Book Chapter

Translating food terminology as cultural and communicative processes



Li S (2021) Translating food terminology as cultural and communicative processes. In: Li S & Hope W (eds.) Terminology Translation in Chinese Contexts: Theory and Practice. Routledge Studies in Chinese Translation. London: Routledge, pp. 81-97.

This chapter uses data from comparable English and Chinese corpora and deploys a cultural communicative approach to terminology to analyse food-related terms and their translations. It features three case studies that focus on food safety and environment-related terms, on health and nutrition-related terms, and on seafood products. The case studies illustrate how food terminology formation is not only a linguistic and social process but also a cultural process. The chapter shows that terminological inconsistency, inappropriateness, and mistranslation are still serious issues affecting food-related products. For example, the translation of “organic food” into Chinese is discussed, the term being 有机食品 (yŏu jī shípĭn), which means “food produced with machine or technology”. The term is misleading, given the process of producing organic food. This uninviting translation, together with the cost of such products, would put them at a disadvantage compared to “green food”, which was translated as 绿色食品 (lǜsè shípǐn) and which benefits from more positive cultural connotations in Chinese. The chapter advocates more systematic interdisciplinary research led by linguists and translators to bring together environmental scientists, food nutritionists, marketing researchers, and others, with the goal of harmonizing food terminologies and facilitating more appropriate product labelling. From a legal perspective, the chapter proposes more rigorous enforcement of standardized food terminologies and processes to regulate food safety and traceability.

food terminology; cultural communicative approach; environment-related terms; seafood terms; health- and nutrition-related terms

FundersAHRC Arts and Humanities Research Council
Title of seriesRoutledge Studies in Chinese Translation
Publication date31/12/2021
Publication date online23/02/2021
Publisher URL…ok/9780367439538
Place of publicationLondon

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Dr Saihong Li

Dr Saihong Li

Senior Lecturer in Translation Studies, French