French-English differences thrown into perspective: New data from translation

Abstract : This paper extends earlier corpus-based translation research which revealed that English texts translated from French contain significantly fewer manner-specific self-motion verbs (e.g. crawl) compared to original English texts (Cappelle, 2010a, 2010b), due to a well-known typological difference (satellite-framed vs. verb-framed) between Germanic and Romance Languages (Talmy, 1985; Slobin, 1996). This new study investigates whether a comparison between translated and non-translated English lays bare a similar contrast between French and English with respect to manner-specificity in caused-motion verbs. The reason for this follow-up is that the Talmian typology of motion events was never meant to be primarily focused on self-motion, that is, on intransitive constructions. A subcorpus of English texts translated from French was selected from the Intersect Corpus, compiled at the University of Brighton; the British National Corpus (BNC) served as a reference corpus. A preliminary investigation could not reveal any significant difference between English translated from French and original English in the relative frequency of 'manner-poor' verbs of putting (including Levin's [1993] verbs of putting in a spatial configuration and verbs of putting in a specified direction), e.g. place, lay, raise, versus 'manner-rich' verbs of putting (Levin's [1993] funnel verbs, pour verbs, spray/load verbs) and throw verbs. The search queries that were used for the 27 types of 'manner-poor' and 113 types of 'manner-rich' caused-motion verbs investigated only yielded 51 and 13 tokens, respectively, in the Intersect Corpus (as compared to 205 and 88, respectively, in the BNC). Some further research will be needed to find out whether this lack of a significant result casts into doubt the strong assumption that French is less focused on manner than English is or whether a larger data set (based on less restrictive queries) than the one obtained so far might show that manner is indeed encoded to a lesser extent in caused-motion events in translational English with French as the source language compared to original English, similar to what was shown to be the case for self-motion events (cf. also Hickmann and Hendriks, 2010, for evidence from language acquisition). After all, the provisional 4:1 vs. 2.3:1 ratios do suggest a difference in coding strategies between French and English for caused motion as well. In any case, a qualitative comparison between these two languages has helped us to reveal that English is not as strictly satellite-framed as has generally been claimed. That is, instances such as go hurtling by or come scurrying to NP apparently are not word-by-word translations from the French original text but fully authentic target language patterns recently identified by Salkie (2010). Interestingly, such a pattern with a light motion verb followed by a gerundive manner-of-motion verb is only available for self motion but not for caused motion in English. Instead, a light send verb (namely send itself) is used here, e.g. send it flying back; send them crawling about. Such observations clearly call for finer descriptions of motion constructions within individual languages than generalizing Talmian typological characterizations so far have enabled us to provide. References Cappelle, Bert. 2010a. Patterns of translation and the translation of patterns. Paper presented at the International Workshop on Pattern Finding, Tilburg University, Netherlands, 11 May 2010. Cappelle, Bert. 2010b. Reframing and rephrasing in translation. Paper presented at the International Workshop on the Verb and Verbal Complexities ("Verbe et complexités verbales") , Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris 3, 31 May - 1 June 2010. Hickmans, Maya and Henriëtte Hendriks. 2010. Typological constraints on the acquisition of spatial language in French and English. Cognitive Linguistics, 21(2), 189-215. Levin, Beth. 1993. English Verb Classes and Alternations. A Preliminary Investigation. Chicago, Il: The University of Chicago Press. Salkie, Raphael. 2010. "On going." In: Bert Cappelle and Naoaki Wada (eds.), Distinctions in English Grammar, Offered to Renaat Declerck. pp. 169-190. Tokyo: Kaitakusha. Slobin, Dan I. 1996. "Two ways to travel: verbs of motion in English and Spanish." In: Masayoshi Shibatani and Sandra Thompson (eds.), Grammatical Constructions--Their Form and Meaning. pp. 195-219. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Talmy, Leonard. 1985. "Lexicalization patterns: semantic structure in lexical forms." In: Timothy Shopen (ed.), Language Typology and Syntactic Description. Vol. 3: Grammatical Categories and the Lexicon, pp. 57-149. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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Bert Cappelle. French-English differences thrown into perspective: New data from translation. 11th International Cognitive Linguistics Conference (ICLC 11), Jul 2011, France. ⟨halshs-00668965⟩

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