Translation Studies Have Undergone A Long History English Language Essay

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Translation is a complicated human activity which involves the author, the translator, the reader, and various sociocultural factors of two language systems. Whether the target text (TT) can be regarded as equivalent to the source text (ST) is always the central issue of translation studies, thus, a series of equivalence theories have been put forward by reputable translation scholars including Catford, Vinay and Darbelnet, Jakobson, Nida and Taber, Catford, House, Toury, and Baker, etc. Among all these theories, "functional equivalence theory" is generally considered as the most important principle of translation equivalence which requires that translation should be equivalent to its original in semantic, pragmatic, textual, and contextual aspects so that equal communicative effects can be created.

In the early 90s, corpus-based translation study was pioneered by Mona Baker. She predicted that the availability of corpora of both source and target texts and the development of a corpus-based methodology enable researchers in translation studies to uncover the nature of translated text as a mediated communicative event (Baker, 1993). Since then, many scholars have begun to use the corpus-based approach by which translation and translating can be studied in a fresh and systematic way with a solid ground of substantial and reliable data. Just as Mona Baker (2000: 246) once pointed out, to decide certain translation choice of a translator is a kind of pattern rather than a single instance, and it should be done through the observation of a large number of persuasive translation materials

The present paper adopts a corpus-based approach to the tentative study on Liang Shiqiu's, Zhu Shenghao's and Fang Ping's translations of Shakespeare's plays from the perspective of functional equivalence. Assisted by the English-Chinese Parallel Corpus of Shakespeare's Plays (ECPCSP), the author selects the English discourse maker (DM) "why" as the research object and provides quantitative and qualitative studies of its translations by Liang Shiqiu, Zhu Shenghao and Fang Ping respectively. This chapter will briefly introduce the research background, research questions, research methodology, ECPCSP and the thesis structure.

1.1 Research Background

Translation studies have undergone a long history ever since its appearance in the ancient time which has witnessed various schools of translation studies. The studies in earlier periods mostly focus on setting up prescriptive rules through intuitions or subjective judgements for translators to abide by. But ever since the beginning of last century, and especially in the recent 50 years, it has gradually become an interdisciplinary study, establishing increasing contact with linguistics, aesthetics, and philosophy. Multiple approaches have been noted in this field including the philological perspective, the pragmatic perspective, and the perspective of the cultural and social differences.

Generally speaking, the translation studies before the 1990s were of descriptive nature. Descriptive translation studies (DTS) start with the publishing of J. Mc Farlane's paper "Models of Translation" on Durham University Journal in 1953. And J. Holmes (1972) first proposes the concept of DTS in his paper "The Name and Nature of Translation Studies". The later works of S. Bassnett, T. Hermans, M. Snell-Hornby and A. Lefevere promote the development of DTS. From the beginning of the 1990s, translation studies entered into a new brand age since a novel branch of translation studies shaped by the partnership of descriptive translation studies and corpus linguistics came into being with the publication of Baker's seminal paper entitled "Corpus linguistics and translation studies: implications and applications". This new branch is corpus-based translation studies. Benefiting from the increasing availability of and relatively easy access to parallel and comparable corpora in a growing number of languages, corpus-based translation studies have refined, extended and diversified previous descriptive researches into empirical investigations of linguistic, pragmatic, cultural and other features of translated texts. In 1998, the collection "The Corpus-based Approach: A New Paradigm in Translation Studies" edited by Sara Laviosa was published on the famous journal Meta. The studies included in this volume have been grouped into two main categories on the basis of their primary research focus. The first group consists of discussions concerning theoretical issues about the scope, object of study, and methodology of the corpus-based approach. The second group of papers is comprised of empirical and pedagogical studies of translation and translating. It is obvious that more and more scholars in translation studies consider the corpus-based approach as a viable and fruitful perspective of translation studies.

