AI News, Juan Sobrino Gallego (@J_Sobrino)

Levin, Carole (2018), “Queen Elizabeth and the Power and Language of the Gift”, in Elizabeth I in Writing. Language, Power and Representation in Early Modern England, D.Montini and I.Plescia (eds), New York, Palgrave MacMillan: 213-232.

The primary purpose of this article is to make the case for the teaching of English phrasal verbs in language lessons for trainee interpreters.

oriented perspective, and is not concerned with observing the items of language that phrasal verbs are translating, but rather with the more general questions of whether phrasal verbs are used by native and native-like interpreters, and whether there is therefore a need for non-native interpreters to use them.

Given the lack of availability of transcribed interpretations, the corpora are necessarily small, but Aston (1997) argues that interesting results and applications can be derived from small corpora, and Flowerdew (2004) points out that if a corpus is specialised enough, small size is enough to provide satisfactory results –

The cognitive complexity of the process of simultaneous interpretation requires extensive knowledge of the source and target languages, while time constraints imply there must be swift access to that knowledge both in the sense of plausibly accurate comprehension and in the sense of adequately synchronic production.

The initial response to this challenge was that interpreters should work only towards their mother tongue (Herbert 1952: 61), and that simultaneous interpreting, in particular, should ideally be the exclusive preserve of native speakers (Seleskovitch 1978: 100), working from their foreign active or passive language(s) (or B and C languages, respectively) to their native language (or language A according to AIIC’s classification).

One essential aspect of such preparation for working towards B, in other words for working towards the non-native language, is the effort to bring the productive language skills of the non-native speaker nearer to the proficiency level of the native speaker.

From the point of view of production, the fact that native speakers know formulaic sequences (Wray 2002), in other words ready-formed phrases or strings or slot and filler patterns, brings processing advantages in reducing cognitive load and freeing up attention.

(1999), the subclass can be further divided, on the one hand, into free combinations of verbs and prepositions, which are not formulaic sequences, and on the other, into prepositional verbs, phrasal verbs, phrasal-prepositional verbs, and other multiword verb constructions, which are formulaic sequences (Biber et al: 1999: 403–427).

For reasons then of processing advantages and expediency, combined with their high frequency in the English language as predicted by the BNC, one would expect to find a reasonably high occurrence of phrasal verbs in English produced by English native-speakers and native-like simultaneous interpreters.

While one would expect experienced native and native-like interpreters working towards English to have moved beyond such difficulties, this is not necessarily the case where interpreters are non-natives working towards English as a B language, particularly if they are trainees or beginning professionals.

Given that phrasal verbs are so difficult to acquire, and that even in non-interpreters of advanced proficiency levels there is a tendency to avoid using them (Siyanova and Schmitt 2007: 129), one would expect that interpreters will to some extent avoid using them when working towards English as a B language in the booth.

The second category, idiomatic phrasal verbs, is exemplified by make up with the meaning of ‘become reconciled’, where (to use the analytical method proposed by Grant and Bauer 2004: 44, which relies on Frege’s principle of compositionality as cited in Lyons 1995: 24) the meaning of the phrase is not recoverable from any dictionary definition of the word make combined with any dictionary definition of the word up –

Alongside such non-compositional items as make up, which Grant and Bauer would call ‘core idioms’, there are phrasal verbs whose meanings are recoverable by means of a shared understanding, between utterance producer and utterance recipient, of figures of speech such as metaphor (Grant and Bauer 2004: 49).

One example is stand out, as in his writing stands out among that of his contemporaries, but while this example is metaphorical, Grant and Bauer (2004: 49) point out that figurative language (obviously including figurative phrasal verbs) includes all figures of speech, whose meanings are all equally recoverable through ‘taking a conversational untruth and extracting probable truth from it by an act of pragmatic interpretation’

This is the definition of aspectual phrasal verbs in the words of Darwin and Gray (1999: 68): Aspectual verbs are thoroughly discussed by Side (1990), but many of his examples are figurative in addition to being aspectual, for example took off in his business really took off (Side 1990: 148) derives its meaning not only from the aspectual off meaning departure, but also by analogy with an aircraft taking off.

