On Application of Conversion in English-Chinese Translation
Under the Supervision of
Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
for the Degree of Bachelor of Arts
School of Foreign Studies
Shandong University of Finance and Economics
Upon the completion of the thesis, first of all, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to my supervisor Prof. Li Wentao, for his enlightening guidance, incessant encouragement and careful modification throughout the process of writing this thesis. Without his patience and prudence, I could not have brought my thesis to its present form.
Besides, I am also greatly indebted to other beloved teachers in the School of Foreign Studies of Shandong University of Finance and Economics, for their valuable and informative courses which have benefited me a lot during my college years.
Last but not the least, I am also much obliged to all my friends who have helped me with my thesis.
On Application of Conversion
in English-Chinese Translation
Due to the great differences between English and Chinese in grammar and expression style, translators may adopt the approaches of changing the word classes and sentence components in English-Chinese (E-C) translation. As a frequently-used translation technique, conversion enables translators to achieve a natural, fluent and accurate translation that not only conveys the original text’s information but also fits the idiomatic usage of Chinese.
The thesis consists of three chapters. The first chapter examines the conversion of word classes in E-C translation such as conversion from English nouns or prepositions into Chinese verbs. The conversion of word classes usually results in the conversion of sentence components, so the second chapter discusses the conversion of sentence components. The third chapter explores the approaches of how to convert the English perspectives into the corresponding ones conforming to Chinese culture and thought pattern.
Key words: conversion; word classes; sentence components; perspectives; E-C translation
由于英汉两种语言在语法或表达习惯上存在巨大差异, 在英汉翻译的过程中, 译者往往需要改变原文的词类或句子成分。作为英汉翻译中常用的翻译技巧，转换法可以使译文自然、流畅、准确，既传达原意又符合汉语的表达习惯。
Abstract in Chinese………………………………………………iv
Chapter One Conversion of Word Classes…………...…………3
I. Conversion into Chinese Verbs…………………………………3
II. Conversion into Chinese Nouns………………………………5
III. Conversion into Chinese Adjectives…………………………6
IV. Conversion into Chinese Adverbs……………………………7
Chapter Two Conversion of Sentence Components…...………..9
I. Conversion into Chinese Subjects………………………………9
II. Conversion into Chinese Predicates…………………………10
III. Conversion into Chinese Objects……………………………11
IV. Conversion into Chinese Attributes…………………………11
V. Conversion into Chinese Complements…………………12
Chapter Three Conversion of Perspectives……………………14
I. Conversion of English Impersonal Subjects…………………14
II. Conversion from the Abstract into the Concrete…………….17
III. Conversion from the Stative into the Dynamic………………17
IV. Conversion from the Passive into the Active………………18
V. Conversion between Negative and Affirmative………………18
如有三级标题，可以i. ii. iii. iv. 编写，为简明，建议目录中尽量不要写三级标题，正文中可有三级标题。注意各级标题大小写，确保目录中的标题、页码与正文中的标题、页码保持对应。
In translation we may go through many procedures to translate the text to make it acceptable for the specific communicative situation. The translating process is explained as follows:
Translation is not the transcoding of words or sentences from one language to another, but a complex form of action, whereby someone provides information on a text (source language material) in a new situation and under changed functional, cultural and linguistic conditions, preserving formal aspects as closely as possible. (Snell-Hornby 82) 注意引语段格式
According to the explanation, in translating, a translator’s task is to convey the content and spirit of the source text and rearrange them into the target text in a smooth and logical way under the new specific situations and conditions. Additionally, we should remember that “a natural style in translating is nevertheless essential to producing in the ultimate receptors a response similar to that of the original receptors” (Ma and Miao 17). Therefore, effective translation methods and techniques are undoubtedly indispensable in translating activities. 注意文内引文规范。每个文献须在文末参考书目中出现。
Conversion, as a grammatical phenomenon, has been a hot subject in the field of linguistic research. Since source language and target language are quite different in nature and use, and the target text should convey the meaning of the source text in the closest natural manner, conversion becomes one of the most effective techniques to seek in the target language the equivalent information of the source language.
A clear and correct expression of the source text is what really matters in translation, for it is crucial in translation to seek equivalence in content or information, but not absolute formal correspondence. “For most people the informative function is predominantly the major role of language” (Hu 10). A good translator will therefore employ all possible means to reproduce the thought of the author faithfully in another language. “Conversion has long been accepted as one of the techniques essential to improving the quality of our version” (Zhong 98), by which the mechanical translation could be avoided; therefore it enables translators to achieve a natural and faithful translation which not only offers information of the source text but also keeps with the expression habits of the target language. In this way, contents of both source language and target language are in accordance with each other, though forms may be somewhat changed.
