Respectus Philologicus
Respectus Philologicus

Respectus Philologicus eISSN 2335-2388
2021, no. 40 (45), pp. 22–34 DOI:

Uriel Weinreich’s “Languages in Contact” in the Soviet Union: Treading a Dangerous Ground

Oleksandra Litvinyak
Ivan Franko National University of Lviv
Hryhoriy Kochur Department of Translation
Universytetska str. 1, Lviv, Ukraine, 79000
Research interests: history of translation studies in Ukraine, interpreter and translator training

Abstract. In a democratic society with a market economy, editorial policy is often a matter of financial feasibility rather than anything else. Meanwhile, totalitarian societies approach it from a different angle, frequently putting political considerations in the centre. Living behind the Iron Curtain, Soviet scholars had very limited access to Western publications – very few of them were translated into the languages of Soviet republics. What is more, research shows that they were subject to censorship, just like literary works. Besides, the work of a translator, being invisible to the majority of readers, could be quite dangerous and ruin one’s scholarly career. Thus, a scholar embarking on a translation journey to acquaint their colleagues with the best samples of world research had to be very considerate. Such was the case of the Russian translation of Uriel Weinreich’s seminal book Languages in Contact done by the Ukrainian linguist, translator, lexicographer, and educator Yuriy Zhluktenko. The present paper explores the matter of censorship and self-censorship in this translation and its paratexts.

Keywords: translation; Weinreich, Zhluktenko; censorship; language contacts.

Submitted 9 February 2021 / Accepted 21 June 2021
Įteikta 2021 02 09 / Priimta 2021 06 21
Copyright © 2021 Oleksandra Litvinyak. Published by Vilnius University Press. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License CC BY-NC-ND 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium provided the original author and source are credited.


If we see translation as a behaviour defined by social context, then we need to explain the socio-cultural constraints that determine the translator’s behaviour (Schäffner, 2010, pp. 236–237).

The notion of censorship has received much attention from many scholars, including specialists in translation studies. It has been investigated based on many examples coming from various countries and different historical periods. Relatively recently, the scholars started paying attention to the territories of the former Soviet Union – the state which was universally recognized as having heavy censorship in many, if not all, spheres of human life. Nevertheless, when it comes to censorship in translation, most researchers focus on its application to and manifestation in the translation of fiction, belles-lettres. As opposed to them, this paper aims at proving its existence in and application to humanitarian – namely, linguistic – literature. Weinreich’s Languages in Contact and its Russian translation by Zhluktenko, and their paratexts serve as a basis for research. This translation has not received much attention from translation studies scholars, yet it offers interesting material whose analysis allows for drawing solid conclusions concerning censorship and self-censorship in scholarly translation.

According to Merkle (2010, p. 18),

the subfield of censorship and translation explores extreme manifestations of the influence of ideology on translations. […] Since censorship is an instrument to mould, if not enforce, worldview and discourse production, it can strike out with particular ferocity when faced with unpalatable alterity, and leave its mark on interpretation (community and “formal”), media translation (e.g. film, stage, radio plays), and all types and genres of textual translation (e.g. travel writing, religious writings, political speeches, essays, poetry, the novel, newspapers).

The history of cultural connections with the West, including translation, in the Soviet Union is like a pendulum. Periods of relative liberalization and fondness of the Western culture changed to overt anti-Western policies only to be replaced by the restoration of connections with these countries several years later. No wonder people living in such conditions preferred being cautious about expression of any ideas that might be conceived as undermining the Soviet policy. However, translation is also seen as a means of subversion, resistance and challenge in the face of these constraints. Thus, textual strategies and translator’s room for manoeuvre have particularly attracted the attention of researchers, since they have allowed translators to get around what was politically impossible to say, to transmit a forbidden or subversive message, using the “Aesopian language” (Popa, 2013, p. 28).

All history of translation in the Soviet Union is the history of ideological influences. According to Baumgarten (2012, p. 60),

ideology is rooted in individual and social consciousness. Ideology regulates how people perceive the world, what they know and believe about it. Being closely related to perception, knowledge and beliefs, ideology determines what people regard as the aesthetic or factual truth at a certain place and time.

