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On Translation of English Names from Cultural Perspective

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On Translation of English Names from Cultural Perspective


Chinese transliteration of people's English names not only concerns the accuracy of sound between the source and target languages,but also has much to do with the cultural specificity and the characteristics of the respective languages .Name is the most common language Phenomenon which exists in our society. As the communication between the countries all around the word become more and more closely, this paper have being paid more and more attentions to the translation of the names. In this paper, there is a study on the Cultural connotation and characteristics of English names and Chinese name, and then there is also a brief introduction of the way to translate the names. In this paper, there are five translation methods to translate names which we use usually, they are: Transliteration, Annotated Transliteration, Paraphrase, Law of Convention and Their own Chinese name translation. It is hoped that the study in this paper will be helpful for the future study and the translation of names.

Key word: English name; Translation methods; culture perspective
On Translation of English Names from Cultural Perspective


Thesis Statement: This paper through introducing the culture connotation and characteristics of English name, explore the strategies of English name translation, aiming at giving some suggestions in translating English names.
1. Introduction
Ⅱ. Cultural connotation and characteristics of English names and Chinese name
A. The naming ways of English name and its cultural connotation
1. The naming ways of English name
2. The culture connotation of English name
B. Cultural connotation of Chinese names
Ⅲ. Translation principles and translation format of English name
A. Translation format B. Translation principles
1. The principle of naming after the originating person or place
2. Common principle
3. Simplify principle
4. Other principle
Ⅳ. The specific problems of English names translation
A. The women’s name translation
B. The title translation
C. The correct use of punctuation
D. The use of their Chinese name
Ⅴ. The ways of translating English Names
A. Transliteration
1. Given name transliteration
2. The whole name transliteration
3. Abbreviation transliteration
4. Some other problems
B. Annotated Transliteration
C. Paraphrase
D. Law of Convention
E. Their own Chinese name translation
Ⅵ. Conclusion

Statement of Originality

I hereby declare that this thesis is my own work and has not been submitted in any form for another degree at any university or other institute of tertiary education. Information derived from the published and unpublished work of others has been acknowledged in the text and a list of references is given in the bibliography.

September 20th, 2014

On Translation of English Names from Cultural Perspective

Ⅰ. Introduction

For a long time, for the translation of names, the views on some scholars said: “a person's name or the name of an object is independent off the language, no meaning and connotation.They are untranslatable”.According to this theory, the best names translation methods should be the simplest transliteration methods. In general situations, especially during our daily communication with language, the translation of the foreigners’ name were treated with transliteration methods directly, even if the name of this person has another meaning. Such as Bill Gates (比尔.盖茨), George Bush(乔治.布什), etc.,This paper don’t translate them as (比尔.大门)or (乔治.灌木).
As simple as transliteration method itself, however, due to the change of era, the development of social language and the increase of Chinese and foreign cultural exchanges are also experiencing the change from domestication transliteration to alienation. Through observation of the recently popular literature translation, this paper can find that using the combination of transliteration and free translation methods to translate names began to become increasingly popular. Names,as an important component of social language, are also some kind of cultural carrier.They have the deep formation of long history and rich cultural connotation, and they also embody a concentrated reflection of national cultural characteristics. They have large capacity, a lot of etymologies, allusions.Their culture variation are numerous and complicated, and they imply different ethnic history, language, psychology, religion, custom, moral, ethical and other aspects of the information. Such as the name “Alexander”, this name is named after Alexander who is the ancient Greece king of Macedonia. While David’s allusion comes from the story of the bible: the king of Jew-David. Another example such as Helen (海伦), Angle (安吉尔), Pandora (潘多拉) and so on.All of them reflect the social and cultural connotation of western society. Even some simple and common names such as black(布莱卡) White (怀特), Smith (史密斯) and so on, the literal meaning for the words of the names often have their own meaning.This theory should be appeared to enough understanding and attentions. For example, the writers often give some special name to their roles to reflect the author's creation intention in their literature or film and television works.
This paper aims at studying the translation of English name.In this paper,there are some introduction about English names and some are about the translation of English name. The translation of English names is thought to be the important point of this paper. The following contents would be the study of this paper.

