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Conference Information

Full Title: New Approaches to Contrastive Linguistics: Empirical and Methodological Challenges

Location: Zurich, Switzerland
Start Date: 10-Sep-2017 - 13-Sep-2017
Contact: Renata Enghels
Meeting Email: click here to access email
Meeting Description: The practice of comparing languages has a long tradition characterized by a cyclic pattern of interest (Granger 2003; Schmied 2008). In the 1990s contrastive linguistics underwent a significant revival, which mainly originated from its meeting with corpus linguistics. This has led to a new wave of corpus-based contrastive studies. Still, until today there are two main challenges that have not yet been fully addressed.

The first challenge of contrastive linguistics relates to the variable nature of the empirical data it resorts to. Many contrastive linguists have turned to translation studies as a means of establishing cross-linguistic relationships (Granger, Lerot, Petch-Tyson 2003). However, the use of parallel corpora as a source for contrastive linguistic research has not always gone undisputed. The most frequently cited disadvantages relate to (1) translation universals and, (2) interference between the language of the source-text and the translated text (Johansson 1998. However, contrary to these stated shortcomings, a commonly cited advantage of the use of parallel corpora relates to the tertium comparationis, i.e. a “common platform of comparison” (Connor & Moreno 2005: 157) against which differences can be described. The difficulty of establishing full comparability indeed constitutes one of the major stumbling blocks in the use of comparable corpora. Taking into account these limitations of both translation and comparable data, more recently, several linguists have argued in favor of a combination of the two, as complementary sources for cross-linguistic comparison (among others Viberg 2005; Altenberg and Granger 2002). However, up to the present, this combined corpus method has not yet been exploited to its full potential.

Moreover, in the last decade the analytical possibilities seem to have increased considerably as ever more multilingual data are made available. Contrastive linguistics not only benefits from the creation of huge web corpora (such as WebCorp and Sketch Engine), a growing number of new data types is becoming available, like subtitle corpora (e.g. Levshina, forthc.) or the Wikipedia Parallel Titles Corpora. Besides the fact that the use of these resources is perhaps not yet widespread among linguists, the question of whether these different data can be applied to answer different contrastive research questions still remains to be answered.

A second challenge of contrastive linguistics relates to the methodological branch of corpus-based contrastive linguistics, which, according to Gast (2015: 5), “is still tender”. Indeed, if a more advanced standard of methods and procedures is becoming common ground in monolingual studies (such as logistic and mixed-effects regression techniques), the implementation of such techniques is still in its infancy in the field of contrastive linguistics. What is more, the more advanced methodological tools that are suited to study the multidimensional nature of linguistic phenomena within one language, cannot be directly transferred to contrastive data without a thoughtful consideration, given the increased complexity of the latter.

Conveners: Renata Enghels, Marlies Jansegers, Clara Vanderschueren
Linguistic Subfield: General Linguistics; Historical Linguistics; Text/Corpus Linguistics; Translation; Typology
LL Issue: 27.4537

This is a session of the following meeting:
50th Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea

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