1. Uriel Weinreich and his Languages in Contact

The personality of Uriel Weinreich (1926–1967) is known worldwide for his contribution to linguistics and, especially, sociolinguistics. Having lived quite a short life, Weinreich nevertheless managed to influence many fields of linguistics profoundly. So much so that even decades later, scholars from various countries working in a broad range of disciples keep referring to his works. In linguistics, he is best known for his research into language contact and

his promotion of what he called “secular linguistics”, i.e. the empirical, quantitative study of living language within its full social, cultural and political context, as the only way forward to a better understanding of the mechanisms and causes of language change (Kim, 2011, p. 100).

Weinreich’s research laid the foundations and gave impetus for further research in sociolinguistics. It practically opened new horizons and new perspectives in the sphere. In his article Uriel Weinreich and the birth of modern contact linguistics Ronald Kim (2011, p. 102) writes:

Most linguists engaged in the study of multilingualism and language contact agree that the fundamental concepts and research agendas were first expounded by Weinreich in his renowned 1953 monograph Languages in Contact.

Some of the things described in the book have become so truistic that it is sometimes even hard to believe that they were not known and not taken into account not so long ago.

That social factors play an important, if not a preponderant role in the results of language contact seems so obvious today that it is easy to forget that this was not necessarily the communis opinion in the mid-20th century. Perhaps more than any other single researcher, Weinreich successfully demonstrated that the linguistic outcomes of contact between two or more languages could not be deduced from a comparison of their structures alone, but could be understood only within the full context of their speakers’ lives, social behaviour and interaction – in other words, that one must always take into account ‘the social life of language’ (Kim, 2011, p. 108).

2. Weinreich’s book in Russian as rendered by Zhluktenko

Like Weinreich, Yuriy Zhluktenko also profoundly influenced the development of various branches of linguistics in Ukraine. Being one of the pioneers of language contact research in Ukraine and the Soviet Union it is not surprising that it was he who translated the seminal Weinreich’s book for Soviet readers.

To set the context, it is worth mentioning that it was not that easy to publish any translated book in the USSR. Communists had a profound impact on the cultural production in the countries where they were in power. They had a wide range of tools (e. g., state control, state planning, censorship, etc.) to achieve their goals. Eventually, they controlled the international circulation of works, selecting them mainly according to political and ideological criteria. Forms of control were many, including even repressions in some cases (Popa, 2013, p. 25). Like in some totalitarian regimes of today, the leaders of the USSR feared that access to some information (particularly from literature) could “contaminate” the reader’s beliefs and interfere with the ideological education of the masses (Sherry, 2015b, p. 49).

Foreign literature had its own particular publishing structure, which granted the intelligentsia some ability to set or at least influence its functioning. The Ministry of Culture had the right to coordinate publication of translations by all publishing houses. The choice of texts was strictly regulated: translators had to obtain at least two recommendations for the translation from scholarly institutions or specialists, and secure the agreement of the appropriate chief editorial office in the State Committee for Publishing or (in the case of scientific and technical works) to the State Scientific and Technical Library. The choice of translators, and of authors to write any notes or introduction to the work, had to be approved by a senior editor or the head of an editorial office (Sherry, 2015b, p. 54).

Ukrainian sociolinguistics in the 1960–the 80s was not well developed. While the Western countries had significantly progressed in that direction, the Soviet regime halted the development of this discipline. Nevertheless, despite total control over cultural and scientific life, ideologically loaded and relatively neutral investigations revealed the real aims and methods of the communist language policy. Therefore, political leaders of the USSR were suspicious of anyone interested in the social aspects of language and linguistics and the problems of language policy. On the other hand, however, linguistics – along with other humanitarian disciplines – was considered an area of ideological confrontation with the West. The Soviet system of the post-war era was trying not to lag in the main areas of research and development. Thus, a certain level of awareness about foreign research was allowed, which meant a limited number of publications on the issues discussed in Western linguistics, including language contacts, bilingualism, language planning, etc. (Azhnyuk, 2017, pp. 63–64).

The idea to translate Weinreich’s Languages in Contact belonged to Yuriy Zhluktenko, reflecting his scholarly interests. He also favoured the issue of language contacts and interactions, which is proven by the fact that he authored such books as Лингвистические аспекты двуязычия (Linguistic aspects of bilingualism) (1974), Мовні контакти (Language Contacts) (1966), Українська мова на лінгвістичній карті Канади (The Ukrainian Language on the Linguistic Map of Canada) (1990), Українсько-англійські міжмовні відносини (Ukrainian-English Inter-Language Relations) (1964) and others.