Ⅱ.Cultural connotation and characteristics of English names and Chinese name

Both English names and Chinese have cultural connotation and characteristics.It affects people’s daily life.Different definitions will be introduced in the following part.

A. The naming ways of English name and its cultural connotation

1. The naming ways of English name

The first naming way is Adam nomenclature.The bible says:Everything has no name. Then god created Adam.Adam call all of the animals together.Adam gave their names casually.These are the names of the animals. This is the Adam nomenclature. However, most English names are created according to the features nomenclature which this paper will refer to as follow.
The second naming way is Features nomenclature. This way concludes three situations. The first one: name after the characters of their occupation, residence.
English names are divided into the first name and last name. The first name is like Chinese ’s 名, this name is given according to the desire and the habit of their family. And the last name is like the 姓in China, they all have certain rules and their profound historical origin. Initially the name of a person was made just to make a distinction between other people, so their profession and habitual residence became the first choice of their last name.
Such as the national population census in 2002 in America,Smith has become a name which is used most widely in the United States. This is because “Smith” is the craftsmen in medieval England which is the most popular one in all industries. At that

time in Britain, every village has a blacksmith, peacetime plough.Horseshoes and other agricultural equipment were produced. During the war, they also made weapons. Then, "Smith” became one of English names. There are still a lot of English name which stand for occupations, such as Hunter.Their ancestors are Orion.Some people are called Tanner.Their ancestors used to be leather. The medieval theological flood caused the church being built all around.Construction industry developed rapidly, which makes the names relating to construction industry here and there. For example, the man who invented planes were called Wright(craftsman) and the woman who had sang the popular song “yesterday once more” was named Carpenter. The descendant of the craftsmen who built thatched house was called Margaret Thatcher(玛格丽特 撒切尔),It has been the name of prime minister of Britain. She is also a popular woman all around the world.
The second situations: Naming after their titles and degrees. Not only professional can be their names, but also their tittles can be their names. The guys who are named Duke, Baron, Bishop might have a very high birth, because this paper can look from their names.Their ancestors were the duke, baron and bishops. It's just the family name “王” “侯” in our country, this is because the eastern culture and the western culture are very similar when they are in the original state.
The last situations: Naming according to the person’s characteristics
In addition to professional, residence and generational name, English names can be controlled by the characteristics of the person. In ancient Greek mythology, Oedipus was pierced and abandoned by his hard-hearted father.A good neighbor took up him,after which the king gave him the name Oedipus, which is the meaning of the swollen feet. If one person’s name is named according to his characteristics, the name of a person would tend to suggest his personality characteristics. This method of feature naming are widely used in the literature. This paper can often know his or her personality traits through the observation of the characters’ name in the book . Men who are named Smith, for instance, are often careful and rigorous men.If a girl is called Lily, she is likely to be innocent and pure, because Lily was meant to be 百合

2. The culture connotation of English name

In the western countries, the constitute principle of names decided that the given name is before the family name, i.e., the last name in the back and the given name consists of first name and middle name. Therefore, a complete order of full name is the given name + middle name + family name. Edison's full name is, for example, Edison is his surname. Because westerners pay attention to the embodiment of the personality independence and their self-value, they always will place their given name which can reflect their personality before their last name which is on behalf of the general idea. Since many people in Britain and the United States is under the influence of ancient Greek culture and Christianity, the origin of names always comes from god or Christian doctrine in myths and legends. If you want to see the details , please see the table below
Table 1-1 The names
General male’s names The meaning of their names General female’s names The meaning of their names
Alexander 亚历山大- Human’s comfort Allen 艾伦-Sunshine
Henry 哼利-The dominator Alice 艾莉丝-Beauty
John 约翰-The favor of the god Elizabeth 伊丽莎白-The promise of the god
Mark 马克-Son of Ares Joan 珍妮-The love of the god

