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Translation / Linguistics: Fully Funded Joint PhD Scholarship: TransMet: Translating Metaphors: The Learner, the Translator and the Machine

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  • Full or part time
    Dr M Fernandez-Parra
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

This scholarship is funded by Swansea University and Université Grenoble Alpes.

Start date: 1 October 2019

Subject areas: Translation, Corpus Linguistics, Machine Translation, Language Learning

Project description:

Both Europe and English-speaking countries have witnessed the decline of methods of language teaching based on grammar and translation, as direct methods were promoted, followed by communicative approaches. This change is well documented in France (see e.g. Harvey 1996), but also in the English-speaking sphere, including India and Pakistan, while translation is still used in language teaching in China (Malmkjaer 2010). Despite recent collective work on the part that translation could play in contemporary language teaching (Witte et al. 2009), translation and language learning have remained a poorly matched couple (Carreres 2006). Cognitive sciences have also explored translation competence as developing from a bilingual substrate (see Schäffner & Adab 2000). However, to our knowledge, the literature lacks systematic comparisons of the linguistic expertise of the professional translator with that of the second language learner.

The translator’s practice involves a whole set of complex tasks, whose description and analysis is currently undertaken by both translation process research (Carl et al. 2016; Ehrensberger-Dow et al. 2015) and translation studies (Chesterman 2017). One way of coming to grips with this complexity is to look at notoriously difficult aspects of translation, and metaphor is one such aspect. Because metaphors are often culturally specific, their untranslatability has been singled out in both contrastive linguistics and translation textbooks half a century ago (see e.g. Vinay & Darbelnet 1959, and Nida 1969). For example, the French metaphor "casser sa pipe" (in which life is likened to a pipe) should be translated into English as the metaphor "to kick the bucket", located in another conceptual field. This asymmetry results in inadequate machine translation outputs, e.g. the Google Translate system translates "il a cassé sa pipe pendant la nuit" as "he broke his pipe overnight". Metaphors, especially those that are less conventional than "kick the bucket", represent a crucial difficulty for translators, second language learners and automatic systems alike.

The current project seeks to bridge the gaps in the literature. Its first originality is to study the translation of the metaphors both in expert translators and in automatic systems. Its second originality is to use the scientific knowledge accumulated on second language acquisition to better understand the ability of professional translators to face the cultural and linguistic challenges caused by the translation of metaphors.

As this is a joint degree, applicants must meet the entry/funder requirements of both universities: a recognised master’s degree in Linguistics and/or Translation Studies and an appropriate English language qualification (

Experience in teaching translation and/or working as a translator or interpreter would be a plus.

Due to funding restrictions, this scholarship is open to UK/EU candidates only.

Funding Notes

This scholarship covers the full cost of UK/EU tuition fees (50% by Swansea University, 50% by Université Grenoble Alpes) and an annual stipend of £15,009 reviewed every year.

Additional funding is available from Swansea University to assist with travel, accommodation and immersive training experiences.

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