24.331, Review: Text/Corpus Linguistics; Translation: Straniero Sergio & Falbo (2012)

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LINGUIST List: Vol-24-331. Sat Jan 19 2013. ISSN: 1069 - 4875.

Subject: 24.331, Review: Text/Corpus Linguistics; Translation: Straniero Sergio & Falbo (2012)

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Date: Sat, 19 Jan 2013 10:46:26
From: Mauro Costantino [costantino.mauro at gmail.com]
Subject: Breaking Ground in Corpus-based Interpreting Studies

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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/23/23-1967.html

Reviewer: Mauro Costantino, Universidad Mayor de San Andrés

EDITORS: Straniero Sergio, Francesco and Falbo, Caterina
TITLE: Breaking Ground in Corpus-based Interpreting Studies
SERIES TITLE: Linguistics Insights -Volume 147 
YEAR: 2012

Mauro Costantino, Language and Linguistics Department, Universidad Mayor de
San Andrés, La Paz, Bolivia


“Breaking Ground in Corpus-based Interpreting Studies,” edited by F. Straniero
Sergio and C. Falbo is a collection of seven papers connected by the same
goal: to start covering the present lack of research about Corpus Interpreting
Studies. The content of each paper varies from 'introductory' to 'case study',
thus allowing the book to present both new projects under development and
application of already usable corpora.

Introduction: “Studying interpreting through corpora. An introduction.”
(Francesco Straniero Sergio and Caterina Falbo)

This chapter presents a fairly extensive introduction to the work, touching on
all the needed topics in order to give a complete reference even for the
reader who is not acquainted with corpus-based studies or corpus building and
analysis. Starting from the basics of corpus design (Tognini-Bonelli, 2001)
and representativeness (Barbera et al., 2007b), it moves to more specific
points such as the theoretical and methodological issues of translation and
interpretation corpora. Eventually, the introduction addresses issues of
spoken and speech corpora in relation with transcription and research matters;
it sketches the individual approaches of the single corpora presented further
on in the book, thus guiding the reader through a well organized presentation
of the entire work.

Chapter 1: “The European Parliament Interpreting Corpus (EPIC): implementation
and developments”. (Mariachiara Russo, Claudio Bendazzoli, Annalisa Sandrelli
and Nicoletta Spinolo)

This work presents the implementation and development of the EPIC project in a
clear chapter that details all the steps of the corpus planning and building
process. The methodology sections exhaustively present all the steps involved:
data collection, the digitizing process, transcriptions (detailing linguistic
and paralinguistic level) and eventually the extra-linguistic aspects of meta
data and corpus annotation. As for the analysis carried out in the second part
of the paper, the work is well structured and presents the research in a clear
manner, which could make the work good also as introductory material for
students approaching the theme of corpus-based studies, whether dealing with
interpreting corpora or not.

Chapter 2: “From international conferences to machine-readable corpora and
back: an ethnographic approach to simultaneous interpreter-mediated
communicative events.” (Bendazzoli Claudio)

The second chapter stands a little on the side, compared to the rest of the
book, since it deals mainly with the taxonomic issue of classifying
interpreted-mediated data. The chapter does not rely on corpora data analysis
as the objective of the study like the rest of the papers in the collection.
It is, instead, a sound study of the intricate problems, both theoretical and
technical, that brought about the development of the header of the DIRSI-C
(Directionality in Simultaneous Interpreting Corpus). After presenting the
data collection issue, of the DIRSI corpus and multimedia archive, the paper
focuses on the methodological issue of building a corpus of communicative
interaction, thus comparing the methodology with the EPIC corpus of the
previous chapter. Discussing the theoretical bases for implementing a set of
meta-data that allows one to distinguish, and therefore query, the various
speech events and the participants’ roles, it eventually proposes a full
taxonomy for the DIRSI header. The chapter offers a better insight of the
building and planning process that a sound corpus needs, and leaves the field
open to further research and development.

