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LETRA: a research trajectory More than a decade of empirical-experimental research in translation…. PhD Dissertation at Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany. Research using think-aloud protocols to tap into cognitive processes of Brazilian and Portuguese novice and professional translators.

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letra a research trajectory more than a decade of empirical experimental research in translation

LETRA: a research trajectoryMore than a decade of empirical-experimental research in translation…

1995 the beginning

PhD Dissertation at Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany. Research using think-aloud protocols to tap into cognitive processes of Brazilian and Portuguese novice and professional translators.

Empirically driven model of the translation process with a focus on problem-solving and decision-making strategies in the language pair German/Portuguese.

1995 – the beginning…


1999 – first steps…

Creation of NET (Núcleo de Estudos da Tradução) at Federal University of Minas Gerais, which will later become LETRA. First attempts at UFMG to develop a joint approach to translation both as a process and a product. Use of a corpus linguistics-oriented approach for the analysis of the translation product in conjunction with think-aloud protocols for the analysis of translation process data.

2000 the f irst b ook

2000 – the first book…

Process-oriented approach to translator’s training with a focus on awareness raising among novice translators. By increasing their levels of metacognitive activity, we aim at a developing students’ discursive features and translation strategies.

2001 8 th abrapt conference

8th National Translation Forum

2nd Brazilian International Translation Forum


(Brazilian Association of Researchers in Translation)



Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil, 23-27 July 2001

NET (Núcleo de Estudos da Tradução) and POSLIN, the Graduate Programme in Linguistics and Applied Linguistics organize the 8th ABRAPT Conference at Federal University of Minas Gerais.

Panel on translation process research to give rise to the publication of Triangulation Translation two years later…

2001 – 8th ABRAPT Conference


2001/2003 – triangulation starts…

We started experimenting with the triangulating paradigm in translation process research as early as 2000. First, we used the DOS version of Translog in conjunction with think-aloud protocols in Rothe-Neves’s (2002) PhD Dissertation. Next, we used Translog 2000 in conjunction with screen recordings and think-aloud protocols in Gonçalves’s (2003) PhD dissertation.

I leave blank spaces, put question marks, when I’m in doubt. I leave the German words where I have to get back to.

I didn’t read the text first. Had a quick look and started translating

Well, sometimes I had more than an option, then I left it there and waited to see if I had a better idea...


2003 – triangulating translation…

Triangulation, as a methodological paradigm for translation process research (TPR) comes of age with the publication of Triangulating Translation: perspectives in process-oriented research, published in the Benjamins Translation Library Series, volume 41.

“The title of the volume, Triangulating Translation, is to be understood in the light of triangulation as a sailing metaphor. Assuming that navigating through uncharted waters requires the need of several location points to establish one's position, the authors focus on the need to apply several instruments of data gathering and analysis in their attempts to throw light on the nature of the translation process.”

Alves 2003:ix



Development of corpora for the study of

Translation as a process and as a product

Initial development of CORDIALL, the Corpus on Discourse for the Analysis of Language and Literature, and of CORPRAT, the Corpus on Process for the Analysis of Translations.Further attempts to strengthen the product/process interface for the analysis of translations and for applications in translator’s training.



Corpus on Process for the Analysis of Translation

CORPRATaims at providing further insights into the translation process, raising new hypotheses and presenting more robust evidence to support or refute general claims about the translation process.

Building on the notion of triangulation (Jakobsen 1999, Alves 2003), it stores five complementary kinds of data: key-logging, screen-recording, eye-tracking, retrospective protocols, and target texts, allowing inquires of translation process data from different perspectives.

In addition to these data, CORPRAT also allows target text production to be examined as finished end products or as interim versions portraying intermediate stages of target text production such as the ones produced at the end of the drafting phase.

The language pairs stored in CORPRAT comprise Brazilian Portuguese and either English, German or Spanish.

The subjects who take part in the experiments vary from novice to expert translators, and also include subject-domain experts who are not translators.



