Translating food terminology as cultural and communicative processes: A corpus-based approach

Posted by av128 at Mar 11, 2021 12:56 PM |
Dr Saihong Li, University of Stirling


This talk 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 study 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. This study 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 study proposes more rigorous enforcement of standardized food terminologies and processes to regulate food safety and traceability.


Dr Saihong Li is Senior Lecturer in Translation Studies at the University of Stirling and supervises PhD students in Translation and Interpreting Studies. She is an executive council member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists. She has been the director of degree programmes at universities in Britain, Denmark, and China. Dr Li was awarded a PhD at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. Her publications include monographs, edited books, book chapters and refereed journal articles on themes ranging from menu translation and political discourse translation to bilingualism. She is an associate editor-in-chief of the Academic Journal of Literature and Languages and a reviewer for several journals and publishers such as De Gruyter and Routledge.

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