Chapter 3: “Introducing FOOTIE (Football in Europe): simultaneous interpreting
in football press conferences.” (Annalisa Sandrelli)

The third chapter introduces the FOOTIE corpus in a clear and well
contextualized description of the building process, as well as the methodology
and the resulting structure of the corpus itself. The paper starts by
presenting aims and goals of the project giving a clear idea of the parameters
that form the corpus structure; the second section gives a brief but
exhaustive contextualization, useful for the reader who might not be
acquainted with the football translation/interpretation panorama. Data
collection and transcription issues are briefly sketched in the following
section, referring the reader to the first chapter for more information, thus
avoiding unnecessary repetitions. The last, and main section of the paper,
focuses on press conferences as a communicative situation, discussing the need
for special treatment in the building of an interpreting corpus; a fair number
of examples supports the author in presenting and discussing the theme.

Chapter 4: “CorIT (Italian Television Interpreting Corpus): classification
criteria.” (Caterina Falbo)

This fourth chapter presents the ongoing working on the Cor-IT (Italian
Television Interpreting Corpus) ranging from the classification criteria to
transcription and eventually interrogation features. The presentation of
classification criteria is complete and clearly articulated (even though it
refers to previous data for a thorough discussion of the criteria), giving the
reader a complete panorama of the matter involved in the process of selecting
such a focal point in corpus building.

Chapter 5: “Topical coherence in television interpreting: question/answer
rendition.” (Eugenia Dal Fovo)

This chapter presents ongoing doctoral research based on a sub-corpus of CorIT
(Italian Television Interpreting Corpus). The main idea was developed from a
previous MA thesis that the present article uses as a launching pad in order
to develop better criteria for studying the question/answer rendition in
television interpreting. The question and methodology sections present the
work in a complete and well developed manner, clearly stating the research
questions and detailing the corpus structure and content data.

Chapter 6: “Using corpus evidence to discover style in interpreters'
performances” (Francesco Straniero Sergio)

The sixth chapter presents an innovative study about 'style' in interpreters'
performances. The work is well presented and discussed, opening the field to
some until now less considered aspects of Interpreting Corpora such as 'style'
and 'recognizability', or 'modus interpretandi' as the author  calls it. This
relatively short paper, supported by the ample use of examples, gives a clear
idea of the potential of the tools used for the data retrieval (CorIT, Italian
Television Interpreting Corpus). The chapter achieves its goal by setting a
good starting point in the Corpus-based Interpreting Research of style and
stylistic features.

Chapter 7: “Data collection in the courtroom: challenges and perspectives for
the researcher.” (Marta Biagini)

The last chapter of the collection presents a new project of an Interpreting
Corpus based on courtroom recording. Since the project itself is still in its
preliminary phase of data collection, the author presents the theoretical and
methodological issues that characterize the planning stage of such a
complicated project. She details these issues with clarity and good
contextualization of the Italian court system reality. The research questions
and the procedures for the data collection are well presented and discussed.
In the end, the paper presents the project in its preliminary phase and offers
some interesting future development hypotheses in the conclusions, thus
achieving its goal.


“Breaking Ground in Corpus-based Interpreting Studies” is a well-structured
and most of all innovative work. As suggested in the title, the actual
panorama of Corpus-based Interpreting Studies is fairly limited and the work
attempts to cover this gap.

The work completely achieves the dual goal of discussing ongoing research and
of presenting the future perspectives and developments. The theoretical and
methodological discussions are sound and helpful also for the researcher who
has recently begun the corpus-based study of interpreting interactions. It may
lack a bit of in-depth analysis of all the potentiality of the searching and
indexing methods, a flaw that is easily overcome by the good battery of
examples and data presented.

The small downsides, some of them mainly editorial, some due to the specific
presentation of data or results do not detract from the results whatsoever, it
only requires more time for the reader to analyze them.

On the low side the corpus linguist reader should be warned if s/he is not
acquainted with technical interpreting-related vocabulary, s/he might need a
little researching in case s/he wishes to explore this particular aspect of
the matter. This trivial shortcoming of the introduction is sometimes shared
by the other sections of the book, due to the point of view of the work, but
is anyway simply and quickly overcome halfway through the book, where the
reader will already be acquainted with technical terms. In conclusion, data
and objectives are clearly expressed and the chapters serve well the role of
connecting the subsequent papers.

