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Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory

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How do English translations differ from non-translated English writings? A multi-feature statistical model for linguistic variation analysis

Xianyao Hu / Richard Xiao / Andrew Hardie
Published Online: 2016-02-09 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cllt-2014-0047


This paper discusses the debatable hypotheses of “Translation Universals”, i. e. the recurring common features of translated texts in relation to original utterances. We propose that, if translational language does have some distinctive linguistic features in contrast to non-translated writings in the same language, those differences should be statistically significant, consistently distributed and systematically co-occurring across registers and genres. Based on the balanced Corpus of Translational English (COTE) and its non-translated English counterpart, the Freiburg-LOB corpus of British English (FLOB), and by deploying a multi-feature statistical analysis on 96 lexical, syntactic and textual features, we try to pinpoint those distinctive features in translated English texts. We also propose that the stylo-statistical model developed in this study will be effective not only in analysing the translational variation of English but also be capable of clustering those variational features into a “translational” dimension which will facilitate a crosslinguistic comparison of translational languages (e. g. translational Chinese) to test the Translation Universals hypotheses.

Keywords: Translation Universals; translational English; linguistic variation; multi-feature analysis


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About the article

Xianyao Hu

Xianyao Hu currently holds a professorship in the College of International Studies at Southwest University in China. He worked as a research associate in the Department of Linguistics and English Language at Lancaster University in 2014. He got his Ph.D. in Translation Studies from East China Normal University in 2006, and had worked as post-doctoral researcher at Beijing Foreign Studies University and Fulbright visiting scholar at the University of California Los Angeles.

Richard Xiao

Richard Xiao is Professor of Linguistics at Zhejiang University in China as well as Reader in Corpus Linguistics and Chinese Linguistics (Honorary) in the Department of Linguistics and English Language at Lancaster University in the UK. His main research interests cover corpus linguistics, contrastive and translation studies of English and Chinese, and tense and aspect theory. His recent books in these areas include Aspect in Mandarin Chinese (John Benjamins, 2004), Corpus-Based Language Studies (Routledge, 2006), A Frequency Dictionary of Mandarin Chinese (Routledge, 2009), Using Corpora in Contrastive and Translation Studies (Cambridge Scholars, 2010), Corpus-Based Contrastive Studies of English and Chinese (Routledge, 2010) and Corpus-Based Studies of Translational Chinese in English-Chinese Translation (Springer 2015).

Andrew Hardie

Andrew Hardie is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Linguistics and English Language at Lancaster University in the UK. He is Deputy Director of the ESRC Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science. His major specialism is corpus linguistics – specifically, the methodology of corpus linguistics, and how it can be applied to different areas of study in linguistics and beyond. He is also interested in the use of corpus-based methods to study languages other than English, especially the languages of Asia, with an especial focus on issues in descriptive and theoretical grammar.

Published Online: 2016-02-09

Funding: National Social Science Fund of China, (Grant/Award Number: “11CYY010”) Program for New Century Excellent Talents in University, Ministry of Education of China, (Grant/Award Number: “NCET-11-0460”) Economic and Social Research Council, (Grant/Award Number: “ES/K010107/1”)

Citation Information: Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory, ISSN (Online) 1613-7035, ISSN (Print) 1613-7027, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/cllt-2014-0047.

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