Kamis, 13 Oktober 2011

LOSS AND GAIN IN TRANSLATION


Loss and Gain of Textual Meaning
in Advertising Translation:

A case study

by Liu Zequan (刘泽权)
National University of Singapore
Yanshan University, Hebei, China 

1. Introduction
  text, first of all, conveys "textual meaning." Textual meaning therefore "refers to the way the text is organized as a piece of writing (or speech)" (Eggins, 1994:12). This function is described in terms of "theme dynamics" and related to the "register" dimension of "mode" (Fawcett, 1997:110). The criterion of textual equivalence is here proposed and used to refer to the degree of equivalence between the target language text (TLT) and its source language text (SLT) in their employment of textual strategies to express textual meaning. With this theoretical tool, both the SLT and TLT will be analysed, and the TLT evaluated, in terms of their choices to convey textual meaning, which include thematic choices and cohesion (Baker, 1992, particularly Chapters 5 and 6; Hatim & Mason, 1990:209-222; Fawcett, 1997:110; Wang & Shen, 1999:85; Chen, 1999:123-127). A translation may be undertaken for a variety of purposes, but the ultimate aim of a translator, in most cases, is to achieve a measure of equivalence at text level (Baker, 1992:112). Here however, we shall only check to what extent the textual meaning in the SLT has been lost in the process of translation, and find and justify what strategies have been adopted to compensate for such meaning loss.


The data of this paper consist of an English spa beauty advertisement and its Chinese translation, both from Singapore newspapers. The English original, entitled "Make them envy your body", was carried in the most widely read English national newspaper The Straits Times. It appeared at the bottom of the front page of the newspaper's Life! section first on June 7, 1999, and was then repeated on September 7 and 9, and November 23. Its Chinese translation with the title of "Yōngyǒu rą ng rén yàn xiàn de shēnduàn" did not come out only more than two months later, that is on September 9, 1999. It was carried in the most widely circulated national Chinese newspaper Liánhe Zǎobào and was repeated with the same frequency as its English original.
Following Fang et al (1995:245), both the SLT and the TLT are broken down into clauses consisting of a single thematic structure and a single transitivity structure. As an overview, it is found that, whilst the English text is made up of twenty-five clauses, with a total of 177 words, its Chinese counterpart is composed of twenty-eight clauses containing 286 words (see Appendixes 3 and 4). In order to measure the degree of textual equivalence that has been obtained during the translation, the TLT is contrasted with its English original clause by clause. From this contrast, it is observed that 80% textual equivalence has been acquired, when twenty of the twenty SLT clauses find representation in the TLT, while three are combined and two omitted in the translation, as shown in Table 1 below. Besides the strategies of combination and deletion, the translator has also employed the strategy of addition, and as a result, seven more clauses are added in the TLT. This thus serves as the presupposition of the paper, that is, some textual meaning is lost in the process of the translation. The paper thus sets out to see how the translator manages to compensate for the meaning that gets lost.
Table 1 Clause-to-clause contrast between the SLT and the TLT
>
SLT
TLT
Clause
No.
Clause No.
Strategies employed in translation
Translation
Addition
Combination
Deletion
1
3
1
  