In his letter to Professor Zorivchak of 9 July 1979, Zhluktenko wrote that the decision to translate into Russian (and not Ukrainian) was motivated by the willingness to print more copies and have a broader readership. Unfortunately, only 2000 copies were commissioned (Zorivchak, 2015, p. 63). This brings us to the conclusion that some political and censorial trends had a say here too, for, from the letter of Professor Yartseva to Zhluktenko of 10 March 1980, we learn that the demand for the book exceeded the supply, and it was quite challenging to get hold of the book even in Moscow (Yartseva, 1980). In this context, we need not forget that

the publication of a text in translation depends on editorial policies, that is, sets of choices and strategies adopted by editorial agents – publishers, journal editors, translators, literary agents – on the basis of objectives and values which may be cultural, political and/or economic (Sapiro, 2012, p. 32).

And also, that

the Soviet publishing system was wholly subordinate to the state, one result of which was that Glavlit and the Party Organs approved publication plans and schedules, as well as the content of texts (Sherry, 2015b, p. 54).

The translation is valuable for two main reasons. First, it acquaints the target reader with the basics of sociolinguistic research on multilingualism. Second, it is supplemented with a substantial bibliography of researches into language contacts published in the USSR. The bibliography was also compiled by prof. Zhluktenko.

The preface to the Russian translation of Languages in Contact was written by Professor Yartseva. Characterizing the book, she writes that Weinreich’s monograph had not lost its value more than 20 years after being published for the first time despite containing some controversial views not shared by Soviet scholars due to differences in methodology. The presentation of different perspectives and rich bibliography make Weinreich’s research a valuable handbook for young linguists, postgraduate students, and undergraduates. Many problems touched upon by Weinreich have been elaborated on in the Soviet Union. Understandably, the author could not take all of them into consideration. Therefore, Zhluktenko added a bibliography list, which could facilitate the reader in evaluating the contribution of Soviet linguistics into researching language contacts (Vaynraykh, 1979, p. 16).

Several points could be singled out, providing a general characteristic of the Russian translation of Languages in Contact.

It could be claimed that translation was influenced by the Soviet ideology of that time, which resulted in the omission of certain parts of the source text. The research into translation in totalitarian countries and censorship offers the idea that translators often assume the role of a “gatekeeper”, trying to make the product of their work conform to the requirements of the target situation. According to Merkle (2010, p. 19), this could be characterized as a situation of self-censorship, where the translators censor their work to meet society’s expectations. However, it is often difficult to determine whether the end product results from self-censorship or censorship by a third party (e.g. a reviser, copyeditor, or the publisher). We usually tend to condemn things like that and claim that it interferes with a proper understanding of the text. However, we could view the process of translation as negotiations, as Eco does. He postulates that, like in negotiations, if we want to have some (tangible) result, it is necessary to sacrifice something. The parties to this process should end up feeling satisfaction, remembering the golden rule, according to which one cannot have everything (Eko, 2006, p. 19). Therefore, we may confirm that translation of Languages in Contact is a successful outcome of talks, where Zhluktenko played the role of a major negotiator trying to iron out the difficulties and controversial points to share the assets of the world linguistics with readers in his native country.

Making an overall analysis of the translation, one may say that several aspects deserve attention. As mentioned by Yartseva in the preface to the Russian edition, the Russian translation has some inconsiderable shortenings, where the pieces that are of no particular interest to the Soviet reader were omitted (Vaynraykh, 1979, p. 16) (examples provided later in the article). This is an explicit manifestation of censorship as described by Sherry (2015b, p. 7): “censorship technique can be divided broadly into two categories: manipulation and exclusion (either of a text from publication or of parts within the text).” Whether these parts were uninteresting could be argued. Scholars researching translation in the Soviet Union claim, “it was common for censorial translation to be employed in order to align the foreign texts with the Soviet discursive canon” (Sherry, 2015a, p. 154).

The analysis of notes and footnotes in the book by Weinreich and its translation by Zhluktenko appeared quite interesting and fruitful. For example, we found a quantitative difference between them in the original and translation, which was influenced not only by the different referencing methods but also by some ideological reasons. The notes criticizing the Soviet research or state politics were deliberately omitted, e.g.:

The view that prestige contributes to the faithfulness of phonemic reproduction in loanwords is reflected in the strange Soviet efforts to declare the laws of vowel harmony inapplicable to recent Russian loan-words in Yakut and other languages in order to emphasize the socio-cultural status of Russian: cf. Mordvinov (375, 84) (Weinreich, 1967, p. 27).