Siyanova and Schmitt (2007: 132) cite Laufer (1997), Moon (1997) and Wray (2000) as finding that ‘both teachers and learners find idiomatic multi-word units more difficult than their nonidiomatic counterparts, which is likely to lead to avoidance behaviour’

A reading of Siyanova-Chanturia and Martinez (2015: 555) demonstrates that these difficulties have been observed empirically, and while the cited studies did not focus specifically on phrasal verbs, their conclusions about idiomatic phrases in general can be inferred to apply to idiomatic/figurative phrasal verbs, which are part of the same category.

Siyanova-Chanturia, Conklin and Schmitt 2011) reported NNS as processing literal uses of words used in idioms more quickly than they processed the same words used figuratively or idiomatically, while the reverse held for NS, who were shown to gain processing advantages from the use of idiomatic phrases (Siyanova-Chanturia and Martinez 2015: 555).

A study using CEUE (the Corpus of EU English), a 200,000 word corpus of EU documents intended for the general public, found a frequency of 1 every 200 words (Trebits 2009: 276), which is comparable to the frequency of 1 every 192 words found in the BNC (Gardner and Davies 2007: 347).

On the basis of the arguments in sections 3.1–3.3 above, in other words on the basis of (a) the processing advantages of multi-word expressions of which category phrasal verbs form a part (sections 2 and 3.1), of (b) their expediency in the sense that they are short and quick to say (section 3.1), of (c) their high frequency in the English language as shown by the BNC, and of (d) the finding that they occur frequently in international English as shown by Trebits (2009) (section 3.3), it was hypothesised that phrasal verbs will occur frequently in the English of native speaker and native-like interpreters.

On the basis (a) that non-native speakers find it difficult to acquire phrasal verbs, as shown in section 3.2 above, and (b) of the likelihood that non-native interpreters will respond to the pressure experienced during SI by retreating to more automatised structures analogous to those of their mother tongue (also in section 3.2), it was hypothesised that phrasal verbs will not occur reasonably frequently in the English of non-native interpreters working towards English as a B language.

This would be regardless of genres and written/spoken production, on the principle that the structural and semantic difficulties outlined in section 3.2 above are intrinsic to the phrasal verb in itself, independently of the genre or mode (spoken or written) in which it is used.

With the aim of providing descriptions of situated use that could be used in language lessons for trainee interpreters, as mentioned in section 3.2 above, it was decided (in addition to investigating Hypotheses 1 and 2) to use the study in an exploratory way, to find out precisely which phrasal verbs are shown by the data to be used in interpreted English, and for which functions they were used.

To help structure an exploration of exactly how the phrasal verbs were used, and to permit evaluation of the role that phrasal verbs might play in furthering the task of the interpreter, reference was made to the concept of the three metafunctions in Hallidayan systemic functional grammar –

The researcher’s judgement of the ideational, textual or interpersonal metafunction of each phrasal verb examined is necessarily subjective, although this subjectivity was constrained by repeated analysis after a month’s interval, which resulted in an index of consistency of 98 per cent.

One reason here for distinguishing in the data between the three metafunctions is that it permits evaluation of the potential value of the effort taken to learn a particular phrasal verb, through distinguishing between interpreting process, which is predictable, because it recurs, and interpreted speaker’s translated product, which is unpredictable.

As Setton describes it, the re-creation of textual structure is part and parcel of the process of simultaneous interpretation: So it is clearly worthwhile identifying phrasal verbs used with textual metafunction, describing their exact functions, and presenting them to trainees as high priority lexical items.

On the basis of the probability that they are likely to be experienced at textualisation towards English, and at the same time are likely to take advantage of the processing advantages of use of phrasal verbs as outlined in sections 2 and 3.1, it was predicted that the native or native-like interpreters of INT-A would tend to use phrasal verbs for textual metafunction.

On the basis of the difficulties that non-natives have in producing phrasal verbs as outlined above, and on the basis that non-native interpreters have relatively little experience of textualisation towards English, it was predicted that non-native interpreters working towards English as B would tend not to use phrasal verbs with textual metafunction.

On a similar basis of the likely experience of the native or native-like interpreters working B to A of mediating aspects of interpretation, combined with their knowledge of ready-made phrasal verb expressions on the one hand, and on the other hand on the basis of the difficulties non-natives have in producing phrasal verbs combined with the added processing load of the A to B interpreter, the following hypothesis was formulated.

