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A Contrastive Study of "Subject-or Topic-Prominent" Sentences in Translation Practice

Posted by Lee
TAGS: subject_prominenttopic_prominenttranslation
Topic is an important concept in contemporary linguistics, obtaining mutual concerns from scholars of formal linguistics and functional linguistics. Subject and topic have long been considered as the basic grammatical relations in syntactic structures. The study of modern Chinese language, greatly influenced by the western grammar, considers that Chinese sentences are also mainly composed in the“subject-predicate”structure. Scholars at home and abroad have extensive controversy over“subject”and“topic”.Li and Thompson in 1976 first proposed clearly that Chinese belongs to the“topic-prominent”languages while English is categorized into the“subject-prominent”languages. Ever since the concept of“topic”is introduced into Chinese language study, scholars have made different studies on the two notions in different aspects. Shen Xiaolong exhaustively described the typological significance of topic-prominent sentences as well as their unique features and classification. English and Chinese scholars investigated on their language respectively and concluded that the majority of sentences in English are“subject-prominent”, while the majority of Chinese sentences are“topic-prominent”.After the notion of topic is proposed, there are still lots of questions, such as: what is the basic syntactic relation of a sentence? Is it still subject-predicate (or is there only this form of sentences)? Which constituents can form subject-predicate relation? How to determine a subject in a sentence (or in a syntactic structure)? Xu Liejiong and Liu Danqing systematically discussed these questions, yet these questions have not been solved completely. This thesis, intrigued by these questions, focuses on another aspect: how do these“subject- or topic-prominent”characteristics represent in the translation practice? How many topic-prominent sentences reserve their original features in the target language? Are there any differences in this kind of features between ST and TT?This thesis adopts the theory based on Li and Thompson’s typology of language, by way of both description and explanation, focusing on the research of the differences in topic construction between English and Chinese. The materials listed in the study are highly representative. The thesis consists of six chapters. Chapter One gives a brief introduction to the scope and purpose as well as the organization of the thesis. Chapter Two introduces the tertium comparationis (TC) of the two languages. It mainly focuses on the universality of the definitions and categories of the SP and TP sentences, thus enabling the comparability in this thesis based on such criteria. Chapter Three is a general review of the research in subject and topic in both languages, pointing out the theoretical basis. Chapter Four introduces the methodology of the thesis and the features of the selected materials. Chapter Five analyzes the findings in the study. The last chapter concludes the whole thesis, and points out the implications for translation practice. Through the study, the author justified that the translation practice follows the“subject- or topic-prominent”rule. In translation, the translators neither simply transfer the TP sentences of the ST into TP sentences of the TT, nor do they transfer SP into SP sentences. Rather, they deal with the transference quite flexibly due to the language’s characteristics and the situational context. The concrete strategies of transfering the topic and comment structure include figuring out the theme-rheme and information structure, and so on.
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