Nevertheless, the book by Mordvinov mentioned by Weinreich remained in the reference list, manipulating the reader to think that Weinreich supports the opinions of this researcher rather than criticizing them. This is very much in line with Samantha Sherry’s (2015b, p. 87) statement that

the censorship also operated in more subtle ways: implicit analogies were also subject to cuts and manipulations aimed to foreclose the reader’s potentially incorrect interpretation of the text.

Similarly, a part of the commentary to the chapter “The Standardized Language as a Symbol” was eliminated:

Occasionally language loyalty can even be made subservient to aggressive purposes. Recent European history abounds in attempts to impose languages on populations by force. But there have also been grotesque attempts to modify languages (without displacing them) by ukase. The Russians have toyed with the idea of changing certain forms of Slavic languages in Soviet-occupied countries. For example, after invading Poland in 1939 they found the fact that ‘Jew’ was called in Polish Żyd distasteful, since žid in Russian is a term of contempt. Consequently, they ordered Polish newspapers to write Jewrej, coined on the model of the non-pejorative Russian jevrei. After World War II, the Russian occupation authorities in Poland again felt misgivings about the use of pan as a pronoun of polite address, since pan also means (in Russian as well as in Polish) squire, and was found to be an inappropriate remnant of feudalism in a People’s Democracy; see Klemensiewicz (274) (Weinreich, 1967, p. 99).


Иногда языковую лояльность могут даже использовать в целях политической агрессии. Новейшая история Европы изобилует попытками силой навязать языки населению различных стран…1 (Vaynraykh, 1979, p. 181).

Notably, the tone changed in translation, but the reference to the Polish author mentioned by Weinreich was eliminated from the reference list. Such an approach testifies that the censorship was in place, manipulating the target reader’s opinion by presenting the author’s ideas in a different light.

The same can be confirmed by the fact that some other excerpts were not included in the target text. These are mainly the pieces related to the issues of national identity:

As Boehm puts it (62, 234), ‘the national frontier… is the symbol of the territorial contiguity of nations and thus a particularly vital factor in modern nationalism… Border populations are usually imbued with particularly militant nationalism, for here the contrast to an alien people and an alien culture is more generally apparent… This ‘pathos of the borderland’ is the connecting link between the border regions and the capital city of the country…, the focal point for all the vital energies of a people. …’ Pousland (418) notes a greater loyalty to pure French in Salem, Mass., and Canada than in France itself (Weinreich, 1967, p. 100).

Similarly, to the previous example, the article “Nationalism” from “The Encyclopedia of Social Sciences”, which is the source of this quotation, was removed from the reference list, unlike the work by Pousland dealing with the problems of the French language and thus not overshadowing the communist ideals of the reader.

Another example is found in subchapter “4.41 Sources of Language Loyalty”:

The sociolinguistic study of language contact needs a term to describe a phenomenon which corresponds to language approximately as nationalism corresponds to nationality. The term language loyalty has been proposed for this purpose. A language, like a nationality, may be thought of as a set of behavior norms; language loyalty, like nationalism would designate the state of mind in which the language (like nationality), as an intact entity, and in contrast to other languages, assumes a high position in a scale of values, a position in need to be “defended.” Language loyalty, like nationalism, can be ‘idée-force which fills man’s brain and heart with new thoughts and sentiments and drives him to translate his consciousness into deeds of organized action.’ In response to an impending language shift, it produces an attempt at preserving the threatened language (§4.7) (Weinreich 1967, p. 99).


… Языковая лояльность … представляет собой такое явление, при котором язык как целостная сущность, противопоставляемая другим языкам, занимает высокое положение на шкале ценностей, положение, нуждающееся в “защите”… При возникшей угрозе смены языка языковая лояльность стремиться сохранить тот язык, который подвергся опасности2 (§ 4.7) (Vaynraykh, 1979, p. 166).

The translation of this passage is much shorter; one of the main factors of the language loyalty is not mentioned here. Consequently, the reader receives an incomplete or even erroneous idea of the sociolinguistic notion explained.

