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The Translation of Arabic Collocations into English: Dictionary-based vs. Dictionary-free Measured Knowledge

Dinha T. Gorgis (Jadara University)/Aladdin Al-Kharabsheh (Hashemite University)


This paper compares the output of two translation tasks. In an attempt to find out the extent to which students of translation can translate Arabic contextualized collocations into English properly, two conflicting views about carrying out a translation task are tested. The first holds that avoiding the use of a dictionary in test sessions, though not in translation classes, would save time and yield better translation products, whereas the second contends that recourse to a dictionary is unavoidable at any translation task, including tests. The two opposing views have their corollary in a similar dispute which has already been settled in favour of the mental lexicon rather than the dictionary (cf. Rangelova/Echeandia 2003). The results of this study defeat the first claim and run counter to Rangelova/Echeandia's findings, though obtained from qualitatively a different test setting.

1 Introduction

Collocations, roughly defined as expressions exhibiting words in company or, better put, as conventional, recurrent and non-idiomatic expressions consisting of mainly two lexical items, e.g. constant/sharp (but not continuous/strong) pain, have received considerable attention over the last few decades. Although definitions proliferate in the literature, often quoting Firth (1951) directly or indirectly, collocations remain "notoriously difficult to define" (Leśniewska 2006: 95; see also Poulsen 2005; Martyńska 2004: 5). Despite our awareness of the difficulty of both their definition and accommodation in linguistic theory, collocations, including grammatical, are taken here for granted because of the commonly held view of habitual co- occurrence of lexical items regardless of adjacency or proximity between one item and another. Recent empirical research is said to have "defied difficulties and criticism and sparked renewed interest in a number of areas ranging from computational and corpus linguistics to lexicography, language pedagogy, and [...] translation studies" (Baroni/ Bernardini 2003: 1). Thus excellent dictionaries such as the BBI by Benson, Benson and Ilson (1986/1997), Lea's (2002) Oxford Collocations Dictionary for students of English, LTP Dictionary of Selected Collocations by Hill/Lewis (1997), Sinclair's (2001) Collins Cobuild English Language Dictionary, Hafiz (2004) Arabic Collocations Dictionary, inter alia, and two complementary textbooks on collocations in use, viz. intermediate and advanced (McCarthy/O'Dell 2005 and O'dell/McCarthy 2008) have been produced recently. And, as planned, we expect to see more bilingual dictionaries, such as Abu-Ssaydeh (forthcoming) on Arabic-English collocations, than what has so far been made available, viz. Ghazala (2007), Wang (1988) and Bogatz (1997) on English-Arabic, Chinese-English and German-English collocations, respectively.

A cursory look at the partial list of references we have come across and/or the bibliography compiled by Cowie/Howarth (1996) should be clear evidence of world-wide interest in the study of collocations, English collocations in particular. Obviously, this interest has mainly

Linguistik online 37, 1/09

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