B. Cultural connotation of Chinese names

Chinese name is the product of ancient naming culture and the development of etiquette culture. With the development of the era, there created a serious of rules and patterns, which reflecting the social and cultural characteristics of contemporary China.
First of all, Chinese name is named according to the principle of beauty, it means the names should look and sound beautiful. Form’s beauty is mainly embodied in the glyph, the glyph should be well-balanced, the strokes should be simple; Sound’s beauty pursuit the feeling of catchy, loud, clear, such as "超" "刚" "强" "海" and so on; Meaning’s beauty emphasizes that the connotation should be rich and should reflect good fortune or some good wishes, such as "富" "发" "财" "祥"
Second, Chinese names has the distinct characteristics of The Times. Before the republic of China was founded, under the pressure of three mountain, cold and hunger, so living a stable and rich life is the people’s desire. As a result, often the people will make "发财" “官宝” and "得宝" as the name of their next generation. The names such as "解放" and "天明" and "建国" embodies the liberation of people joy and deep inner vision of a perfect day for the future.
Finally, there are significant gender differences in Chinese names. Because of sexual physiology characteristic and different social status, men and women’s names are different. Men’s name are given with powerful words, the words are full of masculinity, so commonly use the words such as "刚, 强, 坚, 鹏, 勇" to express their braveness and ambitions. Women are often use the words which looks elegant and soft , so they often name with words of elegant flowers and plants, such as "腊梅, 春兰, 迎春, 艳婵". They also like using the words like "惠芬, 敏佳, 秀珠" to express the characteristics of gentle, quiet and wise .

Ⅲ. Translation principles and translation format of English name

Translation principles and translation format play an important role in translating English names.
A. Translation format

If you want to translate English names, you should add a small dot between first name and last name ". ". When there are two names, it also should add a dot in the middle of them. When this paper translate English names, this paper are most likely to meet two cases. The first is that, when the given names are abbreviated and the last name is complete, at this time, the translation of the same name could have different format. For example, "G.D.kerr” can be translated into three formats: (1) G.D. 克尔; (2) G·D·. 克尔;(3)G·D.·克尔. The second case is that one given name abbreviations, the other given name is complete, the surname is also complete, and this case can also appear different versions of the format. For example, “George D. Kerr” can be translated as: (1) 乔治·D.·克尔; (2) 乔治·D·克尔(3) 乔治·克尔; (4)乔治D.克尔; (5) 乔治·D.克尔 ".Some people suggested that “G.D.K err” should be translated as "G.D.克尔", while "George D.Kerr" should be translated as "乔治·D·克尔", I also think the two translation format is more normative.
All in all, if this paper can effectively use the above methods, at meanwhile this paper should combining them with the reference of translation versions of lots of conventional and reference books, the translation of names will not be hard for us. This paper also need to pay attention to that this paper should have an accurate understanding of the original during our translation, otherwise, our translation can only be taken out of context and will not be a satisfactory work.

B. Translation principles

1. The principle of naming after the originating person or place

The principle of naming after the originating person or place, means proper noun transliteration and transliteration should be translated in accordance with the proper noun’s alleged object country or nation's pronunciation and writing. For example, the ancient Roman comedy writer Publius Terentius Afer, his name is “Terence” in the habits of English spelling, but this paper should not translate it from the English spelling "terrence", this paper should translated it according to the original Latin name and translated it as "泰伦提乌斯". Another example, in France, there is a province who is famous for its Champagne is named Champagne, even though there is a bit of difference in pronouncing the word “champagne” in French and English pronunciation, but this word in English completely retained the French spelling, so, Englishman who know something about French will read this word according to its French pronunciation. So, the examples this paper have discussed above is the principle of naming after the originating person or place.
Based on the principle of naming after the originating person or place, when this paper translate the name of European and American, the name surname should be in the back of their first name, For example: David Copperfield should be translated into "大卫·科菲波尔". In Britain and the United States, if the same name with different sound, then the Chinese translation should be different two, such as the word Berkeley translated into "巴克尔" when in Britain, as in the United States, this word should be translated as "贝克尔". As for the English names which have irregular pronunciations, such as the Maugham, it is translated into Chinese “毛姆” . Because of the influence of the reform and opening up, the localization of the culture influence the west deeply, some foreigners who live in China also want to take a name that sound like a Chinese name, such as Joseph Needham translated into Chinese is "李约瑟," John King Fairbank translated into Chinese is “费正清”.