2
2
4
  
3
  
7
 
4
5
   
5
6
   
6
  
7
 
7
8
   
8
9
   
9
10
11
  
10
12
   
11
13
14
  
12
   
Deleted
13
17
15
  
14
18
16
  
15
19
   
16
    
17
   
Deleted
18
20
   
19
21
   
20
22
   
21
23
24
  
22
25
   
23
26
   
24
27
   
25
28
   
Total
20
7
2
2
2. Strategies Analysis
What this means is that, twenty percent of the original textual meaning is lost in the translation. In another word, there exists 20% difference between the SLT and the TLT as far as their textual meaning is concerned. In this part, discussion will centre around the non-equivalence on both the lexico-grammatical and discourse-semantic strata. Here we will see four strategies that have been adopted in the translation not only to compensate for the meaning loss, but also to better adjust the TLT to the TL audience. These strategies can also be called re-drafting strategies, and they include addition, explication and combination.
2. 1 Addition
Addition means adding anything that is needed, such as a word, a phrase, or even a clause, in order to make the translated text appear natural, either grammatically or semantically, in the target language. This is a strategy a translator frequently resorts to when following the original pattern of information flow results in a tension between syntactic and communicative functions in the TLT (Baker, 1992:167). As far as my data is concerned, seven instances of addition are observed and the following is their analysis from a textual perspective.
Figure 1 A multi-layered Theme-Rheme analysis of a clause in the TLT
Clausal Theme I ...Rheme I: projection clause
Theme 1...... Rheme1/ Theme 2 ... Rheme 2
Text Top Rheme Top Rheme
Dāng nǐ kąndào tārén yōngyǒu jiāorén de meǐ xiōng shķ
When you see other people possess attractive SUB beautiful breast time
The first addition appears at the very beginning of Clause 1 of the TLT, i.e., Dāng nǐ kąndào "when you see." Functioning as the Theme of the hypotactic projecting clause complex as demonstrated in the figure above, this addition explicitly foregrounds two things as the starting point for the following clause(s). One is the identification of the audiencenǐ "you" as the unambiguous interactant of the communication. Without such identification, Clause 3 that follows would sound obscure because it leaves out the topical Theme. The other thing that is made explicit here is a specification of temporal or the occasion kàndào "see...," which serves as a concrete time when the addressee's psyche nǐ huìbuhuì xiànmù bùyǐ "won't you admire them" occurs.
The second, third and fourth additions are realized in Clauses 4, 11 and 14. Grammatically, they share the same feature by consisting of an adverb plus a verb. Functionally, they all serve as a bridge between their foregoing and forthcoming clauses. As far as the second addition shènzhì rènweí "[you] even think [that...]" is concerned, whilst the textual Theme, shènzhì "even," serves to highlight the paratactic relation between Clause 3 and Clause 4, rènweí "think," further foregrounds and projects the assumed mentality of the audience. If the original Clauses 3, 4 and 5 had been directly transferred into the TL, the Chinese text would sound logically obscure.
The third addition bié taì jièyì "Don't be so concerned" or "Never mind," in Clause 11, not only functions as a friendly consolation to the audience, but also as a marker clause to move from the stage of problem identification to the stage of solution offering.
As for the fourth addition, which is Clause 14, i.e., rúhé chùlǐ wèntí "how to solve (deal with) the problem," it makes explicit what the original "a little sensibility" refers to. Apart from this, this addition has also bridged the gap between Clause 12, and Clauses 15, 16, 17 and 18. It creates space in which the advertiser's suggestions and services are introduced. Clauses 15 and 16 are therefore inserted as contrastive options against those put forward in Clauses 17 and 18. As such, the audience is clearly shown two extremes of choices: either "helplessly" (wúkěnaě hé ) admiring those women who are well-endowed in the chest area, or "immediately enquiring" (lìkè xǘnwèn) about our bust care service, or even trying it out! In contrast to the above-mentioned six additions which are all complete clauses, the seventh addition, i.e wǒmen zhǐ caǐyòng "we only adopt," supplies what has been omitted in Clause 20 in the SLT. This addition not only completes the ellipsed clause; it also highlights the techniques the advertiser employs for his/her bust care services.
2.2 Explication
Explication refers to the strategy of translation to express in explicit terms what is vague in the original texts. Looking at my data, the strategy of explication used by the translator can be subdivided into three categories, including change of process type, nominalization, and specification. The instances of these categories are respectively spelt out below.
2.2.1 Change of process type
When an English clause is translated into Chinese with a Process type different from its original, we say that a change of process type is realized. The Process types here are defined using Halliday and McDonald's (in press) four-way model. In the Chinese version, six instances of process change are observed. These are tabulated in Table 2 below, with a gloss under each Chinese clause.


