Volume 50, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0169-7420
  • E-ISSN: 2213-4883
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In this article we address the question whether polysemous words are more difficult to translate than monosemous words. If the two different meanings of a polysemous word have to be translated by two different words in the target language, the translator wil have to select the right one. We hypothesized that this choice would make the translation of polysemous words a more demanding task.In our investigation we operationalized the notion of difficulty in terms of response time: Does it take more time to translate polysemous words than to translate comparable monosemous words?We created an experimental setting permitting the measurement in milliseconds of the oral translation of words presented in small disambiguating contexts on a monitor. The experimental material consisted of polysemous words and the same number of monosemous words, which were comparable, by matching, in frequency and meaning.The results of our investigation induced us to adjust our hypothesis: Not all meanings of polysemous words seem to be more difficult to translate than monosemous words. The results showed that the more frequent meanings of the polysemous words were translated at about the same rate as their monosemous counterparts, whereas the translation of the less frequent ones took significantly more time than the translation of the comparable monosemous words.Probably, while translating a polysemous word, the translator goes straight to the translation of the most frequent meaning; when he sees that this translation doesn't fit in the given context, he continues his search for the translation that will fit better in the context.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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