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Ideographic Forms in English

Before discussing the ideographic forms in English, we need to learn two terms and their definitions. The first term is “inflecting language”. It means “a language in which the form of a word changes to show a change in meaning or grammatical function. Often there is no clear distinction between the basic part of the word and the part which shows a grammatical function such as number or tense.” And the second term is “isolating language”, which means “a language in which word forms do not change, and in which grammatical functions are shown by word order and the use of function words.” Though there may be some isolating language features in English, the English itself is still an inflecting language compared to Chinese. This is because many forms and features can be presented by the change of word forms, such as tense, voice, tone, property, etc. For example, the word glory and “光荣” in Chinese. In the phrase “全队的光荣”, it is used as a noun, and in the phrase “光荣负伤”, it becomes an adverb. The word itself does not change its form to express different meaning; but in English, glory is a noun, glorious is an adjective, and gloriously is an adverb, simple as that. Therefore, during translation, especially when you are translating Chinese into English, adapting the skills of changing word forms is the key. In some cases, the comparative degree and the superlative degree in Chinese may be not as clear as they are in English. Let’s see some examples below: 中文(更)好学还是英文(更)好学? Which is easier, Chinese or English? 这两个我都喜欢,你(更)喜欢哪个? I like them both, which one do you like better? 还是坐飞机(更)快。 Travelling by plane is faster after all. The comparative degree occurred both in English and Chinese; however, without strict form changing in Chinese, it is not easy to see the comparison if we do not add up the word in the blankets. Understanding this difference between Chinese and English is the theoretic base for practical translation service; and by doing so, we can eliminate the interference from our native language.

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