Translating Shakespeare’s imagery for the Chinese audience
With reference to Hamlet and its versions in Chinese and in European languages
Generally speaking, the message of a poem is conveyed on three levels: the semantic, the syntactic, and the phonological. How translatable each of these levels is to the translator depends on how much cognation there is between source and target language: the more cognation there is, the more translatable each of these levels. Thus, in respect of all three levels, translation between languages of the same family, such as English and French, both of which belong to the Indo-European family, is easier than translation between languages of different families, such as English and Chinese, which belong respectively to the Indo-European and the Sino-Tibetan family. If a further distinction is to be made, one may say that, in translation between Chinese and European languages, the semantic level is less challenging than both the syntactic and the phonological level, since syntactic and phonological features are language-bound, and do not lend themselves readily to translation, whereas language pairs generally have corresponding words and phrases on the semantic level to express similar ideas or to describe similar objects, events, perceptions, and feelings. As an image owes its existence largely to its semantic content, the imagery of a poem is easier to translate than its phonological features. Be that as it may, there is yet another difference: the difference between the imagery of non-dramatic poetry and the imagery of poetic drama when it comes to translation. With reference to Hamlet and its versions in Chinese and in European languages, this paper discusses this difference and the challenges which the translator has to face when translating the imagery of poetic drama from one language into another; it also shows how translating Shakespeare’s imagery from English into Chinese is more formidable than translating it from English into other European languages.
Keywords: Chinese audience, Shakespeare’s imagery, European languages, Hamlet
Published online: 21 July 2011
Cited by 1 other publications
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