Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Dances with Words: Issues in the Translation of Japanese Literature into English

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posted on 2021-11-12, 12:28 authored by Donovan, Richard Ninian

Chapter One: Literary Translation Studies, Japanese-to-English Translation, and Izu no odoriko This introductory chapter explores aspects of Translation Studies relevant to Japanese-to-English literary translation. I employ extended metaphors from the case study, Kawabata Yasunari's novella Izu no odoriko,to re-illuminate perennial TS issues such as equivalence, 'style' and disambiguation, contrasting the translating approaches of Edward G. Seidensticker and J. Martin Holman. The chapter concludes with an outline of the investigative path I followed in analysing the sourcetext (ST) and comparing it with the target texts (TTs): the English translations. I explain the thesis's systematic corpus approach in using an NVivo database to establish a set of potentially problematic translation issues that arise out of the interaction of source language-target language (SL-TL) features.  Chapter Two: A Taxonomy of Japanese Paradigmatic Features and the Issues Arising for Translation into English The Japanese and English languages have significant lexical and morpho-syntactic differences, which I contend give rise to potentially problematic translation issues. The chapter begins by differentiating cultural and linguistic features and explaining why the thesis will focus on the latter. The rest of the chapter presents a detailed analysis of ST exemplars of the most significant of the paradigmatic (lexical) features. Seidensticker and Holman's translations are analysed to determine how they have addressed the translation issues arising from these features.  Chapter Three: A Taxonomy of Japanese Syntagmatic Features and the Issues Arising for Translation into English This chapter continues the analysis of linguistic differences between Japanese and English in the context of literary translation. Here the focus is on the syntagmatic (structural)features of Japanese in comparison with English, again examining examples from the ST and comparing how the translators address the issues arising in their translating decisions.  Chapter 4: 'Shall We Dance?' Translation Acts in the English Translations of Izu no odoriko and Beyond The focus moves to the features of the translators' overall translation strategies, and how they apply these strategies in their translating decisions: so-called 'translation acts'. Conducting a close reading of the ST and TTs of a pivotal scene in Izu no odoriko, I draw on previous academics' frameworks to create a simple rubric for categorising the manifestation of these strategies at the discourse level. The chapter concludes by drawing together the theoretical and empirical strands of the thesis and demonstrating the relevance of this discussion to the English translation of Japanese literature. While acknowledging the necessarily subjective nature of the translational act, and the sophisticated techniques the translators employ to deal with complex issues, I propose that my analytic framework urges more care in the preservation of semantic and formal elements than can be observed in aspects of the translations examined.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Literary Translation Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Languages and Cultures


Epstein, Stephen; Ito, Yushi