Chapter published in:Cross-linguistic Correspondences: From lexis to genre
Edited by Thomas Egan and Hildegunn Dirdal
[Studies in Language Companion Series 191] 2017
► pp. 37–74
Saying, talking and telling
Basic verbal communication verbs in Swedish and English
This study compares the major Verbal Communication Verbs (VCVs) in English say, tell, speak and talk with their Swedish correspondents säga, berätta, tala and prata. The analysis is based on data from the English–Swedish Parallel Corpus. The semantic and functional description of the verbs is based on the theory of semantic frames and on speech act theory. The verbs are used primarily to report speech, but say and tell and Swedish säga are used also metalinguistically as a commentary on the current discourse as it unfolds. In English, talk and speak turn out to have a wide range of uses that are divided up in a different way in Swedish, whereas tala has many language-specific uses in Swedish. Tell has two major semantic correspondents in Swedish, berätta, which is used to report a complex sequence of events or facts, and the particle verb tala om, which tends to report a single fact. However, tell has a rather general meaning and the most frequent translation is actually säga ‘say’. That tell lacks a direct equivalent in Swedish also explains why tell turns out to be significantly underrepresented in English texts that are translated from Swedish in comparison to original English texts. Genre-based differences are also discussed. For example, not only are say and säga much more frequent in fiction than in non-fiction, but the uses are also distributed differently.
Published online: 23 November 2017
Altenberg, Bengt & Aijmer, Karin
Ballmer, Thomas T. & Brennenstuhl, Waltraud
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Fillmore, Charles J., Johnson, Christopher R. & Petruck, Miriam R. L.
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Submitted. Finding a model for contrastive lexical semantics: A look at verbal communication verbs.
BYU-BNC. British National Corpus
: http://corpus.byu.edu/bnc/> (6 December 2016).
The English–Swedish Parallel Corpus. For a description, see: http://www.sol.lu.se/engelska/corpus/corpus/espc.html
Gothenburg Spoken Language Corpus: http://www.ling.gu.se/~leifg/tal/
SAOB Svenska Akademiens Ordbok (The Dictionary of the Swedish Academy)
SLB. The Swedish Language Bank
: http://spraakbanken.gu.se> (6 December 2016) The search tool KORP is described in Borin et al. 2012.
SUC 2.0. The Stockholm Umeå Corpus
https://spraakbanken.gu.se/eng/resource/suc2 (The description in this paper is based on SUC 1.0, but the differences are very small.)
Cited by 2 other publications
Sikveland, Rein Ove & Elizabeth Stokoe
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