唐 山 学 院 毕 业 论 文
With China‟s policy of reform and opening-up to the outside world and its entry into WTO and the strengthening process of globalization, communication among nations is becoming more and more frequent, of which cultural exchange is an important part. As an important means of cultural communication, films play a very important part. They are also one of the most important elements in the world‟s cultural communication,
which can be regarded as an effective way of promoting mutual understanding between different counties. Since film titles have always been put in an eye-catching place, the translation of English film titles becomes more significant. This thesis mainly deals with film title translation from English into Chinese.
The translation of film titles is not an easy job, but a very complicate and difficult one. What‟s more, many take translation equivalence as the translation criterion, but many problems cannot be solved by just following the traditional equivalence principle. It is the starting point at which this thesis tries to offer some constructive suggestions for English film translation. This thesis takes German functionalist translation approach, mainly Skopostheorie, as the theoretical basis. Skopostheorie takes the target text as the prime principle guiding the translation action, which sees translation as a purposeful activity. As an intentional intercultural communication, Skopostheorie can be used as a
guideline for the translation of English film titles. “The end justifies the means” is its
most distinctive features, which offers much freedom for translators to use a satisfactory method.
This thesis is composed of four parts. Part I is a general analysis of English film titles, discussing the features and functions of film titles. Part II is the analysis of factors influencing the naming of English film titles. Besides, these two parts serve as the foundation for the analysis of the following translation strategies. Part III is the literature review of German Functionalist Theory focusing on Skopostheorie. Part IV offers a detailed analysis of translation strategies under the guidance of Skopostheories. The conclusion summarizes the whole thesis as well as puts forward some suggestions.
唐 山 学 院 毕 业 论 文
Part I Analysis of English Film Titles
1.1 Features of English film titles
Film titles are basically characterized by conciseness and vividness. Good film tiles may add appeal to the films and contribute a lot to the box-office value. Although films have something in common with other literary forms, they have their unique linguistic, aesthetic, and cultural features, to which translators should pay much attention in order to provide a better understanding of the study subject.
The first is linguistic features. Generally speaking, as far as their structure is concerned, English film titles are usually very short, concise in language so that they will be easy to read and to remember for the audience. In the view of the form, they employ one or two words which may be the name of hero or heroine, the place or the key year the story takes place, for instance, Ali《拳王阿里》, Parrton《巴顿将军》and so on.
However, in most cases, they adopt various kinds of phrases as titles, namely, noun phrases, verb phrases, adjective phrases, adverb phrases and prepositional phrases. Examples are On Golden Pond 《金色池塘》, Out of Africa《走出非洲》, Dance with
Wolves《与狼共舞》, Face off《变脸》are all titles of this kind.
The second is aesthetic features. Generally speaking, the aesthetic characteristics of English film titles are closely related to the application of rhetorical devices, such as simile, metaphor, irony, personification, alliteration, and so on. The application of rhetoric devices to film title has been proved effective and powerful. Each figure has its own characteristic and its own way of achieving certain effect, either to enlighten the understanding, to arouse the imagination or to move the passion. For example:
Dance with Wolves (personification)
Pride and Prejudice (alliteration)
Tiger! Tiger! Tiger! (repetition)
The Age of Innocence (irony)
War and Peace (contradiction)
True Lies (oxymoron)
The third is cultural features. Language does not exist independently and is closely related to culture. “Language has a cultural, not a biologically inherited function, changes
in culture often give rise to new types of discourse”. All good films are social products
of cultural factors and ideological trends of certain eras. Mostly, the cultural features of English film titles are closely related to the quotation of allusions which convey rich
唐 山 学 院 毕 业 论 文
cultural meanings. For example, Adam‟s Rid, Seven, Silence of the Lamb, Original Sin,
and so on.
1.2 Function of English film titles
According to Vermeer, “function refers to what a text means or is intended to from
the receiver‟s point of view” .
