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Through seen through the looking glass of translation equivalence: a proposed method for determining closeness of word senses

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Chapter Summary

This paper advances the hypothesis that translation equivalents may be employed to cast light on the semantic network of a lexeme in its original language. The lexeme investigated is through, which is commonly taken to have the prototypical sense of ‘entrance-traversal-exit’. Some recent research, however, has indicated that various instrumental senses are more common in actual usage. The particular question addressed in this paper is how the various senses of through are related to each other. The data consist of all 696 tokens of through in the English language original texts in the English-Norwegian Parallel Corpus. These are first sorted into various semantic classes using normal corpus linguistic methods. The translations into Norwegian of the various senses are then examined with an emphasis on the similarities and differences between them. The basic hypothesis is that the senses that are translated in similar ways in a particular language are felt to be more closely related by users of that language than senses that are translated in very different ways. Restricted as it is to translations into one language, the study does not contain enough data to test this hypothesis, but the evidence presented suggests that it may be worth exploring in greater detail.



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