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”We believe that TS has a lot to gain by taking a renewed interest in contact linguistics”

The above quotation, which has been taken from a recently published paper by Lanstyák & Heltai (2012), reflects one central goal in the CROSSLING network: We also believe that it is possible to gain new fresh insights through an interdisciplinary combination of the viewpoints, theories and methods of translation studies, contact linguistics and SLA.

Lanstyák, István & Heltai, Pál (2012): Universals in language contact and translation. In: Across Languages and Cultures 13 (1), 99-121.

 In this paper, Lanstyák & Heltai (2012) discuss possible parallels between universals of translation and features of other bilingual communication. The central finding in this paper is that most so far proposed universals of translation seem to have a counterpart in other bilingual contact situations. The following table summarizes their findings:  

TS: Universals of translation


Other bilingual contact situations

Law of interference


Contact effects, interference

Untypical lexical patterning: distinctive distribution of lexical items in TT, unusual collocations, underrepresentation of unique items


“There are no data on whether it occurs in [...] bilingual communication.” (p. 106)



Simplification; “non-use of complex, marginal, marked or less consolidated vocabulary items or grammatical forms” (p. 106)

Normalization (law of growing standardization, sanitization, conservatism)


Purism, hyperpurism, loyalty to norms



Very likely to happen but no empirical evidence available

Other – in my opinion – important parallels pointed out in this paper:


Other bilingual contact situations

Direct transference as a deliberate translation strategy


In addition to the discussion of the above mentioned parallels this paper entails new interesting viewpoints about the status of translation universals. According to Lanstyák & Heltai (2012) there are general tendencies (or universals) of constrained language production whose manifestation translation universals and language contact universals are. Constrained communication refers to a situation in which “the usual constraints of communication play a greater than average role” (p. 114). In bilingual communication, these constraints may e.g. involve deficits in the linguistic competence of the speakers. In translation, in turn, they may e.g. include a risk avoiding strategy (which may be at least one of the reasons causing explicitness in translated texts).

All in all, in this paper translation is claimed to be a process which leads to the rise of a particular contact language variety like other bilingual communication does.  According to Lanstyák & Heltai (2012) it is misleading to term this variety as translated language - this term has been used and is widely accepted in the study of Finnish translations as well. Translated language is not a language of its own but a contact language variety. Furthermore, Lanstyák & Heltai (2012) remind us that it is important to keep in mind that this claimed translated language is not the native language of the translator. It is a variety which has been influenced by the translation process and the source text/language.

The topics in this paper were very fascinating, and they are highly relevant for us in the CROSSLING network in which similar questions have been dealt with in some papers (to appear) and recent presentations (see Papers and publications), cf. e.g.:

Kolehmainen, Leena (submitted): Die Unikat-Hypothese der Translation: Etwas Altes, Neues und Geliehenes. Manuscript, 22 pp.

Kolehmainen, Leena (submitted): Käännöstiede ja kontaktilingvistiikka kohtaavat. Manuscript, 30 pp.

Kolehmainen, Leena - Meriläinen, Lea - Riionheimo, Helka (2012): Interlingual reduction: Evidence from language contacts, translation and second language acquisition. Paper presented at: International Conference of Nordic and General Linguistics, University of Freiburg.

This was probably my last blog post before the summer break. I wish you all a warm relaxed summer with lot of sunshine!

 - Leena Kolehmainen

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  1. Anonymous

    Kiinnostava vertailu. Arvelen että tuo ei kuitenkaan ole ainoa suunta, jossa "kääntämisen" universaalit osoittautuvat oletettua universaalimmiksi. Itse olen kiinnittänyt huomiota samankaltaisuuksiin instituution editoijien ja kääntäjien toiminnassa: molemmat normalisoivat, yksinkertaistavat rakenteita, eksplisiittistävät ja vähentävät idiosykratiaa. Kyse voi olla siis myös ammattimaisen tekstintuottajan tavasta tavoitella oletuksia ja normeja vastaavaa tekstiä riippumatta siitä, tapahtuuko tekstin työstämisessä samalla kielenvaihtoa vai ei.