2. Common principle

The so called Common principle means if one person have a special translated name and this translated name is accepted by most of other person, in general, this paperwill not translate his or her name again, which is in order to avoid the disorders. For examples:
W. Black W "布莱克" should not be translated into "W. 布雷克 ',
Ireland "爱尔兰" should not be translated into "爱尔兰德”
Adam "亚当" should not be translated into “埃达姆”,
Ohio "俄亥俄" should not be translated into "欧和欧”,
Groce "克罗齐" should not be translated into "克罗切"
Dr. Bethune, "白求恩大夫" should not be translated into "贝休恩大夫”

3. Simplify principle

When the name is more than four words, obviously is not easy to read, so this paper can omit the unimportant consonants in this name, make its short and easy to read and remember. For example, if “Shakespeare” is translated into "莎克士比亚" obviously it is not as easy to read as "Shakespeare". Again, such as, MacDonald is best translated as "麦唐娜", and should not be translated word by word as "麦克多纳而得". In addition, because that the name of the foreigners is long, the traditional Chinese translation method is just translated their last name translation. The famous British writer Shakespeare this paper have referred to above, his name’s translation is just follow this translation principle: this paper just translate his last name and this paper don’t translate his given name "威廉". Of course, sometimes this paper just translate someone’s given name only , for example, the Italian scientist Galileo Galilet, this paper always translate it as "伽利略".

4. Other principle

First of all, in the process of transliteration, this papershould be strictly in accordance with the transliteration of Chinese characters in the table, and try to avoid the words used to make ambiguity or misunderstanding. Hooks, for example, "胡克" should not be translated into "虎渴", Jeep "吉普" cannot be translated into "基普".
Second, the choice of the translation word should not be have distinct emotion colors. If this paper translated Bumble as "笨伯", obviously, this is not proper, it can only be translated into "本伯" ". In addition, in order to make the translation easy to read, it has better not use uncommon words. For example, Suez should be translated into "苏伊士" rather than "苏彝士"; Arab should be translated as "阿拉伯" rather than "阿喇伯". At last, this paper have a discussion of the translation of "Jr." in the front of English name. It is the abbreviation of “Junior”, its Chinese meaning is "small", it is placed before the full name and last name, which means this man has the same given name and the same last name with his father. For example “Jr. John. Kennedy” should be translated into “小约翰·肯尼迪”

Ⅳ. The important points during English names translation

A. The women’s name translation

If this paper needs to translate a female’s name, this paper should adopt the habit words of our Chinese female names, which can help the readers understand and accept it. The Chinese translation of a Woman's name should choose the word which are full of feminine colors, for example the word that are related to the flowers, grass, pearls, jade and so on. For example should be translated into "玛丽", because these two words in Chinese are related to jade and grass, this make the Chinese readers can know this is a name for girls immediately.

B. The title translation

This paper should not treat the degrees or the tittles that attach to the names as a part of their full name and transliterated by mistake. For example: Sir William shoule be translated into “威廉爵士”, King James should be translated into “詹姆士王”.

C. The correct use of punctuation

The small dot between the given name and the last name should not be forget, the original dot which stand for Reduction can be omitted, the dot before the double given names or the double last names should be retained.
For examples: Ellen Anderson Glasgow should be translated into “爱伦·安德森·格拉斯谷”; George D. Kerr should be translated into “乔治·D·克尔”; Julien- Philippe Lacheroy should be translated into “朱利安-菲利普·拉歇鲁瓦”.

D. The use of their Chinese name

Sinologist, missionaries in China and overseas Chinese often have two names : one Chinese name and one English name, their English names is unfavorable to be transliterated, they should directly use their own Chinese characters. For example, Joseph Needham "李约瑟"; John Turner, "唐安石”. In addition, when in the process of translating a person's name, this papershould also keep in mind to use the term that has been used for a long time , the person's name like "詹姆斯" "乔治", etc.; When this paper use the transliteration method, this paper should be careful to use free translation method, such as the names of “Wall” can only be translated into "沃尔", and it cannot be translated into "墙"; The names which are have the rational characteristic of the non-English speaking country should be translated according to the pronunciation in the own country. For example “ Skolovski ”, “斯克沃夫斯基”(polish).

