Change of verbs into another parts-of-speech in English and German

Hausarbeit, 2013
42 Seiten, Note: 2,0


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Method section
2.1. Overview of the method
2.2. Data extraction
2.3. Inferential statistics

3. Results and discussion
3.1. Contingency table
3.2. Analyse of shifts
3.2.1. Bar graph of shifts

4. Conclusion

5. Appendix

1. Introduction

To learn the English language properly is a fundamental basis for future teachers. Not only the basic features of the learned language are important, but also the differences to other languages. The juxtaposition of two different languages reveals hidden features and makes comparisons between languages. Thus, the respective characteristics and differences of the languages are realized efficiently. The topic of my term paper is the change of word classes, particularly the examination of verbs and their changes into another parts-of-speech in the translation directions from English to German and from German to English. This topic is of great importance in linguistics, as the word class changes in English and German are influenced by many factors. To understand and to analyse the word class change, many linguistic features, such as grammatical relations within clauses, need to be studied and known in the individual languages. This work relies on the one hand to the studies by Elke Teich (2001), who has studied the grammatical metaphor in German and English. Her main findings are that this kind of metaphor occurs, when the possibility of an equivalent translation in the target language is not given and therefore has to be nominalized (Teich 2001: 208 f.). Vinay and Darbelnet (1995) defined the terms literal translation, transposition and modulation. According to their theory, word classes can change from the source language to the target language without manipulating the meaning of the message (Vinay and Darbelnet 1995: 33 ff.). But I remain critical to their theory, because they do not define the border, where the manipulation of the meaning of a message starts and ends. So, where does the manipulation of the content of a message begin and which distributions are seen as a manipulation of the meaning of a message? Culo (2008) has investigated the part-of-speech distributions and shifts in both languages. He has found out that the intensity of the verbs in English is higher than in German (Culo et al. 2008: 50). The use of transposition leads consequently to a change in word class in the process of translating. Miriam Tavernier’s (2003) studies deal with the grammatical metaphor in Systemic Functional Linguistics, where she expanded the theory of it`s initiator Michael Halliday (1985) in his book “An Introduction to Functional Grammar”. She added the term “view from above”, which is concerned with the lexical and grammatical changes of meanings (Tavernier 2003: 6 ff.). From these kinds of changes various differences appear in word classes (Tavernier 2003: 6). König and Gast (2009) dealed with the differences according to the word class of verbs and their different realizations in both languages.

Since the topic of the word class change is very broad, I will examine the word class of verbs in the present work. The hypothesis to be tested is the following: “In the translation direction from English to German verbs are more often translated as another parts-of-speech than in the translation direction German to English. The null hypothesis to that is: “In the translation direction from English to German verbs are changed and kept equally often as in the translation direction from German to English”. There are some previous findings, which support my hypothesis. Culo (2008) for example examined part-of-speech distributions and shifts. He analysed the proportion of verbs and came to the conclusion, that the high number of verbs in English lead to word class changes in German, because the expanded vocabulary in English can otherwise not be translated into German (Culo et al. 2008: 50). In the following chapters I will go through these steps: the following chapter of my term paper is the methods-section, where I will first introduce the line of action. After that, I will introduce my data extraction from the CroCo corpus and how I analysed these data statistically. The function of this chapter is to give an overview of the method that I have used to test my hypotheses. The third chapter of my term paper is the results and discussion chapter, which I decided to make together in order not to repeat myself. The function of the last mentioned chapter is to present the results and simultaneously to analyse them. I will also discuss some examples from my data sample to show you more detailed descriptions of my findings. I will elaborate on the kinds of shifts and analyse them. The last chapter is the conclusion, where I go back to my hypothesis and give an overview of my most important findings.

2. Method section

2.1. Overview of the method

The data, I have investigated has got a sample size of 100 sentences in each translation direction. So I have analysed 200 original sentences in German and English and their translations into the particular language. The corpus I have worked with is the CroCo corpus. As indicated by Hansen-Schirra (2012: 97) there are the two translation directions, namely English and German, which consist both of original texts and their translations into the other language. The CroCo corpus consists of eight registers in each language; some of these are political essays, fictional texts, instruction manuals and popular scientific texts (Hansen-Schirra 2012: 97). I have worked with the register of popular scientific texts. First I got an overview of the relevant literature on my topic change of word classes and gained plenty of information about the parts-of-speech, grammar and the shifts of the German and English language. Then, based on my readings, I formulated the following hypothesis: “In the translation direction from English to German verbs are more often translated as another parts-of-speech than in the translation direction from German to English” and defined my independent as well as my dependent variable. The independent variable is “translation direction”, which has an effect on the dependent variable “verb to another part-of-speech change”.