  • Corpus on Process for the Analysis of Translation
  • The combined files in CORPRAT are used to account for particular traits and features in translation processes, including
  • research on the acquisition of translation competence (Alves & Gonçalves 2007),
  • the role of inferential processes in translation (Alves & Gonçalves 2003, Alves 2007),
  • the role of procedural and declarative knowledge in translation contexts (Alves, 2005),
  • descriptions of cognitive profiles of novice and expert translators (Alves 2005, Magalhães & Alves 2006, Braga & Pagano 2007),
  • the relevance of domain knowledge as observed in the performance of subject-domain experts who are not translators (Pagano & Silva 2008, Oliveira & Pagano 2009),
  • the impact of time pressure (Liparini Campos & Alves 2005) and translation technology (Alves & Liparini Campos 2008) on the translation process.

2005 – the second book…

Publication of Competência em Tradução: cognição e discurso [Competence in translation: cognition and discourse]. The book, structured in six chapters, starts with a discussion about translation competence by Amparo Hurtado Albir, in an invited chapter, and is followed by chapters authored by LETRA’s researchers with a focus on the cognitive/discursive interface that builds the foundations of our research group.

From “narrow-band” to “wide-band” translatorA connectionist model of translator’s competenceAlves and Gonçalves (2007)

novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficient and expert - Dreyfus e Dreyfus (1986; apudChesterman 1997: 147)


2006 – Coming of age…


By 2006, we decided to change our name to LETRA, the Laboratory for Experimentation in Translation at UFMG. We had been working as a group following empirical-experimental practices for a while and functioning as a laboratory. It was only natural that our new name reflected our practices. The new name reflects our vision, mission, practices and standards.

investigating translation performers
Investigating Translation Performers

Professional translators /interpreters

Natural translators/


Translation students

Foreign language learners

journalists, reporters, conflict mediators, health and humanitarian agents

Academic/ disciplinary writers

Expertise cline

Novice ------------------------------------------------------ Expert

data yielded by experimental designs
Data yielded by experimental designs


Subject profile


Translation phases

Cognitive rhythm

Segmentation patterns


Rhetorical movements



Internal support


Focus of attention

External support


External support

letra s standard procedures for data collection
Before the translation tasks:

Preliminary explanation and informed consent

Open-ended questionnaire

Copy test


During each translation task:

Eye-tracking (Tobii T60):

Monitor placed 60-70 cm ahead subjects’ eyes

User camera on

Translog User 2006:

Source text area: Times New Roman 13, boldface, lining 1.5

Target text area: Times New Roma 14, boldface, lining 1.0

After each translation task:

Retrospective protocols (free and guided)

Recorded in conjunction with eye-tracking

LETRA’s standard procedures for data collection

LETRA’s methodology for

triangulating translation process data

Analysis of key-logged and gaze data in conjunction with retrospective protocols and Litterare annotations of micro/macro translation units

Aí nessa primeira parte eu tive um pouco de dificuldade com... essa frase é comprida, do texto fonte, eu acabei dividindo em duas e acabou que no final eu acabei em transformei em uma só.


Projects of international collaboration

From 2003 to 2013, LETRA has developed a series of projects of international collaboration, namely:CAPES-MECD 046/03. 2003-2006. A cognitive-discursive approach to translation competence (Um enfoque cognitivo-discursivo na formação de tradutores). Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona/UFMGPROBRAL 292/08. 2008-2010. Investigating (de)metaphorization in translation: process and product. (Uma abordagem do texto traduzido com vistas à modelagem computacional: o fenômeno da (des)metaforização no processo tradutório de tradutores expertos). Universituat des Saarlandes/UFMG.DRC 2011-2013. Investigating the human-machine interaction in translation (Investigando a interação homem-máquina em tradução). Copenhagen Business School/ UFMG.


2009/2011 Introducing LITTERAE:

LETRA’s application for annotating translation units

Alves and Vale (2009, 2011) develop a web application to annotate translation process data using the rationale of corpus linguistics. The aim of LITTERAE is to enable the alignment of the translation product found in target texts is all the interim renditions produced by translators in the course of the translation process.

