A Corpus study of early English translations of Cao Xueqin’s <i>Hongloumeng</i>
This paper investigates the stylistic profiles of the early English translations of Cao Xueqin’s masterwork <i>Hongloumeng</i> (<i>The Story of the Stone</i> or <i>Dream of the Red Chamber</i> 1791), by Bowra (1868–70), Joly (1892–3), and Giles (1885). Through a detailed comparison of early English translations of the Chinese novel, this paper demonstrates how a set of bivariate statistics, commonly used for the comparison of corpora, can be applied in translation studies. Our corpus study uncovered a number of textual phenomena that have been rarely discussed before. We found that while the use of functional expressions such as conjunctions and genitives is significantly higher in Bowra’s earlier translation than in Joly’s later version, the use of determiners is more frequent in Joly’s translation when compared to his predecessor’s work. A closer look at such contrastive textual patterns led to the identification of an important feature of Joly’s later translation, i.e. an enhanced use of English idiomatic expressions and phrases in his attempt at developing an idiosyncratic style of his own.