• Jiǎ Dǎo's Rhythm, or, How to Translate the Tones of Classical Chinese

    Author(s):
    Tom Mazanec (see profile)
    Date:
    2016
    Group(s):
    LLC East Asian, TC Translation Studies
    Subject(s):
    Chinese literature, Translation studies
    Item Type:
    Article
    Tag(s):
    Chinese poetry, Literary translation, Tang dynasty
    Permanent URL:
    http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/M6769S
    Abstract:
    Since the early twentieth century, translators and critics of classical Chinese poetry have tended to focus on imagery and suggestion, balking at rhythm. It is commonly assumed that modern English and classical Chinese are too different, phonemically, for any of the aural qualities of one to translate into the other. My essay aims to overcome these differences through a series of experimental translations of poems by Jiǎ Dǎo 賈島 (779–843). I begin with a discussion of linguist/translator Henri Meschonnic’s definition of rhythm as “the organization of movement in speech,” a concept which includes a poem’s performance and audience, its effect on its community and language at particular points in time. For a master craftsman of tonal patterning and parallelism like Jiǎ Dǎo, this means it is necessary to establish a method for translating medieval Chinese tonal prosody. Drawing on the theory that the medieval Chinese tonal binary of “level” 平 and “deflected” 仄 tones emerged out of the Sanskrit syllabic binary of light (laghu) and heavy (guru) syllables, I translate each level tone into a stressed long vowel and each deflected tone into a stressed short vowel in English. This creates a real yet subtle shift in the rhythm of the translation, carrying over some of Jiǎ Dǎo’s force on language in time. Thus, in translating Jiǎ Dǎo’s rhythm, I aim to translate his illocutionary power: not just what his poems say, but what they do.
    Metadata:
    Published as:
    Journal article    
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    7 months ago
    License:
    All Rights Reserved

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