Political Neologisms in Global Politics and the Issue of their Transposition from English into Georgian

General overview

Translation has always been the central aspect of international relations. Therefore, its issues have held a dominant position in linguistic studies. For the last several decades, translation has significantly gained an importance because of a constant need for the information exchange resulted from the rapid technological advancements, big social changes, intensified international relations and tendencies of globalization.

The unprecedented increase in the creation of neologisms can be attributed to the same reasons. The technological development, social transformations, intensified international political interactions give rise to new concepts, which need to be given names. Since adding new words to a dictionary is a long and complex procedure, most modern languages have a vast number of words with the status of neologisms.

The modern world recognizes English as number one language for communication as it is Lingua Franca for science, education, information and the internet. Thus, the most powerful tendencies for the creation of  a neologism can be observed in English. Neologisms are complex phenomena, which means that their translation involves focusing on many different aspects. During translation of neologisms, a thematic grouping is the issue of a major significance as strategies, techniques and general tendencies for translation differ according to thematic groups they represent.

The present article focuses on political neologisms - a very powerful tendency of the modern epoch. As politics is a global rather than a local phenomenon and as the “news”, the events of local and international politics, receive extensive coverage, translation of political neologisms is an actual problem. Translation of the political texts is a difficult issue. One of the most outstanding linguists, researcher of neologisms, Peter Newmark, states that “The trouble with the translation of political language is that it is an abstraction of an abstraction” [Newmark, 1988, 141].

The objective of the present article is to analyze political neologisms, to define what is the scale of English neologisms’ transposition into Georgian and to identify the translation strategies and methods that are necessary for it. The material for the study is mostly collected from the texts and newspaper articles on the internet. The source of Georgian equivalents is also the internet.


Political Neologisms

The language, which is used by politicians, as well as the language which is used to describe and evaluate political events and figures, has its specific features. The language of politics is characterized with the tendency of either disguising the truth or revealing only half of it. The statements in a political speech are ambiguous and have the tendency to influence public opinion by verbal means. Masterly use of the verbal means is one of the major instruments in confronting political rivals. In order to cast a shadow, mock or humiliate an opponent, politicians spend a lot of time and effort finding or devising effective terms and phrases. If we add the necessity of naming the new concepts of the modern epoch, we will get a substantial part of the vocabulary with words and phrases of different semantic makeup and intentions, all of which need proper translation so as to ensure an accurate exchange of information between different nations.

Almost all political terms were once political neologisms. Thus, “Rightist” and “Leftist” acquired their meanings after French Revolution of 1789. “Bolshevism” as a concept appeared in 1917, after Lenin’s Social-Democratic Labor Party’s coming to power with majority in Soviet Russia. The majority of political terms has a history of creation. Their acceptance in a language depends on the degree of importance of the concept, which a neologism denotes. The group of neologisms, which has greater importance in national or international contexts, becomes an integral part of the language. Most of the current internationalisms were once considered political neologisms: Genocide (1944), Meritocracy (1958), Homophobia (1969), Heterosexualism (1979), etc.

French lexicographer, Alan Ray, in his work Essai de definition du concept de neologisme highlights social and pragmatic aspects of a linguistic neology, focusing on one very important feature of political neologisms: “The creation of neologisms cannot be dissociated from individual creators who are integrated into a community and use it in discourse for expressing themselves in a particular situation” [Rey, 1995, 66]. As it is quite clear from the quotation, neologisms are connected to particular individuals, who are members of a certain society and thus a context and an author of a neologism have special significance. Nowadays, political neologisms are mainly created and spread by politicians and journalists. Many of the neologisms not only have the date and the context of creation, but also have the author.

It should also be mentioned that although there is a large number of political neologisms appearing regularly in modern English, from the translation point of view there are some restrictions (limitations), which could be ascribed to extralinguistic reasons. First of all, it is the extent of the media coverage which is received by a concept or an event denoted by a neologism. The neologisms for the events and concepts of a local importance remain untranslated, while the neologisms expressing global events and phenomena quite often acquire the status of internationalisms. One major feature of a political neologism is its component of assessment. Ideologically determined political neologisms not only represent a name of a concept or an event, but also assess it.

