Names as identifiers and frontiers of the text: the individual capacity of renaming in changing cultural and language environment


Gergana Apostolova

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This is a long-term study of the position of personal names in a story and their relations with the story where three pragmatic questions come up as primary goals: How an author chooses the names in a text so that they fit naturally to the story? What happens to a text if the names are changed or taken out of it with only a generalized replacement (e.g. Alice is called ‘Lyssa’[1], or ‘Gloriana’[2] or ‘the girl’; or Romeo is John and Juliet – Nelly)? And how the context changes in intercultural transition of a text in translation, adaptation or intertextual replay? The study is based on nearly 20 years of lecturing on the problems of tetx criteria and intertextuality, and translation and interpretation studies to BA and MA classes of English Philology and Applied Linguistics and case study of vast range where the cases directly concerning the above questions amount over 6500.  The present paper starts at a level where a theory of name-based analysis of the story-telling Self is presupposed (Apostolova 2004, 2005a/b, 2011, 2012). The motivation of revisiting this specific field of philosophy is the present environment of globally spread English-speaking universally oriented culture where human creativity needs novel explications letting different cultures take up their spaces without losing their singularity and the sounding of their tongue in the names they are identified by.

             The starting grounds and general premises are not novel for philosophy although they have been reworded to fit into the general concept of this study. The nature of the study is in the field of applied philosophy where the object is human existence as reflected in the mental projections of the name-giving Self.

            To begin with, an individual has got one story to tell: one’s individual lifestory. It makes a texture of one’s spoken and written texts, where the same lifestory is told from different points of view and made into scenario of-all-purposes. The I-language[3] is the vehicle of the I-text and the I-experience is the environment of the semantic reality where the I-text is replayed time in and time out. The individual is always the name-behind the-text while the heroes of one’s textual replays are the I-projections or the Avatars in the wordyworlds of an individual existence.

            The singularity of a story is in the Self-identification of the story teller acting as the encoder in the given situation and, to a great extent, in the encoder’s ability to give names to the his or her projected subjectivity as the creator of each next wordyworld or particular world of words.

            The phenomenology of name-based identification of a story underlies the procedures of encoding and decoding the title of the story itself where the name of the hero is the name of the story; and designing of what can be called “name-based sociographics” of the story in adding the circumstantial characteristics to the name of the actant, and the psychographics of the story where the name of the story-teller stands behind the I-hero. Most stories in their original versions contain the name of the hero in the title which makes one story easily distinguished from another. In the retelling of the story transculturally the names of the heroes and places are changed, while in author’s texts they might follow several paths of transition. Thus Sindbad from Arabian Nights can become Robinson Crusoe, The Kittle Tin Soldier of Andersen can turn into Alice swimming in her sea of Tears, or George sailing a paper boat in the ditch leading to his death from the underground “It”.   Authors can preserve the names of universal heroes like Death or the Dragon or the Witch, but they can also make them circumstantially bound by adding details e.g. Death of Mice (Terry Pratchett) or Dragon of Happiness (Clifford Simak), the Witch of the Chalk (Terry Pratchett) etc.  The names of Gods, Kings and Heroes, Historic Figures, Heroines and Common people within the reach of the encoder’s world form the sociographics of names while psychographics is based on the fundamental values and corresponding roles of the heroes to be named. The encoder’s choice is limited and contains but little surprize and the latter could also come to the reader’s expectation as far as it occurs. Generally, the renaming of the heroes results in the production of a new story, and vice versa, intertextual transfer operates with the technique of relating analogous story with new names identifying new heroes in a new environment (e.g. the method of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple). Names appear as guardians of a story’s identity.

            Further, in intercultural transition a story is reworded by means of another language and the name-borders are extended to involve the type of the character and the time-and-space positioning in this extended reality. The tales of oral cultures thus seem to contain the basics of a theory of relativity.

            Consequently, here it is held that names serve as frontiers of the text and each change of the code changes those frontiers for the need of reconceptualization of the nominal existential pattern of the Self.

            Transcultural extensions of the text are the mechanisms of name transition: transliteration, transcription, semantic translation, digraphia, simplification, adaptation, adopting nicks and avatars, reaching back to culturally fundamental individual types in a Proppean plain. Name-transition can make a text obscure and cause the need of adding paratext giving the parameters of the name in terms of conceptualization whose aim is the creation of new binders and making up new relations. That has lead us to treating personal names as specific concepts where the Self-identification capacity of the encoder is borne – metaconcepts or conceptual reconstruction in each next extension of the Self to the world as it is for the Other.

            The singularity of a story thus is connected with the limitations to the encoder’s creativity for each next wordyworld  needs reconceptualization of the Self as the actant of the story in the changing textual environment (e.g. in literary history  there are numerous cases of telling the same story from the point of view of each character ; in court practice versions of the same event are presented; the intertextual narratives of the late 20th century make use of adjustment of universalia to fit into circumstantial realia, and so does the translation of a closed culture like ours into the universal culture of the English speaking e-culture based on the electronically supported Worldwide Web).

