The Linguist

The Linguist 52,5

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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FEATURES Analysing Freud How much do criticisms of the English translation of Freud's writing affect the Chinese relay translation? Jessica Chen looks at his key concepts to find out Relay translation has played an important role in knowledge dissemination across the world, despite questions as to its reliability. China's efforts to modernise have involved the importation of Western technology and science through the translation of text books and literature since the late 19th century. Translation into Chinese has relied heavily on Japanese and English as pivot languages. In the case of Freud's German writings on psychoanalysis, there was a particular reliance on the English Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud (SE).1 When the SE began to attract criticism about its translation of central terms from Freudian German – Freud's unique use of the German language – the question arose: will these criticisms automatically affect the Chinese relay translation? In order to answer this question, I juxtaposed essential psychoanalytic terms from Freud's Das Unbehagen in der Kultur,2 known as Civilization and its Discontents3 in English, with their counterparts in the SE and in the Chinese versions 文明及其缺憾 ('Civilization and its regretful imperfections') and 一种幻想的未来 文明及其不满 ('Future of a Type of Illusion Civilization and its Discontents').4 Ich, ego and self-I The SE has been criticised for its heavy Latinism and Graecism, yet 'ego' had become the established translation of Ich prior to Freud's work. By its nature, relay translation (RT) inherits any flaws in the pivot translation. However, the lexical style of the Chinese RT is not affected in this case because it uses elements from vernacular modern Chinese, 22 The Linguist the formation and development of which have been influenced, to a great extent, by relay translation of Western writings. The published Chinese translations of 'ego', 'id' and 'super-ego' are, respectively, 自我 ('self-I'), 本我 ('original-I/actual-I') and 超自我 ('over-self-I') or 超我 ('over-I'). Regarding the alternative RTs of super-ego, 超我 ('over-I') shares the intonation pattern of 自我 ('self-I') and 本我 ('original-I/actual-I'), whereas 超自我 ('over-self-I') reflects the morphology of the English term (ie, 'super' plus 'ego'), given that 'ego' is translated as 自我 ('self-I'). So why is the Chinese translation of 'ego' not 'I', but 'self-I'? In fact, 自我 ('self-I') was already an established psychological term for 'ego', in the same way that 'ego' was for Ich ('I'). Furthermore, the lack of definite articles in the Chinese language and its logographic writing system do not favour the nominalisation of pronouns such as 'I'. On the one hand, the recurring end character 我 ('I') reinforces the conceptual connection between 'ego', 'id' and 'superego'; on the other, it gives rise to debates over the published Chinese translation of 'id' (本我; 'original-I/actual-I') because neither Es ('it') nor 'id' contains 'I'. This translation was therefore criticised for adding something that is not in the original in order to rhyme with 'self-I' and 'over-I'. An earlier translation of 'id' – 伊底 – has been misunderstood by many as a sole phonetic imitation of 'id'. In fact, this term is formed by the first and last character of a four-character classical idiom, 伊于胡底, which in modern Chinese would mean 'no clue as to where the end is' or 'where will it end?' and, in the OCTOBER/NOVEMBER context of psychoanalysis, 'the deepest place of all existence'. This is an interesting rendition because it reveals the Chinese translation to be a relay translation to people who know the German term, while the English translation 'id' inspired the Chinese translator to draw on the idiom. Seele, mind and spirit Three other key terms in Freud's writing are 'mind', 'psychoanalysis' and 'the unconscious'.

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