Phonological, lexical and phraseological aspects of Chinese translation

Authored by: Liu Huawen

The Routledge Handbook of Chinese Translation

Print publication date:  October  2017
Online publication date:  October  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138938267
eBook ISBN: 9781315675725
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315675725.ch7

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Abstract

The Chinese language and the English language differ in many ways, which have significant effects on the approaches to their reciprocal transformations. As linguistic basics, the phonetic systems in the two languages are to a considerable degree incompatible, unlike those in the Western languages. In Chinese, one character 字 corresponds to a syllable generally consisting of two phonemes: a vocal and a consonant. This leads to the phenomenon where many characters pronounce in the same way since they bear same phonetic structure. In contrast, the pronunciations of many English words are composed of more than one syllable while those of some others have only one syllable. For Chinese, homophonicity and polysemity begin with character while, for English, they start with word. Lack of this parallel has dampened translators’ hopes of achieving word-for-character equivalence in English–Chinese transfer. This can serve as the reason why the attempt to render an English word-concept into one Chinese character turns out to be implausible. However, for English, a word root is almost devoid of motivation but arbitrary, which starts as late as with affix-facilitated derived words. The degree of motivationality upgrades from an affixed word to a combined word until a phrase is formed. On the phraseological level, Chinese and English finally run parallel to each other. In Chinese, the shaping of a phrase, usually a two-charactered unit or multicharactered unit, depends on the compression of the sentence concerned (Zhu 2004). In contrast, English phrases owe their construction to the blending of two or more than two words, which runs counter to the condensing way of forming Chinese phrases. The differences articulated above in the aspects of phonology, lexicon and phraseology are likely to exert influences on C–E or E–C translation. These influences will be exemplified in terms of semanticisation, cognitive construal and levels of context in this chapter.

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