Rethinking translationese and translation universals: Insights from corpus-based translation studies

Xiaolin Yang, Dechao Li

Research output: Chapter in book / Conference proceedingChapter in an edited book (as author)Academic researchpeer-review


In recent decades, with the advent of corpus-based translation studies, increasing attention has been paid to the concepts of “translationese” and “translation universals”, whose definitions often overlap and cause controversy among translation scholars in China. After a review of the development and the shift of the research paradigms of these two concepts and their definitions, as well as outlining the possible corpus-based approaches to study them, the corpus data suggests that the term “translationese” could potentially be translated as tezheng yiyu (translation-specific language) rather than fanyiqiang to create a more descriptive and neutral nature. The chapter discusses the continuum features of translationese and their relationship with translation universals to further illustrate their significance in the theory and practice of translation studies. Translationese, according to our corpus data, concerns a much wider range than translation universals. It includes both characteristics and universals presented in translation languages, and therefore it is the starting point and necessary condition for translation universals studies. In addition, the pursuit of translation universals is different from that of language universals, though they both deal with languages. The former focuses on the “abnormal” part of the original language, aiming at identifying rules from differences. Consequently, the “third code” is actually a result presented by cognition and a tendency of common thinking in the process of language conversion.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTerminology Translation in Chinese Contexts
Subtitle of host publicationTheory and Practice
EditorsSaihong Li, William Hope
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherTaylor and Francis - Balkema
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781003006688
ISBN (Print)9780367439545
Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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