Stylistic approaches to literary translation: with particular reference to English-Chinese and Chinese-English translation

Huang, Xiaocong (2011). Stylistic approaches to literary translation: with particular reference to English-Chinese and Chinese-English translation. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.


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This thesis reports a study applying stylistics in the analysis and assessment of literary translation, with specific reference to translations between English and Chinese. It focuses on how to maintain the original style in the translation – in terms of techniques or linguistic features in the literary texts and their correspondent functions – and on how to assess the style of the individual translation and translator as measured by quantitative data derived from corpus linguistic analyses.

The thesis starts with an overview of the specific challenges of literary translation and the value of stylistics as an approach assisting in a better understanding of the literary texts, which shows the need for using stylistics in literary translation. It then illustrates how to apply stylistics in literary translation, taking the examples of central stylistic phenomena such as metaphor, free indirect speech, heteroglossia, repetition, and transitivity in the English translations of the celebrated Chinese novella《阿Q正传》(The True Story of Ah Q) (Lu Xun, 1921) and in the Chinese translations of the English short stories “Two Gallants” and “The Dead” (Joyce, 1914). I investigate the distinguishable “fingerprints” of the Chinese translators of the 《阿Q正传》 through scrutinizing the data uncovered by corpus tools, taking into consideration each translator’s individual style alongside any detectable motivations pertaining to their personal experiences, the publishing context, and so on.

This study argues that literary texts – as distinct from non-literary texts – have a real but hard-to-define “added value”, carried by the particular way in which they exploit lexis, grammar, and pragmatics; this added value is everything to do with the text’s style. A good literary
translation must reproduce something of the source text’s style; otherwise the distinguishing literariness in the original will not be conveyed in the target text. Stylistic and corpus methods can help identify important stylistic features in the original, and can help us to evaluate whether equivalent features are or are not present in one or several translations of that original.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies, Department of English Literature
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics


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