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隐喻与翻译-Metaphor and Translation  

2009-12-13 18:03:49|  分类: 花中李的英语毕业 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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[Abstract] Translation, as a tool for the communication of cultures, transfers the cognition of the source language into the target language, and translation of metaphor has became a controversy receiving more and more attentions. This paper introduces the English and the Chinese metaphor in details. In the beginning, different definitions of English metaphor are quoted from authorities. Then the construction of English metaphor and three basic components, the tenor, the vehicle and the ground, are introduced, followed by the four basic structure patterns. Different classifications of metaphor are appreciated and studied at the different levels. From the angle of rhetoric effect, the live metaphor and the dead metaphor are classified in the first type, and from Newmark’s view, four categories are classified, and finally four categories can be sorted out according to the emergence of metaphor’s three components. At the level of cognition three categories are introduced form Lakoff’s classification. Then Chinese metaphor is analyzed in the same way, so the contrast and comparison are apparently made. Based on that, the obstacles which may exist in the translation of metaphor are probed into, that is, the study of the origin of the obstacles----culture clash, including the differences of the living environment and history, tradition and custom, classical tales and literary works, religion and so on. At last, the standard and the skills of the translation of metaphor are discussed.

[Key words]: metaphor; translation; the source language; the target language; culture clash

【摘要】:翻译是将一种文化中的语言所表现的认知方式用目的语传递到目的语的文化中去,而隐喻的翻译已经开始成为研究翻译方向里的重点和难点之一。本文详细介绍英语隐喻和汉语隐喻,首先在概念上引用权威的定义和诠释,接着从结构特征上下手分析英语隐喻的基本构成成分,即:本体、喻体、喻底。由此引出英语隐喻的三大基本句型。在分类上, 首先从修辞效果的角度进行论证,①将其分成活隐喻和死隐喻两大类;②引用Mark的观点分成四类进行分析特点;③根据隐喻的三大成分之间的关系,隐喻又可分成四种情况。接着,从认知层面上,总结分析Lakoff的观点中有利于理解隐喻特点的结构隐喻,实体隐喻,方位隐喻。接着本文对汉语隐喻和英语隐喻形作一比较,指出在语言上的目标和功能作用成为英语隐喻和汉语隐喻最大的共同点。在此基础之上,分析了在隐喻翻译过程中会遇上的‘拦路虎’,并深入到产生翻译障碍的根本原因----文化差异,包括地理和历史,传统习俗因,宗教信仰,经典传说和文学作品等其它因素。最后,探述了隐喻翻译的标准和基本原则,综合英、汉隐喻的特点和文化因素,讨论了几种隐喻翻译的技巧和方法。


1. Introduction

Metaphor, mentioned by Lakoff G & Johnson in Metaphors We Live By, is pervasive in our daily life, happens not only in human’s language but also in human’s thinking and behavior.[1]P1 The utilization of metaphors is very frequent, and practically it is highly valuable to study linguistic metaphor. In resent years, metaphors in translation are studied mostly in the field of poetry, literature and rhetoric. For the differences between Chinese, which is regarded as a contextual language, and English that has its advantages, it is very important to find ways to achieve the equivalent effect of source language when they are translated into the target language. There are some examples.

(1) Were I in her place, it seems to me I should wish the earth to open and     swallow me up. ( Jane Eyre Chapter5 )


(2) He did not win the first prize; he is just pulling your leg.


(3) 孩子是张大妈从小一把屎一把尿待弄出来的,像亲生儿子一样,孩子也把张大妈当作亲妈,冷丁一下子把娘俩拆开,孩子能受得了吗?

She had nursed him ever since he was a small baby and loved him as her own; and the child, too, regarded her as his own mother. What would happen to him if he was taken away from her.[2]P19

(4) 每个人生活都有苦有甜.

Every life has its roses and thorns.

