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Sonderforschungsbereich 538: Mehrsprachigkeit


Workshop Multilingual Discourse Production

November 06 - 07, 2009
University of Hamburg
-- Warburg Haus --
Heilwigstraße 116
D-20249 Hamburg
 Photos (keyword: "Hamburg")

Discourse production in multilingual contexts represents a specific type of language contact situation. Translation may be seen as the prototypical type of multilingual discourse production, other types would include parallel text production in different languages (e.g. for web sites) or the production of versions more loosely connected with the source text.

When divergent communicative norms and conventions come into contact in any of these types of text production, one may find that such conventions transcend established language boundaries, potentially leading to the emergence of new genres. A case in point may be the so-called Corporate Philosophies in German, which owe much of their existence to the impact of English role models. These texts seem to represent hybrids in that they partly follow German communicative preferences and partly a communicative style more typical of English texts (cf. Böttger & Bührig 2003).  If one looks back at the history of the European languages, it becomes clear that to some extent all of them have taken over textual conventions and/or structures from Latin, which may be related to the numerous translations from Latin into the vernaculars, generally representing a major part of early text production. For example, Koller (1998) has argued that Latin-German translations have substantially shaped the development of written German, in particular the literary language. Looking at English one finds, for instance, that the possible contexts of accusative-cum-infinitive constructions spread as a result of contact with Latin (cf. Fischer 1992, 1994). Another example can be seen in innovations in late-medieval Swedish, such as the use of new subordinating structures (cf. Höder 2008).

Consequences of contact are manifold and may vary according to socio-historical circumstances as well as in relation to the functional and structural peculiarities of the linguistic systems involved. Factors which may determine the linguistic outcome of contact through translation could be:

  • the quantitative basis (i.e. how many texts are translated from language A into language B and the ratio between translated and non-translated texts in language B)
  • the prestige of the source vs. the target language (cf. Toury 1995, Baker 1996)
  • the degree of standardization of the target language
  • the degree of establishment of the genre in the target culture
  • the possibility of establishing clear form-function equivalences (which in turn is related to the genetic proximity of the two languages) (cf. Becher, House & Kranich forthc.)

Call for Papers:

In the workshop we wish to study in how far these and possibly other factors influence the result of language contact through translation and similar discourse production types. The central question is thus: Under which conditions does translatory activity have a (lasting) impact on the languages involved? This question may be approached from different angles.

We thus highly welcome papers concerning any of the following issues:

  • general properties of the process of multilingual discourse production in view of a potential impact of  source language on target language
  • general properties of the product of multilingual discourse production (normalization vs. shining-through in translation)- particular historical or current situations of contact between language pairs through multilingual discourse production
  • particular historical or current situations of contact between language pairs throug multilingual discourse production
  • contrastive studies both of the shining-through of a particular source language in different target languages as well as studies of translations from different source languages into the same target language. Such contrastive studies could help to clarify the kind of impact the factors suggested above have on translation-induced variation and change.
  • studies of the spread of translation-induced innovations into monolingually produced texts in the target language culture

Papers dealing with any of these issues or other topics relevant to language variation and change through translation and related types of multilingual discourse production will be welcome. Papers will be allowed 30 minutes, including 10 minutes for discussion. The deadline for abstract submission is 15th April 2009. Abstracts of 400-600 words in length should be sent to svenja.kranich"AT"uni-hamburg.de.


Baker, M. 1996 “Corpus-based translation studies: The challenges that lie ahead.” In: H. Somer (ed.), Terminology, LSP and Translation. Studies in language engineering in honour of Juan C. Sager. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 175-186.

Becher, V., House, J. & Kranich, S. forthc. "Convergence and Divergence of communicative norms through language contact in translation". In: K. Braunmüller & J. House (eds.), Convergence and Divergence in Language Contact Situations. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Böttger, C. & Bührig, K. 2003. “Translating obligation in business communication“. In: L. Perez Gonzales (ed.), Valencia: University of Valencia, 161-182.

Fischer, O. 1989. “The origin and spread of the accusative and infinitive construction in English”. Folia Linguistica Historica 8: 143-217.

Fischer, O. 1992. “Syntactic change and borrowing: The case of the accusative and infinitive construction in English”. In: M. Gerritsen and D. Stein (eds.), Internal and External Factors in Syntactic Change. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 16-88.

Höder, S. 2008. Sprachausbau im Sprachkontakt. Eine theoretische und empirische Analyse zum Syntaxwandel im Altschwedischen. Ph.D. dissertation, Universität Hamburg.

Koller, W. 1998. “Übersetzungen ins Deutsche und ihre Bedeutung für die deutsche Sprachgeschichte”. In: W. Besch et al. (eds.), Ein Handbuch zur Geschichte der deutschen Sprache und ihrer Erforschung. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 210-229.

Toury, G. 1995. Descriptive Translation Studies and beyond. Amsterdam: Benjamins.


Register for the Workshop here.


Download the programme booklet here.


November, 6-7, 2009

Venue: Aby-Warburg-Haus

Invited plenary speakers:

Cathrine Fabricius-Hansen (University of Oslo)

"Silvia Hansen-Schirra (Johannes-Gutenberg-Universität Mainz)

Ursula Schaefer (TU Dresden)


Juliane House

Svenja Kranich

Viktor Becher

Steffen Höder




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