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Differences between English and Chinese

It is without doubt that there are great differences between English and Chinese, not only in diction, but also in syntax and discourse organization. The following paragraphs will discuss the differences in these three aspects.

2.1 Difference in diction: simple vs. complex

Chinese attaches importance on complex ornament and there are abundant magnificent words or phrases, while English usually advocates direct and simple depiction. For example,

(1) 两岸树木葱茏,鲜花繁茂,芳草萋萋。
(1A)On both banks, the trees are verdant, the flowers are full-blown, and the grass is luxuriant.
(1B) Tree, flowers, and grass, a picture of natural vitality, thrive on both banks.
Sentence (1A) reflects a typical Chinese thinking mode---the writer tends to use similar structures or repetition. Obviously, it is not so coherent, simple or clear, and violates the English expression convention. If mended properly, these similar three clauses of sentence (1A) can be combined together into one sentence---sentence (1B). The latter sentence seems simpler and clearer.

2.2 Difference in syntax: noun-dominated vs. verb-dominated

Nouns are widely used in the Chinese language, but the English language usually adopts simple and concrete verbs. “Simple English is a language based on verbs. It is simple and full of vitality, and what is more important is that it's fairly clear and easy to understand. Chinglish, however, is a language based on broad, abstract nouns. It is quite complex, lengthy, and even ambiguous"(Pinkham, 2000: 170). For example:

(2) 随着货币和物价取得稳定,根据新的条件和需求,必须在全国进行商业调整和交通与通讯的改善,为生产恢复服务。
(2A) With stability of currency and prices achieved, there had to be readjustment of industry and commerce as well as improved communications throughout the country, in accordance with the new conditions and demands, so that they could serve the restoration of production.
(2B)Once the currency and prices were stabilized, to help restore production we had to readjust industry and commerce and improve communications throughout the country, in accordance with the new conditions and new demands.
Sentence (2A) adopts a lot of abstract nouns to convey the writer's idea. It is right in syntax, but is unclear to the readers and doesn’t sound idiomatic. Sentence (2B), however, has made some proper conversion of words. The abstract nouns "stability", "re-adjustment", "improvement" are respectively converted to their homologous verb forms--- "stabilized", "re-adjust", "improve", making the sentence clearer to understand and avoiding ambiguity.

2.3 Difference in discourse organization: parataxis vs. hypotaxis

The Chinese language attaches importance to parataxis, while the English pays more attention to hypotaxis. English language usually adopts abundant connective words to demonstrate the relations of different clauses of sentences, but the Chinese uses fewer. English uses a great number of attributive clauses, participle phrases, and preposition phrases to indicate a "subjective + clause" relation, but the Chinese language then has fewer such expression rs, and adopts juxtaposed structure instead. For instance:

(3) 陕西是中华民族文明的发源地之一,陕西是中国五千年文明的缩影,陕西是所有炎黄子孙的根基。
(3A) Shanxi is one of the birthplaces of the civilization of the Chinese nation; Shanxi is also the root of all people of Chinese descent.
(3B) Shanxi is one of the birthplaces of the civilization of China and is also the root of all Chinese descendents.
Sentence (3A) seems to be loose in structure, and not fit for the English readers' expectation. Sentence (3B) adds a connective word "And" and abridges some repeated words. Concerning this kind of difference between Chinese and English, Pinkham said: “Chinese usually adopts juxtaposed sentence without any connective tags. The meaning between different clauses is easy to understand for Chinese readers, but when translated into English, the translation turns out to be clumsy, unclear, and difficult to comprehend for English readers"(Pinkham, 2000: 181).