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Miriam Shlesinger

Lexical variety in interpreted vs translated outputs: a corpus-based study


Two recurrent aspirations have figured in Interpreting Studies in recent years: (1) the hope that research on translation and on interpreting will enrich each other; and (2) the call for ever more empirical research (Gile 2004). The study reported here was conducted in response to these two themes.

Corpus-based Translation Studies has used machine-readable corpora to arrive at generalizations about language in use rather than language systems in the abstract, and to discern features of translation that are independent of any particular language pair, text type, translator, or historical period. Few corpus-based studies, however, have attempted to discern features of translation in relation to modality; i.e. to pinpoint features of interpreted – as opposed to translated – texts, so as to refine the largely intuitive knowledge about properties of interpreted outputs as such. The presentation will focus on this modality-specific distinction. Based on two fully tagged corpora, matched in every respect except modality, and using the methods of statistical analysis reported in Kanter et al. (2006), it investigated (1) type-to-token ratios; and (2) function- to content-word ratios; as well as (3) hapax legomena in the respective corpora.

This study at the interface of statistical physics, corpus linguistics and Translation Studies has produced preliminary insights into the properties of interpreted discourse, as compared with translated discourse, on the one hand, and with spontaneous speech, on the other.


Gile, D. 2004.Translation research versus interpreting research: kinship, differences and prospects for partnership. In C. Schäffner (ed.) Translation research and interpreting research: traditions, gaps and synergies. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. 10-34.

Kanter, I., Kfir, H., Malkiel, M. & Shlesinger, M. 2006. "Identifying Universals of Text Translation". Journal of Quantitative Linguistics 13 (1).

Shlesinger, M. & Malkiel, B. 2006. Comparing Modalities: Cognates as a Case in Point. Across Languages and Cultures 6 (2): 173-193.

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