Gains and Pitfalls of Sentence-Splitting in Translation | July 2014 | Translation Journal

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Gains and Pitfalls of Sentence-Splitting in Translation


The article seeks to draw attention to issues of text cohesion in student translations. It is approached with regard to sentence splitting, a technique which is used to dispense with structural complexity of texts and to enhance their readability and conformity to target language text-generating conventions.

Based on a parallel learner translator corpus, this research is centered at conformities and, more notably, translation mistakes associated with splitting. It shows that splitting is more reasonable with coordinated structures, while, when applied to subordinating relations, it requires thorough analyses and careful structuring of both the sentence in question and subsequent discourse. In English-Russian translation coordination effected by “and” and non-restrictive relative clauses prove to be the “most common suspects” when it comes to splitting. Mistakes analysis shows that disregard to, or inability to interpret semantic relations in the original while splitting result in incoherent discourse, as does failure to adjust informative structure of the newly coined sentence sequence to the structural context. There are also contexts in which splitting is usually avoided for pragmatic reasons.

sentence splitting, cohesion, discourse relations, translator training, RusLTC

1. Introduction: Motivation, Research Data and Goals
In our experience of translator training, one of the major problems is lack of textual cohesion in translations. The situation comes as no surprise as students are mostly trained to avoid mistakes at the lexical and grammatical levels including syntax that does not extend, though, beyond sentence boundaries. At the same time the ultimate objective of translation is a text, or rather a discourse; and it is cohesion that defines a text as text. The strong connection between the quality of cohesive ties in target texts and overall quality of translation has been repeatedly stressed in Translation Studies (see for example, Kachroo, 1984). Most mistakes in text structure are down to the tendency for students to ignore textual features of the source and to translate at best at sentence level. As a result the target teхt lacks texuality or texture defined by Halliday and Нasan with reference to relations that obtain across sentence boundaries (Halliday, Нasan, 1976 : 4). In student translations sentence sequences are often autonomous disconnected sentences rather than coherent discourse. 
This article focuses on a different source of “cohesion mistakes” in translation, namely those that are associated with sentence-splitting (or diffusion) in translation. For the purposes of the present study we define it as change of sentence boundaries, i.e. rendering of one sentence with two or more. By a sentence here we mean a formal graphical sentence running from a capital letter to a full stop and set off by spaces.
The said translational technique sprang to our eye in connection with Russian Learner Translator Corpus (, which we currently develop and use as the basis for this research. It is an on-line parallel corpus of student translations in a variety of text types. It’s English-Russian subcorpus contains 164 English non-fiction source texts (230966 word tokens, 13353 sentence-segments) and their respective multiple translations of the total number of 700 texts (409415 word tokens). The Corpus compilation requires manual correction of automatic alignment, which is by default adjusted to segment texts at sentence level. The correction mainly consists in splitting and joining segments, whenever translators chose to deviate from the general strategy of rendering one source sentence with one target sentence. The statistics for splitting sentences in the Corpus informs that this transformation is employed in translation of about 3 % of source sentence-segments. It is important to mention that for technical reasons we do not take into account cases of internal shifts in sentence structure embracing translations in which original semi-composite sentences are rendered as compound or complex sentences, i.e. when there is a change in the number of well-formed predicative lines, but there is no change in the formal number of sentences in the text. Similarly, we disregard the opposite technique to join sentences in translation. 
Our research is based on the semantic and pragmatic contextual analysis of 250 examples which were randomly selected from the total of 386 English sentences that were split in their Russian translations and automatically retrieved from the Corpus. The said research data was filtered to exclude both parsing mistakes and translations which reveal total lack of understanding of the source referents on the part of the translator, i.e. translations which can not be analyzed in terms of semantic or pragmatic aspects of text structure as they represent the so called “word salad”. It is important that the Corpus makes it possible to review contexts for both source and target segments and we relied on full texts in our analysis.
This paper aims to describe types of syntactic structures that undergo splitting, along with their semantic and pragmatic properties, typical motivations and results of this shift in English-to-Russian translation. We will give an overview of typical semantic and pragmatic pitfalls of this shift and will attempt to define conditions under which sentence-splitting is motivated, and when it is potentially threatening to text cohesion and coherence.