By far, the achievements made in Corpus Translation Studies (CTS) have been remarkably fruitful, among which lies the study of Chinese translations of Shakespeare, especially, of his plays. Ever since the appearance of the first Chinese version of Shakespeare's play, Hamlet, translated by Tian Han in Chinese vernacular and published in a journal in 1921, many scholars and writers were engaged in translating Shakespeare's works, such as Lin Shu, Sun Dayu, Zhu Shenghao, Liang Shiqiu, and Fang Ping, etc. Along with the translating of Shakespeare's works goes the study of various Chinese translations of his works, including theoretic probe into the translating process and discussions of translation practice in this field. It should be noted that the studies on translations of Shakespearean plays before the emergence of CTS were largely prescriptive which rely on intuition, anecdotal evidence or small samples. However, later corpus-based translation studies are concerned with describing the features of translation in an attempt to uncover the nature of translation and the interrelationship between translation and social culture, based on a statistical analysis of a wealth of corpus data. A large amount of authentic materials can be extracted from an English-Chinese parallel corpus to enable objective analyses of quantitative and empirical nature.

Besides, the previous studies upon the Chinese translation of Shakespearean works were mainly from the philological perspective, more of a comparative literature nature than of a pragmatic turn. Drawing on the benefits of CTS and set in the context of pragmatics, this paper launches a relatively in-depth study on the Chinese translations of the discourse marker why in Shakespeare's plays by three different translators,Liang Shiqiu, Zhu Shenghao and Fang Ping, from the perspective of functional perspective and investigates the motivations for the translators' distinct translation approaches and unique translator styles.

1.2 Research Questions

In sum, the paper tries to answer the following questions:

What are the major findings in studying Chinese translations of Shakespeare?

What are the crucial theories and findings in studying discourse markers?

How do the translators, Liang Shiqiu, Zhu Shenghao, Fang Ping translate the DM why in Shakespeare's Plays?

What are the differences between the three translators' translations of the DM why, especially when examined from the perspective of the functional equivalence between the ST and the TT?

What are the possible reasons for such differences? What are the motivations for their different styles in translating the DM why?

What are the problems and prospects of corpus-based translation studies?

1.3 Research Methodology and Data Collection

To examine more clearly the translations of the DM why in Shakespeare's plays, this paper adopts a corpus-based approach. The research process involves the following steps. First, all the instances of "why" are searched and extracted from the the English-Chinese Parallel Corpus of Shakespeare's Plays (ECPCSP) and those used as discourse markers are chosen as the research object. Second, all the DMs are classified into different categories according to their functions. Third, the paper analyzes the DM why's functions category by category along with corresponding translations by three translators to show how the functions of the DM why are reproduced through translation and to lay a foundation for further comparison between three translators' translation strategies and styles. Finally, the factors that influence the translator style will be generalized and subjected to further discussion and a general conclusion will be made on the basis of the aforesaid descriptive study.

To collect all the occurrences of the translation of why, ParaConc was applied since the corpus concerned is saved in pure TXT format and ParaConc is a professional tool designed specifically for linguists and translators to conduct studies on translated texts, which provides various functions to do relevant researches on the parallel texts. To be specific, the data acquisition and processing go through the procedures as below.

First, after opening the workspace containing the source texts, Liang's translations, Zhu's translations and Fang's translations in ParaConc, the "search" function is used to search out all the cases of why in the source texts as Figure 1 shows:

Figure 1 Search Why in the ECPCSP

Then all the sentences containing why will be displayed together with the three versions of their Chinese translation. As shown in Figure 2, there are 879 whys in these 23 plays.

Figure 2 879 Cases of DM Why

In ParaConc, it can be seen that these sentences are almost parallel at sentence level, showing how each sentence is translated. In order to find out how each why is translated and locate its corresponding translation, it is advisable to use the "Hot Words" function. Click in the three Chinese columns one by one while choosing "Hot Words" function in the pop-up dialogue box like Figure 3, Figure 4 and Figure 5:

Figure 3 "Hot Words" in Liang's Translation

Figure 4 "Hot Words" in Zhu's Translation

Figure 5 "Hot Words" in Fang's Translation

Then choose the word that needs to be investigated in each Chinese column. For example, "噫" is chosen among the hot words in Liang's translation, "嘿" in Zhu's translation while "呃" in Fang's translation. And the chosen hot words are highlighted in each Chinese column as showed in Figure 6:

Figure 6 Hot Words Highlighted in ParaConc

In Figure 6, not only the whys in the source text, but also the corresponding translational equivalents are highlighted in blue. This "Hot Words" function is very helpful in finding out the most commonly used translation words for why in each Chinese version. When the ParaConc picks up hot words, it counts the number of translational equivalents of all the whys into the total. However, quite a lot of them are not used as discourse markers, such as whys used when asking questions which are usually translated as "为什么" or "为何". Thus, these words are not the object of the present study, and it is necessary to check every example and exclude non-DM whys. Therefore, manual counting and categorizing are unavoidable. To achieve this, all the 879 sentences containing why as well as the Chinese translations are extracted out into a TXT file for manual counting as Figure 7 shows:

Figure 7 Exported TXT Document of 879 Cases of Why

The final result demonstrates that among the 879 whys in the plays, 527 of them serve as discourse markers, accounting for 59.95% . Other whys are used as adverbs for asking questions, conjunctions, or nouns. The following sections will give a detailed analysis of the translations of the 527 DM whys, compare the realization of functional equivalence by three translators and probe into the factors that influence their individual styles in translating the DM why in Shakespeare's plays.

1.4 Introduction to the English-Chinese Parallel Corpus of Shakespeare's Plays

This research is based on the English-Chinese Parallel Corpus of Shakespeare's Plays (ECPCSP), built by the Center for Translation Studies and Lexicography of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, sponsored by National Philosophy Social Science Fund. The corpus consists of 23 Shakespeare's plays with their three Chinese versions by Liang Shiqiu, Zhu Shenghao and Fang Ping respectively. According to the statistics provided by ParaConc, the corpus contains a total of 528,774 English words and 4,114,795 Chinese characters, among which, Liang's version is of 1,314,258 characters, Zhu's version of 1,389,195 characters and Fang's version of 1,411,342 characters.

In this corpus, the English version is the 1914's Oxford edition of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, edited by W. J. Craig, and published by Oxford University Press. Liang Shiqiu's translations were published by China Radio & Television Publishing House & The Far East Book Co., Ltd. in 2001. Zhu Shenghao's translations were published by the People's Literature Publishing House in 1994. And Fang Ping's translations were published by Hebei Education Press in 2000. The corpus embodies plays of the following four types: tragedy, comedy, historical plays and legendary plays. Table 1.4-1 shows the composition of ECPCSP.

Table 1.4-1 The Composition of ECPCSP

Text Type

Original Text

Chinese Translations



Liang Shiqiu

Zhu Shenghao

Fang Ping

Publication Year





Publishing House

Oxford University Press

China Radio & Television Publishing House & The Far East Book Co., Ltd.

The People's Literature Publishing House

Hebei Education Press






23 Shakespeare's Plays

All Well That Ends Well

Antony and Cleopatra

As You Like It



Henry IV Part I

Henry IV Part II

Julius Caesar

King John

Measure for Measure

Much Ado About Nothing


Pericles, Prince of Tyre

Richard II

The Comedy of Errors

The Merchant of Venice

The Merry Wives of Windsor

The Tempest

The Winter's Tale

Timon of Athens

Titus Abdronicus

Twelfth Night

Two Gentlemen of Verona

1.5 Thesis Structure

The thesis consists of six chapters.

As a general introduction to the whole thesis, Chapter One begins with an overview of background information such as the development of translation studies, researches on Corpus Translation Studies and illustrates how the research is designed and what questions the study tries to answer.

Chapter Two is the literature review, mainly focusing on studies of Chinese translations of Shakespeare's plays, studies of English discourse markers, researches on the functional equivalence between the original text and the target text.

Chapter Three gives an elaboration of the DM why's functions which are divided into three main categories: discourse-constructing function, pragmatic function and interpersonal function. Subcategories of each general category are discussed in this chapter with specific instances extracted from the corpus.

Chapter Four investigates how DM whys are translated by three translators through both quantitative and qualitative analyses and examines the degrees of functional equivalence between the English original and its three Chinese translations to evaluate which version reproduces the functions of the target text better, as demonstrated by DM why in particular.

Chapter Five discusses the factors that influence the translators' choices and the underlying reasons for three translators' different approaches and styles.

Chapter Six makes a general conclusion based on the findings of the previous chapters and describes the potential problems and prospects of CTS.