Yifeng SUN

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The notion of translatability is as old as translation itself and also at the very foundation of the possibility of translation. The concept is a well-trodden ground but still remains central to translation studies and beyond. Translatability is reputed to be haunted by the apparition of untranslatability, which stipulates and defines the limits of translatability. In practical terms, the main task for translators is to identity translatability and be aware of its limits and then develop appropriate strategies of what works best to expand such limits. Whether something can be translated or not depends on a host of factors, the most important of which is no doubt meaning. But meaning in different cultural discourses is problematised. The act of translation entails the interpretation of meaning, which is then to be produced in the target language. One may argue that if something is interpretable, it is translatable. However, to be sure, translation is much more complicated than transfer of meaning, and it is also concerned with transfer of form. Meanwhile, the question of the transferability needs to be explored because it is not something that can be taken for granted in relation to translatability. If translation is acknowledged as possible, translatability is inherently implied, but it should still not be simply taken as transferrable. For translatability may well be the result of mediation and negotiation.Translatability can be understood to refer to the possibility of representing in the target text what is meant to be conveyed in the source text. In essence, this aligns translatability with transferability. In the cases of meaning being transferrable, translation involves, if the translator chooses to do so, minimal intervention or manipulation. Thus, translation becomes a relatively straightforward task. But in reality, the transfer of meaning is fraught with pitfalls and problems. Because the correlations between meaning and expression exist, the transfer of form is a matter of central concern. The attempts to transfer both meaning and form bear directly upon the very limits of translatability. The non-reproduction of the stylistic features of the source text gives rise to limited translatability or untranslatability, the result of which is no more than partial or incomplete translation. It is axiomatic that in spite of the inherent untranslatability of many great literary texts, successful and less successful efforts have been made to translate the untranslatable
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge handbook of Chinese translation
EditorsChris SHEI, Zhao-Ming GAO
ISBN (Electronic)9781315675725
ISBN (Print)9781138938267
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


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