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《翻译的基本知识》| ​英文长句的译法

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我们从Everyman Library 或The World’s Classics 中取出以年代为顺序的英国代表散文选来读的时候,便可发觉英文造句的变迁,以前流行写很长的句子,现在却倾向于简化了。我们的生活,一天天的繁忙起来,没有前人那样悠闲自在;从前从欧洲到亚洲,要走上十几年才走得到,现在抵消一两天工夫就行了。一切都缩短了,英文的造句也不在例外,以前一个句子长达三百字以上,常常一页书只有一句,并不算什么稀奇。至于一百多字长的句子,更是俯拾皆是。


例如约摸在二百年前出版的Lawrence Sterne 著The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy 一书,我们就可以在其中读到一百四十五字长的如下的文句:


I wish either my father or my mother, or indeed both of them, as they were in duty both equally bound to it, had minded what they were about when they begot me; had they duly considered how much de pended upon what they were then doing;—that not only the production of a rational being was concerned in it, but that possibly the happy formation and temperature of his body, perhaps his genius and the very cast of his mind;—and, for aught they knew to the contrary, even the fortunes of his whole house might take their turn from the humours and dispositions which were then uppermost;—had they duly weighed and considered all this, and proceeded accordingly, I am verily persuaded I snould have made a quite different figure in the world, from that in which the reader is likely to see me.


(我希望我的父亲或是我的母亲,不,我的双亲,因为他们两人同样地对此都有义务,当他们生我的时候,会注意到他们所做的事;如果他们适当地想过,他们当时所做的事,是有何等大的影响;那不单是产生一个有理性的人,而且身体适合的形成和要素的配合,也许他的天赋及其心灵的典型都产生出来:而由于那时他们最强烈的性情和意向,恐怕要甚至改变他们全家的命运;如果他们适当地仔细考虑过这一切,因而照着进行的话,我确信我早成为与读者诸君此后可能见到的我,完全两样的一个人物了吧。)


以上是依照原文也译成一个长长的中文句子,如能表出原意已属万幸,泱谈不上通顺流利。


据R. Flesch 的研究,伊利莎白时代的文句,长度平均是四十五字,维多利亚时代平均是二十九字,到现代便只有十几二十字了。文章要使人容易了解,最要紧的条件,就是句子要短,每句不到十九个字的句子,是最容易了解的,二十八字以上的句子就相当费解了。


现代的文人不愿咬文嚼字,故意矫揉造作,只求平易通达,所以都是用的短句,例如美国的大作家海明威(Ernest Hcmingway)所写的短篇Cat in the Rain 起头的一节:


There were only two Americans stopping at the hotel. They did not know any of the people they passed on the stairs on their way to and from their room. Theif room was on the second floor facing the sea. It also faced the public garden and the war monument. There were big palms and green benches in the public garden. In the good weather there was always an artist with his easel. Artists liked the way the palms grew and the bright colours of the hotels facing the gardens and the sea. Italians came from a long way off to look up at the war monument. It was made of bronze and glistened in the rain. It was raining. The rain dripped from the palm trees. Water stood in pools on the gravel paths.


(那旅馆里只住着两个美国人。他们从房间里出来,或是从外面回到房间里去的途中,在楼梯上所碰到的人,一个也不认识。他们的房间,是在面对着海的二楼。那又朝向公园和战争纪念碑。在公园中有大的棕榈树和绿色的櫈子。当天气晴和的时候,总是有一个画家带着画架到公园里去。画家们喜欢棕榈树生长的样子,喜欢那些面向公园和海的旅馆的鲜明的色彩。意大利人从远处来此看那战争纪念碑。那是铜制的,在雨中闪耀发光。那时正下着雨。雨从棕榈树上落下来。在那石子铺的小路上,有着一滩滩的水。)


海明威的文章平均每句只有十一个字,正是所谓tough style(吃力的文体)。除了必要的以外,决不加修饰语句,俾可给读者一个正确而简明的印象。在上面这十二个句子当中,有九句是单句,只有两句是复句,一句是合句。就是那复句也都把其中的关系代名词省略掉了(即any of the people(that)they passed 及liked the way(in which)the palms grew)。