Table 2 Changes of process type made in the TLT
SLT
TLT
Original clause
Process
type
Translation
Process type
other women seem to be more well-endowed in the chest area
Rel:
Ascr.
Tārén yōngyǒu jiāorén de meǐ xiōng
Others have a charming chest area
Rel:
Poss.
these women seem to have it all
Rel:
Poss.
Támen lìzhì tiānshēng
others are born beauties
Rel: Ascr.
[these women] appear more womanly
Rel:
Ascr.
[Támen] wúshí wúkè bú zaì sànfā dņngrén de tǐtaì meǐ
[they] are displaying a graceful carriage all the time
Mat.
[it's] a growing psychological case as well
Rel:
Iden.
[Zhè] haí yǐngxiáng le zìxìnxīn
[this] also affects [your] self-confidence
Mat.
be the object of sin
Rel:
Iden.
Hébù chángkaī xīonghuįi
why not open wide your bosom
Mat.
make them envy your body
Ment.
Yōngyǒu rąng rén yàn xiàn de shēncaí
have a figure that is the admiration of others
Rel:
Poss.
2.2.2. Nominalization
According to Halliday (1994) nominalization is a process "whereby any element or group of elements is made to function as a nominal group in the clause" (p.41). It is the single most powerful resource for creating grammatical metaphor (ibid:352). Nominalization in translation involves metaphorically rendering into a nominal group or phrase what are originally "processes (congruently worded as verbs) and properties (congruently worded as adjectives)" (ibid: 352). From Table 3 below, it can be seen that four nominalizations are employed in the translation. Among them, three concern transferring English adjective phrases of Attribute (properties) into nominal groups, while one involves a conversion from a Process. If we look closely at the structure of these nominalizations, it can be observed that all the nominalizations consist of an Epithet plus Thing (Halliday, 1994:185). Comparison with the original of each nominalization enables us to see that the Epithets are in fact derived from the adjective or verbal element of original clause. It follows that "well-endowed" is rendered into jiāorén de ("charming") "womanly" into ráng rén yànxiàn de ("causing people to admire"). In these two cases, the Things měi xiōng ("beautiful chest") and tǐtaì meǐ ("charm of figure") are added by the translator according to the context.
Table 3 Nominalization in the TLT
SLT
Nominalization/ Metaphorical Translation
in the TLT
Clause
Grammatical
Category
other women seem to be more well-endowed in the chest area
adjective
Tārén yōngyǒu jiāorén de meǐ xiōng
others have a charming chest area
[these women] appearmore womanly
adjective
Tāmen] sànfā dòngrén de tǐtaì meǐ
[others]...display a graceful carriage
It's normal to feel this way
adjective
Zhè shì zhèngcháng de xīnlǐ
it's a normal psyche
make them envy your body
verb
Yōngyǒu ràng rén yàn xiàn de shēncai
Have a figure that is the admiration of others
In dealing with the third and fourth clauses, a slightly more complicated strategy is employed. With regard to the third nominalization, it can be seen that, while the Epithet zhèngcháng de ("normal") derives from the original adjective "normal," the Thing xīnlǐi ("psyche") resulted from the Process verb "to feel." As far as the fourth nominalization is concerned, whilst the Process verb "envy" is transferred into an Epithet ràng rén yàn xiàn de ("causing people to admire"), the Thing shēncaķ ("physical figure") comes indirectly from the original "body."