  1. An overview of ideas to be used for the purposes of this study

            Jacques Derrida once said: There will be no unique name, even if it were the name of Being. And we must think this without nostalgia. (Derrida, Margins of Philosophy) Probably this was the inspiration of viewing the name as a kind of margin where the world of a story stops.

            I have tried it as a game with a class of young schoolkids: we tried giving names to the three brothers and the three sisters in the English replay of the Bulgarian tale of the Three brothers and the Golden Apple. The second case was to give names to the intertextual replay of Andersen’s tale The little match-seller. The third case concerned the study of game adaptation of texts and specifically the adaptation of heroes where they simply appear as the only recognizable elements of the story-environment where the gamer acts. Even if there is no unique name it is new each next time an individual world is created in a story. We tend to use over and over the names that have come down to us with our cultural and family heritage: we always start from what is well-known, and then seek for ways out to specifying our identity and make our texts recognizable as our creations.

            Proper names, have been a subject of philosophical discussion ever since the dawn of man’s self-awareness as a subject to his own knowledge and socio-cultural practice. Besides Derrida there are the names of Foucault, Levinas, Lyotard, Lecercle, who have gone in their studies to the deepest grounds of language use as far as proper names are concerned as specific signifiers.

  1. Kripke in a series of lectures in the late 1940s (later on published as Naming and Necessity) discusses names from the aspect of modal logic and in view of the theory of models. He continues a line going back to the roots of Western culture which has studied naming in the structures of logical proposition, and continuing in the philosophies of Locke, Descartes, Russel, Frege and Searle.

There are two aspects of the philosophy of naming, though, that raise questions about the motivation and awareness of a translator, in the broad sense of the term as a mediator of meaning across cultures when approaching the richness of texts generated and reworded within the global cultural space of today. The first aspect refers to the concept of transworld identity, which Kripke sees from the prospects of its qualitative and quantitative definition.

To use his example: Aristotle: “As a speaker of my idiolect (i.e. as a philosopher – G.A.), I call only one object ‘Aristotle’, though I am aware that other people, including the man I call ‘Onasis’ had the same given name. (Kripke: p. 8)

 Within the practical perspective of translation this aspect refers to the ambiguity of a context where a translator can be trapped between worlds of language use for building a text.

Furthermore, we cannot always use translator’s notes for explaining contexts. That leads to the second question of practical value: the question about the sufficiency in introducing a name in a target text for the first time and each next mentioning until it becomes familiar to the expanded world.

In the current age of intensive cross-cultural interaction and convergence of cultures names travel through the individual and social spaces of multilingual intercourse. In the multilingual existence of a text names undergo changes which sometimes lead to changed contexts and agents. There are sufficient theoretical grounds, tools, mechanisms and rules for their transformation, which can explain or prescribe the practice of a translator.  Translators, in the terms of Eugene Nida (1964) act in the roles of midwifes (helping the meaning to be born), pioneers who investigate the language spaces of a novel dimension, and teamworkers who synchronize their work with previous translators, and even with authors. They reintroduce realia and names until the the expanded world adopts them. Still, there is the frontier between the Self and the Other, which lurks in the core of the names in the original story for the Self where its intertextual are projected as a succession of images across time. Names in this sense can be seen as vehicles for expansion of the Self into a set of worlds.

In the flow of the context from the source text towards the target text in the process of translating, names stand as isles of secured equivalency of the agents in the discursive unfolding of the text. At least so it looks from the position of the bilingual user of the text. To the untrained ear of the random audience or to the tastes of the random reader names acquire different levels of existence. There have been the numerous cases of misrepresentation of the name of one philosopher in the quotes of different books or even in the list of references of one and the same book. Everyday newsreaders on TV mispronounce the names on the news. There is no automated editor of personal names to cover all cases. It is firstly due to the fact that each next replay of a name refuses to leave the grounds of the user’s singularity.

            It is curious to trace the variations in the cross-cultural use of names even to unrecognizable realia in the professional translations of documents and books of all type and quality. A clearly-cut mechanism of transliteration and transcription seems to melt in the deep flow of individual choices and their motivations against the background process of the rapid transition of cultures, language-use habits and literacy, which has been taking place ever since the end of the 1980s.

The fine-tuning of a translated text includes adjustment of the meaning of all the agents to the communicative situation in correspondence with the purpose of the language use within the broader plan of the textual entity. Practically it involves the attitudes within the framework of the communicative situation where the names are no longer textual units of denotative nature but they carry the slight variations of meaning for the author, the translator, and the reader. The names themselves become keys to the texture of the self-perception of the discursive agents, the linkers in the textual progressive development, the most accessible concepts which limit the surface structure of the text to the basic criteria for its separate existence within the general framework of the infinite text of the human culture.

            In the training and cultivation of the ability for translating which is also seen as renaming to the purpose of identification of worlds in their transcultural rewording it is important to find motivation of choice since translation is the mediator of cultures and, what is more, nowadays it is the means of existence of smaller cultures within the field of bigger cultures.

            The significance of the proper name has also been subject of interest and discussion among the leading philosophers of the late 20th century: I have considered the theories of M. Foucault, Lyotard, Emmanuel Levinas (who gets back to Hegel), and the applied theories of  Andre Marcel d’Ans based on empiria of story-telling and Andrey Danchev who worked out a regulatory theory for translators between Bulgarian and English.

