Directionality in ETS


Directionality in empirical translation studies: Triangulating product and process data

English serving as the language of supracultural communication, the amount of translation work into it is anything but negligible. However, because native English-speaking translators cannot always be easily reached (given temporal, spatial, and financial constraints), translation into English is regularly carried out by non-native speakers (Campbell, 1998). Upheld by many international organizations, the mother tongue principle (Thelen, 2005), which precludes professional translators from working in the L1>L2 translation direction (on the assumption that being a native speaker of the target language constitutes a proof of quality), is thus often violated (Pavlović, 2007; Whyatt & Kościuczuk, 2013). Interesting as contemporary translation practices may be, and despite the scholarly attention the issue of directionality (L1 vs. L2 translation) has received in recent years, the construct remains under-researched in empirical translation studies (ETS), with studies focusing mostly on the process/cognitive aspects of L1 and L2 translation (Ferreira et al., 2016; Whyatt, 2018).

The present project, firmly rooted in empirical translation studies and usage-based cognitive linguistics, aims at investigating directionality through the prism of two translation features, namely simplification and explicitation. It deals specifically with the French-English language pair, looking at two aspects that are essential to language usage: production (as represented in computerized corpora) and processing (as visible through, for example, keyboard logging).

This PhD project has three main objectives:

  • Descriptive: to qualify claims on directionality by describing, on the basis of solid empirical evidence (viz., the product and process output of student translators working into L1 and L2), the typical (product/linguistic and process/cognitive) properties of L1 and L2 translation;
  • Theoretical: to refine our understanding of simplification and explicitation as translation features, building bridges between translation studies and other fields such as second language acquisition, learner corpus research, readability research, and pragmatics, in which the notions of simplicity/complexity and explicitness/implicitness have been widely studied;
  • Methodological: to develop reliable linguistic operationalizations for simplification and explicitation, testing the potential of product-process/linguistic-cognitive triangulation in empirical translation studies.

This project was funded by UCLouvain's Fonds Spécial de la Recherche between 2018 and 2020 and is currently being funded by the Belgian National Fund for Scientific Research (F.R.S.-FNRS).

Supervisors: Gaëtanelle Gilquin and Marie-Aude Lefer
PhD Candidate: Laura Aguiar de Souza Penha Marion


Campbell, S. (1998). Translation into the second language. Abingdon, England: Routledge.
Ferreira, A. A., Schwieter, J. W., Gottardo, A., & Jones, J. (2016). Cognitive effort in direct and inverse translation performance: Insight from eye-tracking technology. Cadernos de Tradução, 36(3), 60–80.
Pavlović, N. (2007). Directionality in translation and interpreting practice. Report on a questionnaire survey in Croatia. In A. Pym & A. Perekrestenko (Eds.), Translation research projects (Vol. 1, pp. 79–95). Tarragona, Spain: Intercultural Studies Group.
Thelen, M. (2005). Translating into English as a non-native language: The Dutch connection. In G. Anderman & M. Rogers (Eds.), In and out of English: For better, for worse? (pp. 242–255). Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters Ltd.
Whyatt, B. (2018). Old habits die hard: Towards understanding L2 translation. Między Oryginałem a Przekładem [Between Originals and Translations], 24(41), 89–112. doi:10.12797/MOaP.24.2018.41.05
Whyatt, B., & Kościuczuk, T. (2013). Translation into a non-native language: The double life of the native-speakership axiom. mTm Translation Journal, 5, 60–79.