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On English Color Words and Their Translation into Chinese

By Cheryl Anderson,2014-09-10 00:48
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On English Color Words and Their Translation into Chinese

    Contents

    Abstract ................................................................................................... 1 Key Words ............................................................................................... 1 ....................................................................................................... 1 关键词 ..................................................................................................... 2 1. Introduction ......................................................................................... 2 2. The Cultural Differences of Color Words between Chinese and English

     ................................................................................................................ 2

    2.1 Historical Culture ......................................................................................... 3

    2.2 Geographical Culture .................................................................................... 5

    2.3 Politics and Economics ................................................................................. 6 3. The Comparison of Color Words between Chinese and English .......... 7

    3.1 The Similarities of Color Words between Chinese and English ..................... 7

    3.2 The Differences of Color Words between Chinese and English ..................... 8

    4. Methods of Translating Color Words ................................................. 10

    4.1 Literal Translation ....................................................................................... 10

    4.2 Free Translation .......................................................................................... 12

    4.3 Substitution................................................................................................. 14

    4.4 Explanation................................................................................................. 15 5. Conclusion ......................................................................................... 15 Bibliography .......................................................................................... 16

    On English Color Words and Their Translation into Chinese Abstract: English color words are the treasures of English vocabulary, and they are the connection between colors but also reflecting English peculiarities. Because of different cultural tradition and cultural psychology, the cultural connotations of the English and Chinese color words differ extremely. As a result of these particular culture connotation, meanings are cast under different environments by different nationalities. There are a lot of similarities and differences on the meaning between English and Chinese color words. This paper mainly focuses on the translation of color words. Firstly, it presents cultural

    differences of color words. Secondly, it analyzes the comparison of color words between Chinese and English and the translation of these words. Finally, several translation methods of color words are summarized with illustration of typical examples. And by comparison and exemplification, the paper analyzes the translation of Chinese and English color words and the methods of dealing with cultural

    difference in translation. Based on detailed analysis, this paper tries to explore a good device to deal with the translation of color words, which is a difficult point as well as an important part in translation.

    Key Words: color words; comparison; translation; cultural factors

     ;英汉颜色词是英汉词汇中的一笔财富;它们是色彩与英语语言的

    结合;既反映了人类对色彩的感知;又体现了英语的独特性。由于文化传统和文

    化心理的差异;很多英汉颜色词的文化内涵差异较大;这些特定的文化内涵意义

    是不同民族在不同的环境下铸就而成的;英汉颜色词在两种语言中的意义就有相

    同和相似之处;也存在很多差异。这篇文章主要研究了颜色词的翻译。文章首先

    陈述了颜色词翻译的文化差异;然后分析了英汉颜色词翻译的对比;最后论文论

    述了颜色词翻译的一些方法。通过对比和例证;论文主要论述了英汉颜色词的翻

    译和文化差异下的翻译方法。在以上详细分析的基础上;本文试图寻求一种很好

    的解决策略;对既是翻译中难点同时也是重点的颜色词的翻译进行恰到好处的处

    理。

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    关键词;颜色词?对比?翻译?文化因素

    1. Introduction

    In our daily life, we keep close contact with color words which are an important field that we get to know the world through them. Color is not only possess physical property, but also own cultural connotations and deep meanings. Thus, color is an important subject in linguistics, culture and translation study. Color words are frequently used both in Chinese and English. A lot of color words are produced under special historical and geographical background. If we do not understand these color words, we would not understand their social custom and cultural background. If translators do not understand these color words, many mistakes would be happen. It is very important to distinguish similarities and differences of the literal meaning and deep meaning of color words. Besides, if translators could use correct translation methods according to different meanings of phases, it must be very helpful to achieve the goal of translation and communication.

    2. The Cultural Differences of Color Words between English and Chinese

    China and other English speaking countries have their own national characters while translating Chinese into English or English into Chinese. The original context or phases would lose its style or meanings through translating process. The reason is that different nations have their own cultural contexts, values, religious beliefs, ways of thinking, and so on. If translators blindly or literally translation during the translating process rather than analyze carefully, it is easy to make mistakes.

