A Corpus-based View of Similarity and Difference in Translation


Mona Baker

Centre for Translation & Intercultural Studies, University of Manchester


International Journal of Corpus Linguistics 9(2), 2004, 167-193.


Abstract. Corpus-based research throws up a number of methodological challenges. Many of these are evident in any type of research which attempts to compare authentic data of any kind, but the difficulties are accentuated by the availability of vast amounts of data in this case. In particular, questions relating to how one selects the features to be compared and, more importantly, how the findings may be interpreted, invite us to elaborate our methodology far more explicitly than in other types of research. The accessibility of the same body of data to other researchers also means that (a) the findings can be assessed and challenged in other studies, and (b) other researchers can invoke different, and perhaps more plausible explanations of the same findings by appealing to parameters that may have been downplayed or ignored in previous studies. These issues have been extensively debated in the literature on corpus linguistics, but rarely if ever in the context of corpus-based translation studies. A small-scale study involving comparisons between corpora of translated and non-translated texts in English in terms of frequency and distribution of recurring lexical patterns is used to examine some methodological issues in corpus-based translation research and suggest different ways in which the same findings may be interpreted depending on the variables on which individual researchers choose to focus.
Key words: translation, corpus-based translation studies, style, literary translators, methodology, lexical patterns