Translation and grammar and lexis
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Translation and grammar and lexis. Syntagmatic structure Paradigmatic system Chain and Choice. Saussure’s paradigmatic and syntagmatic axes. Syntagmatic structure : the way words combine to make a grammatically acceptable unit;

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Translation and grammar and lexis

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Translation and grammar and lexis

Translation and grammar and lexis

Syntagmatic structure

Paradigmatic system

Chain and Choice


Saussure s paradigmatic and syntagmatic axes

Saussure’s paradigmatic and syntagmatic axes

  • Syntagmatic structure: the way words combine to make a grammatically acceptable unit;

  • Paradigmatic structure: choosing from competing linguistic options available within a syntagmatic sequence.


Saussure s axes and translation

Saussure’s axes and translation

  • The Relevance of Saussure’s concept for translators ( see A Course in General Linguistics, 1916):

  • When translating the paradigmatic element in the ST (the author’s lexico-gramatical choices) the TT must conform to the syntagmatic conventions of the TL.

  • Saussure’s system reminds translators that rendering the paradigmatic plane frequently involves significant changes on the syntagmatic plane and such changes are necessary if utterances are to form conventional grammatical units in the TL.


Chain and choice slot and filter

Chain and choice/slot and filter

  • The corpus linguist John Sinclair describes the way the paradigmatic and syntagmatic systems intersect as chain and choice, meaning words chosen paradigmatically must be chained together syntagmatically (See ‘Lexical Grammar’, Trust the Text, Routledge, 2004).

  • This procedure has also been called the slot and filter model, whereby, a series of slots (syntagmatic axis) are filled with words chosen (filtered) from the dictionary (paradigmatic axis) .


John sinclair and co selection

John Sinclair and co-selection

  • Sinclair suggests the conventional notion of the paradigmatic axis, i.e. the axis where meaning is created through infinite choice, is misleading, and that what actually occurs during lexical filtering is a process of co-selection; meaning that one word necessitates the choice of an accompanying word (therefore choice is simultaneous with a form of chaining).


Phrases and co selection

Phrases and co-selection

  • I saw it out out of the corner of my eye

  • L’ho visto con la coda dell’occhio.

  • Sinclair makes the point that that there are only two truly paradigmatic elements (subject and direct object), while the remaining words are fixed and do not represent choice but exemplify concatenation.

  • Sinclair: ‘English quite frequently produces co-selections of five, six, and seven words, and there are even some of up to twelve.’


Co selection and meaning

Co-selection and meaning

  • Failure to recognise this feature of the lexico-grammar will result in sentences that may may be grammatical in syntagmatic terms, but will be unconventional at the level of co-selection and semantically ineffective as a result.


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