  1. Towards a typology of the choice motivation in giving names. 

Such typology has its roots in the study of story-telling: the value-keeps of oral cultures that travel by word of mouth and survive in time only because they are individualized universalia. Next come author’s texts where the author seeks to create a set of worlds where the author’s Self is named to its functioning and each member of the set is a stage where worlds grow.  Further there is the secondary intentionality in story-retelling. Last comes the awareness of intercultural replay of the individualized version of an archetypal story in the process of translation. All these follow the basic types of human transcendence through the extensions of our world. The self is not multiplied or pluralized although it can get lost in a novel reality. Even translators are not safe behind the shield of the professional principle of the translator’s invisibility. The reason is in the creative ability of a human individual. (see L. Nikolov’s notes on his work with the text of The Lord of the Rings where he states his love for words and wordplay: Nikolov 2011). Naming follows the author’s travel through the worlds seen as architectonics of topics that create a complex multidimension space (see S. Krusteva 2011a: 125-146)   where the hero types (e.g. Propp has isolated 7 types) can receive specific diversity (Krusteva has seen 12 types of fantastic heroes – Krusteva 2011b: 180-201) and next need their names to be identified by.  Wordyworlds can expand in directions where the reason gets trapped in one of its functions, or avatars or actants, without being completely bound with illusionary cave or even agoras. It is rather the thrill of the very play where the exploration of the power of creativity might carry a projection of the Self far from the individual. Renaming then is a clue to finding the identity of the author for an individual story-teller cannot get outside the borders of one’s unique story. These processes can be tracked in theory and then, used to build a guide for training mediators of cultures.

            One of the philosophers of Postmodernity, Lyotard wrote:

“Anyone who tries to reflect on the historico-political reality today (as always) comes up against names – proper names. These names form part of the treasure of phrases that he has received in his share of language and that he must continue to develop by allowing new phrases to enter it. For we have all of us a sort of debt, or a sort of rivalry, with respect to names.” (Lyotard, 1992: 393)

If the context of Lyotard is applied to the basic concepts of modern text linguistics concerning the criteria of textuality, we may continue to state that names are the cohesive units of a textual reality, they carry the intentionality of the text between its agents, they are the major infrastructure units of intertextuality, they make a text accessible. They are sufficient in themselves for building contexts and enclosing the essences of messages. Being so common, they are the markers of individuality. Lyotard continues with concrete illustration:

“These proper names have the following remarkable property: they place modern historical or political commentary in abeyance. Adorno pointed out that Auschwitz is an abyss in which the philosophical genre of Hegelian speculative discourse seems to disappear, because the name ‘Auschwitz’ invalidates the presuppositions of that genre, namely that all that is real is rational, and that all that is rational is real.” (Lyotard, 1992: 393)

            Further, Lyotard explicates on the discursive value of names, which is a feature of primary importance for the translator, who works amidst the deep structures of a text:

A child or an immigrant enters into a culture by learning proper names. He has to learn the names used to designate relatives, heroes (in the broad sense of the word), places, dates and, I would add, following Kripke, units of measure, of space, of time and of exchange value. These names are ‘rigid designators’; they signify nothing or can, at least, acquire different and debatable significations; they can be linked to sentences from totally heterogeneous regimes (descriptive, interrogative, ostensive, evaluative, prescriptive, etc.) and they can be included in incommensurate discursive genres (cognitive, persuasive, epideictic, tragic, comic, dithyrambic, etc.). Names are not learned in isolation; they are embedded in little stories. The advantage of a story is, I repeat, that it can contain within it a multiplicity of heterogeneous families of discourse, provided that it expands, so to speak. It arranges them into a sequence of events designated by the culture’s proper names. This organization has a high degree of coherence… “ (Lyotard, 1992: 319-320)

The names participate in the building of the textual reality. There is the example of Andre Marcel d’Ans who writes:

“ … every story, no matter how anecdotal it may seem, reactivates names and nominal relations. And by repeating that story, the community reassures itself as to the permanence and legitimacy of its world of names thanks to the recurrence of that world in stories. And certain stories are explicitly about the giving of names.” (in Lyotard, 1992:320)

            Names are language events and they bear the essential characteristic feature of language: they are signs.  Yet there are certain specifics to these signs:

“The name is a special kind of sign which coincides with the concept. As such it has been the object of study of philosophy, logic and semiotics. Hegel discusses it as an obstacle to the absolute systematization of signs. The logicians Frege and Russel regarded it as a problem to logicians since it refers to a single reference and does not appear exchangeable against other terms in the logico-linguistic structure. The proper name is not bound in a system of general signs. It points outward. It is a deictic categoryIt either has no connotations at all or has an interminable number of them.” (after Lyotard, 1992:12)

 The problems in the transformation of names between English and Bulgarian through the mechanisms of translation, transliteration and transcription are pointed out in the detailed research Bulgarian Transcription of English Names (1982). In the first place they lie in the lack of a unified system for intralanguage transcription of the English language. Another problem lies in the relations between the mechanisms of transliteration and transcription which depend on the dependencies of the written and spoken language (Danchev, 1982:23).

