Hoek, Jet; Scholman, Merel

Expressing non-volitional causality in English

Jędrzejowski, Łukasz; Fleczoreck, Constanze (Ed.): Micro- and Macro-variation of Causal Clauses: Synchronic and Diachronic Insights, John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 167–183, Amsterdam, 2023.

English because is assumed to be polysemous in that it can be used to mark causal relations in all domains. The current study examines this claim and explores the suitability of because to mark non-volitional content relations. In a parallel corpus study, we investigate how causal relations translated into Dutch using doordat (prototypically marking non-volitional causal relations), omdat (marking content relations), and want (marking epistemic and speech act relations) were originally expressed in English. The results show that while omdat and want are indeed typically translations of because in English, non-volitional doordat is not. A qualitative analysis reveals that non-volitional causality is more often expressed in English in a single discourse unit or using a connective restricted to the content domain. These findings have important consequences for the presumed domain generality of English because and call for a reconsideration of English translation recommendations for doordat.