Bathrobe's Le Petit Prince
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The Fox's Secret:
L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux
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Translating into Chinese (1)

(Chinese translations) ▶ Here is my secret. It is very simple ▶ One sees clearly only with the heart ▼ What is essential is invisible to the eyes

L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux | What is essential is invisible to the eye

How do Chinese translators tackle L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux ('What is essential is invisible to the eye'), from 'The Little Prince'?

With upwards of 50 translations of Le petit prince into Chinese, treating them like English, where there are only five, is out of the question. I adopt here a statistical approach, which is visually quite messy. To help readers navigate through the detail, variations and statistics are placed in grey boxes and can be skipped.

Here I look at 52 of the Chinese translations of Le Petit Prince that I have that include that sentence -- excluding the plagiarised version of Liǔ 2004. Of these, 25 appear to be translated from the French, 26 from the English of Catherine Woods, and one is unclear.

I'll break variation into two types: Grammatical structure and expressive content, along with an exceptional pattern. In this sentence variation is dominated by grammar -- in particular the use of the enigmatic ... shì ... de construction.


little prince A. STRUCTURE

The problem of invisible

Invisible ('invisible') is an adjective meaning 'which cannot be seen'. In its most basic form, the sentence thus means: Les yeux ne voient pas l'essentiel 'The eyes do not see what is essential'.

'the eyes'
'do not see'
'what is essential'
les yeux
ne voient pas
l'essentiel

With invisible, l'essentiel is swung forward into subject position, like this:

les yeux
ne voient pas
l'essentiel
arrow
l'essentiel
est invisible
(pour les yeux)

In a sense, invisible functions like the passive voice, with l'essentiel as the topic of the sentence.

However, Chinese lacks an adjective equivalent to invisible. True, there are a couple of words that appear to fit, but they are not really suitable.

To express the actual meaning of the sentence in Chinese, we must go back to basics and say 'The eyes cannot see what is essential'.

The obvious choice here is 看不见 kàn-bu-jiàn 'unable to see'. This is the 'negative potential form' of the resultative verb 看见 kàn-jiàn 'to see'. (See It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.) So logically speaking, our sentence would look something like this:

BASIC SENTENCE, WITH 'EYES' AS SUBJECT
 
Subject
Verb
Object
眼睛
yǎnjing
l'oeil
'eye'
看不见
kàn-bu-jiàn
ne peut pas voir
'cannot see'
本质的东西
běnzhì de dōngxi
l'essentiel
'essential things'

Note: 本质 běnzhì is Mainland Chinese standard. Taiwan standard is 本質, pronounced běnzhí.

"The eyes cannot see essential things"

But there is NOT A SINGLE TRANSLATOR who uses a sentence following this pattern.

There are three main ways in which translations vary from this hypothetical norm. These variations may occur in various combinations, which complicates the analysis.

a. 'Eyes' as an instrumental

TOP

Firstly, more than half of the 52 translators don't treat 'eyes' as the subject, they treat them as an instrument. That is, the basic sentence for these translators looks more like this:

BASIC SENTENCE, WITH 'EYES' AS INSTRUMENT
 
Subject
Instrumental clause
Verb
Object
(
rén
on
'person')
用眼睛
yòng yǎnjing
avec les yeux
'use the eye'
看不见
kàn-bu-jiàn
ne peut pas voir
'cannot see'
本质的东西
běnzhì de dōngxi
l'essentiel
'essential things'

"A person cannot see essential things with the eyes"

The instrumental interpretation may find favour with translators because it allows parallelism with the previous sentence (On ne voit bien qu'avec le coeur), which uses the instrumental 'using the heart'. Or it may be favoured as it reflects pour les yeux 'to the eye' in the original.

In Chinese, the clause 用眼睛 yòng yǎnjing 'use the eye' comes before 'cannot see' instead of after it. Moreover, yòng itself is usually regarded as a verb, so that the sentence becomes a double-verb sentence (See It is only with the heart that one can see rightly).

