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Material and Method

The data are taken from the English-Swedish Parallel Corpus (ESPC) (Altenberg and Aijmer 2001). The ESPC contains original texts in English and Swedish with their translations, altogether 2.8 million words making direct comparisons between the languages possible. The texts represent both fiction and non-fiction texts in equal proportions. Fiction texts consist of dialogues. Non-fiction is a hyperonym covering the subject areas memoirs and biography, geography, humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, applied sciences, legal documents, prepared speech (Altenberg et al. 2001). I will use translation paradigms as the starting-point and then compare the most frequent markers of obligation in different contexts of use in English and Swedish.

The Marking of Obligation in English and Swedish

English Obligation Markers in a Translation Perspective

The corpus examples were selected in the following way. First all the examples of maste and must were extracted from the original texts with their translations. On the basis of the translations we can compare how obligation is expressed in the two languages (in either fiction or non-fiction). Maste is, for example, not always translated as must but a large number of alternatives are found. At a second stage, I examine the contexts and functions of the most important markers of obligation in the two languages in both fiction and non-fiction

On the whole, both the auxiliaries were more frequent in non-fiction than in fiction. Moreover, they were more frequent as obligation markers than as epistemic auxiliaries (see Tables 1 and 2).

In non-fiction Swedish maste had obligation meaning in 96.3% of the examples to be compared with must in 87.4% of the cases.

The smaller number of examples of must in the English texts is interesting against the background that it has been claimed that must has declined in frequency within a 30-year period during the last century and that it has been replaced by other ‘gram- maticalizing’ elements (Leech et al. 2009).

Table 3 shows the correspondences of the Swedish maste in English (translations of Swedish originals into English) and Table 4 (in Sect. 4.2) the correspondences of English maste in Swedish (the translations from the English originals into Swedish).

Must, taking into account all its uses, was more frequent in non-fiction than in fiction (see Table 2). This difference can be partly explained by the fact that there are more occurrences of must with epistemic meaning in fiction (32.9% of the examples were epistemic in fiction to be compared with only 12.6% in non-fiction). Moreover, as noticed by the diachronic linguist, must has been replaced by have to in many of its uses (Leech et al. 2009). A genre-type explanation of the discrepancy is that must has a number of functions in non-fiction texts which are not paralleled in the fiction texts.

Fiction

Non-fiction

Epistemic

109 (24%)

24 (3.7%)

Obligation

345 (76%)

626 (96.3%)

Total

454 (100%)

650 (100%)

Fiction

Non-fiction

Epistemic

69 (32.9%)

42 (12.6%)

Obligation

141 (67%)

292 (87.4%)

Total

210 (100%)

334 (100%)

Table 1 Epistemic and obligation meanings of Swedish maste

Table 2 Epistemic and obligation meanings of English must

Table 3 The English translations of Swedish maste (SO ->ET). Obligation meanings

ET fiction

ET non-fiction

Total

must

112 (30.4%)

357 (57.0%)

469 (48.3%)

have to

84 (22.8%)

85 (13.6%)

169 (17.4%)

had to

88

36

124

should

5

46

51

need to (or other forms with need)a

9

32

41

(have) got to

12

4

16

ought to

4

11

15

is (was) -ed

3

5

8

is necessary, essential

-

8

8

be going to, will

4

1

5

be forced, be compelled, be made, be taken to

-

4

4

x makes sb do sth

3

-

3

0

4

-

4

other

6

27

33

Examples occurring once or twiceb

11

10

21

Total

345

626

971

aNot all examples with need in the translations are semi-modals (cf ‘I need somone to talk to’). bThe following examples occurred once or twice in either fiction or non-fiction: had better, necessarily, of necessity, be in need of, be a need to, appreciate the need to, I should like to say, there is no other way but, I cannot help but, be enough to, be due to, it was natural for X to do sth, it should be incumbent on X to do sth, couldn’t possibly, emphatic do, it’s time, the imperative

Obligation can be expressed in many different (grammatical and lexical) ways although with different frequencies Must is the prototypical obligation marker in English (and maste in Swedish). If we look at the translations we see that maste is translated as must in almost 50% of the examples (more often in non-fiction texts than in fiction texts). However the translator may also choose a different translation which is more appropriate in the context. Translators make their own analysis of the context and select a translation which best mirrors the meaning of the modal expression in the original text.

Obligation can for example also be expressed by the semi-modals have to, had to, got to, need to as shown by the translations. Semi-modals are not full modals but are verb constructions which have been moving along the path of grammaticaliza- tion and have gradually acquired an auxiliary-like function (cf. Leech et al. 2009: 91). Other translation alternatives were modal adverbs (inevitably, necessarily), modal adjectives (necessary, essential). The markers can be ‘strong’ (be compelled to, be forced to) or ‘weak’ (had better, ought to, should). Must was also rendered as an imperative with a ‘directive’ function.

The semi-modal have to (without a formal equivalent in Swedish) was found in 17% of the examples. The uses of had to can be syntactically motivated. Had to is for example the past tense of must (and have to). (If I had conflated have to and had to the frequency would have been even higher.) Other frequent obligation markers

are (have) got to, need to and should.

Several other expressions have different frequencies in fiction and non-fiction. Need to, should and ought to are strikingly more frequent in non-fiction than in fiction. Have got to, on the other hand, occurs above all in fiction.

 
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