从 spirit 和 civilization 和“精神”、“文明”含义基本对等谈学英语必须要勤查好词典

学英语勤查好的英语词典,这是本博反复出现的一个主题了。词典是从古到今不知道多少代词汇、词典、语言专家根据大量材料、符合专业标准的方法以及专业的态度精心打造出来的。因此,要想知道一个词或者字是什么意思,首先要做的是吸收以往专家的研究成果——直接去查阅各种高质量词典,而不是凭可能并不确切的印象、并不广泛的经验或者极为有限的资料想当然地“觉得”某个词或者词“应该”是什么意思。毛主席 80 多年前就说过“没有调查,没有发言权”,还说过“不做正确的调查同样没有发言权”。

学英语最要不得的就是“想当然”。比如,想当然地认为汉英词汇看似对等的词汇含义在所有情况下都对等或者都不对等。一“想当然”就容易出错,解决这个问题的最好的办法就是去“正确”地调查——简单说就是去查词典,去吸收专家已有的研究成果。

下面,以汉语中的“精神”和“文明”与英语中的“spirit”和“civilization, civilize”为例来说明这个问题。下面查阅的词典包括:《现代汉语词典》(第六版)、《辞海》(第六版)、《韦氏英语大辞典》(第三版)(W3)、《简编牛津英语大辞典》(第六版)(SOED6)。

通读这些词典解释,就会发现这两对词在两种语言中的含义和用法大致是相同的,也就是说大多数情况含义是对等的。比如,“领会文件精神”、“看着不太精神”,跟英语中 spirit 是对等的。“懂文明,讲礼貌”里面的“文明”,跟 civilization 含义也是一样的。当然,这不是说翻译的时候一定可以或者一定需要彼此替换。

经常听人说“英语和汉语的思维方式不同”,但我认为这属于用词不当。“思维”的严格定义是“人类特有的一种精神活动”[1],是“人脑对客观事物能动的、间接的和概括的反应”,“思维的形式是概念、判断、推理,思维的方法是抽象、归纳、演绎、分析语综合等”[2]。因此,人类的思维“方式”与其它生物相区别,也在正常人和精神有医学问题的人之间有差别,但在正常人之间其实是“大同”而“小异”的。“人和人”之间,“社会与社会”之间的这种差异可以更准确地描述为“看法”不同、“思考角度”不同,用“思维方式”来指“看法、思考角度”属于不严谨的用法。[3]这些词典释义也能验证英汉两种语言的“思维方式”其实是相同的,原因也很简单:两个群体都属人类社会,而且——编词典和读词典的都是医学上所说的“常人”。

“社会主义精神文明和物质文明”如何翻译成英语

新浪博客“轻松高效学外语——自然法”提供的译法:[4]“社会主义精神文明和物质文明:socialist cultural and ethical progress and material progress”。

一个理想的文明社会在某方面达到的高度进步、发展和发达程度在汉语中常表述为“某某文明”,比如精神文明、物质文明、政治文明、生态文明等,但英语的 civilization 没有这种用法。因此,在汉译英时,汉语的这种“文明”不能直接翻译成 civilization,需要指明具体领域的进步、发展和发达程度

“精神文明”指“人类在社会历史发展过程中所创造的、体现社会发展进步的精神成果,包括思想、文化、道德、教育、科学、艺术等”(《现汉》)。因此,“精神文明”的含义远多于以上译文中的 cultural 和 ethical。

“精神文明”一词非常有用,它把人类头脑创造出来的、以非物质和物质形式体现出来的“精神成果”全部涵盖在内,甚至也可以包括把世界划分为“物质”(Material)和“精神”(Spirit)两部分的宗教。

“精神文明”的概念首次出现在1902 年胡英敏在东京编印的《译书汇编》里面的“政法片片录”,里面说“精神文明为一国生气之所系,有之则兴,无之则亡”,“然物质文明有助成精神文之用”。而“社会主义精神文明建设”的概念则由中国科学院副院长李昌向于 1979 年向中共中央提出,认为“我国在建设物质文明的同时,还必须建设社会主义精神文明”,这一主张得到了胡耀邦的大力支持,后来成为中国政府的重要意识形态工作内容。由此,“精神文明”在当代中国的马克思与恩格斯辩证唯物主义体系中成为非常重要的术语。但似乎在英语中表达人类在文明社会中取得的“精神成果”时不怎么用 spiritual 加上 civilization 这种说法

