Skip to main content

Going to Understand 柴? Evidence and Significance of Metonymic Chains in Chinese/English Translation

  • Chapter
  • First Online:
New Perspectives on Corpus Translation Studies

Part of the book series: New Frontiers in Translation Studies ((NFTS))

  • 742 Accesses


Based on three researches using big data (Chinese/English corpora) and small data (translation of a particular Chinese character), and assisted by other diachronic and synchronic records, this article attempts to establish the central argument that metonymic chains do exist in Chinese/English Translation practice. By metonymic chains in translation, it is meant that a chain of correlatively motivated metonymic extensions or inferences that are found in the multiple target language renditions of the source language original, and these semantic extensions or inferences are in compliance with human metonymic operations. The first study is on the Chinese term 明白 [míng bái] and its English equivalents. The second research study investigates the relationship between the English verbal and grammatical phrase be going to and its numerous translated Chinese counterparts. The third is a small part of a meticulous analysis of the English translations of Wang Wei’s 鹿柴 [lù chái/zhài], with the focus on the English translations of the Chinese character 柴. The findings show that many variations in Chinese/English translation cannot be a simple matter of unmotivated randomness or arbitrariness in style or diction. Rather, they are the demonstrations of different links in a metonymic chain that is justifiable by the cognitive rationale and can be uncovered when adequate diachronic and synchronic data are examined from the embodiment and frame semantics perspectives. In the translation practice, the metonymic conceptual movements are more fundamental than metaphorical projections, which are often found to be made by smaller metonymic operations in a chain. Based on the curves depicting the one-to-many relations between the source language originals and the target language renderings that constitute the metonymic chain, it is found that the Pareto Principle offers a close mathematical approximation of the data. In Chinese/English translation practice and studies, this means, about 20% of the data is able to account for about 80% of the total translation outputs. Pedagogically and theoretically, therefore, this 20% deserves our special attention.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
$34.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or eBook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
USD 129.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book
USD 169.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info
Hardcover Book
USD 169.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

Similar content being viewed by others


  • Barcelona, A. 2002. Clarifying and applying the notions of metaphor and metonymy within Cognitive Linguistics: an update. In Metaphor and metonymyin comparison and contrast, ed. R. Dirven and R. Pörings, 207–277. (Cognitive Linguistics Research 20). Berlin/New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

    Google Scholar 

  • Barcelona, A. 2005. The multilevel operation of metonymy in grammar and discourse, with particular attention to metonymic chains. In Cognitive linguistics: Internal dynamics and interdisciplinary interaction, ed. R.M. Ibanez, and F.J. Sandra Pena Cervel, 313–352. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bergen, B.K. 2012. Louder than words: The new science of how the mind makes meaning. New York, NY: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bredin, H. 1984. Metonymy. Poetics Today 5 (1): 45–58.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bybee. J., R. Perkins, and W. Pagliuca. 1999. The evolution of grammar: Tense, aspect, and modality in the languages of the world. Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bybee, J.L. 2007. Frequency of use and the organization of language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Cai, Z. 2012. How to read Chinese poetry. New York: Columbia University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Carsetti, A. 2004. Seeing, thinking and knowing: Meaning and self-organization in visual cognition and thought. Dordrecht: Springer.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Dancygier, B., and E. Sweetser. 2014. Figurative language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Evans, V. 2007. A glossary of cognitive linguistics. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Evans, V. 2009. How words mean: Lexical concepts, cognitive models, and meaning construction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Evans, V., and M. Green. 2006. Cognitive linguistics: An introduction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Feldman J., and S. Narayanan. 2004. Embodied meaning in a neural theory of language. Brain Lang 89 (2): 385–392. doi:

  • Gibbs, R.W. 1994. The poetics of mind: Figurative thought, language, and understanding. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gibbs Jr., R. 2005. Embodiment in metaphorical imagination. In Grounding cognition: The role of perception and action in memory, language, and thinking, ed. D. Pecher, and R. Zwaan, 65–92. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:

  • ICSI [International Computer Science Institute, University of California, Berkeley]. 2020. Metaphor: KNOWING IS SEEING .

  • Konblock, J. 1988. Xunzi: A translation and study of the complete works. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kövecses, Z. 2013. The metaphor–metonymy relationship: Correlation metaphors are based on metonymy. Metaphor and Symbol 28 (2): 75–88.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lakoff, G., and M. Johnson. 2010. Philosophy in the flesh: The embodied mind and its challenge to Western thought. New York, NY: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lakoff, G. (Presenter). 2015, March 14. How brains think: the embodiment hypothesis. International Convention of Psychological Science. YouTube,

  • Lin, Z. 2013. Conceptual similarities in languages—Evidence from English be going to and its Chinese counterparts. In Research in Chinese as a second language, ed. I. Kecskés, 235–255. De Gruyter Mouton.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Lin, Z. 2017. Mental simulation and translation: An analysis of the cognitive motivations in the English translation of 天静沙 思秋. Intercultural Communication Studies: ICS. XXVI 2: 145–156.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lin, Z. 2018. Variations in Tang poetry English translation—A cognitive rationale. In Macao Language and culture research (2017), ed. H. I. Lei, 292–309. Macao: Macao Polytechnic Institute.

    Google Scholar 

  • Littlemore, J. 2018. Metonymy: Hidden shortcuts in language, thought and communication. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Radden, G., and Kövecses, Zoltán. 1999. Towards a theory of metonymy. Metonymy in Language and Thought. 17–59.

  • Talmy, L. 2018. The Targeting system of language. The MIT Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Wang, L. 王力. 2000. 王力古汉语字典Wang Li gu hanyu zidian [A dictionary of Classical Chinese by Wang Li]. Beijing: Zhonghua shu ju.

    Google Scholar 

  • Weinberger, E., O. Paz, and W. Wang. 1987. Nineteen ways of looking at Wang Wei: How a Chinese poem is translated, 10. Kingston, R.I: Asphodel. Retrieved August 18, 2020 from

  • Xu, Y., P. Lu, and J. Wu. 1988. Tang shi san bai shou xin yi: Ying Han dui zhao = 300 Tang poems, a new translation : English-Chinese. Beijing: Zhongguo dui wai fan yi chu ban gong si.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Zi-yu Lin .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2021 The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd.

About this chapter

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this chapter

Lin, Zy. (2021). Going to Understand 柴? Evidence and Significance of Metonymic Chains in Chinese/English Translation. In: Wang, V.X., Lim, L., Li, D. (eds) New Perspectives on Corpus Translation Studies. New Frontiers in Translation Studies. Springer, Singapore.

Download citation

  • DOI:

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Singapore

  • Print ISBN: 978-981-16-4917-2

  • Online ISBN: 978-981-16-4918-9

  • eBook Packages: EducationEducation (R0)

Publish with us

Policies and ethics