2. Why Sentences Get Split in Translation
Despite our headline we do not argue that sentence splitting is to be avoided. In a variety of contexts it seems quite reasonable. In fact our statistics shows that in 65 % of cases from our data sentence splitting has done no harm to overall translation quality. 
It does not come as a surprise that the vast majority of sentences that undergo splitting in translation are structurally very complicated. Most of the complexity done away with in translations arises from composite sentences, which include coordinated parts of various structure. Most of them include compound or complex sentences conjoined with the help of coordinating conjunctions (in a descending frequency order) “and”, “but”, “so”, “while”, “for”, “yet”, “although”, “whereas”, “or”, as well as combinations of “and” with the said conjunctions. This group of sentences is extended to include 34 examples of asyndeton formally marked by either a semi-colon or a comma. All together they account for almost half of our sample (47%; 117 out of 250), including 56 cases of interclausal “and” (22%) – the most frequent coordinator.

  1. Several of our research discoveries have been adapted for commercial use, and one particular breakthrough in linear hydraulics is now being used in every oil company in the country1.

It seems that the belief that a sentence which opens with “And” is stylistically flawed in English still holds because they prefer to join sentences with “, and” rather than put a full stop when they have to show that the propositions are connected. Our Corpus (not just the sample!) contains only 38 examples of sentences with “And” in the absolute beginning, which compares unfavorably with the 56 cases of  interclausal “and” mentioned above in just our sample. The Russian language is less opposed to sentence sequences in this case, and therefore, splitting is quite justified, especially taking into account that English “and” signals exclusively coordinative discourse relations at the pragmatic level (Asher, Vieu, 2005 : 598). 
Semantically “and”-introduced connection between sentences can vary from simple addition to the meanings of successive elements in narration, simultaneity and contrast (see dictionary meanings at, and sometimes translators choose to make these meanings explicit. This trend is especially typical with “and” expressing contrast, consequence and conditional result or the meaning of a succession of events:




They are perhaps, being accused of wrong-doing, their lives are falling apart and it should be no surprise if the media is often blamed for this (causative-consecutive meaning).

Naprimer, ih obvinyayut v pravonarushenii, ih jizn' rushitsya. Poetomu nikogo ne doljno udivlyat' to, chto oni chasto obvinyayut v etom SMI.


Though there is no safe harbor, they have eluded the cops, and survived the clap of despair, and they go anew and undaunted (narration; ≈ afterwards, then).

Hotya u nih i net nadejnogo ubejischa, no vse-taki im udalos' uskol'znut' ot policii i perejit' otchayanie. I, nesmotrya ni na chto, oni idut vpered uverennye i besstrashnye.


Between the end of 1995 and mid-1997 L'Oreal shares rose substantially and then fell back to finish 1997 at 2400 francs (contrast).

V period s konca 1995 do serediny 1997 akcii «Lorial'» znachitel'no vyrosli v cene. A k koncu 2007 opustilis' do 2400 frankov.

In most cases, however, interclausal “and” is altogether dropped in the Russian translation. Simple juxtaposition of two sentences, given their semantic connectedness, seems to be Russian functional equivalent to the English “and” used in its most general and frequent, almost “text-grammatical” meaning of combining ideas (32 out of 56 cases; 57% of all and-coordinated structures or 13 % of the whole sample). These cases certainly include most cases when “and” is used in combination with another coordinating conjunction. The meaning of the latter is usually retained in the translation, while “and” is not rendered:




Heartsome is a powerful tool at an attractive price, and it’s, in my experience, the best of the commercial TenTs.

Harsam je imeet privlekatel'nuyu cenu i dovol'no mnogofunkcionalen. Sudya po opytu, ya by skazal, chto eto samyi udachnyi PR.

In fact, all means of expressing coordination are used to model the topic of discourse: they either mark topiс framing/introduction, topic shifts, topic continuation or topic closure. The range and scope of these sequential discourse markers differ in the two languages under study in that the Russian language more often relies on juxtaposition of sentences for topic continuation, for one. There seems to be comparatively few semantic or pragmatic mistakes related to this type of sentence splitting. On the other hand, translators tend to retain markers of more dramatic discourse markers such as shift of topic and topic closure even if they choose to split the original sentence (this is to be cross-checked on the data from parallel corpora of professional translations for individual text types and genres). Most of the mistakes here arise from misinterpretation of type of sequential relations signaled by original markers or the scope of their operation (see (16, 17) in part 3 below). 
Apart from sentences with coordination, splitting can result in upgrading of a clause, phrase or verbal or nominative construction to a separate sentence. 
In our sample the parts of the sentence that get upgraded are (in the frequency order):

