Luận văn Equivalence in the translation of vietnamese cultural words in the book “wandering through vietnamese culture” by huu ngoc

This paper is a linguistic study on equivalences and the translation methods rendered to achieve the equivalent effects in a book written by the writer and translator, Huu Ngoc. More specifically, the chosen subject of investigation is the translation of Vietnamese cultural words in the book “Wandering through Vietnamese culture”. The reasons for this choice are both linguistic and practical.

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College of Foreign Languages (VHUN) Postgraduate Studies & BẠCH ÁNH HỒNG EQUIVALENCE IN THE TRANSLATION OF VIETNAMESE CULTURAL WORDS IN THE BOOK “WANDERING THROUGH VIETNAMESE CULTURE” BY HUU NGOC (TƯƠNG ĐƯƠNG TRONG CÁCH DỊCH CÁC TỪ CÓ YẾU TỔ VĂN HÓA TRONG CUỐN SÁCH “WANDERING THROUGH VIETNAMESE CULTURE” CỦA HỮU NGỌC) Field: English Linguistics Code: 602215 Course: K13 M.A. Minor Thesis Supervisor: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Lê Hùng Tiến Assoc. Prof. Dr. Le Hung Tien - Hanoi, July 2007 - Abstract This paper is a linguistic study on equivalences and the translation methods rendered to achieve the equivalent effects in a book written by the writer and translator, Huu Ngoc. More specifically, the chosen subject of investigation is the translation of Vietnamese cultural words in the book “Wandering through Vietnamese culture”. The reasons for this choice are both linguistic and practical. Linguistically, the translation of culture-related words has never been seen as an easy task, especially between such two distant cultures as Vietnam and English. The challenges may originate from cultural differences, the cultural knowledge of the translator etc. However, the hardest problems may be attached to non- equivalence which consists of the concepts unknown to target language readers, the non-lexicalization of the concepts, the lack of super ordinates of hyponyms etc. The main contribution of this paper is to draw out the main ways of dealing with the hurdles by investigating how an experienced translator and a famous Vietnamese cultural expert overcome the difficulty in his book. Practically, I hope that the lessons drawn from the study of his work could effectively assist me in my practical job at my university, where a Vietnamese Studies Department is to be opened with an aim to train new generation of youngsters who will narrow down the culture gaps between Vietnam and other countries. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS On the completion of this thesis, I am indebted to many people. First and foremost, I would like to express my sincere thanks to my supervisor, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Le Hung Tien for his valuable and prompt advice and helps, without which, this thesis could not come into being. My thanks also go to all my lecturers and officers from Post Graduate Department, College of Foreign Languages, Vietnam National University, who have facilitated me with the best possible conditions during my whole course of studying. Last but not least, let my gratitude go to my family and friends, whose encouragement and assistance are of extreme importance during the course of my writing this thesis. Hanoi, July 2007 Bach Anh Hong TABLE OF CONTENTS PART A: INTRODUCTION 1. Rationale Translating from one language into another has never been an easy job even for the most experienced translators. Translation, involving the transposition of thoughts expressed in one language by one social group into the appropriate expression of another group, entails a process of cultural de-coding, re-coding and en-coding. However, the process of transmitting cultural elements is a complicated and vital task. Culture is a complex collection of experiences which condition daily life; it includes history, social structure, religion, traditional customs and everyday usage. This is difficult to comprehend completely. The more disparities that exist between any two languages, the greater the meaning loss in the translation is. As hard as it may seem, the translation of Vietnamese cultural words is now an inevitable part in our integrating life since we have become a member of WTO. Thang Long University is one of those where the Department of Vietnam Study is going to be opened with an aims of training Vietnamese students into those who can introduce Vietnamese culture to the world. This sooner or later will pose teachers of English at Thang Long University a problem of matching cultural equivalence between English and Vietnamese. However, not many empirical studies have been conducted so far on the issue of translation of Vietnamese cultural words into English. Those reasons may explain how this study came into being. The study investigates how a very famous and experienced translator, Huu Ngoc, dealt with all the Vietnamese cultural words his whole-hearted work “Wandering through Vietnamese culture”. It also raised the need for translators of Vietnamese-English texts, especially in treating cultural terms, to pay close attention to the linguistic and cultural elements of the source texts. 