It is a paradox of political neologisms that although the ideas are new, the word forms of them are old and familiar. This means that the most successful and catchy political neologisms are formed: a) on the basis of already existing political neologisms and terms; b) an unusual combination of standard lexical items; c) an unusual mix of base words and affixes from classical languages; d) through the semantic shift. One important determinant for creating effective political neologisms is a harmonious interrelation between an external/internal form and semantics. Only in such cases can neologisms turn into powerful messages, effective means of  expression of thought.


Transposition of Political Neologisms into Georgian translations

In the process of translation, political neologisms reveal one tendency – their transposition from a Source language into a Target language is less difficult in comparison with the neologisms of other fields, the main reason for it being familiarity of word forms: frequent use of familiar words, proper names of famous people and countries, internationalized affixes from classical languages. As proper names and lexemes from classical languages are generally transferred through transliterated equivalents, translation does not take much effort except for rare cases.

Let us start the analysis from a very popular political neologism of the recent period – Brexit, the Georgian version of which is  /bregzit’i/ and which was named the word of the year 2017, as it promptly became widespread and gave rise to many more political neologisms. The term is connected to the results of the 2016 referendum in Great Britain, in which 53% of all residents voted for the withdrawal from the Eurozone. The word formation principle of this particular word is blending (combination of parts of two words – Britain + Exit) and it was formed in 2012 on the basis of another neologism - Grexit (Greek + Exit). In contrast with the latter, Brexit gained so much popularity that it further formed a few new words like Frexit (France + Exit), Nexit (Netherlands + Exit) in politics and Bradxit and Mexit in culture and sports, the first meaning the divorce of Brangelina - a famous Hollywood couple and the other – footballer Messi’s retirement from Big Football. [https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/nov/03/brexit-named-word-of-the-year-ahead-of-trumpism-and-hygge]. Thus, the word exit acquired a new status of a suffix and can further produce other neologisms. Recently Collins dictionary added Brexit to the word-stock. As for the Georgian translation, it was transferred through transliteration according to the principles of transcription and transliteration adopted by the Academy of Science, the Institute of Linguistics in 1989 [http://www.sakpatenti.gov.ge/ka/page/35/]. It could not have been differently, because in case of blends, the form does not split to translate the components separately.

The political term “Watergate” has a history similar to Brexit. In Georgian, it is presented as /uot’ergeit’i/. The creation of this neologism is connected to the infamous robbery in the USA Democratic Party headquarters -Watergate and a big political scandal in 1972, with President Nixon in office. Despite being quite old, the word is still actual. According to “The Telegraph”, Watergate is the most influential political term and David Crystal included it in the list of 100 most important words. One component of the word – gate - formed the suffix and is frequently used for giving a name to all kinds of awkward political moments and scandals (Spitzgate, Weinergate, Melaniagate). As for the Georgian version, as in the case of Brexit, it is represented by transliteration of a proper name.  

The same translation strategy is used in case of one of the most popular words of 2017, Trumpism, which will probably retain its importance further considering current political reality. The word is formed by adding -ism, an international suffix of Greek origin, to the surname of the president. The word “Trumpism” refers to political philosophy and Americentrism of president Trump. In some cases, it might also refer to statements and remarks of the president. 

Analogous formation and translation principles (surname + -ism) can be observed in neologisms with the surnames of many American and other political leaders worldwide. These are Clintonism, Obamaism, Bushism, Thatcherism and many more. In all of these cases apart from Bushism, the neologisms denote the political outlook of these leaders. As for Bushisms, these are unconventional statements, phrases, pronunciations and semantic or linguistic errors in public speeches of George Bush Jr., for which he frequently became the object of criticism. In Georgian translations the above-mentioned words are transliterations.

The productivity of the Greek suffix -phobia can be seen in many neologisms. The reason for such productivity lies in the nature of current political and social interactions. Since 1969, the time of creation of Homophobia, it has lost none of its actuality: in the 70s was created Islamophobia, which became even more topical since the 9/11 terrorist attack in the USA. Then appeared Europhobia and some other terms. A more recent tendency is to add this suffix to the names and surnames of famous political figures in order to denote mistrust or hatred towards them, for instance, Baracnophobia, Obamaphobia, Palinophobia, Clintonophobia. As these words have significance mainly in the local American context, there is no obvious necessity of their transposition into Georgian, unlike the above-mentioned Islamophobia and Europhobia, global importance of which facilitated their acceptance in Georgian too. The translation strategy is again transliteration, as the neologisms are combinations of long-established internationalisms and a Greek suffix.

