Article body

1. Introduction

The language of tourism has recently begun to receive attention from different perspectives, notably those of LSP (Calvi 2000/2001; 2004; Calvi and Bonomi 2008) and translation (Kelly 1998; Fuentes Luque 2005; Aguayo Maldonado, Caro Herrero et al. 2004). As Calvi points out (2004: 62), tourism is characterized by the involvement of a wide array of professional activities and areas – such as the hotel and catering business, travel agencies, transportation, etc. – as well as by its close relationship to disciplines such as economy, geography, and law. The language of tourism is thus greatly influenced by the different specialized languages from all these disciplines. This influence manifests itself in tourist texts, which are defined as:

[a]ny text published by a public or private organization of any kind intended a) to give information to any kind of visitor or b) to advertise a destination (city, hotel, restaurant, etc.) and encourage visitors to go there.

Kelly 1998: 35

This definition encompasses a variety of text types (brochures, tourist guides, conference programmes, etc.), and the topics dealt with in those texts include “such highly specialized areas as architecture, art history, history, geography, meteorology, gastronomy, economics, sports, customs, music and dance” (Kelly 1998: 35).

Additionally, tourism as a professional activity is becoming more and more diversified, particularly in countries such as Spain, where it constitutes the main source of income and employment. In recent years, a type of tourism that emerged in the mid-20th century has experienced considerable evolution and expansion in most European countries, namely, rural tourism. This term, which coexists with others such as green tourism or ecotourism, is diffusely employed to designate “a wide range of activities that are being developed in rural areas, directly related to the supply of services and experiences in tourist and leisure activities” (Cánoves, Villarino et al. 2004: 755). Rural tourism is characterized by being conceived as an alternative to mass tourism, and by offering travelers the possibility of coming in contact not only with nature, but also with the culture and traditions of rural areas, thus helping to promote and preserve them (Fuentes Luque 2009: 471). The expansion of this type of tourism, with its own defining characteristics, has increased the number and types of tourist texts, and has added new terms to the repertoire of this specialized language.

Promotion is obviously a key issue in tourism, and that is the main reason why translation studies have focused on the way language is used in this field and on the texts produced in this domain. As Fuentes Luque suggests (2005: 61), quality tourism requires quality products, and these products include promotional material of any kind, which must be interculturally designed and, hence, carefully adapted to different target audiences. This adaptation process involves the translation of not only purely linguistic elements, but also of cultural and semiotic contents.

Although, as mentioned above, the language of tourism has somehow been studied by LSP and translation scholars, it has so far received little attention from the terminology point of view, despite the fact that this topic falls clearly within the scope of cultural terminology and cultural-specific lexicon (Sandrini 1999). A terminological approach would be particularly helpful to the translation of tourism texts and terms. The relationship between terminology and specialized translation is a question that has been repeatedly addressed for over a decade now, both from the theoretical and the applied points of view (Cabré 1999; 2002; 2004; Faber Benítez 2009; Wright and Wright 1997). Multilingual, translation-oriented, corpus-based terminological studies have proved to yield relevant results, applications, and tools for specialized translation.

In addition to the fact that research on tourism terminology is virtually nonexistent, no empirical studies have been carried out so far on the specific terminology of rural tourism. This paper describes an empirical, corpus-based analysis of the terms related to rural tourism accommodation establishments in three languages – Spanish, English, and French. The main objective is to identify common characteristics shared by the concepts and the terms designating them in all three languages, in order to propose the most suitable translation equivalents. This represents the first stage of an ongoing research project with a much broader scope, whose aim is to carry out an in-depth study of the language of tourism and to determine the most adequate techniques to be used for the translation of tourism texts and terms. Section 2 explains the methodology used to perform the study. Section 3 presents the results obtained from the analysis. In Section 4, translation problems and their possible solutions are discussed.