The next example offers another piece of the source text omitted in translation:

The most active interest in this question was displayed by German scholars of the Hitler era, who were preoccupied with the assimilation and ‘transethnization’ (Umvolkung) of Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans). In their view the focal question for research on bilingualism was the ‘psychological compartment of the bi- or multilingual in relation to the problem of ethnic politics and of ethnic and cultural biology, such as ‘deëthnization’ [Entvolkung], intermarriage, etc.’ The writings of this school of thought, however, comprise schematic plans of work rather than description, not to speak of experimentation. Schmidt-Rohr (491, 493, and 490, 178–92) discusses the logical connection between bilingualism and ethnic shift. Beyer (43), Beck (36), and Meiching (349) explore the psychological aspects of ethnic shifts, Loesch includes among his research problems the effects of the language shift on individuals (316, 164); in another paper (315, 229) he correlates stages of linguistic and ethnic assimilation of Germans in the United States. Heberle (207) disputes the claim that the more educated Germans in the United States retain their mother-tongue longer. Vasterling (590) discusses the deëthnization of adolescents; Geissler sets up a scheme of assimilation in several steps on the basis of his observations in Yugoslavia (163, 97 ff.). Kroh (288) has been more careful than the others; ‘the relation between bilingualism and ‘transethnization’, he says, ‘follows no fast rules, and differs so widely with the structure of the personality or the ethnic group that a large number of detailed studies will be necessary before general principles can be formulated’ (Weinreich, 1967, pp. 117–118).

As Sherry (2015b, p. 76) puts it,

certainly, there are many instances in these texts where one can observe the use of censorship to guard against an “infectious” inclusion of taboo material – even where, in the original version, the author is explicitly critiquing or denouncing that subject or person. The very presence of a name or topic contaminates the text. The operation of taboo in censorship had little regard for authorial intent but rather prioritized content.

We assume that this excerpt was omitted in translation for two reasons – а) because of references to the scholars from Hitler Germany, who was the Soviet Union’s enemy during the WWII, and, therefore, the country still maintained a negative image in the eyes of the target readers; b) because of the policy of assimilation, which was a tacit policy not only of Germany during Hitler’s rule, but also of the Soviet Union throughout the whole period of its existence. Possibly, the quotation was omitted for the reader not to draw any undesired parallels and not to think about the issues that were not allowed to discuss. For this purpose, the reference list was thoroughly revised to exclude all sources referred to in this passage by Weinreich. Some of these sources have very indicative titles: Hans Joachim Beyer Zur Frage der Umvolkung, Robert Beck Zur Psychologie der Umvolkung, Rudolf Heberle Auslandvolkstum; soziologische Betrachtungen zum Studium des Deutschtums im Auslande, Oswald Kroh Zur Psychologie der Umvolkung, K. C. von Loesch Eigendeutsche, Entdeutschte und Renegated, L. Meiching Umvolkung als psychoogisches Problem, Christian Vasterling Entdeuschungsgefahren im Jugendalter.

These assumptions could be confirmed by the article by Larysa Masenko Мовна політика в УРСР: історія лінгвоциду (Language policy in the Ukrainian SSR: the history of a linguicide), where the author provides a detailed description of the USSR’s politics envisaging strict language planning aimed at the approximation of the Ukrainian (and other) language to Russian, which was masked by “favourable” influence of the Russian language on the Ukrainian one. Even in the period of Khrushchev’s Thaw, the time of relative liberalization of the cultural policy, the language policy kept following the course aimed at persuading people how close and dear the Russian language is to them. Masenko notes that the research on sociolinguistic problems in all national republics of the USSR, including Ukraine, was subordinated to the goals of further strengthening the positions of the Russian language and limitation of the functions of national languages, which in a way explains why the abovementioned parts of Weinreich’s book stressing the role of national identity and forced assimilation were eliminated from the Russian translation, especially because the translation was published in 1979, the time when russification became especially strong, and anti-Ukrainian language and cultural policy became stronger (Masenko, 2005, pp. 16–25). At the same time, it all was varnished by noble slogans:

language policy in a multinational socialist state is a complex of state-political, ideological, research and public measures aimed at the development and functioning of a language and languages. It is grounded on Lenin’s national politics of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which ensures complete equality of rights to development, mutual enrichment, and prestige in social life for all languages of socialist nations and ethnicities of the Soviet Union (Bilodid, 2005, p. 278).

Thus, we may conclude that Zhluktenko’s translation was shortened to be acceptable from the perspective of the existing ideology.

It is worth mentioning that the difference in the number of reference sources between the original and translation is five items (658 in the English text and 643 in the Russian text). The “lack” is compensated for in translation by works published in the USSR and not listed by Weinreich.