2.2. Data extraction

As a next step I did the data extraction in order to measure the effect of my independent variable “translation direction” on the dependent variable “verb to another part-of-speech change” and went through the following steps: first I have searched for all verbs in English original texts in the Croco corpus within the register of popular scientific texts. I had a score of 4.000 sentences, which I have randomized in order to achieve a better probability distribution. In the next step I have chosen a data set with 100 sentences, which were then translated into German. When extracting the data I have taken into account that the verbs at the data output were marked for an efficient data analysis in the single sentences. After that, I have repeated the same process for the translation direction German to English. I defined the scale of measurement as the nominal scale for my data, as the independent variable “translation direction” is categorical and nominal because of the classification in two languages. The dependent variable “change of verbs to another parts-of-speech” is also categorical and nominal in the sense of the classification and categorization of different word classes, for example nouns, adjectives and adverbs.

2.3. Inferential statistics

Finally, I have put the 200 data samples into Excel in order to search for the true hits and shifts. After examining the true hits, I have searched for the shifts, which I have noted simultaneously. So I have analysed the verbs and their respective translations in both language directions. Thereby, I have categorized the sentences from my data sample for shifts and no shifts. And again, I have repeated the same process for the translation direction German to English. In order to test the truth-value of my hypothesis, I used the chi-square test. This test was necessary to list the shifts and no shifts tabular in both translation directions and to prove the significance of my findings statistically. That is, to see whether the occurrence of shifts and no shifts, which have emerged in my data sample, are random or reliable. In addition, I have set up a contingency table, as I have erected the verb to another parts-of-speech in shifts and no shifts with the respective translation directions English originals to German translations and German originals to English translations. Then, I have compared the significance level p-critical with p-observed to reject or to accept the null hypothesis. My query for searching for all verbs in English and German was applicable, because I intended to analyse the phenomenon of word class change in translations and specifically the transformation of English verbs to other parts-of-speech. I did not filter and put a limitation on my query for specific verbs and/or verb tenses in order to examine the shifts. So the focus of my study was to analyse the translation process of English and German verbs in the case of part-of-speech distributions and to filter out the shifts between the two languages. The limitation of my study is that I only place value at shifts, which are important for my study, for example the grammatical changes within a clause in the process of translation, which often cause word class shifts.

3. Results and discussion

3.1. Contingency table

Now I will present the results from the chi-square test and interpret my findings with the help of the following contingency table:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

The letter o stands for the observed frequencies in my data, whereas the letter e stands for the expected frequencies. In the following, I will briefly introduce the numbers that I have listed above in the chi-square test and the values, which I have calculated with the help of this test: the sample size n is 195 instead of 200, because I had 5 no true hits in my data extraction. The χ2 value, which I have calculated is 6.41. The degree of freedom is 1 and the p-value is 0.01. Since the observed value of χ2 is 6.41 and greater than the critical value 3.84, the null hypothesis “In the translation direction from English to German verbs are changed and kept equally often as in the translation direction from German to English” is rejected, whereas the H1 hypothesis “In the translation direction from English to German verbs are more often translated as another parts-of-speech than in the translation direction from German to English” is confirmed. As the χ2 value is not much larger than the critical value and because the p-value is not significantly lower than 0.05, I can reject the null hypothesis, but without supporting my results with a strong evidence. Here I want to refer to König and Gast (2009: 224), who have already found out that a possible explanation for that could be the wide inventory of verbs in English, which have to be translated as other word classes, for example as nouns and adjectives in German. Because there is not a large inventory of verbs in German compared to English, often word class changes in the translation direction English to German occur, which is also confirmed by the linguist Culo (2008: 50) as an explanation for part-of-speech distributions and shifts. In addition, König and Gast (2009: 224) are of the opinion that the specialized vocabulary in English often causes particular word class changes and leads to nominalizations in German. My investigation has also verified this result, which is going to be presented in the next section with having an overview of some of the part-of-speech shifts in my data sample.

3.2. Analyse of shifts

3.2.1. Bar graph of shifts

In this graphic you can see the occurrence of three part-of-speech distributions that I am going to explain:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

On the left side I have distinguished the two translation directions German originals to English translations and English originals to German translations. The colours of the bars show the kinds of verb to another part-of-speech changes. As you can see, the most significant shift occurs in the translation direction from English originals to German translations, namely the change of verbs to nominalizations. From a total amount of 18 part-of-speech distributions from English to German, 14 English verbs changed to nominalizations in the translation. In the following I will illustrate you a few examples of verbs from my data sample that have changed to nominalizations:

(1) They can also enhance or inhibit the function of many of the cells of the immune system and even <stop> cells growing. (EO_POPSCI_009)

(1a) Sie können au?<9F>erdem die Aktivitäten vieler Zellen des Immunsystems verstärken oder hemmen, ja sie können sogar das Wachstum der Zellen zum Stillstand bringen. (GTRANS_POPSCI_009)

