ISSN: 1139-8736
Depósito Legal: B-48039-2000

3.1. Novels and Translations

3.1.1. Novels

One has simply to compare English and Spanish novels to realize that there is a difference in the way both languages depict directed motion events. Slobin (1996) carried out an analysis of 200 motion events picked at random from five Spanish novels (La Casa de los Espíritus by Isabel Allende, Coronación by José Donoso, Cien Años de Soledad by Gabriel García Márquez, El Túnel by Ernesto Sábato, and La Tía Julia y el Escribidor by Mario Vargas Llosa) and five novels written in English (Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles, Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, A Proper Marriage by Doris Lessing, and Chesapeake by James Michener). Twenty motion events were chosen randomly from each novel, constituting 100 for each language.

Slobin found that the English novels encoded more path details per verb and per motion event than the Spanish novels. On average, English novels included 2.24 ground elements (path components) per motion event, significantly more than Spanish, which included 1.52. In addition, he found that the number of different verbs of motion was larger in English (60) than in Spanish (43). Slobin attributed the greater diversity of English verbs to the large number and high frequency of the English class of verbs that conflate motion and manner. As an example, he compares the verbs that indicate motion on foot in his sample (208):

(3.1) crawl, creep, go, hasten, hurry, march, move, run, rustle, scurry, slip, speed, step, stomp, storm, stride, stroll, walk, wander
(3.2) andar ‘walk’, caminar ‘walk’, correr ‘run’, deslizarse ‘slip’, dirigirse ‘go’, ir ‘go’, lanzarse ‘dash’
There are 19 English verbs for 7 in Spanish. One reason that explains the richness of the English specification of manner in the verbs might be Talmy’s typological distinction. Since English encodes the trajectory through the satellites, the verb is free to encode other meanings, such as manner or cause.
For qualitative comparison, Slobin offers the following two examples. The English one from Rebecca and the Spanish one from La Casa de los Espíritus (208-09):
(3.3) I went through the hall and up the great stairs, I turned in under the archway by the gallery, I passed through the door to the west wing, and so along the dark silent corridor to Rebecca’s room. I turned the handle of the door and went inside.
(3.4) Tomó sus maletas y echó a andar por el barrial y las piedras de un sendero que conducía al pueblo. Caminó más de diez minutos . . . Al acercarse al caserío vio humo en algunas chimeneas . . . Se detuvo a la entrada del pueblo, sin ver a nadie. En la única calle cercada de modestas casas de adobe reinaba el silencio . . . Se aproximó a la casa más cercana, que no tenía ninguna ventana y cuya puerta estaba abierta. Dejó sus maletas en la acera y entró.
In the English example, a single verb pass appears with four ground elements, constituent parts of the path that was followed. In Spanish, the novelist opted for descriptions of the setting by means of relative clauses so that the path can be inferred easily: un sendero que conducía al pueblo, una casa . . . cuya puerta estaba abierta. The particular manner of movement is also left to inference in the Spanish fragment. In English, in a similar situation, instead of a general manner verb like walk, a more particular one like stumble, plod or trudge would have been used to emphasize the difficulty of the progress, which in Spanish is present in the description of the path: el barrial y las piedras de un sendero . . . The Spanish reader is expected to infer the particular manner of movement from the description of the setting, in this case the medium through which the movement is going to take place.
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ISSN: 1139-8736
Depósito Legal: B-48039-2000