A corpus-based study of semantic differences in translation: The case of inchoativity in Dutch

Lore Vandevoorde, Els Lefever, Koen Plevoets and Gert De Sutter

This paper presents a corpus-driven, statistical method for the visualization of semantic structure, thereby tackling the under-researched issue of semantics in corpus-based Translation Studies. We aim to investigate the influence of translation on the structure of semantic fields and in particular the extent to which the structure of the semantic field of inchoativity differs between original, non-translated Dutch and translated Dutch. The visualizations of the semantic field of inchoativity show that translated Dutch indeed differs from non-translated Dutch on the semantic level. Based on the exploration of the semantic fields, we furthermore formulate some hypotheses concerning the presence of the so-called universal tendencies of translation on the semantic level.

Publication history
Table of contents

The notion of meaning has always been at the core of Translation Studies: in his paper on the Translator’s Task ([1923] 2004), Walter Benjamin reflected on whether translators should express “what is meant” or rather “the way of meaning it”; in 1958, Vinay and Darbelnet formulated a number of translational procedures out of a primary concern with how meaning is (or should be) transferred through translation. More recent work on semantic preferences (Bednarek 2008) and semantic prosody (Kenny 1998; Xiao and McEnery 2006; Dam-Jensen and Korning Zethsen 2008; Korning Zethsen 2008) has raised an awareness of the relevance of corpus-based research in semantics for Translation Studies (Dam-Jensen and Korning-Zethsen 2008). In addition, recent studies by Delaere, De Sutter, and Plevoets (2012) and by Diwersy, Evert, and Neumann (2014), as well as the studies presented in the edited volumes by Oakes and Ji (2012) and De Sutter, Lefer, and Delaere (2017) introduced multivariate statistics into corpus-based Translation Studies (henceforth CBTS), allowing for more empirical research on language variation in translational environments.

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