The above four examples show the metaphorical expressions in the two languages and the beauties in translation. Comparison between English metaphor and Chinese metaphor will help to strengthen our understanding of the essence of language, and the culture differences which could be traced back behind the phenomenon of language, both of which serve to probe into the art of translation; Therefore, in one sense, it is highly valuable to combine the study of comparison and contrast between English metaphor and Chinese metaphor, the culture differences and translation skills into a whole

2. English metaphor

Metaphor is a figurative phenomenon, an important tool in language communication; what’s more, it has a closed relationship with many subjects,[3]P1 such as Literature, Aesthetics, Sociology, Philosophy, Logic and so on, for metaphor can permeate into one’s subjective thinking and concept of aesthetic. One’s personality, including philosophy, culture, standard of aesthetics and so on, will be reflected through the metaphor one uses. Therefore, metaphor should be studied from a more profound and higher level.

2.1 Authoritative Definition

Various definition of metaphor have been proposed and some of them are quoted below.

i ) metaphor: (example of the) use of a word or phrase to indicate something different from (thought related in some way to) the literal meaning, as in ‘I’ll make him eat his words’ or ‘she has a heart of stone’.   ( Oxford Advanced Learner’s English-Chinese Diction the fourth edition )

ii) metaphor: a way of describing something by comparing it to something else that has similar qualities, without using the words ‘like’ or ‘as’, ‘the sunshine of her simile’ is a metaphor. ( Longman Dictionary of Contemporary 1995 )

iii) metaphor:隐喻(一种修辞手段如 drowning in money, food for thought 之类). ( The English-Chinese Dictionary 1993 )

iv) “By metaphor .I mean any figurative expression: the transferred sense of a physical word; the personification of an abstraction; the application of a word or collocation to what does not literally denote, i.e, to describe one thing in terms of another”. Peter New Mark [4]P123

v) metaphor: a figure of speech containing an implied comparison, in which a word or phrase ordinarily and primarily used of one thing is applied to another. ( Web’s Now World Dictionary )

2.2 Structure in English metaphor

Metaphor comes from the ancient Greece words ‘meta’ and ‘pherein’ ‘meta’ means ‘across’, ‘pherein’ means ‘change’; Therefore the basic function of metaphor is to transform something from one place to another.[5]P1 From semantic view, there are three basic factors composing a metaphors: the tenor, the vehicle, the ground, not all of which need to be presented in a metaphor, that is, some of them may be hidden. Therefore, it is very important to distinguish three factors from each other when facing a metaphor.

(5) All the world is a stage, and all the men and women are merely players.   (Shakespere)

(6) I have seen the mermaids riding seawards on the wave. (T.S.Eliot)

In example (1) ‘stage’ is the vehicle, its literal meaning is the raised floor on which plays are performed in a theatre which exit in our real life, while ‘world’ is the tenor, and the ground of this metaphor is that both are full of illusion and absurdity. In (6) ‘riding’ is the vehicle, which literally means an action to travel long controlling and sitting on a horse, and the ground is the situation that the mermaids floating on the waves lightly. However, not all vehicles and tenors in metaphors refer to the reality in our life just as example (5) and (6) do, they may refer to the abstract concept implied in the context, and also they may refer to some kinds of quality or condition qualities. There are some examples.

(7) The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure. (Tomas Jefferson)

(8) Some books are to be tasted, others swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.

(9) His reply was smooth.

In (7) the vehicle, ‘liberty’, refers to an abstractive concept, which the tenor, ‘tree’ is a material object, and the ground implies that liberty cannot be achieved or defeated without the shading of the blood of both the defenders and oppressors of the liberty in a violent struggle. On the other hand, blood (manure) nurtures liberty. Words in example (8) as ‘tasted’, ‘swallowed’, ‘chewed’, ‘digested’ literally means different ways of eating foods, which are the vehicle, and the tenor is ‘reading books’, so obviously the ground is the condition that books could be read in various ways as foods could be eaten in different method. ‘smooth’ in example (9) means have an even surface without points, lumps, pump; not rough; which is the vehicle, and the tenor is ‘reply’. So the ground is that her reply is tactful and shrewd just as the same satisfactory character or condition of smooth.

