Exploring the Non-Symmetry of Word Derivation in Chinese-English Translation—“Wenming” for “Civilization”


The western thoughts have brought many new ideas to China in 19th century, and influenced the words’ meanings of Chinese words system. The Chinese-English translated terms and their different derivations bridge the gap between different cultures. The scholar translated English word “civilization” into Chinese word “wenming”. “Wenming” is derived from “wen” and “ming”. “Wen” means “People feel and experience the nature by heart, and then painting and describing things, at last, one can obtain knowledge through this process”. “Ming” means “based on wen, people are conducted to the correct direction, and become enlightened and civilized”. “Civilization” is derived from “civil”. And “civil”, “civis”, “civitas” and “civilitas” have the same word origin. The radical factors of the meaning of the word “civilization” are “make” and “development”. They focused on the “town” and “city”, namely, the process of cumulating wealth and remolding the nature through human being intervening in nature actively. The different word derivations between “wenming” and “civilization” disclose the differences of the location and culture when the modern thought of civilization was pervading the whole world. At the same time, with the semantic developing of “wenming”, it has the similar concept connotation with “civilization”, so it displays the compatible property and makes it possible for translation between two language units.

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Deng, F. , Zhang, L. and Wen, X. (2014) Exploring the Non-Symmetry of Word Derivation in Chinese-English Translation—“Wenming” for “Civilization”. Open Journal of Modern Linguistics, 4, 407-414. doi: 10.4236/ojml.2014.43034.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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