Translation of Modifications: About Information, Intention and Effect

Chunshen Zhu

Abstract

Our study adopts a broadened concept of modification and discusses textual functions of modification in translating between Chinese and English. Our attention is firstly on information distribution realized by elaboration of a basic transitivity pattern through modifying a noun- or verb-head, and on matching in translation the textual effect thus created. We also illustrate some differences in using function words in the two languages, and analyze how they may affect translation. The logical nature of modification enables us to identify and observe internal modifiers within the meaning structure of a word, as against sentence and word modifiers as external modifiers. Consequently, the article argues for the importance of word and sentence translation in the practice and process of textual translating.

Table of contents

One of the major developments in modem translation studies has been the shift from the study of translation as product to the study of translation as process, which is accompanied by an equally significant shift from a prescriptive [ p. 302 ]approach to a descriptive one (cf., e.g., Bassnett-McGuire 1980: 37, Hatim and Mason 1990: 3-4, Bell 1991: 22). However, one is warned that normally ". . . translating processes . . . are only indirectly available for study, . . . [their] internal structure[s] can only be guessed, or tentatively reconstructed" (Toury 1985: 18). Since the writing process of the source text is an even more indirect factor for a descriptive study of translation as a process, it follows that, in practice, the source text has to be taken as a 'product in existence'—a social, cultural, linguistic and aesthetic entity. Only the analysis of a product per se, based on the textual modes of information presentation found in its formation, can allow access to the process via an observation of its possible intentions and actual effects. A target text, on the other hand, can be more readily explored, though often only retrospectively, as a means of tracing the decision-making process of translating that yields such a product. With the source text's intentions and effects better appraised, we can hope that the process of creating an acceptable target text will become more observable and assessable.

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