The Translation of Chinese Medical Terms into English. Linguistic Considerations on the Language of TCM

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Abstract

The growing diffusion of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) in the Western world on the one hand, and the major role of English as the language of scientific communication and international exchange on the other, have led to the need for accuracy and standardization in the English terminology of Chinese medical concepts. The complexity of Chinese medical language, not only due to the innumerable quantity of ideograms1, but above all to their correct interpretation and to the philosophical foundations which TCM is based upon, has raised several debates among linguists, translators and physicians. One of the main issues concerns the approach to be adopted in the translation of Chinese terms into the English language. More precisely, a source-oriented choice, and in particular that which makes use of loan-translations, is claimed to respect the integrity of the original Chinese concepts and to present them as they come into native people’s mind. On the other hand, a target-oriented method, which basically turns out to be a westernization of Chinese concepts, makes TCM easier to understand for the international medical community. The work is divided into three main parts. The first part investigates the literal translation - in particular that suggested by the English sinologist and linguist Nigel Wiseman - as a form of source-oriented approach in the translation of TCM terminology into the English language. The second part discusses the question of the translation of the basic Chinese concepts of qì and dào, while the third and final part focuses on some Chinese crucial denominations whose current English equivalents have been an object of attention by TCM scholars and physicians regarding their lack of terminological correctness and precision.The purpose of this work is to highlight some of the major difficulties that the translation of TCM terminology into a Western language, especially the English one, entails, as radically different cultures are involved, and the implications that the general tendency to the westernization of Chinese medical concepts necessarily leads to in the translating process.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)49-60
Numero di pagine0
RivistaRIVISTA DELLA FACOLTÀ DI SCIENZE MOTORIE DELL'UNIVERSITÀ DEGLI STUDI DI PALERMO
VolumeII
Stato di pubblicazionePublished - 2009

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