From syntactic view, the application of metaphor is always flexible and multiple, for in the sentence structure, the vehicle may be implied in the subject, the predicate, the object, the predicative, the attribute or the adverbial modifier; What’s more, the vehicle can be a single word, a phrase, a sentence, or even a paragraph. However, three basic structure patterns are commonly used in English metaphor.

Pattern I: the tenor and the vehicle are connected by the words such as: be, become, turn into, ect., and the vehicle mostly acts as the predicative.

(10) Jane’s Uncle is an old fox, up to all kinds of evils.

(11) Hollywood, California, was the film capital, a magnet for the talented, the greedy, the beautiful, the hopeful and the weird.

(12) After that long talk, Jim became the sun in her heart.

In example (10)(11)(12), the tenors are respectively ‘Jane’s Uncle’, ‘Holly wood’, ‘Jim’, the vehicle, ‘an old fox’, ‘a magnet’, ‘the sun’, which are the predicative in the sentences. This pattern is the most basic type.

Pattern II: the preposition ‘of’ is used to connect the tenor and the vehicle, indicating the appositive relationship, such as,

(13) Mirage is the bloom or blight of all men’s happiness.

(14) But in a country where rice farmers have spent nearly 50 years in a comfortable cocoon of government protection.

In the example (14)(15) the metaphor is in a phrase consisting of the tenors and the vehicle and the preposition ‘of’. On the other hand, the vehicle and the tenor are the appositive, that is, ‘happiness is the bloom or blight; government protection is a comfortable cocoon’.  

Patten III: verbs and adjectives are applied to transfer the metaphor, that is, words used to describe the special quality of one thing are adopted to describe the other thing to which the special quality are transferred. There are still many cases in this pattern.

(15) From the burning look in his eye, I knew he was angry with me.

(16) Toby’s fears had evaporated.

The word ‘burning’ actually is used to describe the state of the fire, while in example (15) it is transfer to describe ‘look’. Reader could immediately experience such situation. ‘evaporate’ is a Verb which expresses the particular quality of the gas, while it is used in the case (16), the abstractive concept ‘fear’ are transferred to a concrete image likes the gas. This pattern is greatly used in the press and the literature as rhetoric devices to strengthen the author’s opinion and to impress readers deeply.

2.3 The categories of English metaphor

Since the study on metaphor can be traced back to Aristotle, the first one who studied metaphors systematically. There has been a history of more than two thousand years study on metaphor, up till now numerous people make their great efforts to research on metaphor from various angles; therefore, metaphor can be classified in many ways according to the angles it was studied from.

2.3.1 Classifications at the rhetoric level

I ) The dead metaphor and the live metaphor

From its rhetoric effect, metaphor can be sorted into two categories: one is the genuine metaphor or the live metaphor, and the other is the trite metaphor or dead metaphor. As we know, the basic function of metaphor mentioned before is to transfer a special quality from one thing to the other to make much more concrete, impressive, profound images. However those which were used from time to time with its rhetoric effect declining gradually to zero would be regarded as the common expression, melting into the language, and then they would become out-of-date expressions, which is what we called the dead metaphor, such as ‘the bonnet of a car’, ‘a coat of pain’, ‘the teeth of a saw’, ‘the apple of one’s eyes’, ‘rain cats and dogs’. On the other hand, the live metaphor refers to those with freshness and originality and effect. However, the disadvantage of this kind of classification is that it is too vague and difficult to define the boundary between the live metaphor and the dead metaphor. For example it is hard to decide to sort ‘the heart of China, Beijing’ into the dead metaphor or the live metaphor.

