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
Pretty Woman 风月俏佳人 麻雀变凤凰 漂亮女人
Lolita 洛丽塔 一树梨花压满堂 禁忌情迷
The English Patient 英国病人 别问我是谁 英伦情人
Legends of the Fall 燃情岁月 燃情岁月 真爱
The Terminator 终结者 未来战士 魔鬼终结者
From the comparison, we can see that HK and Taiwan versions are much more
唐 山 学 院 毕 业 论 文
fanciful than the mainland ones. They are apt to use inflammatory words that can arouse strong emotion. For one reason, the translation theories and practice of the mainland are more developed than those of HK and Taiwan and another reason, which should not be neglected, is that HK and Taiwan, with their special social system, pay more attention to commercial effects, even to the extent of excessiveness, while the mainland is more faithful to the original, taking both commercial and aesthetic effects into account. The third reason is that HK and Taiwan have their own habitual usage of words, especially some words in their dialects. When these dialects are used, titles sound more attractive to the local audience.
Original title HK Taiwan Mainland
Space Jam 太空也入樽 太空也入樽 空中大扣篮
Multiplicity 丈夫一箩筐 丈夫一箩筐 复制丈夫
The Runaway Bride 走佬俏佳人 走佬俏佳人 落跑新娘
Titanic 铁达尼号 铁达尼号 泰坦尼克
Schinder‟s List 舒特勒的名单 舒特勒的名单 辛德勒的名单
2.2 Commercial factors
As a popular artistic form, films are the product of commercialization. Films are apt to attract the public attention and earn a large box-office income. Therefore, as the important part of English film titles are also tinged with commercial color；there have
emerged a lot of exciting passionate, mysterious or thrilling titles, while some of these titles are not the reflection of the original story. For instance, The Shawshark Redemption
have three renderings , namely,《刺激1995》,《月黑风高》and《肖申克的救赎》. As
far as we know that the film describes the escape of the hero from Maine‟s Shawshank
state Prison ,actually, the film is not so exciting, but quite shocking, inspiring and moving, what‟s more, it has nothing to do with the year 1995 except that the film was released in 1995.《月黑风高》is more causing because the hero escapes from the prison in one dark night. 《肖恩克的救赎》is the Mainland version, which is the literal translation, leading confusion and ambiguity. So compared with the Mainland and HK versions, the Taiwan version is deeply influenced by commercial factors. Another example is Backtrack《赤面
唐 山 学 院 毕 业 论 文
煞星》. After seeing the film, we learn it tell us a story between a woman and a killer. Instead of killing her, the killer falls in love with her and helps her get through the crisis. Actually, the title offer no information about this film, so the version 《赤面煞星》is
actually tinged with commercial color.
2.3 Individual factors
According to Nida, “different people will have diverse understandings of a certain text, and, therefore, two entirely different interpretations and translations of a text are always both reasonable. No translator can avoid a certain degree of personal involvement
in his work”. Due to different people‟s different personal experiences,
pre-understanding, and cognitive modes, the interpretations are bound to be different. As a vital important part of English film, film titles share the same feature. First, the translation is a recreative process. The translator‟s subjective awareness, world value,
value trend, cognitive mode and the aesthetic taste and so on, will influence understanding and translation of the objective text, that is, the original film titles. So to some extent, the translation of the film titles have tinged with the subjective idea of the translator which can reflect the understanding and realization of the translator, so
different translators have different versions of the same film titles.
唐 山 学 院 毕 业 论 文
Part III Literature Review
3.1 Development of Skopostheorie
As a relatively complete and systematic theory, functionalist approaches to translation didn‟t appear overnight. “The 1970s and 1980s witness a move away from the
static linguistic typologies of translation shifts and an emergence and flourishing in
Germany of a functionalist and communicative to the analysis of translation.”
“Linguistics alone won‟t help us. First, translating is not merely and not even primarily a
linguistic process. Secondly, linguistics has not yet formulated the right questions to
tackle our problems, so let‟s look somewhere else”. The prominent figures in this field
are Katharina Reiss, Hans J. Vermeer, Holz-Manttari and Christiane Nord.
Katharina Reiss is one of the initiators of the functionalism. She proposes that the ideal translation would be one in which the aim in the TL is equivalence as regards the conceptual content, linguistic form and communicative function of a SL. One exception is when the target text is intended to achieve a purpose or function instead of that of the original. Another exception is when the target text addresses an audience different from the intended readership of the original That is to say; the target text has a specific group of target addresses other than that of the original. Both exceptions have allowed the functional perceptive in the translation process to overrule the equivalence standards. The translation critics can no longer rely on features derived from source-text analysis but has to judge whether the target text is functional in terms of the translation context. In this case, for Reiss, all the types of translation may be justified in particular circumstances, and then functional equivalence is no longer regarded as the normal aim of translation.
