Alexander Shveitser was a specialist in the theory of translation, sociolinguistics, lexicography, contrastive stylistics; a researcher of the literary English language in the USA and the UK, history of American English, problems in the social differentiation of English in the USA.
The biography of Alexander Shveitser includes diverse spheres of his professional interests — a brilliant simultaneous interpreter, great scientist, author of fundamental works on the problems of general and special linguistics, an experienced teacher and lecturer, social activist, and science organizer. A knowledgeable, interesting-to-speak, and charming interlocutor, Alexander Shveitser was bright, with a subtle sense of irony, aristocracy. His great personality was characterized by keenness, diplomatic views on events, a certainty of judgement. He was always friendly and amiable and was ready to share his unique knowledge and rich experience.
Alexander Shveitser perfectly mastered the English language and all its subtleties. This knowledge helped him to discover the secrets of translation, to comprehend the bizarre nature of the language.
A. Shveitser began studying English at school when English did not have a high status. The rapid growth of the international importance and social prestige of the English language became an incentive to study it in various aspects in order to gain new knowledge about the properties and features of its functioning. Alexander Shveitser was sincerely convinced that it was impossible to learn English quickly without a lot of work. This process of improving knowledge became a life-long affair: his professional activity from the beginning to the last day was dedicated to the English language. His brilliant knowledge of the language was legendary. At that time, his fluency of spoken English was unique.
Shveitser's contribution to Russian linguistics is measured not only by his works. The scientific environment was formed by the influence of his creative personality, extensive life and professional experience. He appreciated the results of work with language material, with the word as a meaningful and semantic unit of language. Alexander Shveitser carried a careful attitude to the word throughout his life, and he proved the value of each word in translation.
Shveitser belonged to the generation that survived World War II. In 1941 he, as a second-year student of the Military Faculty of Western Languages (a unit of the 2nd Moscow State Pedagogical Institute of Foreign Languages (MSPIFL)), attended courses of the department of translation, where he studied in a bilingual group (English and German), and in the summer of 1943, he was sent to the frontline as a translator.
A. Shveitser had ten state awards and the military rank of Reserved Lieutenant Colonel.
He became famous for his work as a military interpreter at the meetings of the International Military Tribunal in Tokyo (1946-1948).
Shveitser graduated from the Military Institute of Foreign Languages in 1949 and started working there as a senior professor until 1956. Then, he was a senior editor at the military publishing house of the USSR Ministry of Defense until 1959. After defending his PhD thesis "The Perfective Participle and its Synonyms in Modern English" in 1956, he soon returned to teaching and began working at the Maurice Thorez Moscow Institute of Foreign Languages. In 1967, he defended his PhD. Dr.habil thesis "Distinctive Elements of American and British English". There, A. Shveitser was an associate professor, professor, head of the Department of Interpretation in different years. Since 1972, he, as PhD. Dr.habil, professor, author of a number of scientific works, began working as a part-time staff member at the Institute of Linguistics of the USSR Academy of Sciences (now RAS). At that time, combining positions with full-time work in other organizations was an exception in the scientific community. Being a unique researcher, linguist, scientist with an unusually wide range of scientific interests, practicing translator, Alexander Shveitser turned out to be a truly valuable employee for the Academic Institute. By that time, he had been well known as the author of monographic works in the fields of Germanic and general linguistics.
In 1982, Alexander Shveitser moved to the Institute of Linguistics of the USSR Academy of Sciences for permanent employment. He became a leading, and then chief researcher, retaining the position of the Head of the Department of Interpretation at Moscow State Linguistic University.
His research interests included the theory of variation in language systems, sociolinguistics, theory of translation, problems of theoretical grammar, and history of the English language as well as questions of general and contrastive stylistics. All these issues were developed by Shveitser in frames of the English language.
