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A Semantic Analysis of the Different Types ofMeanings in Translation


【Abstract】Translation deals with transfer of meaning, and Semantics is the study of meaning. So we cannot study translation without some knowledge of semantics. This paper discusses the different types of meanings in translation from the perspective of Semantics. The results of the study can help to further comprehend the original language and improve translation.

【Key words】Semantics; Meaning; Translation

1. Introduction

According to Peter Newmark, translation is “rendering the meaning of a text into another language in the way that the author intended the text” (Peter Newmark, 1988: 4). Since translation deals with transfer of meaning, and semantics is the study of meaning, we cannot study translation without some knowledge of semantics.

Usually we may consider the process of translation as consisting of two stages: accurate comprehension and adequate representation. The former is the precondition of the latter. If we compare this process with that of building a house, accurate comprehension is laying the foundations. To have an accurate comprehension of the source text is of vital importance. However, when we translate, we may suddenly find that understanding is not really something we can take for granted. A sound understanding of the source language does not take place naturally, and usually it takes a great deal of effort. Generally speaking, there are three ways for analyzing the meaning: semantic analysis, contextual analysis, and pragmatic analysis. This paper tries to find out the meaning of “meaning” through semantic analysis.

2. Meaning is complicated

A word’s meaning cannot be simply gained by consulting the dictionary, because the dictionary definitions of a word are “context-free”, e.g.:

(1)Out in the west where men are men.

(2)Do you mean funny, peculiar, or funny, ha ha?

(3) He helped many young writers to find themselves and then to find publishers.

In the above examples, the two men, funny, and find have different meanings, and it is just through this difference of meaning that the effect of humor is achieved. No wonder that Wittgenstein said, “The meaning of a word is its use in the language.”(Wittgenstein, 1953)

In deciding the precise meaning, we would have to distinguish different kinds of meanings. Besides, the semantic relations should also be taken into consideration, such as polysemy, synonymy, antonymy, etc..

3. Different types of meanings

Meaning is complicated. The first difficulty in the study of meaning is that the word “meaning” itself has many different meanings. In their book the Meaning of Meaning written in 1923, C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards presented 16 major categories of them, with sub-categories all together, numbering 22.

Different linguists have categorized multiple types of meanings.

3.1 Charles Morris’ three types of meanings

According to Charles Morris, there are three types of meanings: referential meaning (the relationship between signs and entities in the world), pragmatic meaning (the relationship between signs and their users; it includes identificational meaning, expressive meaning, associative meaning, social meaning, and imperative meaning), and intralingual meaning (the relationship between different signs; it includes phonological meaning, graphemic meaning, morphological or lexemic meaning, syntactic meaning, and discoursal or textual meaning).
3.2 G. Leech’s seven types of meanings

Leech identified seven types of meanings. They are: conceptual meaning (logical, cognitive, or denotative content), connotative meaning (what is communicated by virtue of what language refers to), social meaning (what is communicated of the social circumstances of language use), affective meaning (what is communicated of the feeling and attitudes of the speaker/writer), reflected meaning (what is communicated through association with another sense of the same expression), collocative meaning (what is communicated through association with words which tend to occur in the environment of another word), thematic meaning(what is communicated by the way in which the message is organized in terms of order and emphasis). Types 2-6 are also categorized as associative meaning.

3.3 Peter Newmark’s model of meaning

There are three types of meanings according to Newmark: expressive meaning, informative meaning, and vocative meaning.

3.4 Roman Jakobson’s model of meaning

Jakobson classified meanings into 6 types: expressive meaning, informative meaning, vocative meaning, aesthetic meaning, phatic meaning, and metalinguistic meaning.

4. Conclusion

These different types of meaning are not classified according to the same criteria, and different linguists have different opinions for classifying meanings. Thus some types of meaning are overlapping, which causes much confusion.

All these meanings can be stratified into lexical, phraseological (idiomatic), sentential (prepositional), and discourse meaning. Lexical meaning includes denotational, connotational, affective, collocational, metaphorical, and cultural meaning, and discourse meaning includes literary (hermeneutically construed) and epistemic (analytically construed) meaning.

Translation is the transfer of meaning, and semantic analysis is an important way of defining meaning, which can help us to have a better understanding of the source text. We should combine the translation studies with linguistics, and try to use the discoveries of the linguistics to help the study of translation.

【References】

[1]Bell, Roger T. 2001. Translation and Translating: Theory and Practice. Beijing: Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press.

[2]Baker, Mona. 2000. In Other Words: A Coursebook on Translation. Beijing: Beijing University Press.

[3]Fawcett, Peter. 1997. Translation and Language: Linguistic Theories Explained. Manchester: St. Jerome Publishing.

[4]Guo, Zhuzhang & Li, Qingsheng. 1996. A Practical Course in Translation Between English and Chinese.

[5]Wang, Zhikui. 1999. A Collegiate Course in English-Chinese Translation. Jinan: Shandong University Press.

[6]Wang, Zuoliang. 1989. Translation: Experiments and Reflections. Beijing: Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press.

[7]Wilss, Wolfram. 1996. Knowledge And Skills In Translator Behavior. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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