The evaluative prosody of forms of government and power

-cracy and –archy, is this prosody inheritable and what are the implications for translation?

By Alan Partington (Università di Bologna, Italy)

Abstract & Keywords

In the first part I discuss the methods used and observations which emerged from a couple of lessons I taught at the Scuola Superiore per Interpreti e Traduttori of the University of Bologna (SSLMIT), in which my students and I examined the evaluative prosodies of a number of items relating to forms of power, namely items which end in the word particles -cracy, -cratic, -archy, -archic. I then describe some of the further research and teaching I carried out on these topics. I investigated in particular whether new, ad hoc formations based on these particles, for example liberalocracy, in some way inherited the – generally negative - evaluative tendency. I hypothesise that this semi-hidden critical connotation may be the very reason for such items being coined. Finally I look at the potential for irony in the invention and use of such items, and speculate that research into the use of lookalike particles to the ones discussed here in other languages could be of interest to translators.

Keywords: evaluation, corpus-assisted discourse studies, semantic prosody, suffixes, political linguistics

©inTRAlinea & Alan Partington (2018).
"The evaluative prosody of forms of government and power -cracy and –archy, is this prosody inheritable and what are the implications for translation?"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: Translation And Interpreting for Language Learners (TAIL)
Edited by: Laurie Anderson, Laura Gavioli and Federico Zanettin
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Stable URL: http://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/2299

1. Introduction

In the first part of this chapter I will recount a couple of lessons I taught at the School for Translators and Interpreters (SSLMIT) in Forlì, in which my students and I examined how the evaluative (often called semantic) prosodies of a number of items relating to the holding and wielding of power, i.e. items which end in -cracy, -cratic, -archy, -archic, reflect general attitudes towards the various forms of government, as expressed, in particular, in the language of the press. A four-million word corpus of newspaper articles compiled with the help of Guy Aston from the Independent (UK, early to mid-1990s), divided into five sections – home news, international news, arts, business and sports – was the principal corpus interrogated. Unless otherwise specified, it is data from this corpus which is being discussed. To investigate some of the less frequent lexical items, a number of other corpora were called upon, including  FROWN (one million words, US), FLOB (one million words, UK) and the British National Corpus (100 million words, UK). All of these contain a considerable number of newspaper texts. I also collected examples from the Telegraph (UK, 66 million words, 1993) on CD-Rom.

In the second part of the chapter I will outline some of the further research and teaching I carried out on these topics. The main corpora used in these studies, the SiBol suite of newspaper corpora (described in Section 5.1), were much larger and some finer details became apparent, which confirmed and extended the earlier classroom-led research.

2. Evaluation and evaluative prosody

Evaluation is intended here in the essentialist dualistic, bi-dimensional sense of “the indication of whether the speaker thinks that something (a person, thing, action, event, situation, idea, etc.) is good or bad” (Thompson, 1996: 65), is positive or negative, is favourable or unfavourable (usually, of course, from the point of view of the speaker or writer). Goodness and badness can, of course, come in many forms: for example, “good” because pleasurable, profitable, healthy, being in control, and so on, “bad” because dangerous, difficult, not being in control, and so on.

One of the earliest and most important discoveries of corpus linguistics was that the evaluative polarity, positive or negative, of some lexical items was “non-obvious”, that is, not immediately evident to competent users’ introspection. It only becomes apparent when a sizeable number of examples of the use in context of the lexical item are collected and examined together. The concordance was the perfect tool for doing this. Sinclair was among the first to notice how this was possible. On the item set in he observes: “the most striking feature of this phrasal verb is the nature of the subjects. In general they refer to unpleasant states of affairs [such as] rot (3), decay, malaise, despair, ill-will, decadence, impoverishment, infection” (Sinclair, 1987: 155-156). Over time corpus linguists have uncovered a good number of such items with “non-obvious” evaluative polarity, such as happen, end up with, deliberately, par for the course, fraught with (all negative) and provide, career, make a difference, brimming with (all positive). The way the non-obvious evaluation is uncovered is by examining the other lexical items which occur in the context of the search word. This is why the word prosody, meaning ‘extended over a section of text’, was adopted, since the evaluation is, as it were, spread throughout the phrase. This, then, is what ­I wanted to encourage my students to do, that is, to look at lexical items expressing government and the wielding of power to see whether, when writers use them, they are expressing an “invisible” good or bad evaluation.

