AWEJ Volume.5 Number.3, 2014                                                                            Pp.15-30

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Grammatical Pairs in English and Arabic Translation[i]


Sultan Qaboos University

Grammatical pairs are surface markers which encode different processing strategies but seem to work in free variation. For translation trainees and foreign language learners, these pairs often become a recurring nightmare not only because of their close connection but also because most have no direct equivalents in their native language. The long list  of English grammatical pairs includes such formal markers as nearly/almost, as if/as though, will/shall, may/might, must/have to, whether/if, yet/already, enough + noun / noun + enough, because/for, barely/hardly… and verbal patterns like (v1+v2), (v1 to v2and (v1-v2-ing). In Arabic, the list includes dichotomies such as ‘inna/laqad, lam/ma:, la:/lan, sa-/sawfa, faqat/faḥasb, na:hi:ka/fadhlan, la:/kalla:, naعam/’ajal, etc. This study, based on corpus analysis, claims that if grammatical surface similarities often induce Arab translation trainees to under- and mistranslation, this has less to do with the absence of direct equivalents in L1 than with the approach adopted in pedagogical grammar intended to account for the working of  such markers in both languages. In fact, present-day foreign language pedagogy has been hampered not only by a descriptive sentence-grammar, which has perpetuated static binaries between Arabic and other languages, but also by a monolingual bias which prevents any insight into the working of natural languages. Findings suggest that an updated contrastive Arabic-English grammar, tailored for translation training and derived from real languages at work, is a prerequisite for effective training and successful interlingual transfer.
KeywordsGrammatical pairs, metalinguistic awareness, translation training, translation sign, processing strategy.


A contrastivist, discourse analyst and literary translator, Dr. Mohamed-Habib Kahlaoui holds
an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Theoretical and Contrastive Linguistics from the Sorbonne Nouvelle
University in France. He is currently Assistant Professor of English at Sultan Qaboos University
in Oman, and Kairouan Faculty of Letters and Humanities in Tunisia. He previously taught
English in France and Tunisia. His main areas of teaching and research include contrastive
linguistics, translation studies, text linguistics, discourse analysis and intercultural rhetoric. He is
a member of several scholarly associations, has contributed to conferences in north Africa, the
Middle-East and Europe, and has undertaken many academic and administrative tasks and
positions, including HOD for seven years and supervisor of the SQU B.A. translation program
for eight semesters. His research work has appeared in English, Arabic and French in several
journals and proceedings of international conferences. His latest book in text linguistics was
اٌٍغٛٞ ٚاٌّ١زبٌغٛٞ فٟ فتنة المتخيل: ِمبزثخ ٔص١خ :(Publications Miskilyani: Tunis (Arabic in published
خ٠ٛغ) ٌThe Linguistic and the Metalinguistic in fitnatu-l-mutakhaeil: A Corpus-based Approach)
and his translation of C. Achebe’s Things Fall Apart into Arabic is expected to appear in October