Chinese scholarship in Cognitive Translation Studies:
A survey of researchers

Sanjun Sun & Kairong Xiao

Translation, Cognition & Behavior, 2:1(2019)

Abstract : In the last two decades, cognitive translation studies in China has been gaining momentum, which is spurred by three lines or perspectives of inquiry: psychology (especially cognitive psychology and psycholinguistics), cognitive linguistics, and translation process research (TPR). Despite the limited numbers of researchers in the first two lines, their increasing number of monographs reflects their influence. Also, while the first two lines have distinctive Chinese characteristics, TPR has been quite parallel to its Western counterpart. This paper offers a survey of Chinese researchers in the three lines, mainly including those in the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. It briefly presents dissertations, publications and current lines of work. As many of the researchers publish in Chinese only, this paper provides a window for looking at the Chinese research scene in cognitive translation studies.

Keywords: translation process, interpreting process, cognitive approaches, translation process research

This draft may not exactly replicate the final version of the article. The final version will be available at .

Before the age of the Internet, most Chinese translation researchers had very limited access to Western literature in Translation Studies, and few of them had published in Western academic journals. There was a wide gap between Western translation scholars and Chinese translation scholars, and some of the latter believed that “Chinese translation theory is at least 20 years behind Western translation theory” (Xu 2001, 2). Nowadays, the Internet and increasing cultural exchanges have greatly facilitated Chinese researchers’ access to Western translation theories. Along with the blooming of translator training in China in the past decade, Chinese translation researchers publish around 7,000 articles in Chinese journals annually (based on CNKI, a leading China academic journals full-text database). This paper intends to present a current overview of Chinese scholarship in cognitive translation studies (CTS) and also to show who is who, so as to foster co-operation. We will briefly review the history of CTS in China and offer a chronicle overview before introducing the active researchers in CTS.

1. The emergence of Chinese scholarship in CTS

In his proposal to build the science of translation in 1989, Zijian Yang (1937–2009) mentioned that the core question in translation studies should be related to how translators think when translating, and he encouraged translation researchers to delve into cognitive science for insights. His article was probably the first Chinese piece that touched upon cognition and translation. Ten years later, Suhua Jiang’s (1998) review article introduced Western translation process research to Chinese scholars for the first time. Since the year 2000, the Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press of Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU) reprinted with permission 112 English classics in linguistics, including Bell’s 1991 monography Translation and Translating: Theory and Practice. Bell’s book became influential and raised the awareness of cognitive and psycholinguistic approaches to translation among Chinese language and translation researchers.

In 2000, Hansong Cai briefly introduced the use of think-aloud techniques (a.k.a. TAPs). In 2001, Yicheng Wu wrote a review of Cognitive Processes in Translation and Interpreting (Danks et al 1997); during that year, Yan Yu finished her MA thesis under the supervision of Zijian Yang. Yu’s probably was the first empirical translation study in China with TAPs. In 2003, Ju Miao published her English PhD dissertation, Investigations of the translation process and the translator, in a Chinese publishing house. In 2004, Defeng Li produced “Trustworthiness of think-aloud protocols in the study of translation processes” in the International Journal of Applied Linguistics. Roughly at the same time, Dechao Li’s article on the potential and limitations of TAPs in translation research came out in a Chinese journal. Ran Zhao, who obtained her MA degree from BFSU, completed in 2004 her PhD dissertation—Processes of translating: A comparison of expert and student translators translating an expository text from English to Chinese—at Carnegie Mellon University. Early in 2005, Sanjun Sun finished his MA thesis, which reviewed the budding field of TPR. In 2006, Binghan Zheng introduced the use of Translog to Chinese readers. In 2007, Shaolong Liu authored a Chinese monograph entitled Psychology of interpretation and translation 《( 翻译心理学》).

In interpreting, Minhua Liu finished her PhD dissertation, Expertise in simultaneous interpreting: A working memory analysis, in 2001 at the University of Texas at Austin. Wei Zhang (2006) also studied the role of memory in interpreting empirically. Zhifeng Kang (2008) explored the use of auditory event-related potentials (AERPs) to study auditory cognition in interpreting.

In the last decade, at least 10 Chinese monographs have been published on cognitive inquiries into translation and interpreting (e.g., Zhang 2011; Zheng 2012), and dozens of empirical studies—mostly MA theses and PhD dissertations. In 2019, to the best of our knowledge, at least three Chinese monographs in CTS will come out. Unlike the situation in the West, there have been no Chinese edited volumes in CTS, for edited volumes contribute almost nothing to a researcher’s academic promotion in Chinese universities.

