Equivalence above word level

It goes without saying that words rarely occur on their own; they almost always occur in the company of other words. But words are not strung together at random in any language; there are always restrictions on the way they can be combined to convey meaning. Restrictions which admit no exceptions, and particularly those which apply to classes of words rather than individual words, are usually written down in the form of rules. One of the rules of English, for example, is that a determiner cannot come after a noun. A sequence such as beautiful girl the is therefore inadmissible in English. Some restrictions are more likely to admit exceptions and apply to individual words rather than classes of words. These cannot be expressed in terms of rules, but they can nevertheless be identified as recurrent patterns in the language. In the following sections, we will concentrate on this type of lexical patterning. We will discuss, for instance, the ‘likelihood’ of certain words occurring with other words and the naturalness or typicality of the resulting combinations. In particular, we will address the difficulties encountered by translators as a result of differences in the lexical patterning of the source and target languages. Lexical patterning will be dealt with under two main headings: collocation and idioms and fixed expressions.

Mona Baker (1992) In Other Words: A Coursebook on Translation, Routledge: London and New York, pp. 46-47.

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