The Eye-Key Span as a Measure for Translation Complexity

Michael Carl, Moritz Schaeffer

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    Dragsted (Dragsted & Hansen, 2008; Dragsted, 2010) developed the eye-key span (EKS) in reference to the ear-voice span which is used to describe the distance between input and output during simultaneous interpreting, typically measured in words or seconds (e.g. Defrancq, 2015). The EKS during translation production describes the time that elapses between the first or last time a source text (ST) word is fixated before the first key is pressed which contributed to the production of its translation (Dragsted 2010, 51). Dragsted and Hansen (2008) found that difficult words result in longer eye- key spans than easy words. The difficulty of the words is described in terms of the number of alternative translations different translators produced for the same source text words. Easy words were translated the same way by all translators and difficult words were translated differently by nearly all translators in the sample. However, only three ST words were analysed and only 8 translators participated in the study. Dragsted (2010) also found that professional translators have a shorter EKS than student translators. This paper presents analyses from the TPR-DB, which replicate and extend the findings from Dragsted (Dragsted & Hansen, 2008; Dragsted, 2010) based on a corpous of 12,474 ST words, 3,242 unique ST items, 108 participants and 12 different texts. We use R and the lme4 (Bates, Maechler, Bolker, & Walker, 2014) and languageR (Baayen, 2013) packages to perform (general) linear mixed-effects models ((G)LMEMs). Our findings support and extend those of Dragsted and underpin Schaeffer and Carl (2013), who argued that translation is best understood as both an early and a late effect, i.e., early, relatively automatic processes which are highly bilingual in nature and late processes which are more monolingual. Trad itional eye movement measures cannot adequately describe the processes which are unique to the task of translation. The EKS and the degree to which ST reading and TT typing co-occur are measures address this shortcoming.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication date2016
    Number of pages1
    Publication statusPublished - 2016
    EventThe Scandinavian Workshop on Applied Eye Tracking. SWAET 2016 - University of Turku, Turku, Finland
    Duration: 19 Jun 201621 Jun 2016


    ConferenceThe Scandinavian Workshop on Applied Eye Tracking. SWAET 2016
    LocationUniversity of Turku
    Internet address

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