A Translation Analysis of Nursery Rhymes in the English Version of The Straw House Based on Relevance Theory: a Cognitive Approach

Jiaqi WANG, Shuo CAO


The Straw House (草房子) written by Cao Wenxuan (曹文轩) had encountered overseas coldness before the writer won the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2016. Such a phenomenon has been attributed to three main reasons: copyright agents, translation challenges, promotion and review of social media.

Taking the translation of five nursery rhymes as the research object which play a vital role in the English version of The Straw House, this study analyzed and explored the translation approaches of those nursery rhymes adopted by Sylvia Yu, Julian Chen and Christopher Malone. Through case analysis, a concrete analysis was made of the translation methods of the nursery rhymes, contrasted with the Chinese Mother Goose Rhymes by Isaac Taylor Headland, a book of similar genre. Based on Relevance Theory, a discussion of advantages and disadvantages of the translations was made before solutions were put forward to the translation problems which led to the failure to communicate the author’s intention to the target readers. It was found out that despite the attention to the reproduction of the original content by using literal strategy, the translation ignored the individual characteristics, contextual functions and the role in emotional expression that nursery rhymes play. In this process, the separation of the original information intention and communication intention, the loss of contextual presupposition and implication all resulted in the absence of relevancy which fails the communication. Based on the identified translation problems, some solutions were proposed. It is hoped that these solutions will bring inspirations to the translation of nursery rhymes in children’s literature.



The Straw House; Nursery rhymes; Relevance theory; Information intention; Communication intention

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3968/12128


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