Edited by Hilde Hasselgård, Stig Johansson and Cathrine Fabricius-Hansen
[Languages in Contrast 2:1] 1999
► pp. 57–85
Non-referential there has been widely discussed as part of existential sentences, and as an organiser of information in the sentence. Much less attention has been paid to its roles in discourse. As an item without a direct equivalent in many languages, it offers an interesting issue for contrastive analysis: how are its various roles handled in translation? This paper explores uses of thematic there on the basis of a parallel corpus with two-way translations between English and Finnish, focusing on two questions: how translators deal with the information structure of there constructions, and what discourse functions thematic non-referential there is used for. Overall, translators tended to maintain the original information structure, particularly its main focus, without translating word by word, and showing sensitivity to the text level. Pre-topical orienting themes played an adaptive role in focus maintenance. In discourse, there constructions play an important role in organising information: they prospect and introduce new items, new points, topics, and conclusions. In contrast, Finnish appears to use more orienting themes, new topical themes and verb-initial clauses signalling a change of tack in discourse. The findings throw into sharp relief sentences without topic or theme, and question the universality of both phenomena.
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