I had already introduced the idea of non-obvious evaluative prosody to the class in a previous lesson. We had, firstly, contrasted the co-texts in concordances of the two items brimming with and fraught with, noting how the former is almost always found in positive contexts, the latter in negative. We will return to the concordance of brimming with in Section 5. As for fraught with, although I no longer have access to the original concordances. The following concordance of the former, from SiBol 05, a more recent newspaper corpus (see Section 5.1), demonstrates not only how the co-textual items, especially to the right of the searchword, are not only negative but fall into at least three particular categories of ‘bad’, namely, (i) danger/risk, (ii) problem/complication and (iii) anxiety.

 

Table 1. Edited concordance of fraught with, from the Telegraph section of the SiBol 05 corpus.

We also looked a concordance of the item orchestrat*  noting how the evaluative use of the item alters depending on the field it is employed in (Morley and Partington, 2009). Used non-figuratively in referring to music, the evaluation is very good, for example:

(1) And three piano Preludes from Colin Matthews's ongoing series of orchestrations are wonderful discoveries: effortlessly clothed in the soundworld of late Debussy […]

but used figuratively in politics it becomes very bad, for instance:

(2) […] believe that between 1915 and 1923 the Ottoman Turkish authorities orchestrated the killing of 1.5 million Armenian Christians.

whereas, when used semi-figuratively in sports it reverts to being positive again:

(3) After missing an easy penalty chance, Michalak orchestrated the fine move that saw Cedric Heymans score the first try.

All examples are from the Guardian section of the SiBol 05 corpus.

A considerable body of academic work has accumulated examining the evaluative prosody of such items. But far less attention has been given to the prosodic behaviour of word particles, that is, segments which go to make up other words, potentially several other words, here in particular items from the field of socio-politics. This then was not just a data-driven lesson to raise awareness of the features of non-obvious evaluation, but was an instance of group enquiry into a fresh academic research question, namely, how do writers employ these particles in the sorts of texts envisaged in this study?

3. The –cracy group of words

Bertaccini (personal communication), a colleague of mine at the time at the SSLMIT, University of Bologna (at Forlì), noted in a study of an Italian-French parallel corpus of political texts from newspapers that the items democrazia, democracie and democratico, democratique tended to be associated with some kind of favourable evaluation, whereas all other items ending in -cracy, -cratic had an unfavourable evaluation. Looking at similar items in English newspaper texts, in the Independent corpus, democracy and democratic were also found to have an overwhelmingly favourable prosody, for example:

(4) the ideals which swept it to power: freedom and democracy, bread and justice. The alternative is one-man rule, thievery and special privilege

(5) I want to help South Africa become democratic and prosperous and avoid descending into further violence and poverty

(6) Nor do I believe in obstructing democracy: that is why I oppose repression and the state of emergency.

In these examples democracy finds itself among a number of other good things: freedom, justice, prosperous, and opposed to a number to a number of bad things: violence, poverty and repression. We can have little doubt that the writers are evaluating it very positively. The only seemingly negative environment it was found in was the following:

(7) Democracy is, of course, a tedious process,

But there is irony here, and the implication of the words of course is that democracy may be tedious, but it is also necessary.

The Telegraph is also capable of irony when it comes to describing other people’s so-called “democracy”:

(8) …those who recall that the most recent lessons in Chinese democracy were handed out in Tiananmen Square.

If we look closely at the rhetoric of many of the concordance examples, democracy often seems to be a very vague notion, something that “all right-minded people must be in favour of”, like “freedom” or “justice” or “the opposite of oppression”. It means all things to all men, a fact which occasionally is made explicit:

(9) But it is the theory of democracy as the right of the majority to rule which is seen as central, rather than democracy as the preservation of minority rights.

And if democracy is “a Good Thing”, then we must have more of it, and we duly find a large number of cases where democracy or democratic collocate with more, greater, better, improve:

(10) More generally, he called for greater ‘openness and democracy’ in the Community's institutions,

(11) its present, more vocal, leaders would be happy with a freer, more democratic and humane form of socialism.

(12) Mr Lo decided that Hong Kong was ready for a quicker pace of democracy

It would seem than, that on many occasions, almost the entire meaning of democracy and democratic is their favourable prosody. In fact, it could be argued that these items do not fall into the category of non-obvious evaluation. But what of other –cracy words?

