Untranslatability of Culture

减小字体 增大字体 作者:佚名  来源:www.zhonghualunwen.com  发布时间:2010-01-23 10:55:28

  [摘 要]Culture means the total way of life of people.Translation plays as a bridge in inter-cultural communication.The goal theory of translation believes that translation is inevitably affected by translating-in and translating-out culture because it considers that translation belongs to the category of the study of human behavior.English belongs to the Indo-European language family,and Chinese belongs to the Sino-Tibetan language family.The phonemic system,character structure and figure of speech are all completely different,and most of these in one language do not have equivalent in the other language.This paper mainly discusses the untranslatability of culture.
  [关键词]translation cultural difference untranslatability
  [中图分类号]G2 [文献标识码]A [文章编号]1009-5489(2010)01-0135-02
  Language is a carrier of culture,and culture is the soil that nourishes language,the impact of culture upon a given language is something intrinsic and indispensable.Wang Zuoliang points out "translation involves language as well as culture.” However,the culture of one language may differ radically from that of another ,so the elements that are specific to a particular culture,namely,cultural gaps,sometimes make inter-lingual translation impossible.This is what we called untranslatability of culture.J.C.Catford,a celebrated translation scholar of linguistics school,raised the issue of untranslatability in 1965.He argues that the linguistic untranslatability is due to the differences in the source language and the target language,whereas culture untranslatability is due to the absence in the target language of relevant situational features." "Nida presents a rich source of information about the problem of lose in translation,in particular about the difficulties encountered by the translator when facing with terms or concepts in the source language that do not exit in the target language." This paper is attempting to explore untranslatability in the perspective of cultural element.
  Ⅱ.The cause of cultural untranslatability
  It is said by an American sociolinguist that "A society's language can reflect its corresponding culture.Culture is an orderly system,which includes all kinds of meanings.Different cultures have nearly the same meaning,which is the basis of cross-cultural communication while different culture systems represent totally different patterns,which constitutes the barrier in the cultural communication".The translating activity proves that the forming of people's attitude toward the nature as well as their ways of thinking restricted by the culture.In fact,the translating activity done in the background of two different cultures always suffers from the untranslatability phenomenon.
  1.Material culture
  Different nations live in different places,and will have different images for the same thing.We often hear some Chinese say: "走,喝酒去!"The word "酒"is difficult to translate.It includes liquor,spirit,alcohol,drink,beer,wine,and so on.These words are all "酒",but the liquor and spirit means low quality,and the drinks include hard drinks and soft drinks,while the wine is often referred to the grape or fruit wine.In English,the daffodil is the symbol of spring and happiness,but in Chinese,it is only a kind of flower called "黄水仙"。In Chinese people's mind,the plum,orchid,chrysanthemum and bamboo are all the symbol of high spirit.But English people do not think so.
     2.The historical culture
  The historical culture refers to the culture settled and formed during the development of society.Different nations have different historical development,so their historical cultures are different.This kind of difference impedes the communication between languages.For instance ,during the historical development of English language,the introduce of the Bible and the mythology of ancient Greek and Rome brings about many cultural words,such as "Adam's apple" "Good Friday" and "Achille's heel" etc.These words,with their special historical and cultural meanings in English language,can't be translated into Chinese just by their literal meanings.For example,the direct translation of "Adam's apple" is "亚当的苹果".However,this term is originated from the story of the Bible.It is said that one day,God discovered that Adam and Eva,the ancestors of our human beings,ate the forbidden fruit,so he gave punishment on Adam by letting the fruit block in his throat.Therefore "Adam's apple" refers to the lump on the front of throat in the western culture.
  This paper discusses the untranslatability caused by the particularity of language structure and the cultural differences between English and Chinese,but the reason why we make thorough investigation and study of untranslatability of cultural differences is not for proving that the cultural differences are absolutely untranslatable.It aims at discovering the most proper way to translate the source culture and present the essence of the foreign culture.

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