Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

A Study of Pragmatic Equivalence in C-E Translation of Public Signs: A Case Study of Xi'an, China

Academic journal article Canadian Social Science

A Study of Pragmatic Equivalence in C-E Translation of Public Signs: A Case Study of Xi'an, China

Article excerpt


Nowadays, bilingual public signs have great significance to China's cultural exchanges and economic cooperation with other countries. However, pragmatic failures in C-E translation of public signs occur so frequently that they lower the translation quality and even impair the charm and international image of the cities. The paper introduces Nida's Functional Equivalence Theory and analyzes its application to C-E translation of public signs. Functional Equivalence Theory proves to be quite effective and instructive in the translation of public signs. However, through the practice of the translation of public signs, the author finds that the limitation of this theory is inevitable. Further exploration and enrichment are needed to provide guidance for translation practice.

Key Words: Public signs; Pragmatic failure; Functional equivalence

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1.1 The Significance of the Study

With the development of Chinese economy and Chinese reforming and opening up policy, China has more connection with the outer world and people from other countries are beginning to focus more attention on China. In order for foreigners to know better about China and have a happy experience in China, many measures have been considered to make foreigners feel at home. One of the measures is to make bilingual public signs in public places. Xi'an is the capital of Shaanxi Province and also the political, economic and cultural center of northwest China. With the development of tourist industry and the implementation of the open policy, it has become one of the nation's key tourist cities and tourism has become the mainstay in Shaanxi economy. The long history has made Xi'an the city that has no parallel anywhere as a cultural site. However, it is noted that lots of improper English translations exist in public signs in Xi'an, which, instead of promoting mutual understanding, have puzzled foreigners, or even given them wrong information. Pragmatic failures happen frequently, such as linguistic mistakes, word-for-word transitions, Chinese style English expressions, and many Chinese cultural elements are not properly rendered into English.

In brief, the proper translation of public signs concerns not only the foreigners' needs but China's international image as well. Therefore it is important and urgent to study the translation of public signs systematically and improve the quality of translation. With the application of Nida's Functional Equivalence Theory to the public signs' translation in Xi'an China, the author finds some proper translation methods, which will be of some help to the improvement of C-E translation of public signs in China.

1.2 The Definition and Functions of Public Signs Definition: According to what Professor Dai Zongxian says on "The First Symposium on C&E Signs in a Global Context", "public signs" are signs that are shown publicly, offering a kind of warning, direction, notification and other closely related literal or graphical information. He adds that public signs are actually a very important component to the language environment of a city, especially an international tourist city.

Functions: Public signs share some basic functions. According to Professors Dai Zongxian and Lv Hefa, these basic functions are indicating functions and pragmatic functions (DAI & LV, 2005) which shared by both Chinese and English public signs. Indicating functions include directing, prompting, restricting, compelling functions. While, arousing attention, rendering information, deepening understanding, promoting action, reinforcing image and serving society are included in pragmatic functions.

1.3 A Probe into Nida's Functional Equivalence

One of Nida's most important contributions to translation theory is the concept of functional equivalence, which was first put forward as dynamic equivalence as opposed to formal equivalence in his book Towards the Science of Translating in 1964. …

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