II) Peter Newmark’s classification

From Peter Newmark’s view A Textbook of Translation, ‘I have suggested elsewhere that there are four types of metaphor: fossilized, stock, recently created and original’. [6]P46

From the beginning, the fossilized, the name itself is a metaphor. It literally means to become a fossil; actually it means the trite, our-of-date, merely used. In a sense, it is just the same as the dead metaphor in the first classification. Take ‘rain casts and dogs’ as an example. Nowadays those who used this metaphor are regarded as the people who live in the generation before the grandfather. The stock refers to the metaphors that have been taken in the dictionaries for the usage of metaphorical meanings and are still frequently used in daily life. Here are some examples of the stock about the metaphorical usage of the word ‘flood’.

(17) She was in a flood of tears.

(18) The corridors were flooded with girls.

(19) Strawberries flooded the market and prices dropped down

(20) Beer flooded from the glass

There are the recently created metaphors which have not yet been adopted in the dictionary but can be accepted the common people with a feeling of refreshness. In Hamiton’s Rescue of A Newborn there are sentences [7]P47 as follows.

(21) I focused on a small blob in the mud amid the columns of legs and trunks.

(22) I suddenly came upon a wall of feeling elephants.

(23)…grabbed their lost baby and tugged her gently into a stockade of legs

In the above three sentences, ‘columns’ and ‘wall’, ‘stockade’, have double functions. They function as the measure words with the metaphorical meanings, which has not yet been adopted in any dictionary. However, three metaphors have a common characteristic -- they belong to the structure Pattern II (the preposition ‘of’ links between the tenor and the vehicle which has been recorded in the dictionary, such as ‘a hand of bananas’).

The last one, the original are regarded as the product from the inspired thought of the men full of wits and knowledge, and can hardly be seen before, let along have been recorded in dictionary. A Promise of Spring by American modern writer Jeff. Rennike begins in this way:

(24) Nothing, no tracks but my own are stitched into the dusting of fresh snow, white as birch bark, that fell during the night, no flittering shadows in the trees, not a silver of bird song in the air. [8]P47

The word ‘stitch’ belongs to those that are rarely used in English, and its most impressive usage is in the idiom ‘A stitch in time save night’. While floated out of the pen of Jeff Rennike, it was shining with the beauty of the original metaphor.

In some senses, Peter Newmark’s classification, the fossilized, the stock, the recently created, the original can be seen to be the small branches deriving from the categories of the dead metaphor and the live metaphor.

III) Classification according to the emergence of the tenor, the vehicle, and the ground

According to the three basic components in metaphor structure, four categories could be sorted out.

The first type is both the tenor and the vehicle emerge in the metaphor, such as,

(25) If the father lard is sound, my personal troubles are only a flea bite.

This type is the most common one, for the ground of metaphor is easy to understand. Factually Patten I mentioned above belongs to this type.

Second type is the metaphor in which the tenor is implied, such as,

(26) Investments in restructuring companies involve substantial risks, and deciphering the details of a company’s finances and plans for re-emergence is akin to penetrating a legal jungle.

The third type is the metaphors in which the vehicle is implied, and sometimes the ground is also implied, leaving the tenor alone. This category together with the second type construct the PattenⅢ in metaphor structure. There are lots of typical examples such as,

(27) She wished she could stop time and freeze this day so that it would never end.

Moreover, example (8)and (9) belong to this categories.

The last type is that the tenor, the vehicle and the ground all emerge in the metaphor, which are common to see. There is a typical example.

(28) My life is one long curve, full of turning points.

Obviously ‘my life’ is the tenor, ‘curve’ is the vehicle, and the shared common is ‘full of turning points’, which is the ground.