Given the evidence of processing difficulties experienced by NNS with idiomatic/figurative phrases, and of processing advantages experienced by NS, as cited in section 3.2 above, it can be hypothesised that non-native interpreters working towards their B language will use idiomatic/figurative phrasal verbs less often per 1000 words than native or native-like interpreters.

To verify whether multiword verbs in concordances were phrasal (and hence eligible for inclusion in the results) or prepositional (and thus excluded from the results) I used the following operational procedures, based on syntactic descriptions from Biber et al.

Once the above syntactic criteria were fulfilled, a phrase was accepted as a phrasal verb independently of any notional lists of canonical phrasal verbs, on the principle that phrasal verbs are an open-ended, productive category in which the standard adverbial particles can combine with new lexical verbs to create new meanings (Side 1990: 146).

When it was necessary to find the frequency in the BNC of a phrasal verb that was not listed by Gardner and Davies (2007), the online BYU-BNC (Davies 2004) was consulted, with a collocation search starting with the POS-tagged adverbial particle and looking for the lexical verb within a span of three words to the left.

For Hypothesis 5, phrasal verbs were classified as idiomatic/figurative if the meaning of the whole phrase was figurative, or if the meaning of the whole phrase was non-compositional in the sense that the meaning could not be deduced from summing the literal meanings (as defined in section 3.2 above) of the verb and the particle.

In particular, it seems likely that the literature and journalism together with the dialogue present in the BNC will present narrative and interactional contexts of use of a large number of phrasal verb lemmas, whereas those same contexts of use are absent from the discourse sampled in INT-A.

Assuming that interpreters towards English speak at 132–136 words per minute (Bendazzoli 2010: 149, 152), and taking the average of 134, it means interpreters were using on average one phrasal verb token approximately every 106 seconds;

According to this measure, the ten most characteristic verbs, in descending order, are bring on, move on, send in, send out, open up, draw up, move in, bring in, and come up (these verbs will be further discussed in sections 6.5 and 6.6).

In INT_B, there were 59 phrasal verb tokens, representing one phrasal verb token every 409 words, which means that the non-native interpreters used phrasal verbs as a category much less often than the interpreters of INT-A, and much less often than in the BNC, which confirms Hypothesis 2, and this in turn confirms the theory that processing difficulties make the choice of phrasal verbs by non-native interpreters less likely.

There was a considerable difference in the phrasal verb lemmas that were most frequent in INT-A and INT-B, as can be seen from Table 2, which shows the top 25 verbs in INT-A together with the rank orders, raw and normalised frequencies (per million) of the same verbs in INT-B, and the rank and ratio of keyness of the verbs in INT-B relative to the BNC.

Table 2: Comparison of phrasal verbs in INT-A and INT-B Of course, it is easy to object to the finding that there was a lower frequency of phrasal verbs in INT-B than in INT-A on the grounds that the frequency differences are explicable in terms of the subject matter translated in INT-A being inherently more suitable for translation by phrasal verbs than the subject matter translated in INT-B.

At one every 401 words, the NS interpreter uses phrasal verbs less frequently than they are used in INT-A as a whole (see the first paragraph of section 6.1), so this would seem to confirm that discussions about cystic fibrosis do seem to require phrasal verb translations relatively seldom.

So, given the evidence presented in section 3.2, the greater processing difficulties phrasal verbs present to non-native interpreters would seem to be a good candidate for an additional explanation for the lower frequency of phrasal verbs in INT-B.

Conversely, the data in terms of the much lower frequency of phrasal verbs used with textual metafunction in INT-B suggests that in tending not to use phrasal verbs when constructing the ongoing sense of their interpretations, non-native interpreters are neglecting a valuable resource.

As Table 3 shows, phrasal verbs with interactional metafunction were relatively well represented in INT-B, with examples like the following: (9) please hand back the headset and receivers for the interpretation to the desk at the entrance (10) just five minutes while filling in the questionnaire and pick up the devices the headsets All of these examples show how phrasal verbs are used by interpreters in their integral role of mediator, to expedite event proceedings.