  1. dependent clauses in a variety of functions (18% of the sample), most commonly – non-defining relative clauses (18 out of 44 cases);
  2. various verbal constructions, most commonly participial, and absolute nominative constructions (12%);
  3. appositives, most often set off by dashes (8%);
  4. homogeneous members, mostly predicates (7%);
  5. prepositional nominative phrases, typically with adverbial functions (4%);
  6. coordinated clauses introduced into the matrix structure with a colon (4%).

Sentence-splitting is a typical resort whenever translators deal with extended sentences, i.e. sentences overloaded with dependent elements. Thus, this transformation can be used to make semantic and pragmatic relations between ideas more explicit (or interpreted, for that matter). In (6) the information from the participial construction in adverbial function is rendered as a consequence, while in (7) “and” in its consecutive manifestation has got a more explicit reading of result pragmatically functioning as elaboration (we have added some context to be persuasive).




Another situation, that cannot occur in a parliament, arises when the people choose a President of one party and a Congress of another, putting the executive and the legislative branches automatically in opposition to each other.

Drugaya situaciya, kotoraya ne mojet vozniknut' v britanskom parlamente – eto izbranie prezidenta, otnosyaschegosya k odnoi partii, a Kongressa – k drugoi. V itoge, ispolnitel'nyi i zakonodatel'nyi organy vlasti avtomaticheski protivopostavlyayutsya drug drugu.


Many young and inexperienced reporters fall into the trap of believing that a research interview is the same as the performance and that a hectoring, intrusive manner is required. This is likely to lose you the interviewee very quickly and will certainly not encourage them to tell you anything useful.
Even as a performance it is not always productive and several top-notch professionals, including Sir Robin Day, have had interviewees walk out on them.

V personal'nom interv'yu takoi podhod ne vsegda produktiven. Byvali sluchai, kogda daje pervoklassnye professionaly, vklyuchaya Sera Robina Deya, teryali svoih sobesednikov, kotorye ne vyderjivali stol' naporistoi manery besedy i prekraschali interv'yu.

Cohesion is largely achieved through restoring the “missing” parts of the original sentence element. The restored parts usually carry words which co-refer to objects belonging to the text topic domain as well as demonstrative pronouns anaphorically anchored in the previous text:




To the agricultural economists, however, nutrition was more than a science of diet; it was a signpost pointing the way to an economy of abundance

Odnako, soglasno tochke zreniya ekonomistov po sel'skomu hozyaistvu, racional'noe pitanie stalo chem-to bol'shim, chem prosto naukoi o rejime pitaniya. Racional'noe pitanie - eto esche i svoeobraznyi sposob dostijeniya ekonomiki izobiliya.


Michael Elphick, for instance, starred in the TV series Harry as the eponymous freelance reporter who seems to have no real redeeming features at all.

Maikl Elfik, k primeru, sygral glavnuyu rol' frilansera Garri v odnoimennom seriale. Kajetsya, chto u ego geroya voobsche net polojitel'nyh chert.

It is particularly typical for relative clauses upgraded to separate sentences (10d). Concerning relative clauses, it sprang to our eye that translators regularly resort to splitting when dealing with them, notably, non-descriptive ones. It seem that the Russian language does not favour jamming relatively independent additional information into the sentence structure, and therefore, this type of splitting can be typologically justified, especially if the information from the relative clause is continued in the text (10 a to d) below. Although it can be argued that the example in (10b) looks somewhat chopped, and in (10c) the semantic relations between propositions involved in the target, differ from how they are arranged in the source text, on the whole a separate sentence instead of a relative clause is possible.

(10 a)



Even if dumping weedkiller on the crops of peasant farmers quadruples the local price of coca leaves, this tends to have little impact on the street price, which is set mainly by the risk of getting cocaine into Europe or the United States.
Nowadays the drug warriors claim to seize close to half of all the cocaine that is produced. The street price in the United States does seem to have risen, and the purity seems to have fallen, over the past year.

Daje esli ispol'zuetsya gerbicid dlya unichtojeniya kokovyh polei, i padaet cena na kokovye list'ya, eto okazyvaet neznachitel'noe vliyanie na ulichnuyu cenu. Ona zavisit ot riska dostavki kokaina v Evropu i SShA.