In earlier years written language dominated over spoken forms while nowadays spoken language has gained greater significance. A third problem comes from the major phonological and phonetic differences of the two languages (Danchev, 1982:24). Incompetence still remains the basic problem (Danchev, 1982:25).

The question whether the transcription of the English names should be invariable (Danchev, 1982:31) in the context of the established dependencies of the two language is not simply a matter of improving the translators’ literacy because the existence of dialects and variations of the English language makes it impossible to achieve uniformity. (Danchev, 1982:33) This is a further argument in support of finding proper motivation for the translator’s choice.

And last but not least is the argument that “it is often forgotten that apart from its communicative functions language has aesthetic functions’ and ‘combinations of letters or sounds which are natural for one language” might be ‘strange, unacceptable, even unnatural for another language’. (Danchev, 1982:36) There is also the rule that the culture of bilingualism demands that each language be used without allowing interferences of another language’.

Danchev makes a very important statement concerning the translator’s work: “The transcription of names is a problem rather of the target language than of the source language.” (Danchev, 1982:37).  This is not a purely linguistic problem but is connected with the responsibilities of the translator: to the correctness of information (as far as the status of the name as textual element is concerned), to the clarity of language (as far as the rules for phonetic and phonologic transformations are applied), to the message (as far as the pragmatic purposes of the language variety used are concerned). Practice, however, proves wiser than any temporarily adopted rules: Danchev, himself disregards the above statement in his instruction to translators from Bulgarian where the care of the singularity of Bulgarian names is a problem of the source language. It is a long procedure of introducing Bulgarian names to the English speaking global humanity together with their singular stories and our attitudes in the spaces of history, geography and e-culture.  Here the idea of Jacquemond (1992) of the dominating and dominated cultures and the direction of translaton seem to work better (Apostolova 2012). The interference of cultures in the www has provided interference of names and name-productivity follows all the paths of the extension of the Self-awareness across wordyworlds.

  1. Names of people: the bilingual existence of the human individual

            The reasons for the diversity of transformation of names in the translation have been studied so far at the various levels of comparative studies and we shall only mention those of particular interest for this study: the individual specifics of articulation and transcription, the individual approach to transliteration, the individual taste, and the reading of translations (or what Nida would call ‘team work’ of the translators collaborating with those who had published translations before). However, here we are not interested in further investigation of the reasons. The focus of our study is the motivation grounds which could be worked out by the instructor and the trainees in the process of training of translators. This is a systematic approach, worked by the agents of each single case, to the formation of attitudes which are to serve as grounds for the motivation and the defense of a translator’s choice in the transformation of names. It refers directly to the grounds of language use for what is the primary functioning of language but naming. The transformation of names in the process of translating is as important as choosing names for real people.

There is also the effect of hesitation in the transformation of names based on emotional barriers such as shame and fear of wrong naming.

Names’ transformations are related to the mechanism of functioning of autobiographies and biographies: hierarchies differ because the textures of their building and their uses are grounded on different cohesive and coherent mechanisms and different interrelations even within the same intentional schemes. The biography approaches the person from the outside while the autobiography explicates the innermost connections of the individual and the specific attitudes with their individual emotive meanings. The name, adopted by the bearer, is the focus of the autobiography – the self-expression, while the name, given by the translator is the subject who has arisen from its otherness. Thus it bears additional information – it is the name used by the ‘others’ in the extreme functioning of their ‘otherness’ in the quality of ‘foreignness’.

From a pragmatic point of view, a transformed name, whether transliterated or changed, is bound to bear positive psychological load in all cases of its recognition by the bearer as belonging to his essential or extended Self – the actual self or its projections. Then Deil Carnegie’s principle of the best sounding of one’s name is activated irrespective of the fact that it can be activated in purely psychological realities (Carnegie, D. How to Win Friends and Influence People, 1936). In the cases when the name is not recognized there arises a process of persuasion ending in conviction or rejection.

            Practically this means that the names of living people are transformed with the general consent of their bearers and the latter is a matter of successful defending of the transformation by the translator.

            Translation is introducing – names should not be treated as realia but as universalia – universally valid notions of individuality. They can be isles of the past, they can be openings to a foreign land, and they can be patches of reality leading the psychoanalytician to the domain of the subconscious.

Introduction is carried out in each single situation through a procedure which could generally be called renaming. Translation realized as renaming follows a variety of transformation paths: living people should have their names in that form which preserves their emotive meaning in terms of values understood as the individual attitude to the name in its quality of the expression of one’s individual motivation of personality.

When a person hates his or her name, a foreign language gives a chance for re-naming: thus Danail becomes Dani, Nikolai Roudev becomes Nick Rud, Gergana becomes Gerry or Ganna, Donka becomes Dona etc. Practically this is used in the communicative classroom and in the suggestopedia as ELT methods – the participants in the learning situation choose names for themselves or are given such by the instructor and the classmates: Georgi becomes George, Catherine becomes Kate, Alexander becomes Alexander, Boyana becomes Bobby etc.

