Taking stock of corpus-based translation studies, and some suggestions for further improvement

Gert De Sutter

Corpus-based translation studies has come a long way since it started in the 1990’s: (i) by scrutinizing patterns in parallel and comparable corpora, it has found abundant and reliable evidence that language use produced in a translational context (often: published interlingual translations by expert translators, with English as source or target language) differs significantly from language use produced in non-translational contexts; (ii) due to major methodological and analytical improvements, often driven by innovations in corpus linguistics, our view on when, how and to what extent translated language differs from non-translated language has become increasingly more accurate; (iii) finally, in more recent years, these descriptive and methodological advances are accompanied by more solid theoretical reasoning, providing (tentative) answers on why translated language use differs from non-translated language use. In this talk, I want to take stock of these achievements by focussing on the growing convergence of description, method and theory in corpus-based translation studies and by exploring (some of) the limits that current corpus research has to do deal with. This will lead me to suggest at least three further (methodological) improvements to the field:

  • compiling new-generation parallel corpora which contain more and more carefully checked metadata on the translators, the translation project and the source/target texts incorporated in the corpus.
  • adopting new procedures in the statistical analysis of data patterns in corpora (a.o. multilevel modelling and naive discriminative learning)
  • adding hitherto underexplored predictor variables.

I will argue that these improvements will further contribute to the increasing convergence of description, method and theory in corpus-based research designs, thereby fundamentally enhancing our understanding of language products of and language production during translation.