A Sociolinguistics Perspective on Translation: Networking for Publication of Famous Chinese Short Stories, Retold by Lin Yutang

Min Liu, Victoria University of Wellington

08:50 am – 10:50 am (Room 232)



Not a single translation work can be completed merely by efforts of the translator himself. In today’s world, when intercultural exchange becomes a keyword in the trend of globalizing literary production, transdisciplinary perspectives are expected to be introduced into language studies, for a more detailed inspection on components and their intersections which lead to the final production of literature. To complete and publish a translation work, translator is required to pay extra attention to collaborating and networking with other parties involved, including the author, commissioner, editor, reviewer, reader, etc.
Past research on literature focuses more on the final products of writing than the process. However, studying the process of writing provides a more solid understanding of author’s intention than a single textual analysis with support of secondary scholarship materials. In my research, I introduce sociolinguistics perspective on literary studies, and employ network theory as the framework to explore the process of producing a translation work. I select Famous Chinese Short Stories, Retold by Lin Yutang (FCSS) as a case to study the cultural significance of this translation. FCSS is a collection of short stories originally composed in ancient Chinese, and translated by Lin Yutang into modern English with a fairly flexible strategy. This book was published by the John Day Company in 1952 in the US.
Under the theoretical framework of Actor-Network Theory, a branch of network theory significantly developed by Bruno Latour, I investigate the rationale behind the final publication of FCSS, a translation work which was only expected to have mediocre sales if published. This research relies to a great extent on the accessibility and analysis of correspondence materials between the translator Lin Yutang and the publisher John Day Company. To be specific, through examining the disagreement between the translator and the commissioner as to whether FCSS was worth publishing, and examining the compromises made between two parties before FCSS was finally published, I discover the cross-cultural significance of FCSS which overweighs its mediocre sales volume as expected. My research contributes an original piece to the transdisciplinary perspectives on language and culture studies in a globalized context.