From Hypotaxis to Parataxis: An Investigation of English-German Syntactic Convergence in Translation

  • Mario Bisiada

Student thesis: Phd


Guided by the hypothesis that translation is a language contact situation that can influence language change, this study investigates a frequency shift from hypotactic to paratactic constructions in concessive and causal clauses in German management and business writing. The influence of the English SVO word order is assumed to cause language users of German to prefer verb-second, paratactic constructions to verb-final, hypotactic ones. The hypothesis is tested using a 1 million word diachronic corpus containing German translations and their source texts as well as a corpus of German non-translations. The texts date from 1982-3 and 2008, which allows a diachronic analysis of changes in the way English causal and concessive structures have been translated. The analysis shows that in the translations, parataxis is indeed becoming more frequent at the expense of hypotaxis, a phenomenon that, to some extent, also occurs in the non-translations. Based on a corpus of unedited draft translations, it can be shown that translators rather than editors are responsible for this shift. Most of the evidence, however, suggests that the shift towards parataxis is not predominantly caused by language contact with English. Instead, there seems to be a development towards syntactically simpler constructions in this genre, which is most evident in the strong tendency towards sentence-splitting and an increased use of sentence-initial conjunctions in translations and non-translations. This simplification seems to be compensated for, to some extent, by the establishment of pragmatic distinctions between specific causal and concessive conjunctions.
Date of Award1 Aug 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMaeve Olohan (Supervisor) & Luis Perez-Gonzalez (Supervisor)


  • German
  • Translation Studies
  • Corpus Linguistics

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