2. Methods

The study was based on a computerized corpus of 300 texts (over 60,000 running words) divided into three comparable subcorpora: 100 texts in Spanish (23 505 words), 100 texts in English (20 068 words), and 100 texts in French (17 391 words). Research (and, accordingly, corpus compilation) has been restricted so far to Spain, Great Britain and France. The texts were obtained from tourism websites and printed brochures. The data were extracted and analyzed with the aid of the software WordSmith Tools (Scott 2011), by means of which the corpus documents were tagged and lemmatized. Word lists, n-grams, and concordances were obtained, and used for term extraction.

In order to store the terms and all the information pertaining to each of them, a terminology database was designed. Database entries (i.e. terminology records) were structured in accordance with the ISO 12620 standard (1999). The data categories implemented for each entry are shown in Table 1.

Table 1

Terminology record: data categories

Terminology record: data categories

-> See the list of tables

The definitions included in the records have been obtained from a variety of sources, notably, legislation on rural tourism, specialized dictionaries, and the corpus itself. All contexts have been extracted from the subcorpora for each language.

Table 2 shows the entry for one of the Spanish terms, cortijo.

Table 2

Terminology record for the Spanish term cortijo

Terminology record for the Spanish term cortijo

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The terminological database comprises so far a total number of 114 entries.

3. Results

A detailed, exhaustive analysis of the information stored in the terminology database has provided us with a significant number of relevant results for the three languages under consideration, both at the terminological (denominational) and conceptual levels.

As regards the conceptual structure, there is clearly a superordinate, generic concept which is common to Spanish, English, and French, and whose characteristics could be represented as follows:

setting: rural + type of building + accommodation conditions: private/shared

This means that, in all three languages, the concept “rural tourism accommodation establishment” includes the following characteristics:

  1. Setting: for a tourism establishment to be considered as rural, it has to meet certain requirements with regard to location. Firstly, it has to be placed in a setting whose population does not surpass a certain number of inhabitants (or, if it does, the establishment must be located at a considerable distance from the main population center). For example, in the Spanish region of Aragon, rural tourism establishments can only be placed in towns with less than 1,000 inhabitants.[1] Additionally, the setting has to be outstanding in terms of nature and landscape. Thus, the descriptions of British establishments often include expressions such as “beautiful and inspiring landscapes,” “Britain’s most sumptuous scenery,” “spectacular countryside and coastal views,” and the like;[2]

  2. Type of building: together with location, the type of building is the defining factor of rural tourism accommodation establishments. In this sense, they are characterized by having an architectural value, and also by the fact that they are usually traditional and characteristic of the region where they are located. Thus, for instance, we can find palacios, masías and haciendas in Spain; castles, cottages, and farms in Britain; and mas, gentilhommières, and châteaux in France;

  3. Accommodation conditions: the last relevant feature of rural tourism establishments is that they can offer either private or shared accommodation, both types including an array of different possibilities. For example, Spanish casas rurales and British cottages can be either rented as a whole or shared with the owners of the property; British rural hostels provide both private and shared rooms; and, in France, we can find gîtes (private properties for rent) and chambres d’hôtes (guest houses). Although the distinction between private and shared accommodation also applies to urban tourism, rural tourism establishments are mostly small, family-run businesses, which favor the latter type.

As described above, the generic concept of rural tourism accommodation establishment is basically identical for the three languages. However, we have found that the number of hypernyms, or terms that represent the concept (Melby and Wright 1998), varies greatly in each language. Thus, whereas in French there is a single hypernym, gîte, in Spanish a total number of nine have been identified (see Table 3), while in English there doesn’t seem to be a specific term which qualifies as hypernym.

As regards subordinate, specific concepts and their corresponding hyponyms, significant differences between the three languages have also been detected. According to the data extracted from each subcorpus, there are 15 hyponyms in English (shown in Table 4), 16 in French, and up to 46 different hyponyms in Spanish. This diversity of terms in Spanish is partly explained by the fact that the denominations for similar concepts vary from one autonomous region to another, this giving rise to a considerable number of synonyms or quasi-synonyms. Thus, the concept “house for rent in a rural area” is represented by the term casa rural in Andalusia, casa de aldea in Asturias, vivienda rural in Cantabria, and casa de pueblo in Catalonia.[3]