Of the other items which finish in -cracy, -cratic present in the corpora, the most common are aristocracy / -cratic (12 and 28 occurrences respectively), autocracy / -cratic (2 and 16) and bureaucracy / -cratic (53 and 39). The last of these, as can be imagined, is found in overwhelmingly unfavourable environments and is very definitely seen as “a Bad Thing”, something all right-thinking people deplore. It collocates with petty, top-heavy, unnecessary, cumbersome, overweight, nightmarish as well as - significantly, in the light of the Brexit referendum - Brussels. People are burdened, ensnared, dogged, and get tangled up in bureaucracy. It is found in the company of mismanagement, barriers, blunders and, interestingly, spending. In stark contrast to democracy, the more of it we have, the worse off we are:

(13) we none of us want a bureaucratic, centralised, homogenised Europe,’ Mr  Hurd said

(14) To cope with such cases a ‘simple, quick, non-bureaucratic procedure is needed

Half the meaning of bureaucracy / -cratic, then, would seem to be its adverse prosody.

Turning to aristocracy / -cratic, it is difficult to discern any consistent favourable or unfavourable prosody. Aristocracy is usually used in a descriptive sense and is frequently accompanied by an adjective specifying the particular geographical or historical identity of a group e.g. local, Saxon, Roman, pagan and so on. The item aristocratic collocates on occasion with terms expressing some sort of value judgement. When it is applied to a person, the description aristocratic would generally appear to be something to be proud of, e.g. “Socrates, Brazil's tall, aristocratic captain”. Only on one occasion is it found in an undoubtedly unfavourable light: “with their traditional snobbish aristocratic associations”. Both aristocracy and aristocratic are often placed in opposition to some other form of rule, such as monarchy or democracy, or some other way of seeing social relationships, e.g. plebeian or egalitarian.

Autocracy / -cratic, on the other hand, seems to have all the unfavourable prosody that aristocracy / -cratic lacks. There is a world of difference between possessing an aristocratic style and having an autocratic one. The term is rarely used in a descriptive sense and the incidence of the adjective being employed to pass a value judgement far outweighs that of the noun being used to describe a form of government. Those who practice autocracy naturally have power and autocratic duly collocates with powers, ruler, ruling, leader, ultra-centralized and ownership. But they do not, unfortunately, always use it well, and so we also find vice, stern, ruthless and paternalistic. They amass powers and “ride rough-shod over the constitution”. They are sometimes seen as old (twice) and anachronistic. There is a single positive descriptor endearingly autocratic, but the context is a humorous, ironic one.

A number of less common -cracy, -cratic words, namely, technocracy / -cratic, plutocracy / -cratic and  meritocracy / -cratic proved to be most interesting. Given the paucity of occurrences of these items in the Independent corpus, we included technocrat(s) (6), plutocrat(s) (2) and meritocrat(s) (1) in the study. There was evidence that technocracy / -ocratic / -ocrat(s) possesses an unfavourable prosody for the Independent:

(15) Replying to Sir Leon's defence, he warned him ‘not to be deaf to others in the community in technocratic smugness […]’

(16) equipped with microphone headsets and miniature televisions, the witches are played as suave technocrats, moving among humanity with invisible malice,  

On one occasion, it is seen as even worse than bureaucracy:

(17) Yet now it is the technocrats and the Establishment against whom he rails in his attacks on Maastricht.  ‘I am not denouncing bureaucracy, it exists everywhere. Technocracy is a system where political power is wielded by technicians. It is completely different,’

Nor does plutocracy / -cratic / -crat(s) seem to get a good press from either the Independent:

(18) The court in this version is a marble floored palace of plutocracy, all ringing phones and       subservient yuppies,

(19) The interactions of the three groups - aristocrats, bureaucrats and stingy Western plutocrats

or the Telegraph, in which plutocrats are boorish, palate-dead and short-tempered. At worst they are the enemy of democracy:

(20) …the corrupt political system, run hitherto by […] LDP godfathers, government bureaucrats and corporate plutocrats

But it also often has a comic, somewhat ironic or sarcastic connotation: “at the expense of a few nobs and plutocrats”, “the plutocracy of Burnley and Blackburn” (two bleak industrial towns in the north-west of England), “although £50 was nice, it didn’t make him a plutocrat”. It also, strangely, frequently has to do with eating in restaurants - for the Telegraph, at least, a plutocratic experience. On the slim evidence provided by the Independent corpus meritocracy / -cratic / -crat(s) is sometimes a good thing, sometimes not, depending on the sphere one meets it in. In the sports pages it tends to mean choosing the best elements of a team and is placed in opposition to favouritism or time-serving:

(21) In Australia, selection is meritocratic; in England, all too often, it is hierarchical, based on seniority.

