Translation: Enriching Our Understanding of Language Use
Translation is a form of specialised language use and translators are language professionals. Therefore, translation is a concern of linguistics and can, as I will argue in this talk, enrich our understanding of language. At the same time, empirical translation studies is concerned with understanding what translators actually do when they work with language and how the translation process and its outcome are influenced by linguistic, cognitive, social and other factors.
In this talk, I will examine translation as a concern of linguistics in increasingly larger contexts. I will start out by exemplifying some behavioural patterns of engaging with two languages that empirical studies of the translation process have found. Going beyond the immediate process in which the translation is produced, I will discuss translation as a product across many different translators. Quantitative corpus studies have shown that translations are linguistically distinctive of non-translated texts. I will examine various explanations for these properties of translated texts. While translation has been seen as a rather peculiar type of language use constrained by its source text, current scholarship sheds light on continuities with other linguistic phenomena. This opens up new perspectives that link translation with areas such as second language learning, bilingualism and L2 varieties.
In a wider context, translation as a kind of language use that necessarily involves two languages simultaneously has been shown to be relevant for various fields of linguistics including, but not limited to, contrastive linguistics, language contact and change. Accounting for the linguistic patterns in translation can therefore be mutually beneficial for linguistics and translation studies.