2. Recent activities

In 2014, under the direction of Defeng Li, the Centre for Studies of Translation, Interpreting and Cognition (CSTIC) of the University of Macau organized the 1st International Symposium on Cognitive Research on Translation and Interpreting, which has become an annual event. The first three symposia were held at the University of Macau. In 2017, the 4th Conference was held at BFSU, and the 5th Conference took place at Renmin University of China (RUC), Beijing, in November 2018. Over the years, this event has drawn increasing attention and growing numbers of participants. Selected conference papers are being published in edited volumes by Springer.

In November 2015, Michael Carl gave two lectures on TPR and postediting at RUC. A year later, he spearheaded a 5-day-long workshop on TPR at the same university, focusing on theoretical aspects of TPR, experimental research design and methodology, involving tools such as Translog-II and Inputlog, and qualitative and quantitative data analysis. Other presenters included Arnt Lykke Jakobsen, Moritz Schaeffer, Luuk van Waes, and Mariëlle Leijten. Dozens of researchers from across China and of various disciplinary backgrounds attended the workshop. It was the first one of its kind in the Chinese mainland, and it certainly fostered the development of TPR in China.

In 2017, two CTS-related academic associations were established in China: the China Association for Translation, Interpreting and Cognition (CATIC), and the Chinese Society of Eco-translation and Cognitive Translation Studies. The former holds two national conferences annually, while the latter does one. Plus the annual international conference (co-) organized by CSTIC, the many CTS-themed conferences attest to the popularity of CTS in China.

In July 2018, a 25-day-long boot camp on CTS was held at the University of Macau, organized by Victoria Lei, Defeng Li, Fabio Alves, Michael Carl and Moritz Schaeffer. The topic of the boot camp was “Modelling parameters of cognitive effort in translation production.” Using the CRITT TPR-DB (Carl, Schaeffer, & Bangalore 2016a) as common data source, it aimed to investigate and develop new ways of assessing, analyzing and measuring translation process data and to explore the possibilities to integrate translation product and process research in novel ways. About 30 researchers from 11 countries participated in the boot camp, although most of them were from the Chinese mainland.

3. Three lines of inquiry

Just like the Western confusion about the name for this field (e.g., process-oriented DTS, cognitive translation studies, translation psychology, translator studies), Chinese researchers use interchangeably translation process research, translation cognitive research, translation cognitive process research, cognitive translation studies, translation psychology and others. However, by closely looking behind these terms, we may find that in China there are three main lines of inquiry related to different frameworks in this area: psychology (especially cognitive psychology and psycholinguistics), cognitive linguistics, and TPR, although the researches are usually trained in foreign languages, linguistics or translation studies and few in psychology. We will discuss the three lines in the following sections.

3.1 Psychology of translation

In China, translation psychology has been a distinct line of inquiry with little overlap with TPR in the West. Before the first Chinese monograph on psychology of translation left the printing press in 2007—Psychology of interpretation and translation, by Shaolong Liu—about 100 Chinese articles of varying quality had discussed the interface between translation and psychology. Most of them used psychology as the sum of the mental states and processes involved in translation, rather than as the science of mind and behavior. In 1999, Jingquan Wu (Anyang University) emphasized the importance of establishing a translation psychology and divided it into pre-, periand post-translation psychology; Linhai Yan (Sichuan Normal University) also proposed to build translation psychology as a new interdisciplinary field (Yan & Sun 2001). To date, there have been at least five Chinese monographs entitled Psychology of translation, introduced below. Three more, entitled Psychology of interpreting, will be discussed elsewhere.

Shaolong Liu (Zhejiang University of Technology) draws on cognitive psychology—especially, information processing theory—to discuss perception, attention, memory, knowledge representation, problem solving, language comprehension and production in combination with translation (Liu 2007). Liuqi Wang has collaborated with him over the years. Liu & Wang (2012) believe that Translation Studies is experiencing a “psychological turn.” Wang (2010) discusses two research paradigms in translation psychology: symbolic processing and neural processing.

Linhai Yan (Sichuan Normal University) suggested that the psychology of translation should focus on three aspects: cognition, aesthetics, and culture, and therefore there should exist a cognitive psychology, an aesthetic psychology, and a cultural psychology of translation (Yan 2007). In 2008, he published Cognitive psychology of translation 《( 翻译认知心理学》), which describes the translator’s cognitive processing system (including, e.g., metacognition and schema processing), thinking and reasoning, comprehension processes on the levels of word (e.g., mental lexicon), sentence and text, and reverbalization (including translation unit, word choice and others). In 2015, Yan produced Aesthetic psychology of translation 《( 翻译审美心理学》), which relies on classical Chinese aesthetics and describes the aesthetic object, subject and mechanism related to translation with translation examples.

