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 contrastive phenomena of language, discourse and translation. My main working languages are German, English, Spanish and Catalan and I have been interested in the following issues:

  • corpus-assisted studies of framing and metaphors in 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

I've recently organised the Translation in Transition 4 conference at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra. I also organise a yearly international conference for undergraduate linguistics students (Congreso de Estudiantes de Grado de Lenguas Modernas y Aplicadas (CELMA)) at the UPF.
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About me

Research

Strategies of framing and manipulating discourse on immigration

The starting hypothesis of this project is that there is a set of cross-linguistically shared linguistic devices that frame migration in a particular way and that are applied similarly in different European countries. The general objective of this project is to advance framing and discourse research in two key but unexplored areas: First, it seeks to investigate whether particular frames can be observed cross-linguistically, which would imply the existence of cross-nationally similar discourse patterns or narratives on immigration. Second, it seeks to investigate whether and how framing on social media differs from that on traditional media, which would advance our knowledge on the importance and challenges of social media for public discourse.
While extensive scholarly work exists on how immigration is framed in the media, it is with the recent rise of populism in Europe that the language employed by politicians and echoed in the media is increasingly becoming a pan-European topic of both interest and concern. While the media play a key role in shaping the discourse on immigration and determining which frames are used and perpetuated, much work remains to be done to investigate how journalists contribute to introducing and establishing particular frames, and especially how this shapes a cross-linguistic, pan-European discourse. As current public discourse and debates are informed by news media actors, but take place largely on social media, where similarly powerful actors influence frame selection, analysis of social media discourse is invaluable for the investigation of framing. Nevertheless, only few studies have analysed such data.
The specific objectives to be addressed by this project are thus:

  1. to identify and analyse quantitatively the most recurrent frames in corpora of Spanish, English and German newspaper articles and social media posts
  2. to investigate whether different frames are chosen and propagated on social media when compared to traditional media and, if so, what differences there are
  3. to conduct a qualitative analysis of the evaluative potential of the frames encountered, with particular reference to author stance and positioning
  4. to discover cross-linguistically related patterns of frames: are similar frames used across several European languages?

This project is funded by a postdoctoral grant from Pompeu Fabra University's inter- and trans-disciplinary Planetary Wellbeing initiative.

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”).

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).

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.

Editorial Intervention 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 published 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.

Publications

Here is a complete list of my publications sorted by research topic, along with the publication details. To download any paper, just click on the title.

Framing through metaphor in political discourse

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

Discourse & Society 29(6), 609−628
2018
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 S. Hansen-Schirra, O. Czulo & S. Hofmann. Language Science Press, 241−275
2017
10.5281/zenodo.1090972

Language change through translation

Thesis

From hypotaxis to parataxis: An investigation of English–German syntactic convergence in translation

University of Manchester PhD thesis
2013
EThOS:uk.bl.ethos.603111

Abstract

Guided by the hypothesis that translation is a language contact situation that can influence language change, this study investigates a frequency shift from hypotactic to paratactic constructions in concessive and causal clauses in German management and business writing. The influence of the English SVO word order is assumed to cause language users of German to prefer verb-second, paratactic constructions to verb-final, hypotactic ones. The hypothesis is tested using a 1 million word diachronic corpus containing German translations and their source texts as well as a corpus of German non-translations. The texts date from 1982/1983 and 2008, which allows a diachronic analysis of changes in the way English causal and concessive structures have been translated. The analysis shows that in the translations, parataxis is indeed becoming more frequent at the expense of hypotaxis, a phenomenon that, to some extent, also occurs in the non-translations. Based on a corpus of unedited draft translations, it can be shown that translators rather than editors are responsible for this shift. Most of the evidence, however, suggests that the shift towards parataxis is not predominantly caused by language contact with English. Instead, there seems to be a development towards syntactically simpler constructions in this genre, which is most evident in the strong tendency towards sentence-splitting and an increased use of sentence-initial conjunctions in translations and non-translations. This simplification seems to be compensated for, to some extent, by the establishment of pragmatic distinctions between specific causal and concessive conjunctions.

