Adaptation and Selection: Some Linguistic Issues in Chinese-English Legal Translation


When translators translate, they actually engage in a process of adaptation and selection. In making such decisions, as we know, there are several elements involved, such as linguistic, communicative, cultural and other issues. However, all these factors take place in a “translational eco-environment” where the translator on the one hand has to be adaptive to the target language (TL) context and, on the other has to make a series of selections within the boundary of both source language (SL) and TL. In the other words, translation is a process of “adaptive selection”. This new dimension of translation studies may also apply to Chinese-English legal translation, which could be viewed as a process whereby a translator either consciously or unconsciously carries out various selections in a legal translational eco-environment. Within the theoretical framework, this paper intends to explore certain linguistic issues, such as applications of words of authority (e.g. “shall”, “shall not”, “must”, “may” etc.), as well as certain sentence patterns and different forms of expression. While searching for “intention of the text” (Peter Newmark’s term) still remains its importance, decision-making “involving both selection and arrangement to fit another culture, a different language, diverse editors and publishers, and finally a reading audience” (Eugence Nida’s statement) may nevertheless be more pertinently discussed.


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