关于“精神”与“spirit”,“轻松高效学外语——自然法”的博主认为“虽然词典第一义项是 spirit,但该词在中国时政话题英文表述中使用并不多,究其原因,主要是社会意识形态背景不同:在西方英语世界,spirit 主要与宗教信仰相关,所以一般西方读者理解 spirit 很容易联系到宗教意义上的 faith”但是,spirit 固然常常与宗教有关,但它并不总是与宗教有关,而且与汉语的“精”的各种含义几乎完全一致,这一点从以描述语言实际使用而著称的《韦氏英语大辞典》(W3)里的解释中可以看到。

在本例中,原文的“文明”是指中国继承于祖先、从外部学习而来并自己发展出来的“文明”,而且“物质”和“精神”二者相对比,含义明确,不会误解为宗教意义上的“精神”。因此,原译似乎可以改为“socialist spiritual and material civilizations”。不过,这源自中国或者说在中国发扬光大的概念,非要跟英文读者解释一番不可了。也许,“精神文明”这个概念在不远的将来可以进入英语乃至西方的话语体系,并占据一席之地。

 


[1] 《现代汉语词典》(第六版),第 1230 页。

[2] 《辞海》(第六版),第 2130 页。

[3] 需要说明的是,本文此处无意与“谁都能明白”的口语用法“为敌”,只是说厘清了基本的概念,才能让自己的头脑更为清楚,同时更好地表达自己的看法,而这是文字工作者的一项重要基础工作。

附录:

《现代汉语词典》(第六版)

文明

1. 文化;2. 社会发展到较高阶段和具有较高文化的:文明人,文明国家;3. 旧时指有西方现代色彩的(风俗、习惯、事物):文明结婚、文明棍(手杖)。

“文化”:

1. 人类在社会历史发展过程中所创造的物质财富和精神财富的总和,特指精神财富,如文学、艺术、教育、科学等。2. 指运用文字的能力及一般知识。3. 考古学术语,指同一个历史时期的不依分布地点而转移的遗迹、遗物的综合体。同样的工具、用具,同样的制造技术等,是同一种文化的特征,如仰韶文化、龙山文化。

精神”:

1. 指人的意识、思维活动和一般心理状态:精神面貌、精神错乱、振作精神、精神上的负担;2. 活跃;有生气;3. 英俊;相貌、身材好。

《辞海》(第六版)

文明

1. 光明,有文采。2. 文治教化。3. 指社会进步,有文化的状态。与野蛮相对。旧时指新的,或新式的。4. 唐睿宗年号。

精神

1. 与“物质”相对。唯物主义常将其当作意识的同义概念。指人的内心世界现象。包括思维、意志、情感等有意识的方面,也包括其他心理活动和无意识的方面。2. 犹神智,心神。3. 犹精力、活力。4. 神采,韵味。5. 内容实质:传达会议精神;领会文件的精神。

词典解释:civilization W3

1. obsolete: the act of making a criminal process civil

2 a : an ideal state of human culture characterized by complete absence of barbarism and nonrational behavior, optimum utilization of physical, cultural, spiritual, and human resources, and perfect adjustment of the individual within the social framework <true civilization is an ideal to be striven for>

b : a particular state or stage of human advance toward civilization: such as

(1) : the culture characteristic of a particular time or place <medieval civilization> <the impact of European civilization on primitive peoples> sometimes :

a widely diffused long-lived culture often with subcultures <the Aegean civilization was a confluence of many Bronze Age cultures>

(2) : the stage of cultural development at which writing and the keeping of written records is attained; also : the stage marked by urbanization, advanced techniques (as of agriculture and industry), expanded population, and complex social organization <modern civilization with its helpless dependence on technology>

3 : the process of becoming civilized : progressive development of arts, sciences, statescraft, and human aspirations and spirituality<civilization is a slow process marked by many failures and setbacks>

4 : the act of civilizing; especially : the forcing of a particular cultural pattern on a population to which it is foreign<much of the nation’s strength was wasted on the bloody civilization of unwilling peoples>

