How frequent are the contractions? A study of contracted forms in the Translational English Corpus

Maeve Olohan
University of Manchster, Manchester, UK

This paper analyses contractions in translated language, comparing the use of contracted forms by translators of fiction and biography into English with the contraction patterns of writers of similar texts in English. Significant differences are found between the English of literary translation and contemporary literary English writing, in terms of both variety of contracted forms encountered and frequency of occurrence of contractions. Qualitative analyses then focus on the functional description of some contracted and non-contracted forms, and also consider the contraction practices of different translators. The relationships between contractions and other linguistic features, explicitation in translation, translator style, discourse function and genre are touched upon, and avenues for further research of this nature are suggested.

Table of contents

The use of electronic collections of texts, compiled according to specific research criteria and questions, to analyse occurrences of linguistic patterns or features is a relatively new approach to translation research, but one which has rapidly gained in popularity. The attractions of working with large quantities of authentic translation data and of quickly and easily uncovering patterns and tendencies within these data, as well as the ease with which corpora can be [ p. 60 ]compiled and the user-friendliness of corpus software such as Wordsmith Tools, have led to a recent surge in corpus-based translation studies research, increasingly prominent in workshops, conferences, postgraduate training programmes etc. However, adoption of research methods from other disciplines can be problematic; it is all too easy to apply them selectively or inappropriately, without sufficient understanding of their scope or significance, or without adequate consideration of the degree of applicability and usefulness for investigation of a particular object of study. By way of an introduction to the use of comparable corpora to study translation, the warnings and encouragement of two translation scholars are considered here. These views serve to highlight in broad terms the strengths and limitations of corpus-based translation studies and set the scene for the analysis which follows.

Full-text access is restricted to subscribers. Log in to obtain additional credentials. For subscription information see Subscription & Price. Direct PDF access to this article can be purchased through our e-platform.


Baker, Mona
1995 “Corpora in Translation Studies: An overview and some suggestions for future research”. Target 7:2. 223–243.   DOI logoGoogle Scholar
1996 “Corpus-based Translation Studies: The challenges that lie ahead”. Terminology, LSP and translation: Studies in language engineering, in honour of Juan C. Sager, ed. Harold Somers. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins 1996 175–186.   DOI logoGoogle Scholar
2000 “Towards a methodology for investigating the style of a literary translator”. Target 12:2. 241–266.   DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Biber, Douglas
1988Variation across speech and writing. Cambridge: CUP.   DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Biber, Douglas, Susan Conrad and Randi Reppen
1998Corpus linguistics: Investigating language structure and use. Cambridge: CUP.   DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Biber, Douglas, Stig Johansson, Geoffrey Leech, Susan Conrad and Edward Finegan.
1999Longman grammar of spoken and written English. London: Longman.Google Scholar
Blum-Kulka, Shoshana
1986 “Shifts of cohesion and coherence in translation”. Interlingual and intercultural communication: Discourse and cognition in translation and second language acquisition studies, eds. Juliane House and Shoshana Blum-Kulka. Tübingen: Gunter Narr 1986 17–35.Google Scholar
Kenny, Dorothy
2001Lexis and creativity in translation: A corpus-based study. Manchester: St. Jerome.Google Scholar
Laviosa, Sara
1998 “The English comparable corpus: A resource and a methodology”. Unity in diversity: Current trends in Translation Studies, eds. Lynne Bowker, Michael Cronin, Dorothy Kenny and Jennifer Pearson. Manchester: St. Jerome 1998 101–112.Google Scholar
Mason, Ian
2001 “Translator behaviour and language usage”. Hermes 26. 65–80.Google Scholar
Mauranen, Anna
2000 “Strange strings in translated language: A study on corpora”. Olohan 2000 : 119–141. DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Olohan, Maeve
ed. 2000Intercultural faultlines: Research models in Translation Studies I. Manchester: St. Jerome.Google Scholar
2001 “Spelling out the optionals in translation: A corpus study”. UCREL technical papers 13. 423–432.Google Scholar
Olohan, Maeve and Mona Baker
2000 “Reporting that in translated English: Evidence for subconscious processes of explicitation?”. Across languages and cultures 1:2. 141–158.   DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Øverås, Linn
1998 “In search of the third code: An investigation of norms in literary translation”. Meta 43:4. 557–588.   DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Tymoczko, Maria
1998 “Computerized corpora and the future of Translation Studies”. Meta 43:4. 652–659.   DOI logoGoogle Scholar
[ p. 89 ]
Zanettin, Federico
2000 “Parallel corpora in Translation Studies: Issues in corpus design and analysis”. Olohan 2000 : 105–118. DOI logoGoogle Scholar