Renaming can be further used as the vehicle to plot-building in role-play with the purpose of acquiring the freedom of not exactly anonymity but rather of de-nonymity i.e. leaving the actual limitation of one’s personality and building up a virtual personality with new name-limitations: thus Emiliyan becomes Killer, Lora is Glory, Iveta is Iveto-Diveto, Billiana is Bibby, Theodora is Dodo, Valeri is Blade, Andrei is Slade.

There is the reverse procedure – re-statement of one’s individuality: Lyubo is Lyubo, Svetla is Svetla, Stephen is Stephen.

There is also the procedure of universalization: Boyana is Bobby, Boris is Bobby, Billiana is Bobby. It is simplification to the purpose of becoming part of the foreign-language speaking community – losing the uniqueness of one’s name is the price of ubiquity.

Another motif for renaming is adopting a famous name thus putting on a model personality.

A recent form of the renaming procedure is the use of the internet name – the e-mail address which is in most cases the virtual name representing the individual before the audience of the internet which can be considered a specific high quality community where the person preserves the essential features of his or her official name i.e. deni_angel.

And last, but not least is the mechanism of initials: V.V.B., S.E.A., S.K., G.A., J.R.R. Tolkien, K.F.A. etc. The codification in such cases is more limiting. Like the previous one it creates the feeling of belonging to a community – of connoisseurs.

All the enumerated motifs and reasons for re-naming are the concrete manifestation of the dualism of the self and the other: the Self is being realized in the Other through the mechanism of renaming.

This is the common ground for the choice to transform the names in the translated text in a way which puts forth their foreign nature – their ‘otherness’. This is valid also about the titles. Their transliteration decreases the acceptability of the text while at the same time it increases its relevance and normativity in terms of completion of the emotive meaning.

“The names of persons whose saying (de dire) means individuality – the proper names among all those common names and topics – don’t they resist the dissolution of sense and don’t they help us speak?” The proper names bear the idea of the separate absolute entity in the sense of Hegel. (Emmanuel Levinas, 1977:8)

  1. Historic figures, events and places 

In the translation they are transformed in agreement with the established cultural and phonetic and phonological rules. Sometimes traditional use of the names of historic figures is replaced by modern use, i.e. a British or American transcription is usually substituted for Latin transliteration. This might be interpreted as a kind of re-naming within the modern cultural context. Re-naming is re-reading of history, sometimes to the positive effect of cultural compatibility. Re-naming as a cultural loss could be gaining in ethics. Pronouncing the name is giving it a day’s life.

History is not granted: it changes with the changes of cultures since it is an interpretation of the past always from the point of the present which is always a new one. A tradition fixes names, an ideology might demand changes, and the general cultural level /in terms of educational level and literacy/ might distort them to a situational convenience. Such is the case with names like Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, Brezhnev, Cheng Kai Shek, Cathai etc.

The diversity of foreign names in the English – Bulgarian translation and vice versa is due to the different sources through which they have entered our history books: Greek, Turkish, Russian, Latin, German, French. Next these names, which are foreign to the English language as well, re-enter our language through the English sources in a changed form. There is the interference of the English sounding to them. A similar transformation takes place with names from the British and American history which have entered our language through Russian or French or directly but in some previous phonological epoch in the development of our native tongue.

It has been generally accepted that: “The extralinguistic factors in the transcription of foreign names have predominantly socio-linguistic nature and their explanation is commonly reduced to the role and importance of tradition… Tradition … exists objectively and can have strong impact on whether we accept or reject a given form.” (Danchev, 1982:41) Now, however, a new generation of translators is being trained: a generation which has its own tradition which collides with that of the 1980s. It is no longer tradition which sets the rule but rather the lack of tradition: modern communication is no longer based on classical education but on internet and pragmatic neglect of history as such.

The names of places also raise the questions of compatibility in the process of cross-cultural intercourse.

While the naming of people is based on the opposition of the individual and the other, the naming of the places is shared experience of the strangers and the indigenous people.  This is the collision of cultures where one and the same physical object exists in parallel cultural layers. Such are the cases with the French, English and German names of the same places; as well as with the places on the Balkans where places are not merely geographical space but temporal realities of branching historical self-awareness.

            Asia Minor, Troy, Loire, Gaul, Munich, Leyden, Suez, Byzantia, Babylon, Washington, Moscow, Montreal, Soho, the English Channel are cross-cultural realia. The transcription of Leicester, Worcester, and Salisbury is not simply a problem of the target language; because it would entirely replace them with seemingly correct but in fact transliterated to the wrong effect words.

We can go then back to the grounds of theory and look for the pragmatic motivation of this choice. In this respect we completely agree with G. Yule:

“There appears to be a pragmatic connection between proper names and objects that will be conventionally associated, within a socio-culturally defined community, with those names. Using a proper name referentially to identify any such objects invites the listener to make the expected inference (for example from name of writer to book by writer) and thereby show himself or herself to be a member of the same community as the speaker. In such cases, it is rather obvious that more is being communicated than is said.” (Yule, 1996:20)

 The names which are historic realities should be carefully approached since the translation is their introduction to the intercultural space. They have to be indiscriminate. There are historic realities taking place at the same time and at the same place for different nationalities. A translator who is the representative of his or her national culture is bound to create bridging realities using paratext, explanatory notes, double references.

