Translationese – a myth or an empirical fact?
A study into the linguistic identifiability of translated language
This paper reports on a study in which subjects were asked to distinguish translations from originally produced (non-translated) texts. The aim was to identify the linguistic features shared by texts assumed to be translations, as well as those shared by texts assumed to be originally produced. The results show (i) that translations were not readily identifiable, and (ii) that the feature that seemed to guide the subjects’ decisions was the frequency vs. scarcity of target language specific (unique) items in the texts: their frequency led subjects to assume—correctly or incorrectly—that a text was original rather than translated. It is concluded that the unique items in non-translations vs. translations deserve further research in respect of their frequency and the impressions they make on readers.
Keywords: translationese, identifiability as translation, unique items, translated language, linguistic features of translations, universals of translation, translation quality
- 1.Do translations differ from originally produced texts?
- 2.Can translations be identified?
- 3.What are the linguistic features that accompany the impression of original writing?
- 4.What are the linguistic features that suggest that a text might be a translation?
- 5.Do features hypothesized as translation universals attract identification as translation?
- 6.Does the impression of original writing go together with unique items?
- 7.Concluding remarks
Published online: 19 June 2003
2001 “Classifying translation universals”. Paper read at the Third International EST Congress “Claims, Changes and Challenges in Translation Studies”, Copenhagen, 30th August to 1st September, 2001.
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