To have a more or less complete picture of the translation, it is worth looking into the commentaries provided by the translator himself, which are presented after the main text and appendices, but before the reference list. Apparently, except for the immediate rendering of the author’s ideas, Zhluktenko, who was also profoundly interested in the issues of bi- and multilingualism, language contacts and interference, felt the necessity to comment on some matters. The remarks are various:

• criticism and provision of additional information on the attitude of Soviet and Soviet-favored researchers on the topic:

С. 22* Оценив положительно предложенный здесь термин “языковой контакт”, Б. Гавранек находил в нем и некоторые недостатки3 (Vaynraykh, 1979, p. 211);

С. 28* У. Вайнрайх разделяет здесь распространенное в американской науке мнение о наличии изоморфизма в структуре языка и строении культуры. Критику этой теории см. в кн.: Швейцер А. Д. Вопросы социологии языка в современной американской лингвистике. Л., 1971; его же: Современная социолингвистика. М., 19764 (Vaynraykh, 1979, p. 213);

С. 156* У. Вайнрайх умалчивает тут о таком важнейшем факторе, способствующем интенсивному воздействию языка данной страны на языки иммигрантов, как политическая и социально-культурная дискриминация, которой, как правило, подвергаются здесь иммигрантские группы. Кроме того, иммигрантский язык лишается нормирующей поддержки со стороны школы и официальных учреждений5 (Vaynraykh, 1979, p. 218);

• supplementation of the sources by information on later researches on the topic:

C. 38* Со времени выхода в свет данной книги У. Вайнрайха литература по вопросам языковых контактов значительно расширилась. В дополнение к приведенному им списку литературы см. библиографию в кн.: Haugen E. Bilingualism in the Americas. N. Y. 1956 и Жлуктенко Ю. А. Лингвистические аспекты двуязычия. Киев. 19766 (Vaynraykh, 1979, p. 214);

С. 75* Новые факты о грамматической интерференции немецкого языка в лужицком и наоборот сообщаются в книге Studien zum Sprachlichen Interferenz II. Bautzen, 19747 (Vaynraykh, 1979, p. 217);

С. 84* О процессах семантической интерференции см. весьма тщательное и богатое фактическим материалом ислледование С. В. Семчинского “Семантична інтерференція мов” (Киев, 1974); а также его же “Семантическая интерференция языков” (Автореф. дис. … д-ра филол. наук. Киев, 1973)8 (Vaynraykh, 1979, p. 217);

• explanation of terms:

С. 23* Ч. Фергюсон предложил термин “диглоссия” для описания ситуации, при которой два языка (или разновидности языка, например диалекты) распределяют между собой функции: один из них (“язык-Н”) используется как официальное средство общения, а другой (“язык-L”) обслуживает потребности повседневного бытового общения (см.: Ferguson Ch. A. Diglossia. – Word, 1959, No. 15, p. 325–340)9 (Vaynraykh, 1979, p. 213);

• presentation of alternative views of the problem with the further defense of Weinreich’s opinion:

Следует при этом отметить, что упрек в психологизме, высказанный С. В. Семчинским по поводу определения двуязычия У. Вайнрайха, основывается, по-видимому, на недоразумении. У. Вайнрайх в своем труде, как читатель может легко убедиться, постоянно учитывает данные психологии, антропологии и других смежных наук, но нигде не пытается отождествить двуязычие со знаниями, умениями или навыками говорящих10 (Vaynraykh, 1979, p. 212);

• the translator’s own opinion:

Это утверждение (the opinion of Vereshchagin on the “principle of minimum determination” which he used to prove Weinreich’s statement falseО. L.) представляется нам неубедительным, так как иноязычные единицы даже при окказиональном использовании в тексте иного языка обычно подвергаются определенной адаптации11 (Vaynraykh, 1979, p. 213).

Such commentaries require the translator to be quite knowledgeable about the matters discussed and manifestations of critical thinking. It is important that despite the need to remain within certain ideological constraints and promote the ideas of Soviet science, Zhluktenko is not afraid to criticize his Soviet colleagues and even occasionally favour the so-called “bourgeois” research.


The issues of ideology, which are present to this or that extent in all cultures and epochs, seem especially important for totalitarian countries, like the Soviet Union, which tried to exert total control over all aspects of human life. This paper proves that even such seemingly “unpolitical” research areas as language and linguistics become extremely politicized in certain contexts and may even be considered a weapon. Therefore, the translation of such texts becomes a dangerous ground, requiring a good deal of courage and self-censorship on the part of the translator.