But in the other texts, meritocrat / meritocratic seems to be something alien to the ordinary folk: there are the meritocrats and then there are you and me:

(22) David democratically allotted Dave the same respectful tone which he adopted for the lists of more conventionally accepted meritocrats packing Westminster Abbey

(23) Ambition. It's the great driving force in a meritocratic society, the ruling characteristic of contemporary Britain. Who runs the country? Ambitious people. Who gets to be in charge of the big institutions? Not necessarily good people,

The conservative Telegraph is also none too keen on meritocracy but for different reasons. It smacks of all that is objectionable in the modern age, in our hard meritocratic world, inhabited by hard-nosed meritocrats where bland meritocratic classlessness reigns. It applies the appellation to people and groups it does not like – French, Germans and Hillary Clinton. On occasion, it seems to be a polite synonym for “lower class”: “

(24) Eddie George is the meritocratic Governor of the Bank of England. A man of modest origins […]

In the US material (FROWN), interestingly, all of the five occurrences were positive. However, four of them were contained in a single text in which meritocracy was placed in opposition to positive discrimination and quota systems and the author’s personal taste was for the former.

The corpus evidence gives some comfort to the original research hypothesis that democracy / democratic enjoy a very favourable prosody and that other –cracy words tend not to, perhaps suffering by comparison. Of aristocracy, autocracy, bureaucracy, technocracy, plutocracy and meritocracy (plus related adjectives) only the first could be said to be neutral; all the others show a tendency to find themselves in unfavourable environments.

4. The –archy group of words

A second suffix indicating “form of government” is the string -archy, with the related adjective -archic. The corpora contained occurrences of anarchy / -archic (26 and 11), monarchy (23), patriarchy (2) and matriarchy (2). The last two are rarely used in the sense of a form of government; instead they refer to a type of society. We also find three instances of patriarchal, all used with a negative evaluation: for instance, “a patriarchal villain” and “his harshness as a patriarchal ruler”.

The item monarchy, with few exceptions, is discussed in two ways, either in a historical setting:

(25) The new Fianna Fail Party was intent on asserting Irish independence to the full by leaving the empire and providing a president to replace the monarchy.

or in a comparison with other forms of government, either favourably:

(26) He did, indeed, have a marked preference for a monarchy, arguing for it as the `most commodious government"

or unfavourably:

(27) I've never believed that a monarchy is best. Leaders should be chosen by merit, not birth.

It is preceded by technical political terms such as absolute (3), centralised, constitutional, divine but also by television:

(28) Since it is not obvious to [the Prince of Wales] where his power exactly lies, let me remind him of the television viewing figures that have occurred every time a royal event takes place _ upwards of 200 million _ and have done so since television monarchy started in the 1970s.

This extract is part of a discussion of the “New Wave monarchy” which has ironic and somewhat negative overtones.

As regards the items anarchy and anarchic, what is of interest is the differences in the prosodic features of the noun when compared to the adjective. In the examples from the Independent corpus, the most frequent collocation of the adjective anarchic, is with items having to do with comedy:

(29) Babette Cole has created a whole series of anarchic comic heroines for the end of the twentieth       century

(30) Anarchic humour pointing up the idiocy of human existence

(31) and emitting a manic, anarchic laugh, threatens to sow glorious confusion among the earnest seekers of power and status

Elsewhere it tends to describe a particular sort of inventiveness and is certainly not a negative quality:

(32) look out for Anthony Browne's Alice (1988) and Ralph Steadman's anarchic 1967 version, which has already become established as a collectors' classic

(33) he's like the flea under the king's nightshirt. He's anarchic, anti-authoritarian, devious, cynical and compassionate. An interesting mixture.   