Although the subject is theoretically something like rén 'people', no translation uses an explicit subject.

Only one translator uses this basic instrumental sentence pattern, although with more elaborate vocabulary:

SINGLE TRANSLATION BASED ON THE BASIC SENTENCE
 
Subject
Prep. phrase
Verb
Object
Omitted
單是透過雙眼
dān shì tòuguò shuāngyǎn
seulement à travers les deux yeux
'just through the two eyes'
看不見
kàn-bu-jiàn
ne peut pas voir
'cannot see'
事情的真像
shìqíng de zhēnxiàng
la véritable image des choses
'true image of things'

b. The 是 ... 的 shì ... de construction

TOP

All other translators (with one exception see below) use what I'll call the 'shi ... de construction'. This involves using the words shì and ... de as a 'frame' around a particular part of the sentence.

The shi ... de construction is rather poorly explained in Chinese grammar. Its broad range of uses, one shading into another, defies simple categorisation. We won't try and describe them here. What we can say is that:

  1. shì stresses or emphasises what follows it;
  2. de concludes the sentence with a sense of affirmation, explanation, or assertion.

Here, ... shì ... de is used in a contrastive and emphatic sense. Applying it in a straightforward way to our two basic sentences (i.e., 1. with 'eyes' as subject and 2. with 'eyes' as an instrument), we get this:

ADDING 是 ... 的 shì ... de
 
 
Subject
shi
Verb + Object
de
 
眼睛
yǎnjing
l'oeil
'the eye'

shì
看不见本质的东西
kàn-bu-jiàn běnzhì de dōngxi
ne peut pas voir l'essentiel
'cannot see essential things'

de
 
Subject
'With the eyes'
shi
Verb + Object
de
(instrumental)
Omitted
用眼睛
yòng yǎnjing
avec l'oeil
'with the eye'

shì
看不见本质的东西
kàn-bu-jiàn běnzhì de dōngxi
ne peut pas voir l'essentiel
'cannot see essential things'

de

Shi ... de places contrastive emphasis on 'cannot see essential things'. The contrast is with the previous sentence, namely:

CONTRASTIVE COMPARISON OF CONTENT IN THE TWO SENTENCES
 
Sentence
Means
 
Result
Yes/No
1.
with the heart
 
can see (essential things)
YES
2.
with the eyes
 
can see essential things
NO

Therefore, the key contrast is that the heart CAN SEE CLEARLY while the eyes CANNOT SEE ESSENTIAL THINGS.

Nine translators (almost one-fifth of the total) use shi ... de in this pattern.

But while perfectly adequate for expressing the meaning, this pattern suffers from one drawback: it doesn't match the order of the original English and French. To achieve this, 'essential things' must be brought to the start of the sentence. The obvious choice is to make it the topic or theme.

Shi...de, with topicalisation

TOP

In the French original, the sentence opens with l'essentiel as the topic or theme, and then makes a statement about that theme.

ORDER OF ELEMENTS IN FRENCH AND ENGLISH
 
 
Subject
Copula
Adjective plus Prep Phrase
French
L'essentiel
est
invisible pour les yeux
English
What is essential
is
invisible to the eye

All in all, 38 Chinese translators (three-quarters of the total) transform l'essentiel / 'what is essential' into the topic of the sentence.

This is how our sentence above looks after topicalisation:

TOPICALISATION

 
TOPIC
 
Subject
shi
Verb
de
 
本质的东西
běnzhì de dōngxi
l'essentiel
'essential things'
 
眼睛
yǎnjing
l'oeil
'the eye'

shì
看不见
kàn-bu-jiàn
ne peut pas voir
'cannot see'

de
 
TOPIC
 
Subject
Prep. phrase
shi
Verb
de
(with
instrumental)
本质的东西
běnzhì de dōngxi
l'essentiel
'essential things'
 
Omitted
用眼睛
yòng yǎnjing
avec l'oeil
'with the eye'

shì
看不见
kàn-bu-jiàn
ne peut pas voir
'cannot see'

de

The topicalised versions mean:

"Essential things, the eyes cannot see" and
"Essential things, cannot see with the eyes"

These two sentence patterns are used by 26 translations (about half of the total). Sixteen use 用眼睛 yòng yǎnjing (instrumental 'with the eyes'); ten use 眼睛 yǎnjing ('eyes') as the subject of the sentence.

