Locus Magazine, Issue 624, January 2013

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Proportional frequencies are not subject to this problem, but to ensure comparability between the corpora, it is desirable to draw on both values at all times. To be able to compare trends between the corpora, it may suffice to focus on the difference between the normalized frequencies instead of the frequencies themselves. To do this, I propose to use the relative frequency ratio as a measurement of diachronic difference between two sample points in a corpus.

The prime example of this method is the corpus study by Damerau : who argues that the relative frequency of a term will be higher in a domain corpus than in a general corpus, and uses the relative frequency ratio to extract key words from the subject-specific corpora. Thus, the relative frequency ratio can be applied to show diachronic developments between corpora in such settings. The relative frequency r of an item i is calculated by dividing the absolute frequency by the corpus size. The formula to calculate the relative frequency ratio is below.

Thus, a high value means that there is a diachronic increase in relative frequency as well as in normalized frequency because the latter is basically the relative frequency multiplied by, for instance, , Due to the exponential nature of the graph representing the equation of R , I consider a value as indicating a decline if it is below 0.

In order to indicate an increase in frequency, it must be above 2. A value of 1 means that the frequencies in both corpora are exactly the same, so the closer a value is to 1, the less change there is in the frequency. The conjunctions that were used to translate although, even though and while are shown in Table 3.


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This may mean that concessive conjunctions are becoming rarer in the source texts in this genre. Obwohl is the most frequently used translation for concessive conjunctions and remains so despite its decline in usage frequency. The conjunction aber occurs more frequently now than it used to 3. Thus, there is a strong decrease in the frequency of hypotactic conjunctions Table 4.

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Their normalized frequency has halved These observations may signal a trend in preference from a mainly subordinative structure using hypotactic conjunctions or conjunctive adverbs towards a more coordinative structure increasingly relying on paratactic conjunctions. The diachronic development is visualized in Figure 1 , which also shows that there are fewer conjunctions used overall, probably due to a decline of the four English conjunctions under analysis in the source texts.

Diachronic change in translations of English concessive conjunctions: proportional and normalized frequencies. A direct comparison between hypotactic and paratactic constructions shows that, overall, paratactic constructions are only slightly increasing in normalized frequency Table 5. The increase in their proportion of the overall amount of constructions seems to be due to the decline of although, even though and while in the source texts.

The decrease in the frequency with which hypotactic constructions are used to translate them, on the other hand, is notable in both normalized and proportional frequency. The relative frequency ratios for each type of connection yield the graph in Figure 2. The graph confirms that hypotactic constructions are decreasing to a significant extent. Paratactic constructions are made up of conjunctive adverbs and conjunctions, which are shown individually in this figure. Conjunctive adverbs show no significant change, since the relative frequency ratio is near 1; only paratactic conjunctions are increasing significantly.

The overall relative frequency ratio for paratactic constructions, however, is close to 1, which means that, as argued above, there is no diachronic change in the actual frequency with which paratactic constructions are used. Thus, while there is a proportional change between hypotaxis and parataxis, that change is due to the decrease in frequency in hypotactic constructions, and not due to an increase in paratactic constructions. To confirm that these findings are indeed issues of translated language and not perhaps due to changes made by editors, I have analysed translations of the four English conjunctions under analysis in the manuscript corpus.

The result is that thirteen clause complexes were translated hypotactically and 62 were translated paratactically, and in each case only one instance was changed to the other taxis by the editor, suggesting a low level of editorial influence on this issue. Therefore, we can conclude that translators seem to be primarily responsible for the decline in frequency of hypotaxis. As hypotactic conjunctions seem to decline in the parallel corpus over the analysed time span, we would also expect them to be introduced less commonly by translators into constructions where the source text does not have a hypotactic conjunction.

However, that does not seem to be the case entirely, as conjunctions seem to be introduced with increasing frequency Table 6.

Examples below 3 and 4 show uses of obwohl where the presence of a conjunctive adverb given in example [3] or a preposition despite in example [4] in the source text may have made a structurally equivalent choice more likely. Why were these attempts to automate the nonstore purchasing of groceries so short-lived, especially given favorable demographic and lifestyle trends?

However, the councilmen desired to continue the new budget system despite a lack of significant cost savings or cost reallocations. The main findings from the parallel corpus, then, are that there is a strong decline in hypotactic structures but no notable increase in frequency in paratactic structures. The latter have increased their proportion of translation choices for concessive constructions as a result of a decline in the use of conjunctions in the source texts in this genre.

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While hypotactic conjunctions seem to be used less to translate source text equivalents, they appear to be introduced more often in cases where the source text has no conjunction. This increase is especially strong for paratactic conjunctions.

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According to the proportional frequency data, hypotactic conjunctions show no diachronic shift in usage frequency. Paratactic conjunctions are used proportionally more often, and conjunctive adverbs are used proportionally less often. As is the case in the parallel corpus, then, conjunctive adverbs behave notably different from paratactic conjunctions within the group of paratactic structures.

This may suggest that while the English source texts and by extension, their German translations rely progressively less on conjunctions to express concession, the use of concessive conjunctions in German is actually increasing, which is observed in non-translations and, as speculated above, in the rising number of conjunctions introduced into the translated texts.