2. Scope of the study This study sets its boundary in studying cultural words in the book “Wandering through Vietnamese culture” by Huu Ngoc. It will look into the equivalence and non-equivalence of Vietnamese cultural words and their translations from the following points: the most common types of equivalence the possible reasons for the non-equivalence their translations 3. Aims of the study The main aims of the study are: To find out the most common type of equivalence used in his translation of Vietnamese cultural words To draw out the common problems of equivalence seen in the translation of Vietnamese cultural words into English To draw out the strategies and procedures that may apply to the translation of Vietnamese cultural words To suggest some implications for the translation of the cultural words. On this ground, the study seeks answer for the retailing research questions: What are the common types of equivalence used in the translation of cultural words in the book “Wandering through Vietnamese culture” by Huu Ngoc? What are the most common problems in translating Vietnamese cultural words into English that can be seen in the book? What are the common methods used in the translation of Vietnamese cultural words? 4. Methodology With the hope to go on the right track for the answers, the writer will conduct the study in following steps: Building up a theoretical background for the paper. Collecting and group the Vietnamese cultural words and their English equivalents for description, analysis, comparison and induction. Finding out the similarities and differences and draw out the translation used in the translation of cultural words. The main method is contrastive analysis. Data collection: The Vietnamese cultural words and their translations appear in the book “Wandering through Vietnamese culture” by Huu Ngoc. 5. Design of the study This study consists of three main parts, a reference, and a number of appendixes. Part A: Introduction The introduction gives rationale for the study. It also outlines the aims and the methods of the study. Part B: Development The development comprises two chapters. Chapter 1, which is named “Theoretical background”, provides the theory of translation and the translation of cultural words. Chapter 2 entitled “Cultural words and their equivalences” discusses the most common types of equivalence in translation of Vietnamese cultural words. It also studies the translation of Vietnamese cultural words and translation methods employed in their translation by Huu Ngoc in his book “Wandering though Vietnamese culture”. Part C, which is the “Conclusion”, summaries the strategies and procedures and comments. Reference includes all the books, articles or website that has been referred to during the writing of this thesis. The appendixes list examples of different groups of equivalence in order of the alphabet. PART B: DEVELOPMENT Chapter 1: Theoretical background 1.1. Translation theory 1.1.1. Definition of translation Translation has been viewed differently through times and thus defined variously. Larson (1984: 3) stated “Translation is basically a change of form… In translation the form of the source language is replaced by the form of the receptor (target) language”. Newmark (1988:5) did not seem to totally agree with Larson - who considered translation a basic “change of form”, by emphasizing the “intended in the text” as said “ Translation is rendering a written text into another language in the way the author intended in the text.” Hatim & Mason (1990:3), on the other hand, focused more on the communicative purpose of translation by citing: “Translation is a communicative process which takes place within a social context”. It is then followed by other linguists, Bell (1991: 5), who thought “semantic and stylistic equivalences” are crucial for a translation to communicate successfully: “Translation is the expression in another language (or TL) of what has been expressed in another, source language, preserving semantic and stylistic equivalences” These definitions, in spite of slight differences in the expressions, share common features that they all emphasize the importance of finding the closest equivalence in meaning by the choice of appropriate target language’s lexical and grammatical structures, communication situation, and cultural and the requirement to find equivalents which have similar characteristics to the original. It is this notion of equivalence, which will be taken into consideration in the next part. 1.1.2. Translation equivalence As easily seen, equivalence can be considered a central concept in translation theory. Therefore, it is not by chance that many theorists define translation in terms of equivalence relation. Newmark (1988) defines: “The overriding purpose of any translation should be to achieve ‘equivalence effect’ i.e. to produce the same effect on the readership of translation as was obtained on the readership of the original”. He also sees equivalence effect as the desirable result rather than the aim of any translation except for two cases: (a) If the purpose of the SL text is to affect and the TL translation is to inform or vice versa; (b) If there is a pronounced cultural gap between the SL and the TL text. Pym(1992) has even pointed to its circularity: equivalence is supposed to define translation, in turn, defines equivalence. 