Li Chaoyuan: Reference to and translation of Chinese social media discourse by Western media

TAC, June 12, 2016

Editor's note: The Eighth Asia-Pacific Translation and Interpreting Forum (APTIF) will be held in Xi'an, China on June 17-18, 2016. The theme of this year's conference is "Translation and Interpreting in Tomorrow's Asia-Pacific Region." The following is a summary of the research paper submitted by Li Chaoyuan with The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Title: Reference to and translation of Chinese social media discourse by Western media


The overwhelming popularity of social media has made it an important source of information for traditional mass media. Not only do trending topics and events on social media frequently find their way to mass media, the latter is also enthusiastic in incorporating discourse from the former. This phenomenon becomes even more noteworthy when social media discourse crosses the linguistic boundary to be represented by foreign media.

Drawing upon a corpus of 242 reports by the TIME magazine ( that refers to Chinese social media either in the title or in the body text, the present study investigates their representation of Chinese social media discourse in terms of the following parameters: 1) marking (Is the Chinese social media discourse reported in direct or indirect speech and with or without credit to its original author?); 2) translation/modification (What strategies are employed in translating Chinese social media discourse into English?); and 3) stance (What stance does the TIME report take towards the quoted Chinese discourse?). Marking and stance were both analyzed in the TIME reports only, while the analysis of translation involved both English and Chinese texts: Chinese social media discourse quoted by TIME was first back-translated into the Chinese language to locate the original text in Chinese social media, and strategies employed by TIME in Chinese-English translation were then examined.

Results indicate a landscape of active trans-media and trans-national intertextuality, diversifying voices represented by Western mass media in covering issues related to China as well as an emerging role of Chinese social media in framing Western media coverage of China-related issues.

About the author:

Li Chaoyuan, PhD candidate, Department of Chinese and Bilingual Studies, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University; lecturer, School of Translation Studies, Xi’an International Studies University. Her research interests include media discourse analysis, translation studies, and sociolinguistics.

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