Is there interference of usage constraints? A frequency study of existential there is and its French equivalent il y a in translated vs. non-translated texts

Bert Cappelle and Rudy Loock


We examine the possible impact of frequency differences between a construction in L1 and its equivalent in L2 on translations. Our case is that of existential there in English and existential il y a in French. Using corpus evidence, we first confirm previous claims that existential there is used more freely in English than existential il y a is in French. Drawing on extensive counts conducted in available corpora and self-compiled samples of translated English and French, intra-language comparisons of translated and non-translated language use show that existential there is under-represented in English translated from French while existential il y a is over-represented in French translated from English. It is suggested that source-language interference is responsible for these differences. In addition, counts of existentials in individual novels and their translations show that inter-language frequency shifts systematically occur in the direction of target-language norms, most clearly so for translations into French, which suggests that the observed usage constraint on il y a still applies to a noticeable extent in translated French. Methodologically, we argue the need for a large corpus of translated French.

Table of contents

This article aims to find out whether subtle usage differences between two languages can have a traceable impact on translations from either of these languages [ p. 253 ]into the other, compared to non-translated texts in the respective languages. In other words, our goal is to provide an answer to the following question:

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.

[ p. 272 ]References

Baker, Mona
1993 “Corpus Linguistics and Translation Studies: Implications and Applications.” In Text and Technology, ed. by Mona Baker, Gill Francis, and Elena Tognini-Bonelli, 233–250. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.   CrossrefGoogle Scholar
1995 “Corpora in Translation Studies: An Overview and Some Suggestions for Future Research.” Target 7 (2): 223–243.   CrossrefGoogle Scholar
1996 “Corpus-based Translation Studies: The Challenges that Lie Ahead.” In Terminology, LSP and Translation. Studies in Language Engineering in Honour of Juan C. Sager, ed. by Harold Somers, 175–196. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.   CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Baker, Mona, and Maeve Olohan
2000 “Reporting that in Translated English: Evidence for Subconscious Processes of Explicitation?Across Languages and Cultures 1 (2): 141–158.   CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Ballard, Michel
2003 / 2004Versus: la version réfléchie (2 vol.). Gap-Paris: Ophrys.Google Scholar
Bergen, Benjamin K., and Madelaine C. Plauché
2005 “The Convergent Evolution of Radial Constructions: French and English Deictics and Existential.” Cognitive Linguistics 16 (1): 1–42.   CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Birner, Betty J., and Gregory Ward
1998Information Status and Noncanonical Word Order. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.   CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Cappelle, Bert
2012 “English Is Less Rich in Manner-of-Motion Verbs When Translated from French.” Across Languages and Cultures 13, (2): 173–195.   CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Chesterman, Andrew
2007 “What is a Unique Item?” In Doubts and Directions in Translation Studies, ed. byYves Gambier, Miriam Shlesinger, and Radegundis Stolze, 3–13. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.   CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Chuquet, Hélène, and Michel Paillard
1987Approche linguistique des problèmes de traduction anglais-français. Paris: Ophrys.Google Scholar
Corpas Pastor, Gloria, Ruslan Mitkov, Naveed Afzal, and Viktor Pekar
2008 “Translation Universals: Do they Exist? A Corpus-based NLP Study of Convergence and SimplificationProceedings of the Eighth Conference of the Association for Machine Translation in the Americas (AMTA-08). Waikiki, Hawaii.Google Scholar
Davies, Mark
2004BYU-BNC: The British National Corpus. Available online at http://​corpus​.byu​.edu​/bnc/.
De Sutter, Gert, and Marc Van de Velde
2010 “Do the Mechanisms that Govern Syntactic Choices Differ between Original and Translated Language? A Corpus-based Translation Study of PP Extraposition in Dutch and German.” In Using Corpora in Contrastive and Translation Studies, ed. by Richard Xiao, 144–163. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.Google Scholar
Frawley, William
