Supervisor: Professor emeritus Irina Külmoja, University of Tartu.
Hannu Tommola, PhD, Professor emeritus of the University of Tampere (Finland)
Natalja Kolpakova, Candidate of Philosophy, Associate Professor, University of Sankt-Petersburg (Russia)
Fiction is often characterized by the multifaceted use of tenses. Although the semantics of temporality occur at different levels of language – at both the lexical and the syntactic – temporality is still considered to be expressed primarily in grammatical temporal forms. Since tenses in different languages are not identical, the translator can have some difficulty in correctly expressing the tenses of the original text in the translation. Tenses in both Russian and Estonian take different forms depending on number and meaning; for example, there is no morphological form of the future tense in Estonian, yet past activity can be expressed in three different forms: simple past, perfect and pluperfect.
Understandably, most of the differences between an original and its translation are only detected by comparing the two texts side-by-side. For objective reasons (lack of understanding of the original language, lack of interest in comparison, etc.), the majority of readers are of course not going to compare the two texts. However, the fact that readers do not usually compare texts to decide on the adequacy of any given translation does not mean that the translator should not strive for accuracy. However, accuracy is not only affected by vocabulary – which, as expected, carries the most meaning – but also by grammar which, as shown by this study, conveys the intentions of the author of the original text.
This thesis has the aim of examining the role of grammatical semantics in translating tenses from Russian to Estonian. To achieve this it is necessary to solve two main tasks. Its first purpose is to examine the importance of the translator’s efforts to convey the semantics of the original’s temporality, and to determine where inevitable semantic losses occur and where such losses result from the fact that the author's intentions were not sufficiently taken into account or that the original was not fully understood, especially concerning the metaphorical use of tenses. Its second purpose is to clarify how tenses are used in the Estonian language since the metaphorical use of grammatical temporal forms in Estonian has not attracted enough attention so far.
The material for this analysis is selected from Russian fiction and Estonian translations thereof, dating from different periods (19th, 20th and 21st century). It is important that in the present research the focus of the analysis not be the grammatical forms themselves, but rather the meanings that they express and how, according to these meanings, tenses are classified and studied.