The names from history which have entered our own language through Latin, German, French, Russian, Greek. Now they exist in the internet space and are accessible to everyone in an English textual environment: the younger generations meet many of the names in that way and since they have never before heard them pronounced, they read them applying the English phonetic system, e.g George Mikes, Don Juan etc. A professional translator is bound to have sufficient cultural and cross-lingual background.

Often we cannot prevent an evident mistake from becoming popular – then what we have to do is – find sufficient grounds or accepting it as a convention.

One should also mind the generation gaps: the refusal of our elders to change their names: that would mean for them to erase parts of their past as subjective realities existing in their memories. A translator should therefore build up a third type of motivation of communicative or rather of diplomatic nature. There is the example of one of my students who carried out his international vocational training in the Council of Europe. He found it absurd that politicians from the older generations used to tell each other sentences like: “I’m flying to the Soviet Union”. He interrupted them and said: “Excuse me, but there is no such country now” and they laughed heartily. That proved to be a real shock to a young person who has an entirely different experience in a world, which, while remaining within the same map, has totally changed. For the older generations the present day is a hyper reality of at least three different times.

A relaxed mind would accept that names travel through history and across cultures. A translator is to supply bridges. Business is our present. It does not operate with historic realia. Tourist industry does.

            There are also the names of places which travel through history: Istambul –Stambul, Tsarigrad, Constantinople; Odrin – Adrianovgrad – Adrianopolis – Adrianople; Solun – Thessaloniki – Saloniki; Leningrad – Petersburgh – Peter – Petrograd. A translator is bound to produce indiscriminate translation of the cultural context. It is a manifestation of historic irresponsibility to replace one realia with another, e.g. Tsarigrad used to be for the Bulgarians something different from what Constantinople used to be for the Latin West, and they both are by no means equivalent to Istanbul.  A translator is to operate with paratext, footnotes and endnotes which supply equivalency of the notions where equivalency of words is lacking.

Let us take for illustration a translation of Botev’s poems into English by Kevin Ireland in the 1970s where Chavdar the Chieftan and Petko the Terror are known from Constantinople to Serbia. And that translation was blessed by a Bulgarian editor and national publisher (Sofia Press). I will not mention the other aspects of that ‘document’ which thoroughly fails to represent one of the peaks of the Bulgarian Renaissance. I dare argue with the long-established belief that a translator translates into one’s mother tongue. That would not be the rule where a translation is representative of our native culture. Maybe we need better-trained translators and even poets competent of both Bulgarian and English?

  1. Names of authors and fictional names – messages for the reader

            Talking about the author’s name we leave the grounds of history and enter upon the grounds of the art of literature where realia exist in realities created by real lives and fiction:

“… the name seems always to be present, marking off the edges of the text, revealing, or at least characterizing, its mode of being. The author’s name manifests the appearance of a certain discursive set and indicates the status of this discourse within a society and a culture.” (M. Foucault, 1984:107)

The philosopher explicates his speculation in a detailed example:

  “The author’s name is not… just a proper name like the rest… If I discover that Shakespeare was not born in the house that we visit today, this is a modification which, obviously, will not alter the functioning of the author’s name. But if we proved that Shakespeare did not write those sonnets which pass for his, that would constitute a significant change and affect the manner in which the author’s name functions. If we proved that Shakespeare wrote Bacon’s Organon by showing that the same author wrote both the works of Bacon and those of Shakespeare, that would be a third type of change which would entirely modify the functioning of the author’s name.” (M. Foucault, 1984:106)

Fictional texts, like historic texts, also travel in time. There are two main things to be taken into view in the pursuit of translation equivalency: cultural transfer and the development of languages.

In earlier cultural exchange we relied on the Latin West where Latin was the link – the universal language. Today students learn Latin no more but they study English which is the new linking reality.

These are the names which do not stand for real people but for the notions of persons built up by the developing of the literary character. The three mechanisms: transcription, transliteration and translation work within the cultural parameters of the present, bearing the present phonetic and phonological pragmatism, patterns of word formation and idea of temporality and space i.e. – the idea of foreignness or otherness.

The choice of the translator underlies the mechanism to be followed while this choice depends on linguistic, semantic and pragmatic reasons.

The transformation of names depends on such extralinguistic factors as: intercultural relations, intentionality of the text, understanding of the message in the multi-levelled context, language competence of the translator and the user, invention or language creativity.

Very often the correct hearing of the sounds is one of the dominant pragmatic factors for the transcription of the name.

Translation is visualising or limiting the name to a concrete image.  A variety of approaches to the transfer of names can be found in the translations of Terry Pratchett’s and J. R. R. Tolkien’s texts which might be taken as exemplary.

