Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton May 12, 2021

Pragmatic failures in public-sign translation: an eco-pragma-translatology analysis of environmental signage in Quanzhou

Caiying Wang and Guojin Hou
From the journal Chinese Semiotic Studies


This study proposes an integrated model called the Eco-Pragma-Translatology Model (EPTM) with four Kernel Guidelines for accounting for translation of public (environmental protection) signs. An EPTM analysis of pragmatic failures in public environmental protection signs (from the database) demonstrates that the ubiquitous errors and mistakes of rendering come under the rubric of pragmalinguistic failures of translation, sociopragmatic failures, or pragmatic failures straddling boundaries and leads to the conclusion that translators should correspondingly enhance their pragmalinguistic and/or sociopragmatic competence. EPTM is a new, interdisciplinary theoretical approach that largely applies to issues of poor translation of public signs.

Corresponding author: Guojin Hou, College of Foreign Languages, Huaqiao University, Fujian, China, E-mail:

Funding source: China’s National Social Science Program

Award Identifier / Grant number: 18BYY216


We are grateful to the innovative pragma-rhetoric team of Huaqiao University, in particular to Yingnian Tao, Mengling Liu, Hongting Sun, and Shan Wang for advice.

  1. Funding: China’s national social science program “Pragma-rhetorical studies of construction grammar” (18BYY216).

Appendix: Database of public environmental protection signs

(“√” suggests correctness; “*” suggests pragmalinguistic failure; “#” suggests sociopragmatic failure; and “/” suggests covering two lines. Sentences without a period are given one for completeness.)

Part A:
About fire and smoking
1.#熄灭你的火星, 留下你的爱心。(Pull out your sparks and leave us your love.)
3.*手动火警按钮 (Manual Activating)
5.消防栓 (Fire Hydrant)
6.*消防通道, 禁止通行。(Fire door: Keep closed.)
7.√禁止吸烟。(No Smoking.)
8.√无烟区 (Non-smoking Area)
9.禁止烟火。(Fire Prohibited.)
10.*护林防火, 人人有责。(If you must smoke, dispose of cigarette butts carefully.)
11.√少抽一支烟,多栽一棵树。(Less cigarettes, more trees.)
12.*吸烟室 (Smorking Room)
13.√吸烟区 (Smoking Area)
14.*禁止吸烟。(Forbid Smoking.)
15.*非指定地点请勿吸烟。(No Smoking except in Designated Areas.)
16.*无烟图书馆 (Smoke-free Hotel)
17.*您已进入无烟区域。(You are entering a no smoking area.)
Part B:
About flowers and grass
18.*请勿踩踏草地。(Don’t Tread on the meadow.)
19.*#你我共做绿色卫士。(You and I Be the Bodyguard of the Greenery.)
20.*#爱护绿草, 请勿入内。(Care of the green, no entrance.)
21.*给花一份呵护, 给您一份健康。(Afford protection for the grass a little. It protects your health a lot.)
23.*#小草正在休息/请勿打扰。(Please take care of the sleeping grass.)
24.*请爱护花草! (#Please cherish the flowers; *Please keep off the Lawn.)
25.#爱护花草/请勿践踏。(Love The Grass And Flowers/ Don’t Trample.)
26.*踏入想一想, 小草也在长。(INTO THE THINK GRASS IS LONG.)
27.*芳草萋萋, 踏之何忍? (Fangcao qiqi/ riding the heren.)
28.#给我一点爱, 还您一片绿。(Love me tender, love me more, and you will have a green world in return.)
29.*严禁践踏草坪。(Prohibit Stepping on the Grass.)
30.#拥有一颗爱心, 撑起一片绿荫。(The more you show your care, the more shade you will share.)
31.参天大树前人栽, 草木扶疏后人凉。(A seedling today, a shelter tomorrow.)
Part C:
About rubbish
32.*可回收物 (*KE HUI SHOU WU; *Can be reused rubbish; Recyclable; RECYCLABLE)
33.*不可回收物 (*BU KE HUI SHOU WU; *Can’t be reused rubbish)
34.*不可回收垃圾 (#Unreclaimable Rubbish; *Unrecycle; *Can’t Reused; NON-RECYCLABLE)
35.*不可回收 (Organism)
36.*严禁随地吐痰。(*No Littering; No Spitting.)
37.#做文明人,不乱扔垃圾。(Do the right thing, don’t litter.)
38.*#你扔掉的不仅仅是垃圾。(What you are littering is more than garbage.)
39.*#捡起片片纸/传递深深情。(Pick up piece of papers,/ Pass deep love.)
40.#有您的参与,垃圾就不会无家可归。(If you would like to join us, rubbish will never be homeless.)
41.*垃圾在此投放/烟头切勿投入。(The garbage throws in here/ The cigarette butt throws in absolutely not to.)
42.√请勿乱扔果/皮纸屑烟头。(Do not litter everywhere.)
43.*#减废回收在校园, 塑胶回收变资源。(Waste recycling in the campus, plastic recycling change resources.)
44.*#禁止在公共场所随地大小便。(People can not shit in public places.)
Part D:
46.#做文明人/行清洁路。(Behave properly to keep the path clean.)
47.#来也匆匆/去也匆匆。(Come with a rush, go with a flush.)
48.#文明行为, 带来健康人生。(Good manners make a good mind.)
49.√坐便器纸垫 (Toilet Seat Cover)
50.#请勿张贴。(Post No Bill.)
51.√请勿刻划。(No Scratching.)
52.*#公共卫生间 (Between public health)
53.*小心滑倒。(Beware of slippery.)
54.*#禁止使用一次性餐具。(Don’t Use One-time Dishware.)
55.*保护自然环境, 造福子孙后代。(Environment protection benefit offspring; Protect the environment, Benefit the descendants.)
56.*请随手关水。(Please hand Guan water.)
57.*请节约用水。(Please save water; Don’t waste water; *#Water conservation)
58.*让我们做鸟类的朋友。(Let us do the birds friend.)
59.*濒危珍禽 (Dangerous Birds)
60.*让我们做/鸟类的朋友。(Let us do the birds friend.)
61.*#保护水资源, 建设新家乡。(Protect water resource, Construct new-hometown.)
62.*保护环境, 从我做起。(Protect Circum Stance begin with me.)
63.*爱护环境, 人人有责。(We have only one earth.)
65.*#心触一块净土, 爱博一片蓝天。(heart touches a pure land, love gets a blue sky.)
66.*#不要因你的美丽伤了我。(Don’t hurt me for your pretty.)


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Published Online: 2021-05-12
Published in Print: 2021-05-26

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