Cultural Aspects of Malaysian English and Russian Medical Profession Names

Istvan Lenart, Nick Buvalin


The translation of medical profession names may challenge even the most experienced translator. Selecting the appropriate equivalents is not always evident: the English term dentist for instance may correspond to either стоматолог [stəmɐtˈolək] (“mouth expert”) or зубной врач [zʊbnˈoj vrˈatɕ] (“tooth doctor”) or дантист [dɐntˈist] (“dental hygienist”) in the Russian language. A physiotherapist can be translated as физиотерапевт [fɪzɪɐtɪrɐpˈevt]; however a physiotherapist in Russia must necessarily hold a medical doctor degree, in contrast with the practice of most Anglo-Saxon countries. Although the compared terms are often considered as equivalents by bilingual dictionaries (e.g.: surgeon and хирург [xɪrˈurk]) (Buvalin and Lenart 2017); however, their denotations and connotations may significantly differ, thus their improper translation may lead to intercultural misunderstandings. In this paper, 17 pairs of English-Russian medical profession names were investigated – the English lexemes coming from the Malaysian variety of the English language – with two competing linguistic methods: the association experiment and a corpus linguistic approach. The authors aimed at identifying semantic dissimilarities between the Malaysian English and the Russian lexemes in a cross-cultural context, from the perspective of both the association experiment and corpus linguistic methods. Firstly, a questionnaire-based association experiment was conducted with 300 Russian and 50 Malaysian medical university students, followed by a contrastive corpus linguistic analysis relying on the Russian National Corpus and the NOW (News on the Web) corpus. Results of the cross-cultural investigation revealed substantial semantic differences between the English and Russian profession names, as well as confirmed the complementary character of the association experiment and the corpus linguistic methods.


Keywords: medical profession names; association experiment; corpus linguistics; verbal consciousness; cross-cultural investigation


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