(10 b)

Gesparel is itself jointly owned by Nestlewhich has 49% of the capital, and Mrs Bettencourt and her family who have a majority stake of 51 %.

Gesparel, v svoyu ochered', prinadlejit kompanii Nestle. Ona yavlyaetsya obladatelem 49% paketa. Kontrol'nyi paket akcii, v razmere 51%, prinadlejit g-je Betankur i ee sem'e.

(10 c)

But the budding entrepreneur is more likely to be an outsider, a troublemaker, a rebel,who drops out of college to get a job, discovers a flair for building companies from nothing, gets bored quickly and moves on.

Uspeshnym predprinimatelem s bol'shei dolei veroyatnosti mojet stat' narushitel' spokoistviya, brosivshii kolledj radi poiskov raboty. Otkryv v sebe sklonnost' k predprinimatel'stvu, on sozdaet biznes na pustom meste i razvivaet ego, kogda stanovitsya skuchno rabotat' v prejnih usloviyah.

(10 d)

One favourite, supposedly, was sales of men’s underwear, which are usually pretty constant, but drop in recessions when men replace them less often.

Odin iz ego lyubimyh - kolichestvo prodannyh predmetov mujskogo nijnego bel'ya. Ob'em prodaj mujskih trusov obychno postoyanen, a v period recessii pri otsutstvii neobhodimosti pokupat' novye chasto rezko sokraschaetsya.

While upgrading appositives they often use particles and demonstrative pronouns as cohesive means that prevent text from falling apart. Particles in general are a specific Russian cohesive device and they often appear in split sentences:




By some miracle, the view north from Hopper's house has barely changed in all thattime - a subversively unassuming expanse of hills and a sea-glazed sky.

Kakim-to chudom vid k severu ot domika prakticheski ne izmenilsya. Vse tot jeskromnyi prostor holmov i nebo cveta morskoi laguny.

Splitting can also be used to signal discourse relations between bits of information explicitly, which results in a better structured text:




If you thought reptiles were some of the least intelligent creatures in the animal kingdom, well, you might want to reconsider.

Возможно, до сих пор вы считали, что рептилии – далеко не самые разумные существа в животном мире. Что ж, прочитав эту статью, вы, скорее всего, измените свою точку зрения.


As for China’s being too poor to afford democracy, today it is as well off as some of the world’s poorest democracies were a quarter century ago, with high life expectancy and levels of literacy.

Что же касается того, что Китай слишком беден для демократии, на сегодняшний день у Китая куда больше средств, чем четверть века назад было у некоторых пусть бедных, но все же демократических государств. К тому же, в Китае отмечается высокая продолжительность жизни и высокий уровень грамотности населения.

The analysis of our data shows that splitting does not only help to dispense with verbal constructions, some types of which are non-existent in Russian, and to adjust to other stylistic and interlingual typological differences, but it also helps to improve coherence and cohesion of the text streamlining its structure.

3. Typical Cohesion and Coherence Mistakes Arising from Sentence Splitting
On the other hand splitting is associated with a number of mistakes in translation, affecting the semantics and pragmatics of discourse and resulting in less readable or intelligible texts. Semantics of discourse, broadly speaking, is logical relations between propositions based on their meanings, while by pragmatics we mean types of discourse relations established between propositions in the text. Following the SDRT (Segmented Discourse Representation Theory), discourse relations show “the relevance of each single segment within the discourse structure, and by contributing their various semantics to discourse content, they make explicit the specific communication intention apparently motivating the utterance of each such segment” (Vieu, 2009 : 39). We do not argue that sentence splitting is the only cause of coherence and cohesion problems in student translations, but there are clear indications that this shift can provoke incoherence and non-sense in translations. It is also true that these mistakes can be defined as lack of agreement (or even contradiction) between the explicit signals of text structure and text semantics, or more commonly lack of clues as to the role of the new sentence in the discourse. 
When the translator chooses to split sentences he or she can’t but make sure that the newly-coined sequence of sentences hangs together both structurally and semantically. The new sentence should be adopted to the flow of information from the previous sentence to the subsequent sentence in terms of theme-and-rheme ties. Failure to establish these connection results in somewhat less connected discourse and loss of (or vague) connection between the upgraded part and its matrix structure as well as the subsequent text. In (14) the non-defining relative clause that provides explanation to the statement in the main clause is shifted to paratactic position but the offered theme and rheme structure does not put the reason for devastating effect of glaucoma in the elderly in the focus of the new sentence.