Translation of Weinreich’s seminal book for Soviet readers was an important step. It provided the scholars with access to a new chunk of linguistic knowledge previously unavailable to them. At the same time, it was a dangerous text to translate, for it contained the parts that could compromise the Soviet language planning policy and research by some renowned Soviet scholars of that time. Zhluktenko was brave enough to break new ground in various fields, including the translation of Weinreich’s book. The analysis of the translation compared to the original shows that in his striving to broaden the horizons of Soviet linguistics, Zhluktenko went way beyond the traditional understanding of a translator’s function. He also undertook the roles of a commentator and bibliography compiler.

However, this work made him face some complicated choices. In many cases, he opted for the omission of the potentially troublesome parts of the text. The omissions are not that many but very indicative. They prove the system’s unwillingness to compromise itself due to undesired parallels a reader could draw. The translation lacks the parts of text and items from the reference list that deal with national identity and forced assimilation.

The translator’s solutions could be argued, but it seems like there was little room for manoeuver if one was both to preserve his job (or, maybe, even life) and open new horizons. Notably, this same translation was republished by the Baudouin de Courtenay Publishers in Blagoveshchensk, Russia, in 2000. Thus, despite its shortcomings, the text remains topical until today.


Weinreich, U., 1967. Languages in Contact. Findings and Problems. London–The Hague–Paris: Mouton & Co.

Vaynraykh, U., 1979. Yazykovyye kontakty. Sostoyaniye i problemy issledovaniya [Languages in Contact. Findings and Problems]. Perevod s angliyskoho Yu. Zhluktenko. Kiyev: Vishcha shkola. [In Russian].


Azhnyuk, B., 2017. Yu. O. Zhluktenko i suchasna ukrayins’ka sotsiolinhvistyka [Zhluktenko and modern Ukrainian sociolinguistics]. In: Natsional’na pam”yat’ u filoloniyi: spadshchyna profesora Yuriya Oleksiyovycha Zhluktenka [National memory in philology: the legasy of Professor Yuriy Zhluktenko]. Eds. Zorivchak, R ta in. L’viv, pp. 63–70. [In Ukrainian].

Baumgarten, S., 2012. Ideology and translation. In: Handbook of Translation Studies. Eds. Gambier, Y., van Doorslaer, L. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 3, pp. 59–65.

Bilodid, I., 2005. Mova i ideolohichna borot’ba (frahmenty) [Language and the ideological struggle (fragments)]. In: Ukrayins’ka mova u XX storichchi: istoriya linhvotsydu: dokumenty i materialy [The Ukrainian language in the 20th century: the history of a linguicide: documents and materials]. Ed. Masenko, Larysa. Kyiv: Vseukr. t-vo “Prosvita” im. Tarasa Shevchenka; Vydavnychyy dim “Kyyevo-Mohylyans’ka Akademiya”, pp. 276–283. [In Ukrainian].

Eko, U., 2006. Skazat’ pochti to zhe samoye. Opyty o perevode [Dire quasi la stessa cosa] [Experiences in Translation], Perevod s italyanskoho A. Koval’. Sankt-Peterburg: Symposium. [In Russian].

Kim, R., 2011. Uriel Weinreich and the birth of modern contact linguistics. In: Languages in Contact 2010. Eds. Chruszczewski, P., Wąsik, Z. Wrocław: Philological School of Higher Education in Wrocław Publishing, pp. 99–110.

Masenko, L., 2005. Movna polityka v URSR: istoriya linhvotsydu [Language policy in the USSR: a history of a linguicide]. In: Ukrayins’ka mova u XX storichchi: istoriya linhvotsydu : dokumenty i materialy [The Ukrainian language in the 20th century: the history of a linguicide: documents and materials]. Ed. Masenko, L. Kyyiv: Vseukr. t-vo “Prosvita” im. Tarasa Shevchenka; Vydavnychyy dim “Kyyevo-Mohylyans’ka akademiya”, pp. 5–36. [In Ukrainian].

Merkle, D., 2010. Censorship. In: Handbook of Translation Studies. Eds. Gambier, Y., van Doorslaer, L. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 1, pp. 18–21.

Popa, I., 2013. Communism and Translation Studies. In: Handbook of Translation Studies. Eds. Gambier, Y., van Doorslaer, L. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 4. pp. 25–30.

Sapiro, G., 2012. Editorial policy and translation. In: Handbook of Translation Studies. Eds. Gambier, Y., van Doorslaer, L. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 3, pp. 32–38.

Schäffner, C., 2010. Norms of Translation. In: Handbook of Translation Studies. Eds. Gambier, Y., van Doorslaer, L. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 1, pp. 235–244.

