Mario Bisiada, PhD

I'm a tenure-track lecturer at the Department of Translation and Language Sciences at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona. My research interests are cross-linguistic and cross-cultural contrasts in German, English, Spanish and Catalan discourse, especially concerning the following issues:

  • ideology and metaphors in political discourse
  • the role of intervening agents such as editors in translation
  • corpus-based studies of language variation and change with translation as the site of language contact
  • differences in information structure across languages and their effects on translation

I'm currently organising the Translation in Transition 4 conference at the UPF.
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About me

Research

The education source domain of metaphors

A recurrent accusation in political discourse across languages is that someone “hasn't done their homework”. Along with other metaphors such as “model pupil” and “learning lessons”, the expression represents a metaphor drawn from the domain of education. In a 2018 article published in Discourse & Society, I argue that the expression is a structural metaphor and an understatement, and thus works as a figurative frame, presenting often complex tasks as simple schoolwork, thus manipulating public debates. Based on an analysis of the Corpus of Historical & Contemporary American English, HANSARD corpus of British parliament speeches and the ZEIT corpus, I show that the metaphor became widespread in English in the 1960s and spread into German around 20 years later. While it was first used to say “we have done our homework” or “X has not done their homework”, thus praising oneself or accusing others, it is now used regularly in neutral contexts. Instead, it has become widespread to refer to issues in public debates as “homework”. I argue that this is problematic due to the manipulative force of the metaphor, as it frames issues in a school context, shapes the way we perceive discourse actors and pre-empts potential criticism by presenting a particular solution as a non-negotiable duty, as “homework”. I hope to continue this line of research into other languages such as Spanish (“hacer los deberes”) and Catalan (“fer els deures”).

Blog publications

Eine Metapher, sie zu knechten (23 October 2018, Der Freitag)
Die Benutzung der Metapher “Hausaufgaben machen” suggeriert ungleiche Machtverhältnisse und ersetzt Debatte durch moralische Verpflichtung. So fördert sie den Populismus.

This research is part of the MODEVIGTRAD project (Evidentiality and epistemicity in texts of evaluative discourse genres. Contrastive analysis and translation), led by Montserrat González Condom. The project is funded by the Spanish Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (FFI2014-57313-P).

Editorial Influence in Translation

When we talk about phenomena of translated language, we usually equate translated language with the language we find in translated books, magazines, newspapers or other such published translations. What we often forget is that in the production of translated documents, there are many intermediate stages such as revision, editing or proofreading where the language in the text is changed, sometimes significantly. While some phenomena like sentence splitting are caused by both translators and editors alike (see my article in Applied Linguistics), I also show in this book chapter that translators and editors are linguistic actors that are guided by noticeably different purposes. On the one hand, they both make extensive changes to nominalisations (see my article in The Translator), which I have shown in this article published in Perspectives to happen especially when the nominalisation is postmodified, for instance by genitive attributes. On the other hand, editors also eliminate passive constructions from translations, especially when the verb is in the past tense (article accepted in Across Languages and Cultures). With respect to a proposed “mediation effect”, it seems that translating and editing are rather different activities. Thus, I argue for a greater inclusion of unedited texts in translation corpora (see my article published in Target).

Language contact in translation and language change

Translation as a site of language contact can play a role in language change. I'm interested in the effects that the contact of two languages both in the mind of the translator and in that of the reader can have on each other. In my PhD project, I have concentrated on the analysis of parataxis and hypotaxis in English−German translation, which has found some evidence for a diachronic decrease of hypotactic constructions in causal (article published in Languages in Contrast) and concessive clauses (article published in Text & Talk) in translated language, although this trend is not corroborated in non-translated language. As I report in those articles, there does seem to be a trend towards a greater use of sentence-initial concessive conjunctions in German business articles, which may well have been affected by language contact in translation.

Supervision of student research

Tengo especial interés en dirigir trabajos académicos en los campos de la lingüística descriptiva o contrastiva, el análisis del discurso y los estudios de traducción basados en corpus, tratando el alemán, el inglés, el catalán y el español, así como proyectos interdisciplinarios que incluyan una de esas líneas de investigación o lenguas. Aquí están algunos trabajos que he dirigido:

Hochberg, Amy. In progress. Identifying pragmatic markers in public service announcements. PhD in Translation Studies.

Knoll, Rebecca. 2018. Language and style in Truman Capote's “Breakfast at Tiffany's” − the German translations from 1959 and 2006. MA in Translation Studies.

Cherta, Joaquín. 2018. Anàlisi descriptiva de les interferències en el lèxic català col·loquial en un programa de televisió. BA Applied Languages.

Díaz, Ariadna. 2018. Per què són més recurrents les frases fetes calcades que les expressions “genuïnes”? El cas d'amb la que està caient. BA Applied Languages.

Hochberg, Amy. 2017. From corpses to corpus: Identifying pragmatic markers in public service announcements. MA in Translation Studies.