The reason for favouring this sentence pattern is obvious. Framing 看不见 kàn-bu-jiàn with shi ... de places it in exactly the same position as invisible in French. The sentence thus follows both the order and elements of the original French. Indeed, predicative adjectives seem to habitually use the shi ... de construction in Chinese (e.g., see here) and it results in a very natural equivalent to predicative adjectives in Western languages.

(Note that translators using this pattern tend to follow the original French/English by treating the eyes as an instrument.)

In addition, one translator deletes the topic altogether as being understood from the previous sentence.

OMITTING THE TOPIC
 
TOPIC
Prep. phrase
shi
Verb
de
X
光凭眼睛
guāng píng yǎnjing
seulement avec l'œil
'only with the eye'

shì
看不到
kàn-bu-dào
ne peut voir
'cannot see'

de

Framing other elements with shi...de

TOP

A number of translators use shi...de to frame other segments of the sentence. For example:

1. Invisible to the eyes: Eight translators move 眼睛 yǎnjing 'the eyes' inside the frame, treating 'invisible to the eyes' as a single unit:

'INVISIBLE TO THE EYES'
 
TOPIC
shi
Subject
Verb
de
本质的东西
běnzhì de dōngxi
l'essentiel
'essential things'

shì
眼睛
yǎnjing
l'oeil
'eye'
看不见
kàn-bu-jiàn
ne peut pas voir
'can't see'

de

This pattern is found only with 'eyes' as subject. It isn't found with the instrumental.

2. Not visible to the eyes: Four translators take the negative element outside the frame and use 不是 bú shì ('is not') instead of shì. As a result, the content inside 是 ... 的 shì...de becomes positive. The content inside the frame here is thus 眼睛看得见 yǎnjing kàn-de-jiàn 'the eyes can see'.

PUTTING THE NEGATIVE OUTSIDE THE FRAME

 
 
TOPIC
 
bu shi
Subject
Verb
de
 
本质的东西
běnzhì de dōngxi
l'essentiel
'essential things'
 
不是
bú shì
眼睛
yǎnjing
l'œil
'the eye'
看得见
kàn-de-jiàn
ne peut pas voir
'can see'

de
 
TOPIC
 
bu shi
Subject
Prep. phrase
Verb
de
(with
instrumental)
本质的东西
běnzhì de dōngxi
l'essentiel
'essential things'
 
不是
bú shì
Omitted
用眼睛
yòng yǎnjing
avec l'œil
'with the eye'
看得见
kàn-de-jiàn
ne peut pas voir
'can see'

de

This completes the main permutations using the shi...de construction. There are some sentences with a special twist:

c. The use of suǒ

TOP

suǒ is a particle indicating that the following verb takes an object. For example, in this phrase:

我所爱的人
Wǒ suǒ ài de rén
'The person that I love'

suǒ indicates that ài takes an object, and that object is rén.

In this case, the structure is similar, except that the object has been omitted.

最主要的要点是眼睛所看不见的。
Zuì zhǔyào de yàodiǎn shì yǎnjing suǒ kàn-bu-jiàn de.
'The most important key point is (what) the eyes can't see.'

de can be understood as: 所看不见 ( 的东西 ) suǒ kàn-bu-jiàn (de dōngxi) '(thing) that can't see'.


suǒ

Five translations use the grammatical particle suǒ, a feature of the Classical language and modern written literary style. This suǒ is used to indicate that the verb takes an object. An example is the following sentence:

最主要的要点是眼睛所看不见的。
Zuì zhǔyào de yàodiǎn shì yǎnjing suǒ kàn-bu-jiàn de.
'The most important key point is (what) the eyes can't see.'

