Is it possible to translate the domestic Other? Exploring the translation of literary dialects through the English translations of Shui Hu Zhuan

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

Abstract

This paper uses four English translations of the classic Ming novel Shui Hu Zhuan as a case study to explore whether it is possible to translate literary dialects in Chinese literature. The vernacular form of Shui Hu Zhuan represents the literary evolution from the oral tradition to the written form. Therefore, the languages in its narrative are considered to contain a high degree of regional flavor. Literary dialects ascribe a geographical space to their speakers through the use of place-specific accents, vocabulary, and grammar. A literary dialect constitutes a deviant form of speech; it is stereotypical and contrasts with standard language, revealing hierarchical relations and cultural Otherness. Translating a literary dialect for a domestic Other is a challenging task that should be considered in the broader context of translating a language variation. This paper argues that a literary dialect is a representation of sociolinguistic and cultural language variation. It further asserts that, although the translators of the four English translations of Shui Hu Zhuan strove to reconstruct the regional flavor of the domestic Other in their translations, their behaviors were constructed by the power hierarchy in global cultural exchanges.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)298-322
Number of pages25
JournalmTm: a translation journal
Volume9
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Shui Hu Zhuan
  • translation of literary dialects
  • domestic Other
  • translatability
  • power hierarchy

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