Subjectivity in legal translation: An empirical study of explicitation and implicitation in the English-Chinese translation of a WTO agreement

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Cao, Deborah

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Michael, Rowan

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This study aims to identify manifestations of the legal translator’s subjectivity in terms of explicitation and implicitation as well as the causes and motivations behind such operations in English-Chinese legal translation. This study first introduces the concept of subjectivity from cognitive linguistics into translation study and proposes a model of the translation process from a cognitive view of translation. In this model, explicitation and implicitation are believed to be located in the framework of construal as measurable dimensions of subjectivity, rendering the study of the legal translator’s subjectivity operational. This thesis adopts a mixed methods approach, i.e., a combination of product-based approach and process-based approach, for data collection and analysis. It commences with a textual analysis of the English-Chinese translation of the “Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)” from the perspective of explicitation and implicitation. Based on the results of the textual analysis, sentences representing the typical categories of explicitation and implicitation, are extracted from TRIPS to be translated in the subsequent experiments. The methodology used for data elicitation in this thesis is introspection in the form of “thinking aloud”, complemented by use of the keyboard-logging instrument, Translog. This study has found that translator’s subjectivity in terms of explicitations and implicitations exists in English-Chinese legal translation. It is inherent in the translation process and indispensable in achieving both semantic correctness and stylistic appropriateness, and hence desirable for translation practice. Further, explicitations are likely to assume a dominant position in the translator’s subjectivity, which is influenced by the translator’s internal demand and drive to interpret the ST accurately and external pressure to avoid ambiguity. The knowledge and information obtained in this study will be illuminating to legal translation practice and legal translation teaching.

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Thesis (PhD Doctorate)

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Hum, Lang & Soc Sc

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The author owns the copyright in this thesis, unless stated otherwise.

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