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6.

6 Translation studies
Translation studies is a very broad interdisciplinary field involving anything to do with
translation and interpreting. The object of research may be the language used by the
translator, the relationship between the original and the translation, the actual process of
translating, the automation of translation, etc. It is obvious, therefore, that parallel corpora
will often be a useful source of data for such research. But corpus data is also used both in
training human translators and interpreters (Zanettin et al. 2012), and in developing and
training machine translation software (Hutchins 2005).
Indeed, the first thing that springs to mind when translation is mentioned in the context of
computers is the problematic area of machine translation. Linguists and computer specialists
have tried for half a century to design programs that will translate texts from one language
into another (see e.g. Mel’chuk 2000, Vasconcellos 2000, Yngve 2000). The often poor
results of present-day online translation programs illustrate the complexity of the problems
involved. But even before computers were in general use, hypothetical schemes were
designed to tackle the problem. An interesting early example of the kind of method that was
commonly proposed is Angus McIntosh’s investigation of the possible use of a computer to
translate the verb know correctly into French (McIntosh 1966). French has two verbs
meaning ‘know’ – savoir and connaître – and McIntosh’s idea was to use syntactic clues to
determine the appropriate verb in each case (I know + that … → savoir; I know
him/her/them → connaître). This method will only take us so far, however, and much more
elaborate rule-based machine translation systems have since been developed, some at the
level of syntax, such as McIntosh’s, some at the level of semantics. A detailed survey of the
different approaches to MT can be found, for example, in Cancedda 2009.
Over the decades machine translation software has made more and more use of corpus-
based methods. At first, text data was used for testing the effectiveness of machine translation
systems. Later, MT researchers started to use parallel texts to compare translations produced
by human translators with those produced by a computer. Finally, statistically based
automatic translators began to appear; these are based on parallel texts, the system also being
known as ‘example-based machine translation’ (EBMT). Examples of such programs include
today’s online translation applications such as Google Translate. These are developed not for
the purpose of professional translating, but to help ordinary people understand foreign-
language text in the social media. Nobody would use Google Translate to translate a novel.
Professional machine translation software (e.g. Moses) is usually based on a combination
of statistical and rule-based approaches. These are sometimes called ‘hybrid systems’
(Vandeghinste 2010). The fact is that no machine translation software can produce a high-
quality result without human help. The texts to be machine-translated have to be either
written in simplified language or pre-edited, and afterwards the translations have to be edited
again by human translators. Often machine translation is used together with translation
memory software, the aim being to assist the human translator.
Machine translation is a specialist technical area and beyond the scope of the present book,
which is concerned first and foremost with the use of corpora in the humanities. The
collections of parallel texts used in MT research are often assembled rather indiscriminately:
the more the better, and if they are ‘noisy’ or messy, this makes them all the more interesting.
Corpora for use in academic research should be compiled according to other standards. As
we have said before (see section 6.2 above), one of the important questions for the compiler
of a parallel corpus is the question of reliability – and in particular, the reliability of the
translations. If the translated texts in a parallel corpus are of poor quality, any research results
based on data from the corpus will obviously be flawed.
Corpus-based translation studies have so far focused on so-called ‘translation corpora’ (see
1.3 above). Paradoxically, these are monolingual corpora compiled from translations into a
given language for comparison with texts originally written in that same language. Examples
include the Translated English Corpus (TEC) compiled at the University of Manchester
(Laviosa 2002, Olohan 2004), and the Savonlinna Corpus of Translated Finnish assembled
in the Department of Translation Studies at the University of Joensuu (presently the
University of Eastern Finland) (Mauranen 1998, 2000, 2004). The purpose of such corpora
is to study the differences between translated language and standard language.
Parallel corpora, on the other hand, have more often been used to carry out contrastive
research. Such corpora are only occasionally used to investigate the problems associated with
translation studies, an example being Dorothy Kenny’s study of German-English translations
(Kenny 2001). Meave Olohan claims that research based on parallel corpora pays too little
attention to the actual process of translation, its main task being to analyse the language and
style of the language used. As a result, such research totally disregards the purpose of the
translation, the background of the translator, the audience, etc (Olohan 2004: 13–14). It is
clearly important therefore to find a balance between contrastive and translation studies, and
to increase the use of parallel corpora as a source of data in the study of the translation
process. This would include research into problems in those areas where contrastive
linguistics and the linguistic theory of translation intersect.
Bilingual corpora have been a useful resource in investigating what used to be called
‘translationese’ – i.e. the ways in which translators are influenced by the structures and
expressions of the original language (see Johansson 2007). The commonly used technique is
the following: two separate searches are carried out for a given item in a parallel corpus, the
first search in a subcorpus of original texts, and the second in a similar subcorpus of
translations into the same language. An example would be a study of translations of the
English progressive. Because of the nature of the English verb system, speakers of English
must always make a choice with each verb between a progressive or non-progressive form,
e.g. between I’m waiting and I wait. Making the wrong choice may produce a contextually
inappropriate form: ?I can’t leave, because I wait for my brother. Other European languages
also have ways of expressing progressive meaning, but under normal circumstances they use
the basic non-progressive form for ongoing actions (cf Finnish Odotan veljeäni ‘I wait for
my brother’). Often the use of the Finnish ‘progressive equivalent’ (olen odottamassa ‘I am
waiting’) would be unnatural, and translators should not over-use it when translating the
English progressive into Finnish. Because both the progressive and non-progressive each
have their own distinctive morphology, it would be relatively easy to examine the use and
non-use of the two forms in original and translated texts and in this way evaluate the
naturalness of the translations.
Another area where the interference of the source text should and can be avoided is the
untypical use of certain lexemes. For example, in Finnish advertisements it is quite normal
to use verbs such as ihastua, viihtyä, rentoutua, etc, meaning ‘to enjoy’ or ‘to be enchanted’,
as in Tule ja ihastu ‘Come and you’ll be enchanted’. Verbs with this meaning are not very
frequent in Russian and are not used in Russian advertisements, which tend to avoid emotive
language of this kind. However, flyers, advertisements and tourist brochures translated from
Finnish into Russian often overuse the corresponding Russian verbs наслаждаться,
расслабляться, etc, which make the texts sound unnaturally sentimental and sugary. Here
is a typical example:
Насладитесь Финляндией вместе с другими