In this example, the particle de can be regarded as the object of the verb 看不见 kàn-bu-jiàn. de here stands in for a noun that is not expressed, e.g. 事情 shìqing 'thing, matter, affair'.

The other translations using suǒ are:

事物的本质,恰恰是眼睛所无法看到的。
Shìwù de běnzhì, qiàqià shì yǎnjing suǒ wúfǎ kàndào de.
'The essence of matters, is exactly what the eyes have no way of seeing.'

这是我们的肉眼所看不到的。
Zhè shì wǒmen de ròuyǎn suǒ kàn-bu-dào de.
'This is what our naked eyes can't see.'

本质的东西是肉眼所看不到的。
Běnzhì de dōngxi shì ròuyǎn suǒ kàn-bu-dào de.
'Essential things the naked eye cannot see.'

重要的东西,并非眼睛所见。
Zhòngyào de dōngxi, bìng fēi yǎnjing suǒ jiàn.
'Important things, the eyes do not see.'

The final example is written in a literary or pseudo-classical style.


Significance in variation?

TOP

Despite the existence of variation among sentence patterns, in a majority of cases the net result is to reproduce something very close to the sentence pattern of the original French and English, with l'essentiel as the topic, and the focus of shi ... de placed on either invisible, invisible pour les yeux, or non...visible pour les yeux.

The exception is that set of sentences that we saw above where l'essentiel has not been topicalised. However, in Chinese this sentence pattern is regarded as completely interchangeable with the topicalised version. While it does not faithfully reproduce the word order of the original French or English, it is regarded as quite normal and natural.

What is truly intriguing is the fact that the range and distribution of variations is very similar between translations from the English and the French! For a full list of sentences of each type as translated from the French and English...


heart

Translation of est invisible pour les yeux

The following table classifies the grammatical patterns in Chinese translations of est invisible pour les yeux, from Le Petit Prince (translating from the French).

WITH 是...的 FRAME

 
GROUP ONE: With Eye as Instrument GROUP TWO: With Eye as Agent
I. Frame around [Vneg + Object] -- Object in Place
With eye [can't see essential things] Eye [can't see essential things]
10 Lín 2003 用眼睛是看不见本质的东西的。
Yòng yǎnjing shì kàn-bu-jiàn běnzhì de dōngxi de.
'With the eyes can't see essential things.'
8 Zhāng 2001 眼睛是看不到重要的東西的。
Yǎnjing shì kàn-bu-dào zhòngyào de dōngxi de.
'The eyes can't see important things.'
13 Táng 2004 用眼睛是看不见事物的本质的。
Yòng yǎnjing shì kàn-bu-jiàn shìwù de běnzhì de.
'With the eyes can't see the essence of matters.'
15 Guō 2005 眼睛,是看不见本质的。
Yǎnjing, shì kàn bu jiàn běnzhì de.
'Eyes, can't see the essential.'
19 Liǔ 2006 光靠肉眼,是不可能看到本质的东西的。
Guāng kào ròuyǎn, shì bù kěnéng kàndào běnzhì de dōngxi de.
'Just relying on the naked eyes, can't see essential things.'
     
