The extension of semantic meaning refers to extending a word’s meaning according to the context and logical relations and selecting an exact word in the target language, so as to make the translation more natural, native, and smooth.

Since the meaning of words in English greatly depends on the context and is variable, the extension of meaning is particularly important in English-Chinese translation. On the whole, there are three methods for the extension of semantic meaning, namely: conversion, concretization, and abstraction.

When we talk about extension in semantics, it is undoubtedly a challenging subject. In translation, if we apply mechanically the literal meaning of a word, the translated text will be ambiguous and hard to understand. Therefore, we should convert the word’s meaning according to the context as appropriate. If you ever wonder about what is the extension in semantics, here are some cases to illustrate the conversion of a word’s meaning.

Case 1

The factors which are likely to influence investment spending do not stop here.

The literal meaning of “do not stop here” is “不停留在这里”; if we apply this, the sentence is translated into “可能影响投资开支的因素并不停留在这里”, which is illogical. But if we convert the translation into “并不止这些”, this sentence becomes smooth.

Case 2

The second example of Semantic extension is here. Whether you like it or not, globalization is here to stay. We are not going to reverse the trend.

If the bold part is directly translated into “呆在这里”, the sentence is not smooth and logical. However, if it is converted into “已成为我们生活的一部分”, the information included in the original sentence is fully conveyed and is clearly understandable to readers.

Case 3

Our products, if maintained properly and regularly, can at least see twenty years of service.

If “see twenty years’ service” is directly translated into “看见20年的服务”, the translation is obviously illogical; but if extended to “使用20年”, the sentence becomes logical and explicit.

Talking about what is extension in semantics could be found complex factor by many. Therefore, it is important to absorb the relevant information fully.

Concretization is to extend an abstract word to a word with a specific meaning according to the expression ways in the target language during the translation, so as to make the sentence legible.

Case 4

Semantic extension examples include this case as the next one.

‘There is more to their life than political social and economic problems, more than transient everydayness.’

In this sentence, “everydayness” means “日常性” which is very abstract and the translation will be obscure. Therefore, we shall concretize it into “日常生活” and further “柴米油盐” which usually refers to daily life in Chinese.

Case 5

The factory is famous for its arsenal of technical geniuses.

The word “arsenal” means “军火库” (a place where many arms and ammunition are stored) which includes a meaning of “many”, so we can extend it to “众多”.

The abstraction of a word’s meaning is to extend the word representing a specific image to a word indicating abstract meaning in translation in order to obtain a more natural and smooth translation.

Case 6

The interest rates have see-sawed between 10 and 15 percent.

The word “see-sawed” means “swinging up and down like a seesaw” (像跷跷板一样上下摆动), and the keyword of this sentence is “interest” (利率), so we shall convert into an abstract word “波动”, making the translation concise.

Hence, all these cases help us to have clarity about the semantics definition which talks about linguistics and logical meaning and reasoning. 

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