Translating Seven Types of Ambiguity in Classical Chinese Poetry


  • Quangong Feng Zhejiang University, China



classical Chinese poetry, ambiguity, translation, explicitation, poetic effect


This article aims to investigate the English translation of seven types of ambiguity in classical Chinese poetry (CCP), namely, grammatical ambiguity, lexical ambiguity, rhetorical ambiguity, thematic ambiguity, logical ambiguity, intertextual ambiguity and stylistic ambiguity. By analyzing typical examples and their corresponding translations, it is found that: (1) ambiguity in CCP often arises from the peculiarities of Chinese language and culture and it contributes to the poetic effect of the original poem; (2) explicitation is the most frequently used technique to deal with ambiguity due to linguistic, poetic or cultural differences; (3) paratextual information in the form of footnotes or the translator’s commentary and so on is deemed necessary in translating some types of ambiguity like thematic ambiguity and intertextual ambiguity; (4) evaluation of the translation of ambiguity in CCP should be dialectical and flexible, using the poetic effect of the translated poem as a major yardstick. Since ambiguity is a typical feature of CCP, it allows open interpretation and free imagination; therefore, how to strike a balance between reproducing the original ambiguity and expliciting it is still a big challenge for translators.      


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Special Section | Language-pair-specific issues in translation and interpreting