l m m j v s d

The typological profile of a language, language learning and translation

Lieu : MRSH - salle des Actes Sh 027
Début : 20/03/2018 - 14:00
Fin : 20/03/2018 - 16:00
Responsable(s) scientifique(s) : Rea Peltola

Master Class de Åke Viberg (Professeur émérite à l'université d'Uppsala, Suède)

The typological profile of a language is an account of the distinctive character of its structure in relation to other languages based primarily on work in general typology but also on genetic and areal linguistics and on contrastive analysis and other types of cross-linguistic studies. The typological profile is important for applied areas such as second language acquisition and translation studies (cf. Filipović 2017 on applied typology).

Contrastive studies typically compare two languages at a time. The profile characterizes a specific language in relation to (in principle) the other languages of the world by first describing its place in a general typology and then giving a more detailed picture by comparing it contrastively with genetically and/or areally close languages. Ideally, the profile should cover all major aspects of language structure but it is also possible to present the profile of a certain level such as the phonological, the syntactic or the lexical profile of a language. At the syntactic level, word order is one of the most studied areas (Dryer 2005, Hawkins 2004). Most European languages are SVO languages (or lack a dominant order) but Swedish and most of the other Germanic languages together with French represent a specific type (place-holder languages) that has developed specific filler words (such as dummy ‘it’) as a support of the functional distinctions expressed by word order (Hammarberg & Viberg 1978).

Most of the presentation will be devoted to the lexical profile with a focus on verbs. A first overview can be obtained by comparing frequency dictionaries. In English, French and other European languages, there are something in the range of 10 000 different verbs or more. The frequency of occurrence, however, singles out a small number of verbs as basic. The 20 most frequent verbs tend to cover close to 50% of the textual frequency of verbs in representative corpora. Among them are several verbs with predominantly grammatical function such as the copula ‘be’, the verb ‘have’ and modal verbs. But in addition, there is a number of lexical verbs referred to as nuclear verbs in Viberg (1993, 2012) which tend to be the most frequent verbs within the most basic lexical semantic fields (such as motion (‘go’/’come’), possession (‘give’/’take’), production (‘make’), verbal communication (‘say’) and perception (‘see’). The nuclear verbs tend to be basic even in non-European languages. Nuclear verbs also tend to have a rich pattern of polysemy. Contrasts between a number of European languages have been studied by using translation corpora, such as the English Swedish Parallel corpus (Altenberg & Aijmer 2002), The Multilingual Parallel Corpus containing translations of Swedish novels into French, English, German and Finnish (Viberg 2013, Appendix) and the Film subtitles corpus (Lison & Tiedemann 2016), which spans 65 languages. Examples will be taken from studies of posture verbs (Newman 2002, Ameka & Levinson 2007, Kortteinen 2008, Viberg 2013) and verbs of putting (Kopecka & Narasimham 2013, Viberg 1998, 2015). The typological–contrastive studies have applications such as second language acquisition (Viberg 2002) and translation (Viberg 2016).

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