The thesis argues that, because of the great differences between English and Chinese in grammar and expression style, conversion becomes a frequently-used translation technique, which enables translators to achieve a natural, fluent and accurate translation. In addition to Introduction and Conclusion, the thesis consists of three parts. The first chapter discusses the conversion of word classes in English-Chinese (E-C) translation. The second chapter focuses on the conversion of sentence components, which is usually caused by the conversion of word classes. The third chapter explores the approaches of how to convert the English perspectives into the corresponding ones in Chinese.
Conversion of Word Classes
In E-C translation, it is difficult to get an appropriate corresponding Chinese word for an English word of the same class all the time. If each word in one language is replaced with words of the same word classes in another, such expressions would sound very awkward or even unintelligible to the reader. Therefore, effective use of word class conversion is crucial and necessary in E-C translation.
Because one of the most remarkable differences between English and Chinese lies in the use of the verb, conversion into Chinese verbs has become the basic conversion technique used in E-C translation.
i. Converting English Noun into Chinese Verb
As for English, “it seems possible to express ideas with greater precision and adequacy by means of nouns than by means of the more pictorial verbs” (Jespersen 139). That is to say, “English is a language in which nouns are more widely used than those in Chinese, while in Chinese verbs are more frequently used and occupy a dominant position” (Zhou 391), therefore some English nouns are often converted into Chinese verbs in the practical translation. 注意文内引文规范。每个文献须在文末参考书目中出现。
Specifically, an English noun which possesses the property of a verb or was derived from a verb is often converted into a verb when translated into Chinese. Here is an example to illustrate this point.
The use of bacteriological weapons is a clear violation of the international law.
ii. Converting English Preposition into Chinese Verb
It is known that “there are about 286 prepositions and prepositional phrases in English” (Lian 50). Prepositions or prepositional phrases are so widely and frequently used in English that English is sometimes called prepositional language. Prepositions in English, which are very rich and flexible in meaning, have a great power of expression; on the contrary, the Chinese language is verb-oriented, so it is not without reason that English prepositions or prepositional phrases are often converted into Chinese verbs or verbal phrases in E-C translation. There is an example below.
It is our goal that the people in the undeveloped areas will be finally off poverty.
iii. Converting English Adjective into Chinese Verb
When meeting with such English adjectives that often indicate the human psychology or state of mind, such as one’s consciousness, emotional activities and desires, translators usually convert them into Chinese verbs. Here is an example to illustrate the point.
Advancing into the vastness of space, man is becoming fully aware of the smallness of his planet.
iv. Converting English Adverb into Chinese Verb
Some English adverbs, which have an implied meaning of verbs, if necessary, are often converted into Chinese verbs. The following example illustrates this point.
They found Mr. Bennett still up.
v. Converting English Gerund into Chinese Verb
Gerund, also called as a verbal noun, often serves functionally as a noun but retains some properties of a verb in the original text. However, there is no such linguistic form of -ing in Chinese, so English gerunds are generally converted into Chinese verbs in E-C translation. Here is an example.
Heating water does not change its chemical composition.
Nouns account for an overwhelming part of the vocabulary not only in English but in Chinese. Some English words, for example, which are derived from nouns, can hardly be translated literally; they are usually converted into nouns.
i. Converting English Verb into Chinese Noun
Because some English verbs describing the characteristics or properties of the subject are difficult to express in exact corresponding Chinese verbs, they are often converted into Chinese nouns so as to achieve a satisfactory translation. Here is an illustrative example.
To them, he personified the absolute power.
ii. Converting English Adjective into Chinese Noun
Sometimes English adjectives are also converted into Chinese nouns for the smoothness of translation. The following is one example:
Everyday experience shows us that ice is not as dense as water and it therefore floats.
Generally speaking, a “definite article (the) + adjective” construction indicates people of some kind or abstract concepts, so such adjectives are often converted into Chinese nouns.
He is always dreaming of living a life as the rich.
Here, “the rich” referring to people of some kind is converted into a Chinese noun.
It is highly important to distinguish between the false and the truth.
Here, “the false” and “the truth” referring to abstract concepts are converted into Chinese nouns.
III. Conversion into Chinese Adjectives
i. Converting English Noun into Chinese Adjective
English nouns are much more frequently used and contain a more extended meaning than Chinese nouns, and some abstract nouns are very closely related to their corresponding adjectives in meaning. Therefore, it is necessary to convert such kind of nouns into Chinese adjectives. The following is an example.