Table 3

List of hypernyms in Spanish

List of hypernyms in Spanish

-> See the list of tables

As explained in Section 2 above, the information pertaining to all the terms extracted from the corpus was structured and stored in the terminology records designed for this purpose. The next step in the analysis was to search for equivalents or, at the very least, quasi-equivalents, in the sense established in ISO 12620 (1999: 21): “term whose concept includes either fewer or more characteristics than a parallel concept in the second language.” This was done by comparing the intentions of the concepts represented by the terms in every language, and more specifically, by contrasting their definitions and contexts. Since the language with the smallest number of terms was English, it was taken at the starting point for the study of equivalence. The examples below illustrate the similarities between the definitions and contexts of the terms cottage, gîte rural, and casa rural:

The analysis shows that, of all the terms extracted from the English subcorpus, 13 have an equivalent in the other two languages (see Table 5). Of these, there are no more than three cases of one-to-one correspondence: castlechâteaucastillo, cabinchaletcabaña, and hostelgîte-aubergealbergue; for the rest of terms, more than one equivalent of the English term in has been identified. This diversity is particularly relevant in Spanish, since, as mentioned earlier, it is the language with the greatest number of synonyms, due to geographical, diatopic variation. Thus, whereas a single equivalent has been found for farm(house) in French (ferme), we have identified five designations in Spanish for this concept: casa de labranza (in Cantabria, Extremadura, and Galicia), casa de payés (Catalonia), masía (Catalonia and Valencia), alquería (Valencia and Murcia), and establecimiento de agroturismo (Balearic Islands, Catalonia, Basque Country, Extremadura, Galicia, and Navarra). In contrast, the number of synonymous terms in French is much less significant, and there is only one instance of diatopic variation, namely, mas, whose use is restricted to Provence. Similarly, in English there is a single instance of synonymy: camping park / camping site / campsite, which correspond to the also synonymous French terms camping and village de chalets et mobil-homes, and to the Spanish loan word camping.

Table 4

List of hyponyms in English

List of hyponyms in English

-> See the list of tables

The comparison of the terms in the three languages also evidences that, whereas most French and Spanish denominations are exclusively used to designate rural tourism accommodation establishments, there are four terms in English which can be used for either rural or urban establishments, namely, bed and breakfast, guest house, holiday home, and hostel. Consequently, in all occurrences of these terms in the English subcorpus, specific mention is made to location, as illustrated by the following examples:

In examples 5 and 8, the adjective rural modifies the terms guest house and hostels; in the rest of the examples, an explicit indication of the characteristics of the area where the accommodation establishment is set (rural area, [rural]countryside, rural hamlet) is included in its description. Thus, a distinction can be made between terms such as cottage, ferme or masovería, which imply “located in a rural area,” from others such as guest house, which do not lexicalize the semantic feature related to location.

Table 5

Equivalent terms in English, French, and Spanish

Equivalent terms in English, French, and Spanish

-> See the list of tables

In contrast with the English examples discussed above, the French gîte rural and the Spanish casa rural can be considered as complex, multi-word terms which designate the concept “house for rent in a rural area,” since there is no contrast between rural and urban gîte/casa in the domain of tourism accommodation establishments. The concordances for these two terms show that the adjective rural is very often dropped (notably in French), as in the examples below:

Table 5 also shows that, for two different terms in English (bed and breakfast and guest house), the same equivalents have been identified in the other two languages: chambre d’hôte in French and casa rural, casa de aldea, posada, masía, and casa de pueblo in Spanish. This is explained, firstly, by the fact that the terms in English are quasi-synonyms, as evidenced by their definitions:

As opposed to the cases discussed above for Spanish and, to a lesser extent, French, synonymy in these English terms does not originate from geographical variation, but from the different ways in which the corresponding concept is lexicalized. Thus, whereas the term bed and breakfast pertains to the accommodation conditions, guest house refers to the accommodation establishment, which means that each denomination lexicalizes a different characteristic of the concept. This distinction, however, is not made either in French, which has a single denomination for this concept (chambre d’hôte), or in Spanish, which has five synonyms because of diatopic variation. Additionally, as opposed to the terms in both English and French, which imply “shared with the owners of the property,” the terms in Spanish do not lexicalize this conceptual feature and, consequently, specific mention to the accommodation conditions is often made in the descriptions of these establishments, as shown in examples 14 and 15:

Another case of quasi-synonymy has been found for the terms cottage, (rural) holiday home, and lodge, which correspond to gîte rural and mas in French and casa rural, casa de aldea, vivienda rural, posada, masovería, and casa de pueblo in Spanish. Both the English and French terms imply the feature “not shared with the owners of the property”; however, Spanish casa rural, casa de aldea, posada, and casa de pueblo designate establishments that can be either shared (as discussed above) or rented as a whole. Again, this feature is always explicitly mentioned in the texts where these terms occur. Examples 14 and 15 (which illustrate casa rural and casa de aldea, respectively) can thus be contrasted with examples 15 and 16 below:

The last term with equivalents in the three languages, listed in Table 5, is country mansion (French: gentilhommière; Spanish: casa palacio, casa solariega, casa de señorío, casona, palacio, and palacete). This provides us with another instance of synonymy in Spanish, originating to a great extent from geographical variation, since, for example, the use of the designation casona is restricted to Asturias and Cantabria.

In addition to those just discussed, the analysis of the corpus has also revealed other significant differences between the three languages regarding the types of rural tourism accommodation establishments and the terms that designate them. Firstly, we have identified three cases of equivalence in only two of the three languages: gîte d’enfants (French) – granja-escuela (Spanish); country house hotel (English) – hotel rural (Spanish); and refuge (French) – refugio (Spanish). In the first case, the terms in both French and Spanish designate the concept “farm where activities for children are organized, with entertainment and educational purposes”; although there is a quasi-equivalent term in English, namely, children’s farm, it is not regarded as an accommodation establishment, as supported by the fact that no instances of this term have been found in the English subcorpus. Similarly, in the domain of rural tourism, no specific designation in French has been identified in the corpus for the concept “hotel in the countryside” (English country house hotel and Spanish hotel rural). The last case, however, represents another instance of the different ways in which identical or similar concepts are lexicalized in each language. Thus, whereas in English there is a single denomination, hostel, which does not convey any feature related to location (but, rather, to the accommodation conditions), both French and Spanish distinguish between aubergealbergue and refugerefugio, the latter designating a particular type of hostel located in mountain areas. Moreover, in French a further distinction is made between, on the one hand, gîte d’étape and gîte de séjour, which are used for accommodation in middle-range mountain areas, and gîte d’alpage, which designates high altitude accommodation.[21]

Finally, the analysis has yielded an additional set of results that comprises those cases in which a specific term in one of the languages does not have any equivalent in any of the other two languages under consideration. In both English and French, there is a single instance of this lack of correspondence: barn and gîte de groupe, respectively. In Spanish, however, we have identified as many as 22 terms for which an equivalent does not seem to exist either in English or in French, according to the data extracted from the corpus (see Table 6).

The terms listed in Table 6 can be classified into two types. The first of them includes denominations such as aldea de turismo rural or núcleo vacacional, that is, collective terms which designate tourism resorts set in rural areas, grouping a certain number of accommodation establishments (usually, cottages or casas rurales), and ran by a single proprietor. Example 16 below illustrates the term aldea (de turismo rural), used in Galicia.

The second group of terms comprises those denominations designating specific types of buildings that are characteristic of the Spanish regions where they are located, as for example cortijo (Andalusia), pazo (Galicia), and riuraus (Valencia). These can be contrasted with other terms discussed earlier (for example, casa de payés), for which the denominations were also used exclusively in certain geographical areas, but whose underlying concepts were identical or very similar to those in English, French, or both. For the terms listed in Table 6, however, there are no equivalents in any of the other two languages, not only from a denominational, but also, more importantly, from a conceptual point of view.

