When and why do translators add connectives? A corpus-based study

Viktor Becher

Abstract

Additions and omissions of connectives (e.g. conjunctions, connective adverbs, etc.) are a frequent phenomenon in translation. The present article reports on a study whose aim was to elucidate translators’ motivations for performing such shifts, focusing on the addition of connectives. The study was carried out on a bidirectional parallel corpus containing translations of business texts between English and German. Connective additions and omissions were identified, counted and analyzed taking into account the surrounding linguistic context of the shift in question, possibly associated shifts performed by the translator, alternative translation options, etc. It was found that the vast majority of identified shifts were attributable to previously established English-German contrasts in terms of syntax, lexis, and communicative norms. The findings suggest that it is unnecessary to assume that translators follow a “universal strategy” of explicitation, as it has often been done in the literature (cf. e.g. Blum-Kulka’s Explicitation Hypothesis).

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Table of contents

Explicitness may be defined as the verbalization of information that the addressee might be able to infer (e.g. from the preceding discourse) if it were not verbalized. Explicitation may then be defined as an increase in explicitness in translation (Becher 2010a: 3). The present article reports on a study that was carried out in order to elucidate when and why translators explicitate. Like previous studies, the present study makes use of a bidirectional translation corpus, in which additions and omissions of connectives were identified and counted. But unlike previous [ p. 27 ]studies, the present study does not depart from Blum-Kulka’s Explicitation Hypothesis, for reasons which will be detailed in the next section. Previous studies on explicitation have tended to be quick to ascribe seemingly unexplainable occurrences of explicitation to an allegedly “universal strategy inherent in the process of language mediation” (Blum-Kulka 1986: 21). The present study is very different in that it goes to great lengths to find less esoteric reasons for when and why translators explicitate, taking into account general pragmatic considerations as well as cross-linguistic differences in syntax, lexis, and communicative norms. A main aim of the study was to show that we do not need the assumption of a translationinherent process of explicitation in order to explain the ubiquity of explicitation in translation. (The study presented here is part of a much larger study in which I analyzed some two thousand explicitating and implicitating shifts including many other kinds of shifts than connective additions and omissions. See Becher (2011a). The results presented in this article may be seen as a representative subset of the findings of the larger project.)

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