We found difficulty in solving this complicated problem.
Some abstract nouns, preceded by an indefinite article, are also usually converted into adjectives in translation for a more appropriate and natural effect. There is an example below.
The garden-party is a great success.
ii. Converting English Adverb into Chinese Adjective
As a result of the conversion from some English verbs into Chinese nouns, the adverbs which modify the English verbs are naturally converted into Chinese adjectives to modify the Chinese nouns. Here is an example to illustrate this point.
His speech impressed the audience deeply.
IV. Conversion into Chinese Adverbs
There are occasions when some parts of speech in English may be converted into adverbs in Chinese in order to make the Chinese version more expressive.
i. Converting English Noun into Chinese Adverb
The conversion of English nouns into Chinese adverbs is far from being a universal phenomenon in translation. However, some good translations, as illustrated by the following one, demonstrate that the conversion of English nouns into Chinese adverbs makes a more natural and smooth translation in certain context.
He had the kindness to show me the way.
ii. Converting English Adjective into Chinese Adverb
Since the English nouns may have been converted into Chinese verbs, English adjectives which modify the nouns are accordingly converted into Chinese adverbs to modify the verbs in the translated version. Here is an example.
We place the highest value on our friendly relations with developing countries.
A few adjectives which modify or emphasize some nouns, if translated into Chinese, are always converted into adverbs, although this conversion is not caused by the result of conversion from English nouns into Chinese verbs. Illustrative examples are as follows:
Your story about the frog turning into a prince is sheer nonsense.
He dialed the wrong number.
The above discussion reveals that the conversion of word classes is frequently used to achieve accuracy and expressiveness in E-C translation. Through conversion, English words are often translated into Chinese words similar in meaning but different in word classes. In addition, the conversion of word classes often requires the conversion of sentence components, which will be discussed in the next chapter.
Conversion of Sentence Components
It is discussed in the previous chapter that an English word is not necessarily changed into a Chinese word of the same word class in E-C translation. Therefore, in order to achieve the maximal expressiveness, conversion of word classes has become a matter of common occurrence in translation, which often results in the conversion of sentence components. This chapter will discuss the conversion of sentence components in E-C translation.
I. Conversion into Chinese Subjects
i. English Object Converted into Chinese Subject
As some objects of verbs in English are subjects of the sentences in the logical sense, they may usually be converted into subjects in Chinese so as to give prominence to the objects in English. Here is an example to illustrate this point.
This sort of stone has a relative density of 2.7.
ii. English Prepositional Object Converted into Chinese Subject
This is actually a branch of general objects which are converted into Chinese subjects. To complete the phrase, the preposition usually teams up with a noun, pronoun, or gerund, which is called the object of the preposition and they are often converted into Chinese subjects. Here is an illustrative example.
With the introduction of the new method, the products decreased in cost.
iii. English Predicative Converted into Chinese Subject
In English, the predicative, especially the nominal one, may be in line with the subject in terms of content. Therefore, when rendered into Chinese, such kind of English predicative is often changed into the subject in the target language so that the translation coherence is ensured or the importance of the predicative is effectively stressed. Here is an example to illustrate this point.
Two widely used alloys of copper are brass and bronze.
i. English Attribute Converted into Chinese Predicate
In English, adjectives themselves can not serve as predicates; however, in Chinese, they could. Therefore, the adjective attributes in English can be changed into predicates in Chinese; accordingly, in some circumstances, the core word in the adjective phrase is turned into subject in Chinese so that the translation is smooth and idiomatic. Here is an example to illustrate this point.
We look forward to an ever-increasing volume of business with your factory.
ii. English Object Converted into Chinese Predicate
In certain cases, an English verb can not be translated into the corresponding Chinese verb, while the English object conveys the meaning of action, such object or the object together with the verb may usually be converted into the predicate in Chinese. Here is an illustrative example.
Physical changes do not result in formation of new substances, nor do they involve a change in composition.
iii. English Subject Converted into Chinese Predicate
Some nouns, which serve functionally as the subjects of the sentence in the original English text but retain some properties of verbs, are often converted into Chinese predicate. Here is an example to illustrate this point.
A glance through his office window offers a panoramic view of the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.
III. Conversion into Chinese Objects
Actually this kind of conversion is closely related to the passive habit in English, which is further elaborated in the next chapter. As “a kind of changed verb forms in English,” passive voice “expresses the logical verb-object relationships between predicate verb and its subject,” and its subject is “actually the receiver of the predicate-verb action” (Yan 116-119). What’s more, “the passive is especially used in English sentences where it is unnecessary or undesirable to mention the agent” (Zandvoort 53). Because sentences using the passive voice are not so common in Chinese, English subjects are generally converted into Chinese objects. Here is an illustrative example.
