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The Foregrounding Function of Praesens Historicum in Russian Translated Adventure Narratives (20th Century)

Anastasia V. Urzha


This research focuses on the functioning of praesens historicum forms which Russian translators use to substitute for English narrative forms referring to past events. The study applies the Theory of Grounding and Russian Communicative Functional Grammar to the comparative discourse analysis of English-language adventure stories and novels created in the 19th and 20th centuries and their Russian translations. The Theory of Grounding is still not widely used in Russian translation studies, nor have its concepts and fruitful ideas been related to the achievements of Russian Narratology and Functional Grammar. This article presents an attempt to find a common basis in these academic traditions as they relate to discourse analysis and to describe the role of praesens historicum forms in Russian translated adventure narratives. The corpus includes 22 original texts and 72 Russian translations, and the case study involves six Russian translations of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, focusing on the translation made by Korney Chukovsky, who employed historic present more often than in other translations of the novel. It is shown that the translation strategy of substituting the original English-language past forms with Russian present forms is realized in foregrounded and focalized segments of the text, giving them additional saliency. This strategy relates the use of historic present to the functions of deictic words and words denoting visual or audial perception, locating the deictic center of the narrative in the spacetime of the events and allowing the reader to join the focalizing WHO (a narrator or a hero). Translations that regularly mark the foreground through the use of the historic present and accompanying lexical-grammatical means are often addressed to young readers.


historic present; foregrounding; adventure narrative; translation; deictic center; focalization

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