2.3.2 Classification at the cognitive level

From Lakoff’s view in Metaphors We Live By, metaphors are classified according to different concepts about metaphors. Only three of them will be mentioned for they helps the cognition of metaphor: structural metaphor, ontological metaphor and orientational metaphor.[9]P96

The structural metaphor refers to metaphors in which one concept was adopted to illustrate or compose the other concept. What’s more, there are two components and two conditions that are essential to compose a structure metaphor. The tenor and the vehicle are the two components that must be two different concepts, which satisfies the first condition. The second condition requires that the two unlike concepts should have something in common which the structural metaphor adopts from the vehicle to illustrate and comprehend the concept of the tenor. For example,(29) Anger is heat→a) Try to simmer down

b) She is stewing

c) Tom was reading the boiling point

(30) Anger is free→a) She was burning with wrath

b) That caused me to breathe fire

Actually, in example (29) a) b) c) are basing on ‘Anger is heat’ and in example (30) a) b) on ‘Anger is free’. Words like ‘simmer’ ’stew’ do not have anything in common with ‘Anger’ from semantic view. However, the metaphorical thinking and the language ability link them together. Experience teaches us that when one was in anger, the body temperature and the blood pressure turn up, the mode of fidget and anxious and other physiological reactions will be shown, which were associated with the phenomenon and the state when the fluid was heated to boiling. As a result, many metaphorical expressions come into the present, such as ‘He blew up’, ‘That really set me off’.

The ontological metaphor is another evidence to show that metaphor is not only a phenomenon of language but also a means of thinking and behavior, which is pervasive in our daily life. The vehicle in ontological metaphor always refers to those familiar things or objects in our world, which can be seen and touched easily, so we can know its function and qualities at the first sight, then it contributes to the comprehension and cognition of the tenor which are regarded as non-material or supernatural experience. Take the following sentence as an example.

(31) Arguments are buildings

Obviously, buildings are the most familiar thing that we see and have direct contact with everyday, so that their special qualities are known to every one, such as the appearance, the foundation, the thickness the possibility of construction, repairment, destroy, collapse and so on. Therefore, Arguments is compared to buildings, implying that the necessity of the firm foundation of thesis and the perfect way for argument. And it will, otherwise, be defeated. Based on this ontological metaphor, there are many expressions as follows.

(32) a) We need some facts or the argument will fail apart

b) We need to construct a strong argument for that.

c) This is an argument, and it needs more foundation.

d) If you don’t support your argument with solid facts the whole thing will collapse.

The orientational metaphors, also called the spatialization metaphor, means metaphors related to the spatialization or orientation (such as up-down, in-out, front-back, left-right ect.) which are used to illustrate or describe the object of the tenor, such as,

(33) Happy is up, sad is down

(34) I’m feeling up/down

(35) My spirits rose

(36) You are in high spirits

(37) He is really low these days

The specialty of the ontological metaphors is that they are not used in arbitrary way but in a fixed way according to people’s experience.

Different ways of classification help to analyzing a metaphor from various angles, so that our comprehension would be deep and impressive when we facie with it, which serves a lot during the translation

3. Comparison and contrast between English metaphor and Chinese metaphor

Metaphor , in Chinese is always named ‘隐喻’ or ‘暗喻’. It’s better to distinguish metaphor and ‘隐喻’ from each other.

3.1 Authoritative Definition About Chinese Metaphor

i ) 隐喻:比喻的一种不用“如”、“像”、“似”、“好像”等比喻词,而用“是”、“成”、“就成为”、“变为”等词,把某事物比拟成和它有相似关系的另一种事物,如:“少年儿童是祖国的花朵”,“荷叶成了一把把撑开的小伞”也叫“暗喻”。(《现代汉语词典》1997修订本)

ii )隐喻:比喻的一种,本体和喻体的关系,比之隐喻更为密切,明喻在形式上只是相类的关系,隐喻在形式上却是相和的关系,本体和喻体两个成分之间一般要用“是”、“也”等比喻词,如“儿童是祖国的花朵”。(《辞海》(1980))

From the illustration from Chinese dictionary, obviously is only a kind of figures of speech in Chinese rhetoric.

However, English metaphor covers much more fields than Chinese metaphor. The following shows the comparison between them.