5 : the whole of the advances of human culture and aspirations beyond the purely animal level<civilization is the descriptive inventory of all the modifications brought about in … the normal life of man in society — Pierre Lecomte du Noüy><the first man to chip a stone into a better tool took a great step forward in civilization>

6 : conformity to conventional patterns of behavior or expression : refinement of thought, manners, or taste

7 a : the parts of the earth characterized by a relatively high level of cultural and technological development<made his way across the lands of two hostile tribes to reach civilization>

b : a situation of urban comfort : city life<we enjoy our country weekends but it’s good to get back to civilization and hot running water>

词典解释:Spirit W3

1 : the breath of life : the animating or vital principle giving life to physical organisms

2 a : a supernatural being (such as an apparition, specter, sprite, or elf)

b : a supernatural, incorporeal, rational being or personality usually invisible to human beings but having the power to become visible at will; especially : one held to be troublesome, terrifying, or hostile to mankind

c : a supernatural being held to be able to enter into and possess a person<possessed by a malign spirit>

d : a being having an incorporeal or immaterial nature<God is a spirit — John 4:24 (Authorized Version)>

3 Spirita : the active essence of the Deity serving as an invisible and life-giving or inspiring power in motion<the Spirit of God was a silent partner in the production of many of these first Christian … sermons — H. H. Meyer>

b : one manifestation of the divine nature : one of the persons of the Trinity : holy spirit<at Pentecost the Spirit came down from heaven as cloven tongues of fire — D. C. Simpson>

4 a : soul<into thy hands I commit my spirit — Luke 23:46 (Revised Standard Version)>

b : a disembodied soul existing as an independent entity : the soul departed from the body of a deceased person

5 a : temper or disposition of mind : disposition, mood — usually used in plural<in good spirits><in bad spirits>

b : mental vigor or animation : cheerfulness, liveliness, vivacity<full of spirits>

6 : the immaterial intelligent or sentient part of a person : the vital principle in man coming as a gift from God and providing one’s personality with its inward structure, dynamic drive, and creative response to the demands it encounters in the process of becoming

7 a : the activating or essential principle of something (such as an emotion or frame of mind) influencing a person

b : an inclination, impulse, or tendency of a specified kind

8 archaic : the emotional source of hostile or angry feeling in a person

9 or Spirit : life or consciousness having an independent type of existence<idealists maintain that the essential nature of the universe is spirit><pantheists assert that spirit pervades the universe>

10 archaic : a movement of the air : a breath of wind : breeze, wind<the balmy spirit of the western gale — Alexander Pope>

11 spirits plural : bodily constitution that is the source of energy and strength : vital power : physical energy : the normal operation of the vital functions

12 : a subtle substance (such as a kind of breath or vapor) formerly held to permeate the blood and the principal body organs and to animate the body as a physical organism — usually used in plural — see animal spirits, natural spirits, vital spirits

13 spirits plural, obsolete : mental constitution that is the source of perception and active thought : mental powers : intellect<his spirit should hunt after new fancies — Shakespeare>

14 a : a special attitude or frame of mind characterizing an individual or group : a character, disposition, or temper peculiar to and often animating a particular individual or group

b : the frame of mind, feeling, or disposition characterizing something (such as an action, consideration, or view)

15 a : a lively or brisk quality in something

b : stimulated or high characteristics (such as liveliness, energy, vivacity, ardor, enthusiasm, or courage) in a person or his actions

16 : an individual person considered with reference to characteristics of mind or temper : one having a character or disposition of a specified nature

17 : a mental disposition characterized by firmness or assertiveness : ardor, courage, mettle

18 a archaic : a liquid produced by distillation

b : the flammable liquid containing ordinary alcohol and water as its main ingredients that is separated by distillation from any alcoholic liquid or mash and that is colorless and flavorless if highly rectified but that in the case of whiskey, brandy, or similar liquors derives its qualities from the nature of the source (such as grain or fruit) from which it is made<taxable distilled spiritsU.S. Code>— often used in plural — compare distilled liquor, methylated spirit, proof spirit

c : any of various volatile liquids obtained by distillation and sometimes by cracking (as of petroleum, shale, or wood) and used chiefly as fuels and solvents<shale spirit>— often used in plural — see motor spirit, petroleum spirit, wood spirit

d : alcohol 3, rectified spirit

e : any of various usually volatile organic solvents (such as other alcohols, esters, ketones, or hydrocarbons) used similarly to alcohol — compare spirit-soluble