In his A Textbook of Translation, Peter Newmark proposes six functions: expressive
function, informative function, vocative function, aesthetic function, phatic function, and metalingual function. Nord proposes in Translation as a Purposeful Activity that the
following functions: the referential, the expressive, the appellative and the phatic. Considering combination of the English film tiles and the above theories, here we will study the four main functions, that is, the informative, aesthetic, expressive, vocative
The informative function is the most important function for an English film. Newmark proposes that the informative function of language is featured with the external situation as it core, and external situation means the facts of a topic, reality outside language, including reported ideas or theories. In this thesis, the informative function means informing the audience of the relevant information about the film, for instance, when and where the story happens or whom the film is about. Some titles tell us the hero or heroine of the film, for example, the Forrest Gump《阿甘正传》, Mr. and Mrs. Smith
《史密斯夫妇》, some may tell us the content or background of the film, such as Peal
Harbor《珍珠港》, Titanic《泰坦尼克》, some reveal the theme of the film, which are
abstract, only after you see the film, will you know why it was named, for instance, Brave Heart《勇敢的心》, The Sound of Music《音乐之声》, and some will provide us
with the plot of the film, such as Around the world in 80 days《环游世界80天》, Saving
According to Newmark, language is designed to please the sense. Through the rhyme, sound effect and the rhetoric devices employed in film titles can add more charm to the films. The aesthetic function of the film can attract and touch the heart of the audience with nice language and satisfy the audience by the conciseness and vividness, for instance, A Walk in the Cloud《云中漫步》, Gone with the Wind《乱世佳人》, The
Wizard of Oz《绿野仙踪》.
“The expressive function is sender-oriented”. And it refers to the sender‟s
attitude toward the object and phenomena of the world.The expressive function of the
唐 山 学 院 毕 业 论 文
film titles means the author‟s attitude or feeling to this film. Through the title the
audience can sense the theme, the mood and the structure in which the film is organized.
For instance, The Shaw Shark Redemption 《肖恩克的救赎》.
Newmark proposes that the core of the vocative function of language is the readership, the addressee. As to film titles, the addressee may refer to the audience, so the vocative function is to attract the audience to buy the tickets with the satisfaction of their psychology which can contribute a lot to the box-office value. Therefore, many film producers prefer to use the advertisement to promote their films, such as Vice in
Miami《迈阿密风云》, Death on the Nile 《尼罗河惨案》and Earthquake《惊魂夺
命》, and so on.
唐 山 学 院 毕 业 论 文
Part ? The Factors Influencing
the Naming of English Film Titles
2.1 Cultural factors
According to Nord, “the cultural-special phenomenon is the one that is found to
exist in a particular form or function in only one of the two cultures being compared” .
We know that there are a lot of differences between Chinese and English cultures. Film titles are closely related to various aspects of societies, religions, philosophies, histories and so on. So in translating an English film title, we should pay more attention to cultural factors. This paper will discuss cultural factors from three aspects, namely, religion, thinking style and different regions. First, as we all know that the western people believe in Christianity, film titles also will be influenced by it. Actually, a lot of allusions, idioms and slangs originate from the Bible, the religious tales which have contributed a lot to the formation of English film titles, such as, Seven comes from the
Bible, and it refers to the seven deadly sins, namely, pride, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony, avarice, and sloth. So 《七宗罪》is more suitable than 《七》. Second, in translation, there
is an important difference in thinking styles between Chinese and western people. The Chinese people prefer to think in terms of images, that is, concrete thinking, however, westerners prefer to think in terms of abstraction, that is abstract thinking. In English film title translation, translators always try to make English film titles agree with Chinese thinking style. So when we find all the meanings of the words are not suitable, it is necessary to make some changes or recreate another title. Third, although people in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan have the same thinking way and cultural background, there are often different versions for one and the same English movie title. We can compare the following examples:
Original title HK Taiwan Mainland
Pulp Fiction 黑色通缉令 危险人物 低俗小说