Ⅴ. The ways of translating English Names

Generally speaking, translation of English names should follow three rules: follow the pronunciation of owners, use the standard pronunciation of the target language and adopt established popular translated names. 'There are five main methods of translating English names as described below.

A Transliteration

The commonly used surnames and their translations are Taylor(泰勒) Johnson(约翰逊),etc. And the usual personal names include David(人卫),Laura(劳拉),etc.
Translators should try to understand the cultural characteristics of the source language and the author's writing purpose(孙丽 , 2009). Such as "Shylock":夏洛克.But in the translation this paper should also pay attention to the following points: if there are such letters in the source language, these English letters can be directly used in translation.
C.S.Buder(C " S·布特勒)
In fact, the translation of English names cannot be too long or too short. 'too long ones are not easy to be used, and too short ones are noncustomary.
if foreigners have already taken Chinese names, their Chinese names should be directly used in translation.
Joseph Needham(“李约瑟',not“约瑟夫·尼达姆”)
Whiling translating, this paper should use specified words. And this paper also need to avoid the improper words. Sharp(“夏普”,not"吓普”)
The English names also have sexual distinction, so the words should be chosen carefully when translating.


1. Last name transliteration

The English last name is as various and numerous as the Chinese last name. Some of them taken from place names, such as "London" (London); There are also some of them comes from the name of the animals or plants, such as "the Lamb" (羔羊), "Wood" (木头); There is a small part of the English name comes from the name of the color, like a "Lamb", "Black", "Hill", these last names has been always translated into "拉姆", "布莱克" and "希尔", they have never been translated into "Lamb羊羔", and "黑色" and "小山”. Like the customs in our country the British girl's name is usually comes from the father, but after marriage, they will name after her husband's surname. Therefore, after Miss Cleghorn Stevenson marry to Willam Gaskell, she will be called Mrs Cleghorn Gaskell.
Compound surname is different from our compound surname such as “诸葛” “夏侯”. Our compound surname is you can't be broken up, and the compound surname in English is made up of two different surnames together. For example, "Edward Burne" Jones "(爱德华·伯纳·琼斯), a 19th-century British painter, his surname is exactly the combination of his mother's surname “Burne” and his father's surname "Jones".

2. The whole name transliteration

In English, names usually be transliterated on the whole, so that this papercan tell "Benjamin Franklin" (American philosopher and politician, 1706-1790) and "John Franklin (a British arctic explorer, "1786-1874) apart easily. The former is transliterated into"本杰明·富兰克林 ", while the latter is translated into "约翰·富兰克林".

3. Abbreviation transliteration

If there appears single capital letter in English names, this paper cannot transliterated it in accordance with its capital letters pronunciation. For example, "F.H. Fonk", if this paper only know the abbreviations, and don't know the full name of it, you can never translated it into "弗·赫·冯克”, and this paper should keep its abbreviations in Chinese translation. Therefore, "F.H.Fonk" can be translated as "F.H. 冯克 ".

B .Annotated Transliteration

Owing to profound historical and cultural backgrounds, different names have different characteristics. This paper should respect the source language culture and promote cultural exchange. Meanwhile, the translation has to reflect characteristics of the target language(杨小风,2008).
Many English works have closely attached to the characters described in classic literary works like Bible, Aesop's Fables, etc. if the names of gods which come from the above works need to be translated, this paper can use the method of transliteration. But in this way, abundant cultural connotations of the source texts cannot be reflected. And the readers of the target text may not be able to understand the original meaning completely. In such case, annotated transliteration is a good choice for the translators. This so-called annotated transliteration means to support explanatory annotation closely following the transliteration. For example, Sometimes, English names have no such evident features. Exceptions are as follows: (1) It is true that the enemy won the battle, but theirs is but a Pyrrhic victory.
敌人确实赢得了战斗,但他们的胜利只是皮洛士的胜利,得不偿失(Pyrrhus is the ancient Creek King of Epirus, and he once leaded his troop to fight with Rome in Italy. Though he defeated the Roman army, he paid a heavy price. Thus, the word "Pyrrhic victory" became a metaphor for taking heavy price.)

