Contrasting contrastive approaches
  • ISSN 1387-6759
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9897
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This article argues for a type of corpus-based contrastive research that is item-specific, predictive and hypothesis-driven. It reports on a programmatic study of the ways in which impersonalization is expressed in English and German. Impersonalization is taken to be epitomized by human impersonal pronouns like German man (e.g. Man lebt nur einmal ‘You/one only live(s) once’). English does not have a specialized impersonal pronoun like Germ. man and uses a variety of strategies instead. The question arises what determines the choice of a given impersonalization strategy in English. Drawing on relevant theoretical work and using data from a translation corpus (Europarl), variables potentially affecting the distribution of impersonalization strategies in English are identified, and their influence on the choice of a strategy is determined. By testing hypotheses derived from theoretical work and using multivariate quantitative methods of analysis, the study is intended to illustrate how bridges can be built between fine-grained semantic analyses, on the one hand, and more coarse-grained, but empirically valid, corpus research, on the other.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): English/German; generalizing; impersonal; modal; non-veridical; veridical
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