Chuan Yu

Year of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of English Language and Literature

Principal Supervisor

Neather, Robert


China.;Online social networks;Translating and interpreting




This thesis presents a qualitative study on the processes of user-generated crowdsourced collaborative translation in Yeeyan, China’s largest online translation community. Collaborative translation is still a relatively emergent area of scholarship and research so far has focused mainly on audiovisual translation practice. Studies which focus on the co-production of written texts mostly provide only a fragmented picture and treat collaborative translation as a linear process. In this thesis, I examine the translation initiated and undertaken by two or more volunteer translators who collaboratively produce a translated text, focusing on how they interact with each other, who they are, why they participate, and what meanings they give to their behaviour. Adopting an ethnographic methodology, I have conducted longitudinal in-depth fieldwork in Yeeyan, using the methods of participant observation and interactive interview. Three types of data are collected: 1) fieldnotes; 2) the material resources archived on the Yeeyan website and the translation manuscripts; and 3) elicited interview data. After my preliminary thematic analysis, I undertake a micro-level discourse analysis, examining the participants’ behaviours, decision-making processes, emerging identity roles and perceptions on competence as they unfolded during the collaboration process. Primarily informed by Wenger’s “communities of practice” theory (CoP theory), the analysis reveals that Yeeyan is first a participatory media platform which provides Chinese readers with access to knowledge and information not available in their mother language, as well as allowing its users to play an active role in the production and circulation of the media content. More profoundly, Yeeyan is an online CoP where a crowd of translators from different professional and disciplinary backgrounds interact with each other regularly for the shared practices they are passionate about and for the shared enterprises they care for. The findings suggest that the process of collaborative translation in Yeeyan is de facto an experience of meaning negotiation. First, competence in a CoP is obtained through mutual recognition from other members as a result of their active and continuous participation. Second, meanings in Yeeyan are not static, but are dynamically negotiated between the participants, depending on the genre of the text being translated, which specialized expertise the translators possess, how competent they are in the Yeeyan community, and what meanings they intend to give to their behaviours individually and collectively. Third, a CoP like Yeeyan is also a complex social learning system which consists of multiple interrelated sub-communities. Yeeyan members’ endeavour to solve translation problems and thereby increase their competence also contributes to forming a shared history of learning. Beyond these findings, this thesis also makes broader methodological and theoretical contributions. It demonstrates how the use of an immersive ethnographic methodology, hitherto seldom applied in the TS field, can provide more holistic insights into translators’ interactions, translation manuscripts and the entire collaboration process. The use of CoP theory offers us a new perspective that explains collaborative translation as a social practice through which – and to which – the participants ascribe meanings in the process of translating and interacting.


Principal supervisor: Doctor Robert J. Neather.;Thesis submitted to the Department of English Language and Literature. Thesis (Ph.D.)--Hong Kong Baptist University, 2017.


Includes bibliographical references (pages 288-309).

Available for download on Saturday, July 06, 2047

Large files may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."