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Yes prime manipulator : a descriptive study of a Chinese translation of British political humour

By Nam Fung Chang


This is a descriptive study of Chang Nam Fung's Chinese translation of Jonathan Lynn\ud and Antony Jay's Yes Prime Minister, a text characterized by British political humour.\ud Adopting a target-oriented approach, it aims primarily to uncover the regularities which\ud mark the relationships between function, process and product of the translated text, thus\ud adding to the limited inventory of case studies in the field.\ud Targeted mainly towards readers in mainland China, the translation was done at a\ud time (1987-1992) when the political scene in the People's Republic went through cycles\ud of repression and relaxation in the face of a democratic movement, while the translation\ud tradition remained one that upheld the primacy of the original -- a poetics that is\ud determined by the ideological concept of loyalty.\ud Working under the constraints of the ideological and poetological norms dominant in\ud China, the translator nevertheless wished to produce a text with artistic value and a\ud potential to function as a political satire in the Chinese context, posing a challenge to\ud those norms. This skopos has determined the use of manipulative strategies in the\ud translation process,\ud The translation product is thus found to have been overdetermined by the interplay of\ud a large number of factors besides the source text: socio-political conditions, literary and\ud translation traditions, and the translator's poetics and ideology.\ud Finally, the findings are brought to bear on a number of translation theories,\ud especially Polysystem theory and other cultural theories of translation in whose\ud frameworks the study has been carried out. An augmented version of the polysystem\ud hypothesis is proposed, the gist of which is that the political and the ideological\ud polysystems, each consisting of competing systems, normally assume central positions in\ud the macro-polysystem of culture, issuing norms that influence norms originating from\ud other polysystems, and that translation activities are governed by norms originating from\ud various polysystems. It is hoped that this tentative 'macro-polysystem hypothesis, after\ud refinement by theorists and test by researchers, can better accommodate investigations\ud into the role of the translator together with other socio-cultural factors involved in\ud translation, especially the power relations

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