Depression afflicts people of all ages, but it can be particularly devastating for older people, who are less likely to seek treatment and more likely to commit suicide than younger adults similarly afflicted.

Depressiya prichinyaet stradaniya lyudyam lyubogo vozrasta, no osobenno takoe sostoyanie gubitel'no dlya pojilyh lyudei. Namnogo men'she veroyatnost', chto oni obratyatsya za medicinskoi pomosch'yu, i namnogo bol'she veroyatnost' soversheniya imi samoubiistva, po sravneniyu s molodymi lyud'mi v podobnom sostoyanii.


Most likely to be used to research a feature or personal profile, it is certainly used to really get under the skin of the interviewee.

Chasche vsego takoi vid interv'yu ispol'zuyut dlya togo, chtoby pokazat', chto predstavlyaet soboi sobesednik, vyyavit' ego harakternye cherty. Chasto v biograficheskom interv'yu jurnalisty lezut sobesedniku pod koju.


There are several different types of research interview used by reporters. 
1) The one-to-one short interview. Short conversations with police officers, emergency workers and plant operatives.
None of these are long (the interviewees are too busy for long conversations) and they are focused on specifics, but they can still be useful for pointing up issues and adding colour.

Takoi razgovor dlitsya nedolgo (interv'yuiruemye slishkom zanyaty, chtoby vesti dlinnye besedy) i sosredotochen na aspektah raboty sobesednika. S pomosch'yu takogo kommentariya jurnalist privodit zaklyucheniya ekspertov i pridaet tekstu nasyschennost'.

Another concern that is associated with splitting is the necessity to specify semantic relations between propositions. It is not necessarily achieved by overt conjunctive elements – if well structured, relations between sentences can be clear from their semantic structure. But intended non-default interpretations benefit if they are explicitly marked. Our data show that contrast is one important coordinative relation, and if it is overlooked in translation it usually tells on text coherence. In (15) above the translator ignored the relations of contrast between the detached infinitive construction of purpose and the main clause having substituted them for relations of simple combination or addition of information by simply juxtaposing the two propositions. The resulting sequence of sentences is rather a set of autonomous facts than a purposeful discourse. Similarly in (16) loss of contrast relations results in incoherence of the two sentences. In (17) the propositions “governments tax and regulate” and “governments use the funds” form a consequence, where the latter is the result of the former. In the translation, however, this consecutive meaning of “and” is interpreted as simple addition signaled by the conjunctive adverb «также».




Governments would tax and regulate the drug trade, and use the funds raised (and the billions saved on law-enforcement) to educate the public about the risks of drug-taking and to treat addiction.

Pravitel'stvo moglo by oblagat' nalogom i kontrolirovat' torgovlyu narkotikami. Takje mojno bylo by, ispol'zuya sobrannye sredstva (i milliardy, sekonomlennye na finansirovanii pravoohranitel'nyh organov), preduprejdat' naselenie o vrede upotrebleniya narkotikov i lechit' ot zavisimosti.

Introduction of a new proposition into the discourse structure means that there appears a new rheme, a new focus of attention. It can affect topic development in discourse and distract the reader’s attention from the main idea. In (18) the new sentence hampers text cohesion as it stands out from the context as disconnected, interrupting the train of thought and disrupting the logic of the text. It is especially obvious, if we add the previous and subsequent elements of discourse:




First comes spreading prosperity. Then representative government replaces tyranny. Finally, notions of human rights, social justice and the fallibility of the state extend even to death row, and the judicial terror of capital punishment is ditched. 
Last year was the first in Europe’s recorded history in which not one person was executed. 
On the face of it Asia stacks up not at all well against this achievement. The region accounts for just over half the world’s population. Prosperity has spread, and representative government. But in its application of the death penalty, Asia leads the world.

V proshlom godu Evropa ne primenyala vysshuyu meru nakazaniya. I etot god stal dlya evropeicev istoricheskim sobytiem.

