Linguistic Contributions to the Development of Translation Studies in China

  • xuanmin luo
  • Published 1999


This paper tries to draw a clear picture of linguistic contributions to the development of translation in China. It does so by means of a bilateral study focusing on the development of the unit of language and translation. Works of Chinese translation theorists are cited to illustrate different efforts in applying linguistic theory to translation studies, among which the textual approach is cardinal. More and more scholars are now showing an interest in adopting linguistic approaches to translation studies. Between 1949 and 1989, an incomplete survey by the author revealed that there were only about 30 textbook passages discussing the relationship between linguistics and translation, including aspects of general linguistics, pragmatics, stylistics, text linguistics, rhetoric and machine translation. From 1990 to 1994, there was an incredible increase in the number of passages looking at translation from a linguistic point of view. Almost 160 articles published over these five years concerned translation and general linguistics, stylistics, comparative linguistics, semantics, pragmatics, sociolinguistics, text linguistics, rhetoric, etc. New terms such as discourse analysis, hermeneutics, dynamic equivalence, deep structure and surface structure, context, theme and rheme, cooperative principles, to mention just a few, appeared in the field of translation studies. We can definitely identify a trend of applying linguistics theories to translation studies in these years. Today, we are at the point of questioning whether linguistics is a necessary part of translation. In recent years, some scholars who are in favour of free translation, have repeatedly raised this question to the public and appealed for an end to the linguistic approach to translation. Some firmly believe that translation is an art and that therefore linguistics is neither useful nor helpful. Such a claim is wrong if we look at translation as a whole, including scientific translation where meanings are rigid and restricted and the degree of freedom is limited. Flexibility, in this case, is neither required nor appreciated. But even in literary translation, linguistics is hardly a burden. Wang Zongyan pointed out that “If one sees linguistics as a body of rules regulating language, trans-

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{luo1999LinguisticCT, title={Linguistic Contributions to the Development of Translation Studies in China}, author={xuanmin luo}, year={1999} }