Alexander Shveitser wrote more than 150 scientific works, including 13 monographs, widely known in Russia and abroad. Their value lies not only in the development of the conceptual apparatus and analytical procedures for studying the problems of social variability of the English language and translation studies but also in the studying of the experience of foreign researchers, whose works, thus, became available to Russian scientists. Alexander Schweitzer knew the techniques of comparative and critical analysis of different theoretical approaches. In his works, the linguistic material is methodically analyzed and supported by consistent argumentation.
Shveitser's lecture courses were very popular in foreign universities as well. He trained dozens of graduate students. Many of them played a key role in the development of a number of branches of Russian linguistics.
Despite his broad knowledge, professional skills, and undisputed scientific authority, Alexander Shveitser didn't have administrative ambitions. He always remained a wise arbiter with a clear and responsible attitude, always friendly towards colleagues and students. Alexander Shveitser sincerely valued his creative freedom, professional interests, and appreciated the academic atmosphere of the Institute of Linguistics. His works have become a guarantee of the quality of scientific achievements.
He held a special place in Soviet linguistics as a language theorist and practicing translator. Being well aware of the advantages of Western schools and areas of linguistics, Alexander Shveitser relied on the best achievements of national science and never advocated ideological dogmas of any side. He worked with the material of Western languages and extracted objective knowledge from it, regardless of political attitudes that existed in the humanities before the 1990s. In his criticism of Western researchers, he always proceeded from the essence of the problem and made every effort to justify his position.
At the Institute of Linguistics, Alexander Shveitser headed the "Task Group on Translation Theory" and published a series of publications together with his colleagues.
His participation in the work "Problem Commission on the Theory and History of Literary Languages", which was headed by Mirra Gukhman, and then Natalia Semenyuk, was fruitful. Shveitser's series of articles for collective works were the result of the generalization of his long-term research in the field of the English literary language.
The social and organizational activities of Alexander Shveitser were diverse and in demand.
He traveled with the Soviet Peace Defense Committee as part of delegations of public figures to the GDR, Italy, Switzerland, Finland, the United States, and Austria — as a Head of a team of simultaneous interpreters. He accompanied delegations to World Conferences for Disarmament and Detente, at the International Forum for Relations of Peace-Loving Forces, and anti-war conferences "For nuclear-free Europe"; was a member of the Board of the "USSR-USA Society"; scientific coordinator of exchanges with the Council of Educational Societies of the United States on "Literary languages".
Alexander Shveitser rendered speeches of foreign guests at the congresses of the CPSU, he was repeatedly applauded for his brilliant work.
His professional activity assumed a strong connection between theory and practice, the ability to combine diverse research interests with language analysis in different situations.
Memorial Publications about A. Shveitser:
- Tsvilling M. Foreword to the Book // Shveitser A. Through Interpreter's Eyes. From the Memories. [Glazami perevodchika. Iz vospominaniy.] M., 2012. P. 7—10.
- Shveytser V. Introduction to the Book [Vvedeniye k knige] // Shveytser A. Through Interpreter's Eyes. From the Memories. [Glazami perevodchika. Iz vospominaniy.] M.. 2012. P. 5—6.
- Vlasenko S. Modern Studies of Translation: Boundless Horizons and Topical Issues of Development (Essay for the 85th birthday of the prof. Shveytser) [Sovremennoye perevodovedeniye: neobozrimyye gorizonty i aktualnyye problemy razvitiya (Ocherk k 85-letiyu so dnya rozhdeniya prof. A.D. Shveytsera)] // Philology Issues. 2008. № 3(30). P. 65—75.
- Vlasenko S. The Discourse of Translation on the Boundary of Centuries: Essay for the 90th birthday of the PhD. Dr.habil, prof. Shveytser Perevodcheskiy diskurs na rubezhe vekov: k 90-letiyu so dnya rozhdeniya doktora filologicheskikh nauk. prof. A.D. Shveytsera // World of the Russian Language. [Mir russkogo slova.] 2014. № 3. P. 16—28.
