TIP of the day: from the blogs: Dave Brunn on translations + Eugene Nida

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Posted: Sun, Feb 21 2016 7:42 PM

  a forum thread had a link to this blog post - My Second-Favorite All-Around Book on Bible Translation by Andy Naselli on Andy Naselli Thoughts on Theology. The excerpt is primarily from Dave Brunn. One Bible, Many Versions: Are All Translations Created Equal? Downers Grove: IVP, 2013. 205 pp.

We English-speakers often emphasize how different English translations are. Brunn acknowledges a spectrum of differences, but throughout the book he focuses on how similar English translations are (pp. 189–90, numbering added):

  1. Every version translates thought for thought rather than word for word in many contexts (chap. 1).
  2. Every version gives priority to meaning over form (chap. 2).
  3. Every version gives priority to the meaning of idioms and figures of speech over the actual words (chap. 2).
  4. Every version gives priority to the dynamics of meaning in many contexts (chap. 2).
  5. Every version uses many renderings that are outside of its ideal range (chap. 3).
  6. Every version allows the context to dictate many of its renderings (chap. 4).
  7. Every version steps away from the original form in order to be grammatically correct in English (chap. 5).
  8. Every version steps away from the form to avoid wrong meaning or zero meaning (chap. 5).
  9. Every version steps away from the form to add further clarity to the meaning (chap. 5).
  10. Every version steps away from the form to enhance naturalness in English (chap. 5).
  11. Every version translates some Hebrew or Greek words many different ways (chap. 6).
  12. Every version changes some of the original words to nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs or multiple-word phrases (chap. 6).
  13. Every version sometimes translates an assortment of different Hebrew or Greek words all the same way in English (chap. 6).
  14. Every version leaves some Hebrew and Greek words untranslated (chap. 6).
  15. Every version adds English words that do not represent any particular word in the Hebrew or Greek text (chap. 6).
  16. Every version changes single words into phrases, even when it is not required (chap. 6).
  17. Every version translates concepts in place of words in many contexts (chap. 6).
  18. Every version sometimes gives priority to naturalness and appropriateness over the ideal of seeking to be transparent to the original text (chap. 6).
  19. Every version sometimes chooses not to use a literal, transparent rendering even though one is available (chap. 6).
  20. Every version substitutes present-day terms in place of some biblical terms (chap. 6).
  21. Every version paraphrases in some contexts (chap. 6).
  22. Every version uses interpretation when translating ambiguities (chap. 7).
  23. Every version makes thousands of changes that amount to much more than dropping a “jot” or a “tittle” (chap. 8).
  24. Every version adds interpretation, even when it is not absolutely necessary (chap. 9).
  25. Every version replaces some masculine forms with gender-neutral forms (chap. 9).
  26. Every version often sets aside the goal of reflecting each inspired word in order to better reflect the inspired naturalness and readability of the original (chap. 9).


Wikipedia on Eugene Nida:

"His most notable contribution to translation theory is Dynamic Equivalence, also known as Functional Equivalence. For more information, see "Dynamic and formal equivalence." Nida also developed the componential analysis technique, which split words into their components to help determine equivalence in translation (e.g. "bachelor" = male + unmarried). This is, perhaps, not the best example of the technique, though it is the most well-known.

Nida's dynamic-equivalence theory is often held in opposition to the views of philologists who maintain that an understanding of the source text (ST) can be achieved by assessing the inter-animation of words on the page, and that meaning is self-contained within the text (i.e. much more focused on achieving semantic equivalence).

This theory, along with other theories of correspondence in translating, are elaborated in his essay Principles of Correspondence,[6] where Nida begins by asserting that given that "no two languages are identical, either in the meanings given to corresponding symbols or in the ways in which symbols are arranged in phrases and sentences, it stands to reason that there can be no absolute correspondence between languages. Hence, there can be no fully exact translations." [7] While the impact of a translation may be close to the original, there can be no identity in detail.

Nida then sets forth the differences in translation, as he would account for it, within three basic factors:

  1. The nature of the message: in some messages the content is of primary consideration, and in others the form must be given a higher priority.
  2. The purpose of the author and of the translator: to give information on both form and content; to aim at full intelligibility of the reader so he/she may understand the full implications of the message; for imperative purposes that aim at not just understanding the translation but also at ensuring no misunderstanding of the translation.
  3. The type of audience: prospective audiences differ both in decoding ability and in potential interest.

Nida brings in the reminder that while there are no such things as "identical equivalents" in translating, what one must in translating seek to do is find the "closest natural equivalent". Here he identifies two basic orientations in translating based on two different types of equivalence: Formal Equivalence (F-E) and Dynamic Equivalence (D-E).

F-E focuses attention on the message itself, in both form and content. Such translations then would be concerned with such correspondences as poetry to poetry, sentence to sentence, and concept to concept. Such a formal orientation that typifies this type of structural equivalence is called a "gloss translation" in which the translator aims at reproducing as literally and meaningfully as possible the form and content of the original.

The principles governing an F-E translation would then be: reproduction of grammatical units; consistency in word usage; and meanings in terms of the source context.

D-E on the other hand aims at complete "naturalness" of expression. A D-E translation is directed primarily towards equivalence of response rather than equivalence of form. The relationship between the target language receptor and message should be substantially the same as that which existed between the original (source language) receptors and the message.

The principles governing a D-E translation then would be: conformance of a translation to the receptor language and culture as a whole; and the translation must be in accordance with the context of the message which involves the stylistic selection and arrangement of message constituents.

Nida and Lawrence Venuti have proved that translation studies is a much more complex discipline than may first appear, with the translator having to look beyond the text itself to deconstruct on an intra-textual level and decode on a referential level—assessing culture-specific items, idiom and figurative language to achieve an understanding of the source text and embark upon creating a translation which not only transfers what words mean in a given context, but also recreates the impact of the original text within the limits of the translator's own language system (linked to this topic: George Steiner, the Hermeneutic Motion, pragmatics, field, tenor, mode and the locutionary, illocutionary and perlocutionary). For example, a statement that Jesus "met" someone must be carefully translated into a language which distinguishes between "met for the first time", "met habitually" and simple "met"."

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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