The language of power: The politics of translation between English and Chinese in early colonial Hong Kong

Man Kong Wong*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Although Chinese was not an official language in early colonial Hong Kong, translation between English and Chinese played a crucial role in daily life and politics. The first part of this article discusses the making of some important translated terms for government units and departments as well as foreign consulates in Hong Kong. In doing so, it accounts for different approaches in translation and lexical innovation, and their historical significance behind the making of newly translated terms. The second part of this article investigates salient features of the translation experiment initiated by Governor John Pope Hennessy (1834-1891; term of office: 1877-1882). The experiment aimed at strengthening the political legitimacy and colonial governability in Hong Kong. In return, the social standing of Chinese community leaders was duly recognised through their association with translation projects between English and Chinese, and the presentation of translated messages at important occasions hosted by Government House.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of the Royal Asiatic Society
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Feb 2022

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities(all)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Lexical innovation
  • Political role of translation
  • Translation or transliteration

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