Anvendeligheden af lange nominalkomposita, oversat fra engelsk til dansk, i medicinsk fagsprog

Kristin Andreassen

Student thesis: Master thesis


The purpose of this thesis is to examine whether or not long medical compound nouns should be translated directly from English to Danish or whether they should be paraphrased. The issue at hand is that, according to the Danish spelling rules compound nouns should be collocated, i.e. they should be represented orthographically as one word. Thus, when translating English compound nouns consisting of several consecutive nouns into Danish, the Danish compound will become extremely long, leading to great difficulties in reading and understanding the compound. For example the English medical term liver allograft rejections may be translated into Danish as leverallotransplantatafstødning which is a very long and complex compound noun. Alternatively these long compound nouns may be paraphrased. This is, however not always possible in medical language, since many compound nouns within this specialised field of language have very precise meanings which make them difficult to paraphrase without loss of meaning and accuracy. In order to find out whether or not it is viable to paraphrase these complex compound nouns for greater ease of reading, or whether one should translate them directly into long compound nouns in Danish, a study was performed. This study consisted of a questionnaire aimed at medical doctors. Doctors are the main target group, because very long compound nouns will often appear in medical scientific articles. Six Danish doctors participated in the study. In the questionnaire the doctors were tasked with assessing three aspects that are considered essential for the evaluation of which method should be applied in the translating of compound nouns. Firstly, the doctors were presented with eight compound nouns of varying length, which had been translated into Danish. These compounds were displayed without any context. Secondly, the doctors were asked to assess how readable, understandable and correct these compounds were. This part of the study revealed that the doctors had difficulties in understanding the words properly. For this reason the compounds received very different assessments. Some of the doctors believed that most of the compounds were fairly easy to read, while others thought they were difficult to read. The most interesting part of their assessments was that they disagreed on whether or not the compounds were understandable and correct. These results were ascribed to the fact that the compounds were presented without context and that this made it very difficult even for doctors to fully understand the meaning of the compounds. In the second part of the study the doctors were asked to evaluate a series of short medical texts which had been retrieved from various medical articles. These texts all contained long compound nouns. The doctors were asked to assess how readable, understandable and correct the texts were. The results showed that the presence of a context made a great difference for the understanding of the compounds. The doctors agreed more in their assessments of the compounds. They found that some compounds were more easily read. Most also agreed that it was easier to understand the compounds. Not all compounds were considered to be correct, and some doctors thought that the paraphrasing of especially some fixed expressions was not viable. However, in some cases, paraphrasing was considered the best alternative, because the terms were easier to read. It is difficult to draw definite conclusions about the results of the study, since only six doctors participated. However it was clear that the context is important for the understanding of many medical compounds. It was also found that paraphrasing is an option in some cases and compounding in other cases.

EducationsMA in International Business Communication (Intercultural Marketing), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2010
Number of pages79