Phrasal verbs used with textual metafunction are also indexical to the interpreter’s role, being involved in the interpreting process in the sense of Setton’s account of online meaning assembly, which sees simultaneous interpreters as involved in a continuous process of simulating and recreating context: The way that phrasal verbs convey the process of creation and articulation of textual meaning in SI is shown in examples (11) to (19) from INT-A.

(16) And that brings me back to what I was saying at the very beginning (17) this allowed us to focus down to narrow down the field to (18) Now we'll go on with the er debate (19) Well, I would like to er pick up on the point on the credit rating agencies.

But given that message construction with attendant textualisation should be taking place in both contexts, it is equally plausible to explain the low frequency of phrasal verbs with textual metafunction in INT-B through a lack of experience on the part of the non-native interpreters of textualising in English, or simply through the pressure of the SI situation, both of which plausibly result in the signalling of textual structure through structures transferable from the mother tongue, rather than through phrasal verbs.

As indicated above, some phrasal verbs used with ideational meaning are likely to recur whatever the subject matter being translated, such as certain mental process verbs, while others will be linked with a more restricted, specialised context.

Starting with mental processes, some of the more frequent phrasal verbs in INT-A form components of collocations or slot and filler patterns that extend the phrasal verb into longer multiword expressions which are likely to be formulaic sequences particularly worth learning for non-native interpreters.

Moving on to material processes, carry out was also observed to combine in INT-A with collocates in formulaic sequences, notably with analysis (three times), checks (three times), a study/studies (three times), actions (twice) and noun phrase modifier + activities (twice) –

The material process verbs draw up and open up, as shown by their contexts viewed in the KWIC concordances, are productive in the context of interpreting in the sense that they refer to content that interpreters in international institutions are likely to repeatedly experience and then produce.

The noun collocates of open up are mostly (nine times) the word market or synonyms of market, reflecting the current preoccupation of the European parliament with market-led economics, which in turn explains the number five ranking of this item in the INT-A keyness scale (see Table 1).

One formulaic sequence was discernible in the case of bring in, which is its collocation with new (three times), and, more generally, there was an association with the semantic field of innovation (eight times), involving adjectives like extraordinary and nouns like improvement and advances.

In this respect, with ideational function, non-native interpreters appear to be behaving like native and native-like interpreters, in using phrasal verbs as a processing resource, rather than experiencing them as a processing difficulty (though, the frequency figures suggest, with non-native interpreters this happens much less often).

Table 4: Idiomatic/figurative, aspectual and literal phrasal verbs In contrast, inherently less frequent non-literal phrasal verbs did occur in INT-A, with the presence (mostly as one-off occurrences) both of non-compositional lemmas like beef up, crop up, kick in and stump up, and of lemmas used figuratively, such as chime in, float around, iron out, thrash out and whittle down, to name some examples of verbs found on the BYU-BNC to have frequencies lower than the 4.23 per million threshold.

This occurrence of not particularly frequent idiomatic and figurative items in the INT-A corpus is another way in which the corpus shows that use of phrasal verbs in interpreted language resembles the use of phrasal verbs in the language as a whole, and is consonant with the theory that NS and native-like interpreters, like English speakers in general, derive processing advantages from the use of such idiomatic/figurative phrases.

It is conceded that the small size of the INT-B corpus, and the restriction of the corpus to only part of three conferences with just a small section of parliamentary interpreting, must make finding number 5, that there is a relatively low frequency of phrasal verbs by non-native speakers, a tentative one.

Overall, however, the results found in both INT-A and in INT-B are in accord with the theories that propose that native speakers find processing advantages in phrasal verbs while non-natives find processing difficulties, and for that reason it seems likely that replication of the research with a larger and more varied non-native interpreter corpus would result in similar findings.

The lower frequencies of phrasal verbs in the non-native interpreters corpus suggests that there is room for improvement in phrasal verb knowledge if non-natives are to more nearly approach native or native-like standards in terms of readiness of automatised formulaic sequences involving phrasal verbs during meaning assembly when working from A to B.

The literature suggests that, partly because of the large number of non-literal phrasal verbs, acquisition cannot be left to simple experience, even when residence in an English speaking country is involved (Siyanova and Schmitt 2007), and this in turn suggests that for improvement in knowledge of phrasal verbs to take place, there must be some form of designed instruction, preferably before trainees begin interpreting work, and preferably involving attentional processes (Schmidt 1990).