Psychology of translation: An introduction 《( 翻译心理学概论》) by Yi Li and Yuanfu Liu (Hunan University of Technology) appeared in 2008 and explored the boundaries, structure, form, justification, and research methods of translation psychology, and discussed the roles of cross-cultural psychology and assessment psychology in translation. Although there seems to be a lack of coherence between chapters, their book offers valuable insights into this field.

Haodong Chen (Lanzhou University) used Psychotranslatology 《(翻译心理学》) as the English title of his book (2013). He divides this field into macro psychotranslatology and micro psychotranslatology: the former draws on social psychology and cultural psychology, while the latter draws on cognitive psychology and literary psychology. Chen argues that psychotranslatology should focus on (1) the role of thinking in the process of translation, (2) the translator’s cognitive activities when translating, (3) the interaction between readers’ collective psychology and translation activities, and (4) empirical translation research from various perspectives of applied psychology.

3.2 Cognitive-linguistic approaches to CTS

In the last decades, cognitive linguistics has become immensely popular in China. Many Chinese researchers who study cognitive linguistics and also translation started to apply cognitive-linguistic theories to analyze translations and to build cognitive models of the translation process. Among the leading researchers are Xu Wen, Kairong Xiao, Yin Wang and Yesheng Tan.

Xu Wen (Southwest University, in Chongqing) received his PhD in linguistics from Beijing Normal University in 2000, and finished his postdoctoral research at BFSU in 2006. In 2017, he founded the Chinese Society of Eco-translation and Cognitive Translation Studies. Wen is the editor of two international journals, Cognitive Linguistic Studies (John Benjamins) and Asian-Pacific Journal of Second and Foreign Language Education (Springer). His major research interest in CTS is the application of cognitive-linguistic theories to the modeling of the translation process. He has supervised three PhD students working in CTS: Mingshu Wang, Kairong Xiao, and Junhui Wu. Wen and Xiao are working on a Chinese book to illustrate the application of different topics of cognitive linguistics to translation, including categorization, metaphor, metonymy, frames, cognitive construals, iconicity, and conceptual integration, among others.

Kairong Xiao has been working at Southwest University since 2000. In his dissertation, completed in 2012, Xiao used frame-semantic analysis to develop a frame operation model of the translation process and applied it to the English translation of classical Chinese poetry (see Xiao 2017). He also extended the frame operation model to the translation of martial fiction (Xiao 2013). Xiao & Wen (2012) reviewed and categorized the models accounting for the translator or interpreter’s metal processes into three groups depending on their referential framework—(1) the interpretive theory of translation, (2) psycholinguistic and cognitive psychology, and (3) relevance theory—and emphasized the importance of their experimental validation. In 2017, Xiao was awarded a national social science grant for a project aiming to construct the disciplinary system of Cognitive Translation Studies. Mingshu Wang’s dissertation (2010) draws on subjectivity theory and Langacker’s construal theory to develop a subjectification model of translation, and proposes that translation is a process of achieving subjectification equivalence between the source text and the target text. Junhui Wu (2015) also adopted Langacker’s cognitive construal theory in his dissertation to analyze three English versions of the Chinese classic Hongloumeng 《( 红楼梦》).

Yin Wang is the director of the Centre for Cognitive Science at Sichuan International Studies University. His major research interests are cognitive linguistics and the philosophy of language, and he usually adopts a philosophical view in his linguistic and translation research. In 2005, he published a paper entitled “A cognitive linguistic view of translation,” thus beginning his attempts to establish cognitive-linguistic models of translation. To date, he has published over 10 articles on cognitive translation studies in Chinese where he discusses the translation process in cognitive-linguistic terms (e.g., sensation, perception, image, image schema, category, concept, meaning, idealized cognitive model, event-domain cognitive model, and metaphor-metonymy) in a bid to identify the specific factors involved in translation process (see, e.g., Wang 2017).

Yesheng Tan (Shanghai International Studies University) specializes in cognitive linguistics and translation studies. In his PhD dissertation (Fudan University, 2004) he worked on Construal operations in translation: A cognitive linguistic approach to translation study, where he combined Gutt’s (1991) relevance theory and a schema-based approach and proposed a Schematic Relevance Model of translation, which covers three cognitive principles organized in a sequence of priority: optimal relevance → interpretive resemblance → cognitive change principle. In 2012, Tan published a Chinese monograph entitled Prolegomena to cognitive translation studies 《( 认知翻译学探索》), in which he proposed a schema-instance and dynamic construal model to account for the cognitive paths and constraints of creative translation.