Metaphor 暗喻

1.a characteristic of human thinking and language 1. * * *

2.dead metaphor: 表面不是,实际是 2. * * *

3.active metaphor:一种修辞格 3. 一种修辞格


3.2 The structure and classification of Chinese metaphor

The structure of ‘隐喻’ is said to be a mode “X” 是 “Y”. Moreover, it has not yet been classified into categories in its narrow sense in Chinese, which support the view of unequal relationship between English metaphor and隐喻. However, it doesn’t mean that Chinese is not a metaphorical language. Eventually, Chinese people use metaphors excellently as English people do, for examples ‘闲时不烧香,临时抱佛脚’, ‘狗嘴里吐不出象牙’.

The difference is that various kinds of figures of speech in Chinese are absorbed to achieve the metaphorical effect, such as 借喻,缩喻 ect.. There are examples in Chinese metaphor,

(38) 敌人夹着自己的尾巴逃跑了。(拟喻)

(39) 我骑着思想的野马奔驰到很远很远的地方,然后,才收住了缰绳,缓步回到眼前灿烂的现实中。(缩喻)

(40) 天下乌鸦一般黑。(借喻)

3.3 Similarities between English and Chinese metaphor

The most important similarity that English metaphor and Chinese metaphor bare with each other is to achieve the effective function of metaphor or author’s intention. From rhetoric angle, both English and Chinese metaphors have three main features: descriptive, illuminative and illustrative,[11]P168 as can be seen from the following examples.


(41) The hallway was zebra—striped with darkness and moonlight. (A description of the alternated bands of light and shade in the hall, like a zebra’s stripes)


3.3.2 Illuminative

Example (7)—English and (4)—Chinese are the typical examples and here are another two


The a solider,

Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,

Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel

Seeking the bubble reputation

Even in the cannon’s mouth. ( Shakespear: As you like it)

(Bubble here implies that the pursuit of reputation is visionary and a sing of vanity)

(44)人生必需的知识就是引人向光明方向的明灯. (李大钊)


(45) Learning is climbing up a mountain.

The question ‘How to construct an effective metaphor’ leads to some properties required in both English and Chinese metaphors. Firstly, refressness and originality. metaphors like ‘he was a lion in the battle’, ‘儿童是祖国的花朵’are trite and stale. Those out-of-date expressions sometimes would spoil the speech or writing. Secondly, aptness. A metaphor is apt and appropriate if the comparison implied heightens effect or enhances the subject. In the sentence ‘her beautiful long hair was pitch-black’, the association of the blackness of the beautiful hair with pitch is inappropriate. Thirdly, consistency becomes relevant and important when we are using two or more metaphors to illustrate the same subject. The metaphors are consistent if they produce images related to and supporting each other and are not mixed and discordant. Mixed metaphors, which can produce very amusing and illogical imagery, should be strictly avoided, such as ‘I skin over the book to taste the tone of it’ (tone cannot be tasted). On the other hand, a metaphor both in English and Chinese, to be effective, should be terse in words and profound in implication, abundant in refreshness and humor, vivid in association and imaginary.

4. Translation of metaphors

4.1 On the standard of translation

In the field of translation, the standard of translation has been a fierce controversy, including Nida’s formal correspondence vs. Functional Equivalence, Newmark’s semantic translation vs. communication translation, literal translation vs. free translation, form vs. content, source-oriented vs. target-oriented, author-centered vs. reader-centered, the purpose of the author vs. the purpose of the translation and so on; [12]P5 Therefore, it is impossible to define a standard for the translation of all metaphors. Metaphor reveals the aesthetics of language; what’s more, it reflects the speaker or writer’s education, experiences, observation, conception towards the world ect., so it is very important to keep the metaphorical meaning and the images by using any skills of translation, that is, metaphors can be translated in flexible ways to convey the information and the effect of the source language.

4.2 Obstacles in the translation of metaphor

For the differences between languages, the obstacles in translation sometimes make it very difficult even impossible to convey the effect of the source metaphor. As Chinese is regarded contextual language, which always turns to be obstacles on translation into English. The following cases are among the most common.

