The languages of wine: negotiating intercultural exchanges through translation

Chiara Bertulessi, University of Milan

Emma Lupano, Università degli studi di Cagliari

Bettina Mottura, University of Milan

Natalia Riva, Catholic University of Sacro Cuore

Yunqi Zhou, Guangzhou International Primary/Middle School Huangpu ZWIE

With the popularization of grape wine culture in China, in recent years, consumers have shown growing interest in the European wine tradition, making wine a promising ground for the economic and cultural encounter between Europe — with Italy at the fore — and China. The developing exchanges in this sector fostered the need for discursive tools to facilitate the intercultural communication between Italian and Chinese speakers (Romagnoli 2019). The bilingual Dictionary of Italian wines and grape varieties (Italian-Chinese), hereafter the Dictionary, is one such example.1 The publication of the Dictionary in 2019 was the end result of an international lexicographical project which aimed to contribute to the promotion of Italian wine culture in China by systematizing the transmission in Chinese of the Italian wine language. The interdisciplinary research project, that the authors of this contribution participated in, focused on the popularization of scientific language, the standardization of terms, and the translation of the Italian definitions in Chinese. The process required constant negotiation between the two cultures and languages, as well as with the constraints of the lexicographic genre. The work drew on the expertise of Italian oenologists and linguists, whose knowledge and specialized language had to be translated in Chinese. Yet, this translation could not be successfully carried out only at linguistic level. Instead, it required an ongoing dialogue between Chinese oenologists and Chinese linguists.

Thus, in compiling the Dictionary, the mediation work was performed at three intertwined levels: 1) the popularization of the specialized language of wine in general, and of Italian wines in particular; 2) the inter-linguistic translation, which cannot be separated from an intercultural mediation of culture-specific concepts and expressions; 3) and the constant negotiation between the needs to properly translate the original meaning and efficiently introduce that meaning into a different cultural environment, where a specialized language of wine, however young and unstable, has been in use for some time. The contribution is organized in four parts.

The first part briefly discusses the historical development of wine culture in China, from its origins to the most recent years, highlighting the fundamental role of the specialized language of wine in the popularization, marketization, and consumption of grape wine. The second briefly presents the nature and purpose of the Dictionary from the lexicographical perspective, based on the notions of user’s needs and intercultural lexicographical communication in dictionary making. The third discusses the criteria applied in the translation of the names of Italian wines and grape varieties in order to translate the headwords of the Dictionary. The fourth analyzes the translation process in the Dictionary, highlighting the negotiation strategies applied. This section focuses on the overall structure of the definitions, syntax, and punctuation, leading then to the concluding remarks.

The study aims to highlight how, in a bilingual lexicographical work, sociolinguistic negotiation was performed in order to contribute to the diffusion of Italian culture in a context where the consumption of imported wine is perceived as a symbolic resource to achieve distinction (Yang and Paladino 2015) and as a sign of national modernity (Kjellgren 2004).

DOI: 10.36253/978–88–5518–506–6.13

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