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Idioms are unique and regular expressions formed when using language. This article discussed idioms, including a set phrase, proverbs, two-part allegorical saying, allusions etc. English and Chinese are two historical languages with numerous idioms that are implicit, humorous, serious or refined. Theses idioms are not only concise but they are also vivid and interesting, which attract people.
With differences in geography, history, religious beliefs, and customs, English and Chinese idioms carry cultural characteristics and information of different nationalities. They are closely related to cultural traditions and are inseparable. Cultural factors in idioms are often difficult to translate. This article attempts to use pragmatics to explore English and Chinese translation of idioms.
American professor of philosophy H.P. Grice, in his book Meaning, had a discourse divided into two types: natural meaning and non-natural meaning. Non-natural meaning refers to meaning that people want to express; i.e., the pragmatic implicit meaning that expresses the intention of communicators in specific situations. This is the basis of Grice's theory of conversational implicature. Due to cultural differences between English and Chinese, discourse studies with the same literal meaning and imagery may have completely different implicatures.
Implicatures are something that a speaker or author wants to express. According to our observation, the differences between English and Chinese idioms can divided into two types: One is a difference in imagery; another is a difference in implicature (including commendatory and derogatory meanings). These are all meanings that are beyond words and reflect cultural differences.
I. Cultural differences between English and Chinese idioms
“The hardest thing to understand when translating foreign literature is word association” which “has a special emotional connotation that is very deep and subtle. It cannot be found in the dictionary, but is extremely important to literature. If we are not familiar with a nation’s customs and traditions, as well as cultural and historical background, we would find it difficult to translate.” According to English anthropologist Edward Tylor. Who wrote the - book Primitive culture (1871), culture was introduced as a concept and “Culture is very complicated”. It includes knowledge, beliefs, arts, morals, laws, customs, abilities and habits acquired in society." It covers a wide range of aspects and a complex system. Language is a component of culture which reflects a nation’s dynamism. There are cultural differences between English and Chinese idioms, which will be discussed next. If there is any question, feel free to contact the English Chinese translation services.