Cognates as lexical choices in translation: Interference in space-constrained environments

Maribel Tercedor


This article approaches the issue of lexical choices in translation that result from the presence of cognates. It analyzes methodological issues regarding cognate production in translation tasks carried out in technical contexts. Specifically, we studied the presence of cognates as a lexical manifestation of interference (Toury 1995), concentrating on cognates as part of phraseological and terminological units. We report on empirical data on cognate production by advanced students of translation working from English into Spanish in reduced-segments and space-constrained contexts. Additionally, we studied advanced learners of Spanish’s production in an experimental task.

Table of contents

Although some authors refer to cognates as words with exactly the same form and meaning in language pairs, cognates are more widely understood as translation equivalents that have a relatively high level of form overlap due to their sharing a common etymological root (Voga and Graigner 2007: 938). Cognates always need to be carefully considered in both the comprehension of a source text and the production of a target text. In this article, cognates are considered to be lexical items with a shared form and semantic overlap in two languages. This definition allows us to include borrowings (Poplack 2004) and nonce borrowings (Sankoff et al 1990) even though these may not share etymological roots.

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