Other cognitive linguists occasionally apply cognitive-linguistic theories to study translation. For example, Weizhong Lu (Qufu Normal University) addresses iconicity and metonymy in translation (e.g., Lu 2011). Shengxi Jin and his PhD advisor, Zhengjun Lin, constructed a cognitive translation model from the perspective of construction grammar (Jin & Lin 2015).

3.3 Translation process research

In TPR, research methods and tools have played a key role, especially TAPs, keylogging and eyetracking. The wide use of Translog (Jakobsen 1999) in the first decade of 2000s invigorated the TPR field. Yet Translog did not support English to Chinese translation until 2012. This, in a way, hampered the development of TPR in China. In the past five years or so, there have been two technical developments that give further momentum to TPR (Carl, Bangalore, & Schaeffer 2016b): (1) the extension of Translog-II for languages with different scripts (e.g., Chinese) and a tighter integration with eyetrackers, and (2) the creation of a large database of TPR data. The increasing availability of eyetrackers in Chinese universities and the growing emphasis on empirical research have attracted and raised researchers’ interest in CTS. This section introduces Chinese researchers in this line of inquiry.

3.3.1 Defeng Li and CSTIC, University of Macau

Defeng Li joined the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1997 after obtaining his PhD at the University of Alberta. His research interests include translation curriculum and pedagogy, cognitive and psycholinguistic investigation of translation processes, and corpus-based translation research. Around 2005, Li and Maria Cheng (as principal investigator) of City University of Hong Kong received a research grant for “A psycholinguistic approach to the translation process of subtitling” from the Hong Kong Research Grants Council. His interest in CTS has become stronger since he joined the University of Macau in early 2014. Together with Victoria Lei and Yuanjian He, he founded the Centre for Studies of Translation, Interpreting and Cognition (CSTIC), which provides a platform for promoting and conducting original front-line research and for greater regional and international collaboration. As mentioned, the Centre has initiated a series of international symposia on cognitive research on translation and interpreting. In 2018, it funded and hosted the CTS-themed summer boot camp.

Several graduates from the CSTIC PhD program now teach at other universities, including Linping Hou (Shandong University of Science and Technology), Yue Lang (Shanxi University), Qinghong Huang (Jinan University, Zhuhai), and Xiaodong Liu (Hunan University of Humanities, Science and Technology). Under the supervision of Yuanjian He (retired in 2017) and Defeng Li, their dissertations explored neurocognitive form-based and meaning-based processing routes in translation or interpreting processes in self-built corpora. Their research foci were different and included directionality (Hou 2017), memory-pairing in simultaneous interpreting (Lang 2017; see also Lang, Hou, & He 2018), translation patterns of culture-specific and non-culture-specific items (Huang 2017), and processing routes in consecutive interpreting (Liu 2018).

The CSTIC is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities including eyetrackers, EEG and fNIRS. At the time of writing, six more PhD students and candidates at CSTIC take advantage of their available equipment. For example, Yan He used fNIRS to map the brain activation underlying translation asymmetry during Chinese-English sight translation (He et al 2017); Wenchao Su has been using eyetracking to study translation problem triggers and translation styles in English to Chinese sight translation (Su & Li, 2019); Jiayi Wang has also been using eyetracking to investigate interpreters’ eye movements across different reading tasks, namely, reading for comprehension; reading for summary; reading in preparation for translating and reading while sight translating (Wang et al, 2018).

Lin Zhu (2012) explored Douglas Robinson’s translation theories for her PhD dissertation, completed in 2010, under the supervision of Ju Miao (Nankai University). Since 2010, Zhu has been interested in an embodied cognition perspec tive on translation education as well as on translation process (e.g., Zhu 2011, 2018). She was awarded a national postdoctoral grant (2014–2017) for a project entitled “A multidimensional exploration into translation psychology from an embodied cognition perspective” at Guangdong University of Foreign Studies. Zhu also worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Macau in 2015–2016, under Yuanjian He and Defeng Li, on mutual compensation of computation and memory in translation and simultaneous interpreting. She now works at Huaqiao University, in Fujian province.

Yanmei Liu (Shandong University of Finance and Economics) completed her PhD in 2016 at Shandong University under the supervision of Defeng Li. In her PhD study, she investigated features of strategy use displayed by 18 translators at different competence levels in the process of translation from Chinese into English (Liu 2017). Recently, Liu has been using eyetracking to study the impact of text complexity on translators’ cognitive load.