(46) 她就是这样风里来雨里去。成年累月地工作着.

This how she carries on her work, rain or shine, all the year round.

A ‘Scene’ comes into readers’ mind, that is an image of human being walking in the rain and wind, when reading ‘风里来,雨里去’ six characters; However, there is only the fact of ‘rain and shine’ left in the English expression.

(47) 人言鼎沸

      Many people talk together and the noise they make is like the bubbling water boiling in a cauldron.

In fact, most obstacles can be traced back to the culture clash. Therefore, metaphors are stamped with the culture of society, which have great impacts on every aspect of people’s life. There are five aspects which influence the expression of metaphor greatly in culture.

4.2.1 Living environment and history

England is an island nation, and its navigation has been the most advanced in the world history, while Chinese is a continental nation with its people living on the land. Therefore, there is metaphor ‘spending money like water’, sharing the same metaphorical meaning with Chinese metaphor ‘挥金如土’. As a result of the different climates, Chinese has a saying ‘ 万事具备只欠东风’, in contrast with ‘ west warm wind’ in English. Moreover, there are a lot of unique metaphorical expressions that come out as the product of a nation’s developed history. Take ‘zipper gate’ as an example. It became a metaphorical word frequently used by the press (referring to the sexual scandals) since the news of the sexual relationship between President Clinton and Wensgi. In Chinese there are so many typical examples such as ‘守株待兔’.

4.2.2Tradition and custom

Tradition and custom have great influences on the way of people’ thinking; therefore, metaphor, as a proportion of language, comes out of people’s mind, which has been laid with the brand of the custom and tradition of their country. Different metaphors about animals are the most obvious evidence. Take ‘bear’ as an example. In English, bear is associated with the person with special talents, such as ‘he is a bear at maths’. In contrast, bear in Chinese refers to the fool man or the ignorant, such as “瞧他那个熊样” “笨熊”.

4.2.3 Religion

Buddhism has a history of more than one thousand years. As a result, people’s concept and attitude towards world are influenced greatly, and there are numerous metaphors related to Buddhism, such as ‘借花献佛’, ‘闲时不烧香,临时抱佛脚’ ect. However, in western counties, most people take the Christianity as their religion, so there are sayings such as ‘no respect of persons (一视同仁)’, ‘God comes with leaden feet but strikes with iron hands(天网恢恢,输而不漏)’ ect. Religion as a part of culture penetrates into every aspect of people’s life including language.

4.2.4 Classical tales and literary works

A large sum of metaphors is quoted from classical tales and works, which are the components of the national spirits. On the other hand, metaphor, in a sense, is the reflection of the literature, fairy and folk tales ect., for example ‘Faustian spirit’ comes from the classical work Faust , in which the protagonist sold out his soul to the devil in order to obtain the knowledge and the power, and now ‘Faustian spirit’ refers to a spirit to obtain knowledge at any price.

4.3 Skills in translation of metaphor

From New mark’s view, “there are five methods of translating metaphor: transferring the image, finding an equivalent image, converting the metaphor to a simile or sense plus simile, most frequently converting the image to sense, which may involve analysis into several components, including figurative and concrete elements.”[13]P42 However, in aboard sense, there would be only 3 ways in the translation of metaphor.

4.3.1 Literal translation

As sharing the living environment----the earth, all human beings would have something in common. Therefore, there would be similarities among the culture of different countries, that is, equivalent expressions would exist among the languages. On condition that the tenor and the vehicle, the construction of metaphor in source language have the same usage in the target language, literal translation is the best way to keep the vivid image and the effect of source metaphor, as can be seen in the following examples.

(48) During the 1980s, a new drug called crack began to flood the street.


(49) iron hand ----铁腕

(50) 丢脸 ---- lose face;

(51) 中国当前的改革的春风

The spring breeze of present reform in china

Literal translation as example (67) can convey the vivid image with the special culture of source language, and at the same time, vocabulary and new expression of the target language would be explored.