1.1.2.1. The nature of equivalence in translation Equivalence has been considered the unique intertextual relation that only translations are expected to show: it is defined as the relationship between a source text and a target text that allows the TT to be considered as a translation of the ST in the first place. Nearly all traditional definitions of translation, whether formal or informal, appeal to some notion of this: translation means the replacement, or substitution, of an utterance in one language by a formally or semantically or pragmatically equivalent utterance in another language. Therefore, it is no surprise that equivalence is always taken for granted as a prescriptive criterion, as Koller (1995:196) says: “Translation can be understood as the result of a text-reprocessing activity, by means of which a source-language text is transposed into a target-language text. Between the resulting text in L2 (the target-language text) and the source text in L1 (the source-language text) there exists a relationship which can be designated as a translational, or equivalence relation.” Then the question to be asked is not whether the two texts are equivalent, but what type and degree of translation equivalence they reveal. Therefore, it is possible to say that equivalence is “Any relation characterizing translation under a specified set of circumstances.” And “Equivalence was a relationship between two texts in two languages, rather than between the languages themselves” (Dr. Tien’s lectures- 2007). 1.1.2.2. Types of equivalence in translation Translation theorists tend to classify equivalence in accordance with different criteria and approach. Some out standings are quantitative, meaning based, form-based and function based. a. Quantitative approach: Munday (2001) seems to stick to numeracy and suggests: One-to-one equivalence: A single expression in TL is equivalent to a single expression in SL. One-to-many equivalence: More than one TL expressions are equivalent to a single SL expression. Many- to-one equivalence: there is more than one expression in the source language but there is a single expression in target language which is equivalence to them. One-to-part-of-one equivalence: A TL expression covers part of a concept designated by a single SL expression. Nil equivalence: no TL expression is equivalent to a single SL expression -> loaned/borrowed equivalents should be used. b. Meaning-based equivalence Koller (1979) considers five types of equivalence: Denotative equivalence: the SL and the TL words refer to the same thing in the real world. Connotative equivalence: this type of equivalence provides additional values besides denotative value and is achieved by the translator’s choice of synonymous words or expressions. Text-normative equivalence: The SL and the TL words are used in the same or similar context in their respective languages. Pragmatic equivalence: With readership orientation, the SL and TL words have the same effect on their respective readers. Formal equivalence: This type of equivalence produces an analogy of form in the translation by their exploiting formal possibilities of TL, or creating new forms in TL. c. Form-based equivalence: An extremely interesting discussion of the notion of equivalence can be found in Baker (1992) who seems to offer a more detailed list of conditions upon which the concept of equivalence can be defined. She distinguishes between: Equivalence that can appear at word level and above word level, when translating from one language into another. This means that the translator should pay attention to a number of factors when considering a single word, such as number, gender and tense (1992:11-12). Textual equivalence, when referring to the equivalence between a SL text and a TL text in terms of information and cohesion. It is up to the translator to decide whether or not to maintain the cohesive ties as well as the coherence of the SL text. His or her decision will be guided by three main factors, that is, the target audience, the purpose of the translation and the text type. d. Function-based equivalence: Nida (1964) distinguishes formal equivalence and dynamic translation as basic orientations rather than as a binary choice: Formal equivalence is achieved when the SL and TL words have the closest possible match of form and content. Dynamic equivalence is achieved when the SL and TL words have the same effect on their effective readers. 