    Tampereelta tervehtäen

    Kaisa (joka ei edelleenkään pääse rekisteröitymään...)

  2. I agree with the above comment. We seem to be dealing with things relating to communication in general, whether intra- or inter-lingual. I also agree with Lanstyák and Heltai in that a  translator's knowledge of L1 and L2 is comparable to that of a bilingual speaker's knowledge of his/her languages - a point I mention in the manuscript of my own Ph.D. thesis. So thanks for this reference! - But what is particular about translating as a communicative situation, or act - from the viewpoint of the translator, in terms of the PROCESS of translating? P and H stress that it is interpretive, as opposed to descriptive use of language by a bilingual speaker. I find this distinction somewhat odd; certainly it does not 'define'  exhaustively what  translation is. After all, in all communication, both functional modes, description and interpretation, are at work ... Of course in translating the speaker first interprets the original message. What he/she then does is encode a functionally equivalent L2 expression  - a form-meaning pair - to 'say the same thing' in the target language. This form-meaning pair he/she regards as an equivalent of the original, L1 form-meaning pair, and he/she also expects us to believe in this relation of similarity. Inevitably, we arrive at considering the process in terms of this notion of similarity, functional equivalence. It involves syntactic, semantic, pragmatic phenomena - or linguistic devices - to be described. They are linguistic constraints if you like; of course, being an act or situation of communication, translating involves language-external constraints too - an area of considerable interest in TS. - The focus on describing the PROCESS of translating implies focusing on dynamic aspects of language; how language is used in such communicative situations in which meanings are transferred from L1 to L2. Thus a theory of translation must try describe this activity of 'finding similarities' - what happens in the mind of the translator (and this is obviously not the same as what happens in the mind of a bilingual speaker when switching from one code to another!). - Dynamicity implies shifting to focus on cognitive aspects in translation, from mere study of translated text. Translated text provides, after all, indirect evidence of what happens in the mind of the translator, it is offline evidence. However, online evidence is provided by studies of interpreting, those involving Think Aloud Protocols, and other experimental work. - To return to the idea of searching for 'constraints': We have, first, the linguistic level (syntax, semantics, pragmatic/discourse level), aspects affecting functional language use and translation correspondences (Note that this level is referred to as 'systemic level constraints' in TS). Secondly, we have language external constraints. Thirdly, we have - most probably - constraints relating to cognition, to more general cognitive processes. These are general but they are reflected in language use (cognition also involves non-linguistic phenomena, like vision, memory). A number of linguistic theories available are functional, usage-based, basing their description of grammatical and semantic structure on cognitive aspects of language, and also on how form-meaning pairs are used in real discourse, how and why novel expressions emerge etc. My point is that studying translation necessitates the use of such frameworks in operationalising relevant research questions. - To finish, think of a translation shift called Explicitation. It is said to be a translation strategy. This characterisation - 'strategy' - makes reference to a conscious choice by the speaker, in terms of his/her cognition. A question within a functional and/or cognitive linguistic framework would be: Why to translate the Finnish name 'Laatokka' into English as 'Lake Ladoga' and not as 'Ladoga' ? What does it mean in terms of explanation (in theorising TS) that an L2 form-meaning pair represents an instance of the strategy of explicitation ? When and where does Explicitation take place, etc.? The answer should, I think, deal with study on all levels mentioned above, with empirical evidence both online and offline. And to call it a general strategy means that it should be shown to take place cross-linguistically, not just between the languages that we are familiar with. (This is where typology enters in.) - I have consulted the following books/articles in particular for this comment (which is too long I'm afraid). Danks, J.H. et al. (eds), Cognitive Processes in Translation and Interpreting, 1997; Bybee, J. Language, Usage and Cognition. 2010; Diessel, H. Review of Language, Usage and Cognition by J. Bybee.(2010). Language, 2011, vol. 87, No 4, 830-844. 

    And the very final note: Diessel (2011) seems an OK introduction to Bybee's (2010) ideas of general cognitive mechanisms, and also a critical review. Of course, neither of them mentions translation as a mode of communication; the question is 'How would the general cognitive mechanisms figure out in translation ?'