Word Translation Entropy: Evidence of Early Target Language Activation During Reading for Translation

  • Moritz SchaefferEmail author
  • Barbara Dragsted
  • Kristian Tangsgaard Hvelplund
  • Laura Winther Balling
  • Michael Carl
Part of the New Frontiers in Translation Studies book series (NFTS)


This study reports on an investigation into the relationship between the number of translation alternatives for a single word and eye movements on the source text. In addition, the effect of word order differences between source and target text on eye movements on the source text is studied. In particular, the current study investigates the effect of these variables on early and late eye movement measures. Early eye movement measures are indicative of processes that are more automatic while late measures are more indicative of conscious processing. Most studies that found evidence of target language activation during source text reading in translation, i.e. co-activation of the two linguistic systems, employed late eye movement measures or reaction times. The current study therefore aims to investigate if and to what extent earlier eye movement measures in reading for translation show evidence of co-activation. Results show that the number of translation alternatives for a single word and differences between source and target text in terms of word order have an effect on very early and late eye movement measures. Results are interpreted in terms of semantic and structural cross-linguistic priming: items which have a similar word order in source and target texts are likely to have similar syntactic structures. These items are therefore more likely to prime structurally. Source items which have few translation alternatives are more likely to share a semantic representation and are hence more likely to prime semantically than items with more translation alternatives. Findings support the literal translation hypothesis.


Co-activation Priming Translation Entropy Eye movements 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Moritz Schaeffer
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Barbara Dragsted
    • 1
  • Kristian Tangsgaard Hvelplund
    • 3
  • Laura Winther Balling
    • 1
  • Michael Carl
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Research and Innovation in Translation and Translation Technology, Department of International Business CommunicationCopenhagen Business SchoolFrederiksbergDenmark
  2. 2.Institute for Language, Cognition and ComputationUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  3. 3.Department of English, Germanic and Romance StudiesUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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