In the books of Terry Pratchett and their translations into Bulgarian there can be isolated the following groups of name-transfer:

– transcription of names whose meaning is immanent for the context: Lord Vetinary, Rincewind,  Captain Vimes, Ponder Stibbons ;

– transcription of translatable names whose translation might render them in awkward fashion: captain Carrot, Detritus, Jellybaby;

– witty translation of names: The Century of the Fruitbat, Bloody Stupid Johnson, The Lecturer in Recent Runes, SMOT Dibbler – Cut-me-Own-Throat Dibbler, Silverfish, the mountain Ramtop, the village Bad Ass;

– varying choices with different translators;

– translated names whose meaning is explicitly given in the text;

– imitation of ethnic construction of names out of meaningful components – morphologic or lexical units: Two Fire Herb, Four big Sandal, Ly Tin Weedle, Lotus Blossom, Twoflower, Captain Four White Fox, Six Beneficent Wings, Seven Lucky Logs, One Big River, Lady Two Streams, Lady Jade Night, Lord Nine Mountains, Three Pink Pig, Five White Fang, 71-Hour Ahmed,  Ubervald, Lady Margolotta, Tepik Llamedos etc. The translation of those names would best follow a combination of two rules: isolating and translating the meanings of the morphemes and combining them by applying the respective mechanisms of word formation in their most common usage – in order to make them appear foreign.  This is a creative process demanding complete control of the target language, linguistic erudition, discursive skills, and a sense of humour.

In the books of Terry Pratchet there is a careful attitude to names. They are built to add to the general construction of the textual reality. The margin between proper nouns and common nouns is tangible: proper names are generated in the context which is the very fictional reality. The translation of these names is reconstruction of the author’s context in the Bulgarian language environment which might be called comparative onomastics.

The care for the names which serve as constant features of the fictional reality is expressed in the text which very often refers to the names as actants of the discourse. Nobby Nobbs and Sergeant Collen wonder what the first name of Death might be. And this does not sound too absurd taking in mind that he is sometimes replaced by his granddaughter whose actual first name is Susan.  The young girls who want to become witches choose new names for themselves which sound more professionally.  There is also Igor  – the name of all butlers in the aristocratic homes of Ubervald who are at the same time fantastic surgeons. The members of the band in Soul Music also choose artistic names of themselves which sound exactly as the real rock stars of the human world, and, using irony and pastiche, the author manages to create hypercontext mixing the fictional reality with the actual reality of the human culture.

            Creating a reality is giving names: to places, things, events and people. Translation is creating a parallel reality in such a way that upon entering it the reader should be in the actual realms of the author’s reality. As far as the context is explicated in the translation the reader does not pay much attention to the sounding of the names. However, when the names are central to the context being the constant features or the mechanisms of textual construction, then it is important how they sound. Thus the older translations of Tolkien’s texts have produced the title of a book which is still a best seller: Bilbo Baggins sound as ‘bEgins’. Normally the Bulgarian translation is pronounced with a changed stress position and then the understanding of the name is Bilbo Begins. The version of L. Nikolov – the translator of The Lord of the Rings (1990) is ‘Torbins’. This is a combination of two types of translation: the root morpheme of the name is translated into Bulgarian while the suffix is transcribed so that the name is understood yet it is accepted as strange. The same mechanism is applied in the construction of the names of the various peoples of Tolkien’s world and in their translation.

In another work of Tolkien there is another approach to the naming of the main character:

“Aegidius de Hammo was a man who lived in the midmost parts of the Island of Britain. In full his name was Aegidus Ahenobarbus Julius Agricola de Hammo; for people were richly endowed with names in those days, now long ago, when this island was still happily divided into many kingdoms. There was more time then, and folk were fewer, so that most men were distinguished. However, those days are now over, so I will in what follows give the man his name shortly, and in the vulgar form: he was farmer Giles of Ham, and he had a red beard. Ham was only a village, but villages were proud and independent still in those days.” (J.R.R.Tolkien, Farmer Giles of Ham)

In the Bulgarian translation by Teodora Davidova (Sofia, Otechestvo, 1988) the name is shortened to Red-haired Giles. Thus another mechanism to the transformation of names is shown which  we might choose to call ‘simplification’ or ‘semantic nominal reduction’. This is done first in the source language as a sort of intralinguistic reduction to the purpose of making the names suitable for communication and might be regarded as one of the vehicles of adaptation of texts to be used in younger or mass audience with lower level of cultural awareness as a tool for establishing informal relations and gaining popularity.

To finish with we will only mention another modern and very popular English text – the Harry Potter Books, where most of the names are what in semantics is called ‘actants’ – general notions bearing contextual complexes – ‘the most essential categories in the development of the plot (Colapietro, 2000:22): the boy magician Harry Potter, the evil magician, the Aunt, the Owl etc. The names as the most important words in the text are tangles of values and gates to a hyperreality going far beyond the authors text as a language event.  The fact that Harry Potter’s name was widely adopted by the Bulgarian children in its transformation as Hitar Potter (parallel to Hitar Petar – Wise Petar, a favourite Bulgarian folktale hero) is an example of the crosscultural transformation of the context both as semantic reduction and as sounding.

The transformation of names in translation is not limited to the simple operation of checking a dictionary or a guidebook. It is rooted deep in the cultural background of the translator which includes phonetic and phonological competence, morphological competence, complete understanding of the context, correct attitude to the message, respect for tradition, compliance with the current state of cross-cultural interference of languages, respect for the cultural values and the responsibilities of the translator. The process reaches from an ear for aesthetic sounding to the philosophical motivation of re-naming.


