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The Obama presidency, the Macintosh keyboard and the Norway fiasco: English proper noun modifiers in German and Swedish contrast
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)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5613-7618
2018 (English)In: Book of Abstracts: Using Corpora in Contrastive and Translation Studies Conference (5th edition) / [ed] Sylviane Granger, Marie-Aude Lefer, Laura Aguiar de Souza Penha Marion, Louvain-la-Neuve: University of Louvain , 2018, p. 164-165Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Nouns used as premodifiers have tripled over the last two centuries in English (Biber, Grieve & Iberri-Shea 2009: 187), and proper nouns are increasing in frequency in writing, a change which is particularly noticeable with acronyms (Leech et al. 2009: 212). In German and Swedish, which disallow nouns as premodifiers (*Dylan bootlegs; *Australien Projekt) and instead use either hyphenated or solid compounds (Dylan-bootlegs (Sw.); Australienprojekt (Ge.)), the frequencies of such compounds also appear to be on the increase (for German, see Zifonun 2010 and for Swedish Koptjevskaja-Tamm 2013). It is noteworthy that Zifonun (2010) attributes this change in German to English influence.

Although previous studies of English proper noun modifiers have touched upon contrastive aspects (see, e.g., Koptjevskaja-Tamm 2013; Schlücker 2013: 464–5; Breban 2017: 13), there has to date been no systematic study. The aim of this paper is to fill this gap by investigating the semantic categories personal names, place names and names of organizations used as premodifiers in both English source texts and English target texts translated from German and Swedish. The investigation shows (i) what structural means are used in German and Swedish to render the modifiers, (ii) in what ways the semantic categories of the proper nouns affect the translation choices, (iii) what German and Swedish structures are translated as English proper noun modifiers and (iv) the specific nature of translated language (cf. Baker 1993).

The corpus used in this study, the Linnaeus University English-German-Swedish Corpus (LEGS) (see, Ström Herold & Levin Forthcoming), consists of recently published (2000s) popular non-fiction texts (e.g., biographies and popular science) in English, German and Swedish, and is balanced for the three languages, each original always being accompanied by two target texts. Also, each author and translator is represented only once. The corpus, which is being compiled by the present authors, currently comprises about 250,000 words in each source language with translations. The main advantage of the corpus is that there are always two translations available for every source-text segment. This makes it possible to compare how the very same instance has been translated into two target languages, thereby allowing identification of language-specific and translation-specific features. Moreover, the corpus provides translations from two source languages into each language. A tagged version of the corpus was searched for proper nouns immediately followed by (a) common noun(s). This way, more than 1,000 instances of English proper noun modifiers and 1,600 German and Swedish correspondences were retrieved.

The results show that there are many different alternatives among the renderings of proper noun modifiers, the three most frequent being compound nouns (the Norway fiasco > das Norwegen-Fiasko (Ge.)), prepositional phrases (the Apple corridors > korridorerna på Apple (Sw.)) and genitives (U.N. climate summits > FN:s klimattoppmöten (Sw.)). Apart from these, ten minor correspondence categories were identified.

Among the notable language-specific tendencies is a significantly stronger German preference for compounds (the Stanford campus > den Stanford-Campus) (cf. Carlsson’s (2004) finding on compounds being more common in German than in Swedish). Swedish translations instead use more postmodifying prepositional phrases (the Fukushima disaster > katastrofen i Fukushima [‘the disaster in Fukushima’]). However, compounds are strongly disfavoured in both German and Swedish translations when the noun phrase contains a “heavy head” (cf. Koptjevskaja-Tamm 2013), i.e. a head consisting of a ‘compound’/ two or more nouns. Such noun phrases are instead often translated into (compound nouns followed by) prepositional phrases containing the proper nouns, e.g. a Yale law degree > einen Juraabschluss in Yale (Ge.); juristexamen vid Yale (Sw.) [‘a law-degree at Yale’].

Concerning the semantic categories of proper noun, the ones based on organizations are typically translated into compounds (every Apple product > jedes Apple-Produkt (Ge.)) or genitives (Red Army soldiers > Röda arméns soldater (Sw.)). In contrast, proper noun modifiers based on place names are more often rendered as prepositional phrases (Ontario residents > die Bürger von Ontario (Ge.); invånarna i Ontario (Sw.)), as already noted by Schlücker (2013) for German.