(Lit: ‘Enjoy Finland together with others’) (www.visitfinland.com/ru/o-nas/)

It would not be difficult to check the naturalness of the translations in a corpus of tourist
literature simply by checking the frequency of such ‘emotive’ verbs.
Related to its function as a dictionary, a bilingual corpus can also be used to explore the
strategies used by translators to translate words which have no obvious equivalents at all in
the target language. These include culturally specific terms, i.e. words used to describe
objects and activities which are part of everyday life in one culture but do not exist at all in
the other culture. As regards Britain, Finland and Russia, examples include those listed
in Table 6.12.
Strategies for dealing with such words will vary from one translator to another, but a study
of these strategies, using data from a parallel corpus, would provide useful ideas and general
guidelines for translating culturally specific terms (see Leppihalme 1994).
Equally difficult to translate are those ordinary words and structures which have no
corresponding words in the target language. A classic case is the Finnish
connector nimittäin, which has no single-word equivalent in English – and, which is often
wrongly translated (by Finns) as namely. A simple search in a parallel corpus
with nimittäin as the search word, would quickly reveal the strategies used by native speakers
of English to express the concept in question.

Table 6.12 Culturally specific words in English, Finnish and Russian


English Finnish

food pie, pudding kalakukko, mämmi


housing bungalow, parlour kesämökki, pirtti
geographical areas the Midlands Saaristo
festivals Guy Fawkes Night juhannus

Case study: On the relative position of however and kuitenkin in


translated texts
However is usually described as a ‘sentence adverbial’, ‘conjunct’ or ‘connector’, i.e. an
adverbial element that both qualifies the whole sentence and relates the sentence in which it
stands to the previous sentence, in this case to express contrast (Quirk et al. 1985: 52). Its
usual equivalent in Finnish is kuitenkin (or kuitenkaan in negative contexts). As regards their
relative positions in the clause in which they occur, Quirk et al. state that English conjuncts
typically occur in initial position, but some also appear in medial and end position (ibid. p.
636). Dictionary examples typically illustrate the initial and medial positions:
This is a cheap and simple process. However, there are dangers. (LDCE)

It is an extremely unpleasant disease, which is, however, easy to treat. (LDCE)

Finnish grammar books also say that sentence adverbials are usually placed at the beginning
of their clause (Hakulinen et al. 2004: 919), but do not specifically mention the position
of kuitenkin. In dictionary examples, it tends to have medial or end position:13
Ääriainekset suunnittelivat kumousta. Yritys kuitenkin epäonnistui. (KTS)

(‘Extremist elements were planning a revolution. The attempt, however, failed.’)

