Dissertation
Dissertation > Language, writing > FOREIGN > English > Translation

A Corpus-based Study on the Translator's Styleas Seen from Bonsall's Version of Hong Lou Meng

Author ZhaoChaoYong
Tutor FengQingHua
School Shanghai International Studies University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords descriptive translation studies corpus-based translation studies Hong LouMeng Bonsall translator’s style quantitative study qualitative study
CLC H315.9
Type PhD thesis
Year 2014
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The original impetus for the following research was generated by my growing interests atthe magnum opus Hong Lou Meng and its English translations, as well as the influence andinspiration from descriptive translation studies (DTS) and corpus-based translation studies(CTS). The present dissertation, situated within the theoretical framework of DTS and CTS,built up a Chinese-English parallel corpus, which includes one Chinese original text HongLou Meng and its three full English translations, respectively by Bramwell Bonsall, DavidHawkes&John Minford and Yang Xianyi&Gladys Yang. A combination of quantitativestatistics method&qualitative analysis method are applied to present a panoramic descriptionof Bonsall’s translation on three ascending levels: word, sentence and chapter. One chapter isspared to make a qualitative case study to avoid the insufficiency of quantitative study andoffer an even more systematic and overall description of the characteristics of Bonsall’stranslation The Red Chamber Dream. With the assistance of corpus concordance tools, acontrastive study concerning the three full translations of Hong Lou Meng is made to describetheir distinctive features. Furthermore, based on the findings of the present research onBonsall’s translator styles, the formative mechanism of translator’s style can be re-recognizedtogether with its formative motivation, relevant elements and their working mechanism in amutually interactive way. The last objective of the present study is an attempt to explore acorpus-based method on studying translator’s style of classic literature works, especiallyclassic novels.The structure of this dissertation, with Chapter Four, Chapter Five and Chapter Six as itsmain body, can be presented as follows.Chapter One recounts the orgin of the research topic, formulates its research targets,contents and methods, analyzes possible difficulties and presents the significance as well asinnovation objectives of the study.Chapter Two gives a brief historic account of Hong Lou Meng’s translations, whichclarifies the historic developments of this novel in the English world and the interrelation of different versions in different periods. Another brief account is made to introduce DTS andcorpus linguistics, the two core theoretical foundations of CTS, which is followed by adetailed and systematic review on corpus-based study of translator’s style both home andabroad. On the basis of previous studies in China, new research methods and paradigms areproposed thereafter. Two hypotheses,“translator style hypothesis” and “the formativemechanism of translator style hypothesis”, are thereby proposed.Chapter Three explores almost every aspect of the translator, including his life story,cultural identity, translating environment, translation philosophy and traits etc. Thisexploration aims to clarify the unknown influences from social and translating environmentand translator’s subjectivity might have upon The Red Chamber Dream by Bonsall and pavethe way for the explanation of how his translation style came into being. Bonsall’s philosophyof translating is as he put it:Acomplete translation is one in which nothing should be omitted,and an attempt should be made to convey the meaning of each sentence in the original text.Chapter Four, by a corpus-based quantitative statistics analysis, proceeds with asystematic and overall description of the translator’s style of Bonsall’s The Red ChamberDream, covering three ascending levels: word, sentence and chapter. At the meantime, acontrastive study with two other full translations, Hawkes&Minford’s the Story of the Stoneand Yang Xianyi and Gladys Yang’s A Dream of Red Mansions, is made to present theirdistinctive features and provide objective datum support for the following qualitative studyand exploration of the formative mechanism of translator’s style. The study on word levelcovers seven correlated sections, including type/token ratio, mean word length, lexical density,high frequency words, key words, regular collocations and semantic prosody. The study onsentence level involves mean sentence length, sentence types and relatives while the last levelchapter study focuses on three larger aspects, chapter formulistic expression, textual cohesionand narrative styles.The study on word level suggests that Bonsall prefers to use shorter and simpler wordsand he is more semantically influenced by the original text. His semantic preference andsyntactic structure are so dominatingly held in play by the original text that contextualmeaning and communicative effects are often neglected in the above two aspects, which results in an over-tendency of word-to-word translation strategy. Additionally, the study onsentence level reveals that the translator prefers simpler sentences, not shorter but simpler.However, Bonsall’s translation suggests a preference of explicitation in terms of relatives,which may further proves