In absolute contrast, anarchy is almost unremittingly seen as an extremely negative thing. Nations slide, lapse or disintegrate into anarchy; people suffer it, while at best one can only provide an antidote to it. It provides the conditions for nefarious deeds, for example, “some of its companies took advantage of anarchy in Somalia to dump toxic waste in its waters”. It is rarely preceded by an adjective -the only one to be found is violent -almost as if its negativity is taken for granted. It is, on the other hand, accompanied by danger, destitution, ethnic conflicts and chaos. One explanation for this difference in evaluative prosody is that the noun tends to be used in a literal sense, while the adjective is generally being used figuratively. It has been noticed elsewhere, in the discussion of orchestrat* in Section 2, how an item’s evaluation can change radically depending on whether the setting is literal or metaphorical.

5. Further research

5.1 The productivity of word particles

This episode of data-driven classroom research led me to further reflections on a couple of the phenomena we had noticed, namely, the frequency of the use of these items for ironic effect and secondly the potential of word particles such as these to be evaluatively productive.

Taking the second of these first, the starting hypothesis is that, if any such particle has a tendency to express one or other of the two evaluative tendencies, then it may well be the case that creative coinages of words where they are combined with other new stems will be made in order to exploit this prosody. In other words, writers can coin new items ending in – --cratic or –cratic and  -archy or –archic, and rely on their readers to carry over the particular associated prosody to the new coinage.

However, the corpora used in the early classroom research were too small to be able to follow up such introspections. In the following years, however, I was involved in the construction of the SiBol suite of corpora (‘SiBol’ is a portmanteau of the two universities, Siena and Bologna, where the corpora were compiled) consisting of SiBol 93, SiBol 05, SiBol 10 and SiBol 13. The first three contain all the texts published by the three major UK broadsheet newspapers, the left-leaning Guardian, the right-leaning Telegraph and the centrist The Times, in the respective years 1993, 2005 and 2010. They each contain between 120 and 150 million words of running texts. The first two were downloaded from the newspapers’ own CD-Roms, but this technology was discontinued and SiBol 2010 was compiled by downloading articles daily from the Lexis Nexis archive website. The fourth member, SiBol 13 was considerably expanded and contains the original three papers but also the UK tabloids, the left-leaning Mirror and the right-leaning Sun, two US publications of different political leanings, two English-language newspapers from the Arab world, The Times of India and the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), all from the year 2013 and also all downloaded from Lexis Nexis. The aim of the compilers, the SiBol Group,[1] is to provide corpus material to study recent language change, political linguistics and linguistics in general. The compilers have made them publicly available and accessible on SketchEngine.[2]

The phenomenon of particle productivity has, in the meantime, been noted by Morley and Partington (2009), using principally the SiBol 05 corpus, with regard to the particle –monger which they also discuss as a good example of evaluative meaning change. The Oxford English Dictionary’s entry on monger defines the item: “dealer, trader … From the 16c onwards, chiefly one who carries on a petty or disreputable ‘traffic’”. Before that time we find several neutral, descriptive, non-evaluative uses, including peach, feather, ballad and ceremony mongers. Modern corpus evidence (SiBol 05) sees it combining with a certain number of traditional trades: fishmonger, ironmonger and cheesemonger, but all newer coinages are heavily unfavourable: warmonger, doom-monger, hatemonger, scaremonger and gossip-monger. It would seem that speakers are able to retain a one sort of evaluative priming for the well-worn traditional items and yet also know that, when monger is used productively, it will have a different sort of priming, especially that it carries a negative evaluative prosody.

What then of –cracy  and –archy? I decided to search for new coinages in the SiBol 13 UK newspaper texts using the WordSmith Concordance tool and check whether they were being used to express evaluations and, if so, of what kind. The evidence collected so far would predict they carried over largely negative evaluations from the already standard uses. The concordance of the Guardian supplied the following:

(34) The appearance of any senior executive at the Daily Mail on TV to defend its journalism is rare. Dacre has long espoused the view that editors must be "outsiders" and that he will not indulge what he calls the "liberalocracy" who he believes run Britain.

The voice to whom the term liberocracy, presumably meaning rule by a liberal elite, is attributed clearly views it as a bad thing. The same newspaper, the left-wing Guardian, also carries mention of Murdochocracy, a humorous allegation of rule by Rupert Murdoch, the right-wing media proprietor of whom it virulently disapproves. Finally, we find the following, whose negative evaluation is made entirely explicit:

(35) I was going to say that we must admit that we are living in a kleptocracy, like Russia or many developing-world tyrannies. We are so used to a vague notion that people in Britain are basically honest, that we don't care to acknowledge we are being robbed blind by a small group […] Such as bankers. Maybe we should call it a "wankocracy" since it benefits the stupid, the boorish and incompetent.