We already mentioned above that certain words, morphemes and affixes used in the creation of political neologisms have the element of assessment. Except for Brexit, one of the components of all the political neologisms analyzed above had a negative connotation and thus every word combined with them conveys a negative meaning. The opposite tendency can be seen in combinations of different kinds of lexemes with an equally productive Greek suffix -philia (friendship, love). The combinations of different words with it produce neologisms with a positive connotation: Obamaphilia, Baracaphilia, Palinaphilia. The formation of these is also based on combining proper names and internationalized suffixes and thus the translation strategy is transliteration.

Positive and negative assessments are not sharply polarized, the assessments can alter. Noun -mania, which is of Greek origin and which entered English through Latin in 1400, initially meant overexcitement and delusion and had solely a negative connotation [https://www.google.ge/search?q=mania+etiymology&oq=mania+etiymology&aqs=chrome..69i57.5743j0j9&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8]. In the 16th century, this independent lexical unit acquired the status of a suffix and was used as the second component in compounds. The word formed on its basis had a negative meaning. At the end of the 20th century, the meaning of the suffix changed, which also caused alteration of its negative connotation. In 2008 Macmillan Dictionary gave the following definition for it: “An extremely strong enthusiasm for something, especially among a lot of people” [https://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/mania_1].  By combining proper names and -mania were created such neologisms as Obamamania, Obamania and then Palinmania, Clinton mania, Romneymania. In the given examples, the words do not have a negative connotation. Quite on the contrary, they are very close to such words as Obamaphilia, Klintonophilia. Thus, the definition for Obamamania is: “The fervent enthusiasm demonstrated by some supporters of Senator Barack Obama during his campaign for the US Presidency in 2008”. [https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/obamamania]. This is why simply translating a neologism does not mean it will be appropriately understood. It highlights that knowing the context is of a great importance.

The examples of portmanteaus or blends are AfPac, Chindia, Eurabia. The first term denotes two countries (Afghanistan and Pakistan) sharing the same geographical location and the same kind of problems. The blend Chindia (China and India) denotes two neighbouring countries with the fastest-growing economies. What is meant by Eurabia (Europe and Arabia) is the name for the conspiracy theory allegedly led by European and Arabic governments to Arabise Europe. All three blends are transferred into Georgian through combination of transliterated names of the countries: /Avp’ak’i,/ /tʃindoetʰi/, /evrabia/.

Foreign policy neologisms created in particular states at a certain time indicate to certain political developments and processes. In case of a change of government and some “geopolitical catastrophe”, there is always the abundance of political neologisms. After the destruction of the Soviet Union and the bipolar system of the world, new political neologisms appeared to depict the new geopolitical reality, e.g., Multipolar World and The Clash of Civilizations. These neologisms were created by giving new meanings to old lexical units. Translation of such words is based on replacing SL elements with standard TL elements.

After 9/11, a whole series of political neologisms appeared in American English. They all reflected the new political direction of the US administration.  One of the most popular terms turned out to be Axis of Evil – a term formed by George Bush Jr. on January 29, 2002. It was the neologism that restored the atmosphere of the world’s bipolarity and confrontation of the Cold War. Axis of Evil reflects the attitude of the USA to “Nondemocratic States” and is also associated with the concept of “Rogue States”. The term denotes the approach, which still plays an important role in planning and analyzing the political course of action in the United States. The Axis of Evil is associated with another concept of a highly negative connotation created half a century earlier – Evil Empire. In order to enhance the effect of threat and danger and to facilitate easy understanding of the idea conveyed by the Axis of Evil, Axis was taken from the term Axis Powers (Germany, Japan, Italy – the countries united against the alliance  during World War II). By combining the components of old neologisms and because of their allusive nature, the Axis of Evil acquired a highly negative meaning. Further, this neologism gave rise to such forms as Axis of the Willing, Axis of Weasels, Axis of Eve, Axis of the Medieval. As for Axis of Evil, as well as Evil Empire, they are transferred into Georgian through the loan translation: /borot’ebis imp’eria/ and /borot’ebis gʰerdzi/.

A significant share of political neologisms is produced by giving new meanings to old words. Tea Party was created through the meaning alteration of a multiple component historical term. The neologism denotes the populistic conservative-liberal political movement that started in the USA in 2009 against Barak Obama’s policy. The neologism is an allusion of the 1773 Boston Tea Party. In Georgian print media and the internet, this neologism is a loan translation - /tʃais ts’veuleba/. The neologism was so widely used in America that it produced further neologisms like Tea Party GOP, Tea Party Movement, Tea Party Patriots, Tea Party Rebellion, Tea Party Candidates, Tea Party Extremists, etc.

