Presentation Title

The indefinite pronoun ‘one’: A contrastive analysis of German to English translation using corpus linguistics

Abstract

Crosslinguistic differences often appear during translation, when translators must find the balance between faithfulness to the source text and the norms of the target language. One important area where this proves to be a difficult decision is the translation of German pronouns into English, specifically the indeterminate 3rd person singular pronoun man. While it is possible to use the 2nd person singular du, just as English can use ‘you’, the typical pronoun used for indeterminacy is man. This project examines different possible English translations of this pronoun, for example ‘one’, ‘you’, ‘someone’ or ‘they’ or even without a pronoun, depending on the context, since there is no dedicated pronoun for this purpose. To do so, I use a parallel corpus created from the German novel Superheldinnen by Barbi Marković and my English translation thereof, to identify instances of the German man and my corresponding translation. In addition, I use historical information from the COHA corpus to examine the frequency of English indeterminate pronouns, with speakers perhaps beginning to favor ‘you’. In my translation, depending on context, I usually chose generic ‘you’ instead of ‘one’ because that is more commonly used by contemporary English speakers, especially in spoken or less formal situations. Within translation, there is an important question of whether to stay faithful or whether to adapt to the norms of the target language. In this case, with the formality and decreasing use of ‘one’ in English, this would not always be a faithful translation, and the translator must therefore determine the most appropriate translation. This demonstrates an important pragmatic crosslinguistic difference that is necessary for translators to acknowledge if they desire to avoid translation loss. Using corpus linguistics, I hope to provide a historical and pragmatic account for the translation of this pronoun from German to English.

Primary Faculty Mentor Name

Guillermo Rodriguez

Status

Undergraduate

Student College

College of Arts and Sciences

Program/Major

German

Primary Research Category

Arts & Humanities

Second Program/Major

Linguistics

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The indefinite pronoun ‘one’: A contrastive analysis of German to English translation using corpus linguistics

Crosslinguistic differences often appear during translation, when translators must find the balance between faithfulness to the source text and the norms of the target language. One important area where this proves to be a difficult decision is the translation of German pronouns into English, specifically the indeterminate 3rd person singular pronoun man. While it is possible to use the 2nd person singular du, just as English can use ‘you’, the typical pronoun used for indeterminacy is man. This project examines different possible English translations of this pronoun, for example ‘one’, ‘you’, ‘someone’ or ‘they’ or even without a pronoun, depending on the context, since there is no dedicated pronoun for this purpose. To do so, I use a parallel corpus created from the German novel Superheldinnen by Barbi Marković and my English translation thereof, to identify instances of the German man and my corresponding translation. In addition, I use historical information from the COHA corpus to examine the frequency of English indeterminate pronouns, with speakers perhaps beginning to favor ‘you’. In my translation, depending on context, I usually chose generic ‘you’ instead of ‘one’ because that is more commonly used by contemporary English speakers, especially in spoken or less formal situations. Within translation, there is an important question of whether to stay faithful or whether to adapt to the norms of the target language. In this case, with the formality and decreasing use of ‘one’ in English, this would not always be a faithful translation, and the translator must therefore determine the most appropriate translation. This demonstrates an important pragmatic crosslinguistic difference that is necessary for translators to acknowledge if they desire to avoid translation loss. Using corpus linguistics, I hope to provide a historical and pragmatic account for the translation of this pronoun from German to English.