What a change! On the exclamative and its translation

30 May 2024
Room F1

What a change! On the exclamative and its translation

Exclamatives have been widely studied, both from a monolingual and crosslinguistic perspective and in European and non-European languages. The translation of exclamatives, however, has received much less attention. This study aims to contribute to filling this gap through a corpus study of English exclamatives and their translations into French and Dutch. Out of the three languages under scrutiny, English is the one for which there is most consensus on the prototypical realisations of the exclamative, namely what a and how + adjective exclamatives, as in What a surprise to see you! and How big my contribution was!. These constructions serve as the starting point for our parallel study. Using SketchEngine (Kilgariff et al., 2014), random samples of 100 instances of each core exclamative construction were extracted from the English subcorpus of OpenSubtitles (Lison & Tiedemann, 2016) together with their French and Dutch translations, making for 600 exclamatives in total. Analysis of the data focuses on the syntax and semantico-pragmatics of the exclamatives in the three languages. Pragmatically, exclamatives are characterised by their conveying of presupposed content, subjectivity, high degree, and surprise (often labelled mirativity) (e.g. Michaelis & Lambrecht, 1996; Rett, 2011). French and Dutch have immediate syntactic counterparts to the English exclamatives. So, if translators opt for a different construction, it will be interesting to see what alternative was chosen and what factors may influence this choice. Specific attention will go to if and how the intensifying semantico-pragmatics are rendered in the translations (the wh– element, degree words, interjections, etc.). French translators, for example, have been shown to soften strong stylistic markers (e.g. Schreiber, 2015: 711), and so exclamatives may be expected to be softened or even omitted in translation. If so, a comparison with Dutch translations may show if any attenuation is language-specific or a result of the translation process.



Kilgarriff, A., Baisa, V., Bušta, J., Jakubíček, M., Kovář, V., Michelfeit, J., Rychlý, P., Suchomel, V. (2014) The Sketch Engine: Ten years on. https://www.sketchengine.eu/wp-content/uploads/The_Sketch_Engine_2014.pdf.

Lison, P., Tiedemann, J. (2016) OpenSubtitles2016: Extracting Large Parallel Corpora from Movie and TV Subtitles. In Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC-2016), 2016.

Michaelis, A.L., Lambrecht, K. (1996) Toward a Construction-Based Theory of Language Function: The Case of Nominal Extraposition. Language 72 (2). 215-247.

Rett, J. (2011) Exclamatives, degrees and speech Acts. Linguistics and Philosophy 34. 411-442.

Schreiber, M. (2015) Traduction. In C. Polzin-Haumann & W. Schweickard (eds.) Manuel de Linguistique Française. Berlin: de Gruyter, 696-716.