3.3.2 Michael Carl and Renmin University of China

Carl formally joined RUC’s School of Foreign Languages as full professor in March 2017, and taught two courses on TPR and computational linguistics. Several CTS researchers in Beijing (such as Sanjun Sun, Ran Xu) often sat in on his class and discussed research ideas and methods after class. Before Carl joined Kent State University (KSU, Ohio) in June 2018, he gave several talks at Fudan University, Hunan University, and the University of Macau as well as at local conferences, and developed a module that allows to collect, integrate and analyze spoken translation within the CRITT TPR-DB. Carl has been collaborating with some Chinese researchers, such as Yueqi Zhu and Yanfang Jia. As a PhD student in Japanese linguistics, Yueqi Zhu worked as Carl’s research assistant and was involved in collecting data for TPR-DB. She is interested in comparisons of English-Chinese and English-Japanese translation processes and specifically in translation entropy, cognitive load and translation quality. Yanfang Jia is a PhD candidate at Hunan University. She has been using eyetracking and keylogging to study the cognitive aspects of human translation and postediting, with a special focus on measuring and predicting cognitive effort in postediting and human translation.

Researchers interested in CTS at RUC also include Jianhua Wang and Jia Feng. Jianhua Wang earned his PhD in cognitive psychology from Beijing Normal University in 2003 and then joined RUC. He started to publish about cognitive processes in interpreting in 2009. Wang (2009), for example, compared different techniques for preparatory summary of materials for better performance in immediate simultaneous interpreting. He has published two Chinese monographs in this regard, Psychology of interpreting 《( 口译心理学》) in 2014, and Cognitive studies in interpreting 《( 口译认知研究》) in 2015. The former draws on cognitive psychology and behavior psychology and discusses the application of psychological theory and methods to interpreting studies. The latter mainly explores three aspects of interpreting: memory, information processing, and information evaluation. Wang is the vice president of both China Association for Translation, Interpreting and Cognition, and the Chinese Society of Ecotranslation and Cognitive Translation Studies. He was appointed in July 2017 to be vice president of Shanxi Normal University in central China for 2 years. At RUC, Wang supervises PhD students in CTS, one of whom is Jie Huang. Huang received her MA degree under the supervision of Sanjun Sun at BFSU, with a thesis exploring the influence of postediting strategies, MT quality, source text difficulty, and sentence length on postediting efficiency.

Jia Feng has been investigating translation processes since 2012, when she started her part-time PhD at BFSU under the supervision of Kefei Wang. She was awarded her PhD degree in 2017. Feng (2017) investigated the allocation of attentional resources of 43 translation trainees translating into their L1 and L2, based on their eyetracking and keylogging data. Her current research interests are translation directionality and translation styles. Together with Yuan Zhu, she organized the 5th International Conference on Cognitive Research on Translation and Interpreting in November 2018.

3.3.3 Beijing Foreign Studies University

BFSU is a leading institution in foreign language education in China. At the time of writing, BFSU teaches 98 foreign languages. There are over a dozen translation programs housed in different departments and schools (e.g., English, Russian, Arabic, Spanish, French), which enroll around 300 Master’s students each year. The main CTS researchers at BFSU include Sanjun Sun, Wei Zhang, Ran Xu, Yaling Guo, and Jie Li.

Sanjun Sun worked as research assistant for Maria Cheng and Defeng Li on TPR projects at City University of Hong Kong in 2005 and the Chinese University of Hong Kong for several months in 2007. Before Sun started his PhD at KSU in August 2008, he freelanced as a translator and began working on a Chinese book on research methods (Sun & Zhou 2011). The PhD program in Translation Studies at KSU offered several courses on translation and cognition, experiment design and statistics, and corpus-based studies, taught by Gregory M. Shreve, Erik Angelone and Isabel Lacruz. In 2011, Sun published an article in Meta reviewing methodological concerns in the use of TAPs. Under the supervision of Shreve, Sun’s (2012) dissertation proposed a research framework to measure and predict texts’ level of translation difficulty. Sun joined BFSU in 2013, where he currently co-edits Translation Horizons 《( 翻译界》), a refereed biannual journal. Together with Defeng Li and other colleagues, he organized the 4th International Conference on Cognitive Research on Translation and Interpreting, held at BFSU in November 2017.

Wei Zhang worked on his PhD in translation studies from 2004 to 2007 at BFSU under the supervision of Kefei Wang. Inspired by the work of Minghua Liu, Zhang’s dissertation, published in 2011, proposes a model of working memory in interpreting and studies the relationship between working memory and simultaneous interpreting with empirical methods, including experiments, questionnaire surveys and observation. His research interests mainly include working memory in simultaneous interpreting, corpus-based interpreting studies, and translation competence. Zhang has published over a dozen articles on working memory in simultaneous interpreting, mostly in Chinese journals (e.g., Zhang 2006; Zhang & Yu 2018).

