Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Choice-Making in Rendering Culture-Bound Elements in Literary Translation: A Case Study on the English Translation of

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Choice-Making in Rendering Culture-Bound Elements in Literary Translation: A Case Study on the English Translation of

Article excerpt


How to render culture-bound elements into a foreign language remains one of the most challenging tasks for all translators, especially, when the source text is a literary one. To retain the aesthetic effects and other stylistic features of importance, some argue that choice can be made from either domestication or foreignization with foreignization being more encouraged for the sake of preserving the foreignness of the original text. This article is a case study of the translator's (author of this article) conscious choice-making in rendering culture-bound elements in her tentative Chinese-to-English translation of ..., a documentary literary work on Tibetan culture and life by a famous Chinese writer Ma Lihua. Based on Sperber and Wilson's Relevance Thoery and some of the translator's previous studies, optimal foreignization is proposed for the rendition of culture-bound elements by analyzing the dynamic cognitive nature of the target reader in text processing and terming "strategy" in a broad sense. In the tentative translation, optimal foreignizaiton is a strategy the trasnlator consciously adopts as an overall guidance for her subsequent choice-making in rendering different categories of culture-bound elements. By reflecting upon her decision-making involved in translating the culture-bound elements, the translator makes decisions in the layers of meaning, structure, function, image, and music, and sometimes image or music might go before meaning in the translator's decision-making as long as the meaning is processible.

Keywords: choice-making, culture-bound elements, optimal foreignization, ...

(ProQuest: ... denotes non-US-ASCII text omitted.)

1. About the Source Text ...

Language is an indispensable element in the realization of the verbal act. It is a necessary precondition for communication.

Translation is a dual act of communication. It presupposes the existence, not of a single code, but of two distinct codes, the "source language" and the "target language." The fact that the two codes are not isomorphic creates obstacles for the translative operation. This explains why linguistic questions are the starting-point for all thinking about translation. (Brisset, 1990/1996; Venuti, 2004, p. 337)

Therefore, it is justifiable and necessary to look first at the linguistic and stylistic features of the prelude and the first chapter of the source text (ST), ..., for which the translator did the tentative translation (Note 1).

1.1 About the ST Author and Her Works-Linguistically Focused

The source text, « ÍTiAi> , was written by Ma Lihua, a famous writer in Modem China, whose documentary literary works authentically depict the daily life and living of the Tibetan common people. She has been living in Tibet for more than 20 years, experiencing and deeply researching into Tibetan's daily life and living. In the process of composing her documentary work, like f , she has even stayed at the homes of the Tibetan common people for certain periods of time. Her books, like <(TÉiá@Í$)) (Note 2), the collection of her three well-known works, one of which is « jUiSSM)), are written in Chinese and can be located at the library of such universities as Cornell or Harvard.

She writes in very natural, plain, yet also exquisite and prosaic (literary) Chinese language. Her work is an authentic portrayal of Tibetan daily life and involves lots of elements about Tibetan religion, customs, names, art, etc., foreign not only to the English speakers but also to many who know Chinese language well. Chinese language is sharply distinct from English language. More challenging in the tentative translation is the rendition of the cultural elements or specifications, including those translated by Ma Lihua from Tibetan language to Chinese. Thus, when rendering the culture-loaded elements involved, the authentic value of the original languages (both Chinese and Tibetan) can not be neglected. …

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