Koetti varoa ja kaatui kuitenkin. (KTS)

(‘[He] tried to be careful and fell however’)

That there is a difference in usage in English and Finnish is attested by the fact that Finnish
learners often experience difficulty in placing however in their written English. This in itself
suggests that the matter is worth investigating further.
To confirm the rather impressionistic descriptions given in grammar books, we checked
the relative positions of however and kuitenkin/-kaan in the TamBiC parallel corpus.
For however, texts written originally in English were used, and for kuitenkin/-kaan texts
written originally in Finnish. Only those cases where however was translated as kuitenkin/-
kaan (and vice versa) were considered, and in this way, examples of the modifying function
of however(e.g. However cold it may be …) could easily be excluded. To check the clause
positions, separate searches were carried out for However and Kuitenkin/Kuitenkaan (with
initial capitals), and for however and kuitenkin/kuitenkaan (with initial lower case
characters). The results are presented in Table 6.13.
The findings in Table 6.13 are interesting for several reasons. First, although both the
English and Finnish corpora used were of approximately the same size, kuitenkin was twice
as frequent as however. This may be because however is mostly used in formal written texts,
while kuitenkin is found in both formal and colloquial contexts. Second, with respect to their
relative positions, the results corroborate the general picture given by grammar books and
dictionaries: in English, however is found in initial, medial and final position, with medial
position the most common (77 per cent of the corpus examples), while in Finnish, kuitenkin/-
kaan was found only in initial and medial position, but almost always medially (95.5 per
cent).14 But perhaps the most interesting finding concerned initial position,
where however (17 per cent) was noticeably more common than kuitenkin/-kaan (4.5 per
cent).

Table 6.13 Clause positions of however and kuitenkin/-kaan in original English and Finnish texts

Clause position however

Initial 14 17%
Medial 65 77% 1
Final 5 6%
Total 84 100% 2
Here are a few typical corpus examples of both however and kuitenkin in initial, medial
and end position.
However, he was quickly rebuffed by Barayev’s lieutenant. (ST4) [Initial]

Dickens’s latest research suggests, however, that improvements in IQ may not last very long without
continuing stimulation. (ST7) [Medial]

The background noise is not encouraging, however. (ST8) [Final]

Kuitenkin vasta 400 miljoonaa vuotta sitten elämä todella siirtyi myös maalle. (KAL) [Initial]

Tilanne näyttää kuitenkin hiukan valoisammalta. (HS3) [Medial]

In a ‘good’ translation it is not enough for however simply to be rendered with kuitenkin and
vice versa; the greater incidence of initial however and the comparative rarity of
initial kuitenkin should also be taken into consideration. In other words, English translators
should not hesitate to place howeverinitially, even if kuitenkin is rare in this position in the
texts they have to translate. Conversely, Finnish translators should not always follow English
word order and put kuitenkin in initial position, as this will often produce unnatural
translations.
These recommendations are based on data from the original English and original Finnish
texts in the TamBiC corpus, but to what extent do the translations in the corpus show
‘foreign’ influence in the placing of however and kuitenkin? To investigate this we next drew
up statistics for the two adverbs on the basis of the translated texts.15 The relevant results for
the English translations can be seen in Table 6.14.
Table 6.14 Clause positions of however in translated texts

Clause position howe

Initial 118
Medial 75
Final 9
Total 202
This again reflects the general picture given by English grammar books and
dictionaries: however occurs in all three positions – initial, medial and final. But while the
results for ‘original English’ (see Table 6.13) showed a preference for medial position (77
per cent), the results for ‘translated English’ here show a preference for initial position (58
per cent). This is interesting, because it suggests that the translators avoided the preferred
medial position of the original Finnish more often than was strictly necessary. The following
examples have medial position kuitenkin translated with however in initial, medial and final
positions:
Luovutuksen toimeenpano saattaa kuitenkin viivästyä puolikin vuotta, rikosylikomisario Jaakko
Sonck kertoo. (HS4) [Medial]
However, his extradition could take as long as six months, according to Detective Superintendent
Jaakko Sonck. (HS4-En) [Initial]

Aikaisemmin kuitenkin hammaslääkäreitä koulutettiin kuin automekaanik - koja. (SKL) [Medial]


In the past, however, dentists were trained like car-mechanics. (SKL-En) [Medial]

Tang ei kuitenkaan halua unohtaa kotimaataan. (OPS) [Medial]


Tang does not want to forget his native country, however. (OPS-En) [Final]

For the translations from English into Finnish we obtained the results shown in Table 6.15.

