Contrastive studies of cohesion and their impact on our knowledge of translation (English-German)

Erich Steiner

This article starts from the claim that knowledge about contrastive systems of cohesion and textual instantiations of these systems between English and German is important for translation, but that this knowledge is still fragmentary and insufficiently supported by empirical studies. This claim will be followed by three generalizing assumptions about contrastive differences in English-German cohesion which relate to (1) different degrees of local encoding of ambiguity in texts in terms of co-reference, (2) different degrees of registerial distinctions along the written-spoken and formal-informal distinctions, and (3) different orientations of discourses along the explicitness and information-density dimensions. These assumptions are being tested in corpus-based work in our group, and the currently available results will be summarized. The summary will be followed by a discussion and exemplification of implications for translation in both directions between English and German. As will be seen, an awareness of the main differences between English and German cohesion, between registers within these two languages and between written and spoken modes in particular are an important background for guiding translation strategies.

Table of contents

An understanding of contrasts in cohesion as a core aspect of textuality is an essential prerequisite for modelling translation. Currently there are overviews of English-German contrastive grammar, some fragmentary knowledge about the lexical systems, and there is a relevant background of text linguistics available for the two languages separately. For contrastive cohesion, though, we only [ p. 352 ]find studies of individual phenomena, but with insufficient empirical foundation. There is currently no integrated picture of the contrastive linguistic facts or of the implications for translation methodology.

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