II. Frame around [Vneg] -- Object Topicalised
Essential things with eye [can't see] Essential things eye [can't see]
2 Mǎ 2000 本質的東西用眼睛是看不見的。
Běnzhì de dōngxi yòng yǎnjing shì kàn-bu-jiàn de.
'The essential things the eyes can't see.'
8 Mǎ 2001 本質的東西眼睛是看不見的。
Běnzhì de dōngxi yǎnjing shì kān-bu-jiàn de.
'Essential things the eyes can't see.'
11 Zhōu 2000 事物的本質用眼睛是看不出來的。
Shìwù de běnzhí yòng yǎnjing shì kàn-bu-chūlái de.
'The essence of things with the eyes cannot make out.
16 Huáng 2005 真正重要的东西,眼睛是看不见的。
Zhēnzhèng zhòngyào de dōngxi, yǎnjing shì kàn-bu-jiàn de.
'Truly important things, the eyes can't see.'
12 Translator unknown 2000 实质性的东西,用眼睛是看不见的。
Shízhì-xìng de dōngxi, yòng yǎnjing shì kàn-bu-jiàn de.
'Essential things, with the eyes can't see.'
37 Xiāo 2005 真正重要的东西肉眼是看不见的。
Zhēnzhèng zhòngyào de dōngxi ròuyǎn shì kàn-bu-dào de.
'Truly important things the naked eye can't see.'
20 Zhōu 2002 本质的东西用眼是看不见的。
Běnzhì de dōngxi yòng yǎn shì kàn-bu-jiàn de.
Essential things with the eyes can't see.'
44 Zhōu 2006 本质的东西肉眼是看不到的。
Běnzhì de dōngxì ròuyǎn shì kàn-bu-dào de.
'Essential things the naked eye can't see.'
29 Lóng 2004 实质性的东西,只用眼睛是看不见的。
Shízhì-xìng de dōngxi, zhǐ yòng yǎnjing shì kàn bu jiàn de.
'Actual things, only with the eyes can't see'.
46 Wáng & Qián 2008 内在的东西,眼睛是看不到的。
Nèizài de dōngxi, yǎnjing shì kàn-bu-dào de.
'Inherent things, the eyes cannot see.'
45 Zǐ 2006 真正重要的东西用肉眼是看不见的。
Zhēnzhèng zhòngyào de dōngxì yòng ròuyǎn shì kàn-bu-jiàn de.
'Truly important things with the naked eye can't see.'
49 Lín 2010 本质的东西,眼睛是看不见的。
Běnzhì de dōngxi, yǎnjing shì kàn-bù-jiàn de.
'Essential things eye can't see.'
III. Frame around [Vneg] -- Object Omitted
With eye [can't see] Eye [can't see]
           
IV. Frame around [Eye + Vneg] -- Object Topicalised
Essential things [with eye can't see] Essential things [eye can't see]
      1 Yáo 1994 真正重要的東西是肉眼無法看見的。
Zhēnzhèng zhòngyào de dōngxi shì ròuyǎn wúfǎ kàn-jiàn de.
'Truly important things the naked eye no way can see.'
      5 Ài 2001 真正重要的东西是肉眼无法看见的。
Zhēnzhèng zhòngyào de dōngxi shì ròuyǎn wúfǎ kàn-jiàn de.
'Truly important things the naked eye no way can see.'
      11 Xū 2003 本质的东西是肉眼看不见的。
Běnzhì de dōngxi shì ròuyǎn kàn-bu-jiàn de.
'Essential things the naked eye can't see.'
      18 Chén & Huǒ 2006 本质的东西是肉眼所看不到的。
Běnzhì de dōngxi shì ròuǎn suǒ kàn-bu-dào de.
'Essential things the naked eye cannot see.'
      50 Wáng 2010 精髓是眼睛看不见的。
Jīngsǔi shì yǎnjing kàn-bù-jiàn de.
'Quintessence eye can't see.'
V. Frame (neg) around [Eye + V] -- Object Topicalised
Essential things not [with eye can see] Essential things not [eye can see]
7 Wú & Dǒng 2001 真正的東西不是用眼睛看得到的。
Zhēnzhèng de dōngxi búshì yòng yǎnjing kàn-de-dào de.
'True things are not with the eyes can see.'
     
23 Translator unknown ND-1 真正的東西不是用眼睛可以看得到的。
Zhēnzhèng de dōngxi bú shì yòng yǎnjing kěyǐ kàn-de-dào de.
'True things are not with the eyes can see.'
     