(2) You look like AL-Capone in that suit.
你穿上那套衣服,看上去就像流氓阿尔?卡彭了。(AL-Capone, a notorious criminal, is a leader of a criminal group in Chicago)

C. Paraphrase

The English names of some people who were real historical characters or persons in Bible, Greek and Roman mythology or literary works are familiar to common people. The value of these names exceeds their literal meaning, and these names stand for people of certain type or their special behavior. So this paper could use this type of people or behavior instead of the specific names(杨小风,2008). 1}'or example: ,lames Bond is a brave and resourceful spy in lan Fleming's novel, and his code is 007. Epicurus, a Grecian philosopher, who aimed at the pursuing of happiness, has become the substitute of gastronomy. Shylock is a role in Shakespeare's drama, who sought a fortune by practicing usury. ,lay Could, an American speculator of railway and financier, is quite rich.

D. Law of Convention

Law of convention in the translation of names means the words used in Chinese cannot be changed randomly, so as the sequencing of the component and the punctuation in translation(孙丽 , 2009). Even some wrong translation conforming to people’s habit cannot be changed either. Such as frequently used name "Charles", which translated into“查尔斯”. But as a king's name, it is generally translated into“查理”.Obama, the American president, is always translated into“奥巴马”,but it is better to be translated as“欧巴马”. Some English names are translated according to the sequencing of Chinese name. Such as Bernard Shaw as“肖伯纳”. In addition, it is better ,lohnson as a person's name will be translated into“约翰逊”,but as a dairy brand“强生”will be more acceptable. It is unnecessary to correct it. There are so many other examples such as Charles de Gaulle, ,lohan Wolfgang Von Goethe, etc.

E. Their own Chinese name translation

Some native English speakers take their own Chinese name, this embodies a kind of cultural exchange and international friendship, so, the translator should take the attitude of respect and use their own Chinese name directly translating their English name. For examples: The name of the Harvard University professor John k. Fairbank who had been sent to China twice by the United States should be translated as "费正清" rather than "费尔班克", The 1938 Nobel Prize winner, American female writer, Mrs Buck (Pearl S Buck)'s Chinese name is 赛珍珠.


To sum up, English names reflect the particular history and culture, as for the translator; if you want to translate English properly you need firstly to understand its structure, naming names and related cultural background. Of course, English name translation is not just conclude transliteration; this paper should pay attention to its cultural connotation, and connecting with the contexts to take appropriate translation method for our translation. Only in this way can this paper convey the original information to the readers. As for the current problems existing in the translation of English names, this paper hopes that they can be solved through further research.
In this paper, we can conclude that: (1) English names are just like Chinese names, there are also a lot of cultural connotations and characteristics in English names. (2)There are also some translation principles and translation format for English name translation. If we want to have a good translation for English names, we should comply with these principles and format. (3)If we want to translate English name well, we should also know how to translate English name, in this paper, there are some introductions about how to translate English name. It is hoped that these suggestions can be helpful for English translations.
There are also some defects in this paper, because of lacking of the experience and the knowledge, this paper cannot give all the introductions about English name translation. This paper also cannot list all the translation methods for English name translation. So, the suggestions and the corrections for this paper are absolutely necessary.


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Muyun Yang~(11) Kaiming Lin~1 Tiejun Zhao~1 Haoling Qi~(1,2) Sheng Li~1~1 School of Computer Science and Technology, Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin 150001,China ~2 Department of Computer, Heilongjiang Institute of Technology, Harbin 150003,China. Web Based Acquisition of Chinese Organization Name Translation. 中国中文信息学会信息检索与内容安全专业委员会.第四届全国信息检索与内容安全学术会议论文集(下).中国中文信息学会信息检索与内容安全专业委员会。

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师晓晓,“Film Name Translation,”《校园英语》,2014。

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