Is translated Chinese still Chinese?

Is translated Chinese still Chinese? Do translated English and translated Chinese have anything in common? Can the properties observed on the basis of translational English in contrast to comparable non-translated English be generalised to other translational languages? These interesting questions were explored in Dr Richard Xiao’s keynote lecture entitled “Translation universal hypotheses reevaluated from the Chinese perspective”, delivered at the joint meeting of the 11th International Congress of the Brazilian Association of Researchers in Translation (ABRAPT) and the 5th International Congress of Translators, held at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC), Florianópolis on 23-26 September 2013.

Corpus-based Translation Studies focuses on translation as a product by comparing comparable corpora of translated and non-translated texts. A number of distinctive features of translations have been posited including, for example, explicitation, simplification, normalisation, levelling out (convergence), source language interference, and under-representation of target language unique items.

Nevertheless, research of this area has until recently been confined largely to translational English and closely related European languages. If the features of translational language that have been reported on the basis of these languages are to be generalised as “translation universals”, the language pairs involved must not be restricted to English and closely related European languages. Clearly, evidence from a genetically distant language pair such as English and Chinese is arguably more convincing, if not indispensable.

Richard’s presentation reevaluated the largely English-based translation universal hypotheses from the perspective of translational Chinese, on the basis of a systematic empirical study of the lexical and grammatical properties of translational Chinese represented in a one-million-word balanced corpus of translated texts in contrast with a comparable corpus of native Chinese texts.

The conference was organised by the Brazilian Association of Researchers in Translation (ABRAPT). During the conference, Richard also gave a talk about corpus-based translation studies at the Roundtable “Translation and Interdisciplinarity”.