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From the BBC to the PFC and CAPTCHA: Acronym typology from a cross-linguistic 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
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Department of Languages. (LEGS)
2018 (English)In: ICAME 39, Tampere, 30 May – 3 June, 2018, Corpus Linguistics and Changing Society: Book of Abstracts, Tampere: University of Tampere , 2018, p. 108-109Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Acronyms are prevalent and increasingly frequent both in English (Leech et al. 2009: 212–213) and other languages, such as German (Steinhauer 2000: 1), a development which mirrors the increasing societal prominence of science/technology and politics/business outside specialized domains (Kobler-Trill 1994: 200). Although acronyms allow brief and unambiguous communication among experts, they also decrease transparency for non-experts both when it comes to retrieving the full form of the acronym (e.g., LSD) or its referent (UNFCCC). The potential lack of transparency is further compounded in translations due to cultural differences. However, few previous studies have addressed the translation of acronyms and none from a corpus-based perspective.

This study investigates the use of acronyms in English originals and their translations into German and Swedish, comparing forms, functions and distributions across the languages. A major outcome will be a typology of translation strategies and acronym use in the three languages. The material consists of an English-German-Swedish popular non-fiction parallel corpus currently being compiled by the authors. This genre covers, for instance, popular science and biographies, and the texts are aimed at informing and entertaining non-specialist audiences. Therefore, writers and translators need to strike a balance between brevity and transparency without compromising accuracy or alienating readers.

Preliminary results suggest that acronyms most often occur as noun phrase heads (When IBM introduced…), but they are also frequent in more complex structures such as English premodifiers (PGP encryption) and German (UN-Klimakonvention) and Swedish compounds (NKVD-officer) (cf. Ström Herold & Levin in preparation). They also occasionally form part of new words (NAFTA-style). This flexibility is likely facilitated by the simplex forms of acronyms (Fleischer & Barz 2012: 284).

The first-time mentions of acronyms in texts are of particular interest. Based on our popular non-fiction corpus, knowledge of some frequent acronyms is presupposed (e.g., DNA tests), others are given as appositive noun phrases alongside the full form (The chemical dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (usually known as DDT) […]) (cf. Biber & Gray 2016: 202–207), while some receive more extensive meta-linguistic comments (WYSIWYG, pronounced "wiz-ee-wig," an acronym for "What you see is what you get."). This is also found in translations, which can be either more or less explicit than the original:

(1a)  Complete the CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart), and you're in.

(1b) den CAPTCHA […] (den ”Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart", also den ”vollautomatischen öffentlichen Turingtest zur Unterscheidung von Computern und Menschen") [’i.e. the ”completely-automated…”’]

(1c) captcha-rutan (ett robotfilter för att skilja människor från datorer) [’the captcha-box (a robot-filter to tell …’]

The translations of first-time mentions vary greatly between German and Swedish target texts. Important factors are the target audience’s (assumed) culture-specific knowledge and their knowledge of English. Our acronym typology will consider structural and pragmatic features and their relevance to translation.

References

Biber, Douglas & Bethany Gray. 2016. Grammatical complexity in academic English. Linguistic change in writing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fleischer, Wolfgang & Irmhild Barz. 2012. Wortbildung der deutschen Gegenwartssprache. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Kobler-Trill, Dorothea. 1994. Das Kurzwort im Deutschen. Eine Untersuchung zu Definition, Typologie und Entwicklung. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag.

Leech, Geoffrey, Marianne Hundt, Christian Mair & Nicholas Smith. 2009. Change in contemporary English. A grammatical study. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Steinhauer, Anja. 2000. Sprachökonomie durch Kurzwörter: Bildung und Verwendung in der Fachkommunikation. Tübingen: Narr.

Ström Herold, Jenny & Magnus Levin. In preparation. The Obama presidency, the Macintosh keyboard and the Norway fiasco. English proper noun modifiers in German and Swedish contrast. Paper presented at BICLCE, Vigo, September 2017.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Tampere: University of Tampere , 2018. p. 108-109
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics Specific Languages
Research subject
Humanities, Linguistics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-74907OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-74907DiVA, id: diva2:1212772
Conference
ICAME 39, Tampere, 30 May – 3 June, 2018, Corpus Linguistics and Changing Society
Available from: 2018-06-03 Created: 2018-06-03 Last updated: 2018-08-08Bibliographically approved

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Levin, MagnusStröm Herold, JennyTyrkkö, Jukka

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Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard1
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
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Output format
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