that he employed a “copying” strategy of sentence-to-sentencetranslation on the one hand and kept trying to domesticate his translation in line with Englishgrammar when it comes to syntactic requirements.The study on chapter level shows that Bonsall loyally imitated the original text in itsliterature style, contextual cohesion and narrative styles. While, the translator spared noefforts to resemble the stylistic features of traditional Chinese novels with captions for eachchapter, his explicitation deficiency in contextual cohesion and implication preference innarration distinguish him from the commonly known translation universals.Chapter Five, from a multi-perspectives of stylistics, rhetoric, pragmatics and socialculture, chooses three typical domains embodying a translator’s style: stylistic layouts, figuresof speech and social culture, to further describe Bonsall’s translator style when dealing withthem. The case study on Bonsall’s misunderstanding and mistranslating of the original textcan best examine his language proficiency and encyclopedic knowledge of China, which inturn can shed light on the exploration of the formative mechanism of translator’s style. Thepresent study shows that even though the translator had tried to “copy” the semantic andstylistic structure, the stylistic features of chapter captions in traditional Chinese novels is nolonger what it was. When translating figures of speech, Bonsall consistently adopted his“copying” strategy, only being faithful to the original works. Yet, his translation of culturalitems does reflect his conservatism, which to some extent, suggests that translator identity andsocial environment factors do impose major influences upon a translator’s strategy adoptionand style.Chapter Six attempts to explore the formative mechanism of translator’s style, whichtakes form from two motivations, one is internal and the other external. Internal motivationsconsist of a translator’s translating motives, translation philosophy, language proficiency,cultural literacy and characteristics of personality, while external motivations are mainly fromsocial-cultural environment of the both source and target language, mainstream ideology, dominating literary concepts, sponsorship and the practical translating environment. It’s worthstressing that the formation of internal motivations themselves and their impacts upon thetranslator in the translating process are affected and governed by external motivations in thefirst place.These internal and external factors might be in a state of confliction or game-playing.The former ones may tend to grow adapted, obedient and even compromise to the latter, orthey may manifest strong confrontation and resistance. One undeniable fact is that thetranslator’s subjectivity remains the most active and most vigorous element, which lies in thecenter and has crucial influence on translator’s style. Translator’s motive, translationphilosophy and the characteristics of his personality have dominant impacts upon translator’sstyle over other subjective factors. Take translator’s personality for example. It not only exertsinfluence on translator’s style by the decision-making process of translating, but willconsequently influence the spreading and readership of the translation. In the end, the twohypotheses proposed in Chapter Two are revised and another two relevant ones are proposedanew.The last chapter is conclusion. The description of translator’s style of classic literaryworks should cover three domains: the translated text proper, para-texts (foreword, footnotes,endnote, postscript, notes and appendix) and social culture. A corpus-based study oftranslator’s style should combine the method of quantitative statistics research and qualitativeresearch, with special focus on three dimensions: text, translator and society. Theenlightenments of the present study can be seen in the fields of translational texts andtranslator’s style. Its limitation can be seen in the unsolved problems concerning the buildingof parallel corpus, the precision and accuracy error caused by the differences of originalworks and the diversified statistics method adopted by different researchers.The present study can be innovative in four aspects. First, the transcription anddigitization of Bonsall’s The Red Chamber Dream together with the building ofChinese-English parallel corpus of Hong Lou Meng and its three full English translations offernew corpus datum to the study of this masterpiece. Second, new theoretical knowledge hasbeen achieved in the field of CTS, including its nature, methodology, the domains and dimensions of describing a translator’s style, and more importantly the formative mechanismof translator’s style. Third, new research methods, namely the combination of quantitativestatistics approach and qualitative approach and the integration of theoretical demonstration,empirical description and multi-texts, multi-dimensional contrasts, are adopted in thisresearch. Fourth, the present study has broadened the domains of previous research, whichmeans a systematic and overall corpus-based description of Bonsall’s The Red ChamberDream and a contrastive study of the three full English translations of Hong Lou Meng arecompleted in this dissertation, which will hopefully shed new light on the future study ofHong Lou Meng’s translation and translator’s style of all classic literature from a CTSperspective.

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