Literary Translation as Language Contact: A Pilot Study on the Finnish Passive


  • Leena Kolehmainen University of Eastern Finland
  • Helka Riionheimo University of Eastern Finland



Literary Translation, Language Contact, Corpora, Passive


This article approaches literary translation from a contact-linguistic perspective and views translation as a language contact situation in which the translator “moves” between the source and target language. The study touches upon the possible linguistic effects of the source text on the translated text and relates the translation-mediated cross-linguistic influence to other language-contact situations. The study investigates the use of Finnish passive in a corpus of literary texts consisting of Finnish translations
from Estonian and German and comparable non-translated Finnish literary texts. The translated texts are compared with non-translated ones by using corpus-linguistic tools, and the results are related to a previous contact-linguistic study on the use of the Finnish passive in spoken interviews of Finnish migrants in Estonia. The main objective is to test methodological tools that could be used for this kind of comparative purposes.

In addition, the study approaches the question whether translation as a type of language contact affects the use of the Finnish passive in a similar way as an oral language contact situation. All in all, the study shows that there are some features that differentiate the investigated literary translations from non-translated Finnish texts but the evidence is not unambiguous. The article discusses the possible reasons for the mainly non-conclusive results of the analysis and points out factors that should be taken into account in future studies, such as the size of the sub-corpora and the possibly biased text or genre specific stylistic characteristics. The methodology clearly has to be adjusted and more in-depth methods developed in order to acquire a fuller picture of the Finnish passive in literary texts and to confirm what is author, translator, genre or source-language specific in the use of the Finnish passive.