An English-Norwegian contrastive analysis of downtoners, more or less

Jarl Ebeling, Signe Oksefjell Ebeling


In this paper we present a contrastive study of the downtoners more or less and mer eller mindre. After establishing that these two binomials have developed along similar paths in English and Norwegian, can be found to occur in the same syntactic environments in the two languages and, indeed, have the same meanings, we seek explanations as to why they are not used as translations of each other in the English-Norwegian Parallel Corpus to the extent that would be expected of two such seemingly perfect matches. The picture that emerges is a complex one. First, more or less is much more frequent than mer eller mindre, both in source (original) and target (translation) texts. Next, more or less corresponds to many more Norwegian expressions in the data, than vice versa, signalling a wider repertoire of use than its Norwegian counterpart. Finally, mer eller mindre is used as a premodifier and as a degree adjunct in approximately the same number of instances, while the degree adjunct use is dominant in the English data for more or less. The paper introduces the reverse mutual correspondence measure to complement the more established mutual correspondence measure, introduced by Altenberg (1999), to add another dimension to contrastive analysis based on bidirectional translation corpus data.

Full Text: PDF