As the match burns, heat and light are given off.
IV. Conversion into Chinese Attributes
i. English Subject Converted into Chinese Attribute
Since there may be close relationship between subject and object, or the object itself is part of the subject, the subject in the source language is occasionally converted into an attribute for the sake of naturalness of Chinese. Therefore, it can be coherent in meaning as well as in logic despite the change in the word order. Here is an example to illustrate this point.
Various substances differ widely in their magnetic characteristics.
Here, the sentence construction of the rendered version is different from that of the original, but it conveys the exact meaning in English.
ii. English Adverbial Converted into Chinese Attribute
Certain prepositional phrases, mostly adverbials of place and time, serve as adverbials in the form, but they are actually connected closely with certain nouns. Such adverbials may be converted into attributes in Chinese. Here is an illustrative example.
Throughout the world, oil consumption is growing rapidly.
V. Conversion into Chinese Complements
It is known that, in English, adverbials most commonly take the form of adverbs, adverb phrases or prepositional phrases to modify verbs. However, Chinese sentences are typically concerned with the result and direction of a verb, which is sometimes referred to by Western texts as double verbs. The active verb of a sentence is followed by a second verb which indicates either the result of the first action, or the direction in which it takes the subject.
A complement of result usually indicates either an absolute outcome or a possible outcome. To illustrate, in the expression 听得懂 (“to be able to understand something you hear”), the verb听 (“to listen”) will serve as the active verb, and 懂 (“to understand”) will serve as the complement of result. Another illustrative example is as follows.
The attractive force between the molecules is negligibly small.
To illustrate the complements of direction, we may take as examples the two simple directional complements, 去 (“to go”) and 来 (“to come”), which may be placed at the end of a verb to indicate that it moves somehow away or towards the speaker, respectively.
He walked up (towards me).
The above discussion shows that, along with the conversion of word classes, the conversion of sentence components can help achieve the naturalness and accuracy in E-C translation. Translators should be flexible in changing the sentence components. Actually, conversion of word classes and sentence components are subject to not only differences in linguistics factors but also differences in cultural perspectives, which will be analyzed in the following chapter.
Conversion of Perspectives
As discussed in the previous chapters, it is not difficult to find that conversion of word classes and conversion of sentence components are actually subject to the vast differences between English and Chinese, which often produce barriers for intercultural communication. At times people from different cultures approach the same thing from different perspectives, so it is necessary to explore the translation technique of conversion by focusing on different perspectives in English and Chinese.
It is asserted that “formal written English language often goes with an impersonal style, i.e., one in which the speaker does not refer directly to himself or his reader, but avoids the pronouns I, you, we” (Leech and Svartvik 25). This phenomenon is also vividly described by some scholars as “the writer and the readers are out of the picture, hiding them behind the impersonal language” (Lian 76). While Chinese are actually going with the personal style, it is necessary in the E-C translation to convert the English impersonal style into the Chinese personal one.
i. Converting Impersonal Subjects into Personal or Other Subjects
There are more impersonal subjects in English than in Chinese. Although English sentences with impersonal subjects sound objective and fair, they are often rhetorically flavored with personification or euphemism; therefore, converting English impersonal subjects into Chinese personal or other subjects is necessary in the E-C translation.
Excitement deprived me of all power of utterance.
Friday started with a morning visit to the modern campus of the 22000-student University of Michigan in nearby Ann Arbor, where the Chinese table tennis team joined students in the cafeteria line for lunch and later played an exhibition match.
ii. Converting Impersonal Subjects and Split English Simple Sentences into Chinese Complex Sentences
In English, impersonal subjects and simple sentences are very common, but in Chinese there are fewer simple sentences. Furthermore, sometimes “English modifiers are too long to be placed before the word being modified in the Chinese version” (Xu 164), so it is necessary to convert impersonal subjects and split English simple sentences into Chinese complex sentences. Here is an illustrative example.
The image of a sudden wall of dark water carrying the man and his car away in an instant is still imprinted on my mind.
iii. Converting Impersonal Subjects into Chinese Adverbials or Prepositional Phrases
Impersonal subjects lend simplicity and vividness to the English sentence. Nouns indicating time, place or natural phenomenon are often used in this kind of sentences, serving as the impersonal subjects.
March 1940 found me working in a small construction firm.