Reviews & unindexed publications

Students

I'm interested in supervising research projects that fall within the topics outlined above, or that pertain to the fields of contrastive linguistics, corpus linguistics, cross-linguistic discourse or translation studies, or interdisciplinary projects that touch on any of these areas, especially involving German, English, Spanish and Catalan. Here are some research projects I have supervised:

PhD theses

Framing of obesity in Chinese social media: A multimodal critical discourse analysis

Xiang Huang, PhD in Translation Studies (in progress)

Analyzing reader-writer relationship and technicality of vocabulary in multilingual health information websites

Amy Dara Hochberg, PhD in Translation Studies (in progress)
The purpose of this PhD thesis is to determine, via a corpus study of technicality of vocabulary and writer-reader role relationship whether multilingual health communication websites in English, Spanish, French, Catalan, and Hebrew are appropriately written with regard to health literacy, and whether each cultural population would receive the health information equally as intended. This study questions whether, first, the two pragmatic determinants in multilingual health communication websites are at an adequate level for the lay reader, and second, whether the determinants reflect the cultural values of the writer or have been adapted to those of the target audience.

Final MA projects

Tendencias en la traducción literal de memes del inglés al español
Amalia del Río, MA in Translation Studies 2019
Language and style in Truman Capote's “Breakfast at Tiffany's” − the German translations from 1959 and 2006
Rebecca Knoll, MA in Translation Studies 2018
From corpses to corpus: Identifying pragmatic markers in public service announcements
Amy Dara Hochberg, MA in Translation Studies 2017
From migrant to migrante: A corpus-based analysis
Gang Yao, MA in Theoretical and Applied Linguistics 2017

Final undergraduate projects

Comparative analysis of stress-shifting pronominal encliticisation in two Menorcan towns
Júlia Florit, BA in Applied Languages 2019
¡Que caes el puchero! Verbos inacusativos y su transividad en Castilla y León
Clàudia Martínez, BA in Applied Languages 2019
Presented at the I Congreso de Estudiantes de grado de Lenguas Modernes y Aplicadas (CELMA), 2019: ¡Que caes el puchero! Verbos inacusativos y su transividad en Castilla y León
La interferència lingüística entre català i castellà a les Illes Balears
Pilar Morey, BA in Applied Languages 2019
Una anàlisi prosòdica del dialecte tortosí i lleidatà
Mariona Reverté, BA in Applied Languages 2019
Presented at the 11th Workshop on Catalan Prosody, 2019: La identificació del lleidatà i del tortosí en base a la prosòdia (with Joan Borràs-Comes)
Neologismes del català en l'àmbit de la gastronomia: Anàlisi de la revista gastronòmica Cuina
Tània Ricart, BA in Applied Languages 2019
L'adquisició dels pronoms clítics ci i ne de l'italià com a L2 i com l'afecta l'existència de pronoms equivalents en la llengua materna dominant: Els bilingües de català i castellà
Maria del Mar Sagué, BA in Applied Languages 2019
An analysis of L1 Spanish and L1 Russian students’ interlanguage pragmatic competence in L2 French
Nadezda Shchinova, BA in Applied Languages 2019
Anàlisi descriptiva de les interferències en el lèxic català col·loquial en un programa de televisió
Joaquín Cherta, BA in Applied Languages 2018
Per què són més recurrents les frases fetes calcades que les expressions “genuïnes”? El cas d'amb la que està caient
Ariadna Díaz, BA in Applied Languages 2018
Presented at the 12th Toronto Undergraduate Linguistics Conference (TULCON12), 2019: Why are calqued idioms more acceptable than “genuine” expressions? A pragmatic case study of Catalan.
Vergleichende Analyse der Übersetzungen ins Spanische und Katalanische von Er ist wieder da
Guillem Farré, BA in Translating and Interpreting 2017

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

Talks

Here is a list of events where I've given talks as invited speaker.

IATIS logo

4th IATIS International Translator Training Workshop

Cross-linguistic and corpus-based translation studies − Challenges and implications
Uzbek State World Languages University, Uzbekistan (3 April 2019)

Conference talks

Click on the icon to download the slides.

conference poster

Movement or debate? Differing discourses on the #MeToo hashtag in English, German and Spanish

Genealogies of Knowledge II: Evolving transnational, transdisciplinary and translational epistemologies − Hong Kong Baptist University, China, 2020

Already a movement or still a debate? Framings of the #MeToo hashtag in German, English and Spanish

Translation in Transition 4 − Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Spain, 2019

screenshot

The “education” frame as a means to establish unequal power relations and manipulate debates

23rd DiscourseNet Conference (DN23) − Università degli Studi di Bergamo, Italy, 2019

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, 2017

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, 2016

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, 2015

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, 2014

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

7th International Contrastive Linguistics (ICLC7) & 3rd Using Corpora in Contrastive and Translation Studies Conference (UCCTS3) − Universiteit Gent, Belgium, 2013

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, 2012

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, 2011