[New Publication] A Look at What is Lost: Combining Bibliographic and Corpus Data to Study Clichés of Translation (Open Access)

By Jan Buts and Deniz Malaymar

Published in Corpus-based Studies across Humanities


This article presents the results of a corpus-assisted study focused on the expression lost in translation in a corpus of English-language online newspapers (NOW), and in two scholarly bibliographic databases (BITRA and SCOPUS). On the surface, the phrase may seem to indicate negative perceptions of translation practice. However, a study of several hundred occurrences of the cliché paints a more complex picture involving a variety of communicative practices and settings. Many occurrences of the phrase address, for instance, broader issues of cultural and interpersonal misunderstanding. In such cases, the perceived failure to establish a meaningful connection can often be ascribed to the absence of attempts at mediation or transmission, thus signalling recognition that the greatest losses occur not because of, but by lack of translation. In addition, the data indicate that lost in translation’s varied usage patterns can be understood in terms of two competing metaphorical frames, namely one of transportation and one of orientation: in translation, one can lose something, but one can just as well get lost. The implications of both metaphorical mappings are further addressed with reference to the issue of visibility, and to discussions about the proper scope of translation studies research.

Keywords: bibliographic study; conceptual metaphor; corpus-assisted approach; news discourse; clichés; translation studies