Overall, acronyms are quite frequent as premodifiers (NKVD troops) in both English source texts and translations, and they have a bearing on translation choices. While German prefers compounds (a US news show > einer US-Nachrichtensendung), Swedish prefers genitives (U.S. negotiators > USA:s förhandlare).

Most of the proper noun modifiers in English target texts translated from German and Swedish are based on compounds (e.g., DDR-Fernsehen (Ge.) > GDR television). Postmodifying prepositional phrases are very rarely translated into premodifiers (ett hotell i Florida (Sw.) > a Florida hotel), as also found by Levin & Ström Herold (2017), and the same holds true for genitives. It is noteworthy that some English modifiers originate in the translation strategy explicitation (skärgården [‘the archipelago’] (Sw.) > the Stockholm archipelago).

The results indicate that premodifiers (such as proper noun modifiers) are rarer in translations than in source texts, possibly because they are less explicit and/or more compressed, as suggested by Levin & Ström Herold (2017). Another translation-specific feature concerns proper noun modifiers being dispreferred with unknown/exotic elements, as when the Swedish compound Expressenjournalisten is translated into a postmodifying prepositional phrase in English a journalist on Expressen newspaper, in spite of similar constructions often being written as premodifiers in English source texts (e.g., the Time reporter).

 

References

Baker, M. (1993). Corpus linguistics and translation studies: implications and applications. In M. Baker, G. Francis & E. Tognini-Bonelli (eds.) Text and Technology: in Honour of John Sinclair. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: Benjamins, 233–250.

Biber, D., Grieve, J. & Iberri-Shea, G. (2009). Noun phrase modification. In G. Rohdenburg & Julia Schlüter (eds.) One Language, Two Grammars? Differences between British and American English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 182–193.

Breban, T. (2017). Proper names used as modifiers: a comprehensive functional analysis. English Language and Linguistics, 1–21.

Carlsson, M. (2004). Deutsch und Schwedisch im Kontrast: Zur Distribution nominaler und verbaler Ausdrucksweise in Zeitungstexten. Göteborg: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis.

Koptjevskaja-Tamm, M. (2013). A Mozart sonata and the Palme murder: The structure and uses of proper-name compounds in Swedish. In K. Börjars, D. Denison & A. Scott (eds.) Morphosyntactic Categories and the Expression of Possession. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: Benjamins, 253–290.

Leech, G., Hundt, M. Mair, C. & Smith, N. (2009). Change in Contemporary English. A Grammatical Study. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Levin, M & Ström Herold, J. (2017). Premodification in translation English hyphenated premodifiers in fiction and their translations into German and Swedish. In T Egan & H. Dirdal (eds.) Cross-linguistic Correspondences: From Lexis to Genre. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: Benjamins,  149–176.

Rosenbach, A. (2007). Emerging variation: determiner genitives and noun modifiers in English. English Language and Linguistics 11(1), 143–189.

Schlücker, B. (2013). Non-classifying compounds in German. Folia Linguistica 47, 449–480.

Ström Herold, J. & Levin, M. (Forthcoming). English ing-clauses and their German and Swedish correspondences.

Zifonun, G. (2010). Von Bush administration zu Kohl-Regierung: Englische Einflüsse auf deutsche Nominalkonstruktionen? In C. Scherer & A. Holler (eds.) Strategien der Integration und Isolation nicht-nativer Einheiten und Strukturen. Berlin: De Gruyter, 165–182.

 

 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Louvain-la-Neuve: University of Louvain , 2018. p. 164-165
Series
CECL papers ; 1
Keywords [en]
Translation
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics
Research subject
Humanities, English
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-77951OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-77951DiVA, id: diva2:1250299
Conference
Using Corpora in Contrastive and Translation Studies Conference (5th edition). Louvain-la-Neuve 12-14 september, 2018
Available from: 2018-09-23 Created: 2018-09-23 Last updated: 2018-10-02Bibliographically approved

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