Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login

New from Cambridge University Press!


Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

E-mail this page

We Have a New Site!

With the help of your donations we have been making good progress on designing and launching our new website! Check it out at!
***We are still in our beta stages for the new site--if you have any feedback, be sure to let us know at***

Dissertation Information

Title: Rendition Techniques in the Chinese Translation of Three Sanskrit Buddhist Scriptures Add Dissertation
Author: Shu-Fen Chen Update Dissertation
Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 2000
Linguistic Subfield(s): Translation;
Subject Language(s): Chinese, Mandarin
Director(s): Hans Hock

Abstract: The goal of this dissertation is to study the various rendition techniques in the Chinese translation of three Sanskrit Buddhist scriptures. In past studies most of the scholars did not pay attention to numerous facts such as who translated the Sanskrit Buddhist terms, when the translations were made, where those monks came from, or what dialects they spoke, etc. In fact, chronology and nationality did play important roles in regard to the translators' choices of different rendition strategies. The three Buddhist Sanskrit scriptures examined in this study are --- Vajracchedikaprajnaparamitasutra (Diamond Sutra), Prajnaparamitahrdayasutra (Heart Sutra), and Sukhavativyuyha (Sukhavati Sutra).

I find that the traditional recognized categories are not enough to deal with borrowings from Buddhist Sanskrit texts, and a much wider range of different rendition techniques are employed. The Chinese terms are classified into four main types, namely, transliteration, translation, hybrid words and inexact renditions. Each main rendition type is further subcategorized into several subtypes. Several important findings are discovered while classifying the translation techniques: Chinese syllable length was used to compensate Sanskrit vowel length in transliteration; a 'nominal head' was added to Chinese terms when translating Sanskrit adjectives without a head noun; a borrowed term, such as •lŽF /bu s~t/ 'Bodhisattva' or ˜E /b8w$t/ 'Buddha' which has entered the Chinese lexicon can function as a semantic marker; inexact renditions including renditions with added information or deleted information, loose translation and wrong translation are considered a separate rendition technique.

It is found that some translators are similar in rendering the Sanskrit terms based on three factors: first, they followed their precursors' renditions; second, they lived at close periods in history; third, they came from the same regions or countries. It is also found that Xuan-Zang's fourth principle of untranslatability 'terms which are well established by precedent' should include not only transliteration, but also translation, hybrid words and inexact renditions. The well-established terms usually refer to the basic concepts in Buddhism, and even lay people are familiar with them. The translation of terms which are peripheral notions in Buddhism was usually not standardized and caused great variation among different translators.