Ran Xu joined BFSU after completing her PhD at the University of Leeds in 2015, before transferring to China Foreign Affairs University. Her dissertation dealt with terminology preparation for simultaneous interpreters, with a focus on whether a corpus-based terminological preparation procedure enables interpreting trainees to achieve greater accuracy in a simultaneous interpreting task on a specialized topic (Xu 2018). She continues to study the behavioral patterns and cognitive processes involved in interpreters’ preparation.

Yaling Guo and Jie Li are currently two PhD candidates in translation studies at BFSU. Under the supervision of Lidi Wang, Guo’s dissertation explores the priming effects of spatial motion schemas on interpreters’ time biases; she uses the Implicit Association Test, and reports a facilitating effect of motion schemas in space together with embodiment cues on the choice of time perspectives in translation (see Zhai, Guo, & Lu 2018). Under Jianbin Wang in the Department of German, Jie Li has been studying the role of verbal working memory in German-Chinese translation via a dual-task-paradigm. She uses E-prime for assessing working memory and Translog-II for recording the translation process of trainee translators, and has found that bilingual working memory capacity does affect translation speed and has a positive effect on translation quality.

3.3.4 Guangdong University of Foreign Studies

Zhi Lu completed his PhD in linguistics in 1996 from Guangdong University of Foreign Studies (GUFS). His research interests include applied linguistics, psycholinguistics, and cognitive linguistics. In 2014, Lu joined GUFS and started to shift his attention to CTS (see Lu 2015). He has been studying cognitive load in translation and postediting using eyetracking (e.g., Lu & Sun 2018; Lu, Sun, & Lacruz, forthcoming), and working on building CTS theoretical frameworks and applications. Two of Lu’s PhD students, Yajun Wang and Juan Sun, are working on CTS topics. Yajun Wang is interested in cognitive neural mechanisms of translation and simultaneous interpreting. She has been using methods in cognitive neuroscience (e.g., ERP and fMRI) to look into source-text comprehension, language transfer and target-text production. Wang now has two external research grants. Juan Sun has been investigating student translators’ cognitive effort in the translation of metaphors with Translog and eyetracking. She visited Kent State University for 6 months in 2018.

Yanping Dong received her PhD in psycholinguistics from GUFS in 1997. She has been chair of Chinese Association of Psycholinguistics since 2011. Her major research interests are bilingualism and bilingual education; she takes interpreting as a typical bilingual phenomenon and has studied interpreting within the framework of bilingualism. Since 2013, she has published on topics such as interpreting competence (e.g., Cai et al 2015) and interpreter training (e.g., Dong 2018). Her most recent project supported by Chinese National Social Science Foundation concerns neurocognitive studies of interpreting training effects.

Zhanxi Li (South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou) earned his PhD in 2005 from GUFS under the supervision of Ziran He. Li’s major research interest is pragmatics-based translation studies. In his English dissertation (Li 2007), he adopted a cognitive-pragmatic approach to the translation process in cultural-image renderings, based on Sperber & Wilson’s relevance theory and Verschueren’s (1999) theory of linguistic adaptation, and argued that translation is both a relevance-seeking, ostensive-inferential process and a dynamically adjusting process. In recent years, Li has been exploring the translation-classroom teaching process (Li 2014) and now he is probing into the cognitive processes of translator trainees from the perspective of experimental pragmatics. Li was awarded a national social science grant in 2018 to empirically investigate how translators make optimal choices to ensure the cognitive consonance of the target readers.

3.3.5 Shanghai International Studies University

Shanghai International Studies University (SISU) ranks first in the number of PhD graduates in translation studies among Chinese universities. Over 200 doctors were trained at SISU in the last 10 years and the work of at least five was related to CTS. Hong Shang (2010), under the supervision of Qinghua Feng, compared the translation strategies in expert translators and translation trainees, examined the relationship between trainees’ professional competence and the quality of their translations, and explored how to improve EFL students’ professional translation competence.

In 2014, three CTS-related PhD dissertations were completed under the supervision of Mingjiong Chai. Rui Gong studied directionality in the translation process. She compared professional translators’ performance in Chinese-English translations and found that more processing effort and strong monitoring mechanisms lead to better translations. Wenting He tested the relationship between translator experience and speed of translation. She found a significant positive correlation between experience and speed in well-structured (vs ill-structured) translation tasks, and explained the results in terms of automaticity theories. Yuwei Wang investigated translators’ search behavior in Chinese to English translation and found a strong correlation between participants’ certain information search patterns—such as search density and sophistication—and their translation performance.

