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Principles for the Translation of Public Signs

更新时间:2008-11-15:  来源:毕业论文

Principles for the Translation of Public Signs
【Abstract】As a crucial communication material, the public sign exhibits its growing importance in the worldwide communication. It is a special text whose function is strong and communicative purpose quite clear. Thus, its translation approaches should be based on the text’s functions and the translator’s purpose. This paper classifies public signs, compares Chinese and English signs and comes up with the principle for its C-E translation, namely, an A-B-C approach (Adapt-Borrow-Create approach). It is based on the Skopostheorie.

【Key Words】public signs;translation;principle;Skopostheorie

Introduction

Sign refers to a lettered board or other public display placed on or before a building, room, shop or office to advertise business there transacted or the name of person or firm conducting it (Webster’s Third New International Dictionary). Signs, which belong to social phraseology, cover a wide range including environmental communication signs (wayfinding/directing signs, information signs, notices, and warnings), street signs, traffic signs road signs, road markers, parking signs, school signs, no-smoking signs, construction signs, travel signs, instructional notices and so on. They are, with their social communicative functions, widely used by the public on all kinds of occasions.

1.Definition and Classification of the Public Sign

In Oxford English Dictionary, a sign refers to a characteristic device attached to or placed in front of an inn or shop, as a means of distinguishing it from others or directing attention to it; in later use commonly a board bearing a name or other inscriptions, with or without some ornament or picture. According to the Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, it is defined as a lettered board or other public display placed on or before a building, room, shop or office to advertise business there transacted or the name of person or firm conducting it.

Sign is a broad term, widely used in public facilities, ranging from travelling, catering, accommodation, recreation, shopping to medical service, educational institution and financial service. It includes words of caution, public notices, bills, posters, slogans, outdoor advertisements, traffic notices and so on. Specifically speaking, it covers street signs, road signs, road markers, parking signs, school signs, construction signs, non-smoking signs, signs at scenic spots, slogans etc..

2.Practical Functions of the Public Sign

Signs perform the following four basic functions: indicating, promoting, restricting and compelling.

Indicating As its meaning suggests, indicating is to indicate or guide readers. Signs as such are also called instructive/directive/guiding notices which give readers detailed information with no prohibition and restriction. Indicating is the most basic function performed in sign language. Indicating signs generally give readers relevant information about what it is and what service it provides.

Prompting Prompting has no striking difference from indicating except that the former carries the tone of warning. It aims at reminding readers of paying considerable attention to signs.

Restricting Unlike the two functions mentioned above, signs that perform restricting function put restrictions and constraints to readers, who are expected to abide by certain rules in the interest of public. Restricting signs are to keep or confine within limits.

Compelling To put it simple, compelling signs have great power and potency to induce action or brief. With its tough tone, negative words and comparatively uniform sentence structures, there is slight possibility of any alternatives.

3.Comparison Between the Chinese and English Public Sign

Both share similarities, of which, the language styles are concise, convenient and conspicuous; moreover, the figures of speech are often adopted. Yet, a series of differences still exist. Such stylistic analysis focuses more on its functional significance in the sign translation than on the formal features of texts for its own sake.

•Word Order As thinking modes vary in two cultures, the centre of power reflected in Chinese and English is strikingly different. The Chinese sign is highly implicit by placing the focus at the end of a phrase; on the contrary, the English sign emphasizing the point at the beginning. For instance,

﹡油漆未干        Wet Paint

﹡无汞(电池)    Mercury-Free

·Diction Practice Differences are also seen in diction practice. Verbs are usually employed in Chinese to perform such functions as warning, restricting and compelling, whereas the nouns and gerunds quite common in English. For instance,

﹡严禁穿行         No Trespassing

﹡不收手续费       No Commission Charge

·Mood Unlike English signs which sound euphemistic and implicative, Chinese signs are more direct and straightforward, even with a touch of authority. English signs often display the allowable aspect instead of aiming at the prohibited audience. For instance,

﹡闲人免进         Staff Only

﹡送客止步         Passengers Only

·Voice English signs generally use passive voice; Chinese signs, however, are more of active voice. Hence, sign translators should take into account the target reader’s acceptability and identification. For example,

﹡禁止携带犬只入内     Dogs Not Allowed

﹡戴好防护镜和安全帽   Safety Glasses & Hard Hats Required

4.Skopostheorie 

Skopostheorie, advocated by Hans J. Vermeer, is the core theory of functionalism, which is a broad term for various theories focusing on the function or functions of texts. According to Skopostheorie, the prime principle determining any translation process is the purpose (Skopos) of the overall translational action. Thus, the top-ranking rule for any translation is “Skopos rule”, meaning that a translational action is determined by its Skopos; that is, “the end justifies the means” (Nord, 2001:29). The framework of Vermeer’s Skopostheorie is as follows: Any form of translation action, including therefore translation itself, may be conceived as an action, as the name implies. Any action has an aim, a purpose…The word Skopos, then is a technical term for the aim or purpose of a translation…an action (which) leads to a result, a new situation or event, and possibly to a “new” object. (Nord, 2001:12)

A translational action may involve a variety of Skopos, or purposes, which may be related to each other in a hierarchical order. We can distinguish between three possible kinds of purposes in the field of translation:

·the general purpose aimed at by the translator in the translation process;

·the communicative purpose aimed at by the target text in the target situation;

·the purpose aimed at by a particular translation strategy or procedure.

5.Principles for the Translation of Public Signs

The language structures and expressions present diversity, triggered by the differences between the two cultures in social systems, values, and thinking modes. Based on the Skopostheorie, the A-B-C approach (模仿-借用-创新模式)  , which has a clear functional orientation, is a well-tested principle for the translation of the public sign.

The A-B-C approach refers to the adapt approach, borrow approach and create approach. If the similar signs exist in English-speaking countries, then adapt the original ones. If the corresponding English equivalents can be consulted, then directly borrow them. As to some public signs unique with Chinese characteristics, translators need, according to the purpose of the target text, create the proper expressions.

The result of an A-B-C approach is a text that may achieve the same functions as an original text. And when a target-text function is the same as that of the source text, it may be called an equifunctional translation. The A-B-C approach makes the functional equivalence come true and thus, corresponding to what Reiss  calls ‘communicative translation’, where receivers ideally do not notice, or are not even interested in, the fact that they are reading a translation.

·Adapt Approach

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