Hans Vermeer has gone much further in trying to bridge the gap between theory and practice. His most distinguished theory is Skopostheorie, which was developed as the foundation for a general theory of translation, dealing with specific languages and cultures. Since translation involves the transfer of communicative verbal and non-verbal signs from one language into another, Vermeer considers translation as a type of human action, which is defined as intentional, purposeful behavior that takes place in a given situation. That‟s why Vermeer calls his theory Skopostheorie, a theory of purposeful action. Furthermore, since situations are integrated with cultures, any evaluation of a particular situation, of its verbalized and non-verbalized elements, depends on the status it has in a particular cultural system.
唐 山 学 院 毕 业 论 文
According to Vermeer,
One of the most important factors determining the purpose of a translation is the
addressee, who is the intended receiver or audience of the target text with their
culture-specific world-knowledge, their expectations and their communicative
As a sharp contrast to Reiss‟s belief that the source text is the measure of all things
in translation, Vermeer raises the idea of the“dethronement”of the source text: the status
of the source text is much lower in functionalist approaches, which is radically different from earlier linguistic or equivalence-based theories. The source text is no longer the first and foremost criterion for the translator‟s decisions; instead, it is just one of the various
sources of information used by the translator. Vermeer regards it as an offer of information‟ that is partly or wholly turned into an offer of information‟ for the target
audience. More details about Skopostheorie will be presented later.
Justa Holz-Manttari takes one step further than Vermeer. Her theory is based on the principles of action theory. Instead of using the term translation, she prefers to speak of message transmitters, which consists of textual material combined with other media such as pictures, sounds and body movements. In her model, translation is defined as a complex action designed to achieve a particular purpose. The purpose of translational action is to transfer messages across cultural and language barriers by means of message transmitters. Holz-Manttari puts Translational action is the process of producing a message transmitter of a certain kind, designed to be employed in superordinate action system in order to coordinate actional and communicative cooperation. She particularly emphasizes the actional aspects of the translation process, analyzing the roles of the participants (initiator, translator, user, message receiver) and the situational conditions (time, place, medium) in which their activities take place.
Another important scholar who helps spread the influence of the functionalist approaches is Christiane Nord. In her book Translating as a Purposeful Activity,
Christiane Nord points out the limitations to Skopos model: when the translation brief requires a translation whose communicative aims are contrary to or incompatible with the author‟s opinion or intention, there would be no restriction to the range of possible ends. In concerning this limitation, Nord raises the Loyalty principle of Skopostheorie: the responsibility translators have toward their partners in translational interaction. The Function plus Loyalty principle is thus proposed with the intention of inducing the translator to respect the sender‟s individual communicative intentions and reduces the
唐 山 学 院 毕 业 论 文
prescriptiveness of „radical‟ functionalism.
3.2 The nucleus of Skopostheorie
Skopostheorie is put forward by Hans J. V.ermeer. He stated his general position in his Framework for General Translation Theory in 1978, and explained Skopostheorie in
detail in the book Groundwork for a General Theory of Translation co-authored by
Vermeer and Reiss in 1984.Skopostheorie is a relatively new approach to translation studies that considers translation as a purposeful activity, and emphasizes the predicted results of translating. Therefore, Skopostheorie is the nucleus of the functional translation theory, playing the most important role in it. Before probing into the details of the discussion, it is necessary for us to grasp general ideas of the theory to avoid some unintended misunderstandings. The main ideas of Skopostheorie can be summarized as follows:
(1)Translation is a form of intentional, interpersonal, and intercultural
interaction based on a source text.
(2)As an intentional interaction, translation intends to make change from
one state of affairs to another.
(3)Different participants are involved in this process and play different
roles. The client is usually the initiator of the translational action, who
determines the translation brief; the translator produces target text in the target
culture to express the communicative intention of the sender of the source text;
and the receiver is the user of the target text.
(4)The general principle consists of Skopos rule, which is the top-ranking
one for any translation, coherence rule, fidelity rule and loyalty rule, which is
added to make sure that the target-text purpose should be compatible with the
original author‟s intention.
(5)The source text is no longer the first and foremost criterion for the
translator‟s decisions, yet instead, it is just one of the various sources of
information used by the translator. The translator chooses from this “offer of
information” the items which he thinks are adequate to the desired purposes in
the target culture.
(6)Adequacy of the target text is more important than equivalence.
“Adequacy refers to the qualities of a target text with regard to the translation
brief: the translation should be „adequate to‟ the requirements of the brief.
3.3 Three rules of Skopostheorie