In the 21st century, ″reading images″ has become a dominant cultural phenomenon, triggering an increasing number of cross-semiotic dialogues between language-based and non-verbal semiotic resources. The phenomenon goes along with so-called intersemiotic translations, that is, the transfer of meanings across different semiotic systems. As an independent type of translation, it differs from traditional intrasemiotic translation across languages. Based on an extensive collection of 47 foreign translations of the well-known Chinese novel Luotuo Xiangzi, this paper analyzes the different modes of book cover design and the cultural phenomena these covers reflect. Using van Leeuwen's framework for analyzing the visual representation of social actors, the paper adopts a social semiotic multimodal approach. Our focus is on the motivated selection of non-verbal semiotic systems in social contexts. Each book cover, itself functioning primarily as a visual synthesis of the novel's content, is designed in accordance with the principle of transferring meanings from the verbal to the visual aspect. Therefore, a given cover implies an intersemiotic translation from a language-based to a pictorial mode. During the intersemiotic translation process from language to image, designers will choose a book cover's specific pictorial elements based not only upon the meaning of the verbal aspect; their choice is also constrained by the pictorial mode's different semiotic affordance. In fact, when tracing ″similarity of meaning″ with linguistic counterparts, pictorial resources allow for distinct ways of representing what experiences the original novel depicts. Additionally, by drawing on a rich inventory of visual devices such as color, line, shape, gaze, shot length, etc., these resources serve to establish social relations between the reader and the cover. In essence, the 47 book covers are a product of multimodal intersemiotic translation. This makes it insightful to explore their designers' (similar or diversified) patterns of perceptions and attitudes when practicing intersemiotic translation in the course of conceiving how such key images as the main protagonist, for instance, shall be represented pictorially. The three major concepts in multimodal intersemiotic analysis are ideological meaning, interpersonal meaning, and compositional meaning. As for ideological meaning, the 47 cover designs fall into two categories: low image and high image. They also present a series of visual continuum features. As for interpersonal meaning, cover designs display a variety of viewing modes. As for compositional meaning, finally, the designs convey a specific informational value by means of typographic design and visual weight. Specific cover designs thus weave meaningful elements into coherent texts, creating new meaning through a particular pattern structure. By analyzing the covers of foreign translations of Luotuo Xiangzi from the perspective of multimodality, we find that—even though some degree of misreading must have occurred in the translation process—most cover designs stay objectively true to an intersemiotic translation and thus convey the novel's realistic concern loyally.
吴平. 《骆驼祥子》译本封面的多模态符际翻译研究[J]. 浙江大学学报(人文社会科学版), 2020, 6(2): 34-.
Wu Ping. A Multimodal Intersemiotic Translation Study of Book Covers of the Foreign Versions of Luotuo Xiangzi. JOURNAL OF ZHEJIANG UNIVERSITY, 2020, 6(2): 34-.