Guest-edited by Bengt Altenberg and Karin Aijmer
[Languages in Contrast 13:2] 2013
► pp. 238–259
Swedish gärna and German gern(e) and their English correspondences
A contrastive study at the crossroads of modality and illocutionary force
The Swedish adverb gärna, related to German gern(e), has no obvious equivalent in English. To explore this cross-linguistic phenomenon the English correspondences of gärna are examined on the basis of the English-Swedish Parallel Corpus, a bidirectional translation corpus. The study shows that gärna has a wide range of English correspondences (translations as well as sources), representing a variety of grammatical categories (verb, adjective, adverb, noun, etc). In addition, the English texts contain a large number of omissions and unidentifiable sources (zero). The most common function of gärna is to express willingness or readiness on the part of the subject, but in the absence of a volitional controller it can also indicate a habitual tendency and even convey implications such as reluctance. It is also used in speech acts expressing offers, promises and requests and in responses to such speech acts. To compare the Swedish adverb with its German cognate gern(e) a similar contrastive study of the English correspondences of this adverb was made on the basis of the Oslo Multilingual Corpus. The studies clearly demonstrate the rich multifunctionality of the two adverbs and the advantages of using bidirectional parallel corpora in contrastive research.