Type JournalArticle
Date 2014-07
Volume 2
Tags Japanese, onomatopoeia
Journal Journal of Siberian Federal University: Humanities & Social Sciences
Pages 222--229

Japanese–English Onomatopoeic and Mimetic Parallels: the Problem of Translatability

According to the study by Noma (1998:30), Japanese has the second largest layer of such words following Korean with more than 2,000 onomatopoeic and mimetic expressions.

Most of linguists tend to refer onomatopoeic words to the sphere of untranslatable lexis, which is defined in the dictionaries as lexical units of a source language which do not have any regular (dictionary) compliances in a target language.


The subject of this article is the research of Japanese – English mimetic parallels in the key of the problem of translatability. The majority of linguists consider onomatopoeic and mimetic words to be untranslatable lexis, which causes a set of problems when translating. Situation becomes even more complicated as the onomatopoeic words of Japanese, though very widespread, remain low-studied layer of lexis and their translation into English requires quite a translational challenge because of the huge typological differences between these two languages. Nevertheless despite the mentioned above typological differences, the researching method of phonosemantic analysis can give translators the clue to find efficient methods of translating these lexical units, avoiding the loss of expressiveness and semantic meanings.

Keywords: mimetic, onomatopoeic, Japanese language, phonosemantic, untranslatable lexis, mora, phonesthem, isomorphism, translational methods.

Name Role
Anton E. Sichinskiy Author
Olga A. Bartashova Author