    2.1 Historical Culture

    History culture here includes literary tradition, religion, and historical events. Due to these factors, there are a lot of different understandings and connotations between English and Chinese color words. These differences make both cultures

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    richly and colorful, so people should pay more attention to the reasons for different connotations of color words in English and Chinese, and know them well and master the different meanings they represent, or there will have mistakes in translations. 2.1.1 Literary tradition

    As one of the human beings wisdoms, literature works contains many factors. No matter in the Western or in China, color words are blessed with important advantages, and many color words can be found in literature to give readers some useful information. And some of them have become symbols that sanctioned by usage. About the meaning of color words in literature and traditional culture, there are many similarities and differences. This part focuses on the differences.

    Black can be given as the first example. In the literary tradition, the word black”

    can express serious atmosphere and dark mood, such as black dog. This phrase is a

    metaphor for sadness or depression, and it brings people boring feeling in sense of sight. Color words can be used not only to express the mood, but also to convey a different character features. If an author uses the color word blackto describe a

    womans hair, that means the woman must be high-spirited, independent, and has strong desire. In the eyes of the western people, black is one of the symbol of power, and they believe that they can get strong power and perseverance from the color of black, like looking forward to the bright light after dark. For instance, the heroines in Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. But if the same description in Chinese literary

    works, it is always used to show that the woman is beautiful, soft and weak, and suggest people that the beautiful woman needs protection. The color of black, one of the Chinese people‟s taboos, stands for being evil and unlucky. Therefore, in Chinese literary tradition, people usually try to avoid using it.

    Another example is red. This color is very widely used both in English and

    Chinese. They can represent the same grand and festive occasion. For example, red

    carpet(红地毯). But these color words are mostly used to show some totally different meanings, maybe polysemy, or it can bring a contrastive effect, even an opposite effect, thus they have the function of comparison. It can be seem through Nathaniel Hawthorne‟s masterpiece The Scarlet Letter and Cao Xueqins masterpiece The Story

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of a Stone,《红楼梦》:. Words of the color “red”even are used in the name of literary

    works. In The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne, the heroine was given a red "A" by the

    people in the village. The color of the letter is not only an eye-catching reminder to remind people her evil, because in the culture of western countries, red is always linked to some irreverent things. But in this novel, the color red also symbolizes her strong desire and passion. In The Story of a Stone , the color word “红”(red) means

    prosperity, successfulness and happiness. But actually, it represents a tragedy. Though the color word red does not indicate the same meaning in these two books, they have the same role and effect.

    2.1.2 Religion

    As an important part of historical culture, religion has a significant effect on the meaning of color words. And own to different faiths in different religions, the believers regard the different colors as their symbols. Here are several examples.

    (1) Black. Most people in Western believe in Christianity. And in the Bible, black

    is evil, suffering and misfortune, and it is the sign of Satan, so when people want to express something evil or something not good, they prefer to choose the word black,

    for example:

    black box: a proof to analyze the causes of the disaster

     black Friday: the Friday that Jesus suffered from misery before the Easter day

    (2) White. The understanding of white is different from black. “White” has more

    positive and fine implications in English than in Chinese. “Under the influence of

    Christianity, white‟ is associated with happiness, innocence and purity. The word „white‟ always makes people think of happiness, joy and goodness, which can be the symbol of God or Engels”. For example:

    white-headed boy: a darling or minion who is adored by somebody

    a white lie: a lie which is out of goodwill

    But Chinese people do not believe the Christianity, so, except representing purity, the color word “white” always makes one associated with loneliness, silence, death

    and funeral. “白” (white) stands for funeral in“红白喜事”(wedding and funeral).

    If there would be a funeral, especially in the ancient China, people should be dressed

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    in the coarse rough cloth of mourning with white flag, white cape and white paper flowers. For that reason, Chinese people stay away from white, and it results in a bad mood.

