Chapter One INTRODUCTION
1.1 Research Background
1.1.1 Cultural Back Translation
As early Chinese immigrants went to live abroad, Chinese immigrant literature began to bud and develop. Immigrant literature focusing on such topics as identity construction, identity recognition, cultural differences and cultural interactions, attracts a wide range of attention and research interests. Literary works written by Chinese immigrants are of unique significance for foreign readers to have access to the long-established Chinese culture and Chinese nation and they are generally known as foreign literature by overseas Chinese.
As the descendants of Chinese immigrants in America or Chinese Americans have always been wandering between two cultures, Chinese American writers have been unique in creating their immigrant literature since they have inherited many Chinese stories and Chinese legends and Chinese accents or regional dialects. They conceive of or retell these stories with the American mode of thinking and narration. The term “Chinese American literature (华裔美国文学)” is initially perceived as a part of Chinese literature since it was written by the immigrant Chinese about China. While many Chinese-American writers such as Maxine Hong Kingston have made it clear that their literary works are basically written for American readers. Thanks to the effects of generations of Chinese immigrant writers and their followers, Chinese immigrant literature has been developing well in America despite its label as Chinese American Literature (I. Chang, 2003).
When it comes to the translation of Chinese immigrant literature back into Chinese, it falls into the category of cultural back translation (Liang, 2013, p. 51), rootless back translation (Wang & Jiang, 2012, p. 65) or textless back translation (H. Y. Wang, 2015, p. 2), which means the special phenomenon of translating literature about the culture of country B described or created in the language of country A into the language of country B and then spreading them back to the culture of country B (Liang, 2013, p. 51). Since the back translation of such literature can reveal the interaction and communication process of the two languages and cultures and show the evolution of Chinese immigrant identity, it is receiving more and more attention from scholars engaged in Translation Studies, Literary Studies and Cultural Studies.
1.2 Research Significance
This study plans to explore the phenomenon of back translation from context. As the topic of this study is also related to cultural conflicts and cultural accommodation of Chinese Americans, as revealed in the fiction The Woman Warrior, it is supposed to make contribution to the promotion of China’s cultural influence and mutual cultural exchange between China and America. To be specific, this study is of great strategic, academic and applied significance.
1.2.1 Strategic significance
The Woman Warrior is based on its author Kingston’s own life memories to discuss the issue of identity the narrator “I” encounters in the U.S. as a daughter or a second generation of immigrants from rural China. There are five chapters narrates the stories of five women that take place in China respectively. In that case, the fiction includes rich Chinese images and Chinese elements, which pose difficulties and challenges to the translator while translating it back into its corresponding vernacular Chinese or producing the right back translation of The Woman Warrior (X. He, 2015).
This project is to make a contrastive analysis about the two back-translations of The Woman Warrior in terms of the translation background, translator’s style and translation strategy in different contexts as well as the receptor’s response. Then, on the basis of such analyses, the author is to conclude some useful rules for back-translation, especially for cultural back-translation, and in some cases to bring forth would-be better translations.
Chapter Two LITERATUW
2.1 Researches on (Cultural) Back Translation
Studies on back translation have been intensive in recent years, gradually expanding to fields like contrastive studies and cultural transmission and so on. Judging from their varied focuses, back-translation studies break up into such categories as follows: 1) the definition of back translation; 2) the function and status of back translation; 3) the relationship between back translation and Translation Studies, English-Chinese Contrastive Studies and Cultural Studies; 4) back translation researches with the application of linguistic approaches.
2.1.1 Researches on the definition of (cultural) back translation
Studies on back translation begin with the definition of back translation. According to Shuttleworth and Cowie (2004, p. 14), back translation is a process in which a text that has been translated into a given language is retranslated into source language. Ivir holds that back translation as a root-seeking “text research” activity, its value is mainly used to compare the syntactic, word-building or lexical features of two or more languages, especially to conduct testing to the related “semantic content” (1981, p. 159). Bassnet & Lefevere (1990), Brislin (1970), Gutt (1994), Toury (1980) and Homels (1988), Baker (1992) also discussed back translation, and held similar views on the role of back translation.
