For Pete’s sake!
A corpus-based contrastive study of the English/Norwegian patterns “for * sake” / for * skyld
In this paper we present a contrastive analysis of two similar-looking patterns in English and Norwegian that may be said to express the same meanings. Both English “for * sake” and Norwegian for * skyld have been attested with the following meanings: purpose, consideration and annoyance (used as an expletive). An analysis of bidirectional translation corpus data reveals marked cross-linguistic differences in the frequency and use of the patterns, contributing to a fair amount of non-correspondence in translation between the two languages. The in-depth contrastive analysis undertaken confirms that the two patterns behave differently in the two languages: while English prefers the expletive use, Norwegian prefers the purpose use. This observation regarding the patterns’ conditions of use led to the conclusion that the two languages operate with two different extended units of meaning, and that the two patterns as such are not considered perfect translation equivalents of each other. It was therefore interesting to take a closer look at one of the patterns — the English expletive use — and its actual correspondences in Norwegian. The cross-linguistic investigation uncovers some evidence of “quasi-swearing” in the translated texts and some evidence of different ways of swearing in English in Norwegian, both in terms of how expletives are lexicalized and what they refer to, e.g. blasphemy or sexual blatancy.
Keywords: extended unit of meaning, patterns, phraseology, swearing, bidirectional translation corpus, English/Norwegian
Published online: 30 September 2014
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