19 obsolete : a volatile agent or essence that is a constituent and usually life-giving element of a natural body<the spirits … that are in all tangible bodies are scarce known — Francis Bacon>

20 a : the essential character of something : characteristic quality especially as derived from individual genius or personal character : the pervading principle of something

b : the prevailing tone or tendency<the spirit of the age><the spirit of the enterprise>

c : the general intent or real meaning of something (such as a statement or law) — opposed to letter

21 : an alcoholic solution of a volatile substance (such as an essential oil)<spirit of peppermint>alcoholate 2 — called also essence — compare elixir 2, tincture

22 : any of various solutions especially of tin salts used as mordants in dyeing<aniline spirit><scarlet spirit>

23 : enthusiastic loyalty<school spirit><class spirit><college spirit>

24 Hegelianism : the complex of human institutions (such as family, society, state, and church) and productions in art, poetry, science, and culture

25 Spirit, Christian Science : 2god b(6)

in spirits : in a cheerful or joyful frame of mind : animated, elated, happy

out of spirits : in a depressed frame of mind : low-spirited

词典解释:CivilizeW3

transitive verb

1 : to give a civil character to:

a : to cause (as a people) to develop out of a primitive state through establishment of a system of social custom and political organization : instruct in the rules and standards of a civil order

b : to bring (a people) to a technically advanced and rationally ordered stage of development of knowledge, polity, and international relations

2 : to raise up to a rationally and aesthetically refined and humanely oriented level of adjustment to the collective relations of mankind:

a : to instruct in the sophisticated attitudes, polished elegance, and polite observances of elite society and good breeding : train in urbanity

b : to instruct in or bring into line with the standards of self-control, uprightness, and impartial consideration of common needs and aspirations of humankind that are essential to social harmony and security of human freedoms: socialize 2

c : to bring to recognition of or to accord with cultivated and refined aesthetic standards of classic literature and the fine arts

3 obsolete : to bring under civil authority

4 obsolete : to declare or treat as socially permissible or acceptable

intransitive verb

1 : to acquire the customs and amenities of a civil community

2 dialectal : to array or tidy oneself according to the standard of seemliness acceptable in a community

词典解释: civilizationSOED6

†1 Law. The process of turning a criminal action or process into a civil one; the assimilation of common law to civil law. E18–E19.

2 The state or condition of being civilized; civilized society; a highly developed state of society; a particular form, stage, or type of social development. M18.

A. Koestler The breakdown of civilization during the Dark Ages. K. Clark Of this ancient, rustic civilisation we have no record beyond the farmhouses themselves.

3 The action or process of civilizing or being civilized. L18.

civilizational adjective of or pertaining to civilization M19.

词典解释:civilizeSOED6

1 verb trans. Bring out of barbarism; bring to conformity with the standards of behaviour and the tastes of a highly developed society; enlighten; refine and educate. E17.

†2 verb trans. Subject to civil authority. E17–E18.

3 verb intrans. ▸ †a Behave in a civilized fashion. Only in E17. ▸ b Become civilized. M19.

词典解释:spiritSOED6

► I 1 The animating or life-giving principle in humans and animals. ME.

Shakes. Ant. & Cl. My spirit is going; I can no more.

2 The non-physical part of a corporeal being, esp. considered as a moral agent; the soul. ME. ▸ b This as a disembodied and separate entity esp. regarded as surviving after death; a soul. LME. ▸ c Abstract substance, as opp. to body or matter. LME.

AV Luke 23:46 Into thy hands I commend my spirit. (b) S. Leacock Devices by which the spirits now enter into communication with us. R. J. Conley He must be apologising to the spirit of the dead animal.

3 A supernatural, rational or intelligent being, usu. regarded as imperceptible to humans but capable of becoming visible at will, as an angel, demon, fairy, etc. Usu. with specifying word. ME.

T. Keneally Jimmie seemed taken over by a bad spirit. H. Norman Hermits, ranging from benevolent spirits to…horrific cannibal giants. A. Stevens Emilie sat behind him to ward off evil spirits.