1.1.3. Common problems of non-equivalence As we all share the view that equivalence is the vital part of translation, we may easily agree that the problem of non-equivalence is the hardest hurdles of translation. Many theorists has showed their concerns in the issue of “untranslatability”. The following are some common types of non-equivalence at word level suggested by Barker (1994: 72): a. Culture-specific concepts The source-language word may express a concept which is totally unknown in the target culture. The concept in question may be abstract or concrete; it may relate to a religious belief, a social custom, or even a type of food. b. The source-language concept is not lexicalized in the target language The source-language word may express a concept which is known in the target culture but simply not lexicalized, that is not ‘allocated’ a target-language word to express it. c. The source-language word is semantically complex The source-language word may be semantically complex. This is a fairly common problem in translation. Words do not have to be morphologically complex to be semantically complex (Bolinger and Sears, 1968). In other words, a single word which consists of a single morpheme can sometimes express a more complex set of meanings than a whole sentence. d. The source and target languages make different distinctions in meaning The target language may make more or fewer distinctions in meaning than the source language. What one language regards as an important distinction in meaning another language may not perceive as relevant. e. The target language lacks a superordinate The target language may have specific words (hyponyms) but no general word (superordinate) to head the semantic field. Russian has no ready equivalent for facilities, meaning ‘any equipment, building, services, etc. that are provided for a particular activity or purpose’ f. The target language lacks a specific term (hyponym) More commonly, languages tend to have general words (superordinates) but lack specific ones (hyponyms), since each language makes only those distinctions in meaning which seem relevant to its particular environment. g. Differences in physical or interpersonal perspective Physical perspective may be of more importance in one language than it is in another. Perspective may also include the relationship between participants in the discourse (tenor). h. Differences in expressive meaning There may be a target-language word which has the same propositional meaning as the source-language word, but it may have a different expressive meaning. i. Differences in form There is often no equivalent in the target language for a particular form in the source text. Certain suffixes and prefixes which convey propositional and other types of meaning in English often have no direct equivalents in other languages. j. Differences in frequency and purpose using specific forms Even when a particular form does have a ready equivalent in the target language, there may be a difference in the frequency with which it is used or the purpose for which it is used. k. The use of loan words in the source text The use of loan words in the source text poses a special problem in translation. Quite apart form their respective propositional meaning, loan words such as au fait, chic, and alfresco in English are often used for their prestige value, because they can add an air of sophistication to the text or its subject matter. 1.2. Notion of culture in translation The definition of "culture" as given in the Concise Oxford Dictionary (1999) varies from descriptions of the "Arts" to plant and bacteria cultivation and includes a wide range of intermediary aspects. More specifically concerned with language and translation, Newmark (1988:94) defines culture as "the way of life and its manifestations that are peculiar to a community that uses a particular language as its means of expression", thus acknowledging that each language group has its own culturally specific features. He further clearly states that operationally he does "not regard language as a component or feature of culture" (Newmark 1988:95) in direct opposition to the view taken by Vermeer who states that "language is part of a culture" (1989:222). According to Newmark, Vermeer's stance would imply the impossibility to translate whereas for the latter, translating the source language (SL) into a suitable form of TL is part of the translator's role in transcultural communication. Despite the differences in opinion as to whether language is part of culture or not, the two notions appear to be inseparable. Discussing the problems of correspondence in translation, Nida (1964:130) confers equal importance to both linguistic and cultural differences between the SL and the TL and concludes that "differences between cultures may cause more severe complications for the translator than do differences in language structure". It is further explained that parallels in culture often provide a common understanding despite significant formal shifts in the translation. The cultural implications for translation are thus of significant importance as well as lexical concerns. Lotman (1978:211-32) states that "no language can exist unless it is steeped in the context of culture; and no culture can exist which does not have at its centre, the structure of natural language". Bassnett (1980:13-14) underlines the importance of this double consideration when translating by stating
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