Convergence and divergence of communicative norms through language contact in translation

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This contribution addresses the question of whether and how translation as a classic case of language contact can act as a trigger for convergence and divergence phenomena between two languages. We present two studies which indicate that translation-induced convergence does not occur unconditionally: while we found no signs of English-German convergence in the use of modal verbs (study 1), the use of sentence-initial concessive conjunctions in translated and comparable German texts shows convergence with Anglophone usage patterns (study 2). Explaining these disparate results, we hypothesize that divergence occurs when bilinguals perceive profound differences between source and target language (as is the case in English and German lexicogrammatical means for expressing modality), while convergence takes place when bilinguals perceive items as equivalent in form and function (as is the case in English and German concessive conjunctions).


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