The overall results can be thus summarized as follows. Firstly, there is a single superordinate, generic concept for “rural tourism accommodation establishment,” which comprises three characteristics and which is shared by the three languages. Secondly, whereas no hypernym has been found in English to designate this generic concept, one has been found in French, and up to ten in Spanish (see Table 7).

As regards hyponyms, the analysis yields a total amount of 15 in English, 16 in French, and 46 in Spanish. Among these, equivalents in the three languages have been detected in 11 cases, involving 13 terms in English, 10 in French, and 21 in Spanish. In three instances, there are equivalent terms in just two of the languages (more specifically, two correspondences French-Spanish and one English-Spanish). Finally, there are 24 terms with no equivalents in either of the other languages: one in English, one in French, and 22 in Spanish, as shown in Table 8.

Table 6

Terms in Spanish with no equivalents in English or French

Terms in Spanish with no equivalents in English or French

-> See the list of tables

The implications of the analysis for translation are discussed in the following section.

Table 7

Summary of the results

Summary of the results

-> See the list of tables

Table 8

Summary of equivalence

Summary of equivalence

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4. The translation of rural tourism terms

As pointed out in the introduction, translation is a key issue in the field of tourism, since tourist products and services must be promoted and advertised to a wide array of different target markets and, hence, linguistically and culturally diverse communities.

Tourism terminology is made up, to a considerable extent, of internationalisms, mostly of an English or French origin (such as overbooking, catering or resort from English; hotel or route from French), which are used across languages and, consequently, do not present major translation problems. However, other terms coexist with these, namely, those that are specific to certain geographical or linguistic areas. This is particularly true in the domain of rural tourism and, more specifically, in the subdomain of accommodation establishments, as shown by the data extracted from the corpus.

In a preliminary study, Fuentes Luque (2009) identified the main translation problems concerning the terminology of rural tourism, focusing on the translation of Spanish terms into English and French. Those problems were either of a linguistic/terminological or of a cultural nature (or both), as is confirmed by the corpus-based analysis presented in this paper.

Our results show, to begin with, that there are only three cases in which identical (or very similar) concepts are designated by a single term in each of the languages: castlechâteaucastillo, cabinchaletcabaña, and hostelgîte-aubergealbergue. These terms should present no problems in terms of translation, with the possible exception of the French chalet, a word borrowed in Spanish which is very often used to denominate any kind of house (as opposed to apartments in a block) and which does not necessarily convey the features “made of wood” and “located in the mountain,” as is the case of cabin, chalet, and cabaña.

The first relevant translation problem is that which may be caused by the profusion of synonyms (mostly, geographical variants) in Spanish. These, as explained in Section 3 above, can be classified into two groups: one including the terms with an equivalent (or quasi-equivalent) in English and French, and the other comprising those that have no correspondence in the other two languages. In the first case, the translation of the terms should be accompanied by specific mention not only of the geographical area where the establishment is located, but also of the fact that the type of building designated is characteristic of that area. Thus, for example, masía can be translated as typical farmhouse in Catalonia / ferme typique catalane. In the second case, the best option is possibly to keep the term in Spanish untranslated and to add an explanation of both the type of building it designates and the area where it is located. For instance, riuraus refers to a building characteristic of the rural architecture in certain areas of Valencia, whose original function was to preserve grapes from rain and humidity in order to let them dry,[23] many of which have been reformed and are currently being used as rural tourism accommodation establishments. All this information should be included in any translated text dealing with this particular type of establishment.

Another important factor that affects the translation of rural tourism terms is, as we have also discussed in Section 3, that there are significant divergences in the way certain characteristics of the concepts are lexicalized in each language. Thus, for example, both the English term bed and breakfast and the French chambre d’hôte imply the feature “shared with the owner of the property”; the Spanish casa rural, however, does not. For this reason, accurate explanations of the accommodation conditions implied by every type of establishment should be included in the translated versions of the texts where they may appear, in all three languages. Similarly, the English term hostel can be considered as a translation equivalent for the French and Spanish terms aubergealbergue and refugerefugio, as long as it is made clear that the latter imply the feature “located in a mountain area,” which is not conveyed by the English denomination.