Table 4 Specifications made in the TLT
SLT
Specifications in the Translation
(Don't you just) hate it
(huìbuhuì) xiànmù bùyǐ
(won't you) admire them a lot
(have) it all
lìzhì tiānshēng
[they are] born beauties
this feeling of inadequacy
shāo xiįn "dānbó" de shēncaķ
[your] slightly "thin" figure
It is sinful (to think about it)
zìcánxíngkuì
feel self-abased
a physical thing
shēnduąn shàng de quēhàn
an inadequacy of the (body) figure
([it's]) a psychological thing as well(haí yǐngxiǎng le) zìxìnxīn
(and also affects) [your] self-confidence
(we expect) a little sensibility(dōngde) rúhé chùlǐ wèntí
(understand) how to deal with the problem
See
qīnshēn gānshņu
experience by (for) yourself
be the object of sin
chǎngkaī xiōnghuaķ
open wide [your] bosom
visit us now
qián laí jiēshòu hùlǐ fúwù
come and have [bustcare] service
2.2.3. Specification
In the translated advertisement, ten specifications are made to things that originally are very abstract and general in terms of their meaning or reference. The purpose of these specifications is to avoid the vagueness that would have otherwise resulted from a direct translation of the original. Tabulated above are the instances of specification the translator has made in the TLT.
2.3 Combination
The fourth strategy the translator has adopted while rendering the English advertisement into Chinese is the strategy of combination. According to the specific context, combination may involve incorporating more than one clause element, or even integrating more than one clause into just one group or clause. Combination has the advantage of avoiding redundancy or repetition that would have resulted from translating a TLT by following its original pattern of information flow. Concerning the short English advertisement, two combinations have been made in the translation process. The first combination occurs in Clause 3 and Clause 6 of the SLT when they are put together and translated into Clause 7 in the TLT. The second combination is derived when Clauses 11 and 12 of the SLT are combined and translated into Clause 13 in the Chinese text. These are demonstrated in Figure 2 below.
Figure 2 Combinations made in the TLT
SL Clauses
Combination Made in translation
It's sinful to think about it.
Bù zìjué de, [nǐ] duì zìjí shāo xián "dā nbō" de shēncaķzìcánxíngkuì
Subconsciously, [you] feel inferior about the slightly "thin" figure of yours
But for the lesser blessed ones, there's this feeling of inadequacy.
But for smart women like you, we expect a little sensibility.
Xiàng nǐn zhèyàng yīweì cōngmíng de xīn xǚxìng, yínggai dōngde(rúhé chùlǐ wèntí)
For a wise woman of the new times as you, [you] should know better about [how to deal with the problem]
We'd rather you do something about it.
3. Conclusion
We have seen how the translator adopted different strategies in order to make up for the loss of textual meaning in the process of translation. But from a deeper perspective, these strategies are not merely adopted for the sake of meaning compensation at the level of lexical-grammatical configuration. Rather it has more to do with the socio-cultural context of language use which boils down to ideology construction. For instance, in the short English advertisement, six lexical metaphors are used which have primary religious connotations. These expressions can be further divided into two types according to their connotation categories. One type associates a plump or beautiful chest area with God-given endowment. In this respect, a woman, who has such a beautiful chest area is said to be "well-endowed." It follows that a female, who does not own such "an asset," is considered "lesser blessed." The other type of connotation has to do with a sense of "sin." Starting from this sense, a woman, who is "lesser blessed" in the chest area, but who admires (or "hates," to borrow the word from the first clause) those who are "well-endowed," is considered "sinful." But if she is "clever" enough, she can buy Beauty Express's bust care service, and thus make herself well-endowed in her chest area. In this case, she will become "the object of sin." Given these two associations, it is easy to understand why a woman's chest area is regarded as her "best assets."
But when we look at the Chinese translation, no religious connotation can be found at all. The translator could have transferred those English metaphors directly into their Chinese congruent equivalents with the religious implications retained. For example, she/he could have rendered "well-endowed" into "tiāncģ liánghaǒ de (xiōngpś)" ("a well-endowed chest area"), and "sinful" into "zuìè de" ("sinful" or "criminal"), etc. But s/he has decided not to adopt such choices. There might be two reasons why the translator has made such a decision.
One reasonable explanation might be that, the cultural differences between the two languages have resulted in those linguistic differences. English has long been influenced by Judaeo-Christian ethics. Therefore, native speakers of English tend to use expressions that have religious colour, such as "God," "God bless/damn you," "My god," etc. But, for the majority of Asians, especially people from southeastern countries, their cultures have mainly been influenced by Buddhism and Confucian beliefs. As far as the Singapore context is concerned, Christianity is freely practiced, and many Christian festivals, such as Christmas and Easter, are officially observed. As a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural community, Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism are also lawfully professed, with their holidays openly celebrated. Although the bilingual Singaporeans speak and write in English, the "cultural grounding" (Ho, 1999:1) of their language use might be "characterized as reflecting certain Western (mainly American/British) ways of thinking and behaving (English as international language is not disassociated from the power of the Western culture), and at the same time allowing the construction and expression of Singapore's own conceptual and experiential realities--the Singaporean identity, with the essence of intercultural-ness" (ibid:10). In addition, given the fact that more than 77% of the Singapore audience is Chinese, a direct translation of those metaphors would have rendered the advertisement "foreign" or "western," and thus failed to appeal to the audience.
Another possible explanation for the translator's choice for avoiding religious connotation in his/her translation might lie in his/her consideration for ideological construction. The translation of these lexical metaphors is not the result of accidental choices by the translator. In fact, what we see here are systematic patterns of differences between the two texts in terms of the metaphorical use of language. Hence, I would argue that, these differences are the results of ideological adjustments that are most probably made at a higher level of decision-making, perhaps at a rewriting or editorial stage. These patterns not only produce meaning difference between the two texts, but also result in ideological differences. Therefore, we are justified in saying that "an ideological filter" (Barnard, 1999:5) was in action in the process of translation.

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