Submitted by Robert Felt on January 17, 2007 - 1:16pm.

Critical Conceptual Differences

The essence of the term debate concerns critcal conceptual values in the choices made about translation:

Critical Conceptual Differences

Wiseman & Colleagues

Bensky & Colleagues

Source Oriented: Chinese medical concepts must be understood in their native Chinese context, even if the reader must learn their meaning.

Audience Oriented: Chinese medical concepts should be simplified or modified for ease of reading, transparency.

The data set is large: Terms represented in Chinese language Chinese medical dictionaries constitute the term set (about 30,000 concepts).

The data set is small: Terms are only unusual or unfamiliar words (a few hundred concepts).

Inclusive: All the concepts present in the Chinese text must be preserved in the English text as a matter of information integrity.

Selective: Selected concepts can be simplified or deleted from the English text to improve audience reception.

No Biomedicalization: Where Chinese clinical experts assert exact correspondences between a Chinese and a biomedical state, the Chinese notion is retained by the translation and the biomedical correspondence is referenced. Biomedical correspondences agreed upon by Chinese experts are presented as "Western Medical Correspondences."

Biomedicalization: Chinese medical notions can be freely translated as biomedical states, diseases and symptoms, whether or not the Chinese diagnostic criteria are the same. Rough equivalence is acceptable if it allows the use of familiar words and ideas.

Author Priority: Value is in the original author's understanding. The translator must transmit the author's ideas unmodified.

Translator Priority: The clinical value of English text is based on the translator's clinical understanding.

Frame Preservation: The Chinese frame of reference must be maintained, regardless of western ideas.

Frame Translation: The Chinese frame of reference may be abandoned when it challenges western ideas

Content Preservation: The "map" between the original and the translation must be one-to-one. Either all the material is translated or deletion and additions are clearly described.

Content Simplification: Content may be modified and text simplified for the intended audience.

So, as you continue through the following parts of the Guided Tour, please keep this in mind: the term debate is not about words, it is about where Chinese medicine can be found - in the Chinese conceptual frame work (with all its complexities) or in the interpretations of Chinese medicine provided by individuals for particular audiences. As a bookseller, I see it as a matter of genre. Both approaches are valid in the appropriate circumstances. Loose, paraphrased translations are ideal for non-specialists who do not need to carry a basic understanding forward to deeper expertise. Source-oriented translations, on the other hand, belong in the hands of students and clinicians seeking to apply the medicine to its greatest extent. However, these are not equal choices. Both have different costs. Source-oriented translations are more expensive to prepare and easier to review and criticize because the one-to-one map makes it easier for other scholars to examine the concepts and translation decisions. Audience-oriented translations make fewer demands on readers but are difficult to assess because there is no direct map between the Chinese source and the English text.

These conceptual differences are particularly critical for database-oriented projects. Where concepts are simplified or lost in translation, the ability to relate concepts is reduced and the possibility of false relationships is increased. Imagine that you are crossing from one country to another and the customs agents demand that you can only bring three of your five suitcases into their country. No matter what you do, your things will be reshuffled and some will be left behind. This is exactly what happens when the 30,000 some ideas that exist in Chinese language Chinese medicine are conflated (multiple concepts combined into one concept) and rearranged.