It turns out that the sentence in italics highlights that Europe has reached a certain stage in its development which is marked but the death penalty ban. The subsequent discourse contrasts this situation to Asian. The new sentence in translation unnecessarily shifts reader’s attention from the achievement itself (no death penalty) to the attitude of the Europeans to this fact (absent in the original!). Similar incoherence of discourse can be seen in (19). The prepositional nominative phrase, marking the exception from the general rule, is upgraded to a separate sentence and appended to what has been the main clause in the original. The new sentence, unlike its reduced version, gets the theme and rheme structure of its own, which focuses the reader’s attention on the car makes that are labeled “the few exceptions”. It is natural that the reader would expect continuation of this rheme, but it does not happen in the text.




Mass-market cars may be democratic, butwith a few shining exceptions (the Mini; the Fiat 500; the Volkswagen 'Beetle') - the vast majority are about as inspiring as a dishwasher.

Avtomobili, kotorye izgotavlivayutsya dlya shirokogo potrebleniya, mogut byt' vpolne dostupnymi i demokratichnymi, no bol'shinstvo iz nih sposobny vdohnovit' svoego vladel'ca ne bol'she, chem posudomoechnaya mashina. No, tem ne menee, est' neskol'ko yarkih isklyuchenii, naprimer, tak nazyvaemye mini avtomobili ili Fiat 500 ili Volkswagen 'Beetle'.

Order of the propositions is also crucial for maintaining text cohesion. In the next example (20) a dependent clause of concession (Although that hope is still unrealized), which takes up the information of the previous sentence (fervently wished) in translation, is upgraded and moved to the end of the segment. It leads to somewhat erratic discourse structure, provided that the subsequent discourse is anaphorically attached to the main clause of the original.




Zamenhof fervently wished that his invented tongue would become the world’s second language.
Although that hope is still unrealized,nearly 6.000 zealous Esperantists – the largest gathering ever – from as far away as Japan and Brazil are in Warsaw this week to honor Zamenhof on the occasion of the 100th birthday of his language. 
They are doing so with a variety of events, all in Esperanto,

Okolo 6 000 ubejdennyh esperantistov – bol'she, chem kogda libo – s'edutsya na etoi nedele v Varshavu so vsego mira, daje iz takih otdalennyh ugolkov planety kak Yaponiya i Braziliya, chtoby pochtit' pamyat' Zamengofa i otprazdnovat' stoletie sozdannogo im yazyka. Odnako ego jelanie tak i ne osuschestvilos'.

Speaking of anaphor resolution, it is worth mentioning that splitting sometimes leads to uncertainty in discourse interpretation, because the reader is not provided with the clues as to where to attach the next sentence in the structure. For example, in (21) the predicate involves wider social costs covers social consequences of addiction, other than dysfunctional families, but in the discourse hierarchy offered in translation it is the family problems that threaten the well-being of society. The reader encounters even greater problems trying to infer the appropriate attachment point for «они» from the sentence following the one that happen to be split in translation in (22).




But addiction can also inflict misery on the families and especially the children of any addict, and involves wider social costs.

No zavisimost' takje mojet prinesti neschast'e v sem'i, osobenno detyam narkozavisimyh.Eto privedet k social'nym problemam.


Researchers questioned 1,068adults about their levels of happiness and anxiety, their physical health and their eating and sleeping habits in an online survey.
They found that "morning people" were out of bed by 6.58am on average, while "evening people" waited until 8.54am to start their day.

Issledovateli oprosili 1068 vzroslyh cherez internet. Opros soderjal voprosy, kasayuschiesya stepeni udovletvorennosti jizn'yu, trevojnosti, fizicheskogo zdorov'ya, privychek v ede i rejima sna respondentov. Oni obnarujili, chto «javoronki» v srednem vstayut v 6.48, v to vremya kak «sovy» nachinayut svoi den' v 8.54.

While splitting sentences it is important to take into account the subsequent discourse. This shift might have been a great solution to render the original defining clause of the text opening sentence in (23) where it bridges to the purpose of the text – a review of a movie starring Charlie Chaplin. But the translator misses this pragmatic role of this structure and comes up with a sentence which is not centered on the idea of renewed interest to Chaplin (upheld in subsequent current torrid spell), but rather on its standing value.




Only those who reach for their gun when they hear the word “culture” (like the late critic, Herr Dr. Joseph Göbbels) can dislike Charlie Chaplin whose works are enjoying a revival in New York today.
I took the occasion in the current torrid spell to re-see his “Modern Times”.

