Language Processing in Discourse: A Key to Felicitous Translation

Language Processing in Discourse: A Key to Felicitous Translation

Language Processing in Discourse: A Key to Felicitous Translation

Language Processing in Discourse: A Key to Felicitous Translation

Synopsis

This book argues that language systems determine language use to a greater extent than is generally assumed. The author demonstrates how the typological characteristics of a language determine even the most general aspects of our stylistic preferences.Through extensive analysis of examples in German and English, the author demonstrates how analogous options of sentence structure must be surrendered in order to achieve felicitous translations. Two major aspects that determine the appropriateness of language use are examined: language processing and discourse-dependency.Essential reading for translation scholars and linguists involved in the comparative study of English and German, this book will also be of interest to scholars of psycholinguistics and cognitive science, as well as translators and linguists more generally.

Excerpt

This book addresses students and teachers of English and German, linguists, translators and translation scholars. Some preliminary remarks may be in place to help unify expectations. I have written the book in the belief that language systems determine language use to a greater extent than is generally assumed. It is not just the way in which the words of a language and its grammatical properties commit us to categorize the world in language-specific ways, and not just how each register requires us to follow special conventions of language use - it is the fact that the typological characteristics of a language have an impact on the way in which we prefer to encode our thoughts. That is, the typological characteristics of a language determine the most general aspects of our stylistic preferences.

In my view, this involves two major aspects of language use: language processing on the one side and discourse-dependency on the other - hence the first part of the title, Language Processing in Discourse. The most important area where the typological characteristics of a language interact with language processing in discourse is the area of information structure, that is, the way in which thoughts are packaged into sentence structures to express informational progress in discourse. Thus, this is a book about information structure and deals with questions like: What do we choose as the beginning of a sentence? In which way do we highlight the most important information of a sentence? What are the lexical and grammatical options that can secure optimal transfer of a thought in its discursive context? I consider these questions fundamental to a felicitous use of language, whatever additional aspects may have to be studied for non-informative functions of language.

If we want to find answers to these questions we have to study language use in discourse, assess its appropriateness and compare the results with similar data from other languages. We could do this statistically with parallel texts or with translations. But the texts may not be really parallel and the translations may be distorted by mistakes. Although the individual mistakes might eventually be filtered out by the sheer quantity of statistical data, assessing the discursive appropriateness of a sentence requires us to analyse individual cases anyway - which we can do straightaway without recourse to statistical data.

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