 

WITHOUT 是...的 FRAME

 
GROUP ONE: With Eye as Instrument GROUP TWO: With Eye as Agent
      3 Máo 2000 重要的东西,并非眼睛所见。
Zhòngyào de dōngxi, bìng fēi yǎnjing suǒ jiàn.
'Important things, the eyes do not see.'

Translation of 'is invisible to the eye'

The following table classifies the grammatical patterns in Chinese translations of 'is invisible to the eye', from The Little Prince (translating from the English).

WITH 是...的 FRAME

 
GROUP ONE: With Eye as Instrument GROUP TWO: With Eye as Agent
I. Frame around [Vneg + Object] -- Object in Place
With eye [can't see essential things] Eye [can't see essential things]
4 Chén 1998 光憑肉眼是看不到事物的精髓的。
Guāng píng ròuyǎn shì kàn-bu-dào shìwù de jīngsuí de.
'Just relying on naked eye can't see the quintessence of things.'
34 Ài 2005 肉眼是永远无法看清楚事物的本质的。
Ròuyǎn shì yǒngyuǎn wúfǎ kàn qīngchu shìwù de běnzhì de.
'Naked eye forever cannot see clearly the essence of things.'
32 Wú 2004 用眼睛是看不见事物的本质的。
Yòng yǎnjing shì kàn-bu-jiàn shìwù de běnzhì de.
'Using eye can't see the essence of matters.'
38 Bā 2006 眼睛是看不到事物的本质的。
Yǎnjìng shì kàn-bu-dào shìwù de běnzhì de.
'Eye can't see the essence of matters.'
II. Frame around [Vneg] -- Object Topicalised
Essential things with eye [can't see] Essential things eye [can't see]
7 Lǐ & Yè 2000 重要的東西用肉眼是看不見的。
Zhòngyào de dōngxi yòng ròuyǎn shì kàn-bu-jiàn de.
'Important things with naked eye can't see.'
2 Sòng 1992 要緊的東西眼睛是看不見的。
Yào jǐn de dōngxi yǎnjing shì kàn-bu-jiàn de.
'Important things eye can't see.'
5 Dù 1998 事物的精髓用眼睛是看不到的。
Shìwù de jīngsǔi yòng yǎnjing shì kàn-bu-dào de.
'The essence of things using eye can't see.'
24 Zhèng 2003 精华的东西,眼睛是永远看不见的。
Jīnghuá de dōngxi, yǎnjing shì yǒngyuǎn kàn-bu-jiàn de.
'Things of the essence eye forever can't see.'
18 Lǐ-1 2002 真實的事情用眼睛是看不清楚的。
Zhēnshí de shìqing yòng yǎnjing shì kàn-bu-qīngchu de.
'True things using eye can't see clearly.'
41 Hóng 2006 重要的东西眼睛是看不见的。
Zhòngyào de dōngxi yǎnjing shì kàn-bu-jiàn de.
'Important things eye can't see.'
25 Bái 2004 一切事物的本质,用肉眼是看不到的,
Yīqiè shìwù de běnzhì, yòng ròuyǎn shì kàn-bu-dào de.
'The essence of all things using naked eye can't see.'
48 Féng 2010 最本质的东西眼睛是看不见的。
Zuì běnzhì de dōngxi yǎnjing shì kàn-bù-jiàn de.
'Most essential thing eye can't see.'
26 Cāo & Féng 2004 珍贵的东西,用眼睛是看不见的。
Zhēnguì de dōngxi, yòng yǎnjing shì kàn-bu-jiàn de.
'Valuable things, using eye can't see.'
51 Zhèng 2010 重要的东西眼睛是看不见的。
zhòngyào de dōngxi yǎnjing shì kàn-bù-jiàn de.
'Important things eye cannot see.'
30 Lǚ 2004 本质的东西用眼睛是看不见的。
Běnzhì de dōngxi yòng yǎnjing shì kàn-bu-jiàn de.
'Essential things using eye can't see.'
     