Charli Chaplina mogut ne lyubit' tol'ko te lyudi kotorye, uslyshav slovo «kul'tura» tyanutsya k orujiyu (naprimer pokoinyi doktor Iozef Gebbel's). Rabotami Charli Chaplina naslajdayutsya v N'yu-Iorke i po sei den'.

One more pragmatic pitfall of splitting consists in erroneous rendering of semantic relations between propositions as a pragmatic relation. For example, in (24) causative-consecutive semantics of relations in the last part of the segment is substituted for discourse relations of conclusion made on the part of the author. It might not be very dramatic in some texts , but not others. 




Turning up late implies that you think yourself more important than the interviewee, and that they are not deserving of respect and so is not likely to improve your chances of a good story.

Opozdanie oznachaet, chto Vy schitaete sebya bolee vajnym chelovekom, chem interv'yuiruemyi, i chto on ne zaslujivaet Vashego uvajeniya. Takim obrazom, Vashi shansy uslyshat' ot sobesednika obstoyatel'nyi rasskaz umen'shayutsya.

Though it is hard to generalize on the types of content or cohesion errors found in translations involving splitting due to the interpreting issues and interplay of other factors leading to mistakes, we are positive that splitting can be potentially dangerous on three counts. It can be effected with disregard to semantic relations between propositions or elements involved (15, 16) or misinterpretation of the former (17), including erroneous rendering of semantic connections between proposition by the means of pragmatic level (24), for one. Secondly, as this shift requires introduction of a separate sentence, there are problems with its theme and rheme structure (14) and other aspects of its integration into the discourse structure into discourse (20, 23, 24). The discourse structure damage to the target is also associated with anaphor resolution which can arise from careless splitting (21, 22). And finally, there is the effect of a greater communicative value acquired by upgraded sentences which harms the natural flow of information in the text (18, 19). It is especially dangerous when the information from the element-to-be-a-sentence is not taken on in the subsequent discourse. 
4. Conclusion and Outlook
Sentence splitting is a translational technique which consists in shifting a clause or phrase to sentence level. In this study we have given the general overview of syntactic conditions under which splitting in English-to-Russian translation is most common. In our sample almost half of all “splits” affect coordinative relations, with the most typical coordinator “and” dispensed with in Russian translation. This seems to be conformity to be tested on a corpus of professional translations. In this regard it can also be prospected to study the range and types of discourse markers of continuation in English and Russian. Among subordinate relations relative clauses stand out as one structural context typical for splitting, and quite justified, too. The limitations and outcomes of this shift require more detailed analysis. The same is true for other typologically justified structural conditions for splitting – verbal and nominative constructions, as well as appositives, which were, but mentioned in this research. The most dangerous mistakes associated with splitting and its side-effects all result in less coherent discourse and include loss or misinterpretation of semantic ties between propositions, changes to the pragmatic status of the upgraded proposition and negative effects on the text information structure. 
To sum it up, splitting can be well-motivated by typological contrasts between languages or by contextual conditions.  It requires adjustments to and in the structure of the subsequent discourse elements and sometimes entails interruption of the flow of information in the text. The key to a semantically and pragmatically sound translation is to ensure coherence in the target text; to mark the important cohesive ties, especially if the semantics of the target text and presupposition allow multiple interpretations; and to signal discourse relations between parts, i.e. the way the information is packaged into the discourse structure.

1. All examples are quoted as they are present in the Corpus; and we ignore all mistakes unrelated to sentence splitting.


  1. Asher N., Vieu L. Subordinating and coordinating discourse relations / Lingua 115 (2005). – p. 591–610.
  2. Halliday, M.A.K; Нasan, Ruqaiya. Cohesion in English. – London: Longman Group, 1976. – 374 p.
  3. Kachroo, Balkrishan. Textual Cohesion and Translation / Meta: Translators' Journal, vol. 29, n 2, 1984, p. 128-134.
  4. Vieu, Laure. Representing Content Semantics, Ontology, and their Interplay. Institut de Recherche en Informatique de Toulouse, 2009

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About Maria Kunilovskaya

Maria Kunilovskaya

Maria A. Kunilovskaya is a PhD in Comparative Linguistics and an Associate Professor in the Translation Studies Department (TSD) of Tyumen State University


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