Contrastivité

Director: Catherine Delesse and Catherine Chauvin

Over the next quinquennial, the linguistic and traductology axis will challenge the interdisciplinarity of language studies, analyzing each of the following aspects.

A. Interconnections within the English language:

1) The interface between written and oral English. The axis aims at concentrating on the way orality stands out in a written text (to be studied in seminars, see below), keeping in mind that the linguistic notion of orality has to be distinguished from “register.” Questions it hopes to answer include: Are there any “special” forms? What is role and status of punctuation? What governs the representation of elision/contracted forms?.

2) The interface between syntax and information. “Language(s) in Contrast” can be tackled by comparing theme and rheme. The axis could first compare how French and English function in this respect. In French, the theme prevails in as much as it contains preliminary units that stand out at the start of the utterance. Listening to English speech occurring in natural conditions reveals the lesser weight of the theme but a greater anticipation of the rheme. It can be either anticipated from the theme onwards, or constructed at the interface between the theme and the rheme. In other cases, the very end of utterances (post-rhemes, such as tags or hedges) code that what has been uttered was indeed a rheme. The axis plans to identify the means of coding the informational status of a unit to identify the different steps of rhematisation, an innovative term that can be contrasted with the better known and studied notion of thematisation.

3) Contrasting forms within language. The notion of contrast can also be explored in relation to the types of opposition that exist within language(s) (of the around/round type, for instance). The study of such contrasting forms raises interesting linguistic questions (are they always semantic in nature and, if so, to what extent?). Thus they are relevant to the field of general linguistics: analyzing them can also require a multitude of criteria, and therefore they bring together sociolinguistics, semantics, and pragmatics and question their interaction (e.g., the interdisciplinary approach, seen as interaction between several subfields/criteria). The study of such pairs will therefore continue to be part of the axis’s future research.

B. Contrastive linguistics and translation (a conference will be organized, see below):

1) The relation between contrastive linguistics and translation theory has been debated for quite a while, but it remains to this day a major epistemological question for both fields of study. With recent developments in cognitive and text linguistics, as well as the appearance of new instruments and new research methods (for example, data mining in large computerized corpuses), a new synthesis is needed to show where the two academic disciplines agree and where they differ. Such a synthesis is what we aim for (in particular with the conference in preparation). Contrastive studies will also continue to be explored, as well as translation theory in the members’ work. Seminars (both aimed at both colleagues and students) have been organized before in which professional translators presented their work; this exploration of translation, in translation theory and translation studies (practice, and translation commentaries), will be continued over the next few years as part of the axis’s research project over.

Link with the other research groups in France and abroad

Because most of the axis’s members are also associate members of other research groups, it has the possibility of developing and/or reinforcing links with:

  • PRISMES, EA 4398 (TRACT) is co-organizing with IDEA a conference titled « Inscrire l’altérité : emprunts et néologismes en traduction » / “Incorporating Alterity:  Loanwords and Neologisms in Translation, ” 14-15 octobre 2011, to be held at the Université Paris 3
  • ATILF (Nancy 2) through Yvon Keromnes, who is a fully-accredited member there
  • TRACT (Paris 3) through Catherine Delesse, who belongs to the advisory board of the scholarly journal Palimpsestes and contributes regularly to the seminars and conferences the group organizes
  • The Réseau des Linguistes du Grand-Est, through Catherine Chauvin, who belongs to the organizing committee
  • CLILLAC (Paris 7) through Isabelle Gaudy-Campbell, who is a member
  • CBDA (Colloque Bisannuel de Diachronie de l’Anglais) which takes place biennially  in Tours/Amiens and is co-organized by Catherine Delesse (Nancy), Brian Lowrey (Amiens), and Fabienne Toupin (Tours)

Some of the axis’s projects will involve regular contacts with these groups and will even co-organize with them various conferences and seminars, among other possibilities.

Link with the other axes of IDEA

The medieval studies axis is an obvious complementary axis since studies within the English language include a diachronic component and also because the projects of both axes for the coming years include translation.

There could perhaps also be common projects with the arts axis, with its study of the relationship between image and language.

Link with IDEA’s doctoral students

For the moment there are no doctoral students associated with the axis, but at the master’s level students do choose to write their dissertations in linguistics or translation studies. In their master’s courses, they will follow research seminars and have to submit reports on the sessions they attended. Hence, the different aspects of the axis’s research should entice students to launch a PhD thesis.

Link with the master’s program at the future Université de Lorraine

Since the master’s program is currently under discussion at the writing of this project, the axis can only confirm that there will be translation studies and linguistics courses offered for both years of the program.

Seminars, Roundtables and Conferences (proposed)

The axis has a project for a conference titled “Contrastive Linguisticsvs. Translation Theory,” which will take place on the 1-2 February 2013, with an external committee, and perhaps in collaboration with the Université de Strasbourg.

It also plans on holding seminars, but, as the axis is a small one, it has decided to convene for half-days rather than for two-hour seminars on a monthly basis. These meetings will take place alternatively in Nancy and in Metz so as to include as many students as possible. The seminars will address the following topics:

1)       In order to work on orality, regular meetings will be organized between researchers of the team and students, who will be asked to participate fully (the axis is planning three half-days per year). The axis plans to work on texts for about three years, hoping to be able to present theoretical conclusions in the last year.

2)       Since the notions of theme/rheme involves more theoretical work, regular meetings, to which guest speakers will be invited, will be held for a period of four years. The axis’s aim is to tackle these notions by studying cleft or pseudo-cleft sentences from that angle. The contribution of guest speakers during seminars could feed its analyses and result in a published set of articles contrasting languages (French, English, German, and maybe Spanish), comparing written and oral utterances, as well as different focalization tools (be they syntactic or intonative).

Publications (proposed)

The axis will publish a selection of articles based on its “Contrastive Linguistics vs. Translations Studies” conference, and books or articles in the different fields of research mentioned above. This will, of course, depend on the results it obtains. Among other possible projects still under construction is a publication on the notions of rheme and theme.

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