The study is based on the relations of the encoder and the story, the translator and the story, the decoder and the user of the story as a text, visual and emotional adaptation and game-reality, as well as the relations of the perception and Self-perception of the re-named text individual personal names as identifiers and frontiers of the text.

By far the investigation has reached to the following conclusions:

The names are binders, identifiers and frontiers of a story seen as a wordyworld of singularity, an author’s text, a reproduction by word of mouth or as the source and target in intercultural reconstruction by means of translation.

            A text is viewed as an individual world or individual set of worlds of the story-teller. The story embedding the names of its heroes and the names of places in particular is seen as a way out of the opacity of language. Names are investigated as clues.

            There are limitations to the capacity of the individual story-teller or encoder to give names to the characters and places of a set of textual worlds.

            The story adopts a textual individuality and becomes an entity of meta-conceptual nature.

The study came to specify the moment of transition in the mode of self-identification of the subject: in the translingual and transcultural codification of a story the names of the heroes and places become intransparent and the text loses its frontiers offering a set of replacements or avatars to the destructed identity of the story-teller.

Babylon is the frontier of cultural transcendence which cannot be nominally neglected and the incapacity to reach nominal equivalency of the Self leads to the impossibility to open the world in the individual Self-tale into the world-for the-Other.

Isolating the basic typology of name-giving procedures facilitates the system of identification as a way out of the problems caused to the Self by the opacity of language.


Apostolova, G., Cultures and Texts.Internet, Intertext, Interculture, SWU Publishing House, 2011, ISBN 978-954-680-703-8

Apostolova, G., (ed.) ANALYSES, SWU Publishing House, 2012, ISBN 978-954-680-822-6

Apostolova G. (2005a) Sociolects and Translation in “Ezikovedski Prinosi v chest na acad. M. Videnov”.

Apostolova G.  (2004) NAMES AND THE TRANSLATION Annual book of Philology Faculty, SWU vol. 2, 2004 г. e-releases – & e-Runs Magazine

  1. Benington, Borders,in “Za Imeto i za Prevoda”, ed. Orlin Todorov, 1996, Open Society Foundation, Sofia, p. 91.

Carnegie, D., (1936) How to Win Frends and Influence People, Bulgarian translation 1996, pp. 125 – 136

Colapietro V., Dictionary of Semiotics, 2000 Bulgarian ed.

Apostolova G. (2005b) Are Dementors the New Guardians of the Golden Apple (in Bulgarian) in   «Yubileen Slavistichen Sbornik», Philology Faculty, SWU PRESS

Chomsky, N. (2000) New Horizons in the Study of Language and Mind, CUP, UK, 6th printing 2005

Danchev, A. (1982) Bulgarian Transcription of English Names, S, in Bulgarian

Jacques Derrida, Margins of Philosophy, Difference, tr. Alan Bass, Chicago: University of Chicago Press

  1. Foucault (1984) What is an Author, in “The Foucault Reader” Paul Rabinow, ed.

Basil Hatim & Ian Mason (1990) Discourse and the Translator, Longman

Saul Kripke, (2003) Naming and Necessity, (30th printing), Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass.

Emmanuel Levinas (1976) Noms propres.  Bulgarian translation: 1977

Jacquemond, Richard (1992) “Translation and Cultural Hegemony: The Case of FrenchArabic Translation.” In Lawrence Venutti, ed., Rethinking Translation. London and New York: Routledge. 139-58.

Krusteva, Sylviya (2011a) Nachala na prikaznoto in “Izmereniya na fantastichnoto” (Dimensions of the Fantastic), SWU PRESS, pp. 112-124

Krusteva, Sylviya (2011b) Nachala na prikaznoto in “Izmereniya na fantastichnoto” (Dimensions of the Fantastic), SWU PRESS, pp. 186-201

  1. F. Lyotard,The Sign of History, inThe Lyotard Reader, 1992 (3rd. ed.) Andrew Benjamin, ed., Cambridge, Mass.
  2. F. Lyotard,Universal History and Cultural Differences, inThe Lyotard Reader, 1992 (3rd. ed.) Andrew Benjamin, ed., Cambridge, Mass.
  3. F. Lyotard, The Tensor,inThe Lyotard Reader, 1992 (3rd. ed.) Andrew Benjamin, ed., Cambridge, Mass.

Nida, Eugene (1964) Toward a Science of Translating, Leiden – E.J.Brill, ed., 1964

Nikolov, Lyubomir (2011a) Razmisli za fantastichnoto in “Izmereniya na fantastichnoto” (Dimensions of the Fantastic), SWU PRESS, pp. 9-20.

Nikolov, Lyubomir (2011b) Elesar ili Vestonosetsa na Estarite in “Izmereniya na fantastichnoto” (Dimensions of the Fantastic), SWU PRESS, pp. 20 – 34).

Propp, Vladimir:  (visited on 09-22-2013) 

Yule,George 1996: Pragmatics, OUP

[1] In a Bulgarian children’s show I overheard once on the TV she was rhymed: ‘the amiable Lyssa-Alyssa’

[2] The name of the Queen of Elves in a 16th century poem by Edmund Spenser (The Faerie Queene) where queen Elizabeth I is meant

[3] In the sense of Chomsky (2006)

Philosophia 7/2014, pp. 66-88