Academic journal article Studies in Literature and Language

A Readability Study and Its Relevance to Simplification on Translations of Lun Yu

Academic journal article Studies in Literature and Language

A Readability Study and Its Relevance to Simplification on Translations of Lun Yu

Article excerpt


This research will apply readability theory into translation studies of Lunyu or "the Analects of Confucius" in Chinese and English versions. With the application of readability formulas, the analysis will explain the readability statistics in two ways: the Flesch reading ease score and other Reading Level index. The two translated texts will be compared in terms of four aspects: word numbers, lexical density, sentence numbers and average sentence length so as to find out the different degree of simplification in the translations. The findings show that the readability of Roger Ames's translated texts is higher than James Legge's; hence is much more difficult to read. The simplification degree is in accordance with the readability result, which indicates that readability analysis results can be referenced for studying translation features like simplification.

Key words: Readability; Lunyu English translations; Readability formula; Simplification

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Readability is an important concept in the theory of applied linguistics. Zamanian and Heydari (2012) in Reability: State of Art, points out that the definition provided by Dale and Chall (1949) possibly the most comprehensive: " The sum total (including all the interactions) of all those elements within a given piece of printed material that affect the success a group of readers have with it." (qtd. in Zamanian & Heydari, 2012) There are many factors contribute to readability of a text which including: long- term Proportion; different words: the degree of abstraction; Vocabulary; number of pronouns; number Preposition Number; affixes; the number of difficult words; sentence length. (Betts, 1949; Dechant, & Smith 1961/1977; qtd. in Wang & Yang, 2012)

The above remarks show that readability research in China at present mainly focuses on the teaching of reading and teaching materials compilation evaluation, reading tests and other fields in applied linguistics. At this point, it is necessary to emphasize the application of readability theory, formulas into other areas, like text analysis, and translation studies for two reasons. On the one hand, the target of these areas is text, which can be regarded as the first common ground; on the other hand, application of readability formulas can improve the objectivity and effectiveness of text analyzing, because it is computerized and most of the calculations have been done by softwares rather than human, which avoid the personal intervene of the results.

Drury ( 1985) summarized two reasons for the population of readability formulas: Firstly, they are objective and can be used as legal and contractual criteria; secondly, the simply counting characteristic of most has made them readily adaptable to computer application.

In other words readability formulas can provide accurate comparison of texts so that assessment can be made between the texts and a reader's reading abilities and interests.

The popular formulas are: Dale-Chall; SMOG; POG; Fry; Flesch Reading Ease; and so on; among which the Flesch Reading Ease is the most widely used and tested. (Dale & Chall, 1949; Klar, 1963)

The updated Flesch Reading Ease formula is: Score = 206.835- (1.015 x ASL1) - (84.6 x ASW2). The interpretation for the scores and the corresponding difficulty and grade levels is illustrated in the following table.

According to Flesch (1948), the measurement of work length is an indirect way to measure word complexity. And word complexity is an indirect way to measure abstraction. For the same reason sentence complexity and abstraction can be measured in the same way. It can be summarized that Flesch Reading Ease Formula is essentially a measurement of the level of complexity and difficulty of an article.


1.1 Review of Oversea Readability Study

Before we move on the statistics' analysis, it is worthwhile summarizing the long history about the development of readability study. …

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