These intermediate steps, identified as time intervals in the course of target text production, are called micro translation units while the complete set of interim renditions, including pauses and consultations, constitute a macro translation unit.

Micro and macro translation units are identified both temporally and spatially by means of key-logging and eye-tracking recordings.



Mapping alignment units onto translation units

ST/AU: Wir sind davon überzeugt, dass erfolgreiche Unternehmensführung und soziale Verantwortung sich nicht widersprechen.



TT/AU: We are convinced that successful management and social responsibility are not contradictory.



Mapping alignment units onto translation units



Sequence of micro translation units which occur four times in the drafting phase and three other times in the revision phase.

Together, these seven micro translation units make up a macro translation unit


LITTERAE: development of an application

for annotating translation units

In designing the annotation system, we have been guided by the following assumptions that offer challenges, opportunities and restrictions:

The system is a web program. It must have a central database for LETRA and allow group work both within premises and by remote access.

The system does not impose any specific set of theoretical categories and allows the multiple use of different theoretical approaches in the annotation process.

The system does not impose any language-specific or theory-specific grammatical structure for its mark-up units. It provides a two-rank structure that can mark up discontinuous units at any rank of grammatical and process hierarchy as well as marking up overlapping units.

The system keeps raw corpora and annotations separate and allows multiple annotations of the same corpus entry. Annotations are stored separately while keeping a single copy of the raw corpora.

The system is designed for both individual and group work.



Modelling the translation unit in time



Modelling the translation unit in time



Modelling the translation unit in time



Modelling the translation unit in time



Modelling the translation unit in time



Modelling the translation unit in time



Modelling the translation unit in time



Modelling the translation unit in time

a taxonomy for translation units
A taxonomy for translation units…
  • Taxonomy for macro translation units:
  • P0, P1, P2, P3
  • Levels of linguistic complexity:
  • [t], [c], [l], [m], [p]
  • Distance indicators between an initial micro TU and their counterparts:
  • (*), (**), (***), (****)

LETRA’s selected publications

ALVES, F; GONÇALVES, J.L. 2013. Investigating the conceptual/procedural distinction in translation: a relevance-theoretic analysis of micro and macro translation units. Target 25:1, p.107-124.ALVES, F., VALE, D. C. 2011. On drafting and revision in translation: a corpus linguistics oriented analysis of translation process data. Translation: Computation, Corpora, Cognition 1, p.105-122.ALVES, F., VALE, D. C. 2009. Probing the unit of translation in time: Aspects of the design and development of a web application for storing, annotating, and querying translation process data. Across Languages and Cultures 10, p.251-273.ALVES, F., PAGANO, A. S., SILVA, I. A. S. 2011. Modeling (un)packing of meaning in translation: insights from effortful text production In: Proceedings of the 8th International NLPCS Workshop (Natural Language Processing and Cognitive Sciences) 41. Special theme: human-machine interaction in translation Copenhagen: Samfundslitterattur. p.153-162.ALVES, F., PAGANO, A. S., SILVA, I. A. S. 2011. Towards an investigation of reading modalities in/for translation: an exploratory study using eyetracking data In S. O’Briene (ed). Cognitive Explorations of Translation. .London: Continuum, p.175-196.ALVES, F., HURTADO ALBIR, A. 2010. Cognitive approaches to translation In Y. Gambier and L. van Doerslaer (eds) The Benjamins Handbook of Translation Studies. Amsterdam : John Benjamins, p. 28-35.ALVES, F., PAGANO, A. S., NEUMANN, S., STEINER, E., HANSEN-SCHIRRA, S. 2010. Translation units and grammatical shifts: Towards an integration of product- and process-based translation research In: G. Shreve and A. Angelone (eds) Translation and Cognition. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, p.109-142.


