Contrastive Linguistics and Translation Studies

Sonia VandepitteGert De Sutter
Table of contents

Today Translation Studies and Contrastive Linguistics are considered distinct fields of study because of their different research objects and perspectives: Contrastive Linguistics, which started in 1820 with von Humboldt, focuses on differences between languages both in terms of system and usage, whereas Translation Studies, whose (normative) approach has been traced as far back as Antiquity with Cicero and Horace, describes and explains the typical characteristics, and individual and social functions and contexts of translation products and processes. These narrowly-defined fields of research, both of which developed considerably in the latter decades of the last century, still have one basic element in common: translations, which necessarily arise in the context of two different languages (or language varieties) and are therefore useful data types for both domains. Often, and depending on the focus, questions that attend translation are seen as either translation studies questions or as contrastive linguistic ones. At the same time, however, Translation Studies can be informed by Contrastive Linguistics when describing, explaining and predicting linguistic features of translation products and processes (Section 2); and, vice versa, Contrastive Linguistics can be informed by Translation Studies when describing and hypothesizing about different languages, building on translations and their source texts (Section 3).

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Further reading

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