No new coinages were found in the 2013 UK newspaper which express positive evaluations. The evidence then suggests that new coinages do indeed preserve this particle’s negative evaluation. Indeed, the prosodic tendency is so strong that any attempt to coin a new positive term ending in -cracy would probably be seen as humorous and ironic (see below).

As regards –archy the only new coinage I found was (Tory) squirarachy in the Telegraph 2013:

(36) Society [in the 1970s] was divided, a fact mirrored by the absence of a meaningful centre-ground in politics, where the two main parties split between Tory squirearchy and a Labour party whose instincts erred closer to Trotskyism than social democracy.

which is presented as negative in its political extremism and anachronistic nature. Though hardly a new coinage, the item oligarchy also appeared several times in the concordances and the co-texts indicated that it was generally viewed negatively. In the Guardian data, for example, it cooccured variously with corrupt (2), brutal, military dictators, betrayed by. Again, the overarching negativity of the particle -archy is confirmed.

5.2 Evaluative prosody and the potential for irony

We have already noted on a good number of occasions the use of –cracy and –archy particles to create ironic effects. These include:

  • Democracy is, of course, a tedious process
  • recent lessons in Chinese democracy were handed out in Tiananmen Square
  • endearingly autocratic
  • New wave monarchy

The irony of course lies in the reversal of expected evaluation, for instance the Chinese “democracy” (positive evaluation) of the first instance consists in fact of the violent suppression of any popular voice (negative evaluation). Reversal of evaluation is an essential feature of irony, at least in the UK and US use of the term (Partington, 2007).

As already mentioned, although I no longer have access to the concordances of fraught with and brimming with which I used to illustrate the notion of evaluative prosody with the class in Forlì, I have used similar concordances with other classes more recently. We looked at the evaluations of fraught with in Section 2. Here we might look at a concordance of brimming with, from the Telegraph section of SiBol 05 (tab. 2).

   

Table 2. A concordance of the first 20 occurrence of brimming with from the Telegraph section of SiBol 05.

It should first of all be noted that all instances are figurative in use and all engage in positive evaluations, with the exception of line 18, where the non-figurative brimming tears are produced by memories of atrocities in the Serbia-Kosovo conflicts (another reminder that evaluation can alter dramatically from figurative and non-figurative usage). But when the same item, brimming with was concordanced from the Guardian section of SiBol 05, several anomalous occurrences leapt out, for example:

(37) In truth, the project itself to build a restaurant […] from scratch was absolutely brimming with jeopardy. It was a Matterhorn of jeopardy.

(38) Cologne has been gripped with religious fervour in anticipation of the Pope's visit. Cafes are brimming with priests, nuns and monks, while youths roam the streets wearing T-shirts bearing the slogan “I love Jesus”.

In the first, we find a straightforward reversal of evaluation by placing brimming with alongside an item jeopardy, which we might expect to co-occur with fraught with, given the latter’s semantic preference for the lexico-semantic set of danger/risk (Section 2). The effect being sought here is one of humorous hyperbole.

The second is slightly more complex. Brimming with is not normally used for humans and has the effect of dehumanising the religious groups mentioned. The item roam too is often used for animals, whilst religious fervour is not something the left-wing Guardian normally approves of. The whole passage is sarcastically mocking and, indeed the Guardian is not known for any special affection for the Catholic Church.

All this was a reminder of the potential of items of a particular prosody to be used for particular ironic and dramatic-humorous effect, as first noted by Louw (1993). What was original about this research was the discovery that similar mechanisms apply to at least some word particles and that the capacity to be involved in the expression of irony can be handed down to - inherited by - new coinages which contain these particles.

6. Afterthoughts and a question

Since I gave this lesson in Forlì – in the early – 1990s - on evaluative prosody in English, a great deal of corpus-assisted research has been done on prosodies in other languages. There is also a growing body of work which uses corpora to compare and contrast the evaluative prosody of “lookalike” items or supposed “translation-equivalent” items in different languages. Partington (1998) and Tognini-Bonelli (2002) worked on Italian and English items, Berber Sardinha (2000) on Portuguese and English items, Xiao & McEnery (2006) and Wei and Li (2013) on Chinese and English items, Munday (2013) on Spanish and English items, Ebeling (2013; 2014) on Norwegian and English items.

