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From language to language, from time to time: echoic binomials in an English-German-Swedish perspective
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Department of Languages. (LEGS)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5613-7618
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Department of Languages. (LEGS)ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2315-9324
2019 (English)In: Language in time, time in language. ICAME40: Book of abstracts. June 1-5, 2019, Neuchâtel: Université de Neuchâtel , 2019, p. 51-52Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Echoic, or repetitive, binomials (Mollin 2013: 172; Gustafsson 1975: 9) are a cross-linguistic phenomenon dating back at least to biblical times (tooth for tooth) (Malkiel 1959: 125–126). Such binomials are characterized by a tripartite structure in which two tokens of the same lexical type are linked by the coordinator and or a preposition. The repeated words may be nouns (day by day), adverbs (again and again) or adjectives (smaller and smaller). Although such constructions occur in many languages (Jackendoff 2008: 8), contrastive studies are lacking.

Echoic binomials express a variety of meanings, but in our data as many as three out of four relate to time. The repeated lexical items either already denote concepts of time (hour after hour) or the binomial invokes a temporal or aspectual reading (collapse bit by bit and grow brighter and brighter). Although German and Swedish have corresponding phraseological patterns, parallel corpora reveal that the forms, functions and distributions of these binomials differ cross-linguistically.   

This study is based on the Linnaeus University English-German-Swedish corpus and the English-Swedish Parallel Corpus. A customized script was used to retrieve all relevant occurrences in both source and target texts. Our findings suggest that echoic binomials are equally common in English and Swedish but much rarer in German. In German, competing phraseological patterns are more pervasive, an example being the immer COMP.ADJ construction used for English adjectival binomials (a bigger and bigger hit > einen immer größeren Kick [‘ever bigger’]).

Interestingly, echoic binomials appear to be more common in translations than in originals. About half the instances are translated into corresponding binomials (step by step > steg för steg), and a large number are also “introduced” in translations. In the latter case, echoic binomials fill constructional gaps as when the continuative-iterative reading of the English keep V-ing construction is rendered as the Swedish binomial om och om (igen) (we kept saying > om och om igen sa vi [‘again and again we said’]). Moreover, some language-specific binomials may be “overused” in translations, leading to reduced lexical variation. This is the case for German nach und nach which is a frequent choice for many different English source-text items (gradually, finally, begin to, Ø).

A data-driven approach to echoic binomials enables researchers to uncover cross-linguistic patterns. One notable finding is that when the correspondents are not echoic, meanings still tend to be expressed by related recurring phraseological patterns, e.g., line by line > en rad i taget [‘a line at a time’]. Thus, recurrent meanings tend to be expressed by recurrent patterns.   

References

Gustafsson, Marita. 1975. Binomial expressions in present-day English. Turku: University of Turku.

Jackendoff, Ray. 2008. Construction after construction and its theoretical challenges. Language, 84(1), 8–28.

Malkiel, Yakov. 1959. Studies in irreversible binomials. Lingua 8, 113–160.

Mollin, Sandra. 2013. Pathways of change in the diachronic development of binomial reversibility in Late Modern American English. Journal of English Linguistics 41(2), 168–203.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Neuchâtel: Université de Neuchâtel , 2019. p. 51-52
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics
Research subject
Humanities, Linguistics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-87048OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-87048DiVA, id: diva2:1339893
Conference
Language in time, time in language. ICAME40, June 1-5, 2019
Available from: 2019-07-31 Created: 2019-07-31 Last updated: 2019-08-08Bibliographically approved

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Levin, MagnusStröm Herold, Jenny

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
  • apa
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