For the United States, as well as for the rest of the world, Republican Donald Trump’s becoming a president after Barak Obama was a turning point. As a political and public figure, Trump evokes a range of emotions in people both in the USA and worldwide. Being in the centre of public attention, the figure of Tramp influenced the language and many neologisms appeared to signify his personality, attitudes and aims or just to denote his supporters. The process has been so extensive that The Oxford Dictionary editors are considering to include the list of Trump-connected words in the word-stock. [https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jan/30/oxford-dictionary-donald-trump-neologisms]. There is a wide variety of such neologisms: Trumpistan - /t’ramp’ist’ani/, Trumposphere - /t’ramp’ospʰero/, Trumpanzees - /t’ramp’anzeebi/, Trumpists - /t’ramp’ist’ebi/, Trumpettes - /t’ramp’et’ebi/, Trumponimics - /t’ramp’onomik’a/, etc. These neologisms, being portmanteaus –  a combination of a proper name and different kinds of words with the status of internationalisms, do not represent any difficulty from the translation point of view. All of these words are easy to understand apart from Trumpettes (Female supporters of Trump), for which the reason is the suffix for forming the female gender, which does not exist in Georgian.

Let us see one more neologism, a compound made up of standard lexical units – Political correctness. It came into existence in the 1990s and first appeared in The New York Times. The term denotes avoidance of such actions and talks that might offend either a certain part of the society or ethnic and sexual minorities. Consequently, it becomes necessary to constantly control your words and actions in order not to make someone feel discriminated. The neologism is translated in two versions into Georgian: /p’olit’ik’uti k’orekt’uloba/ or /p’olit’k’orekt’uloba/.  One is a naturalized loan translation and the other – a combination of loan translation and blending.

Alternative Facts attained worldwide popularity very rapidly after its appearance. Its creation is connected to the name of the political consultant of Donald Trump, Kellyanne Elizabeth Conway, who during the press conference on 22 January 2017, tried to defend White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, who made a false statement about the number of attendants at Trump’s inauguration. When journalist Chuk Todd asked why Sean Spice said the lie, which could be easily examined, Conway stated that Spicer was giving “Alternative Facts”. Todd answered that Alternative Facts are not facts, they are lies. Conway’s comment was followed by a lot of criticism and irony. The phrase was described as Orwellian. It is interesting that in 4 days after the interview, George Orwell’s “1984” sales increased by 9500% and the book became a bestseller on Amazon.

Certain neologisms can become popular momentarily. The term “Neologism” has proved to be relevant for the whole world reality as it gives an accurate description of the nature of politics, the tendencies to hide, to lie or to embellish the truth. “Alternative Facts” is transferred into Georgian as transliteration - /alt’ernat’iuli pʰakt’ebi/. Its components are long-established internationalisms. That the term is used in other contexts, in our case – the Georgian media,  apart from Trump administration, can be proved by the fact that when Azeri journalist Afghan Mukhtarli was kidnapped, Journal “Moambe” published an article with the title: “Mukhtarly’s disappearance – alternative facts and manipulation”. In the article, the neologism is used to denote the meaning of disguising the truth.  [https://www.mediachecker.ge/ka/analizi/article/47731-mukhtarlis-gauchinareba-alternatiuli-faqtebi-da-manipulacia-moambeshi]


The analysis of political neologisms leads to the following conclusions:

The appearance of a large number of political neologisms is the reflection of the current state of the political events worldwide. Apart from naming certain concepts and processes, political neologisms also have the function of assessment. To form political neologisms, in the majority of cases, old words are given new meanings.

From word formation principles the most dominant ones are five: two-word composites,  derivation, eponyms, portmanteaus (blends) and less frequently, acronyms.

Quite often political neologisms are of an allusive nature. They are usually connected to other similar political concepts and events. Some of them become so popular and productive that they give rise to other new forms.

As for the translation of political neologisms, there are no particular difficulties in this respect, because they are mainly created on the basis of standard old words, lexemes of international status or proper names and thus are easily transferred into Georgian. From all translation strategies, there are dominant - loan translation (calque) and transliteration – Georgian phonological and morphological modifications of SL neologisms.


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