Table 6.15 Clause positions of kuitenkin/-kaan in translated texts

Clause position kuitenkin/-ka

Initial 0
Medial 83
Final 1
Total 84
Here we see something similar with the Finnish translators: initial kuitenkin was never
found in ‘translated Finnish’, making it even rarer than in ‘original Finnish’. In other words,
the translators seem to be more wary of putting kuitenkin in initial position than they needed
to be.
However, demands for his services were pouring in from abroad. (ST9) [Initial]
Hänelle sateli kuitenkin tarjouksia ulkomailta. (ST9-Fi) [Medial]
Another, however, was found a few days after launching, at Poolewe. (GUI) [Medial]
Toinen kuitenkin löydettiin muutama päivä lähettämisen jälkeen Poolewessa. (GUI-Fi) [Medial]

Making live recordings can be difficult, however. (GRA) [Final]


Livelevytysten tekeminen voi kuitenkin olla vaikeaa. (GRA-Fi) [Medial]

The results suggest that rather than being over-influenced by the structure of the source
language, translators tended to err on the side of caution and prefer to avoid word order which
might seem ‘foreign’. In the case of the English translators, this led to a preference for initial
position over medial position – which is, in a sense, the reverse of the situation found in
natural, untranslated English. With the Finnish translators, the difference in the use of initial
position was not so marked (4 per cent vs. 0 per cent), but again there was some evidence of
unnecessary overcompensation, this time the total avoidance of initial kuitenkin. In both
cases, then, the results suggest that the translators tended to ‘play safe’. Such statements about
translators’ motives will always be speculative, of course; indeed the choice of adverb
position may be dictated by external factors, such as syntactical or rhythmical considerations,
all of which deserve to be investigated. Still, whatever the underlying reasons for the chosen
word order, we can at least say that with respect to the position of howeverand kuitenkin, the
TamBiC translations seem to reflect normal English and normal Finnish usage.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg as regards the placing of however. Consider the
following corpus examples:
The main effort, however, would be directed at North Korea’s ports. (ST10)

Tärkeimmät ponnistukset kohdistuvat kuitenkin Pohjois-Korean satamia vastaan. (ST10-Fi)

Later, however, he decided that cancellation in pen and ink was much quicker and more efficacious.
(GUI)

Myöhemmin hän kuitenkin keksi, että kynällä ja musteella mitätöiminen oli paljon nopeampaa ja
tehokkaampaa. (GUI-Fi)

In all four sentences, the adverb – whether however or kuitenkin – is in medial position; but
in each case, its precise position inside the clause is different. In other words,
although however and kuitenkin may both have medial position in corresponding sentences,
these positions may not be the same. Indeed, Greenbaum and Quirk (1991: 161–162), in their
discussion of clause medial adverbs, list no fewer than five different medial positions. The
possibility of differences between English and Finnish is far greater therefore than is
suggested in our tables for initial, medial and final position – which is a further reason why
the placing of however can be so troublesome for non-native users of English. A full
description of all the possible positions of however and kuitenkinwould clearly require a
much more extensive examination of the corpus data than that presented here. But as so often
in linguistic research, one case study opens the door to another.
The case study above might equally be considered as an example of either contrastive
linguistics or translation studies, because it contains both contrastive analysis and a
comparison of original and translated language. In the study of multilingual data the two
disciplines approach one another. The emphasis in translation studies is its focus on the
phenomenon of translation, on the fact that a translation is a translation, while the linguistic
approach assumes that a translation is simply a mirror image of the original text. In translation
studies a translation is considered to be a new text with new functions. To take an example:
the original text of a German law is a directive for German residents to act in a certain way;
its French translation, on the other hand, informs French speakers about what German
residents are supposed to do. A translation assumes both a different society whose different
norms should be taken into account, and also new addressees who know very little about the
society for which the source text was written. For this reason, it could be argued that it makes
more sense to study the text of a translation without comparing it with the original; for ‘by
focusing less on the relationship between source and target text and more on the results of
the translation activity, scholars are prioritizing the activity and factors that influence it, of
which the source text is but one such influencing factor’ (Olohan 2004: 39).

Ideas for future research


 Is the language and style of a translation more standard than that of an original text?
 Is the language of translation less rich than that of original texts?
 Predominant translation strategies in a given translation.
 Syntactic changes in translation (e.g. moving the subject to the object position).
 Translating English emphatic structures into other languages (It was John who … What we
want is … ).
 Translating idiomatic language, e.g. animal idioms (like a bull in a china shop), food
idioms (as like as two peas), reduplicative phrases (helter skelter), etc.

The aim of this chapter has been to show some of the many possible uses of parallel corpora.
These include giving help with translating and writing in a foreign language, and the
provision of data for linguistic research. The examples chosen have been concerned mainly
with English-Finnish/Finnish-English and Russian-Finnish/Finnish-Russian data, but similar
examples can be found for any language-pair. Many studies of this kind have been carried
out by students at the University of Tampere using ParFin, ParRus, TamBiC and other
corpora. Most of these studies are available online at the following address: tampub.uta.fi,
and a complete list is given in Appendix 1 at the end of this book. It is hoped that these studies
will suggest ideas for further research projects, and more generally, that they will provide a
methodological framework for tackling cross-linguistic research.