Itinerary in specialized bilingual lexicology: The case of gastronomic dictionairies


Translation is a subtile art. Translation of technical papers and of literature have a context: the technical usage of the machine or the novel or the poem. In the case of a bilingual dictionary, the context is given by the language. It’s a very broad context, too broad. The only context of a specialized bilingual dictionary is its topic. Broad and indefinite at the same time. In the case of bilingual gastronomic dictionary, the way to find equivalencies would be the following.

1 – Symbolic perception of language and culture  Can we say that language describes «cultural specificities» when we speak about relationships, physical environment, food… and other daily subjects ? After reading several books, I think that it’s possible to establish an intellectual relationship, through several centuries, between German and American thinkers. From Leibniz, to Herder and Mendelssohn, then W. von Humboldt. And from there, from Boas to Sapir and WhorfThis perception of language and culture is finally completed by the reflections of N. Elias and the studies of E. NidaAfter reading these authors rigorously, we can see a unity, always completed, in their perception of language and culture and we can see how language and culture are bound and influenced by each other. But at last, this expression « cultural specificities » is it really adequate or isn’t it a kind of ethnocentrism, after perceiving what is different from home? Can’t we speak instead about «patrimonial elements» belonging to a culture and their usages by a language ?

2 – The specificity of the specialized topic  Looking for equivalents in a specialized topic requires a thorough knowledge, in both the foreign language as well as in the root language. One should be able to translate both languages equally well. I like that a specialized bilingual dictionnary don’t be just a list of words opposite their equivalents. But I want it to have something more, something cultural, so it’s a «nice cultural book», so, very naturally, I propose that it should contain a social and historical description of its topic, condensed but complete.

3 – The lexicographic way  A gastronomic bilingual dictionary belongs to a specialized dictionary. I think more it is more interesting that it has one direction only, from one culture and one language to another, rather than using both directions.

A – Thinking about the macrostructure  It’s delimitation: the macrostructure must be delimited historically, geographically, thematically and depending on the knowledge of language from the supposed users. Its nature: it differs depending on the languages. It can contain different lexical unities: simple, derived, compound, marked words. The lexical unities can be graphically and morphologically simple or complexe. It’s presentation: in alphabetical order, so semasiologic order, or by nest, so onomasiologic order, with alphabetical order in the nests. The chosen subjects: recipes, ingredients, utensils, culinary techniques. Its typography: the featured word is written in bold type. Then the size of the letters of the article is smaller. Different signs and italics can be used to illustrate some points.

B – The microstructure  It is description and explanation at the same time. It contains different elements: the definition: for a recipe, it is the complete recipe, the history of its name, of its ingredients, of its technique, and its history: its advent into the subject cuisine. For ingredients and utensils, the history of their names, their origins in time and locales, when and how they arrived in the subject cuisine. Culinary techniques must also be rigorously described. History of name and detail of their technique.

A specialized dictionary is also a book about language, so linguistic information is also necessary: etymology, frequency, synonyms, gender, geographical usages, examples, classifications, derivations, abbreviations, level of language, prononciation, quotations. And also, because a specialized bilingual dictionary could be « a nice cultural book », iconography is very important. Especially for a gastronomic bilingual dictionnary. Pictures showing how to prepare a recipe, to explain a special culinary technique, finished recipes, ingredients, utensils have to be well illustrated.

C – The users  The contents of a bilingual gastronomic dictionary depend on its users. Are they or are they not professionals of gastronomy? We have to think about their technical knowledge, their linguistic knowledge, and their age. This dictionary could be used to explain and discover our culinary language, or to explain and discover that of another culture. Will be it a reference book for teminology or a cultural book, appetizing and enriching?

D – The corpus  It’s depends on the delimitation of the lexical stock, which in turn depends on the geographical and historical delimitations and on the targeted users. To begin, it will be based on existing dictionairies, cookbooks, culinary reviews, literature and, eventually, some other daily items like inventories made after death during another era.

4 – Looking for equivalents  When everything is so unlimited, the aspring lexicographer has to look for equivalents in a chosen foreign languageI think he can look in three directions: adaptation of equivalents, equivalents by lexical creation, and non-equivalents At this point the ambiguity of the bilingual lexicology is apparent, as are its difficulties, so we need to review them. Some of theses difficulties are: lack context, differences between the structure of the languages, subjective value of words, difference of values, language and ideology, daily life and language, shading of definitions and grammar…

The «cultural shared value» (Charge Culturelle Partagée) from Gallisson, the differences between symbols – see the problems to translate Germinal into Hungarian, the body movements, that each language describes in its own way, are obligatory aids to think about translation. There are some others, like the gravity of history for a language, for example the nazism ideology and German as Klemperer and Goldschmidt showed it and the affective value of a language as Alexiakis showed it too about Greek and Sango.

Temporality, spatial orientation, how to say «both» seem to be very far from cuisine, but… they have also their place in a bilingual gastronomic dictionary. In each language to be translated, we can find a recipe whose name speaks about territoriality, about a personality, a «typical ingredient», an utensil, a culinary technique or an absolutely typical customs. We can also find these words in proverbs and popular expressions, which aren’t always easy to translate and often, they are culturally incomprehensible.

It’s also why a bilingual gastronomic dictionary needs a very particular microstructure and that the whole is like a ferryman shuttling between languages and cultures.

Expert for Dicorevue