In 2015, Fuxiang Wang finished his dissertation under the supervision of Dingfang Shu. His work focused on process-oriented translation units in Chinese-English translation. Using keylogging, screen recording and retrospective protocols, Wang studied the effects of working memory capacity, translation experience and text complexity on the scopes (e.g., clause) and sizes (e.g., three words) of translation units. His research interests comprise segmentation in translation, recursiveness, and translationese. In recent years, Wang, now working at Qufu Normal University, Shandong province, has supervised several MA students’ theses on translation and cognition. Among current PhD students at SISU, Jiajun Qian aims to reveal the cognitive mechanisms behind postediting and to provide practical implications for postediting training.

3.3.6 Zhifeng Kang and CATIC

Zhifeng Kang completed his PhD dissertation at Fudan University, Shanghai, in 2010, where he empirically investigated interpreting trainees’ anxiety (including auditory anxiety and interpreting anxiety) using rating scales and questionnaires (Kang 2012). In 2013, Kang published a Chinese monograph entitled Cognitive psychology of interpreting 《( 口译认知心理学》), where he discusses the object of study and goals of the field, research methods (e.g., reaction time, abstract analysis, verbal reports, implicit association test), and cognitive theories and constructs relevant to interpreting (e.g., information processing, memory, speech production, emotion, and competence). In recent years, Kang has been using eyetracking to study sight interpreting. Currently, he has finished the draft of another Chinese monograph called Cognitive interpreting studies 《( 认知口译学》). In May 2017, Kang set up China Association for Translation, Interpreting and Cognition in Shanghai, which organizes two conferences annually. To date, four conferences have been held in Fudan University, Ningbo Institute of Technology (Zhejiang University), Henan University of Technology, and Hokkaido University (Japan), with hundreds of participants.

3.3.7 CTS in Hong Kong and Taiwan

Minhua Liu, an experienced interpreting researcher, taught in the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and then in universities in Taiwan for a decade, before she joined Hong Kong Baptist University in 2015. She has been a champion of empirical research and cognitive approaches in interpreting studies (see, e.g., Liu 2015). Apart from research methods, she seems to concentrate on two research areas: cognitive behavior and expertise development in interpreting (e.g., Liu, Schallert, & Carroll 2004) and the assessment of source material difficulty for interpreting (e.g., Liu & Chiu 2009). Her work in these areas has been widely recognized.

Dechao Li started to publish on TAPs in 2004. He earned his PhD in translation studies from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in 2007 and then joined its Department of Chinese and Bilingual Studies. His research interests comprise translation and interpreting studies; his publications often deal with corpus-based studies and also TAPs in the translation process (e.g., Li 2011). In recent years, he has paid more attention to TPR. Currently serving as Associate Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, he supervises the work of several PhD students, two of them working on TPR topics, Xingcheng Ma and Shuxian Song. Ma is eyetracking informants to study the effect of word order asymmetry between source language and target language in sight translating. Song has conducted behavioral experiments to explore cognitive fluency development (lexical access, attention control and working memory) in simultaneous interpreting trainees.

As for Taiwan, 2007 was a landmark year for CTS. Po-Sen Liao (2007) used TAPs, focus group interviews and a questionnaire survey to study the translation strategies of 128 college students. Chung-Ling Shih (2007) compared the translation and postediting processes of 20 students using one test passage in terms of translation errors, pauses, and affective factors. In the last decade, there were seemingly few publications on CTS in Taiwan. Yet, there have been about 10 MA theses, mostly under the supervision of Po-sen Liao or Tze-Wei Chen at the National Taiwan Normal University. For example, Hsieh (2013) compared the cognitive processes during pauses in sight translation between experienced and novice interpreters with eyetracking, and Lee (2014) investigated directionality in Chinese-English Translation using TAPs.

3.3.8 Binghan Zheng and Durham University

Binghan Zheng joined Durham University in 2008, after being awarded a PhD from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. His dissertation (Zheng 2012) combined TAPs, questionnaires, interviews, and target text evaluation to examine translators’ behavior at choice-making in English-Chinese translation. Zheng argued that translation is a choice-making process characterized by optimality, adaptability, indexing (i.e., translation competence is exhibited in different choice-making behaviors), and experiencing (i.e., experiential decisions). His recent CTS-related publications concern the processing of metaphorical expressions in sight translation (Zheng & Xiang 2014) and the effect of explanatory captions on the reception of foreign audiovisual products (Zheng & Xie 2018).