On the other hand, most domestic scholars define back translation from the perspective of linguistic or textual restoration. Zhang (C. B. Zhang, 1997) believes that back translation is the restoration of translation and Li & Xian (2009) thinks it a kind of “translation for restoration”. Lin (2005) argues that “back translation refers to the translation of language A into Language B and later back into language A as cited material, or the translation from the third or fourth language back into the original one”. Feng (2001, p. 434) holds that back translation is a kind of translation that regards the translated text as a source text. He (X. B. He, 2002) points out that back-translation is to re-translate the translated text, to translate others’ or your own translation back into the source text. For example, if the source text is Chinese and it has been translated into English, back translation is to translate the English version back into Chinese. Later, Wang defines back translation as “a concept of Translation Studies, which refers to the process of translating those translated works by others back into their source text (2007, pp. 20-21)”. According to Dictionary of Translation Studies in China (Fang, 2011, p. 97), back translation refers to a process where the translated text is re-translated into the source text.
2.2 Researches on The Woman Warrior and Its Translation
As a representative piece of Maxine, The Woman Warrior has evoked much scholars’ attention from different aspects. As for the research on the fiction The Woman Warrior, scholars’ focus is concentrated on such themes as feminism, cultural identity, transnationalism, silence and so on.
Xuan (2011) argues that Kingston expresses her feminism in dealing with the three women’s destiny in the fiction from three aspects, that is, to construct women’s subjective status, highlight women’s authority, and fight for women’s right to voice and write. Some scholars study the cultural identity in the fiction, for example, Hsieh and Matoush (2012) analyze the three adapted versions of Mulan Ballad and conclude that the adaptions make the identity formation more complicated. Chen (2012) reveals Chinese Americans has undergone loss and puzzlement, seeking balance between the two identities by analyzing the protagonist “I” in the story of “At the Western Palace” and “A Song for a Barbarian Reed Pipe”. The transnationalism in The Woman Warrior is pointed out by Gao (2017) as its distinctive feature in that a two-way dialogue structure shows the independent and interdependent relationship between Chinese Americans and China and that between Chinese Americans and America, while interweaving fiction with reality reveals the vitality of Chinese Americans.
Recent studies on The Woman Warrior focus on the rhetoric of silence, which is often regarded as weakness and passivity but can also serve as an act of defense and resistance. Parrott (2012) holds that silence is a figure for expressing power and an element of discourse. He analyzes the significance of silence within The Woman Warrior’s rhetorical features in depth with Michel Foucault’s frameworks of meaning-making artifacts and Cheryl Glenn’s frameworks on the rhetoric of silence. Chingyen (2017) demonstrates the breaking of silence as a behavior of disruption and resistance against marginalization in the dual culture and politics by analyzing the retelling stories in The Woman Warrior from the female perspectives.
Chapter Three THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK ............................. 19
3.1 A General Survey of Context ...........................................19
3.1.1 Definition of context ...................................................19
3.1.2 Classification of context .......................................20
Chapter Four A CONTRASTIVE STUDY OF TWO BACK TRANSLATIONS OF THE WOMAN WARRIOR VIEWED FROM THE COMBINED CONTEXT MODEL .......................... 31
4.1 Contrastive Analysis of Two Back Translations under Linguistic Context ......31
4.1.1 Contrastive analysis at lexical level under linguistic context ...................32
4.1.2 Contrastive analysis at phrasal level under linguistic context ...................35
Chapter Five ILLUMINATIONS FOR BACK TRANSLATION OF CHINESE AMERICAN LITERATURE FROM THE CONTEXT THEORY .................................... 59
5.1 Illuminations of Context for Back Translation ................................................... 59
5.1.1 Context as a guiding principle in back translation ................................... 59
5.1.2 Context combined with translators’ subjectivity in back translation ........ 60
Chapter Five ILLUMINATIONS FOR BACK TRANSLATION OF CHINESE AMERICAN LITERATURE FROM THE CONTEXT THEORY
5.1 Illuminations of Context for Back Translation
5.1.1 Context as a guiding principle in back translation
Through the case study of the two back translations and The Women Warrior, we can see that context plays a significant role in translator’s understanding of the original text, transferring information in the translation and delivering a good translated text that fits Chinese reader’s context (Wang, 2017). Thus, the context theory could serve as important guiding principle for a better understanding, interpretation and translation of overseas literature written by Chinese.