The potentially most complex translation problems are those that may be caused by the terms with no equivalents in any of the other two languages under consideration. Again, Spanish is the language with the highest number of instances, although several cases have also been found in English and French. Some of these terms can be more or less literally translated, for example, the Spanish casa-cueva, which translates as cave housemaison-grotte, or the English barn, grangegranero, although these translations should be accompanied by detailed descriptions of the buildings, their location, and, once more, the accommodation conditions. In other cases, however, the only possible solution is to leave the term untranslated in the target texts and to include all the relevant information regarding the characteristics of the accommodation establishment, as suggested above for the Spanish term riuraus.

Finally, it seems clear that not only terminological/linguistic factors, but also cultural/pragmatic ones have to be taken into account when translating rural tourism texts. With regard to the specific subdomain of accommodation establishments, one of these extralinguistic factors (as stated by Fuentes Luque 2009: 483) concerns the French term gîte rural. In France, in order to officially qualify for the brand name as such, the gîtes ruraux have to comply with a number of regulations at national level. The system also establishes different categories according to the characteristics of the gîte. A similar regulation applies to Spanish ventas de Castilla-La Mancha, casonas asturianas, and posadas de Cantabria, which are regulated by the corresponding regional governments of the areas where they are located. A distinction can thus be made between officially recognized establishments and those that, without complying with such legislation, still call themselves gîte or posada. In order to provide the target audience with as much precise information as possible, this distinction should be made clear when translating these and other similar terms.

5. Conclusions

This study has shown that there are significant divergences between the terms related to rural tourism accommodation establishments in English, French, and Spanish, and that these divergences should be taken into account when translating such terms. The corpus-based approach and the terminological methods applied to carry out the analysis have proved useful in the compilation of the terms in each language and in the identification of the main characteristics of the concepts represented by them, as well as in the description of the different ways in which these conceptual features are lexicalized.

We have found that the generic concept “rural tourism accommodation establishment” (and its characteristics) is shared by the three languages. However, the number of terms that represent this generic concept (hypernyms) varies significantly from one language to another. The same can be said of hyponyms, Spanish being the language with the greatest number of terms – a fact that must be attributed mostly to diatopic variation. Geographical variants not only increase the number of terms in Spanish, but also give rise to synonymy – a phenomenon that has been detected in all three languages, but is particularly frequent in Spanish.

Lexicalization is another relevant factor identified from the analysis of the corpus. In that respect, we have discussed a considerable number of cases in which the divergences between the languages originate from the specific characteristic of the concept implied (or not) by a term in a given language. Thus, for example, whereas the English term hostel does not convey any information related to the location of the establishment, a distinction is made in both French and Spanish between aubergealbergue and refugerefugio, the latter implying “located in a mountain area.”

Finally, relevant data have been obtained regarding equivalence and, hence, translation. As explained in Section 3, we have found no more than three instances of one-to-one correspondence in the three languages – in the rest of the cases, more than one equivalent of the terms in English has been identified in French, Spanish, or both. The analysis has also shown that certain terms in English are not exclusively used to designate rural accommodation establishments; the terms in French and Spanish, by contrast, are more specialized, i.e. restricted to the domain of rural tourism. The divergences with respect to lexicalization in each of the languages, mentioned above, have also proved to affect equivalence. Additionally, cases of non-equivalence have been detected in all three languages, particularly in Spanish. We have suggested that all these factors, together with pragmatic and cultural ones, should be taken into account when translating texts on rural tourism.

As mentioned in the Introduction, the present study is part of a major ongoing research project that covers other tourism-related areas, such as gastronomy, tourism promotion websites, internationalization, etc. Corpus size is already being increased, with the inclusion not only of texts related to those other areas, but also of parallel subcorpora, which will undoubtedly provide relevant information about translation equivalents and translation techniques. A fundamental part of this project is the undertaking of a corpus-based translation study along the lines of the already consolidated approach set off by Baker (1993; 1995; 1996), with the aim of describing the main features of the translated language of tourism.