4 Theology. (Usu. S-.) The divine nature or essential power of God, regarded as a creative, animating, or inspiring influence; spec. = Holy Spirit s.v. holy adjective. LME.

D. Madden God’s spirit would descend upon her. Methodist Recorder They will have their sins forgiven and receive the Spirit.

5 The active power of an emotion, attitude, etc., as operating on or in a person; an inclination or impulse of a specified kind. LME.

W. S. Churchill He had built up a spirit of resistance among the townsfolk. C. Hill Charles I had been executed in no spirit of republican doctrinairism. New Yorker The spirit of adventure seems to have disappeared…from modern life.

6 ▸ a A particular (specified) character or attitude existing in or animating a person or set of people; a person with a specified kind of character or attitude. M16. ▸ b The attitude or feeling with which something is done or viewed. E17.

 (a) J. A. Froude The money-making spirit was…driven back. Clive James Some of the more adventurous spirits even dared to immerse themselves in the sea. (b) J. G. Farrell There was an excellent spirit at these games: an air of gaiety. G. F. Newman ‘I’ll be completely vindicated.’ ‘That’s the spirit.’ P. Fitzgerald She wasn’t saying this…bitterly, and she wanted him to take it in the same spirit.

7 ▸ a The essential character of a thing, esp. a place, regarded as exerting an influence. L17. ▸ b The prevailing tendency or mood of a particular period of time. E19. ▸ c The general intent or true meaning of a statement etc. as opp. to its strict verbal interpretation. Cf. letter noun¹ 5. E19.

 (a) J. Ruskin The spirit of the hills is action. G. Priestland One can’t…maintain that episcopacy is alien to the spirit of Wesley. (b) J. Cartwright A…mission to keep alive…the spirit of the old days. Art The ‘spirit of the age’ is best revealed by its young progressive artists. (c) Scotsman It could be…violated in the spirit even if…kept in the letter.

► II 8 The abstract intelligent or sentient part of a person as the seat of action and feeling. Formerly also (usu. in pl.), the mind, mental faculties; something in the mind, a thought. ME. ▸ b In pl. The emotional faculties, esp. as liable to be exalted or depressed. LME.

W. Cowper The cordial thought her spirit cheer’d. Ld Macaulay The slaughter…had broken the spirit of the army. Aldous Huxley The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. (b) D. Eden Her spirits would…sink lower and lower. S. Rushdie Whistling…showed that he was keeping his spirits up. P. Dally Opium was essential to Elizabeth’s tranquility and evenness of spirits.

9 ▸ a Orig., anger, hostility; lack of humility, undue zeal. Later, courage; assertiveness. ME. ▸ b sing. & in pl. Liveliness, vivacity, dash. L17.

 (a) G. Stein He is just the way…his mother wants him,…got no spirit in him. (b) J. Ruskin She danced…with…spirit, sweetness, and self-forgetfulness. R. W. Emerson The cramping influence of a hard formalist on a young child in repressing his spirits and courage.

► III 10 A wind; a breath of wind or air. Later poet. & passing into other senses. ME. ▸ †b The action of breathing; a breath. LME–L17. ▸ c Grammar. An aspirate, a breathing; a conventional mark indicating this. M16.

11 ▸ a In pl. & †sing. A subtle highly refined substance or fluid formerly supposed to permeate and animate the blood and chief organs of the body. Freq. with specifying word, as animal spirit(s), natural spirit(s), vital spirit(s). arch. LME. ▸ b fig. In pl. Vital power or energy. arch. LME. ▸ †c An intangible element in a material thing. E17–E18.

► IV †12 Alchemy. Each of four substances: sulphur, orpiment, sal ammoniac, and (esp.) mercury. Also, any volatile substance or vapour. LME–E18.

13 In pl. & sing. ▸ a A liquid essence extracted from some substance, esp. by distillation; a solution in alcohol of a specified substance. E17. ▸ b Without article: liquid such as is obtained by distillation, esp. of an alcoholic nature. E17. ▸ c Strong distilled alcoholic liquor for drinking. L17. ▸ d Dyeing. A mordant, esp. one containing tin. Now rare or obsolete. L19.

 (c) P. V. Price Old…casks…in which the spirit was matured. New Statesman Wine and spirit drinking is rising.

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