33 Yáng 2004 事物的精髓,光憑眼睛是看不到的。
Shìwù de jīngsǔi, guāng píng yǎnjing shì kàn-bu-dào de.
'The quintessence of things, just using eye can't see.'
     
43 Mǎ 2006 最根本的东西用眼睛是看不见的。
Zuì gēnběn de dōngxi yòng yǎnjing shì kàn-bu-jiàn de.
'The most basic thing using eye can't see.'
     
III. Frame around [Vneg] -- Object Omitted
With eye [can't see] Eye [can't see]
10 Xuē 2000 光凭眼睛是看不到的。
Guāng píng yǎnjing shì kàn-bu-dào de.
'Only using eye can't see.'
     
IV. Frame around [Eye + Vneg] -- Object Topicalised
Essential things [with eye can't see] Essential things [eye can't see]
      19 Lǐ-2 2002 最主要的要点是眼睛所看不见的。
Zuì zhǔyào de yàodiǎn shì yǎnjing suǒ kàn bu jiàn de.
'The most important key point eye can't see.'
      21 Chéng 2003 事物的本质,恰恰是眼睛所无法看到的。
Shìwù de běnzhì, qiàqià shì yǎnjing suǒ wúfǎ kàndào de.
The essence of matters, is exactly what eye have no way of seeing.'
      27 Dài 2004 内中本质是眼睛看不到的。
Nèizhōng běnzhì shì yǎnjing kàn-bu-dào de.
'Internal essence eye can't see.'
      40 Dà 2006 这是我们的肉眼所看不到的。
Zhè shì wǒmen de ròuyǎn suǒ kàn-bu-dào de.
'This is what our naked eye can't see.'
      50 Wáng 2010 精髓是眼睛看不见的。
Jīngsǔi shì yǎnjing kàn-bù-jiàn de.
'Quintessence eye can't see.'
V. Frame (neg) around [Eye + V] -- Object Topicalised
Essential things not [with eye can see] Essential things not [eye can see]
      6 Wú 1999 真正重要的東西不是眼睛可以看得到的。
Zhēnzhèng zhòngyào de dōngxi búshì yǎnjing kěyǐ kàn-de-dào de.
'Truly important things are not eye can see.'
      54 Translator unknown ND-2 凡是本質的事都不是眼目能看得見的。
Fán shì běnzhì de shì dōu bú shì yǎnmù néng kàn-de-jiàn de.
'All essence are not eye can see.'

petit prince Translation of 'is invisible to the eye'

The following table classifies the grammatical patterns in Chinese translations of 'is invisible to the eye', from The Little Prince (translation which it is not possible to identify as being made from either the French original or Katherine Woods' English).

WITH 是...的 FRAME

 
GROUP ONE: With Eye as Instrument GROUP TWO: With Eye as Agent
I. Frame around [Vneg] -- Object Topicalised
Essential things with eye [can't see] Essential things eye [can't see]
14 Chén 2001 真正重要的東西用眼睛是看不見的。
Zhēnzhèng zhòngyào de dōngxi yòng yǎnjing shì kàn-bu-jiàn de.
'Truly important things with the eyes can't see'.
     

little princeB. EXCEPTIONAL PATTERN

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Translation not using 是 ... 的 shì ... de

One translator doesn't use ... shì ... de at all. This translator uses a more classical-sounding construction.

 
TOPIC
     
Subject
 
Verb
 
重要的东西
zhòngyào de dōngxi,
'important things'
 

bìng

fēi
'is not'
眼睛
yǎnjing
'the eye'

suǒ

jiàn
'see'

The form 非眼睛所见 fēi yǎnjìng sǔo jiàn stands out from the rest for its use of Classical-style Chinese.

bìng is an emphatic form used before a negative. Using bìng serves to emphasise that the eyes can NOT see essential things, forming a contrast with the previous sentence stating that only the heart can see clearly.

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