Chapter published in:A World Atlas of Translation
Edited by Yves Gambier and Ubaldo Stecconi
[Benjamins Translation Library 145] 2019
► pp. 55–80
Japanese conceptualizations of ‘translation’
Chinese characters were a crucial factor shaping translation praxis and attitudes in Japan, providing the foundation for a procedure (performed textually or mentally) known as kanbun kundoku (‘Japanese reading of Chinese text’) that allowed direct understanding of Chinese texts. This largely bypassed ‘conventional’ Translation for a millennium and led to an acceptance of a hybrid written language. The arrival of European languages in the sixteenth century and vernacular renditions of Chinese novels from the seventeenth century introduced a parallel trajectory resembling ‘conventional’ Translation. Translations have had a major impact on Japanese knowledge, literature and the language itself, although it was not until the late nineteenth century that literary translation began to be conceived of as an art. Despite shifts over time, the predominant thread has been a source-oriented approach, and translative language has long constituted an accepted, even desirable, register because of its association with ‘superior’ source cultures.
Keywords: Chinese characters, kanbun kundoku , source-oriented approach, translative language, gloss translations, commentarial translations, intralingual translations
Published online: 05 February 2019
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