LETRA’s selected publications

ALVES, F., PAGANO, A. S., SILVA, I. A. S. 2009. A new window on translators’ cognitive activity: methodological issues in the combined use of eye tracking, key logging and retrospective protocols In: Methodology, Technology and Innovation in Translation Process Research. Copenhagen Studies in Language 38. Copenhagen: Samfundslitteratur, p.267-292.HURTADO ALBIR, A., ALVES, F. 2009. Translation as a cognitive activity In: J. Munday (ed) The Routledge Companion to Translation Studies. London: Routledge, p.210-234.ALVES, F. 2007. Cognitive effort and contextual effect in translation: a relevance-theoretic approach. Journal of Translation Studies.10, p.18-35,ALVES, F., MAGALHÃES, C., PAGANO, A. 2005. Competência em Tradução: Cognição e Discurso. Belo Horizonte: Editora UFMG.ALVES, F. 2005. Bridging the gap between declarative and procedural knowledge in the training of translators: meta-reflection under scrutiny. Meta 50:4, p.1-25.ALVES, F. (ed). 2004. O processo de tradução: delimitação de um objeto de estudo. Cadernos de Tradução 10, p.9-22.ALVES, F., MAGALHÃES, C. 2004. M. Using small corpora to tap and map the process-product interface in translation. Tradterm. 10, p.179- 211.ALVES, F. (ed) Triangulating Translation: perspectives in process-oriented research. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.ALVES, F., MAGALHÃES, C., PAGANO, A. 2000. Traduzir com Autonomia: Estratégias para o Tradutor em Formação. São Paulo : Contexto.ALVES, F. 1995. Zwischen Schweigen und Sprechen: Wie bildet sich eine transkulturelle Brücke?. 1995. Hamburgo : Dr. Kovac.


LETRA’s concluded PhD Dissertations

Ferreira, Aline. 2013. Direcionalidade em tradução: o papel da subcompetência bilíngue em tarefas de tradução L1 e L2.  Carvalho Neto, Geraldo. 2010. Metarrepresentação em tradução: uma análise relevantista dos processos inferenciais de tradutores expertos na tradução de textos sensíveis (sagrados). Liparini Campos, Tania. 2010. O efeito do uso de um sistema de memória de tradução e da pressão de tempo no processo cognitivo de tradutores profissionais. Ferreira Jr, Fernando. 2008. Em construção! Uma investigação acerca da natureza dos processos cognitivos envolvidos na aprendizagem de uma segunda língua.  


LETRA’s concluded PhD Dissertations

Rodrigues, Daisy. 2006 Complexidade cognitiva na tradução sinóptica: uma abordagem experimental para análise da leitura/produção de textos. Vianna, Humberto. 2006. Nós primatas em linguagem: relações linguísticas como um processo biológico.  Chiaretto, Ana Cláudia. 2006. O processamento de inferências na leitura de textos publicitários: a experiência moldando o conhecimento. Gonçalves, José Luiz. 2003. O desenvolvimento da competência do tradutor: investigando o processo através de um estudo exploratório-experimental..  Rothe-Neves, Rui. 2002 Características cognitivas e desempenho em tradução: investigação em tempo real.


LETRA’s on-going PhD Dissertations

Rodrigues, Carlos. A Interpretação para a Língua de Sinais Brasileira: efeitos de modalidade e processos inferenciais .Koglin, Arlene.Esforço cognitivo no processamento de metáforas em tarefas de pós-edição e de tradução humana: uma investigação processual pelo viés da teoria da relevância .  Sekino, Kyoko. Processos de pós-edição e de tradução manual: uma análise cognitivo-pragmática da relação esforço/efeito no par linguístico japonês/português.Fonseca, Norma. Investigando esforço cognitivo em processos de pós-edição monolîngues. Aquino, Marceli. Processos de pós-edição envolvendo partículas modais alemãs: investigando esforço de processamento pelo viés da teoria da relevância.Szpak, Karina. Efeito e esforço em tradução: uma análise mediada pela teoria da relevância.

letra a research trajectory more than a decade of empirical experimental research in translation1

LETRA: a research trajectoryMore than a decade of empirical-experimental research in translation…