Here, the subject in the original English sentence is converted into the Chinese adverbial. The form of the Chinese version is quite different from that of the English one, but the translation fully conveys the content of the source language and expresses it in a legible way in the target language.
No city on American soil had known such destruction.
Here, the subject in the original English sentence is converted into the Chinese prepositional phrase, which provides information about the place where the event happened. Thus a successful translation is achieved through the reorganization of the sentence.
iv. Converting Impersonal Subjects and Split English Sentences, Simple or Complex, into Chinese Compound or Run-on Sentences
As we know, a compound sentence consists of two or more simple sentences. Additionally, a run-on sentence in Chinese refers to running together of two independent clauses without a conjunction or even punctuation, though the so-called run-on sentences are considered as incorrect forms in English. “As Mr. Lv Shuxiang indicates, there are many run-on sentences in Chinese spoken language, with one small sentence after another, and even many parts can be broken” (Wang 141). Therefore, by means of conversion, we may convert English impersonal subjects into Chinese personal ones and split English sentences, simple or complex, into Chinese compound or run-on sentences.
v. Converting Impersonal Subjects into Chinese “Extra-position Elements”
In Chinese, sometimes, two words or phrases which mean the same are put apart in two places, with one as the sentence composition and the other outside the sentence, and the outside one is often a pronoun called extra-position. Nevertheless, this phenomenon is not frequently seen in English. Therefore, some elements of English sentences are usually converted into the extra-position in Chinese, as is shown in the following example.
The abuse of basic human rights in their own country in violation of the agreement reached at Helsinki has earned them the condemnation of freedom-loving people everywhere.
“An excessive reliance on the noun at the expense of the verb will, in the end, detach the mind of the writer from the realities of here and now, from when and how and in what mood the thing was done, and insensibly induce a habit abstraction, generalization and vagueness” (Gowers 79). English people are good at abstract thinking, and therefore, abstract nouns are more frequently used. Chinese people, however, pay more attention to image; so a large number of concrete images are used to illustrate abstract concepts.
Just as noted by Flesch, “while English people fill their talk with masses of empty syllables and words, Chinese keep their feet on the ground and says everything in the most concrete, specific words. They have to; there are no other words in Chinese” (15-16). Therefore, conversion from the English abstract into the Chinese concrete often seems necessary. Here is an illustrative example.
What they wanted most was an end of uncertainties.
III. Conversion from the Stative into the Dynamic
Chinese tends to use verbs in the case of activity. On the contrary, English is more prone to employ more nouns, especially abstract nouns, prepositions, adjectives, gerunds and some other means to replace verbs and express the meaning of action.
Broadly speaking, nouns can be characterized naturally as “stative” in that they refer to entities that are regarded as stable, whether these are concrete or abstract. At the opposite pole, verbs can be equally naturally characterized as “dynamic”: they are fitted to indicate action, activity and temporary or changing conditions. (Quirk 48)
Actually, this section can be regarded as another examination over the contents of the first section in chapter one, which analyzes the conversion from other English word classes into Chinese verbs. Another representative example is given here.
The originality of these buildings lies in the application of advanced building techniques.
IV. Conversion from the Passive into the Active
Although active and passive voices are used in both Chinese and English, the frequencies they present themselves in the two languages are quite different. “Our massed, scientific, and bureaucratic society is so addicted to the passive voice that you must constantly alert yourself against its drowsy, impersonal pomp” (Baker 121).
The passive voice is quite common in English, but not in Chinese. Chinese language carries with it a strong personal consciousness. Action in a sentence is done by the subject “man,” while “things” or “objects” generally do not take the place of the doer or the agent. The third section of chapter two has illustrated that the conversion from English subjects into Chinese objects is closely related to the passive habit in English. Another illustrative example is as follows:
Her plans for a movie career are believed to have all been merely a pipe dream.
V. Conversion between Negative and Affirmative
It is often seen that what is affirmative in English may correspond with something negative in Chinese, and vice versa. Native speakers of English have their own way of expressing negative implications, which is quite different from that of the Chinese. In E-C translation, one has to base the translation on the source text and produce the idiomatic target one.
i. English Negative Converted into Chinese Affirmative
The negative form is more common in English than in Chinese. The main function of negative sentence is to strengthen the positive expression. Here is an example to illustrate this point.
The doubt was still unsolved after his repeated explanation.
There is another special branch of English negative form — double negation. “Double negations make one affirmative. Negatives such as no, not together with no, but, without, unless, until and so like illustrate an affirmative meaning” (Li and Peng 100). The following is one example:
There is no rule that has no exception.