Translating exile. Two translations of Kader Abdolah’s Spijkerschrift in the light of corpus analysis.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This article sets out to show how corpus linguistics tools can be used to analyse a literary translation, specifically when this translation regards texts that were not originally written in the mother tongue of its author. The novel under scrutiny is Spijkerschrift, written in Dutch by an Iranian exile, Kader Abdolah. This article discusses particularly its translations into English and Spanish. The translation of literature requires special skills of the translator, but even more so in the case of texts written in a language that was intentionally distorted and left imperfect to convey a specific message. By means of Wordsmith 6.0 the type/token ratio is analysed, giving some indication of the lexical richness of the novel at hand. This analysis shows that both of Abdolah’s translators indeed changed the type/token ratio in their translations, making them lexically more dense than the original. Starting from this indication, the assumption is made that the translations as a whole might feature other traits that confirm this analysis of relative ‘enrichment’ of the original, such as the number of clauses and a few keywords. Evidently, this reminds us of the Universals debate (Mauranen & Kujamäki 2004; Mauranen, 2008; Malmkjær, 2008). The results of our research do not necessarily imply a confirmation of the existence of translation universals. It does imply that texts written by non-native speakers imply an additional, unusual challenge to the translators’ skills, which seems to point in the direction of normalisation being more difficult to circumvent in the case of immigrant literature. This specific research is embedded in a larger project on immigrant forms of expression, within diverse societies, both in terms of culture and of language.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInput a Word, Analyse the World: Selected Approaches to Corpus Linguistics.
EditorsFrancisco Alonso Almeida, Ivalla Ortega Barrera, Margarita Cuervo
PublisherCambridge Scholars Publishing
Number of pages14
ISBN (Print)1443885134, 978-1443885133
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2016
EventCILC2014: 6th International Conference on Corpus Linguistics - Univresidad de Las Palmas, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain
Duration: 22 May 201424 May 2014


CityLas Palmas de Gran Canaria


  • Corpus linguistics
  • Immigrants
  • Exile Literature


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  • CILC2014

    Philippe Humblé (Speaker)
    14 Mar 201416 Mar 2014

    Activity: Talk or presentationTalk or presentation at a conference

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