Constrained language

Independent traditions of research have identified a range of characteristic features of translated language, New Englishes (non-native indigenised varieties of English, or L2 varieties) and language contact varieties, which display a surprising degree of similarity. In this project, we investigate the deeper underlying factors that are responsible for such similarities through comparative investigation of all such varieties. We take the view that the similarities follow from similar constraints that can be traced to the cognitive and social environment in which these texts are produced, alongside differences that relate to differences in the contexts of production or degrees of bilingual activation. We terms this theoretical framework “constrained language”.

In translation, language production is cognitively constrained by bilingual language activation and the presence of a previously produced text. In addition, translation is subject to normative constraints that determine target-language and -culture acceptability. New Englishes and other L2-varieties are similarly constrained by bilingual language activation, and in many cases by overly strict conformance to perceived standard language norms, since many of these varieties are first acquired in an educational setting and used more often in institutionalised settings than in intimate settings. Language contact varieties are the product of long-term interaction between speakers of different languages, but in the case of native-speaker varieties that developed in contact settings, the constraint of immediate bilingual activation is not usually a strong force. A common feature of these varieties, which has been identified by a number of researchers relatively independently, is their propensity for more transparent form-function mappings, termed explicitation by translation researchers and analyticity in the tradition of New Englishes scholarship.

Theoretically, our approach is grounded in usage-based, emergentist linguistic theory, in particular construction grammar, where we develop a view of the linguistic construction that takes pragmatic and normative aspects of the meaning into account. Methodologically, the project relies on comparative corpus linguistic work, including both synchronic and diachronic corpora, and corpora of unedited and edited versions of the same texts, alongside psycholinguistic experiments in settings where the language is produced.

The constrained language project is intended to integrate important strands from the previous research of the two project leaders – Haidee Kruger’s work on translation, editing and other forms of mediated communication, together with Bertus van Rooy’s work on World Englishes. A number of ongoing PhD studies also form part of the project.


Selected publications

Kruger, Haidee. 2016. Fluency/resistancy and domestication/foreignisation: a cognitive perspective. Target: International Journal of Translation Studies, 28(1): 4-41.
Kruger, Haidee. Forthcoming. A corpus-based study of the effects of editorial intervention: implications for the features of translated language. (In De Sutter, G., Delaere, I. & Lefer, M.-A., eds. New ways of analysing translational behaviour (TiLSM series). Berlin: De Gruyter.)
Kruger, Haidee & Van Rooy Bertus. 2016 . Syntactic and pragmatic transfer effects in reported-speech constructions in three contact varieties of English influenced by Afrikaans. Language Sciences, 56: 118-131.
Kruger, Haidee & Van Rooy, Bertus. 2016. Constrained language: A multidimensional analysis of translated English and a non-native indigenised variety of English. English World-Wide 37(1): 26-57.
Kruger, Haidee & Van Rooy, Bertus. 2016. Syntactic and pragmatic transfer effects in reported-speech constructions in three contact varieties of English influenced by Afrikaans. Language Sciences, 56: 118-131.
Kruger, Haidee & Van Rooy Bertus. 2016 (in press). Editorial practice and the distinction between error and conventionalised innovation in New Englishes: The progressive in Black South African English. World Englishes.
Van Rooy, Bertus. 2016 (in press). Present perfect and past tense in Black South African English. To appear in: Werner, Valentin, et al (eds.) Re-assessing the Present Perfect in English: Corpus Studies and Beyond. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 149-168.
Van Rooy, Bertus & Kruger, Haidee. 2015. The case for an emergentist approach. Stellenbosch Papers in Linguistics Plus, 48: 41-67.
Van Rooy, Bertus & Haidee Kruger. 2016. Faktore wat die weglating van die Afrikaanse onderskikker dat bepaal [Factors that influence the omission of the Afrikaans complementiser dat ‘that’]. Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe / Journal of Humanities 56(1): 102-116.
Van Rooy, Bertus & Kruger, Haidee. 2016 (in press). The innovative progressive aspect of Black South African English: The role of language proficiency and normative processes. International Journal of Learner Corpus Research 2(2).