    (3) Others. Yellow is boring color in the west, because Judas, who betrayed Jesus, wore in yellow. So the word yellow gradually becomes the vocabulary to describe

    someone or something bad. But, yellow is the favorite color of Buddhists. In ancient China, yellow reflected the worship to God; it was the natural earth color, representing neutralization, wisdom and constant, so Monk and Lama wear yellow cassocks, and works of the Buddhist usually embraces lots of the word yellow”. For

    the people in western countries, green symbolizes peace, which has its origin from the Myth of Noah's Ark. In the Bible, Noah gets the information through flying a pigeon to

    ask about the situation, and the pigeon carries back a verdant olive branch to tell that the disaster has passed, and it is safe outside. Since then, olive green becomes the symbol of peace.

    2.1.3 Historical events

    Use of color words has a very long history; many of them can be related to some historical events. For example, “Blue Ribbon” in England. It is a story about the

    ribbon attached to the Modal of Garter. It was created by Edward III in the middle of the 14th Century and owned by people with the highest title of nobility in England. Edward III wanted to commemorate himself for helping Countess of Salisbury to avoid losing her face in a ball. He used the ribbon tied to the Modal of Garter, and awarded it to those who contributed to the country. Nowadays, “Blue Ribbon” is

    symbolized the highest honor. But in China, there is no such historical event. Thus, the color word (blue) does not have this .

    2.2 Geographical Culture

    Because of the reasons of history and religion, “white” has many positive

    meanings in the west. In addition, geographical environment may be another factor. People in west countries have more opportunities to expose themselves to snow than Chinese people, which may strengthen their positive sense of the white color. So the word white is more common used, and the people there have expressions like

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“white day”, “white Christmas”, and so on. Different from the view of the West,

    Chinese civilization originated in the Yellow River basin in the Loess Plateau region, and Chinese people regard yellow as the color of the land, and the mother river. Besides (yellow) is from the name of the ruler “黄帝” (Huang Di) who used to

    wear the yellow dress and yellow hats, which was said to be the ancestor of Han

    (yellow). Nationality. For those reasons, Chinese people like using the color

    There is another example. Britain is an island which is surrounded by the sea and seafaring is developed. Therefore, their view or the mood is greatly influenced by the sea. People will easily lose the direction in the immense sea, and it is difficult to predict the unpredictable weather on the sea, so they feel they are just like a small boat on the vast ocean, and their mood will become sad easily. That is the reason why in English, “blue” is the color word with negative values, indicating “depression” or

    “sadness” holds that because of the vast regions in the interior, the sea has a relatively small impact on Chinese people, so they will not have so many negative values associating to blue.

    2.3 Politics and Economics

    With the development of society, color words are applied in more fields. In the political and economical range, color words can be found easily.

    Here are some other color words which are used in politics. Yellow Union(

    色工会) which indicates Unions that are under scabs control. It is said that workers

    broke the windows of the unions and capitalists used yellow paper for making them

    up, so the union chose the color word yellow to be the name of it. In both English

    and Chinese, red has the implication of revolution. But the difference is that in Chinese it has the positive meaning. For instance,“红军”(the Red Army) is the army

    that helped Chinese people to strive for liberation and independence and they used the red flag and the red five-pointed star as their symbol. However, red has the meaning

    of blood in English, because revolution is always with violent or negative atmosphere.

    For instance, “Red Activities” (左派激进运动), Red-Tapism (政府官员办事拖拉、

    消极的作风).

    And here are some other examples in economics. For instance, “Green Back”

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    (the currency notes issued by U.S. Government during the Civil War, and the color was green); “Blue Chip” (because objects in blue are very rare in the nature, so people use this color word to modify the hot financial securities); “White War” (it means to

    the war without smoke, and it often refers to economic competition, because the meaning of white in the western country is clean). Because people in the western countries always use the red pen to register negative numbers, so there are “Red Ink”

    (赤字), “In the Red”(亏损), “Red Balance” (赤字差额).

    3. The Comparison of Color Words between Chinese and English

    No matter in China or in western countries, color words are abundant in vocabulary. Generally speaking, there are a lot of words which can be used to describe something or somebody and even peoples emotion. However, due to

    differences are existing among different nations, cross-culture translation has great difficulties. Sometimes, the same color word has the same meaning in translation process. But it is not true to all of the color words. In a word, most color words have deep meanings and the same word usually has different meanings in different countries. Thus, to compare similarities and differences is very important.