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The observations in this section are comprehensively displayed in Figure 3. While hypotaxis is decreasing in frequency in the parallel corpus, it seems to increase as part of a general increase in connectives in the comparable corpus. Paratactic conjunctions and conjunctive adverbs, on the other hand, behave remarkably similarly in the two corpora; the former increase strongly in both translations and non-translations while the latter show no significant change.

In all, the comparable corpus does not entirely corroborate the findings from the parallel corpus. Based on the parallel corpus analysis, we would have expected a decrease in hypotactic structures, which is not the case. Instead, hypotactic structures remain stable or even increase in frequency somewhat between the two periods of analysis. Therefore, it seems as though the decrease of hypotactic constructions in the parallel corpus is not a phenomenon that happens generally in this genre, but is limited to translated language.

In addition, given the notable decrease in concessive conjunctions in translated texts which must be traced to the source texts , it is striking that there is an increase in concessive conjunctions in non-translated texts.


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  • This may show that conjunctions are strengthening their positions as the prime way of achieving cohesion when expressing concessive meaning relations. Thus, doch is now used as commonly as aber and conjunctive adverbs to translate sentence-initial but. Though the conjunction aber decreases in frequency, the overall picture that emerges is that sentence-initial conjunctions are becoming more popular than conjunctive adverbs in the translation of but.

    Together, they have increased by 15 percentage points, almost the same amount that conjunctive adverbs have lost Table 8 , which may signal an adoption of the source language pattern. To assess the role of editors in this process, the manuscript corpus has been analysed in the same way as the parallel corpus. On the whole, editors do not seem to object to the sentence-initial use of aber.

    Their actions Table 9 mostly seem to affect conjunctive adverbs, especially jedoch , which editors swap for another adverb, conjunction or which they omit entirely. Example 5 shows how the conjunctive adverb jedoch in the translated manuscript 5a was replaced by sentence-initial aber in the published version 5b.

    Thus, there is evidence that the use of sentence-initial aber is not just driven by translators, but also to some extent by editors, perhaps supporting the view that sentence-initial conjunctions are becoming an increasingly acceptable alternative to conjunctive adverbs. This suggests that the use of sentence-initial concessive conjunctions was popular in translations before it became frequent in non-translated language as well, which is a possible indicator for this shift being motivated by language contact in translation, or at least contact with English language material.

    Overall, then, it seems that there is a tendency in German towards an increasing use of sentence-initial conjunctions, especially doch , at the expense of the conventional way of marking concession, such as conjunctive adverbs. That development can be observed in both translated and non-translated text. In that respect, the genre seems to have undergone a similar change to that found in popular science by Becher : — It also ties in with my observations on causal clauses in the business genre, where there is also a decrease in hypotactic constructions Bisiada : 22 , though hypotaxis is used more often to express causal relationships than concessive relationships.

    In non-translated language, however, there is no sign of such a decrease, as the frequency of hypotactic constructions in is significantly higher in the comparable corpus Even in translated language, and despite the decrease in frequency they seem to undergo, there is evidence to suggest that hypotactic conjunctions remain a common way of combining clauses in this genre as translators introduce hypotactic conjunctions into their texts with increasing frequency. As they are still used in two out of five cases, hypotactic constructions do not seem to be a marginal phenomenon in business writing, as they seem to be in popular science Becher : At the same time, there is no significant increase in paratactic structures on the whole, as only paratactic conjunctions are increasing.

    The decrease in hypotaxis may be explained by the phenomenon of sentence splitting see Bisiada When sentences with a concessive logical relation are split, a sentence-initial conjunction is the only feasible way to maintain the connection, and sentence-initial concessive conjunctions tend to be paratactic aber or doch. Thus, the decrease in hypotaxis does not mean that hypotaxis is unpopular hence its introduction elsewhere , but that sentence splitting takes precedence over concerns with logical connectivity.

    An explanation for the discrepancy between the two genres, which are similar in that they unite journalistic and scientific discourse features, may be found in the fact that the overall use of conjunctions in the source texts has decreased. This phenomenon, i. English language users in the business genre seem to use fewer conjunctions to achieve text cohesion, may have prevented the notable increase in parataxis that was observed in popular science texts.

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    More research is necessary to confirm this rather speculative explanation. Similarities between the genres exist in the use of sentence-initial concessive conjunctions, which has been found to be increasing in business writing as in popular science. In business writing, the increasing use of sentence-initial conjunctions may have been driven by their frequent occurrence in translations, both as source text equivalents and where they were introduced by translators.

    The data show an increase in the use of the conjunction doch even where the source text clause complex does not have an overt concessive relationship. By adopting a method of diachronic corpus investigation of translations and non-translations in popular science texts, this paper has aimed to replicate the findings in the business genre. It has found that German language users do not increasingly prefer paratactic over hypotactic constructions.

    Though the use of hypotaxis in concessive constructions has decreased more strongly than in causal constructions Bisiada , it continues to be used frequently. What could be replicated is the finding that concessive conjunctions are increasingly used in sentence-initial position, mirroring current conventions in English. As the latter development has been shown to have happened first in translations and then in non-translations, existing claims that this change has been affected by translation can be supported.