Cross-cultural lacunarity and translation techniques: a corpus-based study of English, Russian and Spanish

Alymova, Elizaveta (2022) Cross-cultural lacunarity and translation techniques: a corpus-based study of English, Russian and Spanish. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Lexicalisation patterns varying across languages reveal lexical gaps or lacunae emerging due to structural misalignments between linguistic systems. Lacunae, manifesting themselves as the absence of one-to-one equivalents in one of the contrasting languages, represent a serious translation challenge since they often conceal conceptual discrepancies. Translation of lexemes with no direct equivalents nearly always results in the loss of a certain amount of culture-specific information. This research seeks to provide insight into how speakers’ mental representations diverge in three typologically diverse languages – English, Russian and Spanish – and to investigate ways of overcoming such divergences in translation in a corpus-based study.

This research identifies English lexemes which have no equivalents in Russian and Spanish primarily with the help of the Oxford English Dictionary advanced search tools. Using the Historical Thesaurus of English, their semantic neighbourhood is then investigated to explore the mechanisms of formation and evolution of lacunae. The findings from lexicographic data are further corroborated by corpus evidence. Film subtitles, containing lacunar items, and their translations into Russian and Spanish, are retrieved from online contextual dictionaries and used as parallel corpora to identify how lacunae are handled in actual translation practice.

This study combines three interrelated research strands. The theoretical strand presents a data-driven model offering a nuanced interpretation of a lexical lacuna. The lexicographic strand overviews the lifecycle of lexical lacunae, outlining the mechanisms of their formation and pathways along which they become filled. Finally, the corpus strand discusses 26 identified techniques for tackling lacunae. These are systematically classified into three main translation strategies: formal, semantic and explicative transformations. The corpus-based strand also offers a breakdown of translation solutions appropriate for each type of lacuna. The presented evidence demonstrates that although translation of lacunar items typically entails deviation of varying degrees from the source text, lexical gaps can and should be bridged in translation to prevent them from turning into cultural gaps.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Supported by funding from the University of Glasgow College of Arts.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > English Language and Linguistics
Supervisor's Name: Anderson, Professor Wendy and Hough, Professor Carole
Date of Award: 2022
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2022-83151
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 04 Oct 2022 12:01
Last Modified: 04 Oct 2022 12:01
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83151

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