Many of the lexical items we looked at in that lesson and have discussed in this paper most certainly have supposed translation equivalents in other languages. It would be an interesting exercise to examine, using suitable corpora in the two languages, whether the evaluative prosodies of the supposed translation equivalents are the same or whether they vary. For the English part recent corpora could be employed, such as the freely-available on-line Contemporary Corpus of American English (COCA), which includes items not found in my small 1990s corpora, such as theocracy and oligarchy. I keep repeating the word “supposed” translation equivalent because the question then arises: if a pair of lexical items differ in their evaluative prosody, to what degree can they be considered translation equivalents? My favourite example of this – since their entire meaning lies in their evaluation and the variance is so extreme – is the evaluative difference between Italian egregio (“very fine”, “esteemed”) and English egregious (“deplorable”, “execrable”).

References

Berber-Sardinha T. (2000), Semantic prosodies of English and Portuguese: a contrastive study, Cuadernos de Filologìa Inglesa (University of Murcia, Spain) 9(1): 93-110.

Ebeling S. O. (2013), Semantic prosody in a cross-linguistic perspective, in Studies in Variation, Contacts and Change in English 13, reprinted online http://www.helsinki.fi/varieng/series/volumes/13/ebeling/.

Ebeling S. O. (2014), Cross-linguistic semantic prosody: the case of ‘commit’, ‘signs of’ and ‘utterly’ and their Norwegian correspondences, Oslo Studies in Language 6(1): 161-79.

Louw W. (1993), Irony in the text or insincerity in the writer?   The diagnostic potential of semantic prosodies, in Baker M., Francis G., Tognini-Bonelli E. (eds), Text and Technology: In Honour of John Sinclair, John Benjamins, Amsterdam and Philadelphia: 157-176.

Morley J. & Partington A. (2009), A few frequently asked questions about semantic -or evaluative -prosody, International Journal of Corpus Linguistics 14(2): 139-158.

Munday J. (2013), Looming large: a cross-linguistic analysis of semantic prosodies in comparable reference corpora, in Kruger A., Wallmach K. & Munday J. (eds), Corpus-based translation studies: Research and applications. Bloomsbury Academic, London: 169-186.

Partington A. (1998), Patterns and Meanings: Using Corpora for English Language Research and Teaching, John Benjamins, Amsterdam & Philadelphia.

Partington A. (2007), Irony and reversal of evaluation, Journal of Pragmatics 39: 1547-1569.

Tognini-Bonelli E. (2002), Functionally complete units of meaning across English and Italian: towards a corpus-driven approach, in Altenberg B. and Granger S. (eds), Lexis in contrast: Corpus-based approaches, John Benjamins, Amsterdam & Philadelphia: 73-95.

Wei N. & Li X. (2013), Exploring semantic preference and semantic prosody across English and Chinese: their roles for cross-linguistic equivalence, Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory 10(1): 103-38.

Xiao R. Z. & McEnery T. (2006), ‘Near synonym, collocation and semantic prosody: a cross-linguistic perspective, Applied Linguistics 27(1): 103-29.

Notes

[1] www.lilec.it/clb/

[2] www.sketchengine.co.uk

About the author(s)

Alan Partington is Associate Professor of English Linguistics at Bologna University. His research interests include corpus research methodology, corpus-assisted discourse study, particularly into political discourses, modern diachronic language studies, evaluation and evaluative prosody, corpus-assisted stylistics, irony, wordplay and metaphor. He is the Editor-in-chief of the Journal of Corpora and Discourse Studies. He is the author of Patterns and Meanings (Benjamins), The Linguistics of Political Argument (Routledge), The Language of Persuasion in Politics (with C. Taylor, Routledge), The Linguistics of Laughter (Routledge), Patterns and Meanings in Discourse (with A. Duguid and C. Taylor, John Benjamins).

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©inTRAlinea & Alan Partington (2018).
"The evaluative prosody of forms of government and power -cracy and –archy, is this prosody inheritable and what are the implications for translation?"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: Translation And Interpreting for Language Learners (TAIL)
Edited by: Laurie Anderson, Laura Gavioli and Federico Zanettin
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Stable URL: http://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/2299

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