4.3.2 Free translation

The culture clash results in the clash of language. On the other hand, among the tenor and the vehicle and the construction of metaphor of source language, not all could find the same usage in target language; therefore, equivalent images or constructions in target language should be found to replace that of source language, or the metaphorical effect of source language would be decreased. By the way, if the equivalent image or construction could not be found in target language, which is very common, there would be no way but completely free translation such as ‘人言鼎沸’ in example (63) . There are other examples,

(52) 热锅上的蚂蚁

      A cat on hot bricks  

(53) It was diamond cut diamond when the two men met because they more both so sure their own wears were right.


(54) The policemen who patrolled the big city slum area that summer were sitting on a volcano.

那年夏天,在城市大贫民区巡逻的警察如同在火山口上 (construction: metaphor in source language to simile in target language)

(55) It’s regrettable that our appeal remained a dead letter


4.3.3 Combination of literal and free translation

As metaphor reflects the customs, living condition, folk tales ect. of its nation, compensations are needed in the translation to help to understand the metaphorical meaning of sources language. On the other hand, although images of source language may be found in the target language, they have not the metaphorical meanings of source language. In that case, combination of literal and free translation could help to convey the metaphorical meanings. There are some examples.

(56) People consider that what he had played on that occasion was no more than a Judas Kiss.

人们认为他在哪种场合的表演不过是犹太人之吻, 居心险恶.

(57) 挂羊头卖狗肉.

Cry wine but only vinegar for sale

5. Conclusion

Translation, as a tool for the communication between different countries, in a great sense, depends on not only the skills of translation but also the understanding of both the language and the culture. Therefore, comparison between English metaphor and Chinese metaphor together with the culture they reflect servers the translation greatly.

According to the definitions from the authorities, English metaphor covers much more fields than Chinese metaphor. In the field of language, there are three components in English metaphor, the tenor, the vehicle and the ground, based on which there are four basic patterns in English metaphor structure. From the angle of rhetoric effect, metaphors can be sorted into the live metaphor and the dead metaphor. And from the Newmark’s view, English metaphor could be classified in to four categories, the fossilized, the stock, the recently created and the original. The last classification is based on the emergence of three components of metaphor. At the level of the cognition of metaphor, structure metaphor and ontological metaphor and orientational, which are from Lakeoff’s classification, are helpful in the understanding of metaphor. In contrast, Chinese metaphor called 隐喻 differs greatly in the definition and structure and classification. However, both English and Chinese metaphor has the same functions, descriptive, illuminative, illustrative. The comparison and contrast between English and Chinese metaphor can be traced back to the culture clash, which is the origin of the obstacles in the translation of metaphor. Literal translation, Free translation, and the combination of both are the basic methods in translation of metaphor, which should be chosen properly to solve the obstacles after the metaphor is analyzed exactly.


[1] 束定芳. 论隐喻的本质及语义特征[J].外国语, 1998,6 P1

[2] 曾剑平. 汉英翻译的虚实转换[J].中国科技翻译, 2006,2 P19

[3] 谭抗美. Metaphor: 所指分析[J].湘潭师范学院, 1997,2 P1

[4] 钟明国. 隐喻与 ‘metaphor’含义的对比研究[J].四川外语学院学报,2002.7 P123

[5] 同[3] P1

[6] 戎刿. Metaphor的翻译(上), 英汉翻译系列讲座. P46

[7] 同[6] P47

[8] 同[6] P47

[9] 赵英玲 李文昌. 英语隐喻类型诌议[J]. 松江学刊,1998,1 P96

[10] 同[4] P124

[11] 冯翠华. 英语修辞大全 [M], 外语教学与研究出版社,2003 P168

[12] 叶子南. Advanced course in English-Chinese Translation[M], 清华大学出版社,2001 P5

[13] 戎刿. Metaphor的翻译(下), 英汉翻译系列讲座. P42

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