反之,我们看Sterne 的那个长句中,竟用了九个之多的连词,都是把从属子句连在主句上的,这样的主从关系,便叫作hypotaxis(从属);与此相反的便叫作parataxis(并列),如罗马皇帝的名句I came, I saw, I conquered. (我来了,我看见了,我征服了。)


文章之难于了解,不仅是在其太长,而且是在从属舆并列的关系太复杂。原来古代的英语只有并列,后来因人的思想愈趋复杂,便发展到微妙的从属关系了。例如古人说I know that:he is honest. (句中that 为指示代名词)。今人说I know that he is honest. (句中的that 便成为连词了)。古人说Had I the time? I would go. (前句原是问句)。今人说Had I the time(= If I had the time),I would go(前句成为假定句了)。由此可见从并列进展到从属的过程和迹象了。


中英文法不同,表现方法亦异。一般而论,中文简洁而英文繁复。中文一字一义,至多一辞一义,而英文则常用冗长的修饰句来表达一个意思,所以英文每多长句。严几道在“天演论”例言中说:“西文句中名物字多随举随释……少者二三字,多者数十百言。”他所指的就是说英文中的形容词子句或分词片语等,那些修饰语每置于其所形容的名词之后,用which, who, that 等关系代名词引道,少则二三字,多则几十字或上百字,使得英文句子愈拉愈长。严氏又下断话说:“假今仿此为译,则恐必不可通。”所以我们翻译这些像一列火车似的英文长句,必须把它切断来译,才可使之成为通顺的中文。切断的方法很多,现就其重要者,例解如下:


(1)在关系代名词处切断


Time is of no account with great thoughts, which are as fresh today as when they first passed through their authors’minds ages ago.

(时间和伟大的思想是没有什么重大关系的。那些思想直到今日,仍然和往昔在其创始者的头脑中最初出现时一样,是依旧很新鲜的。)


(2)在关系副词处切断


The pale old man was calmly sitting in the in convenient little back room which the household was taught to call his study, when the smiling face of the housemaid appeared at the door, holding a slip of paper in her hand.

(那位面容苍白的老人正平静地坐在那间不方便的內室中,而那间內室是他要家人称为他的书斋的。这时候.手中拿着一张纸条的女仆的笑脸,便在门前出现了。)


(3)在副词处切断


In the life of a healthy youth there must be opportunities for physical daring and endurance, especiatly in such an age as ours when there is nothing compulsory to call out the reserves of physical power in the lives of young men.

(在一个健康青年的生命里,必须有机会来让他养成身体上的勇气与耐力。在我们所处的这个时代中,没有任何强制的事物,可以在年轻人的生命中喚起內蕴的精力的,所以这种机会尤属必要。)


(4)在动词处切断


The president, in giving to his most powerful and most distinguished rival the greatest place which a president ever has it in his power to bestow, gave an excellent proof of the nobleness of his own spirit.

(那位总统把自己权力所能给与的最大职位,给与了他的最有势力,而又最为卓越的敌手。这便是他的高尚精神的最好的证据。)


(5)在名词处切断


It was pleasant to review the past without anger or bitterness, although God knows he had cause enough for bitterness; the Theatre going to the dogs as it was and all these inexperienced muttering young actors playing leading parts in the West End.

(在既不生气,也不难受的情況下,来回过过去是愉快的,虽则他心中自有足够使倍感到难受的地方,不过不为他人所知罢了。例如看到戏剧界堕落到现在这个样子,而一些毫无经验的,连台词都念不清楚的年轻小伙子;却在伦敦西区的大舞台上当超主角来。)


翻译并无一定的方法,同样一句话,十个人也许可以翻译十种不同的译文来,正所谓把戏人人舍变,各有巧妙不同。以上所举五种不同的译法,想来决不止此,我只不过是窥豹一斑而已。还有这五种方法,也并不限于在一句中只能用一种,译者是可以同时并用的。一句英文的长句是应该尽量把它译成许多短句的,决不限于只能切断为两句。


阳光创译的核心定位已经由最初的“阳光创译=矿业翻译”——中国地质矿业翻译领军品牌逐渐延伸扩展成“阳光创译=中国国际矿业服务大平台”,涵盖矿业翻译、矿业会展、矿业咨询、矿业猎头、“一带一路”矿业商会、矿业媒体等国际矿业服务板块。


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