An intermodal approach to cohesion in constrained and unconstrained language

Marta Kajzer-Wietrzny


This article investigates cohesion in the spoken and written registers of constrained language varieties to highlight the similarities and differences in the cohesion patterns of mediated (i.e., interpreted and translated) and non-native texts with respect to original texts produced by native speakers. In particular, it examines how different types of cohesive devices are distributed across spoken and written native, non-native, and mediated speeches originally delivered impromptu and read out at the plenary sessions of the European Parliament. The dataset comes from the European Translation and Interpreting Corpus (EPTIC) (Ferraresi and Bernardini 2019). The context provides a rare opportunity to examine the spoken and written registers of professional communication, both mono- and multilingual, in a relatively homogenous setting. First, in the exploratory analysis, I investigate the distribution of different types of cohesive devices across the investigated varieties drawing on mosaic plots and correspondence analysis. Thereafter, I make use of regression modelling of the overall frequency of cohesive devices across the examined varieties to evaluate the effect of constrainedness, mode of delivery, and individual variation. The results indicate that non-native and mediated texts do diverge from native production in the use of cohesive devices, but in different ways.

Publication history
Table of contents

For decades the notion of universality has perplexed scholars focused on investigating the features that are supposed to typify translations, such as simplification and explicitation. The “quest for universals [which] is no more than the usual search for patterns and generalizations that guides empirical research in general” (Chesterman 2014, 87), has now turned to similar patterns in other forms of language-contact influenced or constrained communication. Blum-Kulka (1986, 19) suggested investigating “different type[s] of interlanguages” including translation and L2 language. Lanstyák and Heltai (2012, 99) hypothesised that translation and non-native production share the main constraint of having to manage two languages and the ensuing “linguistic uncertainty resulting from the parallel activation of two languages.” Non-native production is an example of descriptive language use (i.e., it does not depend on any other text). Any kind of translation, on the other hand, is additionally constrained by interpretive language use, which means that it is dependent on the source text. I use the term ‘mediated’ to refer to such interpretative language use. In this article, I discuss different spoken and written varieties of what may be called constrained language and compare them to unconstrained varieties. Altogether six varieties are examined:

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