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Text complexity as an indicator of translational style: A case study

Issue: Vol 13 No. 1-2 (2017)

Journal: Linguistics and the Human Sciences

Subject Areas: Writing and Composition Linguistics

DOI: 10.1558/lhs.35709


This paper is to explore the applicability of the concept of text complexity within systemic functional linguistics to the analysis of translational stylistics. Text complexity is measured in terms of grammatical intricacy and lexical density. The case study concerns four English translations of the Platform Sutra, which is itself a composite text consisting of the Chan master Huineng's personal narrative, public sermons, ritual instruction and conversations with students. Text complexity of the four translations is analysed both intertextually and intratextually. Intertextually, degrees of text complexity of Huineng's words in different translations are compared; intratextually, the variation of text complexity of Huineng's words in different registers within one translation is investigated. Differences among translations are interpreted in terms of the translating purposes and strategies, as well as the translator's attention to the inherent heterogeneity of the source text.

Author: Hailing Yu, Canzhong Wu

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