must view with some degree of skepticism any assertion that "reversing" the source side of a bilingual dictionary is sufficient to obtain an adequate source wordlist of a companion volume. This paper deals with culture-specific lexical differences classified as "referential gaps" or "lexical gaps" and not with linguistic or grammatical differences. Thus, for example, no attempt is made to describe the problems posed for the lexicographer by the use of definite and indefinite articles in English and the absence of such articles in many languages. Referential gaps come into being when a referent (a "thing" or a "concept/notion") existing in the source culture does not exist in the target culture (Benson 1986, 53). For example, the referents denoted by advance man, dial-a-joke, exit poll, jiffy bag, meals-on-wheeh, etc., may not exist in many cultures. Lexicographers have shown that there are numerous instances ofpartial equivalents (Benson 1986, 56; Tomaszczyk 289; Zgusta 312). If we attempt to translate items taken from American culture such as assütant professor, double dipping, health maintenance organization, nurse practitioner, it will become clear that in many other languages partial, not exact, equivalents exist for such expressions . A discussion of the difficulties that lexicographers may encounter when dealing with referential gaps will be given below. 44Morton Benson Soviet lexicologists have suggested that referential items often coincide only partially because of differing details in the relevant realia ; the total realia connected with the referent make up the "background " (Verescagin, Kostomarov, Morkovkin 1974). For example, the concept ofaddress (written on an envelope) has, ofcourse, the Russian equivalent 'adres'. The English and the Russian words are regularly used quite properly to translate each other. However, differences between their meanings emerge ifwe examine the details ofthe realia. To solve this problem, Soviet lexicographers are planning a series of "linguo-areal" dictionaries that would provide background information , i.e., encyclopedic information about the terminology used in a given activity (Benson 1988, 225). Several linguists have proposed classifications of the various types of referential gaps. Schnorr (56-60) has suggested general areas in which gaps arise. Verescagin, Kostomarov (1971, 62-64) have described the major fields in which Soviet terms may usually encounter referential gaps in other languages. Here is a suggested outline, with examples, of areas in which English culture-specific terms often seem to occur: 1 . politics, economics, law: advance man, electoral college, executive privilege , Federal Reserve System,front bencher, Inland Revenue, supply-side economics, sunshine law. Mueller (1989, 167) points out, for example, "that a term such as executive privilege is apparently meaningless outside its American context." 2.historical events, folklore, holidays: Boxing Day, Civil War, GroundHog Day, Magna Carta, Revolutionary War, Round Table, Thanksgiving Day. 3.geographical terms: Buckeye State, the City, Lower Fortyeight, MasonDixon line, Midlands, Sunbelt, Thames. care: childbearing center, family medicine, group practice, health vuitor, HMO, National Health Service. A leveh, credit, dütributional requirements, dean's lût, don, tutorial, work-study student. applepie, bubbleandsqueak, hoagie,ploughman's lunch, TVdinner. 7.flora, fauna: American elk, cactus, muskrat, poison oak, raccoon, sequoia. 8.miscellaneous: Amtrak, Big Ten, condo conversion, cooling-off-period, dial-a-prayer, dinner theatre, doggy bag, factory outlet, fast-foodrestaurant . Some terms denoting referential gaps have entered a large number of languages and have become internationalisms: baseball, Culture-Specific Items in Bilingual Dictionaries of English45 cowboy, Wall Street, Watergate, wigwam, etc. In these instances, the English form is borrowed and adapted to the phonetic system of the borrowing language. Thus, in SerboCroatian we have bezbol, kauboj, Vol strit, Votergejt, vigvam. In other examples of international referential gaps the form is translated. For example, the House ofLords becomes in SerboCroatian 'Gornji dorn', the White House becomes...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 43-54
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.