1984 “Prolegomenon to a Theory of Translation.” In Translation: Literary, Linguistic and Philosophical Perspectives, ed. by , 250–263. Newark: University of Delaware Press.Google Scholar
Grevisse, Maurice
1986Le bon usage, 12th edition by André Goosse. Paris: Duculot.Google Scholar
Grevisse, Maurice, and André Goosse
1989Nouvelle grammaire Française. Paris-Louvain la Neuve: Duculot.Google Scholar
Guillemin-Flescher, Jacqueline
1981Syntaxe comparée du français et de l’anglais, Problèmes de traduction. Gap-Paris: Ophrys.Google Scholar
House, Juliane
2001 “How Do We Know When a Translation is Good?” In Exploring Translation and Multilingual Text Production: Beyond Content, ed. byErich Steiner, and Colin Yallop, 127–160. Berlin-New York: Mouton de Gruyter.   CrossrefGoogle Scholar
[ p. 273 ]
2008 “Beyond Intervention: Universals in Translation.” Trans-kom 1: 6–19.Google Scholar
Jiménez-Crespo, Miguel A.
2010 “The Future of “Universal” Tendencies: A Review of Papers Using Localized Websites.” Talk given at the UCCTS 2010 Conference, Edge Hill University, 27–29 July 2010.Google Scholar
Lambrecht, Knud
1994Information Structure and Sentence Form: Topic, Focus and the Mental Representation of Discourse Referents. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.   CrossrefGoogle Scholar
2000 “Prédication seconde et structure informationnelle: la relative de perception comme structure présentative.” Langue Française 127: 49–66.   CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Laviosa, Sara
2002Corpus-based Translation Studies: Theory, Findings, Applications. Amsterdam: Rodopi.Google Scholar
1998 “Core Patterns of Lexical Use in a Comparable Corpus of English Narrative Prose.” Meta 43 (4): 557–570.   CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Laviosa-Braithwaite, Sara
1996The English Comparable Corpus (ECC): A Resource and a Methodology for the Empirical Study of Translation. Unpublished PhD Thesis, Department of Language Engineering, UMIST, Manchester.Google Scholar
1997 “Investigating Simplification in an English Comparable Corpus of Newspaper Articles.” In Transferre Necesse Est. Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Current Trends in Studies of Translation and Interpreting, 5–7 September 1996, Budapest, Hungary, ed. by Kinga Klaudy, and Janos Kohn, 531–540. Budapest: Scholastica.Google Scholar
Loock, Rudy
2009 “Parce qu’en plus il faut traduire la syntaxe ?!’: contraintes et stratégies dans la traduction de la structuration d’un texte.” In La forme comme paradigme du traduire, ed. by Nadia D’Amélio, 173–190. Mons: CIPA.Google Scholar
2010 “Using Corpora to Define Target-Language Use in Translation.” Talk given at the UCCTS 2010 Conference, Edge Hill University, 27–29 July 2010.Google Scholar
Mauranen, Anna, and Kujamäki Pekka (eds.)
2004Translation Universals. Do they Exist?. Amsterdam-Philadelphia: John Benjamins.   CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Mauranen, Anna
2004 “Corpora, universals and interference.” In Translation Universals: Do they Exist?, ed. by Anna Mauranen, and Pekka Kujamäki, 65–82. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.   CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Olohan, Maeve
2003 “How Frequent are the Contractions?Target 15 (1): 59–89.   CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Slobin, Dan I.
2004 “The many ways to search for a frog. Linguistic typology and the expression of motion events.” In Relating events in narrative: Typological and contextual perspectives, ed. by Sven Strömqvist, and Ludo Verhoeven, 219–257. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
Talmy, Leonard
1991 “Path to realization: a typology of event integration.” Buffalo working papers in linguistics 91: 1–47.Google Scholar
Teubert, Wolfgang
1996 “Comparable or parallel corpora?International Journal of Lexicography 9: 238–264.   CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Tirkkonen-Condit, Sonja
2002 “Translationese — a Myth or an Empirical Fact? A Study into the Linguistic Identifiability of Translated LanguageTarget 14 (2): 207–220.   CrossrefGoogle Scholar
2004 “Unique Items — Over- or Under-Represented in Translated Language?.” In Translation Universals: Do they Exist?, ed. byAnna Mauranen, and Pekka Kujamäki. 177–184. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.   CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Toury, Gideon
1995Descriptive Translation Studies and Beyond. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.   CrossrefGoogle Scholar
Vinay, Jean-Paul, and Jean Darbelnet
1995Comparative Stylistics of French and English, a Methodology for Translation, translated and ed. by Juan C. Sager, and Marie-Josée Hamel. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.   CrossrefGoogle Scholar
[ p. 274 ]