    3.1 The Similarities of Color Words between English and Chinese

    3.1.1 Red

    Both in China and western countries, “red” comparatively has something

    relevant to celebrating, though in western countries it isnt so popularly

    welcomed as in China. “Red” symbolizes happiness, pleasures and blessing. Besides, it can be used on some special occasions to express celebration or victory. For instant, paint the town red (狂欢痛饮), to roll out the red carpet for

    somebody (铺红地毯隆重欢迎某人), a red-carpet reception (隆重接待某人), a

    red letter day (喜庆的日子), etc. Generally speaking, red letter days mean

    Christmas Day or some other significant days, like May Day, because such important festivals in some western countries are specially marked in red on the calendar. In addition, “red” is often used to deliver oneself or somebody‟s

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feelings. In English, the phase “become red-faced” or “her face turned red”, to

    some extent, equal to Chinese “脸红”;showing blush and embarrassment. Red

    is also means that someone is in good healthy. For example: The old gentleman, with a face as red as a rose sit in the park. This sentence means that the old man is very healthy.

    3.1.2 Black

    Black is not a good word both in China and western countries. It symbolizes sadness and awfulness, anger or some evil things. Such as black market (黑市), a

    black heart (黑心;没良心), a black sheep (败家子), black money (黑钱), etc. All

    these phases can be directly translated into Chinese.

    3.1.3 Green

    Both “green light” in English and Chinese are associated with authoritative

    permission to go ahead with some project. Obviously, it dated from traffic regulations. “Green” has another meaning “flesh and have no experience”. Take

    “green food” and “green hand” as example. Green food means that the food is

    safety to eat and the quality is ensure. And “green hand” means somebody have no experience about his new job, it does not mean someones hand is green.

    3.2 The Differences of Color Words between English and Chinese

    A lot of color words are produced under special historical and geographical background, most of which are called “culture limited word”. If translators don‟t

    understand these words and the social customs, culture backgrounds of them, it is even hard for us to communicate with each other. Therefore, it is of great importance to know well the difference between the literal meaning and associative meaning.

    3.2.1 Red

    To celebrate the New Year, Chinese people often stick red couplet to both sides of their doors, hang or red lantern outside their doors and set fire crackers. However, in western countries, people celebrate Christmas Day by decorating white-colored decorations on plants and in the houses.

    In Chinese tradition, when people got married, the bride always dressed in

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    red, wore the red veil (红盖头), and the bridegroom always tied a red ribbon and wore a red flower in the front. And almost everything in the wedding has something to do with red color. But as to the western, on wedding days bride is wearing white bridal-dress, for “white” in their mind is the symbol of purity and

    lucky. This phenomenon indicates that different customs affect the translation to a great extent.

    3.2.2 Black

    When attending a funeral or some important gatherings, west people often in black to show a grief to death. Black can express serious. However, Chinese people often in white dress and wear white flowers on their hands to show grief to death. Because white means purity when people dead, whatever he did could be forgiven.

    3.2.3 Yellow

    In China, “yellow” is an honorable color. It is always connected with

    “honor” and “glory”, and it is the symbol of “power” and “lofty”. There are many words such as huangpao (黄袍), huangbang (黄榜), huangmen (

    ) in Chinese language. In ancient, the emperor in China always dressed in yellow. “Yellow” is the symbol of the “emperor”, and other people were

    forbidden to wear yellow clothes. That is why, up to now, Chinese people always call themselves Yanhuang zisun (炎黄子孙).

    Meanwhile, many of the roofs such as the Imperial Palace, Shrines and royal buildings chose yellow for decoration. Besides, in China, yellow is also related to something pornographic. Such as “黄色电影”, “黄色书刊”, “黄色音乐”

    and so on . But to western people yellow has nothing to do with dirty at all.

    In English“黄色电影” is blue film, “黄色书刊” is filthy book or

    pornographic book and “黄色音乐” isvulgar music or decadent music.

    In addition, yellow has another meaning shy” or “have no courage” in

    English. Take “yellow dog” as an example. It does not means the dog is yellow,

    but conveys that somebody is timid and weak.

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