First of all, in terms of the role of context in cultural back translation, translators must consider both the context of the original language and the context of acceptors in the translated language. This is because, from the perspective of the translation process of literature, context seems to be only one of the factors influencing textual meaning while from the perspective of cultural back translation, context has a decisive effect on textual meaning and its expression. The introduction of context to back translation can, thus, push further studies on the translation process and the application of translation strategies. The traditional back-translation process mostly focuses on the first level of translation, that is, translation of the words and message of the story, or the linguistic context. The actual meaning of the translation may be inaccurate due to the lack of sufficient consideration for the situational context and socio-cultural context. Therefore, it is time translators took up the tool of context in interpreting the source text before they back-translating it into the target text.
While with linguistic context, situational context and cultural context as guiding principles in back-translating Chinese foreign literature, the Chinese elements in literature written in foreign languages can achieve a full restoration in both form and content. The translator can first analyze the ideational meaning of the original words and sentences within the text and decide their meaning from the linguistic context. Then, considering the three variants in situational context, namely, field, tenor and mode, the translator should try to achieve the equivalence between the situational context of back translation and that of the original text. Finally, the translator should conduct a review of the back translation from the cultural context to ensure the translation is either politically or culturally, either historically or legendarily sufficient to express the Chinese elements.
Chapter Six CONCLUSION
6.1 Major Findings
Back translation, as a unique translation phenomenon in Translation Studies, is worth special attention. The present study had made a contrastive study on the two back translations, that is, Li & Lu’ s version and Wang Aiyan’s version, of Maxine Hong Kingston short fiction The Woman Warrior from a combined context model. The major conclusions are as follows.
First, the translator has to consider the linguistic context, situational context and cultural context in the original in order to better convey the writer’s meaning back into its attributed culture or the original culture. Most writers of the Chinese American literary works are second- or third-generation immigrants of Chinese or Chinese living abroad for a long time, their descriptions about Chinese history, culture and traditions may be inaccurate and their attitudes toward Chinese culture may, to some extent, differ from us Chinese today. They have integrated American culture and traditions with Chinese ones in their own lives and into their literary creations as well. As a result, the contexts in the original fiction become various and complex. Thus, the translator should firstly figure out the exact meaning of texts in the original context and then translate it into Chinese properly, taking Chinese readers’ political, historical and cultural background, or the macro context of Chinese culture into account with the help of external tools or his own command of the Chinese culture. This is to ensure that the back translation can better fit into the target context and can be widely accepted by the readers.
Secondly, the differences between the two back-translated versions of The Woman Warrior have been contrasted from the perspective of context. Li & Lu’s version puts more emphasis on the linguistic context of the original, thus, it shows the original information in a direct way. While for some stories or terms attributed to the Chinese culture, it hasn’t back translated them accurately due to less attention paid to the situational context and cultural context. In contrast, Wang Aiyan’s version pays more attention to situational and cultural context and reader’s context of acceptance by adopting such strategies as domestication and thick translation. For some Chinese cultural legends and myths, it also uses footnotes to deliver the background information comprehensively. Therefore, for us modern Chinese readers, Wang’s version is more acceptable since it shows the style of the original and conforms to the Chinese reader’s context of acceptance.