Journal directory listing - Volume 53 (2008) - Science Education【53(1)】March

A Comparison of the Discourses of Science Texts in English and Mandarin on Newton’s First Law of Motion Author: Wen-Gin Yang, Shih-Wen Chen(Graduate Institute of Science Education, National Taiwan Normal University)

Vol.&No.:Vol. 53, No.1
Date:March 2008


This study aimed to investigate the differences between the “discourses” of science texts in English and Mandarin. The target texts concerned the physics of Newton’s first law of motion and its Mandarin translation. A database of these texts was constructed, so that it could be studied in terms of systemic functional linguistics. The number of events, lexical density, and rank shifts of both texts were analyzed in order to clarify the differences between the English and Mandarin versions. It was found that the Mandarin science text used more events (e.g. one event might be the attempt to get a large truck to start moving by pushing on it with your hands) to describe the same scientific fact or concept than did its English-language counterpart. Each sentence of the English text was often composed of a single event; sentences always consisted of plural events in case of Mandarin. Furthermore, while the English text used more function words (such as prepositions, conjunctions, and so on) to present the context of the science events, the latter content words (Mainly include nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs). Both “packing” and “unpacking” processes were utilized in translating English discourses into Mandarin ones: the former “packs” two or more events in English into a single event, while the latter “unpacks” a single event into two or more events in Mandarin. These processes condense or unfold original discourses; both risk distorting the meaning. The implications for of Mandarin science textbook reading, teaching, and editing were discussed.

Keywords:Newton’s First Law of Motion, Physics Text, Scientific Mandarin, Scientific English

《Full Text》

APA FormatYang, W.-G., & Chen, S.-W. (2008). A Comparison of the Discourses of Science Texts in English and Mandarin on Newton’s First Law of Motion. Journal of National Taiwan Normal University: Mathematics & Science Education, 53(1), 113-137. doi:10.6300/JNTNU.2008.53(1).05