The English verb stop has changed to the German compound noun Stillstand, which is translated with the preposition to and the definite article the in the dative case. König and Gast (2009: 56) have indicated that articles combine with nouns and integrate noun phrases. Among these nominalizations I have also counted the prepositional phrases, as prepositions always occur in connection with noun phrases. There are only a few verbs to another parts-of-speech that were translated as nouns. In the most cases, they are translated as prepositional phrases, as in the following example:

(2) These combinations are ideally suited to <form> hydrogen bonds with each other. (EO_POPSCI_024)

(2a) Diese Kombination ist für die Ausbildung von Wasserstoffbindungen geradezu ideal. (GTRANS_POPSCI_024)

In this example the verb form has also changed to a prepositional phrase […] für die Ausbildung […]. And once again, the same construction as I have mentioned previously in Example 1, is repeated. The nominalization is realized by the preposition for and the definite article the. So prepositions are compound words, which connect noun phrases with other words and clauses. Here I want to refer to the studies of Elke Teich (2001). She examined the term “grammatical metaphor”, which means that an expression in the source language is paraphrased in the target language, for instance, with the help of nominalizations (Teich 2001: 207). As you can see in the above example, the verb form is paraphrased, particularly restated to a noun construction. The reason of the realization of grammatical metaphors lies predominantly in the non-availability of the congruent translation in the target language (Teich 2001: 208). So the text of the source language has to be reshaped and expressed differently in the target text as I have shown in the above example, namely with the aid of nominalizations.

Turning back to the bar graph, one can see that the second part-of-speech distribution is the change of English verbs to German adjectives. There were four verbs, which have changed to adjectives in the translation process. Here is one of the examples from my data:

(3) Although RNA editing <occurs> to some extent in all animals , Alu elements are unique to primates. (EO_POPSCI_040)

(3a) Zwar ist das A-zu-I-Editing in gewissem Umfang bei allen Tieren nachweisbar, Alu-Sequenzen jedoch stellen eine Besonderheit der Primaten dar. (GTRANS_POPSCI_040)

Here the English verb occurs changes to the adjective nachweisbar in the translation.

In the following example the modal verb could changes to the adjective nötig and to the conjunctive form of to be, namely wären in the third person plural:

(4) Creating that many lines <could> require millions of discarded embryos from IVF clinics. (EO_POPSCI_019)

(4a) Dafür wären Millionen überzähliger Embryonen aus Kliniken nötig, die In-vitro-Befruchtungen durchführen. (GTRANS_POPSCI_019)

Here you can see another part-of-speech shift, where the verb increases changes to the adjective leistungsfähiger. The adjective modifies the noun phrase Killerzellen aus Blutproben von Patienten, which functions as the subject of the clause. In addition, the adjective at the end of the sentence is separated by comma and appended to the relative clause die mit etwas Alpha-Interferon behandelt wurden that modifies the noun Patienten. The sentence is separated twice by comma, to make it more structured and thus more understandable. Because of the sentence reduction and the change of punctuation, the sentence is simplified in its structure. So the part-of-speech distribution effects the translation property simplification. According to Baker (1996), one effect of part-of-speech distributions from English to German is simplification. This phenomenon is called a translation universal, which helps the source text to be easier and more understandable in the target text (Baker 1996: 176). This can for example happen with the help of punctuation and sentence cuts (Baker 1996: 188 ff.).

(5) Giving patients small amounts of the interferon before extracting natural killer cells from a blood sample <increases> their killing capacity. (EO_POPSCI_006)

(5a) So sind Killerzellen aus Blutproben von Patienten, die mit etwas Alpha-Interferon behandelt wurden, leistungsfähiger. (GTRANS_POPSCI_006)

Going back to the bar diagram in 3.2. one can see that there are only a few shifts from German to English. In this translation direction only 6 shifts have occurred. This could be explained with the small amount of the data sample, including only 100 sentences. Two verbs have changed to adjectives, three verbs to nominalizations and one verb changed to an adverb in English. One of the part-of-speech shifts, which have mostly occurred, is the verb to nominalization transformation. And again, the noun phrases are indicated by prepositions. Here I have listed two examples from my data, where the method of transposition is involved by word class changes, but without manipulating the meanings of the messages (Vinay and Darbelnet 1995). While the German verb stiften changes to the English noun foundation in example 6, the sense to build up a common future and the importance of the partner for that, stays constant. The word class distribution in example 7 also reflects the method of transposition, where likewise a word class distribution without a sense shift is observed when the German verb entsprechen is translated as the prepositional phrase without corresponding […]. In example 7 it is also remarkable that the German language shines through the English language. The sentence structure in English with its punctuation and the word order is adapted and assimilated to the German sentence structure. In order to hold the meaning and the similar sentence structure, the English sentence is passivized. When the verb in German is splitted into two parts like in this example with the modal verb müssen and the infinitive part passen, the first part of the verb always appears in the second position and the corresponding part at the end of the clause. In the English translation the modal verb must is also in the second position with the corresponding part suited to each other, which functions as a whole verb-phrase construction at the end of the clause.

