Dissertation > Language, writing > Linguistics > Translation Studies

A Social Discourse Approach to the Subjectivity of Buddhist Sutra Translators and Modern Western Learning Translators

Author HeAiJun
Tutor FangHanWen
School Suzhou University
Course Comparative Literature and World Literature
Keywords translator’s subjectivity social discourse analysis problem-orientedApproach Buddhist sutra translators modern western learning translators
CLC H059
Type PhD thesis
Year 2012
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Taking social discourse analysis as the theoretical basis, the dissertation explorestranslators’ subjective dynamics displayed at the textual level and the manipulation ontranslators exercised by social&historical context, poetological norms and translationlanguage. To be specific, the dissertation starts from the generalization of translators’subjectivity displayed at the textual level, then goes on to interpret the subjectivities fromthe perspective of social&historical context, poetological norms and the language used intranslation. The social discourse analysis includes three levels: the micro-level anlysiswhich refers to the contrastive study between the source language and the target language,the meso-level anlysis which denotes the subjective dynamics and objective constraintsexhibited by translators, and the macro-level analysis which includes social&historicalcontext, poetological norms and the dominant language form.The evolving model of Chinese translation theories is different from that of the westwith Chinese translation theories abiding a “problem-oriented approach”. From thisperspective, the subjectivity of Buddhist sutra transltors can be summarized as follows:The method for the opposition of unhewn translation and refined translation is to translatedirectly; the remedy for the five instances of losing the source and three difficulties is tostick to the orginal; the solution to the style differences between Chinese and Sanskrit is totranslate beautifully on the basis of the original; the approach to the cognitive gulf betweenthe Buddha and the oridinary requires translators’ eight prerequisites.One of the characteristics of Buddhist sutra translators is to be seen in thedisproportion in number between Chinese translators and foreign translators. Thedisproportion can be traced from the social and historical context of Buddhist Sutra translation. China has enjoyed a prestigious position in the world for so long a period oftime that it usually occupied a leading position and was to influence others rather than tobe influenced. The powerful position led to the formation of a strong sense of culturalsuperiority and national pride which made our traditional culture often degrade othersurrounding nations and foreigners as yí (barbarian). Therefore, the traditional cultureusually holds the view that it is foreigners’ duty to study Chinese while it is not worthwhilefor Chinese people to study foreign languages. The sense of superiority enjoyed byChinese Culture determined the general indifference of Chinese intellectuals to foreignlanguages and their learning before Qing Dynasty. The indifference attitude explains thedisproportion between the number of Chinese translators and foreign translators.The passivity of Buddhist sutra translators reveals in the fact that the usage oftranslation methods is determined by the position occupied by Buddhism in the ideologicalpolysystem and by the poetological norms. Zhi Qian employed gé yì (matching themeaning) heavily in his translations, which caused Dao’an’s question. Kumārajīvadiscarded gé yì and came to use "refined" translation method instead, while Xuan Zangsuperseded gé yì with "wǔ bù fān"(five guidelines for not-translating a term). Theevolution of gé yì reflects the struggle of Buddhism, Ruism and Taoism for central positionof the ideological polysystem. With Buddhism’s status changed, gé yì changes accordingly.When Buddhism taking the central position of ideological polysystem, gé yì is alsoabandoned at last.The employment of translation methods is also conditioned by poetological norms.The poetological norms of Buddhist sutra translation witnessed a four stage development,i.e,"unhewn" translation method dominating at the initial,"refined" translation methodprevailing then, gé yì ruling during Southern and Northern Dynasties, and the harmoniousregulation of unhewn and refined translation reigning during Tang Dynasty. Subjecting tothese norms, the translators either followed suit in their translation or attempted to breakthe norms by resorting to outer forces.The modern translators can be classified into three categories according to the materials to be translated, i.e, translators of natural science, of social science and of literaryworks. The social and historical context of modern China witnessed tremendous changes inwhich the poetological norms shifted with salvation and enlightenment becoming thetheme of the era, and the salvation function of foreign novels were exaggeratedlymagnified. In this context, the translated novels were all the vogue at that time. Thelanguages used in translation also witnessed a great change, with Yan Fu’s and Lin Shu’sclassical Chinese dominating at the beginning, then Hu Shi’s vernacular Chinese prevailing,and Lu Xun’s and Qv Qiubai’s Europeanized Chinese gradually becoming the fashion after1911. The translation method, accordingly, takes a u-turn, shifting from “háo jié yì”(atranslation method of adding and deleting at will) to “yìng yì”(absolute literal translationwhich strives to retain the grammar and rhetoric of the source language in the targetlanguage).The dissertation falls into three parts: introduction, body and conclusion of which thebody unfolds in four chapters.The introduction explains the rationale of the topic, defines the key words: the subjectof translation, translator’s subjectivity and social discourse analysis, and reviews therelated literature at home and abroad.The first chapter explores two different formative models of translation theories ofChina and the west, and examines the “problem-oriented” model in the context of Chinesetranslation history.The second chapter divides the Buddhist sutra translation into three periods: foreigntranslators dominating period, Chinese-foreign translators cooperating period and Chinesetranslators reigning period according to translator’s composition. Then the chapter reviewsthe typical translators emerging from three periods, summarizes the subjective textualrepresentations, and then interpret the facts of the disproportion between Chinese andforeign translators by recapturing the social and historical context of Buddhist sutratranslation and the social and historical causes of gé yì by analyzing the dynamic relationsamong Ruism, Taoism and Buddhism. Based on the classification of modern western learning translators into threecategories: natural science translators, social science translators and literary translators, thethird chapter delves into the causes of translated novel’s prosperity and the u-turn oftranslation method from “háo jié yì” to “yìng yì”. Taking Lu Xun’s “absolute literaltranslation method” as a case study, the chapter points out at the last section that Lu Xun’s“absolute literal translation method” is a betrayal to Lin Shu’s extreme free model, aproduct of “in-between” consciousness, and a cultural strategy of reforming Chineselanguage.The conclusion summarizes the main ideas of the whole dissertation and predicts thefuture of social discourse analysis.The contribution of the dissertation lies in the following aspects:Proposing the text-based social discourse analysis framework which includesthree-level analysis: micro-level anlysis based on language-pair analysis, meso-levelgrounded on the subjective dynamics and objective constraints and macro-level analysisreferring to social and historical context, poetological norms and language forms;Putting forward tentatively the formative models of translation theories at home andabroad, and reviews the "problem-oriented approach" of Chinese translation theoriesagainst "paradigm-oriented approach" of western translation theories;Reviewing the subjectivity of Buddhist sutra translators and modern western learningtranslators and scrutinizes the evolution of gé yì from the dynamic relationship between thecomponents of ideological polysystem.

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