Zheng has close ties with Chinese universities. In recent years, he has given talks at around 30 Chinese universities, mostly on CTS topics, and has played an important role in promoting CTS in China. At Durham University, he supervises (mostly Chinese) PhD students working on eyetracking-based studies on translation revision, self-translation and directionality. For example, Jin Huang completed her dissertation in 2016, where she explored the cognitive process of translation revision and postediting (Huang 2018). Yifang Wang investigated whether metaphorical expressions in the source text have an influence on cognitive effort and whether this influence, if there is any, is affected by directionality (Wang 2018), with eyetracking, keylogging and retrospective reports. Wang joined Peking University Health Science Center (Beijing) in 2018. Two current PhD students working on CTS there are Yixiao Cui and Yu Weng. Cui focuses on the use of online dictionaries when translating, while Weng is interested in syntactic rearrangements during the translation process and the literal translation hypothesis.

Several Chinese CTS researchers have visited Durham University for six or twelve months and worked closely with Zheng, including Yanfang Jia, Zhanxi Li, Shaolong Liu, Yanmei Liu, Fuxiang Wang and Xia Xiang (Ningbo University).

3.3.9 Participants of the 2018 Macau summer boot camp and other researchers

Many of the researchers introduced so far participated in the 2018 Macau CTSthemed summer boot camp, including Jia Feng, Yaling Guo, Jie Huang, Yanfeng Jia, Yanmei Liu, Jiajun Qian, Sanjun Sun, Ran Xu, Lin Zhu, and Yueqi Zhu, as well as CSTIC PhD students. The Chinese participants also included Yanxia Yang and students from Dublin City University, Durham University and the University of Melbourne.

Yanxia Yang is a PhD candidate at Hunan University, where she investigates the mediating effects of cognitive factors in postediting process so as to model the psychological mechanisms of translators’ interaction with computers. Both she and Yanfang Jia are supervised by Xiangling Wang. One of Wang’s recent studies (Wang, Hu, & Zou 2013) investigated the influence of cognitive components on consecutive interpreting strategies by adopting stimulated recalls, questionnaires, notes, and post-test interviews. They identified 20 interpreting strategies and found that professional interpreters are better than interpreting trainees in attention, memory, perseverance, confidence, rigor, logic and synthesis.

Among other researchers in CTS that we are aware of are Sijia Chen, Junsong Wang and Lixiang Liu. Sijia Chen joined Southwest University, Chongqing, in July 2018 after earning her PhD in applied linguistics from Macquarie University under the supervison of Jan-Louis Kruger. For her PhD thesis, Chen investigated the cognitive processes and cognitive load in note-taking and consecutive interpreting by using pen recording, eye tracking, and cued retrospection (see e.g., Chen, 2018). She is also interested in the impact of technology (e.g., MT and speech recognition) on the process and product of interpreting. Junsong Wang (Northwestern Polytechnical University, in Xi’an) is currently working on his PhD dissertation at Beijing Normal University. His interest in TPR started in 2016 and he has been investigating the relationship between translation trainees’ metacognition and their translation performance and studying the process of translation quality assessment using eyetracking. Lixiang Liu teaches in Jimei University, Xiamen, and obtained her MA degree from Qufu Normal University. In her MA thesis, Liu (2006) used TAPs to examine how 37 participants of different proficiency levels differed in the use of translation strategies and in translation units. She has continued to use TAPs to study translation processes, although she shifted to bilingual lexicography in her PhD study.

4. Concluding remarks

In the recent two decades, CTS has been gathering momentum in China, spurred by three lines or perspectives of inquiry. The translation psychology school draws on cognitive psychology, psycholinguistics, cross-cultural psychology, social psychology, assessment psychology, aesthetic psychology and other branches of psychology, and applies theories from these areas to analyze translating. Even though this group only has a few researchers, they have published eight Chinese monographs dealing with the psychology of translation and/or interpreting.

The cognitive-linguistic approach to translation and interpreting is a spinoff of cognitive linguistics, and has attracted a host of language researchers in China. They often use the Chinese equivalent of ‘Cognitive Translation Studies’ in their publications. For example, in 2019, at least three monographs entitled Cognitive Translation Studies—by Yesheng Tan, Yin Wang, and Kairong Xiao & Xu Wen, respectively—are expected to get out of the printing press in China.

The Chinese TPR line is perhaps the closest and more connected to its Western counterpart. Different from the first two lines, which feature more theoretical reasoning, the TPR line relies heavily on empirical evidence and involves data collection and analysis. Aided by increasing research grants and availability of eyetrackers and encouraged by Western researchers like Carl and Jakobsen, Chinese researchers are set to contribute more to this field.


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