As far as the corpus linguist reader is concerned, a small inaccuracy might be
found in the lacking of complete data (chapter 1); to include types and tokens
count would have given a clearer picture of the corpus. Also, a few lines more
could have been spent in the description of the numerous possibilities of the
CWB (Corpus Work Bench) and CQP (Corpus Query Processor) corpus query system
(Christ 1994), in order to better explain the possible outreach of the whole
corpus. Nevertheless, it must be noted that all the information can be easily
retrieved through the references.

Only one shortcoming is present in the analysis developed in Chapter 1: while
the structure is sound and well supported by data, talking about 'trends' and
'statistical significance' one would expect values and the statistics, as well
as the data and 'p' values, to be reported in the text.

Similarly, it could have added a lot to the content of Chapter 3’s analysis to
have the details of the corpus (even though partial, or estimated), referring
to the content duration in minutes, and word count. Considering the
introductory nature of the research this can be seen as a minor downside, but
one that still tends to limit the reader in the interpretation of the scope of
the research.

As for the analysis presented in Chapter 4, the only shortcoming is the
presentation of figures. Since they are simple screen-shot images, it is
difficult for the reader to actually read the content and do not really add
any substantial information to the text. On the other hand, this might be
considered an editorial shortcoming, not really a content issue.

The second part of the paper presents some controversial concepts related to
interpreting modes, interaction types and genres of spoken discourse which
offer a detailed panorama on the inner discrete distinctions of the texts that
form CorIT, thus giving a better understanding of the full potentiality of the
corpus. A little bit more space could have been dedicated to the transcription
and interrogation part, in order to promote more research ideas for future
study and development.

The only inconvenience is found in the results section, where the author
presents many similar graphs and tables that might result in confusing the
reader rather than helping her/him. In order to compare between omission and
substitutions, a more synthetic presentation showing just one table with
percentages would have probably helped. The pie chart presenting the frequency
(oddly noted in percentage, instead of numbers) does not add to the
information presented and it seems a simple table could have done the job of
comparing frequencies just as well. As for the figures, it appears that four
separate figures, each one with its own table, presenting the percentage of
satisfactory, medium and unsatisfactory degree of coherence do not help
understanding; presenting each figure with a different scale requires even
more time for the comparison. One figure with four bars (wh-question, Yes/No
question, Leading question, Declarative question), each one divided into its
three possible results (satisfactory, medium and unsatisfactory) would have
possibly helped comparison and improved clarity. So even though all the needed
information is actually present, the use of many tables and graphs results in
rather a burden to the reader. As for the editorial part, the excel tables
presenting the question and answer under examination could have been converted
into more reader-friendly examples. In fact these form details do not affect
the quality of the content, but neither it do they support it. Nonetheless,
the chapter opens the field to some interesting study on interaction,
conversation analysis and topical coherence through Interpreting Corpus, which
is the aim of the entire work.

Finally, due to the very innovative idea of an Interpreting Corpus of
courtroom recording, a more detailed explanation of the entire project
presented in Chapter 7 could have greatly added to the paper. Will the corpus
be indexed, will it be POS-tagged (Part-of-Speech), will it be made available
on line? The paper could have put a little more information that would have
stimulated possible support and fruitful discussion by the academic community.

In the end it is a well structured work that gives a clear view of the ongoing
research in corpus-based interpreted studies and stimulates many ideas for
further development and research.


Barbera, Manuel, Elisa Corino & Cristina Onesti (eds.). 2007a. Corpora e
linguistica in rete. Torino: Guerra Edizioni.

Barbera, Manuel, Cristina Onesti & Elisa Corino. 2007b. “Cosa è un corpus? Per
una definizione più rigorosa di corpus, token, markup”, in Barbera et al.,
2007a. pp. 25-88.

Christ, Oli. 1994. “A modular and flexible architecture for an integrated
corpus query system”, COMPLEX '94. Budapest.

Tognini-Bonelli, Elena (ed.). 2001. Corpus Linguistics at Work,
Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.


Mauro Costantino is invited professor at the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés
(UMSA) of La Paz, Bolivia. His main interests range from Second Language
Acquisition, comparing the acquisition of the Italian verb system by speakers
of different languages, to Translation Studies, to corpus linguistics
(focusing on learners corpora). He teaches Italian, translations seminar and
introduction to computational and corpus linguistics at UMSA, actively
participates in the VALICO (www.valico.org) and VALERE (www.valere.org)
projects from the University of Torino, Italy.

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