In World War II
1941—1945 : Military Interpreter. Central 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Belorussian Front.
10 State Award.
Accounting and Service Record ("Memory of the People")
- Essay on the Modern English Language in the USA. М., 1963.
- About the Micro-Sociology of the Language. [O mikrosociologii i makrosociologii yazyka.] М., 1970.
- The Literary English Language of the USA and England. [Literaturnyj anglijskij yazyk v SSHA i Anglii.] М., 1971.
- Questions of the Sociology of the Language and Modern American Linguistics. [Voprosy sociologii yazyka v sovremennoj amerikanskoj lingvistike.] М., 1971.
- Translation and Linguistics. Newspaper and journalistic, Military and Publicistc Translation. [Perevod i lingvistika. Gazetno-informacionnyj i voenno-publicisticheskij perevod.] М., 1973.
- Modern Sociolinguistics: Theory, Issues, and Methods. [Sovremennaya sociolingvistika: Teoriya, problemy, metody. ] М., 1976.
- Social Differentiation of the English Language in the USA. [Social'naya differenciaciya anglijskogo yazyka v SSHA.] М., 1983.
- Theory of Translation: Status, Issues, Aspects. [Teoriya perevoda: Status, problemy, aspekty.] М., 1988.
- Through Interpreter's Eyes. [Glazami perevodchika.] М., 1996.
- Contrastive stylistics: news media style in English and in Russian. [Kontrastivnaya stilistika. Gazetno-publicisticheskij stil' v anglijskom i russkom yazykah.] М., 1993 (republished 2008, 2012; published translated in the English language in Spain: Shveitser A.D. Contrastive stylistics: news media style in English and in Russian. Las Palmas G.C. 1997.
Articles and Sections in Collective Monographs:
- Social Differentiation of the Language. [Social'naya differenciaciya yazyka // Ontologiya yazyka kak obshchestvennogo yavleniya.] — M.: Science, 1983.— PS. 172—207.
- Variability of Literary Language and the Model of the Formation of its Norms. [Variativnost' literaturnogo yazyka i modeli formirovaniya ego norm (na materiale amerikanskogo varianta anglijskogo yazyka)] // Types of Superdialectual Forms of the Language. [Tipy naddialektnyh form yazyka.] — M.: Science, 1981.
- The System of the English Language Forms of Existence in the USA. // Functional Language Stratification. [Sistema form sushchestvovaniya sovremennogo anglijskogo yazyka v SSHA // Funkcional'naya stratifikaciya yazyka.] — M.: Science, 1985.
- Translation in the Context of the Cultural Tradition // Literary Language and Cultural Tradition. [Perevod v kontekste kul'turnoj tradicii // Literaturnyj yazyk i kul'turnaya tradiciya.] — М., 1994.
- The Role of Innovative and Relict Elements of the Norm Formation in the Codified Literary Language // Language Norm. The Typology of Processes of Normalization. [Rol' innovacionnyh i reliktovyh elementov v formirovanii norm kodificirovannogo literaturnogo yazyka // YAzykovaya norma. Tipologiya normalizacionnyh processov.] — М., 1996.
- The Interaction of the Literary Language with the Sub-standardized Conversational Vocabulary in the Modern Language // Oral Forms of the Literary Language. History and Modernity. [Vzaimodejstvie literaturnogo yazyka s substandartnoj razgovornoj leksikoj v sovremennom anglijskom yazyke // Ustnye formy literaturnogo yazyka. Istoriya i sovremennost'.] — M., 1999.
- Addressing the Problem of Contrastive and Stylistic Analysis of the Text // Language: Theory, History, Typology. [K probleme kontrastivno-stilisticheskogo analiza teksta // YAzyk: teoriya, istoriya, tipologiya] / Collection of works for the 90th birthday V. Yarcevoj. Resp. editor N. Babenko. — М.: URSS, 1999.
The material has been prepared by N. Babenko