Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Translation and Linguistics
Academic Year
Semester 1
Normally a 2:2 degree in French, German and/or Spanish
External Examiners
  • Dr Geraldine Horan (Lecturer - University College London)
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminar 10 x 2 Hour Seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 x 5,000 word project  100%
Supplementary Assessment Resubmission of project  100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. demonstrate a critical understanding of a selection of dictionaries and machine-translation software
1. analyse and discuss the usefulness of a selection of dictionaries and machine-translation software
2. display a clear understanding of how semantics applies to specific translation problems
3. demonstrate that they have acquired advanced skills as critics of particular translation choices, analysed from a linguistically-informed perspective
4. demonstrate that they have acquired a sophisticated analytical skill in understanding the semantic problems inherent in translation
5. use secondary literature critically
6. express themselves clearly, coherently and in a logical fashion, both orally and in writing
7. demonstrate that they have a solid foundation for further postgraduate research in related areas


This module is designed to be a module in the new MA in Translation. It is intended to complement the other modules and to offer students the chance to address the more strictly linguistic questions raised by the activity of translation, e.g. elements of the history of translation, aspects of contrastive linguistics, semantics, and cognitive linguistics. It could also be offered as an option within an MA in Comparative Literature.

Brief description

Translation as an activity and as a mental process obviously raises linguistic questions going far beyond the struggle to find legitimate equivalents in the target language of words and idioms in the source. These include questions of contrastive linguistics; the semantics of how different languages handle the same concepts; the possibility that some ideas are in fact present in one language and absent from another; and the problem (which can shade into the neuroscience of bilingualism) of how the brain processes more than one language at the same time. Translation is thus part of cognitive linguistics.
The linguistic processes outlined above, together in some cases with applications derived from natural-language analysis and parsing, underlie the development of translation software. The module will discuss not only the (inadequate) machine translation offered by e.g. Google or Babelfish (which use probabilistic algorithms to generate translations) but the more advanced, commercially-available storage systems such as Trados.
Finally, the module will reconsider the development of the translator's key tool, the dictionary, increasingly used in electronic rather than paper form, and the advances which modern lexicography has made through the evolution of large-scale electronic corpora (including the use of the internet as a corpus to test validity of expressions).The aim of this module is to familiarize the students with issues regarding translation and linguistics, including electronic dictionaries and translation technologies.


5 seminars:
History of translation from Classical times onwards.
Contrastive linguistics: how does this underlie and inform translation?
Semantics: meaning, language, and translation. How does translation challenge and reinforce the findings of semantics?
Cognitive linguistics and translation: what can each learn from the other?

5 workshops:
Dictionaries as translation tools.
Electronic resources: corpora and on-line materials.
Translation software (1): Google, Babelfish, etc.
Translation software (2): Trados.
Case-studies of translation challenges and why a better understanding of linguistics would have helped.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number Some understanding of basic principles of probabilistic algorithms will be needed.
Communication Participating in workshops and seminars and writing of project will require student to express their ideas clearly, cogently and coherently.
Improving own Learning and Performance Independent preparation for project and seminars/workshops, independent research for project and seminars/workshops.
Information Technology Students will be required to access bibliographical information and to submit word processed projects. They will also be expected to use web resources for research, and to use translation software and electronic resources such as corpora and online dictionaries
Personal Development and Career planning Students will be expected to show an ability to manage their own time effectively and to engage in independent lines of research in preparing their projects.
Problem solving Selection of reading material, answering questions posed by written assessment, seminar work
Research skills Researching for project and for seminars and workshops
Subject Specific Skills Knowledge of a selection of dictionaries and machine-translation software. This is an important professional but also subject-specific skill.
Team work This will apply in the seminars and workshops


This module is at CQFW Level 7