Sherry, S., 2015a. “Birdwatchers of the world, unite!” The language of Soviet ideology in translation. In: The Vernaculars of Communism. Language, ideology and power in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Eds. Petrov P., Ryazanova-Clarke, L. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 147–165.

Sherry, S., 2015b. Discourses of Regulation and Resistance. Censoring Translation in the Stalin and Khrushchev Era Soviet Union. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Yartseva, V., 1980. Pis’mo k Yu. Zhluktenko [A letter to Zhluktenko] [manuscript]. Personal collection of Natalia Zhluktenko. [In Russian].

Zorivchak, R., 2015. Movoznavchi rozdumy v lystakh profesora Yuriya Oleksiyovycha Zhluktenka: (do storichchya vid dnya narodzhennya) [Linguistic ideas in letter by Professor Yuriy Zhluktenko (to celebrate his 100th anniversary)]. Movoznavstvo [Linguistics], 4, pp. 38–67. [In Ukrainian].

1 Sometimes Language Loyalty may even be used for politically aggressive purposes. Recent European history abounds in attempts to impose languages on the populations by force…

2 …Language loyalty… is a phenomenon when a language as an intact entity, which is contrasted with other languages, occupies a high position on the value scale, a position that requires “protection”… In case of a threat of language shift, language loyalty strives for preserving the language under threat.

3 P. 22: Despite generally positive evaluation of the term language contact, which is offered here, Havránek found that it had certain drawbacks.

4 P. 28: Here, Weinreich shares the idea, which is common in American linguistics, claiming that there is an isomorphism in language and culture structure. For criticism of this theory, see: Shveitser, A. D., 1971. Voprosy sotsiologii yazyka v sovremennoy ameruikanskoy lingvistike [Issues in the sociology of language in contemporary American linguistics]. Leningrad: Nauka. [In Russian]; and Shveitser, A. D., 1976. Sovremennaya sotsiolingvistika [Contemporary Sociolinguistics]. Moskva: Nauka. [In Russian].

5 P. 156: Here, Weinreich fails to mention such an important factor facilitating active impact of the language of a given country on immigrant languages as political, social, and cultural discrimination, from which immigrant groups suffer quite often. In addition, immigrant language is deprived of the normative support on the part of the school and official institutions.

6 P. 38: Literature on language contacts has been significantly enriched since publication of this book. In addition to the reference list provided by Weinreich, see bibliography in the books Haugen, E., 1956. Bilingualism in the Americas. Alabama: University of Alabama Press and Zhluktenko, Yu. A., 1976. Lingvisticheskiye aspekty dvuyazychiya [Linguistic Aspects of Bilingualism]. Kyiv: Vyshcha Shkola. [In Russian].

7 P. 75: New facts on grammatical interference of the German language in Lusatian and vice versa are given in the book Michalk, S., Protze, H., 1974. Studien zum Sprachlichen Interferenz II [Studies in Language Interference]. Bautzen: VEB Domowina Verlag. [In German].

8 P. 84: For information about the processes of semantic interference, see a thorough and fact-rich research by Semchynskyi, S. V., 1974. Semantychna interferentsiya mov [Semantic interference in languages]. Kyiv: Vyshcha Shkola. [In Ukrainian]. As well as his Semanticheskaya interferentsyya yazykov [Semchynskyi, S. V., 1973. Semanticheskaya interferentsyya yazykov [Sematic interference in languages]. Doctoral dissertation. Taras Shevchenko University of Kyiv]. [In Russian].

9 P. 23: Ferguson offered the term ‘diglossia’ to describe the situation when two languages (or language varieties, for example, dialects) perform different functions – one of them (H-language) is used as an official means of communication, while the other one (L-language) serves the needs of everyday communication (see: Ferguson Ch. A., 1959. Diglossia. Word, 15, pp. 325–340).

10 Notably, Semchynkyi’s reproach that Weinreich’s definition of bilingualism gravitates towards psychologism is, apparently, caused by a misunderstanding. As the reader may see, Weinreich constantly takes into account the findings of psychology, anthropology and other related sciences, but never attempts at equating bilingualism with knowledge, abilities, or skills of the speakers.

11 This statement (the opinion of Vereshchagin on the “principle of minimum determination” which he used to prove Weinreich’s statement false – О. L.) does not seem convincing to us, since foreign units are usually subject to certain adaptation, even if occasionally used in a text.