Yao, Gang. 2017. From migrant to migrante: A corpus-based analysis. MA in Theoretical and Applied Linguistics.

Farré, Guillem. 2017. Vergleichende Analyse der Übersetzungen ins Spanische und Katalanische von Er ist wieder da. BA Translating and Interpreting.

Fadaré, Pelumi. 2017. Verstehensprobleme bei der deutschen Verwaltungssprache. BA Translating and Interpreting.

Sulca, Eva. 2017. Estudio de las portadas de la prensa española y alemana. BA Translating and Interpreting.

Publications

Here is a complete list of my publications sorted by research topic.

Framing through metaphor in political discourse

A cross-linguistic analysis of the “homework” metaphor in German and English political discourse

Discourse & Society
2018 2018: 29(6), 609−628
10.1177/0957926518802916

Abstract

A frequently encountered expression in political discourse across languages is the assertion that someone has not “done their homework”. As the expression is a combination of structural metaphor and understatement, it is a figurative frame that simplifies public debates by presenting complex issues such as economic reforms as simple tasks and stifles critical and consensual political debates by replacing questions of fairness and adequacy with unquestionable moral obligation. In spite of this manipulative force, metaphor research has paid little attention to this metaphor. I investigate its emergence and pragmatic effects in American and German newspaper discourse through the COHA/COCA and Die ZEIT corpora. Findings for both English and German show that, while the metaphor was originally used for positive self- and negative other-representation, it is now used increasingly often without specifying whether or not someone has done their homework, which is evidence to suggest that it has become accepted in public discourse as a normal way of framing political issues.

Editing in translation

Universals of editing and translation

Empirical modelling of translation and interpreting, edited by Silvia Hansen-Schirra, Oliver Czulo & Sascha Hofmann (Language Science Press)
2017: 241−275
10.5281/zenodo.1090972

Language change through translation

Thesis

Reviews & unindexed publications

Teaching

Modules I teach this year:

Past teaching

At the University of Kent, I taught German linguistics, German phonetics & phonology, German as a second language and Translation between English and German. I also supervised extended year abroad essays on linguistic issues of present-day German.

Teaching qualifications

  • Formació Inicial en Docència Universitària
    Universitat Pompeu Fabra, 2016
  • Associate Teacher Accreditation Programme
    University of Kent, 2014

Activities

Here is a list of events I've attended as invited speaker.

Conference talks

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2017: The editor’s invisibility: Changes to nominalisation in the translation workflow

Translation in Transition 3 − Universiteit Gent, Belgium

2017: “Tsipras’s homework has been thrown back in his face”: A cross-linguistic study of the “homework” metaphor as positive self- and negative other presentation

International Contrastive Linguistics Conference 8 (ICLC8) − National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece

2016: Precision or readability? On the influence of editors in English-German business translation

Meaning in Translation: Illusion of Precision − Riga Technical University, Latvia

2016: Editors' influence on passive use in English-German business translation

Congreso Internacional de Traducción: EnTRetextos − Universitat de Valencia, Spain

2016: An investigation of diachronic change in hypotaxis and parataxis in German through language contact with English in translation

Diachronic Corpora, Genre and Language Change − University of Nottingham, UK

2015: Tracing nominalisation through the phases of English-German translation: A case study of grammatical metaphor

The 42nd International Systemic Functional Congress (ISFC42) − RWTH Aachen, Germany

2015: Investigating English-German translation of ideational grammatical metaphor in business articles

Metaphors in/and/of Translation: Specialised Researching and Applying Metaphor seminar − Universiteit Leiden, Netherlands

2015: Estudio de caso de la metáfora gramatical a través de un análisis corpus de la traducción del inglés al alemán

7.o Congreso Internacional de Lingüística del Corpus (CILC 2015) − Universidad de Valladolid, Spain

2015: Differentiating the translation process: A corpus analysis of editorial influence on translated business articles

Translation in Transition 2 − Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Germany

2014: The effect of sentence splitting on cohesion in German business translations

4th Using Corpora in Contrastive and Translation Studies Conference (UCCTS4) − University of Lancaster, UK

2013: Diachronic change in causal cohesive devices in translated and non-translated German business articles

7th International Contrastive Linguistics & 3rd Using Corpora in Contrastive and Translation Studies Conference (ICLC7 - UCCTS3) − Universiteit Gent, Belgium

2012: Language change through translation? Investigating diachronic syntactic change in English–German business article translations

8th International Postgraduate Conference in Translation & Interpreting (IPCITI8) − Dublin City University, Ireland

2011: Syntactic change through translation: A corpus-based approach to language change

20th International Postgraduate Linguistics Conference (PLC20) − University of Manchester, UK

2011: The effect of translation on language change: How corpora can advance the debate

7th International Postgraduate Conference in Translation & Interpreting (IPCITI7) − University of Edinburgh, UK