Translation and Language Ideology in Singapore

Tong King Lee (2009). Translation and Language Ideology in Singapore PhD Thesis, School of Languages and Comp Cultural Studies, The University of Queensland.

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n41339570_Doctor_of_Philosophy_abstract.pdf Final Thesis Lodgement (abstract) application/pdf 45.75KB 16
n41339570_Doctor_of_Philosophy_totalthesis.pdf Final Thesis Lodgement (total thesis) application/pdf 1.49MB 46
Author Tong King Lee
Thesis Title Translation and Language Ideology in Singapore
School, Centre or Institute School of Languages and Comp Cultural Studies
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2009-07
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Leong Ko
Ping Chen
Total pages 241
Total black and white pages 241
Subjects 420000 Language and Culture
Abstract/Summary This dissertation examines the problems of translation within the language ideological context of multilingual Singapore. On the basis of textual and paratextual data from published literary translations and with reference to the language power relation between the English language and the Chinese language in contemporary Singapore, the study raises questions about the relationship between literary translation and language ideology in Singapore. These questions are concerned with textual problems in translating heterolingual texts, interpretive problems facing the target readers of translated Chinese-language texts that deal with the Chinese identity crisis and the ideological functions that translation plays in the making of multilingual literary anthologies. In delineating the general character of cross-cultural communication in Singapore, the study combines various theoretical perspectives and employs both textual and contextual approaches of inquiry. The dissertation consists of three main parts. The first part discusses the textual problems involved in the translation of heterolingual Chinese literature thematically concerned with the ideological tension between English and Chinese in Singapore. Drawing on the theory of the metonymics of translation as well as code-switching theories, the identity function of heterolingualism in Chinese literary texts is first established as creating a metonymic link between the linguistic tension in the literary texts and the ideological tension between English and Chinese in Singapore society. It is then proposed that when a heterolingual text using Chinese as its matrix language code-switches into English as part of its textual strategy, the translation of this text into the English language necessarily creates a crisis of representation in which the English language paradoxically projects itself as the cultural “Other”. The second part of the dissertation examines the interpretive problems of Singapore Chinese literature in English translation based on the theory of the ethics of translation. Specifically, when a target text (TT) reader is construed as the cultural “Other” in a source text (ST), an interpretive paradox arises when the TT reader attempts to understand himself/herself as a cultural “Other” in his/her own language in order to achieve a positive ethics of translation. The TT reader faces an epistemological dilemma: he/she either betrays his/her own identity in favour of the identity function of the ST, thus setting on an ironic process of self-Othering, or adheres to his/her identity and betrays that of the ST, thus contradicting the intended objective of allowing the predominantly English-speaking Chinese community in Singapore to understand the cultural predicament of their Chinese-speaking counterparts. In the third part of the study, I explore the role of translation in the construction of language ideology in Singapore and the way in which this role has changed since the mid-1980s. Based on an analysis of the use of translation in the making of multilingual literary anthologies published between 1985 and 2008, it is found that the power relation between the English language and the mother tongue languages in Singapore has shifted over the past two decades. Central to this shift is translation, the discursive instrument in multilingual publications. While earlier anthologies adopt a “one-to-one” translation model, in which literary works written in the mother tongue languages are translated into English but not vice versa, more recent anthologies adopt a “many-to-many” translation model, in which various languages translate into one another. This shift leads to a subtle change in the relationship between English and the mother tongue languages, from an asymmetric one in favour of English as the language of power, to a balanced one that gives an equal “voice” to the mother tongue languages. The analysis shows that translation is the locus of complex language ideological struggles, and that it plays the conflicting roles of reinforcing the hegemony of the English language and of resisting such hegemony in Singapore. This study has three implications for translation studies. Firstly, it supports the case for the combination of textual and contextual approaches in the investigation of translation phenomena. Secondly, it suggests that translation practice in Singapore is a potentially paradoxical act whose efficacy is not unproblematic. Finally, the study enables translators and language policy makers in Singapore to become more aware of the ideological implication of translation in multilingual discourses, and to tap into the discursive power of translation in creating a truly balanced multilingual nation.
Keyword metonymics of translation, crisis of representation, ethics of translation, epistemological dilemma, symbolic power, ideological function

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Created: Sat, 11 Jul 2009, 13:56:29 EST by Mr Tong King Lee on behalf of Library - Information Access Service