(6) Er ist Voraussetzung , um eine gemeinsame Geschichte zu <stiften> , in die wir beide eingehen als Ich und Du. (GO_POPSCI_022)

(6a) The partner is a precondition for the perception of this common goal , and for the foundation of a common history in which both of us are recorded as I and You (ETRANS_POPSCI_022).

(7) Die Partner müssen hinreichend zueinander passen , ohne sich gegenseitig völlig zu <entsprechen>. (GO_POPSCI_032)

(7a) The partners must be adequately suited to each other , without corresponding to each other completely. (ETRANS_POPSCI_032)

Here is the single example, where the verb is translated with an adverb construction, where the verb achtet is translated as an adverb phrase […] hardly pays any attention […]. The adverb hardly modifies the verb phrase pays any attention and qualifies the meaning of the verb phrase by indicating a negative meaning to the message.

(8) Heidegger <achtet> kaum auf jene Differenz zwischen Vernunft und Verstand , aus der Hegel noch die Dialektik der Aufklärung entwickeln wollte ; dem Selbstbewu?<9F>tsein vermag er au?<9F>er der autoritären Seite eine versöhnende nicht mehr abzugewinnen. (GO_POPSCI_034)

(8a) Heidegger hardly pays any attention to the difference between reason [ Vernunft ] and understanding [ Verstand ] , out of which Hegel still wanted to develop the dialectic of enlightenment. (ETRANS_POPSCI_034)

I will also introduce the problematic cases of my data extraction in this section and analyze them briefly. Within the 200 sentences that I have chosen randomly, there were 5 sentences that were not true hits. In the following I will exemplarily show two of them:

(9) Fully <fueled> , Cassini-Huygens weighed about 5,500 kilograms and stood 6.8 meters tall. (EO_POPSCI_045)

Here the word fueled functions as an adjective and not as a verb. In this case, the adjective construction fully fueled belongs together, which can be translated as “vollgetankt“ in German. According to König and Gast (2009: 65), adjectives add the morphemes –ly when they mark verbs and adjectives. Thus the word fueled does not function as a verb, it has to be an adjective.

(10) In the early 1980s , however , <funding> for planetary exploration was limited , so officials from NASA and the ESA began to consider combining their resources . (EO_POPSCI_035)

In this example the underlined word does not function as a verb, but as a noun. The verb of the clause was limited stays at the end of the clause. The computer may have applied the noun funding as a verb, because it thought that this is a conjugated verb form with an –ing construction.

4. Conclusion

Going back to my hypothesis “In the translation direction from English to German, verbs are more often translated as another parts-of-speech than in the translation direction German to English” I can say that the small number of part-of-speech shifts in the translation direction German to English has confirmed my suggestion that there are more word class changes in the English-German translation. All in all, I can relate this phenomenon to the translation universals, which were introduced by Mona Baker (1996). They occur more frequently from English into German to bring over the course of the sentence and to represent the meaning of a construction in a simple way. The fact that there are more verbs to another part-of-speech shifts in the translation from English into German and that the majority of these distributions change to nominalizations in German, confirmed my assumption that I have already introduced in the introduction. So the English verbs tend to be simplified more with the help of punctuation, specifically with commas and sentence clipping in the German translation. In the translation direction German to English another translation direction plays a big role. The translation universal shining through often emerges in the translations of German verbs or verb constructions into English. This means that the German language shines through the English language. The German verb translations into English and generally the entire sentence structure with the grammar are translated in a similar, if not the same way into English. Shining through of one language into another means that the typical language features of a source text are adapted to the target language (Teich 2003: 61). The number of shifts in the translation direction English to German that I have gained from my data collection does not exceed my expectations. I have expected far more verb to another part-of-speech shifts as 18. This could be because my data extraction of only 100 sentences is a small amount for the study of word class changes and thus does not provide a significant confirmation of my hypothesis. To avoid the problem in later studies or to increase the number of shifts, a larger data sample could be taken. As in the analysis of verb to another part-of-speech distributions enormous syntactic changes occurred, one could examine the phenomenon of grammatical shifts in the process of word class changes in English and German.


Ende der Leseprobe aus 42 Seiten


Change of verbs into another parts-of-speech in English and German
Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen  (Anglistik der RWTH)
Corpus-based translation studies
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
726 KB
change, english, german
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Hande Hanay (Autor), 2013, Change of verbs into another parts-of-speech in English and German, München, GRIN Verlag,


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