Dissertation
Dissertation > Language, writing > Linguistics > Translation Studies

A Corpus-based Study of the Translator’s Style

Author ZhouXiaoLing
Tutor JiangJianSong
School Hunan Normal University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords translator’s style translator’s subjectivity descriptive translation studies corpus-based translation studies James Legge English translation of Chinese classics
CLC H059
Type PhD thesis
Year 2011
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With the development of translation theories, people are gaining better insight into the nature of translation activity, and paying increasingly more attention to the role of the translator as the subject of translation. The development of post-modern theories such as hermeneutics, reception aesthetics, deconstruction and feminism further reveals the translator’s subjectivity and creativity, and thus the translator’s style among other issues, becomes a focus of translation studies. On the other hand, James Holmes, Gideon Toury and other translation theorists have advocated the application of the descriptive approach in translation studies. A related development is the emergence in the 1980s of corpus-based translation studies, which rejects the traditional sporadic, subjective and impressionistic commenting type of a research model in favor of a more objective, quantitative and scientific method, a development which makes possible a systematic and full-scale description of the translator’s style.Since Mona Baker(2000) first proposed the corpus-based study of the translator’s style, certain progress has been made in this field, not only in corpus-based studies of the translator’s preferred linguistic patterns, but also in the quantitative analysis of macro factors that influence the shaping of the translator’s style. However, a review of current studies reveals that the investigation is insufficient, as manifestied by the fact that, first, the notion of the translator’s style needs to be defined more clearly; second, there should be clearer and more detailed principles for describing the translator’s style; and third, the study of the translator’s style should be on a larger scale, for currently there is no comprehensive or systematic quantitative study of the translator’s style of a certain translator or a certain school of translators. In view of the above, this dissertation intends to construct a framework of descriptive studies of the translator’s style by applying theories of literature, stylistics, corpus linguistics, and translation studies, and by using as a case study of James Legge’s style in his translation of Chinese classics, to serve as a reference for larger-scale description of the translator’s style, and to suggest a new basis for its criticism.This dissertation starts with exploring the connotation of style in Chinese and western literary theories, followed by a discussion of the nature of the translator’s style. As a special form of literary style, the translator’s style is both similar to and distinct from the style of literary creation. To be specific, the translator’s style refers to the linguistics habits of a translator manifested in his/her translation and the creative traces that he/she leaves in his/her manipulation of the source text for a certain purpose in a certain historical and cultural context. It is a combination of the translator’s unconscious habits of linguistic expression and conscious stylistic choices. The translator’s style is influenced by a number of factors which fall into 3 types:micro, intermediate and macro ones. Micro factors mainly refer to the unique linguistic habits of a translator. Intermediate factors include a translator’s learning background, his/her views of translation, and the translation strategies that he/she adopts. Macro factors comprise ideology, social norms, poetics, and the reader’s expectations. All those factors will find expression in the translated text, and contribute to the forming of the translator’s style. The existence of the translator’s style is thus objective and its proposition rational.The development of linguistics, stylistics and translation studies has brought about a change of the method of studying the translator’s style, from the sporadic comments of the traditional practice, to the equivalence-based method of structural linguistics, to the post-modern philosophic thinking mode, after the cultural turn in translation studies, and finally to the present mode of corpus-based description. The general tendency of change is from prescription to empiricism. Based on descriptive translation studies and relying on the huge data-processing capacity of the computer, corpus-based study of the translator’s style aims to discover the translator’s style and account for personal and social-cultural factors that influence its shaping by analyzing huge amounts of corpora. Combining linguistic investigation with cultural exposition, this pattern of study integrates the linguistic and cultural approaches in translation studies.Taking empiricism and rationalism in philosophy as its epistemological base and descriptive translation studies its methodological tool, and combining the quantitative description of empiricism and the deductive analysis of rationalism, corpus-based study of the translator’s style seeks to reveal the nature and inherent law of language from linguistic facts. Its process is divided into three steps: phasing observation, quantitative analysis and qualitative explanation. Diachronic and synchronic comparisons are the main operational methods. The former means comparing different versions produced at different times of one source text, or different target texts produced by one translator at different times, so as to discover how historical and cultural change influences the translator’s style. The latter means comparing different versions of one source texts produced in one period, or target texts produced in on period of different source texts, so as to discover the translator’s cultural standpoint, translation view and strategy, etc.After having constructed a framework for describing the translator’s style, this dissertation does a case study of the translator’s style of James Legge in his translation of Chinese classics. In this study,6 works of James Legge’s translation of Chinese classics and 4 different English versions of The Analects are chosen as the material for analysis. The study is conducted respectively on the micro, intermediate and macro levels. On the micro level, the study focuses on the linguistic features of James Legge’s translations, such as token, type, type/token ratio, average word length, average paragraph length, word frequency, word density, discourse cohesion, narrative patterns, etc. On the intermediate level, the study’probes James Legge’s learning background, translation views and strategies, etc. as reflected in key words, high frequency words, unique words, and the paratexts (such as annotations, prefaces and postscripts that the translator adds in the translation). Meanwhile, the translator’s ways of translating kernel cultural words, idioms, unique sentence patterns and rhetoric means are also examined. On the macro level, the research is directed to the influence of ideology, social norms, poetics, and the reader’s expectations on the shaping of the translator’s style. The case study reveals that James Legge’s translation of Chinese classics is characterized by faithfulness, accuracy, orthodoxy, precision, a tone of sublimity. All those features go to make the style of a knowledgeable scholar, a sinologist who loves Chinese culture, and a pious Christian missionary. The shaping of James Legge’s style in his translation is closely related to his personal background and experiences, his education and learning, and the social and historical context of his translation.The conclusion of the dissertation summarizes the findings of the research, points out its contribution, and states the view that corpus-based study investigation of the translator’s style is feasible and effective as a combination and mutual complementation of linguistic and cultural means in translation studies. Corpus-based study of the translator’s style not only enlarges the scope of translation criticism, but also develops the framework of translation studies. The conclusion notes the limitation of the study, namely doing much quantitative description of linguistic facts but not enough interpretation of the facts, making more diachronic than synchronic comparison, and describing more the differences of different versions of one source text, than the similarities of different target texts of one translator. Finally, the author looks into the prospects of further studies in this area.

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